Sunday, January 08, 2017

My quest for sane adults in Congress

In this time of national need, I have recently embarked on a search for sane adults in Congress.

The logical place to look seemed to be among the dozens of Congressional caucuses.

In particular I was looking for a few legislators devoted to adult, sane, non-partisan behavior.

The Senate, I have learned, has no caucuses at all. In the upper house, gatherings of like-minded solons are called “coalitions.”

So let’s mine the lode of caucuses in the “People’s Chamber” in our quest for sane adult nuggets.

The Wikipedia entries were instructive but not particularly reassuring. Vis.

There were the predictable “single-issue” caucuses. So we have “The Atlantic Offshore Energy Caucus,” and the “Carbonated and Non-alcoholic Caucus,” the “Direct Selling Caucus,” the “Electromagnetic Caucus,” the “Cut Flower Caucus” and the “Hockey Caucus.” There’s even a “Baby Caucus,” which is bracketed alphabetically by the “Azerbaijan Caucus” and the “Bangladesh Caucus,” which itself is followed “The Baseball Caucus” and “The Battlefield Caucus.”

As Dave Barry would say, I am NOT making this up.

If this swarm of caucuses are anything more than accounts for campaign contributions. it’s a wonder that Congress gets anything done at all.

Here’s the closest I could come to a caucus for adult sanity:

Congress has three mental health caucuses. The generic “Mental Health Caucus,” the “Men’s Mental Health Caucus” (particularly useful in weighing Trump cabinet nominees and Trump himself) and the “Military Mental Health Caucus” (also known to insensitive, politically incorrect wags as the “Catch-22 Caucus.”)

There is also the timely “Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus” and the “Caucus to End Bullying.”  In a just, sane and adult world, much needed presidential impeachment initiatives would emerge from these groups.

Other promising groups are the “Problem Solvers Caucus” “the Peacekeeping Caucus,” “the Innovation and Human Condition Caucus,” (“innovative” hacking alert!} and, the “Invasive Species Caucus” including, one would hope, invasive species of the human kind.

One obvious problem exposed by my research is a lack of focus. Accordingly I’m recommending an emergency consolidation of some of these groups into the “Sane, adult legislators caucus.”

I predict it will be a small group, but you have to begin somewhere — and FAST!

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

Was Trump involved in Russian hacking?

The news of the last week has been dominated by Russia and Putin’s influencing the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

The news all seems to be about Putin, Russian intelligence and collaborating pro-russian trolls.

But very little has been said about Trump himself. Was Russia’s support of Trump part of a two-way deal? Does Putin’s animosity for Hillary Clinton fully explain why the he would devote so many resources on behalf of Trump?

Who is the “Hillary” in Germany and France, where the Russians are using the same methods of deception and hacking? Are there quid pro quos between the insurgent right-wing leaders and the Russians?

What’s needed from the US intelligence community and the Senate hearings are answers regarding Trump’s own possible direct involvement and cooperation with Putin and his regime.

Beyond possible political manipulations is still another world worth investigating — the criminal underworld is rife in Russia.

Does Trump have US and possibly Russian links to organized crime? One doesn’t conduct business on a Trumpian scale without dealing with underworld forces wherever they might be…and Trump’s involvements span the globe.

In Friday’s Washington Post, opinion writer Kathleen Parker made a start to prying open some of the unanswered and politically incorrect questions.

Under the headline reading, “If Obama is a Muslim, is Trump a Russian Spy?” she raises the question of whether Trump himself could be a treasonous spy and concludes: “…when the president-elect persists in a state of denial, siding with the enemy against his own country’s best interests, one is forced to consider that Trump himself poses a threat to national security…In Russia, they’d just call it treason.”

A side note: I’ve often thought that Trump’s trademark red caps should really read: “Trump. Make RUSSIA great again!” because that seems to be where his presidency is headed. Another version might carry the words: “Trump: From Russia with Love!”

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump's 'Gifts' to America could spell impeachment

One great “gift” that Donald Trump has given "We the People" forces us to break the mold on how we think about political divisions in this country.

In the weeks ahead we will forget Republicans and Democrats and the seemingly rigid divide between the two, particularly in Congress.

We will forget Liberals and Conservatives.

And yes, with time, we will even be able to put aside “Red” and “Blue” states.

The last to fall will be our growing class, racial and educational divisions although our history tells us that those will be a long, long time coming.

(Note in passing: we have already forgotten Hillary Clinton. That clears the air and leaves Trump to be judged free of Clinton baggage and fake news “distractions.” )

So what will end these divisions?

Two words: Donald Trump — but not in the dictatorial way he would imagine.

The answer to the question brings us to Trump’s greatest gift. The realignment is going to be over the values of Trump (if they can be called that) versus the bed-rock values of the large majority of Americans.

Trump and initially his Russian friends are forcing us to rediscover and defend our values.

Welcome to a world divided into pro-Trump versus pro-democracy. Pro-dictatorship versus Pro-Freedom.

And finally: Pro-Lies and pro-Truth.

The first place the divide will become obvious will be in the confirmation hearings in the Senate. The Senate is packed with people with very large egos who have been deeply and personally offended by the President-elect. One does not forget insults to one’s military service, to one’s wife or father or the size of one’s privates.

Those senators, all of them Republicans, have not forgotten.

And so we have Lindsay Graham and John McCain stepping up.  Can Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio be far behind? If they and a few of others join in, initially on concerns about national security and Russian subterfuge, we suddenly have an anti-Trump majority in the Senate.

Knowing Trump, he will proceed with further ad hominem attacks. Expect the anti-Trump Senate majority to grow and solidify, possibly killing the whole Trump agenda and rejecting virtually all of his cabinet nominees.

That will only infuriate the self-obsessed Trump more. He will dig his hole deeper and deeper.

Did anyone say “Impeachment”?

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Trump, Postman, Orwell and Huxley

In the introduction to Neil Postman’s classic “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the author draws several distinctions between the dystopia of George Orwell in “1984” and that of Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World.”

As Postman described it, Orwell’s vision was of an oppressive dictatorial mind control that “flipped” human values. Vis. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.”

Huxley, on the other hand, described a world in which we ourselves choose to escape through drug-induced fantasies. “…most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.”

On the status of truth, Postman wrote: “Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

There’s more that Postman contrasted and it’s well worth reading, but at the end of his introduction, he concluded: “This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

Looking at the 2016 election and the on-going Trumpian transition to power, I conclude that both Huxley and Orwell were right…but there is much, much more going on.

Certainly Orwell’s fear of truth being concealed from us is true and has been throughout our history. But, likewise, as Huxley predicted, truth has become “drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

Indeed truth itself seems irrelevant, not because it is concealed, but because what passes as truth is fabricated and, even after being unmasked, still manages to retain its power.

So we have “fake news.” We are dizzily forced to tease reality from “reality.” Fact from fiction. If we have the time or inclination for it….

The consequences are clear and dangerous beyond the results of the election.

Yesterday’s news of the armed “self-investigator” set upon threatening a pizza parlor is a case in point. The pizza establishment had been falsely portrayed by trolls as being at the center of child sex ring operated by none other than Hillary Clinton. The gunman bought the lie.

Such rampant lies result from financial as well as political incentives.

Witness the entertainment business. Entertainment, much of it violent and outlandish, is richly rewarding. That has been true for decades, but, amplified by new technologies, it has escalated in brutality.

Society and civility are far the worse for it.

And so we have the president of CBS, Les Moonves, confessing during Trump’s profane, violence-prompting, news cycle-grabbing campaign. "It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Solitary trolls have made small fortunes concocting “fake news” (ie. lies) to attract internet “clicks” and hence money on Facebook and other sites.

In such an amoral environment, lying overwhelms truth in the marketplace of “ideas.”

Just as “truth will set us free,” today’s rewards for lying have doomed us to enslavement.

So who was right? Huxley or Orwell?

While I wouldn’t wish our predicament upon Postman (who died in 2003), Orwell or Huxley, I yearn to put the question to them.

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