Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Debate in your Living Room

During the Vietnam War, New Yorker television critic Michael Arlen coined the phrase “Living Room War” to help readers understand television’s role in shaping the public’s “experience” and perception of the disastrous conflict.

Hillary Clinton and her advisors seem unaware of Arlen’s perceptive analysis.

When candidates speak, be it in a debate or in a convention hall, their primary and overwhelmingly largest audiences sit in the comfort of their homes. In essence, the public has invited these strangers into their living rooms.

As our “guests,” they should act accordingly. The best candidates do that. Their tone is polite, congenial, informative, respectfully challenging and conversational.

Think of television-age candidates whom the public has felt “most comfortable” having in its living rooms. Kennedy, Reagan and Obama come to mind.

And whom are you inclined to invite to leave? Do Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton come to mind?

And why might that be? With Trump, the answer is obvious. Trump is an egotistical raver/ranter. He offends most who see and hear him. He appeals to the worst in us and, in our heart of hearts, we know it.

Will he be able to modify his “gut” reactions and impulses in Monday night’s first presidential debate? It’s unlikely. He seems addicted to the adrenaline rush of hatred and self-aggrandizement.

As for Clinton, her problem is that she relates to those she sees but is oblivious to the living-room multitudes she can’t see.

Witness her acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. She began calmly enough but she soon forgot about her unseen TV audience. Instead she directed herself to the convention crowd. The result was a routine, haranguing stump speech in millions of living rooms.

Clinton should be smart enough to change her approach. She certainly knows how to relate one-on-one to people. Trump relates one-on-one only with Number One, himself.

But if Clinton and Trump engage in a brawl, I for one will treat their behavior as disrespectful of my home. I will invite these two less-than-desirable candidates to “take it outside.”

In other words, I’ll hit the off button.

If Clinton gently and forcefully calls Trump on his behavior without being condescending and scolding and without insulting his followers, I may hang around.

Then again, my viewing habits might well be hopelessly old-fashioned. Television is entertainment. Increasingly mass audiences invite and even encourage the medium in its various forms to bring into their living rooms “entertainment” which we would never allow to actually take place there.

And therein lies the problem. Audiences have substituted the reality of the living room with “reality” as defined by media. Clinton and particularly Trump have fallen prey to it. They play to that substitute, artificial world.

The question is this: whose “reality,” as presented in our living rooms, best describes and speaks to our reality, its future and to our lives and values.

My hope is that the “winner” of Monday night’s debate will be the candidate I would welcome back to my living room to learn more. And there is so much more to learn….

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nose-holders for Hillary

It’s pretty clear that the fate of the Republic, and perhaps the world, rests in the hands of one group of people who have yet to organize.

Their main barrier is that they lack an identity, a name that conveys a conflicted message.

The group, mostly Bernie Sanders supporters, is hyper-conflicted about Hillary Clinton.

They desperately want to vote their consciences, but they know in their heart of hearts that they don’t have that option.

They know that voting “for someone else” puts Donald Trump, a megalomaniac, in the White House.

Now there’s a REAL weight on the conscience!

So this disaffected, conflicted group needs a way to signal that while they don’t like (read: "have serious reservations about," "are suspicious of," "flat-out distrust") Hillary, they are voting for her to keep a mad man out of the White House.

Welcome to….

     Nose-holders for Hillary!

And, yes, you guessed it. I’m one of them. Even enthusiastically!

Bring on bumper stickers, yard signs and banners!

Spread the word. Nose-holders, unite!

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mental Health Assessment of Donald Trump

I have just received the following self-leaked mental health assessment for one Donald John Trump, candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.

Mental Health Assessment:

Patient/Client: Donald John Trump

General description: Caucasian, exceedingly wealthy American male of privilege and executive status.

Mr. Trump is at the extreme range of personality traits frequently associated with this cohort.

Assessment of behavior: Like many others in this group, Mr. Trump is self-centered, isolated and detached from reality. He is prone to be insensitive to and manipulative of others.

He has sexist tendencies and acts out his sexual insecurities with “macho,” “conquest” behavior that is disrespectful of women and threatening to men, women and children.

As a physically imposing man, he can be intimidating. He is habitually impulsive and demeaning in word and gesture. As a public figure he encourages violent behavior among his followers.

Because of his insecurity, he seeks nearly constant affirmation and deference from those around him. His ambition is entirely self-serving and self-centered.

Mr. Trump fits the textbook descriptions of a pathological narcissist. He has demonstrated sociopathic traits.

In part because of his television acting career and fiction-based celebrity status, he has confused  artifice with reality. This and the above-mentioned character traits, explain his compulsive contradictory statements and disregard for truth in general.

Mr. Trump has a dysfunctional, delusional personality. He is not mentally or socially fit for military service of any kind. In possession of presidential power, including the power to wage conventional and nuclear war, he would pose an extreme security risk not just to the nation but to the world.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016


The question facing Republicans is no longer whether or not to support Donald Trump's candidacy.

Today in North Carolina, the ante was raised. Trump obliquely suggested that "Second Amendment people" might take matters into their own hands to end Hillary Clinton's presidency

His inflammatory comments pose a whole new question: Should the Republican Party and its leaders demand that Trump step down as the party's nominee?

Further, the Secret Service ought to be looking into whether Trump's remarks constitute incitement to commit a crime. Positing the notion of assassination before a crowd that includes rabid gun zealots may meet the test of dangerously yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater.

Is a restraining order called for?

Here's what Trump said with regard to gun possession, Clinton court appointees and the Second Amendment: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Oh yes he does know.

The remark can be paired with one he made during the primary campaign.
"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay?" Those are the kind of voters Trump was speaking to today. That is the kind of behavior he condones. He's done so on numerous other occasions as well.

With Trump, referring to violence is simply another macho rhetorical device. It is time he face the potential consequences of his words.

So where are you on this, Republicans? Will you call for Trump's resignation as nominee of your party?

The answer should be clear. It's time to get the hook out to yank this dangerous fanatic off the political stage before someone gets killed.

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"White House" Slavery and homelessness

For many the most searing line in the speeches given at either political convention was delivered by First Lady Michelle Obama when she said, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.”

In another way, she and all of us are enslaved in this “White House” called America. We are, in a sense, our own slaves to a history and culture of slavery.

We are slaves to debt, slaves to war, slaves to consumerist desires, slaves to ignorance, slaves of an economy destroying the planet, slaves to wealthy elites, slaves to false, unquestioned values.

That was my extended take-away from the Obama speech until, without giving it much thought, I shared my heady little exposition with John Brown.

John is the homeless Street Roots newspaper vendor who sells the advocacy tabloid in front of the Food Front grocery in Hillsdale.

John is homeless because of crippling disability.

He is also whippet smart. The man is encyclopedic in his knowledge of the arts and literature. He recites Shakespeare with ease and affection. It’s as though he is on first name terms with The Bard, whom he calls “Willie the Shake.”

So I am rambling on with my boundless thoughts about the First Lady’s speech with John when I get to the part  waking up in a house built by slaves.

Suddenly I am confronted with the fact that John doesn’t wake up in a house at all.

Nor do his fellow Street Roots vendors and the hundreds for whom the Street Roots publication speaks so powerfully.

They are slaves to extreme poverty on our streets, in our parks and under our bridges.

Their plight today is another “White House” disgrace. Each day, with our eyes wide open, we witness their plight…and do nothing.

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