Nebraska – Let’s Usher In the Future

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Republican Senator Orrin Hatch recently said publicly that it’s “ridiculous” for terminally ill Republican Senator John McCain to request that the Republican president not attend his funeral.

Perhaps Orrin forgot that the president publicly denigrated McCain and impugned his honor during the president’s disgusting 2016 campaign. As a reminder to Hatch, the president said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” (McCain’s fighter jet was shot down over North Vietnam. He helped his fellow prisoners of war endure years of torture under the North Vietnamese at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Since then, he’s had a distinguished career in Congress for decades, up to and including his dying days. He was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.)

It’s really time to reconsider a knee-jerk party-line vote for your local GOP rep when they refuse to call out people like this.

We can do better. Much better. Right here in Nebraska we have outstanding, smart, fair-minded moderate candidates like Jane Raybould for Senate, Kara Eastman for Congress, and Bob Krist for Governor (OK he’s older than Ricketts but a far better choice than Dollar-Store Lex Luthor – unless you’re a fan of prison riots). Nearer to home there’s my old friend Nancy Meyer for NRD, friend-of-friends Megan Hunt for NE legislature, and probably someone in your own district who can help restore the separation of powers both in Washington and in our ailing, one-party-rule, would-be Kansas economic disaster.

This is not a partisan appeal. It’s an appeal to decency, to the simple, quaint notions of honesty and ethics in government. Some decent leaders remain in the Republican party (for some reason), like my State Senator John McCollister. But let’s face it – they are the last of the holdouts in a party that is no longer what it was when John McCain was running for president, a party being subsumed into the current president’s populist insurgent cause. It is a lost cause.

That’s all – please think, then vote.

Update: On Thursday morning (5/10/2018), a White House aide named Kelly Sadler joked that Arizona Sen. John McCain’s opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel is nothing to worry about because “he’s dying anyway.”

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Contest of Wills? No, a Developing Constitutional Crisis

The news is so frustrating. The media – out for ratings, just like the reality show star in the White House – portray our developing constitutional crisis as some kind of battle royal between two outsized personalities. The sense we get from the media is that we’re watching the trash-talking preliminaries of a heavily anticipated title match (although, of course, only one party to the fight is engaging in the trash talk). The idea is that we’ll have this big battle, and the winner will take all as he is showered with accolades by his loyal fans. The loser will vow to rise again, saying “wait till next year”. Then it will all be over, and we will shut off the TV and go to bed, satisfied that it was a very exciting man-to-man contest.

But that’s not what’s happening, not at all. What’s happening is we have a secretive, lying, cult-like, bullying, paranoid, ignorant, truth-averse, and very likely criminal gang squatting uneasily on what should be a presidential administration. They fear the revelations of truth and the application of the law so much, they and their co-conspirators in Congress appear willing to go above the law, to exercise raw power in challenging hundreds of years of legal and institutional precedent, in order to protect themselves and their cash cow – what the rest of us call the federal government. Anyone who threatens to reveal the truth they eliminate if they can, or try to intimidate into silence if they can’t (yet). They are not administrators, they are a modern day confederation of mobsters. They are looters and anarchists who demonstrate on a daily basis their utter contempt for the rule of law and for our democracy’s institutional norms.

Should they prevail, there will be no “next year” for this republic and its few dedicated defenders. We know how the “five families” ended up in the long run – they took everyone else down with them.

And opposed to them, we have a dedicated REPUBLICAN war veteran and prosecutor of lawbreakers, an administrator of justice, who has served honorably and with distinction for decades under Republican and Democratic presidential administrations alike (real ones). He runs an experienced legal team working quietly, professionally, humbly and methodically in the cause of justice.  The team has already secured guilty pleas from several of the administration’s former foot soldiers and lieutenants. There will be more. But, as opposed to the unhinged daily stream-of-consciousness tweets (mostly lies and fabrications) from the reality show star, their story is as yet untold. Seizing on that legally and procedurally necessary information vacuum, the mob attempts to explain the character of the investigation  to us as a witch hunt (without explaining to us why a Republican career legal professional would conduct a witch hunt against a presumably innocent Republican president).

The media should stop pretending this is a contest of wills devoid of legal or moral context. Based on all we’ve seen and heard, this is people at the top levels of government—in concert with an antagonistic foreign power and self-aggrandizing criminal leak weasel–attempting to bring down this republic and everything it stands for. They do it all in the name of ego and personal gain, allied with the most ignorant and self-serving among our citizens, their hallmarks being contempt for truth, ethics, morality, justice, or any other admirable quality that exhibits even the smallest trace of human decency.

Saint Putin

I keep encountering people who seem to think Putin is some kind of heart-pure Diogenes, coming on American TV and telling us how screwed up our system is, and how our political system is the SOLE reason for all our problems. Never mind that he was actually here, as is his and the KGB’s tradition, to rub it in for his own amusement (and his people’s). He’s to be admired by Americans now. Because Megyn Kelly (or whatever her name is) sat there dumbstruck (emphasis on dumb) while he rattled off a string of spying/meddling/etc. accusations (which are true for both countries, of course, not just the US).

So for the record: Putin denies any and all involvement in the 2016 campaign (which is a denial of documented fact). He – in a Trumpian move – instead offers up that it is YOU who are guilty of (insert crimes here). I guess he showed us! Just not with any evidence.

We seem to have come to a place where Trumpers have had to manipulate their brains into thinking that the president was right when he (under orders)  excoriated the US for its own “evil deeds” whenever Russia’s 2016 Trump campaign (Moscow branch) was brought up. To do this, you also have to believe – Trump-like – that it’s a zero-sum game, that “both countries do it” so “both countries” are equally “evil.” Just two powerhouses duking it out for the spoils, right? To the president, who remains to this day “neutral” on Russia (!) there is no moral question. After all, he just appointed a CIA director who not only willingly tortured American prisoners, but who participated in a cover-up after mistakenly torturing an innocent person. What morality? It’s all about WINNING.

And that is somehow patriotic and in line with traditional Republican attitudes on Russia, yes? That there is a moral equivalence between the Russian kleptocracy/dictatorship and (what’s left of) American democracy? Or, if we’re not equivalent yet – we’ll get there?

Yes. That’s the new patriotism – Putin is all right, just looking after his “Russia First” interests, murdering rivals and invading neighbors. This paves the mental pathways for accepting a morally bankrupt president as legitimate. Because in the Trumpian world, everyone’s equally morally bankrupt. And everyone’s legitimate – until proven guilty.

How Will He React?

So – what will happen? We are all waiting around as more and more damning evidence comes in, more White House staffers walk, or are indicted, or plead guilty. We are at a point – with the indictments, guilty pleas, and talk show gut-spilling – a point where we all can see into the workings of this administration. And we see – those of us who still want to see the truth – that the workings are corrupt, lawless, and not in the interests of the nation.

We have seen the president destroy, belittle, demean, abandon or at least excoriate everyone around him, from the media, to Democrats, to Gold Star families, to the many women who accuse him of assault, to porn stars with NDAs, to federal judges, to his attorney general, his secretary of state, to “Republicans” (perhaps forgetting he is one), to his top advisers, and of course most significantly to every national security/law enforcement agency we have. Of course, we have NOT heard even one word of criticism leveled against Russia or Putin. Nor has the administration spent one dime of the millions authorized for State Department counter-measures to Russian interference. Nor has the administration bothered to implement the legal sanctions imposed by Congress against Russia. With, of course, no explanation.

One day soon, Meuller will arrive with the goods. We know what he will tell us – that the president is a crook, a self-dealing fraud, liar, grifter and lawbreaker whose only concern – whose ONLY concern – is and has always been what he can gain personally and for his family via the presidency. He will tell us that, in fact, due to the Russians’ having “cultivated” trump for a number of years (and likely “compromising” him given his ravenous sexual appetite and taste for teens), then having worked with Trump and his campaign to intervene in the 2016 election process (see: Don Jr., Hope Hicks and the hastily constructed memo of lies), the president is indelibly tied to the Russians, indebted to them in terms of their help with the campaign and, likely, literally indebted to Russian oligarchs and others who have funneled cash his way (not to mention the money laundering that has gone on at Trump properties). He is owned by Russia, and has been quietly working for them since day one. I don’t have to prove it. The media reports as a whole, the data we’ve seen dripping out of the various investigations taken as a whole – not to mention the transparent actions of the administration itself and the growing list of indictments and guilty pleas-  have already confirmed it. For further proof, I direct you to the current attempts by Trump’s corrupt allies in Congress – Nunes, Gaudy, etc. – to begin construction of the “alternate” reality they are desperately hoping will supplant “real” reality in the minds of Americans already inclined to believe whatever anyone says that might shield Trump. These are the (totally fabricated) ideas that the FBI/NSA/CIA are  (suddenly) rife with corruption, that Hillary and the Obama administration were the Russia “colluders”, that Obama “abused” the FISA warrant process to “out” Trumpian enemies, etc. All so much bullshit, but what else is new from this pack of self-serving liars?  We all remember the seven-year-long Benghazi fiasco, right? Or at least how much money was wasted on it?

So again – what will happen? At the point that we receive the truth – will the truth win out? Will it be accepted as truth? And if it is – what then? Pence has lived  a textbook life since becoming VP of the “I am completely out of the loop” variety. So of course he is, and has been since day 1,  hedging, ready to assume the presidency in the event all is discovered. But my guess is that Meuller will find that everyone in the campaign is guilty, so Pence will also be damaged goods.  And what if, as it appears, the Russia meddling was not limited to propaganda and coordination with the Trump campaign, but actually extended to manipulation of voting counts in the crucial swing states Trump won – unexpectedly – by razor-thin margins? Do we undo the Trump presidency?

Maybe. But that scenario leaves out Trump’s die-hard, reality-challenged supporters in the alt-right media and in our corrupt Congress. We already know they will refuse to believe the truth (because they are Post-Truth people). They will believe the ‘alternate fact’ stories being spun up right now by Trump’s allies (see above), because they like that reality better than the real reality. And after all, what value does truth have for these people? It just gets them in trouble.

And Trump? How will he react to being totally exposed, once and for all, as a fraud and a crook – and a traitor? It’s anyone’s guess, but in the past his practice has been simple – NEVER back down, never apologize, never admit error (let alone guilt of treason). But that doesn’t work if you are being removed from office – he can’t sue his way out of that humiliation. It will be final and complete. It will shatter his fragile illusion of himself and his even more fragile ego. As a man sadly deluded into thinking he’s perceived as a great president, it will ruin him.

And at that moment – when his downfall and his humiliation are complete, when he realizes he will be the first president to be forcibly removed from office, and thus realizes he is an utter failure – at that exact moment he will still have the ability to independently launch a first strike nuclear attack.

The only positive in that scenario is that there are currently no U.S. first strike plans that target the United States.

 

Post-Politics

I was just watching the end of a concert by a favorite band, The XX. It was sort of an epiphany – you’d have to see the concert, but it is simply a show full of love. These kids love one another (I’ve seen them in interviews) and I believe they love their fans for giving them a voice. And their fans love them.

It used to be you could just assume folks put love in the “plus” column, unless they’re jerks. But need I tell you? Jerks are on the rise.

And not just love. Everything that goes into it, into art, into soulful expression – into taking that risk of putting yourself out there, in whatever form, to affirm that love is good, to make yourself vulnerable to ridicule by expressing admiration for warm emotions, for friendship and respect. For honor, which is based on honesty, and truth, which is required for honesty.

It appears you risk being some kind of snowflake. Be that as it may, it’s a risk the vast majority of us are still willing to take. Only a few have found this time to be an apt opportunity to reveal an inner, coarser self, one that had heretofore been kept under wraps.

But they are a noisy few!

What my eyes and ears tell me, though, when witnessing an XX concert or a flood of “mad” emojis under a Pence speech, is that they are few in number compared to those who simply want to live and let live. The problem? Of course, it’s simple – though relatively rare, white Christian nationalism is now concentrated in the political class, more specifically the Republican party. This is having, for some, a legitimizing effect on what would have been scandalous behavior not ten years ago.

I mean, remember when you could get impeached for lying about a blow job?

When the governor of Nebraska goes into open battle with public higher education and Planned Parenthood, going so far as to call Nebraska a “pro-life” state (where he is dying to execute his prisoners, but never mind) – this reveals a deeper corrosion that preceded the president’s slimy rise to power. Ditto Walker, Brownback, Christie, Sessions, Bannon, Miller. They were waiting for him as one awaits a savior.

And the Joe Blows out there, with the aid of Facebook, are ascendant in their new nastiness, their on-script, imagination-free on line bullying and harassment.  Feeling their new “legitimacy” [sic] and testing out those “button-pushing” words!

I was never able to imagine how the right-wing political class would normalize Trump. I thought it impossible. And I was right – the man refuses to even pretend to be civilized. But I was forgetting that for a significant minority, it was not necessary to normalize the president’s boorish behavior.

To them, he was already normal.

In this, I believe many of us are “post-political,” in that we know we are members of a sane, rational majority. But we have little representation in the central government or in our region, both of which are seas of deepest, now-darkest red. Our leaders are leaders in name only. They are sectarians. They don’t identify with us, they don’t represent us, and they don’t want to. We are sailing different seas, every day. Our paths do not cross. Or if they do, it is to oppose each other’s ideas.

They are becoming to me as I already am to them – irrelevant.

 

No Gold Watch

Today I will be honored for 20 years of service to my company. It’s an odd feeling. I don’t think there will be a gold watch, which is good because I don’t really wear gold. When I add up all the compensation I have received, it seems like a lot. But they got 20 years of my life (so far) in return, or at least a goodly portion of those years’ waking hours (and some sleepless nights).

When I started my career, I thought I wanted to be a university professor. Then I discovered that’s like wanting to be a rock star –  beyond the commonplace thing called “talent”, one must also be in the right place, at the right time, have a lot of luck, and know people who can help (and want to help). Not to mention money. I had none of that. I remember distinctly – every PhD program or M.A. level instructor position I looked at had the standard late 1990s attempt at diversification remedy built in: “Women and minority candidates are strongly encouraged to apply.” And I understood that, because faculties were (and are) heavily weighted with the white men who used to get pretty much all the plum jobs. So that didn’t happen.

I’m not bitter – I enjoyed teaching at UNO as a graduate student, and I’ve been an adjunct and might be again. But when I see what’s happening to higher education in the 2000s, I feel relief that I’m not locked into a paranoid system that now seems to be largely a crucible of political warfare and mutual suspicion. Accommodations, intellectual rigor, and safe spaces do battle with right-wing insurgents who want to “target” liberal “indoctrination” (and individual professors) at the university, while a majority of one political party now believes higher education does more to harm the country than help it. Seriously. They believe this.

So I just do what I know how to do, try not to complain too much, and show up every day (or at least the vast majority of days). It’s been a good policy. I am at peace.

Two and Two Make Trumpism

I believe we are watching our language break down in real time in the manner described by George Orwell in his famous novel 1984. I believe a lot of people have simply given up on independent thinking and objective reality, and are content to merely spout empty slogans to shield themselves from words they perceive as threatening to their self-constructed, solipsistic world view.

To such people the truth is, in effect, arbitrary and tangential to the goal of communication, which is to win.

This never really occurred to me before, that the principles of Newspeak (i.e. the fewer words people have to use, the better at limiting what they think) would go mainstream in 2016. Instead of the nuanced analysis and acceptance of facts not in support of one’s position required by honest debate,  we get people who’ve been trained to rely on epithets and catch phrases: “swamp creature” and “snowflake” and “lock her up” (complete with 2-minute hates, a la Goldsteinism) and “build that wall” and “violent/intolerant left” and “fake news” and all the other all-purpose MAGA terms that seek to shut down informed debate before it can start.

I no longer attempt to “argue” with self-identified Trumpers, because there will be no reasoned argument. There will be only slogans and Kellyanne-style “whataboutisms” and, if those don’t silence the unwanted sound of information coming their way – insults designed to intimidate or subtly threaten the speaker for not being on the right team, and never mind the details. Wrong team.

What there will never be is an admission that anything Trump ever said or did was wrong or misguided or illegal. Or, if he did make a slight error in judgment, what about Hillary and her emails? What about the murder of Seth Rich by the DNC? And other assorted distracting falsehoods and irrelevancies (oft-repeated to gain that veneer of truthiness).

What supporters of Trump ask of us is that we deny the reality of our senses – that we not believe our eyes and ears. Reality is not the foundation on which their arguments are made – it is the prize to be won by making them. Everything Trump announces about himself on a regular basis – that he is a sexual predator, a misogynist, a narcissist, a bigot, a fraud, a serial liar, a criminal and a cheat – none of these facts can be relevant or even true. They cannot. Because if they were, Trump supporters would be backing a man with no moral authority whatsoever. They would be backing a fraud.

So to Trump supporters, Trump’s not a sexual predator – CNN doctored that tape. He’s not a misogynist – (insert woman’s name) is lying (or she had it coming). He did not make fun of that disabled reporter, even though it’s on tape. He’s not a bigot – Mexicans really are mostly rapists and drug dealers and “maybe a few good people too”, and Muslims are dangerous and need watching anyway. He’s not a cheat – all those contractors who say they got stiffed are lying. The hundreds of lawsuits? Sore losers. And the massive protests? Protesters are all actors being paid by George Soros and the DNC.

Eventually, Trump will have never gotten draft deferments, will never have had five kids from three different wives whom he serially cheated on, will never have called Mexicans rapists, will never have mused about having sex with his own daughter. And he will never have called the press “the enemy of the American people” – once he controls the press.

At that point, the matter will be settled. Two and two will make five. Forever.

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