Choices From The Swamp


Having agonized with the rest of you over the endless barrage of hacked emails and and the equally endless parade of Trump accusers who found their voice here in October (surprise!), I am compelled to put aside my political persuasions and stand up for the only viable candidate whose morality and character is not outrageous and reprehensible. One small problem, it looks like there isn’t one.

Not all people are as informed on popular culture as others are, some people have jobs and families, or even hobbies which divert their attention from the cesspools of television, Hollywood, and Washington. Despite my own busy life, I still can’t as easily ignore what I see and hear, so, for better or worse, Donald Trump’s crude hot mic moment came as no more of a surprise to me than the revelations that Hillary had a “secret” dream of open borders, or that her campaign disdained traditional religion. The allegations of the women against Trump were more of a surprise, but the timing arguably casts a shadow over whether they are victims or operatives. Unfortunately, the election will be over before their stories can be checked out. That is not to Trump’s advantage, as people tend to lean guilty until proven innocent when it comes to accusations of sexual impropriety, especially when you have numbers of accusers, and Trump and Billy Bush provided the template for the accusations. Trump has tried to fight back, citing Bill Clinton’s sordid sexual escapades and Hillary’s codependent participation in silencing or destroying the women who accused him; far worse than most of what Trump is accused of. Sexual innuendo has a shelf life though, and accusations of impropriety are a dish best served hot. Though the atrocities committed on women by the Clintons are generally acknowledged by all but the most naive partisans, it’s yesteryear’s news, and we like our salaciousness fresh and juicy.

But if we stipulate that Mr. Trump is as corrupt a human being as Hillary Clinton, what then shall we do? It’s as though we live in a neighborhood with two grocery stores; one grocer beats his wife, and the other beats his kid… at which store do we buy our groceries? Oh, there’s a couple down the road that wants to start a grocery store, they can take your money if you want to make a statement, but they can’t give you any food. If you don’t make a choice, your neighbors will make the choice for you, so your kids don’t starve, and send you the bill later. Oh, by the way, one store is selling some food that you love, and the other is selling only food you hate. Let’s not have dizzying arguments about whose sin is more mortal, let’s not try to defend the reprehensible in either candidate, let us admit that these characters would not be our first choices for godparents for our children– but where will we buy our groceries?

Progressives are better at this than we are. Conservatives are more black and white about right and wrong. Republicans are the party who forced their own President to leave office over a cover-up, and no one even died! Progressives tend to see sin as more relative; relative to party, relative to how it impacts their goals, relative to whether it helps or hurts their political adversaries. When our guys do or say something unseemly, it generally spells their doom. Democrats who do the same are tapped for their own TV shows, regularly reelected, sometimes even after a stint in prison, or steadfastly supported while the loyal make excuses for their missteps. Let’s not go there. Let’s not lose our moral compass in justifying wickedness, but neither let us lose our hope in the Clintonian supposition that a person or a situation is beyond redemption. In the end, when we are left with only bad choices, including the bad choice of not choosing, we are consigned to the pragmatism of a choice based on something other than virtue, our future.

President Obama recently echoed the sentiments of Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comment, in referring to Rush Limbaugh listeners and Fox News viewers as being “in the swamp of crazy…there’s sort of a spectrum, right– it’s a whole kind of ecosystem…”. Likewise the hacked emails from John Podesta revealed the disdain the campaign has for conservative Catholics, and worse still, Evangelicals. Bill Clinton then referenced conservative voters as rednecks, reminiscent of Obama’s infamous “Cinging to guns and religion” comment. The catchy Democratic slogan, “Stronger together”, apparently has some narrowly drawn parameters. All these show a party unwelcoming of dissent, intolerant of debate, and disparaging of those who disagree. In an election where our choices are between Donald and Hillary, it is hard to disagree that we are “in the swamp of crazy”, but we have followed the trail you blazed to get us here, Mr. President, these are both the candidates your party wanted.

IMHO: In a run-off between complicated deviancy and common baseness, revulsion of the latter is more gut level and doesn’t require the tedium of thinking things through as does the former. As ridiculously convoluted and unbelievable the Clinton excuses may be, without video of the transgressions, outlandish tales can be spun for the gullible. For that reason, pundits can be excused for again writing obituaries for the Trump campaign. In any other election year, with any other set of candidates, this would be well over. Yet the latest polls show Trump continuing to be competitive, despite the dip immediately after the release of the hot mic tape. One recalls the words of Hillary Clinton, “Why am I not fifty points ahead?!”. We are in this election beyond values; if values are to be the criteria then both candidates are disqualified. Hope is not lost though. Unlike the imagery of a basket of “unredeemable deplorables” floating lost forever through a “swamp of crazy”, this is where conservatives are less black and white than progressives. Few people are monsters, nowhere near half, and even fewer are beyond redemption. Though these candidates are indeed flawed, their flaws may not define them; the story of many great men and women is about redemption. Our choice may come down to which candidate we sense is more likely to find that road, and failing that, which candidate is more likely to secure our future despite their flaws.
Some regard their vote as an extension of their soul, not to be sullied by being connected to a sub-par candidate. I can’t blame them for that, each must follow their conscience, but these make themselves of no consequence to this election, and less consequence to future elections than they might believe. What they may however do is miss an opportunity to mitigate the damages. If you want to change the future of our political process it will require a little more effort than voting for some obscure third party candidate or write-in so you can absolve yourself with a bumper sticker after the election. You can answer how you please, but the only question left to us this time around is “Trump or Hillary?”. If you can’t find a way to answer that question, someone else will answer it for you.
“Our lives are fashioned by our choices.
First we make our choices.
Then our choices make us.”

Anne Frank

Ship of Fools


“The best argument against democracy is a five minute
conversation with the average voter.”

Winston Churchill

Much of what we do as mankind are responses to needs that have been addressed for thousands of years. Besides the minor tweaks that knowledge and technology afford us, there is, as Ecclesiastes tells us, little new under the sun when it comes to basic societal needs or the exercise of political power. Plato wrote in The Republic that democracy was a flawed system of government inasmuch as leaders ill qualified to lead were nevertheless adept at convincing their fellows to vote for them, that the skills and attributes that win elections, are not at all the same skills that make a great leader. In his argument, he formulated the allegory of the “Ship of Fools”, where a ship’s crew mutiny the captain and then by collusion, flattery, violence, persuasion, and impugning the characters of their enemies, new navigators are elected, though they have no skills in navigation. The result being a ship adrift, the steering left to those least able to guide it. Plato is said to have preferred the idea of philosopher kings, an oligarchy of the most qualified thinkers, himself possibly being a reasonable candidate.

Of course, any system of government dependent on human beings to guide it will be flawed, whether it is led by a slick politician, a benevolent monarch, or a philosopher king. For this reason, the forefathers sought to mitigate the manifest corruption of humanity by creating us as a constitutional republic, a nation guided primarily by laws, and not by people… a type of auto pilot for the Ship of fools. As we move away from the primacy of that Constitution, we more closely resemble the ship of Plato’s allegory, where fools elect fools on the basis of party loyalty, sound-bites, and intentional disregard of reality.

So today’s news is the leaked tape of Donald Trump making lewd comments about women, saying outrageous things about women’s anatomy, bragging about his sexual prowess, and acting like, well, Donald Trump. And so the collapse of Obamacare goes to the back page. The exposition that Hillary Clinton admits to a public persona that doesn’t actually jive with her private persona that supports open borders and believes Wall Street should be in charge of fixing their own problems, yes, back page stuff. Sex always leads. Bad news for Trump always leads. And so, this completely unsurprising audio of Trump being Trump is front page news.

Politicians know the political response, and it is the same response that men have learned from their earliest interactions with the fairer sex; mock outrage. “Oh how disgusting!”, “How misogynistic!”, “How objectifying of women!”, “How unlike anything I would ever say!” If we as men don’t fulfill our part of this kabuki theater, mock outrage, then women might not fulfill their part, intentional naivety. Truth is, and those of us no longer mired in adolescent innocence know it in our hearts, that men think about sex, and they think about it a lot. Once in awhile ugly thoughts come out in ugly words, sometimes in the locker room, sometimes in the bedroom with their own women. I’ve read the transcript, and frankly I don’t see any news here. After Stern, the Playboy interviews, and the adulteries, did we think Trump would talk any differently in private? Do we suppose that most men talk together about women by quoting poetry?   Do we really believe Bill Clinton revered women in all of his private conversations? We as a society have already decided that such things are not a disqualifier. I daresay we have survived several Presidents who have said such things and worse in private conversations, but that doesn’t matter because we have audio on this, and audio demands a response, and that response must include outrage, shock, and piety. I haven’t the knowledge the Christ had as he traced in the sand the words and deeds of the men seeking to stone the adulteress, but you all know your own darkness, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Not to excuse the transgression, or the transgressor, this is why Trump was last on my list for GOP candidates, but the hypocrisy and hysteria over boorish behavior to the exclusion of concern over Hillary Clinton’s criminal behavior, and worse, her destructive ideas, is appalling.

IMHO: Mr. Trump is likely to learn that billionaires expressing sexual perversion might entice women as they flock to theaters to see Fifty Shades of Grey, but it won’t fly as they flock to polling places. Plenty of men (and politicians) will probably need to drop their support for Trump if only to prove that they are not like him… even if they are. On this ship of fools we are always choosing between two flawed navigators; this time around they are even more flawed than usual. My highest concern is less with what one of the candidates said eleven years ago, but more with what one of them has said and done recently, and even more so what each of them promises for the future. I resent it, but we have a choice only between two courses; I don’t like where one has been, but I cannot abide where the other is going.






“…It’s the end of the world as we know it,
It’s the end of the world as we know it,
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

R.E.M.    It’s The End Of The World

If partisan pundits are to be believed, we are apparently continuing our streak of “the most consequential election of our lifetime”. Our political discourse tends toward the apocalyptic, where we seem ever to be clinging to the brink of oblivion. We have Sean Hannity warning us that a second President Clinton guarantees the end of our nation, while Bono tells us that Trump is potentially the worst idea that ever happened to America, and The Washington Post draws upon the well worn Hitler analogy. Godwin’s Law should apply here, but the conversation has only begun, what with Glenn Beck promising that a Trump victory means the sinister ascension of the dread “Alt Right”, and Trump surrogates warning that a Hillary victory means terrorists flooding the nation and Iran shooting nuclear missiles at us. It is a difficult choice indeed, how would you like your apocalypse? Me, I am filled with enough dread over the possibility of a President whose limited vocabulary of four letter words is a perfect fit for his Twitter penchant, or the equally frightening prospect of being scolded for eight years by a Madam President who sounds uncannily like my ex wife.

Can’t something be a bad idea without it meaning the end of the world? Why can’t we insist that someone is a poor choice without suggesting that they are the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler? Our tendency toward hyperbole in our politics, with progressives drawing bogey men from the past, and conservatives drawing them from the future, demonstrates a myopic focus on the present where clear readings of history and of prophecy become blurred echoes only to be used to frighten the children and persuade the ignorant. If we honestly remembered the monsters of the past, and clearly discerned the final apocalypse, we could not in good conscience compare these two doddering senior citizens to those nightmares.

If Trump is to be crowned, as Mr. Bono suggests, potentially the worst idea that ever happened to America, there is some stiff competition:  slavery, the alien and sedition acts, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, Jim Crow, Prohibition, Japanese internment camps, Vietnam, Roe V Wade, the election of Barak Obama… We are a government by the people, and people make mistakes… we have made many, but there are many that we have fixed, and many more mistakes that we never made. The mistakes become part of our story, the fixes add to our strength. I’m not saying we ought not do our best to avoid mistakes, I think Hillary would be one, but I’ve not seen one yet that would spell our demise. Change is not a one way street, and when a change becomes unpalatable, the people change things again.  Balance returns, young girls sing, teenage boys ride their skateboards, old men laugh… life goes on.

IMHO: We continually revert to monarchical perspectives when looking for potential leaders. They are either saviors or tyrants, christs or anti-christs. We see them as the Moses who will lead us to the promised land or the Devil who will bring us to the abyss. The end will not come from the actions of one person, but by the falling away of all. We get the leaders we deserve, and if we want better leaders, we need to be better people. We do not have an appointed monarch ruling by some version of divine right, we have a government by the people, and we elect people to represent us in leadership. Ultimately these leaders are a reflection of the voters who elect them, and those voters are always changing. All elected leaders will make mistakes, some will be mistakes; but we are a Republic, and by God’s grace we have kept it; by God’s grace we will keep it.

The New Transparency

“Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand;
I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am.
Well, I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes,
So you can wipe off that grin- I know where you’ve been-
It’s all been a pack of lies!”

Phil Collins



Technology, with increasing speed, moves from the exclusive domain of the elite, including our governments, to the hands of the masses. The computers that existed only in large rooms of universities and government buildings a few decades ago, our teenagers now carry in their pockets. The secret cameras that were once the stuff of James Bond movies, and the real world top levels of espionage, are now available from discount catalogs, and I can see who’s at my front door from half way around the world. Where a few short years ago we became concerned with NSA surveillance, and the prying eyes of government invading the privacy of our on-line behavior or emails, the shoe is now on the other foot, and digital intrusion has become a two way street.

The hacking of the DNC, and subsequently of Colin Powell, shows that our secret communications may not always stay secret. The feigned outrage that the hacks might have been instigated by the Russian government was a juvenile like effort to displace the public’s focus from the ugly truth of the content of the communications. It’s as though your son read your teenage daughter’s diary and discovered she was doing drugs and having unprotected sex, and of course she would think the pressing issue to be your son’s invasion of her privacy. Regardless of where the hacks came from, the peek behind the curtains was a good thing. We have been promised transparency from every politician in my lifetime, but their willingness to provide it is something we now know better than to expect. Hillary’s mystery illness would never have been disclosed had the video not surfaced; she could not even give a straight answer about whether she had communicated her condition to her VP nominee. Obfuscation is the default posture even when there seems to be no need for it.

It is unfortunate, but we the people now see that we can’t trust our own politicians. There was a time when we could count on a diligent and unbiased press, but that is no longer the case. Now, like the parents of that teenage daughter, we will be sneaking our own peeks into that diary. FOIA requests, hacking, WikiLeaks, whistle blowers… we will use them all, and no doubt some secrets that should stay secret will be exposed. Collateral damage. Excuses like Hillary’s email explanations will only pass muster with older voters, and not with the tech-savvy bulk of the population. We know that Bleach-bit and hammers are not standard issue for deleting innocuous information. Videos of policing incidents have caught abuses, but have also had some negative effects. Just the same, Pandora’s Box has been opened, and the police and the public will need to adjust to this new reality. Likewise, old-school politicians like Hillary will need to realize that this is a new world, and penchants for privacy only invite the prying eyes of those more skilled in the black arts of the digital kingdom than her or her staff.

In response to the hacks of Colin Powell’s emails, and what that portends for other public figures, Megyn Kelly said, “In 2016 America, it’s no longer enough to pretend, you actually have to be a good person”. I wish it were so. At the least, I think it has become more difficult to pretend. With this new transparency comes the probable exposition of things we don’t need to know, and probably would prefer not to know. Heroes appear disappointingly mortal through an unfiltered lens. While I would like to know if Hillary has a neurological condition, I have no desire for details of hemorrhoid treatment or yeast infections. If there was a mechanism, like an independent review board that could filter and release pertinent information, a candidate’s privacy could be preserved. When we are forced to rely on Julian Assange or Russian hackers we get the whole nasty lump. When HDTV first came out, I loved it for nature shots, sports, and animated movies. What I found hard to watch were actors. You could see the pimples under their make-up, the wrinkles around their eyes… my God you could see the hair in their nostrils! We are beginning an age when our political candidates will be on full display for us in ultra high def. We will see that they are not messiahs or super heroes, but people like ourselves. We will need to make decisions on which aspects of flawed humanity disqualifies a candidate, and which aspects can be overlooked, but no longer will an honest voter engage in God-like devotion to an Obama or a Reagan. Candidates may be judged less by expositions of their faults as much as by how they respond to that exposition.

IMHO: The lesson to those with political aspirations is that if you intend to be sneaky, then you better be really good at it. If Hillary is able to pull this out, then maybe it’s enough for underhanded politicians to confine themselves to the Democratic party. If so, I can picture Dick Nixon shaking his head from the hereafter, “I should have been a democrat!” For me, I prefer Megyn Kelly’s optimistic admonition that maybe it’s time for good people to supplant the pretenders. Long ago, when I was in the throes of teenage development of character, faced with choices of probity and propriety, my rule of thumb to evaluate a situation where my rationality might be tainted by temptation, was to ask myself if I would be comfortable with my mother knowing the choice I had made. It wasn’t fool proof, but it generally clarified my self-deception. Likewise politicians in this time of declining privacy need to gauge their behavior by what they would do in plain sight of the electorate. If their choices come to light, they need not be entangled in a web of deception that fools no one; if their actions are not hacked, leaked or otherwise snooped on they can rest in the fact that they have been a good person, and goodness I think, still makes for a better politician.


You Can’t Always Get What You Want

After a long hiatus from this blog, I have perhaps been shamed to return by the words of our Dear Leader from the distant shores of Laos delivering the predictable applause line of calling Americans lazy. Lazy, because we fail to embrace creatively his definition of environmental concern. Lazy, because we apparently are not as informed about other nations as they are about us. For my part, I have had a particularly busy summer with work, family responsibilities, and other pressing concerns; and found insufficient time for a while to write about such things. In my defense, I played no golf. Just the same, I guess my bout with laziness is over for now. Challenge accepted Dear Leader… I’m back.




“You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, you might find,
You get what you need.” 
The Rolling Stones



As Donald Trump finished his address to the Values Voters Summit, I was surprised to hear the music playing him off the stage, the London Bach Choir opening to this song by The Rolling Stones. How appropriate, I thought, for this ode to the demise of idealism in the face of reality, with the saving grace of optimistic pragmatism, to be added to the soundtrack of this election season.

Followers of this blog will recall that of the deep cast of Presidential candidates on the right, Mr. Trump was in fact my last choice. Since then, having seen priorities and motives exposed, there might be a few candidates who have fallen below Trump in my estimation, though the majority I would still have preferred. Until and unless time machines are invented, thinking about what could have been is about as productive as fantasizing about the girl you could have married instead of the one you did… pointless. We are where we are, not where we wish we were, and the route to where we want to be begins right here; throwing away the map (okay GPS… I’m old!) is a ridiculous response, and not a solution at all.

Like it or not, we are as has repeatedly been said, faced with a binary choice as far as the future leader of the free world is concerned. Believe me, as one who experienced George Pataki being the “best” choice for governor of my state, I know how hard it can be to consistently be relegated to voting for the lesser of two evils. Beyond this, I do recognize that sometimes the two evils are great enough that even the lesser of the two cannot be sanctioned and voters may choose to “send a message” by withholding their vote, or “wasting” it on a third party. Of course, that only makes any sense at all if the message actually gets sent.

With the revelation that Jill Stein is apparently a 9/11 Truther, and Gary Johnson’s “This is your brain on drugs” moment (“And what is Aleppo?”), the alternate party candidates have insured that a vote for them falls silently into the abyss, one among a scattering few. Stein was going nowhere anyway, and Johnson had an outside shot at getting into the debates, but was never a serious candidate; this faux pas cements his fate. As an aside, I sympathize with Johnson. The older we get the more cluttered the drawers in our brain become. I may seem perfectly cogent when afforded the time to choose my words on a keyboard, but ask me the definition of the word “cogent” on national TV, and I’m likely to pull a Johnson and think you’re talking about trigonometric functions (cogents and tansines, right?). It’s not fair, it’s politics.

If we are ever to escape the bondage to our two party system, the third party candidate will need to be more than an afterthought for offended partisans, and should start running today for 2020. Until then, our President will be a Republican or a Democrat, in this election Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and voting any other way will only send the message “Don’t nominate whoever loses this election again”. If Trump loses, the establishment will regain control of the party and we will be sure to have more Doles, McCain’s and Romneys in the years to come. If Hillary loses, her corruption and scandals will be blamed, and we may see Michelle or someone else from the regime in 2020. If Hillary wins, then party politics will have been proven invincible. If Trump wins, particularly if he wins big, everything changes. Trump is the finger in the eye of the Republican Party. It is not the finger I would have chosen, but less refined voters than I have chosen Trump as the finger to use to demonstrate how dissatisfied they are with the party status quo. Democrats are close, but seeing how quickly Sanders and his supporters went over to the Dark Side of Darth Clinton, they’re not there yet, though a loss might just shake things up there as well.
IMHO: A President is our country’s most influential citizen, but he or she is not a monarch, and certainly not God. Elections are consequential, but even wrong choices don’t have to relegate us to the dust bin of history. So you cross your fingers and make a choice from the choices you have, and yes, you live with the consequences, but it is still a government by the people even after the election. Those high minded critics who love to find fault everywhere, and hope nowhere, exalt themselves and the brilliance of their neutrality by condemning both parties without offering a viable alternative. In their minds we are doomed; it is a wonder we have survived this long. In reality, we have survived this long by making tough choices from flawed candidates, and then adjusting, refining, and rebelling if those choices proved less than acceptable. We are not fools or pollyannas, the choices we have are on the surface certainly not the cream of the crop… but one of them will be the choice, and the idea that they are identically awful is ludicrous. If you feel we have been on the road to perdition with the current administration, then how could you not vote for the only viable choice that isn’t in lockstep with that administration? If you feel that Trump will bring about the apocalypse then how could you not help Hillary defeat him, despite her glaring problems? The election would have been more reasonable if the VP’s were at the top of the ticket, but that’s not what we have.
And so I look at all the pros and cons, you’ve heard it all, supreme court justices, life, taxes, school choice, vaccination choice, defense, economy etc. etc., and I find that when I look at the candidates’ positions I would have to assume Hillary is lying to vote for her. And while it may be more likely on any given day that Hillary is lying than that Trump is telling the truth, these positions give a pretty clear indication of the direction of their aim if not how accurately they will hit their target. There is a great chasm of difference there and only the shrill and intentionally blind will fail to see that. Use your vote as you will, but at the risk of being relegated with 20 million of my fellow citizens to Hillary Clinton’s imaginary “basket of deplorables”, my reasoned choice is Trump, I guess; you can’t always get what you want.


The Dance of Power


Sir Anthony Hopkins, one of the most gifted actors of our day, was reported to have passed away recently. Fortunately it was a hoax and he is still very much with us; hopefully we can enjoy his fine work for years to come.  Among his prolific contributions was an underrated film called “Instinct“, a movie lauded for its animal rights theme, but more properly viewed as an allegory on the nature of freedom. In one particularly poignant moment of the film (beginning around 1:40), Hopkins character, Dr. Ethan Powell, a primatologist who has devoted his life to the study of gorillas, bemoans the plight of a group of caged gorillas, and in particular one that he is responsible for having brought into captivity:

“…These are shadows of gorillas. Born in cages. Only the old male- he was free once. Still alive, Goliath? I named him that. I brought him here. This cage has broken him. Broken his heart, broken his mind. Made him insane. I did that.”                                                              
Powell opens the door to the old gorilla’s cage over the objection of his companion,
“…He won’t come out. You see? Even if he can. Not far from here is a fence, and on the other side of that fence is freedom, and he can smell it. He’ll never try to get there, ’cause he’s given up. By now he thinks freedom is something he dreamed…”                                     
No, I’m not changing this to a movie blog, and I suppose I’ve taken the long way round to begin making my point, but Hopkins role fit perfectly the concept that we lose our freedom sometimes because it is taken from us, and sometimes because we fail to take it back.

Here in upstate New York, our local Community College baseball team recently fell short in its quest for the national championship and it’s season came to an end in defeat. The only reason that is significant to anyone beyond the team and its fans is because it makes moot the fact that they would never have been able to pursue the championship had they been victorious. You see, this year the championship was to be played in North Carolina, and our dear leader, Governor Cuomo, has issued an edict in protest of that state’s “bathroom law”, prohibiting non-essential travel to that state for our state’s employees. Of course, eager young college kids playing America’s sport are hardly state employees, but the college administration, apparently cut from the same cloth as the governor, opted to back up the policy and prohibit the boys from playing in the championship had they succeeded in attaining to that level. Whether having nothing to play for contributed to their ultimate defeat, we cannot know, but we do now know that the college is willing to sacrifice students’ dreams and potential lifelong memories for a political statement. God forbid that the school might have afforded the team the freedom to decide for itself.

Up the ladder of government to the Whitehouse and we find the Obama administration releasing a letter to school districts “suggesting” that they tow the line on Title Nine, and interpret it to include gender identification as a protected class, making no prohibitions to who can try out for athletic teams or use specific restrooms, locker rooms, or showers on the basis of their supposed sex (the one they were born with), or their outward (or inward I guess!) sexual organs. Posed as a helpful suggestion for how to interpret title 9, the administration saw fit to include an unveiled threat concerning the loss of federal funding for districts who fail to comply. While this whole discussion, at the moment, is rightly referred to as a solution in search of a problem, it takes little precognition to recognize our destination from the direction this road is heading. Beyond our schools, the logic of carving out a protected status for gender identification will, to be logically consistent, need to eventually extend to women’s colleges, men’s clubs, girl scouts, boy scouts, our prison system, and beyond.

But something more basic is in play here than what makes a man a man or a woman a woman. Though such a controversy would have seemed absurd to all people who have lived before this decade; we have always had, and will always have, disagreements about how things should be run. Imagine if every disagreement between states was to be dealt with by boycotts and travel bans! I am not a fan of legalized prostitution, if governor would I then be compelled to follow Cuomo’s lead and prohibit non-essential travel to Nevada? (North Carolina is one thing, but Vegas? State employees would surely mutiny!) Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana; fortunately for us in New York, they are presently too mellowed to consider boycotting travel to our state for what they must consider our unnecessary infringement on our citizens’ right to get high. There was a time when local control of school districts was considered advantageous to education, now we see that federal money always comes with strings, nay, ropes that bind. It is a fine line, but an important one, do we elect a government to lead us… or control us?

Our nation was founded on a system of checks and balances. Those checks and balances do not insinuate a weak government. We were not founded to be a nation of weak leaders, nor of weak citizens. America was not to be a place where no one has power, that’s anarchy, but we were to be a place where everyone has power, even, by way of basic rights, the minority of the individual. In such a model we eschewed the stability of a static all powerful monarchy for the eternal struggle of freedom. The checks and balances of our system are the surging, oscillating, alternating dynamic of our republic. It is the dance of power, moving from the executive, to the the legislative, to the judicial, to the states, to the people themselves and then back again; it is the Tango of governments:

” In tango there is a ‘leader’ and a ‘follower’. Through the embrace, the leader offers invitations to the follower for where and how to step. The follower decides in what way they will accept the leader’s invitations. Both the leader and follower try to maintain harmony and connection through the embrace, and with the music, and so the dance is born.”



IMHO: With Donald Trump becoming the presumptive candidate for the GOP much has been said about people now “falling in line” to support him. We on the conservative side need to decide if after eight years of Obama we now want our own emperor to assume the template Obama has cast. Rather I think it high time to return to the dance floor and tango. Much in the way that Paul Ryan has been slow to blindly cast his lot with Trump, it is no crime to let our candidate know that he needs to dance, and that we will consider his lead on the merits and on how acceptably it will take us where we want to go. That kind of parrying has already yielded fruit for conservatives with the release of his “Supreme Court list “; he’s left himself a little wiggle room, but his lead is a response to conservatives playing hard to get. We may find Trump an intriguing partner, but we still need to be wooed. We do neither Trump or ourselves any favor by swooning into his arms. Absolute power corrupts not only the leader, but the led. A harmony of power strengthens us all; the music is playing… let’s dance!



Publisher’s note:  The original publication of this post reported the false reports of Sir Anthony’s passing as factual.  One of my reader’s corrected my gullibility in not doing my fact checking thoroughly, and for that I am both humbled and grateful.  I have corrected the text to reflect the hoax.      



Rebels and Rabbles

make america great

“I’m just deeply disappointed that once again we may have to
settle for the lesser of two evils.”

Howard Dean


In our now all too familiar four year cycle we are engaging once again in our presidential election ritual where we are asked to choose the less offensive of two offensive candidates to become the next leader of the free world. As always, we are told that the choice is obvious; in this case, better the narcissistic buffoon who at least makes claims of conservatism, than the progressive criminal who, despite dishonesty being her default position, proudly and truthfully eschews any hint of conservatism. Trump supporters are frustrated by the reticence of party bigwigs, talk show hosts, and principled conservatives to now and at once fall in line behind the presumptive candidate. If you’re not supporting Trump, then you’re supporting Hillary. The argument is a logical one, but how odd to be chided by those who supported a candidacy based entirely on emotion without reason, for a moment of irrationality regarding choosing between bad and worse.

This is not a case, as has been painted, of people needing time to heal from the disappointment of their candidate failing to win. Though there were many candidates, few except Trump had passionate followings, and Cruz was particularly a hard candidate to love. That being said, I don’t begrudge the Bushes, Lindsay Graham, or most of the other candidates for being slow to come around. Trump made the campaign intensely personal and not policy or performance based. He insulted their integrity, their appearance, their patriotism; and I can’t fault them for having difficulty in following Dr. Carson’s example, who Trump came close to comparing to a pedophile, and maybe being a little slower to join the group hug.

But ultimately, the reticence to support Trump is greatly due to who Trump is. All the talk about the lesser of two evils is fine, and given the imperfection of human beings I suppose we are always choosing someone who is flawed, but at some point the “evil” becomes more than a simple equation. Trump was of seventeen candidates my seventeenth choice. I will likely pull the lever for him, but certainly not enthusiastically; and since living in New York makes my vote moot anyway, I will at least momentarily consider the advantages of being able in years to come to truthfully proclaim, “Hey, I didn’t vote for him!” The lesser of two evils argument cannot be axiomatic. If somehow our only choice was between Hillary and Bernie, would we not be forgiven if we sat this one out? If forced to choose between Lucifer and Hitler, is there not an acceptable dignity in rejecting the choice altogether? Ah, but despite liberal bloggers’ insistence, Trump is not Hitler; and no, Hillary is not Lucifer; Lucifer is taller. In all likelihood, after some merited hesitation, the lesser of two evils argument still probably holds, if only because of the situation on the Supreme Court.

And so we move to the process of reconciliation. Media Trumpsters on Fox News and elsewhere are beside themselves that Republicans in huge numbers are pausing in their support for a candidate they find well lacking. The oath that the candidates took to support the eventual winner has been greatly ignored, which shows how meaningless oaths are when you’re dealing with politicians. The establishment Republicans see Trump as a threat to their power base, yes, but he is also their self proclaimed enemy, and he continues to ridicule them. It is reminiscent of President Obama mocking congressional Republicans and then criticizing them for being slow to cooperate; newsflash: people are human. Movement conservatives and Tea Party types having had highly successful mid term elections, and failing to beat Obama in his second run only because of their inability to flex enough muscle to find a more electable nominee than the establishment’s choice of Romney, thought that with this election their time had finally come. Hence, of 17 candidates, probably 13 or 14 at least would have been acceptable choices… and that was their doom. Having had the rug pulled out from under them, these rebels have seen their revolution apparently derailed by a rabble who have grown impatient with the plodding reasoned approach. These don’t care to hear about the history and fundamentals of our Republic. They know things are broken, and they want them fixed; they don’t care if it’s done by a rule book or a constitution. They don’t know or care what made America great, they just want to make it great again. They are oblivious to the sentiments of de Tocqueville and the quote attributed to him that America is great only because of her goodness, and instead look to the supposed shortcut to greatness, power.

The problem is that the rabble is insufficient to elect Trump, and other Republican office seekers will be slow to tie their wagon to what they perceive to be a sinking anchor. Conservatives will continue to be less than enthusiastic when like Romney and McCain before him, though for different reasons, Trump’s main selling point is that he is not as horrible as the alternative. I know that irks Trump fans, but that is the way things are. You have a few months to convince these folks one by one to join the ranks of the Trumford wives, or you could ask one man to adjust his disposition, Donald J. Trump. Trump needs to begin looking to build coalitions. He needs to stop insulting people whose support he requires, and he needs to warm up to his most natural ally, movement conservatives. Much of his allure has been his bravado, his brashness, and his confrontational approach, and that’s fine, but if he is the presumptive candidate, he needs to reserve his animosity and aggression for his opponents. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and Trump’s most sympathetic moments with conservatives were when violent protestors tried to shut him down. There will be more of that, and conservatives and even moderates will be repelled by it and gravitate toward Trump, that is if he is not in the process of insulting or denigrating those who could be his constituents with a little diplomacy.

IMHO: Rebels find rabbles regrettable. The rabble puts an unfortunate cast on the cause of the rebel. That being said, noble revolutions seldom occur without the attention garnered by screaming demagogues, and rioting throngs. Along with the high minded movement of Martin Luther King Jr. were the less lofty race riots of the sixties. Half a century before the American Revolution “risings of the people” were common enough, with sailors, freedom seeking slaves, laborers and youth. The rabble of the day were not as well versed in the writings of Locke, or the Natural Law, but they knew that things weren’t right. Not all can respond with the same measured dignity as a Ghandi or an MLK, not all have the wisdom of a Thomas Paine, or a Jefferson. Not all possess the strategic mind of a Washington, or the genius of a Benjamin Franklin. Some only know their anger and impatience with those dragging them through the mud. These are the rabble, these are the mob, and truth be told they are as much an agent for change as their more noble brethren. They can not be left on their own though, lest our world descend into chaos, and it does no one any good for the adults in the country to take their ball and go home. Instead, the rabble needs to be educated, accepted, and respected. Rabbles are but rebels yet unredeemed.
Any poker player will tell you that every hand isn’t a perfect hand, but only fools fold every time they don’t get the cards they wanted. Professionals know how to make winning hands out of losing ones. Ultimately you need to play the cards you’ve been dealt, and this round we’ve been dealt Trump. If we play our cards right, we can still win.


“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers– and it was not there. In her fertile fields and boundless forests– and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce– and it was not there. In her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution– and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America, and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”