Bogus

head-on-foot
“If you don’t read the newspapers, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspapers, you are misinformed.”

Attributed to Mark Twain

 
It seems serendipitous that in researching for this essay on the bogus nature of internet gossip and its close cousin, mainstream news reporting, that the quote I chose, almost universally attributed to Mark Twain, may never have been said or written by him at all. It sounds like something he would say. A superficial search appears to indicate that he said it; but dig a little deeper, and it seems to be in doubt. After killing about a half hour researching, I came up with no definitive answer. That is the dilemma of the journalist, which I am not. To do their job right takes a lot of time and hard work, and so, like many in other professions, the typical journalist takes the path more easily travelled, and does their job wrong.

Like so much of the Left, journalist Christiane Anampour seemed to double down on the mistakes that created the lane for the most unlikely of presidential candidates to cruise to victory. At a recent awards banquet organized by the Committee to Protect Journalists her remarks (link here) began with a call for the Press to recommit to fact based reporting, but immediately devolved into the same bias, fear mongering, innuendo and guilt by association insinuations that have caused millions of Americans to rightly distrust what used to be their most trusted source of information, mainstream media. She mourned the ability of Trump to bypass the media, going straight to the people, and the development of the new progressive bogeyman, “fake news”. She finished with the predictable allusions to the stupidity of the American public, and the importance of using the media to impose values, the values determined to be universal by these elite journalists, on the rest of us.

There is certainly a need, I suppose, to protect journalists from the undo intimidation of government, and as such the inevitable “committee” to organize that protection. Yet, in assuming the role of victim, protectors like the police, military, even parents, and yes, the media, can lose sight of their primary role… to protect. What is it that the media is supposed to protect us from? Misinformation, ignorance, biased filtering of the news. We expect them to be able to set aside their own opinions to uncover the actual facts. Like a judge or a referee, we expect neutrality as a professional and ethical imperative. Unfortunately, as in so many other areas of academia, ethics have taken a backseat to ideology in the education of our journalists.

When a child is raised in the absence of a parent, or in the presence of an abusive one, they look for surrogates to fill that void. Young men join gangs, young women become infatuated with older men, and predators find easy prey in the unprotected. Likewise, the corruption of the fourth estate, coupled with the proliferation of technology, made the ascension of the fifth estate inevitable. And so the rise of “fake news” had it’s fertile field. What Anampour and her ilk are oblivious to, is that “fake news” has to a great extent found its success due to the failure of “real news” to be the neutral arbiter of information. We have always had “fake news”, but people were for the most part savvy enough to recognize that tabloid headlines such as “Man Born Without Body”, with the accompanying doctored photo of a man’s head connected to just a foot, were in a word, bogus. Back then, we depended on “reputable” news sources for accurate information… but it seems that the election has shown a light on an uncomfortable truth, reputable news sources are an endangered species.

IMHO: The word “bogus” is relatively new in common parlance, it finds its origin in the early 1800’s as the name used to describe counterfeit coins prevalent at that time. More recently it was incorporated into the slang of the surfer culture, and only commonly used as a term by the rest of us since the 80’s. Returning to the counterfeit overtones of the original definition, today’s fake news sites have moved beyond parody to propaganda, and are bogus imitations of real news sites. In what can only be described as a tragedy of poor timing, the real news sites have themselves diverged into bogus territory leaving the public without a gold standard. It is as though counterfeit bills were disseminated at the same time the US Treasury lowered its standards and starts producing hundred dollar bills on photocopiers. It’s one thing for us to be fooled, by our own biases, by liars and counterfeits, it’s quite another for the supposed truth experts to be fooled, and in turn to fool us. A combination of the decline of journalistic ethics regarding neutrality, with the more generalized rise in incompetence in the performance of trades and professions, has greatly transformed a once noble resource into a suspect and undependable source. Until there arises a new faithful media, or a resurgence in integrity of the old, we the public are orphans without faithful advocates, urchins on the streets who must look to ourselves for what we should believe. To those who were once reliable guardians of objective truth, I adjure you! Dig deeper, set aside your own opinions, put in the time it takes to get to the bottom of a story. Don’t just regurgitate the talking points force fed to you in press releases, but do the work it takes to find the real truth, not just the truth as you assume it to be. It is not your place to instill values, not your place to shape society, not your place to be our elite conscience. Your job is to give us information, facts… the truth untainted by opinion or bias. Here’s a thought, do your job!

Unhinged

life-is-beautiful

 

 

Call this an intervention. We’re worried about you. For all our progressive friends, you’re embarrassing yourselves. Are you ok? Oh, disappointment is to be expected; emotionalism, you’ve always been emotional; but so many of you seem positively unhinged, and it’s concerning. Yes, you lost an election you thought was a certain win; and you lost it to a candidate you feel will damage or destroy our nation… welcome to our world circa 2008, 2012. But I’m serious, many of us are worried about how hard you’ve fallen, in some senses your grief seems darker than the loss of a spouse or a child. Those losses emanate from deep love, and that grief leaves a hole that can be healed with time. However, so much of the grief we see in this loss of an election finds its source and its end in hatred, and that is a dark wound that will only fester and consume you.

Your friends in the press did you no favors by lying to you, ignoring your candidate’s vulnerability, and exaggerating your opponent’s weaknesses. Your candidate did you no favors by painting the election as a life or death choice… and who would ever chose death, after all? Your party did you no favors by choosing rigging over motivating, ignoring and even insulting the electorate over listening to them, and so vilifying the opposition that defeat seemed an inconceivable impossibility.. These all led you down a garden path convincing you that your elite political view was the prevailing opinion across the nation; it wasn’t, and your Armageddon was made the worse because of the astonishing shock with which it came. Beyond the trauma of the loss, there lingers the fear of the future that your false prophets foretold. But be at peace, this is not the doom they prophesied, unless you make it so.

You were once our conscience. Oh, many of the ideas you came up with were half-baked, and unworkable, but you were the ones who had a heart… “bleeding heart liberals” you were mocked, because your compassion often overshadowed your reason. But you have become something else, something darker. As with religions of love and peace that degenerate to hate and control, so your high ideas have turned to party doctrine, anger, and the desire to deny choices, right or wrong, to your fellow citizens. Where once you cajoled and educated, now you insult and berate. You have gone from the angel on our shoulder to the tyrant on our necks, benevolent in your own eyes, but belittling in ours, imposing the dogma that has supplanted your morality. As with all wayward faiths, cries for freedom and life have been supplanted with shouts for justice and death at the center of your value system. Many of us would like to have a second choice available to us in any given election, but you have gone so far from us that we can no longer even consider you.

So Hillary’s quoting of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high” is made the more hollow by the response to the election. She repeated the applause line regularly in her stump speech, though she never really committed to the sentiment behind it, and some of her supporters apparently define going high as going lower still. Critics of Mr. Trump strain to find examples of the supposed negative influence of his election in isolated incidents of ignorance. Ignorance is always easy enough to find if you’re looking for it; but harder to miss are the atrocious actions of the educated; the riots and atrocities on the left, the grief stricken young people who would often rather throw a tantrum than cast a ballot, and the unhinged behavior of educators, leaders, and even parents as they permit their rage to be visited on the most vulnerable among us.

There were times in the raising of my children when it felt as though my world was ending. Financial hardships, the loss of a job, the loss of a wife; yet always I knew that for my children, the supposed end of my world should not insinuate the loss of theirs. The womb extends beyond birth for the tender psyches of these little ones. When the election results came in, social media was flooded with the anguished cries of the forlorn, “What do we tell the children?”. And while this is hardly the cataclysm it is portrayed as, the question has been proffered, what do we do for our children when disaster strikes? We guard them, we protect them, we soften the harsh reality, we hide them, we mask our own fear, our grief, our anguish, we find them a safe space away from the conflagration… my God, we be their parents! The wonderful film “Life Is Beautiful” told the story of an Italian jew consigned to a concentration camp with his little boy during World War II. To protect the boy from both the physical and psychological threats of the camp he cleverly concocts an explanation of the situation for his son, that they are involved in a grand game of hide and seek, involving points and the prize of a real tank. Spoiler alert here, but while being marched off to his execution shortly before the camp being liberated, the father sees his son peeking out from his hiding place (link here). Immediately, he winks to the lad and resumes his act, saving the boy’s life, and his well being. At the cost of his own life, he preserved for his child the truth that even in the darkest of times, if we do not lose love, faith and hope, life is indeed beautiful. That is what parents do. If this election is a holocaust for you, it ought not be for them. Children are not your shield, your weapon, or a sacrifice to be offered on the frontline of battle, they are fragile sacred treasure to be protected at all costs.

IMHO: In the face of a political bloodbath, I offer the same advice to my progressive brothers and sisters that I gave to my conservative ones four years ago: Hold your head up, there is so much more to life than politics. As has been suggested the last go round for Republicans, Democrats need to rebrand themselves going forward. Take the lesson of the GOP, ignore those who suggest that rebranding means abandoning your values; only be sure they are values and not errors. Hillary’s downturn arguably began with the “basket of deplorables” comment where she labeled so many as racists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, islamophobes… Do not double down on this disastrous strategy of alienating good people by villainizing them, for in this you become as the proverbial dog returning to its own vomit. Those words themselves should be radioactive for Democrats, which will be difficult since they comprise 90% of the progressive vocabulary. You can learn some new big words to make yourself seem intelligent. You don’t need to become Republicans, probably best for the Union if you don’t; only be civil, be kind, be loving, be noble, even if that’s not how you feel. Preserve the appearance of courage, the guarantee of safety; eschew fear, rage, and hatred. Pretend, as we all do, to be adults; the children are watching.

The Rise of The Deplorables

 

 

trumpmiddlefinger

 

 

 

“Elections have consequences,
and at the end of the day, I won.
Barack Obama, January 23, 2009

 

 

Thus began the reign of arrogance that typified the attitude of the progressive elites to their opposition for even longer than Obama’s term of office, that conservative voices are irrelevant because they are stupid; they are to be mocked, silenced, and beaten into submission. Like the bullied schoolyard child, Washington Republicans have walked on eggshells, vainly trying to present an opposition without becoming a target of the voracious hyperbolic invective of the avenging assassins of the political left. Not content to restrain their disdain for the politicos who dared espouse anything but complete allegiance to their progressive agenda, the intimidators turned their ire to any who sympathized or failed to reject the values of yesterday’s America. In the moment on which the election turned, Mrs. Clinton expressed the premeditated composed statement that half of those who supported her political adversary were “the basket of deplorables… racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic… you name it… they are irredeemable”. In so doing she continued the arrogance of the president in pronouncing enormous segments of the population… NRA members, Tea Party folk, religious right, radio talk show listeners, Fox News viewers… as people who were both stupid and, yes, often evil. Ostracism is a powerful tool, and to a great extent that bullying technique has been effective in quelling the spineless opposition. But at some point that school yard bully pushes too hard, and pushes the wrong person. Like that big kid in the viral video, someone says “Enough!”, and the bully is answered in kind. Turning the other cheek has its limits, especially when people are being harmed, and sometimes the only correct response to being given the finger, even for the most civil among us, is to give it right back. That is what we have done with Trump, and the vulgarity of the choice indicates the measure of our indignation. With lifted finger we salute the polls, the exit polls, the prognosticators. With lifted fingers we salute the celebrity illuminati, the Canada bound stars, the society darlings. We salute the media elites, the Democrat elites, the Republican elites… the purveyors of the status quo. The world leaders, and not just Putin, who thought to influence our election with their unsolicited opinions, we salute you as well. We salute our college professors, big mouthed billionaires, intellectual snobs, and yes even some of our holier than thou, smarter than thou, better than thou, friends, family, and neighbors… we lift our finger to you all.

Oh, I expect tomorrow I will have some apologies to make for that. Friends and readers, Christian brothers and sisters, my mother for sure… God I suppose; but today I cheer for the bully beater, the giant killer, the vindicator of the rejected and the champion of the mocked. If Trump accomplishes nothing more, he has at the least reinstated the American foundational value of the rejection of royal tyrants, the concept that we are a nation of equals, not Morlocks and Eloi, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not some self appointed gaggle of elites. With this most unlikely of weapons, we the deplorables reject your characterization of us, and rebel against your snobbery and elitism. With the election of Trump the ostracism of the forgotten man is hopefully consigned to the right side of history that it’s purveyors are so fond of conjuring. At long last the imperiousness of Hillary Clinton and the mockery and arrogance of Barack Obama are on the right side of history, the past.

Lest we permit ourselves or the Democrats to simply throw Hillary Clinton under the bus and blame everything on her inadequacy as a candidate, it should be remembered that she is not the only Democratic disappointment in this election. Republicans kept both houses of Congress in what should have been a vulnerable year. The GOP again made gains in statehouses and governorships, and Democrats find themselves in their weakest position since Reconstruction. With the exception of his reelection, the term of Barack Obama has been very good for Republicans, and they find themselves with a domination in Washington they have not experienced since the 1920’s. In 2012, after the presidential defeat, Republicans performed what they termed a “post mortem” on what went wrong. In unveiled humility they pointed to things like outreach, inclusion, ground game and public perception. Though Trump can’t really be said to have remade the GOP as these party elites suggested, he did break the mold of the establishment and open the party to new voters, many among the coveted independents. The overview that something was wrong with a party that can’t beat a vulnerable candidate was one that Trump embraced. And now it is time for Democrats to do their own post mortem as to why they lost not just to Trump, but why they lost the people who voted for him, and so many of the down ballot candidates as well. Thus far, much of their post mortem consists of insults and allusions to the stupidity of Americans, indicating they have learned nothing, and that they are oblivious to how their hubris brought about their own Armageddon.

There are some voices of light on the left, and I hesitate in calling them that, because their politics are so opposed to my own; but these at least are wise enough to see the tactical missteps of their own side, Michael Moore, Van Jones, Mark Cuban, my God, even Elizabeth Warren seems sane in comparison with some of the shrill voices hyperventilating on the left. These at least are beginning to forego the snobbish ridicule and acknowledge that political debate is a conflict of ideas, and not a clash of I.Q.’s with the mental deficients rebelling against their intelligent overlords, not an invasion of the barbarian hordes on the civilized city dwellers of proper society. There are intelligent and good people on both sides of this debate, just as there are fools and degenerates. Pointing to the worst elements of either side doesn’t really make your point, and while you engage in mockery, insult and ridicule you do nothing to support your own positions, and you weaken your claim of virtue for where you stand. Having at last stood up to the bullying behavior of the elitist left, we are now faced with two choices: reasoned discourse or open war. The decision of which we choose is up to both sides of the debate. If Democrats want a place at the table they will need to look for common ground with the President, which may not be as scarce as supposed if they are civil (think, “What would Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi do?” then do the opposite.) Republicans need to be gracious winners, but that does not mean losing their spine again; it means resisting the arrogance of their predecessors and showing respect for those with whom they disagree. Despite Trump’s pugilistic personality, he has without exception shown respect to those he has defeated after the fact, and I hope he continues this with Democratic lawmakers going forward.

IMHO: What does it all mean? At best Trump garnered half of the popular vote, hardly a landslide, but enough. What is probably more significant, and hopefully not forgotten, is that America was willing to elect the man they liked the least in any Presidential election EVER, to elect a man they thought in majorities to be generally unfit for the office in both demeanor and experience, to elect a man that most of them didn’t even like, because they were unwilling to continue on a road that was leading only to decay. Though Democrats probably bit off more than they could chew and moved too far too fast with much of their social agenda and policy decisions, that was only a symptom of their elitist arrogance where they thought themselves not just wiser, but actually better than their opponents, or even their supporters. As such they saw no ethical problem with pushing through agendas without support, forcing positions without consensus, and shoving their “enlightenment” down the throats of the “unwashed masses”. That arrogance is what spelled their doom, and it was their relegation of their adversaries to baskets of subhuman deplorables that set in motion their defeat.
This is a narrow strip of turf to base a mandate, and Republicans need to use the opportunity of their situation to prove the virtue of their positions. You must fix Obamacare, you must improve the disasters of our cities and education problems, you must revitalize the economy, you must put the lie to the accusations of your adversaries and solidify your standing. The war has been won, but like the solitary Japanese soldiers at the end of World War II, there are a few on their islands that don’t yet realize it. These can be greatly ignored; as with Reconstruction and post war Japan, the real path to solidifying victory lies in putting things back together that have been broken. If you can’t do that, you haven’t really won. If you can, then you truly have made America great again.

October Surprise

dundee
“Ha, ha. That’s not a knife… that’s a knife!”

Crocodile Dundee                        link here

 

 
In a moment reminiscent of Paul Hogan’s iconic line in Crocodile Dundee, James Comey’s revelation of the ongoing FBI investigations into the Clinton Foundation and the never ending email scandal made pale by comparison the preceding typically political “revelations” concerning Trump. One could have cast Hillary and her partners in crime as the punks with a switchblade trying to mug the American people, with Crocodile Comey smugly chuckling saying, “That’s not an October surprise… this is an October surprise!”

Just as no circus is complete without clowns, I suppose it is somehow poetic that this circus of an election be punctuated with an appearance by Anthony Weiner. The revelation was seismic, and the geniuses who proclaimed that the election was over a couple of weeks ago, who were beginning to talk “down ballot” and GOP losses of the Senate and possibly the House, are now scrambling to modify their premature predictions. Combined with the continuance of the Obamacare train wreck, and the WikiLeaks water torture, Hillary is praising whatever god she worships for the existence of early voting, possibly the only reason she could still pull this off.

Have you ever been driving home and not been able to remember completing part of the trip? You may have been lost in thought and before you knew it you were almost home. No, you weren’t sleeping, nor were you necessarily inattentive to to the drive; that’s just how short term memory works. Our brain can’t be cluttered with every bit of meaningless input we encounter in the course of our lives, so if some minimal level of significance is not attached to a memory, within a few seconds it passes out of our minds. Unfortunately, for the politically passive, short term is often the only political memory they employ. The FBI investigation is more significant to those of us whose memory includes the years of scandal after scandal when it comes to the Clintons. Though the evidence is thus far not conclusive, forgive us if we jump to conclusions on the well worn path of Clinton corruption. If they somehow manage to slip this scandal, trust me, there will be another on its heels… it’s what they do.

And so we have Donald Trump the celebrity trying to be a politician. And Hillary Clinton the politician trying to be a celebrity. Unable to draw crowds to her rallies because of her flawed political persona, she is trying a new gig as variety show host, dragging out not only her regular political star surrogates (the Obamas), but staging a concert with shiny objects Beyonce and Jay Z as the draw, and Hillary as the emcee. Katy Perry is next, and who knows after that. (Unsolicited advice: Hillary might want to present her political plea in the middle of the concert instead of the end so people don’t just walk out when the music stops!). And so we have all the beautiful people scolding us. Obama treating rally crowds like unruly school children, television stars and pop-icons treating Trump and his followers as sub-humans, journalists en-masse abandoning their journalistic ethics in favor of their elitist social conscience. Maybe we’re tired of scolding. Maybe we are unimpressed with celebrity. Maybe we are sick of the so-called elite imagining that their opinions surpass our own.

IMHO: It would be enough I suppose to vote against a candidate as fundamentally dishonest as Hillary Clinton. I can abide a lot of faults in a human being, but dishonesty, particularly practiced dishonesty, makes for an impossible foundation in any relationship. That being said, it is better to have reasons to vote for somebody. Despite my problems with Trump, there is a lengthy list of reasons I am persuaded to cast my vote and support for him. The Supreme Court nominations are paramount on that list, the proximity that Mike Pence will have to a future presidency, the dismantling of Obamacare, Pro-life sympathies, border control, attention to regulatory overload, attention to our inner city issues including school choice, ethics reforms in Washington, refugee common sense…     And my list for Hillary? …no, I got nothing, nothing at all.

Trump is as close to a viable third party candidate as we will see in the near term with the stranglehold the parties have on the election process. He is the nemesis of the establishment elites in both parties, the elites in the media and in the entertainment industry. There are “Women for Trump”, “Blacks for Trump”, “Hispanics for Trump”; but there are no elites for Trump. The “elites” who have dictated our choices for decades are out of the loop here for the first time in forever. I would have preferred a more polished choice, a less tarnished one, a better spoken one; but when you are being strangled (and we are), you reach for whatever blunt instrument you can reach. Trump is our blunt instrument.

Rigged!

rigged

 

“Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you;
if you don’t bet, you can’t win.”
Robert A. Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

 
Imagine an election where a nation chose its leader from a group of highly qualified candidates. Imagine campaigns and debates where candidates would share their ideas about policy positions, and the voters would cast their support based on how well the candidates’ ideas reflected those whose values and principles they were being elected to represent. Imagine an intelligent discourse sparked by the candidates and continued throughout the electorate, culminating in an informed public ultimately making its decision by casting one vote by each person, independent of spin masters, organizers, and manipulators. When you come out of your reverie let us return to our own reality, where elections are dictated by money and pull, where discussion of issues take a back seat to finger pointing and personal attacks. Here in our dark country, policy decisions are only the spoil of war, and campaigns are war campaigns. Little concern is given to the presentation of ideas (“You can visit our website to see all that…”); instead, we are condemned to evaluate our leaders by the collected manure of their lives, and which smells least offensive to our pristine holier than thou nostrils.

Oh, I’m not saying that occasionally some Watergate type scandal might not rightly sink a candidate, these are after all political warriors, and the temptation to not play by the rules might sometimes lead to a fall; but not every single election, and not always in October. We shouldn’t need to go back to high school days, or drag seventy year old candidates back to the things they did in their twenties, and expect that this would have a significant effect on the election… but we do… and it does.

Mr Trump has been widely castigated for blaspheming against the dogma of false patriotism by insinuating that our election process is not entirely on the up and up. In his usual style, preferring pithiness to precision, Trump has declared the election to be rigged. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and his critics have not been shy about taking full advantage of that room. Condemning him for suggesting that we have a crooked system, they accuse him of destroying the public’s confidence in our elections, and laying the groundwork for violent rebellion. The over the top attacks only serve to prove the point of the proclamation. As Heinlein wrote, “Certainly the game is rigged.” Who could honestly say it is not? When it comes to press coverage, who I guess are the referees in this game, who could question that the response to the same sentiment expressed by Bernie Sanders or Al Gore was not nearly as apoplectic? Having the President on your side, using his bully pulpit to sling mud from, has to help rig the game for your side, just as having the majority in the House and statehouses helps rig those elections for the Republicans. Who can deny that dead people are continuing to vote, non-citizens are voting, people are being registered in multiple locations, and some are voting more than once. Who can deny that ballots disappear, that voting machines get tampered with, that voters are intimidated, that organizers influence and manipulate uninformed voters? When journalists demonstrate their political leanings by contributing to the Clinton campaign over the Trump campaign at a rate of 25 to 1, who can help but question their ability to be neutral? Imagine if news was only delivered by white male middle aged plumbers… would the left be comfortable with that press pool? The question is not whether the game is rigged, of course it is, the question is just how rigged is it? I share Mr. Trump’s optimism that it is not so rigged as to be not worth playing, but it’s an uphill fight for sure.

IMHO: I like to believe that game rigging is not a major influence in our elections, but how often do we actually get anyone but the party’s choice for candidates? Outsiders Trump and Cruz this year for the GOP show a continuing weakening of that party’s stranglehold, but the Dems have a tougher nut to crack. It may be that winning elections is more important to them than fixing the system. Skeptics will say that the rigging is minimal, and probably evens out across the parties. Maybe, but that hasn’t been my observation. Alternative news sources are the ultimate answer to a biased media, but unfortunately that will also lead to polarization and even less journalistic integrity. As with so many problems, education is the answer. When the game is rigged the way forward is to play the game better. That is not to say that you don’t continue to take a stand against corruption in the system; ignore it, and it will only grow. Expect the vilification from the left for shining a light on the rigging; the team that’s winning always supports the system. Always remember that engineered discouragment is part of the rigging, and polls oddly seem to tighten just before the election. There may be victories and defeats in elections, but the battle is more than that, whoever wins. Our elections show us our worst now, and I pity the President who gains victory by the dark arts of insult, spin, personal destruction, dishonesty and outright lying. To our future President: (insert name here), congratulations, you have proven yourself less horrible than your opponent… or possibly more horrible in your power. Four years will come soon enough; we must do better than this.

Choices From The Swamp

swamp-of-crazy

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

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.