Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

On This, All Depends

What’s tomorrow mean?

It means we have to vote.

We have to encourage everyone around us to vote.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re passionate or not.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re holding their noses.

It means we have to get people out to vote, because the more people vote, the better life is.

It means we have to make sure that the Short-Fingered Vulgarian doesn’t get elected.

It means we have to vote properly in the down-ticket elections — for the US Congress, for state legislatures, for state governors, for local dog-catcher.

But it means we have to vote properly for President, because SUPREME COURT.

There’s already one open seat in the row of nine Supreme Court justice chairs. And there will likely be one, two, or possibly three more.

It means we have to vote for a President who will have a remote prayer of appointing one or more justices who will rule in cases on the side of the common guy and not on the side of the corporations.

(As regards the down-ticket races … it means we have to vote properly so as to turn the US Senate blue so the President has a faint prayer of confirming any Justices.)

It means we have to ensure that the Court will vote to overturn Citizens United, which is only a first step toward getting dark money out of politics, but ya gotta start somewhere.

It means that once Citizens United is overturned, billionaires and corporations (who don’t even “live” in the US) will have less opportunity to affect elections, which will mean less influence on one particular issue: education; specifically public education.

It means that once billionaires and corporations don’t have such a chokehold on elections and on influencing education policy, we can get to work rebuilding education (and the morale of educators).

It means that once education is influenced chiefly by people who have experience in it and genuine care for it, we’ll begin to rebuild an educated population.

Because the uneducated (and economically unable-to-commit-time-to-learning-about-important-issues-through-no-fault-of-their-own) population currently is not equipped to cast educated votes.

It means that once Citizens United is overturned, we have a prayer of loosening the death grip with which the National Rifle Association currently holds so many of our elected officials, which will mean less influence on one particular issue: gun control … so that gun control legislation has a prayer of passing.

It means that perhaps we may be able to finally apply ourselves to the horror of military-grade weapons in the hands of any civilian anywhere for any or no very damn good reason.

So it means that this is a Cliffs Notes, quick-hit, flash-learning educational opportunity.

It’s an opportunity for me to suggest to you that if you [a] can’t conceive of voting for the Orange-Hair Jackwagon; or [b] wish you could have voted for Sen. Sanders but can’t and are really disappointed and are just not sure about Secretary Clinton; or [c] are thrilled to vote for Secretary Clinton,…

…it is vitally important that you vote for Secretary Clinton.

I cannot afford to sugarcoat this. And I cannot word this strongly enough.

Be it resolved: that a vote for Secretary Clinton is (but is not exclusively) a vote against the Vulgar Talking Yam, and that’s good for the health of the Republic and likely the survival of the three branches of government, not to mention our country’s reputation around the world.

Be it resolved: that a vote for Secretary Clinton is (but is not exclusively) a vote for the first female President in our history; and while that ought not be the only reason she gets a vote, that’s still good since it catches us up to a number of other major countries (England, Germany, India, …) … finally.

Be it resolved: that a vote for Secretary Clinton is (but is not exclusively) a vote for someone whose stated policies have been pushed rather distinctly toward the left by her strongest competitor, which honors him and bodes well (or better) for little things like civil rights and such.

What’s all this mean?

It means that voting for Secretary Clinton may work out to be one last opportunity to remain a viable democratic republic.

That is not remotely close to hyperbole.

Vote. Vote vote vote.

Vote IN the best person to responsibly lead this country in this or any time. Vote OUT the people who offer “thoughts and prayers” but no constructive solutions. In fact vote OUT the people who joined government for the expressed purpose of de-funding, dismantling, and de-legitimizing government.

On this, all depends.”

Heaven help us, either way.

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November 7, 2016 Posted by | civil rights, current events, education, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Most Recent Last Straw -or- How Did We Get Here?

He’s done this before.

Often.

For the last sixteen months, the Vulgar Talking Yam, the Short-Fingered Vulgarian, the (my most recent favorite moniker) Pumpkin Spice Mussolini … has said or done something that would mean the end of the presidential campaign for any other human alive.

Call Mexicans rapists in your first speech as a candidate? Check.

Dump on John McCain because he became a POW? Check.

I’ll refrain from going on down the list, because you know all the statements and actions I’m thinking of, and as Keith Olbermann has recently noted, there are literally hundreds of them.

This one, though.

 

I have used this space, many and oft, to note the ridiculous behavior of public figures when it comes to treatment of women. (Here, here, here, and here.)

In part, this is because I have known many wonderful, strong, competent women, and I want to come to their defense, and they have demonstrated all kinds of reasons for me wanting to do so … but honestly, that shouldn’t need to be a reason. The reason is that they’re humans, and as it says in the Bible that so many people love to quote but hate to follow, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and don’t give me that BS about “we’re the kind who LIKE the pain!”.

It’s true that if you know someone personally who is a member of a particularly oppressed group – oh, say, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Muslims – and I do happen to know people from all three – it’s much harder to whitewash, to stereotype, to categorize.

Or to objectify. Or to express zero respect for.

Donald Trump boasts that, as a “star,” women let him do anything he wants, in a 2005 video obtained by the Washington Post that features the real estate mogul using salacious language as he brags of kissing and groping women he’s attracted to.

In the video posted Friday, Trump and Billy Bush, the former Access Hollywood host now with NBC’s Today show, engage in graphic discussions en route to the Days of Our Lives set, where Trump is set to record a piece about an upcoming appearance on the soap opera.

I did try and f— her,” Trump tells Bush in reference to a married woman, while acknowledging he was unsuccessful. “I moved on her like a b—- but I couldn’t get there,” Trump says.

Later in the video, as Trump and Bush spot Arianne Zucker – who The Post says was there to escort them to the set for the segment – the real estate mogul says: “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” adding that he immediately starts kissing “beautiful” women when he encounters them.

I don’t even wait.” Trump says. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything – grab them by the p—-.”

Enough people in the online world have noted that this man is vile and says vile things – just today! – about this particular instance, and about this particular group of people – women – such that if I were to express my opinion about it, I would only duplicate their work, and probably not as eloquently.

Not that I don’t feel equally outraged, equally disgusted, equally ready to declare this man a loathsome excuse for a human.

I do.

In a statement shortly after the video’s release, Trump dismisses its importance.

This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” the GOP presidential nominee says. “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Okay, fella: “that guy did worse things than I did” is, nonetheless, not a defense for bad things you did. Since about 1st-grade recess, as I recall. And also: people don’t fundamentally change.

But instead, I want to dig a little deeper. Take a sneakly lil’ ol’ look behind a curtain…

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a short, but blistering statement Friday night, denouncing the GOP nominee’s language.

No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” Priebus said.

Good. The head of the national political party checks in.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was “sickened” by comments of his party’s nominee. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” Ryan added. “I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests. In the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow’s event in Wisconsin.”

Great. The current third-in-line to the presidency checks in.

Do you notice what’s missing, in each case?

Along with this…

However, there were no immediate signs that the Republican donors, who only recently have begun to open their wallets to Trump, were abandoning him over the latest controversy.

Texas investor Doug Deason, whose family has contributed a combined $1 million to Trump and the Republican National Committee, called the tape’s release a “big brouhaha about nothing.”

Anybody that’s shocked is faking it,” Deason told USA TODAY Friday evening.

We’re a nation that believes in redemption,” he added. “That’s who he was then, and that’s not who he is now.”

Deason said Trump should quickly issue a new statement, well ahead of Sunday’s town-hall debate, making it clear that “he has changed.”

Not one of the leaders of the party … titular and actual … elected, appointed, and moneyed

Nobody’s told him to go away.

Nobody’s offered any more than tepid, timid, fainting-couch-worthy expressions of “gee whiz, we sure hope he does better than this, in the future”. Because they think he still has a future.

Up and down the Republican Party hierarchy, there are politicians who haven’t endorsed Trump, but at no time have they demanded that he be removed from the Party’s ticket, in response to any of the Last Straws that have come along since, well, let’s just limit this to the three months since he was officially nominated.

Why?

Is he too famous?

Is he too forceful a personality for them to overcome?

Is it that they’re afraid he’ll sue them? Allegedly he has enough money to outlast anybody in civil court.

What is it?

 

Let me suggest what it is … and I’m not the first, but there have been relatively few who have made this suggestion … and exactly nobody in the national political press has dared to breathe a mere hint of this provably true thing:

He’s them.

He hasn’t hijacked the Republican Party.

He IS the Republican Party – at least, the Republican Party which has existed for the last forty years.

He’s the GOP that has gradually, inexorably cultivated a base of voters who resist science and reason, who accept their news reporting and analysis from a very limited, very partisan, very anti-intellectualist set of sources. (Which are led, as it happens, by people who have cultivated reputations for abuse of women.)

He’s the GOP that has done its very best to corporatize and privatize public education, and to denigrate and undermine the efforts of the civil servants who are charged with educating Americans – because a poorly-educated populace is so much more easily hoodwinked. (“I love the poorly-educated!” crowed Trump in one primary-election victory speech – and you perhaps thought he was just pandering to a series of blocs of voters and misspoke, because he was rolling, or on autopilot, or caught up in the moment, or something? Oh, my, no.)

He’s the GOP that has, thanks to the natural tendency of unimaginably wealthy corporations to support conservative viewpoints, acquired the means to influence public perception of public-policy issues and current affairs, to the public’s great detriment.

Take it, Charlie – you write better than I do…

Hell, we’ve been grading Republicans on a curve for decades. We graded Reagan on a curve when he burbled about trees and air pollution. We graded him on a curve during Iran Contra on the grounds that he was too dim to know what was going on around him. We graded W on a curve for the whole 2000 campaign when he didn’t know Utah from Uzbekistan, but Al Gore knew too much stuff and what fun was he, anyway? We graded Republicans on a curve when they attached themselves to the remnants of American apartheid, when they played footsie with the militias out west and with the heirs to the White Citizens Councils in the South. We graded them on a curve every time they won a campaign behind Karl Rove or Lee Atwater or the late Terry Dolan back in the 1970s. We talked about how they were “reaching out” to disillusioned white voters who’d suffered in the changing economy, as though African-American workers didn’t get slugged harder than anyone else by deindustrialization. We pretended not to notice how racial animus was the accelerant for the fire of discontent in the “Reagan Democrats.” That was, and is, grading on a moral curve.

We graded Republicans on a intellectual curve when they embraced a fundamentalist splinter of American Protestantism and brought themselves to a pass in which they are the 21st Century Know Nothings. They have followed movement conservatism to the point where they can ignore science and promote creationism and supply side economic foolishness simply because they can sell it to the same audiences that gobble up the red meat that’s been marinating since George Wallace ran for president. Because they are graded on a curve, they can still claim to be shocked when the purist product of all of that work hijacks the nomination and gives the entire game away. Of course, Trump has been graded on a curve. If the electorate hadn’t graded modern conservatism on an intellectual curve, it would’ve flunked out of Human College decades ago.

It is timidity now that grades this ridiculous man running this ridiculous campaign on the biggest curve of all—the timidity of a people who have declined the responsibilities of serious citizenship and the abdication of its duty under the Constitution of a putatively free press too timid to call them on it.

And yeah, as long as, tonight, we’re talking about Trump’s loathsome attitudes about women … he’s the GOP that added half-term Alaskan governor Sarah Palin to the presidential ticket in 2008. I trust I need say no more about that.

 

The Washington Post has put it this way, in a series of editorials this past month [italics mine]:

it would be reckless not to consider the damage Mr. Trump might wreak. Some of that damage would ensue more from who he is than what he does. His racism and disparagement of women could empower extremists who are now on the margins of American politics, while his lies and conspiracy theories could legitimize discourse that until now has been relegated to the fringe.

Yes, Congress has the power to remove a president who ignores the law. But given the easy GOP capitulation to such an obviously unfit candidate, how far would Mr. Trump have to go for a likely Republican House to impeach him? How much damage would he have to do?

Clearly, if the behavior of the leadership of his party – just today! – is indicative … he would have to do far more damage than we can comfortably imagine.

Thirty-two days.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | current events, education, Famous Persons, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Seventeen: Inside of a Dog, It’s Too Dark to Read

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 17: “Favorite childhood book”.

This is where regular readers of the Blogge may get that feeling of slowly dawning horrible realization … so this is why he is why he is.

 

In response to this prompt, I tried to think back to the various books that made an impression on me, usually thanks to a teacher (darn; Teacher Appreciation Week was earlier this month).

[] My first grade teacher, Ms. Baird, sent a couple of us off to the school library to go look for a book we would like to read. (That was in the age where a teacher wouldn’t be reprimanded for deviating from the standardized-test prep curriculum.) I ended up with a book called “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet”. (See again the first paragraph of this post.)

My research about this book tells me three important things: [1] there were actually eight of those books in a series, [2] based on a television series of the 1950s, and [3] written by several authors who all used a pseudonym, and had a technical advisor. No word as to whether the technical advisor’s name was also a pseudonym.

[] Some time during the third grade I think, I found a book on the classroom shelves of my teacher, Ms. Howe, called “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”. It was written by the estimable Beverly Cleary (who, trivia alert, celebrated her 100th birthday last month!), of “Ramona” book series fame … about whom West Chester University professor of children’s literature Pat Pflieger wrote, “Cleary’s books have lasted because she understands her audience. She knows they’re sometimes confused or frightened by the world around them, and that they feel deeply about things that adults can dismiss.”

At that time I felt deeply about a mouse who finds a toy motorcycle in a house in which he lives, and rides it around, making its engine work by making a vrrrrroom!! engine noise. Talk about environmentally-friendly fuels! (Although, oi, the noise pollution…)

[] I have already blogged about my eighth-grade teacher, Mr. Tornrose, organizing a creative writing / dramatic reading after-school activity (not listed in the school yearbook, therefore I suspect he wasn’t drawing a stipend; therefore this was out of the goodness of his heart and his interest in expanding our middle-school minds a bit) … during which, most memorably, I and four of my classmates had Shakespeare and his mighty “Macbeth” revealed unto us.

We even got to say “out, damn spot!” on school grounds.

 

But unquestionably, the book which had the biggest childhood impact on me, I would judge, was one that I found at a church yard sale on Cape Cod during one family summer vacation. It was an oversized book, packed equally with illustrations and text regarding a topic that would permanently re-define my idea of what was funny and how to express it.

It was called Why a Duck: Visual and Verbal Gems from the Marx Brothers Movies.

I was ten years old.

And only now, at the end, do you understand…

I was doomed.

May 17, 2016 Posted by | blogging, books, education, humor, language, literature, teachers, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment