“…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, Jim Crow, the Civil War, 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.”


New York, new york

weeping liberty

“Start spreading the news,
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York. “

Frank Sinatra, New York, New York



Here in upstate New York we’ve recently had our primaries. You need to understand the burden of the upstater. As I travel and am asked where I’m from, my reply of “New York” is always followed by the caveat that I am from “upstate”, because I want to make clear that it’s not the same as being from the City. Up here we’ve always tended toward different values. With the exception of Tompkins County (New York City West), you’ll find most of the countryside up here plastered with pro 2nd amendment signs, Gadsden flags, and though I don’t really understand why, even the occasional confederate banner. Outside the major cities, politics generally run red, people go to church (or at least would if they weren’t so busy!), and not a few have at least a gun or two. When Ted Cruz spoke about New York values, we may have been a little offended, but we understood exactly what he meant… kind of like someone insulting your crazy cousin. It’s possible to love your state, even the Big Apple, and still be a little ashamed of what it has come to.

Some have become so frustrated with the dichotomy between downstate and upstate, with upstate usually coming up on the short end of the stick, that they have suggested splitting the state in two. Downstate would be the new smaller New York, and upstate would become a new entity, “New Amsterdam”, in homage to our Dutch forefathers and Henry Hudson I suppose. Such secessionist movements exist in many states, but for the most part are an arena for those who like to strike a radical pose without any real chance of changing anything. Just the same, if nothing else, calling for secession at least shows the world that you don’t share the values held by your downstate step siblings.

All that being said, it is disheartening that the recent primary results have shown the state to be remarkably homogenous. Republicans across the state, downstate and upstate, have chosen the second most narcissistic and inept candidate still in the race as their champion… only to be outdone in far greater numbers by the democrats statewide who chose the first most narcissistic and inept for their own. With these primaries New York, all of New York, may have propelled the nation to having to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to lead our country. Having set aside our erstwhile contrarian persuasions we have bowed to the values of our downstate overlords, and set up a race where the principles we claim to hold have no representative. Of the wide array of republican hopefuls we have chosen the one least in line with what we pretend to look for in our candidates. Whether it be 2nd amendment, pro-life, traditional marriage, free trade, limited government… Trump always comes up well down the scale on conservatism. In the few days since the primary he has advocated moderating the GOP platform on abortion, criticized North Carolina for their “rest room law”, and sounded like a Democrat in promising to raise taxes on the “rich”.

On the Democrat side, I am certainly no fan of Bernie Sanders’ political agenda, but it seems he is sincere in his beliefs, and at least an honest man. Hillary and her cohorts seem to be unable to define a difference between a socialist and a democrat, and honestly, that’s probably because substantively there isn’t one. So given the choice between an old man with a misguided conscience, and an old woman with no conscience at all, New Yorkers across the state made the obvious New York choice; we’re with Hillary!

IMHO: Ted Cruz’s derogatory comments regarding “New York” values were in reference to Trump’s admission that his own values, given the fact that he was from New York, tended to be liberal and not conservative. Trump was ironically able to twist that to his advantage with low information voters, and effectively herd the New York electorate away from Cruz to a landslide victory in New York. It should not really come as a surprise to us here though, because even in upstate, we do seem to lapse into “New York values”. We are a state that seems particularly susceptible to “star power”. Hillary zeroed in on us for her senate run as a state that would elect her for her celebrity regardless of her qualifications. We have a governor who was elected because his name is “Cuomo”… c’mon folks, what other reason could there possibly be! Only jaded Manhattan, unimpressed by stardom refused to kiss the Trump ring. And we are a state that even in it’s most conservative bastions is far less principled in it’s conservativeness than other states. We even have our own brand within the GOP, “New York Republicans”, the original RINO’s. We value brashness, impatience and in your face disrespect. We don’t much worry about courtesy, and probably use our middle finger as much as anywhere else in the nation. As such, Trump is a natural fit for us. In much the same way that America fell in love with Archie Bunker, the character Carrol O’Connor played in the sitcom “All in The Family”; people love Trump for the character he portrays without realizing that the joke is on them. The chief reason voters give for voting for Trump is that he tells it like it is, though what he says is continually inaccurate. Besides this we now have the assurances of Ben Carson and Paul Manafort that there are two Donald Trumps, and that his rally persona is different from his real life persona… is that another way of saying that it’s all an act?
And so my apologies to Mr. Cruz and my conservative brethren across the land for our “New York values”. It’s time to admit to ourselves who we apparently are up here in “upstate”. Conservative values will be relegated to the back seat. Take down your “Safe Act” protest placards, your “Cuomo has got to go” signs, your Gadsden flags and your phony conservative facades; and enough of this “New Amsterdam” crap; we are for Hillary, we are for Trump… we are New York.


The 240 Year Itch



seven year itch

“When the itch is inside the boot, scratching outside
provides little consolation.”

Chinese Proverb



It’s hard to figure what Americans want. I’m not sure most of them even know. Jerry Seinfeld joked about how men watch TV; in describing their perpetual channel surfing behavior, he explained that men don’t care what’s on TV, they only care what else is on TV. We have come to that place with our government. We don’t care what we’ve had, what we have… we only wonder what else we could try that might be, well, something new. It doesn’t matter if it’s a better idea, just if it’s a different idea.

“Here’s a thought, let’s put Sarah Palin in for VP!”… “Hey let’s put a black guy in for leader of the free world, we never had a black guy… his politics don’t matter!” … “Let’s get a bunch of Tea Party kooks to run, doesn’t matter how stupid”… “Isn’t it time we had a woman for President? Hillary will do, never mind her baggage!”… “Hey did you hear what Trump said… let’s make him President!” …” No, Democratic Socialism, it’s different!”

One almost dare not ask what’s coming next. Now I have nothing against having a conservative woman for Vice President, even one that’s a little bit red-neck, nothing against a black president, I like Tea Party candidates, and maybe it is time we had a woman for President. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going outside the world of politics to elect our leaders, and– well, no, not socialism, I can’t go that far!… but I have nothing against old jewish guys! That being said, there’s more to a good idea than just being different.

For over 200 years the US was the envy of the world. The combination of freedom and opportunity was a magnet to immigrants, and the system of checks and balances integral to our Constitution seemed to have provided this nation with as perfect a marriage between a people and it’s government as has ever existed throughout history. Ah, but even perfect marriages sometimes falter! One spouse becomes unresponsive and the other becomes unhappy. Someone’s eye starts to wander, and then their heart. Where commitment, communication, and a little counseling might have gotten them over the rough patch, they blame each other, and soon the only answer to the unhappiness seems to be to “see what else is on”. But seeing what else is on won’t ultimately bring happiness anymore than scratching the outside of the boot will assuage the itch on the inside. The unhappiness is on the inside. Likewise, arbitrary changes to the system of government that made the US the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, will not make us a better country, the problem is on the inside. We like to focus our dissatisfaction on things outside ourselves. In a faltering marriage we pretend we were never in love. In a faltering nation we pretend we were never something special, or at least that we aren’t now. And so we tear ourselves apart; we condemn what we once extolled; we humanize our heroes, and then we demonize them. And when we have brought the exalted low, that gives us permission to throw it all away.

And so, as we rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, we might be better advised to look for the lifeboats. Social media is replete with jokes about wondering where the real candidates for President are, as if it were not we the people who came up with this bunch. We like to have heroes, even when they are not very heroic, and even more we like to have villains, who we transform into Satans; but the truly disturbing question is, what kind of people choose these kinds of heroes? What kind of majorities choose these kinds of villains? When did we begin to celebrate crudeness as candor? When did we redefine dishonesty as sophistication? When did bullying become a virtue? When did we decide it might be reasonable to abandon the economic engine that made us the richest nation in the world, to follow the advice of a 74 year old who’s never had a real job, and say, “what the heck, why not socialism… might be worth a shot!” You can tell a lot about people by the heroes that they worship. Flawed people prefer flawed heroes; we create our gods in our own image, so that we can feel more comfortable with our own low standards. We banish our idealized gods to mythology, and superheroes to the movies; our true leaders, our real idols look a lot like us, and we prefer it that way.

IMHO: We never like to blame ourselves. If we can’t find a way to blame someone else, our last resort is to blame our past selves. When a marriage gets rocky we’ll start by blaming our spouse. If that doesn’t fly we’ll blame our past self, “I made the wrong choice, this was never my destiny, I was never really in love…”. Rarer than Diogenes’ honest man is the individual who won’t shift the blame to another person, or even a past tense of themselves. How often have you heard someone own the blame entirely and admit that the only thing wrong with their marriage is that they’re not doing it right? With such an attitude comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes work. When it comes to relationships we are mostly all lazy, and rather than do the work we’d rather cast our lot to the wind and hope fate will send us something less demanding.
There’s nothing wrong with our system of government. It was a miracle when it was designed, and it remains miraculous; we’re just not doing it right. Burning down the house instead of fixing it will leave us all homeless, and entertaining a bevy of political oddities in the hopes that one will be the magic elixir that fixes everything is folly, and a scratching of the outside of the boot. All the lies, the bickering, the name calling, the finger pointing, the hatred… all signal that we have given up on the work it would take to be a virtuous people who would produce a virtuous government. We opt for something less; we opt for domination, we opt for winning at all costs; liberty we have found to be too laborious, so we consign ourselves to the ease of tyranny.
The salvation of a troubled nation is not magical, and we vainly search for a magician to scratch our itch. As with marriage, healing comes from love. Love for our heritage, even with the mistakes we’ve made. Love for the land, love for the people, love for our destiny and the goodness we have brought to the earth. We can shed a tear for our sins, and repentance is a powerful force, but self-loathing is only suicidal. Perhaps after 240 years the miraculous has grown tedious, and we no longer see the wonder; but we have something here worth saving. It’s not popular to say it anymore, but I love America.


“…My native country, thee.
Land of the noble free.
Thy name I love.
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture fills
Like that above.”

My Country Tis of Thee