Monthly Archives: June 2017

Sullied by every breath

When I was 10 years old my family took a vacation to the east coast to visit Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Mount Vernon, and our nation’s capital. Like so many others of my generation, my consciousness was awakened 5 years earlier by the assassination of President John F Kennedy and I became obsessed with everything that had anything to do with Presidents, American government, our founding, the colonies, and Congress. I was fascinated by figures in powdered wigs, with ruffled shirts, who wrote eloquent tomes with giant quills.

I bought into the American myth, hook, line and sinker. And I still do. While the flaws in our history that have belied our promise, like slavery and the denial of women’s suffrage must be viewed askance, I forgive our forebears within the context of their time, not to lessen the atrocities of prejudice, but to believe in the higher purpose of representative democracy to be the agent of justice and change.

In 1968 when we walked up the steps to the Capitol the marble and sandstone glistened with what I perceived at the time to be the collective wisdom of all of the great men and women who passed before. I still remember the echo of hushed voices in the Rotunda as others toured with the same reverence for the history of our government.

When we drove past the White House I imagined President Johnson inside signing some document or another. We drove past the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and my impression was that they were as huge as they should be to commemorate the great men inside.

We walked the cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg and I decided that I might be a reincarnation of an 18th century blacksmith; I felt so completely at home.

Upon our return to Iowa I immersed myself in American history and the workings of government. I ran for Student Council, took humanities classes, and devoured social studies. I admired the people who ran for office, and for our elected officials, even when they failed. Richard Nixon became president soon after our Washington adventure, but I never hated him. I drowned myself in Watergate news, and concluded that President Nixon was not an honest man, but— I never disliked him. I believed, and still do, that Richard Nixon was awed by the office he held.

President Reagan was, too. So were Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama and every President who came before. I think that American history, with all of its flaws, conquests, challenges and promises granted or missed, has worn the coat of greatness, and it has been our participation in that noble myth that has held our nation together.

Which brings this long windup to its conclusion: President Trump has no such allegiance to the divine grace of democracy; to the sanctity of social justice; or to the awe inspiring mechanism of American government. Never in my life, or in my perception of life before me, has the power of the office of President of the United States been so sullied. But, today, as I read Mean Tweets from the man who carries the torch of our highest office, and watch his insincere directives that separate, subjugate, and suppress, I feel exactly that way.


The Emperor Has Designer Clothes

Disclaimer: Anything in this article pertaining to President Donald Trump has been written by someone who does not admire the aforementioned president. The views contained here are of a person pre-disposed to believing that the character of Donald Trump is based in a malignant narcissism and devoid of empathy, and therefore Donald Trump’s motives are not in the best interests of America. Offer expires 1/21/21. See dealer for details.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump gave a speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, not far from where I live. I did not attend the rally, and instead went to see Ann Wilson (of Heart) perform. When presented with the choice for the evening I opted for the entertainer who sang “Crazy On You” instead of the one who IS crazy on you (please refer back to disclaimer). Besides, I knew that I would get an earful from people who attended the Trump Rally and from numerous reports from the Fake Media.

Okay…I got that out of my system.

I am riding the fence here because I am very vocal about making the plea to all of us to become more civil and to reduce the hostile rhetoric that fans the ire of those among us with weaker ethical constitutions. Even for those who delineate between right and wrong, the conversations often become arguments and create lines that separate us from our better selves. But, my “plea” did not mean (nor should it) that we lay down our ideological arms and acquiesce to impertinence.

Donald Trump is, to me, the embodiment of the problem created by a narrow view of America’s promise of freedom and justice. In my view this is the most dangerous presidency in the history of the United States because it is a culmination of controlled information, lack of access to the free press, and plutocratic leadership. We have been inching toward an oligarchy for 40 years, but now we are fast-tracked by an authoritarian who is seduced by theocracy.

Hyperbole? To some (perhaps, to many) that is how my thoughts here will be judged. Yet, I am not prone to hyperbole in such matters and so I am going to give myself the benefit of reasonable doubt; I sincerely fear for the health of the nation I love. I honestly believe that if we allow Donald Trump’s fascist tendencies to become the New Normal, the country my children and grandchildren will inherit will be at risk of collapse. Not just another deep recession, or even a catastrophic depression, but actual collapse.

John Adams wrote in 1814: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy.”

Adams WAS prone to hyperbole, but nevertheless, his caution led to safeguards within our Constitution to protect us from a tyrannical majority. We can see the wisdom from his prognostication in the creation of the Bill of Rights and it may be the only thing that gives us a fighting chance.

I watched video of the President’s speech in Cedar Rapids. I heard the cheers when he made his case for “loving America” and for caring about “all Americans.” He recited a new phrase, “We’ll have to see,” as a pardon for controversial policies, in order to proclaim that his aim is true. It was received by the sizable crowd with thunderous applause. I know people who were there, who previously did not trust Trump, but became new believers after an hour of this well-crafted speech, designed to assuage that very mistrust.

“I don’t want poor people in top economic positions,” said President Trump. He went on to defend his appointments of billionaires to his cabinet: “Because that’s the kind of thinking we want…because they’re representing the country. They don’t want the money.”

That will make sense to a lot of people. It seems logical. But it is the very core of what is wrong with this Trump presidency. It is exactly how a plutocracy is sold to the general population; a false proposition that claims that the wealthy will hold, at heart, the interests of the less well-to-do in their policies, rather than pander to increasing their holdings.

No load of BS was ever put forth that was closer to actual bull s#!t.

Yet, people buy into it with the same optimism they feel when they buy a lottery ticket, and also with the same chance of winning. It is the same Supply Side economic sale that has been winning the hearts amd minds of hard working Americans for decades: Give the wealthy more of the money that was created by their investments (which did not actually create a product, but was money spawned by money) and they will invest more in the expansion of businesses to create more jobs….more jobs, more income, more spending, more economic growth and prosperity.

It is a perfectly logical paradigm. Except that it doesn’t work. It never has and it never will. It never will because of the very flaw espoused by Trump’s reasoning that wealthy people will be less motivated to create more personal wealth and will, in fact, be more inclined to increase opportunity for the rest of us. What happens, in reality, time and time again, when supply-side (Trickle Down) principles are implemented, is that the wealthy become wealthier, the divide between the haves and the have-nots widens, wages remain flat, and expansion doesn’t occur because the truer economic principle is DEMAND.

When the working class does not have any disposable income (or, in fact, sinks from mounting bills) to stimulate the economy, the bottom falls out and we have what we saw (as a result of Trickle Down) in 2008: a bottomless recession.

What does happen, however, is the creation of plutocratic government where wealth determines the rules by which we are all governed.

“Trump truly loves America and cares for all of us” was the takeaway from one rally attendee on Facebook. But in the very same speech, Trump derides those silly (stupid) Democrats for being so foolish as to put a 30 year old who “doesn’t even live in the district” on the ticket in Georgia. A head scratcher, for sure, on the part of Democrats, but is this how Trump expresses his deep, abiding faith in all of us? Aren’t Democrats Americans? I’m not feeling the love.

Or is this a Christian-influenced principle where we accept that God loves us and only asks for our love in return? If so…well…something just made a lot more sense with regard to how Trump views himself.

Trump had LGBT support removed from the White House website. Is that because he loves them? Are his proposed policies that lend themselves entirely to the theocratic ideal of the Christian-right, his way of showing his love and support for the gay community?

Is this what we parents call “tough love”?

Public school teachers are Americans, too. Is marginalizing their impact on our children, reducing their budgets, and eliminating their bargaining rights his way of showing love?

I am receptive to Trump’s position against NAFTA and TPP, but is that his love of workers or his love of populist politics? Perhaps, I am being too cynical here, but if Trump truly loved American workers how come his policies don’t support unions and collective bargaining, and instead push to privatize as much as possible? Is it in the interests of the working American to put their health care, pensions, and working conditions into the hands of shareholders whose preeminent interest is in profit?

Don’t people who need health care qualify as “Americans”? Why then has ACA been demonized when it was exactly what Republicans proposed 28 years ago? It needed work and changes, but to eliminate the availability of insurance to over 20 million people, to reduce Medicaid, and threaten Social Security, is that an expression of how much he cares about the 98% of us who need such things?

Children born in America to illegal immigrants are Americans (read the 14th Amendment). Where is the compassionate concern within his immigration mandates that will deport their parents? Go ahead and buy the false argument that purports that these illegal immigration “criminals” are raising our taxes by suckling off our welfare, that they are taking our jobs and committing a high percentage of crime (all untrue), and that still doesn’t spell “compassion” for the children.

And speaking of children…does Trump love the children, outside of the womb, who have seen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reduced; reduced because their parents are perceived as freeloaders?

I suppose one can argue that green lighting oil pipelines will reduce energy dependence and create a lot of temporary jobs, but is that a genuine expression of caring for our country? To bleed carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, ignoring the warnings from the scientific community, and to reduce the funding (that creates jobs) to create a greener and more sustainable environment?

This is a strange kind of love in my book. It is a strange kind of love for America when I see the free press restricted, when information is guarded, when transparency in government becomes opaque, and when wealth populates the administration of “the people.”

I have no wish to create hostility with this article. None at all. But dissent; a redress of grievances; the expression of free speech (and entirely civil) is the function and responsibility of this great nation. It is not only necessary, but if the First Amendment goes on life support (and I believe it is dangerously close), there will be no more America to love.

Christians, Deists, and Atheists, Oh My!

200 years is a long time to keep anything going. Consider the world 200 years ago and you won’t find much that resembles the world today; not in the United States, anyway.

200 years ago the War of 1812 rocked our newly won sovereignty to its core as residual resentments between our Union and Britain remained, and a bloody, 32 month conflict was ended only after Washington was burned to the ground.

State of the art transportation was a horse drawn buggy, candles and oil lamps lit rooms and hallways, armies fought with muskets, slaves comprised the manual labor of agrarian states, and agreements were honored with just a handshake to bind them.

A Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, drafted from a Revolution, were still relatively new, and America, although growing more powerful from that promise of freedom, was still considered an experiment in Democracy; no one was absolutely certain that it would work.

Central to the theme of this great republican trial was religious freedom, arguably the cornerstone of all the freedoms our founding fathers envisioned and designed in their documents to uphold a constitutional government.

It was nearly 200 years before the revolution when immigrants from England made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to escape the Church of England seeking freedom from persecution. Over time they, themselves, exercised their own forms of persecution between settlers of other denominations, but central to the cause of the immigration to America was a concept of freedom.

It was amorphous and roughly drawn from their sense of dignity coupled with desperation, but it was nevertheless the motivation for their adventure to an unknown land and was the premise by which they would form new laws, and begin to resist a King.

By the mid-18th century colonial farmers and tradesmen still carried the torch of the original pilgrims adventure, but now these Americans were turning their collective spirit toward the tyranny of a British Monarchy that demanded from them what their innate sense of justice told them was unfair.

10 years after the implementation of The Stamp Act in 1765, the colonists declared war against Britain on the grounds of unfair taxation, and from the historic winds of change rose a rag tag collection of Christians, Deists, and Unitarians who transcribed the calling of human beings toward freedom and justice into words of action.

Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” published in January of 1776, is regarded as the original primer that put this aggregate spirit of freedom into the context of a new government and to fan the populist flame of revolution. Only 6 months later Americans read the Declaration of Independence for the first time and now a document existed to eloquently express a noble purpose.

(Note: While I forgive our revolutionary forebears for the context and complexities of their time, I cannot overlook that human bondage was a legal practice that took another hundred years to abolish).

The Declaration makes it clear that governments created by humanity derive their powers from the consent of the governed, and it served as the adumbration for the Constitution which followed. It is not a legal document, but a statement of purpose to define and to defend the Inalienable Rights of Men (human beings) in the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness.

When the Revolution was won and a Constitution was drafted, the framers very carefully constructed its First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There is no mistaking what these words mean. They are the very definition of our hard won Republic and they frame the security upon which it rests.

“No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” specifically and clearly outlines that we cannot fall under the auspices of a national religion, and that any religion can be freely followed or expressed.  If there is any leeway for interpretation it would only regard the freedom from religious practice, as well, but no free nation, founded on inalienable rights, can exclude non practicing agnostics and atheists.

Freedom of speech is a broad concept in terms of what it entails, but it is specific at the same time as it means that government cannot legislate to curtail the free expression of ideas.

This would again, logically, include the expression of religious beliefs, but as we have the right to express them, they cannot become the law of the land.

This Grand Experiment in Democracy is now a third of a century past 200 years, and while we can rest assured that we are stronger today from the fruits harvested from freedom, the conviction of some of our constitutional principles are fading or forgotten.

The modern interpretation of the original rebellion that calls itself “The Tea Party” has carried into its vague (yet dogmatic) agenda, theocratic ideas that are contrary to our founding purpose.

tea-party-300x182They, and many others with an extreme conservative philosophy, believe that we should be a Christian nation; that the Founding Fathers constructed and fought for a nation with exclusively Christian principles; that the “natural God” and the “Creator” referred to in the Declaration of Independence was specifically the Christian God.

It is almost on a daily basis that I will read or hear someone state the belief that our Founder’s design for America was born exclusively from Christianity.  But, when we look critically at the story of our nation it is clear that such an exclusionary religious concept is contrary to all of our freedoms and would be, in fact, un-constitutional.

It is irrefutable that Christianity was a primary influence on the creation of our nation and that Christianity embraces many of the moral directives that define our ideal Republic, but it is also irrefutable that one doctrine cannot be the sole proprietor of such virtues.

And to secure our freedom for the next 200 years we must be vigilant toward understanding that distinction.

“And freedom tastes of reality”

Do you know that I can find out what you’re driving, what you pay every month, and when your lease expires?  Do you own your car?  I knew that already and I know what your trade-in totaled and what bank you got a loan from and at what interest rate.

IBig-Data know your house payment and if you like red shoes.  I can have a banner appear when you go online that promotes your favorite brand of coffee and I know the name of your first pet.  And I’m just in marketing.

Imagine what the government can know.

The 4th Amendment is under fire and so is the 5th and the 1st and they have been for a long time.  But, here’s the really troubling part:  We’ve been all too happy to let them know whatever they want to know.  In fact, we expect government to know as much as possible about everyone– just so long as it isn’t us.

The NSA eavesdrops on our conversations when their software reveals that we have been using suspicious language or communicating with nefarious people, and our texts, emails, Tweets and phones can be targeted for investigation.

So what are we going to do about it?  Most likely….very little.

557184_f260Perhaps, Col. Jessep sums up our self-imposed ignorance best in “A Few Good Men”:  You have the luxury of not knowing what I  know… And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth.  Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall.  You need me on that wall!

Because, we are afraid, and because we want to be protected from terrorism and from every unknown threat.  Because 9/11 scared the living crap out of us and weve allowed, if not downright begged, the government to analyze all the information that is available regarding terror networks and suspect operatives, whether they are known Al Qaeda or as pedestrian as the guys in the apartment next door, because, who knows….?

And when government law enforcement misses; when a bomb goes off because not enough secretive information was processed – we tear them down for not protecting us.

If every other nation, every terrorist cell, every business, marketer, and hacker has access to Big Data, with information about our individual habits and preferences that creates a 3 dimensional, real time, map ofDundas_Data_Visualization_Sales_And_Marketing_Digital_Dashboard society and every imaginable microcosm therein, how can we limit our own government from processing the same information in the interest of our protection?  That is, after all, a primary function of governance.

Can we really expect our government to stand down when Proctor and Gamble has all of the same information?

I posted some thoughts a little while back that I called “The Price of Freedom” where I posited that freedom isn’t free and it isn’t necessarily safe.   We can choose freedom or we can choose security, but we cannot necessarily have both.  The laws which protect our freedoms can also leave us vulnerable to what the government doesn’t know.

The 4th Amendment provides us with freedom from illegal searches and seizures by law enforcement officers:  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”  That can logically be extended to technology that didn’t exist at the time; cell phones and computers.

The Constitutional Framer’s intent was to secure individual rights and freedoms from government overreach, even in the pursuit of security.

I bristle at anything that offends the 4th amendment or suspends habeas corpus, because I believe that the Cause of Protection and Security will lead to Abuse of Power and ultimately to Tyranny, whether government, corporate, or both.  I believe that we must take the risks that come with an adherence to the Bill of Rights and from “not knowing everything” so that we can protect the only thing that truly keeps us free:  the Freedom of Thought.

50 years before the Revolution began Benjamin Franklin proffered:  Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.

But, I am a minority.  Many people, on the left and on the right side of the aisle, are appalled by the invasion of privacy and that infringement upon our personal liberty, whether it was by the administrations of President Trump, Obama or Bush…or Clinton or Reagan….or Nixon or Johnson…or Lincoln; but, nearly everyone still chooses to be safe rather than sorry.  It’s a cliche that resonates to our core.

Living without freedom, or freedom without living?  Tough call.