Select Page
D-Day for Trump

D-Day for Trump

Disclaimer: If you are among the 40% of Americans who are enraptured by Donald Trump you will not like what you read here. You should probably turn the page.

I’m not here to debate the issues. I will not argue about Trump’s tax cut, his bluster with our allies, his sycophantic posturing towards our adversaries, his policy towards Israel, his hands-off approach to Syria. You can make a case, if not always a good case, for any of those policies. It’s what Trump is doing to the norms and practices of American democracy that is unforgivable.

The ills of this presidency are more profound than his (admittedly incoherent) policies. The problem is himself; Trump thinks he’s immune to truth and above the constitution. He believes in the rule of one man, Donald Trump, and not the rule of law.

That is a dangerous idea, no matter who the man is. It’s even worse when the man is corrupt, self-absorbed, erratic and vengeful. The rule of law can lead to absurdities; the rule of man will lead to atrocities.

We’re already seeing atrocities on the Mexican border, with children ripped away from parents. Cruelty is in this man’s blood.

I cannot stand having that playground bully representing me, I loathe his being the face America presents to the world.

You may feel differently and that is your right. This is still, technically, a free country. But I will not debate about it. The time for debate is past. I am not here to change minds. I’m here to change a regime.

If the FBI is an out-of-control pack of lying feds, then who will protect us from criminals? If every CIA director is a politically-motivated fool, who will protect us from those, like the Russians, who would do us harm? If “loyalty to the supreme leader” is the ultimate test for government officials, what becomes of the oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States?

Trump said he’d drain the swamp. That’s a promise he kept. He drained the swamp and made a sewer. His closest aides, cabinet appointees and campaign officers are now convicted felons, dismissed, disgraced, under indictment or cloaked by immunity for their crimes.

Bad laws can be changed; a bad man must be defeated. We won’t get there with impeachment, that can’t work with the Senate we have now, or even the best one we can get in November. The best an impeachment strategy can produce is a moral victory. But a moral victory won’t save us.

Maybe you hope that Trump’s next outrage, tweet, lie, fight, firing or failure will be the one. The one that finally makes his supporters turn against him, fleeing his sinking ship. Sadly, that is not going to happen. They’re going right down with him.

We cannot persuade the 40% of Americans who are dazzled by his cult. They are our fellow Americans but they are lost to us for now.

All that matters is that they are only 40%. The rest of America—from the few conservatives trying to save their movement from a demagogue, to the many moderates disgusted by the stench of evil emanating from the White House, to the liberals, progressives, sane and crazy leftists who’ve opposed Trump from the day he ghouled down that escalator—constitutes a solid majority.

Some people are so heartsick with outrage they compare Trump to Hitler. That is an exaggeration. Trump is nowhere near as good at being evil as Hitler.

But let’s accept the point for a moment. Was Hitler stopped by resignations of his Nazi flunkies? Did we get through to the moral consciences of the Good Germans? Did we wait for the Nuremberg trials to topple Hitler, like some are hoping Mueller does Trump?

No, we defeated him. The struggle we’re in now must be fought with ballots, never violence. But Trump must be defeated as comprehensively as that other threat.

D-Day for Trump is coming. There is an election this November, the most consequential in our lifetimes. Together, we can stop this disaster. We can freeze it in its tracks, make Trump a lame duck for two years, and lance the boil in 2020.

But only if we get past our delusions and ready for the political fight for our lives. We have two elections to decide our fate. The first to break his stranglehold on power, the second to send him home to New York and that RICO prosecution he so richly deserves.

Disclaimer: If you are among the 40% of Americans who are enraptured by Donald Trump you will not like what you read here. You should probably turn the page.

I’m not here to debate the issues. I will not argue about Trump’s tax cut, his bluster with our allies, his sycophantic posturing towards our adversaries, his policy towards Israel, his hands-off approach to Syria. You can make a case, if not always a good case, for any of those policies. It’s what Trump is doing to the norms and practices of American democracy that is unforgivable.

The ills of this presidency are more profound than his (admittedly incoherent) policies. The problem is himself; Trump thinks he’s immune to truth and above the constitution. He believes in the rule of one man, Donald Trump, and not the rule of law.

That is a dangerous idea, no matter who the man is. It’s even worse when the man is corrupt, self-absorbed, erratic and vengeful. The rule of law can lead to absurdities; the rule of man will lead to atrocities.

We’re already seeing atrocities on the Mexican border, with children ripped away from parents. Cruelty is in this man’s blood.

I cannot stand having that playground bully representing me, I loathe his being the face America presents to the world.

You may feel differently and that is your right. This is still, technically, a free country. But I will not debate about it. The time for debate is past. I am not here to change minds. I’m here to change a regime.

If the FBI is an out-of-control pack of lying feds, then who will protect us from criminals? If every CIA director is a politically-motivated fool, who will protect us from those, like the Russians, who would do us harm? If “loyalty to the supreme leader” is the ultimate test for government officials, what becomes of the oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States?

Trump said he’d drain the swamp. That’s a promise he kept. He drained the swamp and made a sewer. His closest aides, cabinet appointees and campaign officers are now convicted felons, dismissed, disgraced, under indictment or cloaked by immunity for their crimes.

Bad laws can be changed; a bad man must be defeated. We won’t get there with impeachment, that can’t work with the Senate we have now, or even the best one we can get in November. The best an impeachment strategy can produce is a moral victory. But a moral victory won’t save us.

Maybe you hope that Trump’s next outrage, tweet, lie, fight, firing or failure will be the one. The one that finally makes his supporters turn against him, fleeing his sinking ship. Sadly, that is not going to happen. They’re going right down with him.

We cannot persuade the 40% of Americans who are dazzled by his cult. They are our fellow Americans but they are lost to us for now.

All that matters is that they are only 40%. The rest of America—from the few conservatives trying to save their movement from a demagogue, to the many moderates disgusted by the stench of evil emanating from the White House, to the liberals, progressives, sane and crazy leftists who’ve opposed Trump from the day he ghouled down that escalator—constitutes a solid majority.

Some people are so heartsick with outrage they compare Trump to Hitler. That is an exaggeration. Trump is nowhere near as good at being evil as Hitler.

But let’s accept the point for a moment. Was Hitler stopped by resignations of his Nazi flunkies? Did we get through to the moral consciences of the Good Germans? Did we wait for the Nuremberg trials to topple Hitler, like some are hoping Mueller does Trump?

No, we defeated him. The struggle we’re in now must be fought with ballots, never violence. But Trump must be defeated as comprehensively as that other threat.

D-Day for Trump is coming. There is an election this November, the most consequential in our lifetimes. Together, we can stop this disaster. We can freeze it in its tracks, make Trump a lame duck for two years, and lance the boil in 2020.

But only if we get past our delusions and ready for the political fight for our lives. We have two elections to decide our fate. The first to break his stranglehold on power, the second to send him home to New York and that RICO prosecution he so richly deserves.

A Truly Universal Designated Hitter

A Truly Universal Designated Hitter

There has been much talk lately about adopting a “universal designated hitter” in Major League baseball. The problem is that pitchers can’t hit, and fans deserve a professional hitter in every at bat in today’s time-challenged game.

As a baseball traditionalist I’ve always been against the designated hitter. I thought it diminished strategy, made life too easy for managers, and robbed pitchers of the joys of swinging a bat.

That’s the big fun in playing baseball—swinging a bat. But what’s fun got to do with anything these days? We’re all much too busy for fun; life isn’t a game for amateurs.

No, I’m afraid the universal designated hitter is an idea whose time has come. But why stop at baseball? There are countless tasks in life that we do as well as a pitcher hits.

Let’s face it, folks. Most of us are good at one thing—the thing they pay us for. When it comes to most other tasks, we muddle through, at best.

We absolutely rule stocking shelves at Pottery Barn, 8 to 5 daily. We’re the beloved tech support guy at the office, saving the know nothings from digital disasters. But we fall apart when the cat drags a rat into the house. We humiliate ourselves stumbling over French words on the menu. Our socks don’t match. We need help.

Maybe your social media game is weak. Your Instagrams are blurry, your Facebooks aren’t liked, your Tweets are trite. Maybe, like me, you’re barely there. Do not despair. Hire a designated social media pro and watch him knock it out of the park. Who knows, with professional help you might get that cutie to swipe right.

We already have designated drivers, but why should only drunks have that privilege? Half the cars I see on the streets could use a designated driver, and that doesn’t even count the Uber hordes.

The designated driver is a wonderful thing. But what if you use a designated driver too often and wind up a blackout drunk? What if your friends stage an intervention and cart you off to rehab? Nobody has time for that in our hypercompetitive world. You can’t spare three months from your job; those human resources compliance reports aren’t going to file themselves.

And if you went to rehab, you’d probably fail. Most people do, the first few times. But most people aren’t professionals. You need a designated rehab specialist.

He or she will come out looking great, with a fine tan, hell, they might even lose you a few pounds. And you can keep on doing do what you do best—drink.

The universal designated hitter can save our threatened American democracy. Each election, fewer and fewer citizens can be bothered to vote. And who can blame them? Voting is a bother. The ballot is overstuffed with propositions, school board candidates, mayors, supervisors, judges, representatives, you name it. Who can keep track of it all?

Not nearly enough voters, that’s who. So we stay home, which allows a few fanatics to elect some unspeakable idiot to office, and we are where we are now.

Certified designated voter professionals will be good citizens for us. They’d know every candidate for every office in the land. And they wouldn’t dare cast our votes for an idiot, charlatan or con man. They’d be disbarred.

The relief a universal designated hitter program would bring to us all is incalculable. Do I even need to mention jury duty? Jury duty is such a heinous obligation that most people move heaven and earth to avoid it. As a result, our “presumed innocent” defendants are judged by a jury of their peers who aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.

The designated juror program can end this farce. Who wouldn’t want to be judged by eager, informed, conscientious jurors? The guilty?

The universal DH would be great for the economy. If you’re a tech zillionaire, you probably stink at most other life tasks. Why not put your money to good use? Get a designated friend to handle those awkward “face to face” personal encounters. A designated bon vivant will make you a hit at any dinner party. Plus, the designated professional will spare you the social opprobrium of hiring underpaid task rabbits to do your dirty work. Say goodbye to liberal guilt. Hire a pro!

Let’s make the universal DH truly universal. No more swing and a miss in the game of life. Designated batter up!

 

Ideology has had its day

Ring down the curtains, pack up the props and shutter the theater. Ideology, that grand stage upon which the great and bloody dramas of the last century were played, is played out.

Ideology was just another fad, a mostly 20th century diversion in the flow of history. We still talk about communism, fascism, socialism, capitalism but that’s all it is, talk. Some form of market economics—and those forms are far too diverse to constitute a cohesive ideology—prevails nearly everywhere.

But that doesn’t mean that history is over. What we have now isn’t the end of history, but rather a return of history. The history of the world since Mesopotamia, the endless struggles between and among states and empires, and now global networks and corporations, for conquest, in their neighborhood, their continent, and the world.

We can’t shake the habit of calling states by their putative ideologies, but that’s antiquated thinking. In what sense is Communist China communistic anymore? Newly crowned dictator for life, Xi Jinping, leads a party that has “communist” in its name, but China is state capitalism and personal power personified. China has no more ideology than the Mafia and less socialism than Denmark. If Marx were alive he’d sue them for slander.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, China has never been a wildly expansionist empire. Historically they’ve seen themselves as the center of the world, the so-called “middle kingdom” and they’ve expected tribute from nations in their neighborhood, but they’ve produced no Caesars. When Zheng He’s Grand Fleet raided the South Pacific and Indian oceans eighty years before Columbus floated across the Atlantic in three dinghies, the Ming Emperors took the treasure, burned the fleet and stayed home.

Russia doesn’t even pretend to be communist anymore, but their history is nothing but Caesars, all the way back to Grand Duchy of Moscow. Even their word for leader, Tsar, is nothing but Caesar with a lisp. That tiny Duchy expanded until it covered a continent and a half, from Murmansk to Vladivostok. The communist interlude in Russian history saw the Russian Empire at its greatest extent, but communism didn’t cause it. Russian expansionism did. And now they have a Tsar again.

A couple of decades ago we were supposed to be entering an ideological clash of civilizations, between the Islamic and non-Islamic world. Well, that obsolescent idea is still around, but it’s Muslim bombs pounding Muslims in Syria, Yemen and beyond. It’s about power, not the Prophet.

Between the Kurds and the Turks, the Iranians and the Saudis, the Chinese and the Japanese, there’s not enough ideological conflict to fill a postcard. It’s all about power.

It always has been. We just got distracted with ideology for a while.

Ideologies arose, mostly in the last century, when a dizzying rate of scientific and technological progress made anything seem possible.

Why, we could even remake human nature! We can turn people into socialist heroes! Fascist supermen! Objectivist demi-gods!

A hundred years and a couple hundred million deaths later, we found out what happens when we act on those impulses. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot: Ideology is an express lane to genocide and national self-immolation.

Power is the real game. The struggle of the nation state against the homogenization of globalization, the spheres of interest of the Great Powers, that’s where the action is. That’s where the action always was.

They just slapped some tail fins on it, called it ideology, and got the peons to go to their deaths with a gun in their hands and a slogan on their lips.

In the good old USA we’ve never done ideology very well. Oh, we fight like roosters over minor political differences but that’s more about party branding then any deeply rooted philosophical ideals.

My conservative and liberal friends won’t buy that, but if the poor can switch from the Democrats to the Republicans in a single generation, while, at the same time, the rich and privileged make the exact opposite move, how important is ideology in politics? It’s all about who’s up, who’s down, and who’s out for the count.

The fight of good against evil, and raw power against raw power will never end. I’m not saying there isn’t a wrong side and a right side in some, even most, human conflicts.

I’m just saying ideology isn’t the way to find it. Never was, never will be. Ideology had its day. I think we’re all better off that its day was yesterday.

 

The “Joys” of Aging

If you’re fortunate, you will live to be old. Yet old age brings thoughts of dread to the young; the best they can say about it is that it beats the alternative.

How little they know. But that’s the defining characteristic of youth: How little they know.

In truth, the “golden years,” are the most liberated, blessed and privileged time of your life.

To appreciate a joyous old age you must accept one inevitable truth: You cannot save your life. You can only spend it.

Know that, and out the window with so-called life-extending diets, which not only are a misery to follow, but change every three months. Fats were suicide a few years ago, now a couple ounces of cheese daily is good for you. Emaciation was the key to longevity just the other day, now carrying a few extra pounds means a few extra years.

Keto diets, paleo diets, the fads never end. The smartest diet is a diet from diets. But try not to get too fat.

The best reason not to gain weight as you age is your wardrobe. If you’re lucky, it, like you, is old. But if you get fat and have to buy new, you’re going to become more stylish. There is nothing more ridiculous than an old person being trying to be stylish.

When you’re young, you’re always struggling with one existential question: “What’s wrong with me?” The answer is “nothing” but you’ll still delve deep into your youth-addled unconscious for a reason, usually wrong. When you’re old you’ll figure that out. End of angst.

When you’re old, people will disregard you. You might think this would be a liability. You’d be mistaken.

Plus, you get to be a grump. I’d tell you about the extreme bliss getting license to be a grump provides, but you’ll have to find out for yourself. So maybe you should do that keto diet after all.

You will gain altitude as you age. Eventually you’ll crash and burn, but until the accidents of living murder you, you’ll gain perspective, every day, with every new, or, more to the point, repeated experience.

Even politics is easier to take when you’re old. Donald Trump came as a shock to the system to most young people. They didn’t see him coming and when he came they didn’t know what they were seeing.

Donald Trump surprised most of us ancient mariners too. But we know exactly what we’re seeing. We’ve seen it before.

Youth lacks humility because youth is an ass. We’re all asses but the young haven’t been alive long enough to know it. Along with age comes humility and a healthy skepticism of everything, especially oneself. That gift is invaluable.

I remember, must have been around 1964, a new food stand near the beach at Ocean City Maryland. It had a big sign saying, “Will the taco replace the hot dog?”

I got a good laugh about that for the next decade or so. Then again, their tacos stunk, so it wasn’t all my fault.

When you turn 65 the government should swap your Social Security card for an Old Folks License. “The bearer of this card shall be entitled to the best seats on public transit, shall be able to cut the line at any theater, entertainment venue and restaurant, and park in any designated handicap parking place, so long as another is open for authorized placard holders.

“His or her use of antiquated racial, sexual or ethnic terms is a part of his or her cultural heritage and shall be excused.

“In addition, the bearer of this card is allowed to call wait staff and other service providers “honey or doll” without said employee taking offense. In bearer’s time, such terms were expressions of endearment, not harassment or disrespect.”

These are great times to be an old person. We may not be able to tweet or blog or snapchat, but we’re vintage. And nothing is hipper than retro.

There is joy to be had between Depends and dementia. You’ve earned the right to ignore the fashions of the day, to laugh at the follies of the present, to live both in the moment and in all the moments you’ve lived.

Old age is all you have to look forward to, children. So take good care of yourself, but not too good. Enjoy the present. There could be an idiot Uber with your name on it barreling down Market Street. You never know.

 

My Virtual Valentine?

February is the month of love, but it sure doesn’t feel that way now. This feels more like a time of spousal abuse and sexual harassment than chocolate hearts and romance. Love is out of fashion, the culture doesn’t believe in it much anymore. A couple generations ago we were urged to “get on board the love train,” but that caboose ran off the rails.

What changed? Reality changed. We virtualized our lives and lost our real ones. The digital life is seductive but unsatisfying. Because it’s not alive at all.

Love is biological; it is not virtual. We are biological beings. If you sense a love deficit, and how can you not, it’s because you’re human.

Be my virtual valentine? It’s not enough, is it? That requires flesh and breath. The difference between real love and virtual love is the difference between intimacy and internet porn.

This isn’t just a rant by a superannuated technophobe. The spiritual emptiness of the digital life is no secret; it’s expressed all over our language and contemporary culture.

Consider the two meanings of the word surf. Ocean surfing has a mystical place in our imaginations. Surfers talk about bliss, being one with the wave, the ocean, mother earth. When you surf you feel your body move, and your spirit, too. Surfing, at its best, is reverence, it’s a living being floating on the mind of God.

Then there’s the virtual surf of bytes and bits. The detached, alienated connection with every other digital entity through a cold, hard screen. You surf a screen with your eyes and maybe your ears, not active but passively consuming. You are not biological, you are a digital end point, a receptacle.

That’s why there is so much anger in the digital world. Screens are cold, anger is hot. Anger penetrates the screen. And then us.

One kind of surfing produces joy, the other angst. One is biological, the other dry and dead as a zombie.

Which maybe explains why pop culture is so captivated by the zombie apocalypse. Maybe it’s because we’re already living it.

Why does anger seem more relevant than love these days? Because we’re trapped in a web that feels like landfill. A vast garbage dump, littered with jagged edges. Shards of life, shattered by rage.

For all the “likes” we tap online, there isn’t much liking going on. Mostly we fight and insult and snark at one another. And why not, it’s only a screen we’re insulting. We rarely do that face to face. Face to face anger is dangerous, painful and bad for your blood pressure.

A screen has no blood pressure, it’s ice cold and responds best to hot emotions. But that screen is reflective, the anger we pound into it bounces right back.

We don’t have a Valentine’s day for anger. That’s because we recognize anger as a vice. But we’re in an angry time. If an ad has a woman in it, she’s always “fierce.” As if anger was necessary to be fully human today.

On some level we feel the dead hand of the digital on our souls, and we fight against it. Our sports have become more and more extreme because only facing death makes us feel alive. Used to be you could just go bowling; now you have to jump off the Matterhorn in a wingsuit.

The allure of the virtual, and it’s emptiness, are on full display in cat videos. A cat video is cute, watching them is addicting, and really, what’s not to like about a cat video?

Nothing, except that a cat video can never be a cat. A cat video can’t purr, or scratch, or love.

Nobody understands the dangers of over-technologizing better than the tech moguls. Tech gurus are very open about the damage their products do to children. Most of them won’t let their kids use the media they make.

Here’s the thing, though. If virtual, non-biological life is bad for kids, it’s bad for everyone. It’s the same as smoking. We don’t let kids smoke, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bad for adults. Smoking doesn’t become harmless because you’re over 18.

There is no turning back the clock, I know that. The virtual isn’t going away, we need to transcend it. We need to reach for love. Not the virtual golem of digital anti-social social love, but the real, biological thing.

Because we’re biological creatures. Analogue beings lost in a digital maze. Pixilated and furious.