Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Send A Message

[Ed. Note: I published this on my Facebook page tonight. I’ve heard too many cable-TV-news pundits gleefully point to polls which suggest that only a small percentage of young Americans will actually vote in the midterm elections tomorrow. I’d like to hope – after Parkland, after Kavanaugh, after children in cages, after a host of awful current events that seemed to awaken a great many American high-school and college students, over the last two years – that there are indeed a great wave of new voters who will end-run the corporate media’s bleatings and the various pollsters that only contact landline-based Americans, and give American representative government a well-deserved kick in the rear. May it be so.

[So here’s that Facebook piece, which I wrote while thinking of all the fine folks who have been students at the public schools and colleges and drum major clinics where I’ve taught, all of whom I’ve been able to watch, via social media, turn into people whom I’d trust to run this country.]

 

All right, my fine FB younger friends — a legion of wonderful people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a music classroom, or a rehearsal stage, or a high school or college football field, or a DMA parking lot: pull up a chair while I do my Wise Old Sage Of The Desert act.

I beg you. I mean it: I beg you — prove the pundits wrong tomorrow. There are people who go on the TV and pontificate because they’re paid to convince you that they know something about the world, who say that only a handful of young voters will actually engage in the political process. MAKE THEM EAT THEIR WORDS.

Forgive me, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that tomorrow’s election — at the all levels, federal, state and local — boils down to a very simple idea:

Empathy vs. selfishness.

Regarding virtually every important issue facing our country right now — climate change, health care, gun violence, public education, women’s health and rights, rights of people of color, LGBTQ and transgender rights, freedom of (or from) religion, immigration (CHILDREN ARE STILL IN CAGES), the Supreme Court, simple human decency, and oh by the way Congressional oversight of this corrupt bunch of pirates masquerading as an executive branch …

… the current Congressional majority and many Republican-held state legislatures have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated BY THEIR ACTIONS an utter lack of human decency and empathy.

So vote them out tomorrow (if you haven’t early-voted already). Vote in such overwhelming numbers that Russian meddlers won’t matter, that voter-suppression schemes won’t matter, that the corporate media’s obsession with pretending that “both sides are equally horrible” … JUST WON’T MATTER.

And at this moment in history, I’m sorry, but it’s more important to vote within the context of the political system as it is, rather than as we wish it were. Which means, I’m sorry again, that independent candidates can’t help us in this election. Down the road, perhaps; but not tomorrow.

Mark Twain once said, not without cause, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

BUT … this time around, Democratic Party majorities in the US House and Senate are the only way to throw the brakes on this miserable Republican-Party-led executive branch (yeah, That Guy). The current Republican Party majorities in the House and Senate have, through their actions, proven themselves willfully incompetent at governmental oversight, and indeed at representative government at all.

So go to the polls. Stand in the lines when you have to. Send a message … to our elected officials, and to the rest of the world (most of which has quite honestly been watching us for the last two years with horror) — that we’re not going to just sit here and take it. That we’re not going to let selfishness win out over empathy.

If you ask me: vote blue. Vote Democratic. But in any case: vote.

My young friends, all of whom I’ve held in very high regard whenever I’ve had the privilege of enjoying your company … this is your golden opportunity, TOMORROW: to take this country back from the (mostly) rich old white guys who have used their control of the government to gather all the riches to themselves, right now — AND to work diligently to make life harder for everybody but themselves, both now and into the future.

Make the Women’s March and the Science March and the March For Our Lives and the Families Belong Together March seem like mere whispering tiny preludes.

VOTE.

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November 5, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, Facebook, government, news, politics, social media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Oaths, With Occasional Swearing

Foreword:

(A blog post gets a foreword? Yes.)

With apologies: this blog post has grown like Topsy since just before Christmas, partly because of the careening nature of life here at the home of the Blogge, but mostly because of the careening nature of current events. Think you’ve got a handle on the news? Half a day later, there’s an event, or a quote, or something, out there that eclipses what you thought was at the extreme end of possibility.

This post originally started at the Senatorial oath you see quoted in indented-paragraph form below. Shortly thereafter, the post’s topic (target?) – sure enough – did something that may not have eclipsed his previous achievement but assuredly added to the near-cartoonish sense of are you even kidding me?

So I thought I had a new, fresh beginning to the post, which I could place at the beginning of what I thought was the original essay. That fresh beginning begins with the words, “Okay. First thing”, below.

So … a gentle addition, edition, both, whatever, not too complicated; run that baby!

And then, today, in a classic Friday night news dump, a declassified version of a US intelligence-community report was released. The headline in The Hill read: “Declassified report: Putin ordered election interference to help Trump”.

Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report reads.

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

The bombshell document details the intelligence community’s findings but provides little in the way of forensic evidence backing up its assessment, citing the need to protect sources and methods. [Italics mine.]

While the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods,” the report reads.

and it brought my original post screaming back into relevance.

 

Okay. First thing. This brief moment of utter hypocrisy:

The headline reads, “[Sen.] Mitch McConnell [(R. – Ky.)] Says Americans Won’t Tolerate Democrats Blocking Supreme Court Nominations”. The writer continues, “McConnell’s admonition that the American public may not put up with prolonged Democratic obstruction is curious in light of his own plan to not lift a finger on any of Obama’s nominees.”

Curious” is not exactly the word I would use.

Two words: Merrick Garland. 294 days without a hearing. The longest time for a Supreme Court nominee to go without a hearing in the last 100 years.

Two other words: Sen. McConnell, you really honestly don’t care that you sound like an utter, utter hypocrite, right out in the open, do you? It’s not okay if you Democrats want to do it, but it’s perfectly fine and in fact clever and smart if I do it. Tremendous.

Two other words (I know, I know; go with the joke): there’s something else about Mitch McConnell that is related to that — but much, much more important. And it applies to a comparable number of other Washington politicians.

 

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

     -Oath of office for United States Senators (emphases added)

Lemme see if I got this straight.

You’re telling me that in September … well before the Presidential election … the CIA briefed the “Gang of 12”, an inauspiciously-named group of Congressional leaders from both sides of the political aisle. And in this briefing, the CIA reported that seventeen separate US intelligence agencies felt they had credible evidence that Russian intelligence agencies had carried out cyber-activity intended specifically to support the Republican candidate for the US presidency.

Senate Democrats reportedly were unanimous in their recommendation to release this news to the American public. But Sen. Mitch McConnell, US Senator from Kentucky, United States Senate majority leader, advocated not doing so.

I’ll say it here, although it should be so clear as to not need to be expressed: Mitch McConnell should be charged with treason.

Read on.

He saw evidence that a foreign government was interfering with a US presidential election – not conspiring to generically and non-specifically reduce confidence in our concept of Democracy, but conspiring to AFFECT the election in the favor of their preferred candidate. A foreign power had attempted to interfere with this country’s election. This interference might even rise to the level of an act of war against the United States. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, and did, nothing. No – sorry – worse: he advocated actively keeping this information from the voters who could have used this knowledge; which is to say, all of them. All of us.

So much for representative government. So much for being a public servant.

So much for loyalty to one’s own country. So much for upholding one’s oath of office.

So much for professed love for and adherence to the US Constitution.

Treason.

This is treason.

It is nothing but.

I’d be saying this if it were merely (!) the sanctity of an election that was at stake here.

But there’s another layer to this.

This summer, the Democratic National Committee website was hacked, AND the Republican National Committee website as well, by Russian intelligence organizations. The Russians released what they found in the DNC website. They did not release anything they found in the RNC database. The Russians released, effectively, opposition research for the benefit of the Republican candidate. They did not release anything like that for the benefit of the Democratic candidate.

Just what did they find out about the Republican candidate for president? About other Republican candidates for other national offices? About members of the RNC staff and leadership? About people who are up for appointed (not elected) Cabinet positions within the coming Republican administration, who have business ties to Russian interests? … What did they find out about them, what bits of tantalizing information, which they knew they could hold back, the better to use in an effort to blackmail any of them, in the future? Or to influence US economic and foreign policy to benefit themselves?

And if I know this (thanks to reputable, not fake-news, sources) … surely Mitch McConnell knew it.

Traitor.

Treason.

McConnell knew.

And McConnell’s not the only one.

But we can start there.

If McConnell knew, the rest of the security-clearance-laden Republican Gang of 12 members knew. Trump, the de facto head of the Republican Party (and the loser of the popular vote) knew. And it is documented that not a one of the Republican members of the Gang of 12 wanted the American public to know.

At the very least, Sen. McConnell put the interests of the American public – our interest in knowing that our elections are conducted in a remotely fair way, and our interest in being aware that a foreign country was making cyberspatial war on us – second. He put his own interests – financial and power-oriented – first.

He was willing and happy to look the other way, when he was among the few people who could have looked straight at what was happening, and said something about it.

And for what?

Maintaining his power and personal fortune? And that of his friends, and family?

(“Must make sure that my wife, Elaine Chao, will still receive a Cabinet-level appointment in the coming Republican administration. Must not keep this from happening.”)

This is treason.

McConnell is a traitor.

And again, it’s not just McConnell.

But it’s a great place to start, perhaps to head off or at least shine a light upon what is actually happening here.

We are looking at a coup.

The Russian government wants to control the American government. And this is cheaper than starting an actual shooting war; and they get the benefits of any part of the American economy that any of Trump’s hired minions control. Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, who would have made a $500 billion deal with a Russian oil company if the US government hadn’t meddled with pesky sanctions against Russia, a short time ago … is the current nominee for US Secretary of State. Hmmmmmm. It all starts to make sense now.

McConnell will never be charged with treason, of course. How silly to think so. The US Congress is in Republican-majority hands, and (I would judge, based on my observations of at least the past six years of that Republican Congressional majority) nothing will keep Republican members of Congress from choosing the good of their party over the good of their country. How I know this is: the fish rots from the head down. The head of Republican congressional leadership is Mitch McConnell, and Mitch McConnell puts party before country. What are his Congressional underlings supposed to do, after all, but rot?

They are cowards. Cartoonishly corrupt cowards. Cowards who seem largely willing to be seen as such, and who seem not to care how cartoonishly corrupt they look. They’ll get theirs, and screw the rest of y’all.

And because these cowards are wealthy (you need to be wealthy nowadays in order even to run for national office), and sheltered (tax- and otherwise; thanks to their guaranteed Congressional lifelong salaries and health insurance coverage, they will never know want) … they will likely never be made to feel the repercussions of their cowardice. They’ll even likely be rewarded for it. Again: they’ll get theirs, and screw the rest of y’all.

The list of corrupt, Constitutionally-challenged cowards starts with Mitch McConnell.

And so, he should be called what he is – and so should everyone in Washington who knew something, but did nothing.

Traitor.

Treason.

This is treason.

It is nothing but.

 

[Ed. Note: Two weeks … fourteen days … until we inaugurate a dangerously unstable person – who will have the assistance of a Congress whose partisan majority is comprised of hypocritical, corrupt cowards.

[RESIST. REJECT.]

January 6, 2017 Posted by | current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The High Road

Early in my ninth year, I found myself out on my school’s playground, in the grasp of a large galoot whom I had previously thought of as a friendly.

This member of my third-grade class had me by the arm, and was playfully whacking me with his free arm. He was smiling. I was relinquishing my own smile, in exchange for a muttered, “um, hey.”

My classmate’s free arm – the one executing the whacking – was partly encased in a cast. Being as this was during the early days of the Gerald Ford administration, it wasn’t one of those lightweight flexible air-cast things that are used nowadays.

His wrist and forearm were encased, basically, in shaped rock.

It kinda hurt.

I let this go on for a few days, turning the other cheek, taking the high road … and then one night I told my parents about it all, over supper.

My non-violence-espousing, turn-the-other-cheek, do-unto-others, decent parents did something that totally, utterly shocked me.

They signed me up for karate lessons.

Several wintry months later, I had completed a series of Saturday mornings in which I got used to the idea of making violent contact with other human beings – in a controlled and disciplined environment. That was entirely outside my experience (except, perhaps, for the disagreements I had with my younger sister, and even those wrestling matches I usually lost).

But aside from some sparring matches during which I was out of my league – somehow, the instructor thought I was good enough to compete with a couple of otherwise genuinely friendly boys who were a solid belt-color-level above me, which ought to tell you more about the instructor than it tells you about me or my competition – I actually was really good at making contact. And performing those pantomimical forms – downward block, punch, kick, upward block, discount double-check… And I even made those hi-yat-su! grunts pretty well (also not a super-large part of my personality).

Recess. Spring day. Playground. Alleged friend. Smile. Grasp. Cast.

Raised eyebrow. Punch in the stomach.

Kid never came near me again.

Last night was the State of the Union speech.

I know. Your head just whiplashed. Stay with me now.

The annual tradition in Washington, on a Tuesday evening each January since Woodrow Wilson was president, is for the president to ascend the speaker’s platform in the House chamber of the US Capitol and address a joint session of Congress, to give a brief overview of how the last year went, and what plans he (or, someday, she) might have for the coming year.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Capitol building. Two summers ago, I was there as a tourist. Along with my tourist compatriots, I felt an undeniable need to maintain an air of dignity and decorum in the midst of the truly impressive surroundings of our nation’s loftiest legislative location. Beyond my thoughts about all the truly momentous people who had strode through those corridors, all the important decisions that had been made in that building, all the important quotes from American history (“a day which will live in infamy”) that had been launched from that podium … the place has décor that kinda demands that people behave very well indeed.

You’d think so, anyway.

During President Obama’s first State of the Union address, a Republican member of the House of Representatives shouted “you lie!” in response to one of the President’s assertions. It drew an audible gasp from a large portion of the assembled legislators and spectators. (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot a stare out in the direction of the outburst that reminded me very strongly of one of my elementary school teachers after a back-row yahoo belched loudly in the middle of silent reading time.) You just don’t do that! … Or, you didn’t. Until now, I guess.

During one of Mr. Obama’s later State of the Union speeches, Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito vigorously shook his head “no”, in response to another of the President’s assertions. Traditionally, Supreme Court justices who attend the speech do not react in any way to the speech, yea or nay – they stare stoically straight ahead. … Or, they did. Until now, I guess.

I don’t recall any such reactions to the assertions of any past President, Republican or Democratic. Members of Congress never treated any President, from Wilson to Bush 43, with anything but applause (from polite to passionate), the occasional standing ovations, and the otherwise ubiquitous quiet deference and focused attention. Even Bill Clinton, whose foibles got him into various versions of hot water with the press, the public, and his Congressional colleagues, wasn’t treated like this. It has always been understood that, well, we’ll present the opposition-party response to the speech, and we’ll go on “Meet the Press”, and we’ll write op-eds, and we’ll get back at him that way.

Until this Administration, I guess.

Last night, on the way to a larger assertion, Mr. Obama began a paragraph with the preparatory clause, “I have no more campaigns to run, …”

A significant number of legislators applauded sarcastically. As if this were a middle-school assembly and a kid running for student council president was making his campaign speech and screwing it up.

At this moment, the President had a choice.

He could have proceeded with the rest of the paragraph, trying to make his hecklers (hecklers!?) look bad by just ignoring the interruption and trusting the American public to write its elected representatives and chastise them themselves.

Yeah, not likely.

He could have stopped, looked out at the clapping Congresspeople, and (as he has done at some other public events) gently murmured, “now, come on, we don’t have to do that.” Whatever has been his way of dealing with people in private, which we really cannot know, this “let’s all be civil here” reasonableness has been his public personality, over the course of his time in office. Once, he offered a couple of demonstrators the opportunity to talk with him after his speech was over, and then made good on that offer, directing the Secret Service to bring the men backstage so they could present their case to him in person.

He could have taken the low road. Gotten actively angry in the middle of that speech. Or, today, in his first speech after last night’s address, he might have lashed out at the Republican-controlled House or Senate. After six years of having bitten his tongue hard, of taking the high road, one might have forgiven him for having a brief moment of “…are ya kidding me?”

For six years, Mr. Obama has taken it on the chin from his political opponents, consistently and relentlessly. Sometimes they’ve been needlessly personal. Often the name-calling has been hilariously contradictory (you can’t be a feckless, weak President and a dictator at the same time, friends).

And often the policy arguments have been contradictory, too. In the first day after the capture of the mastermind behind the Libyan embassy attacks last year, the President’s opponents criticized him both for not achieving the capture soon enough and for rushing to capture the man so Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could trumpet the success during her appearance on Fox News the following night.

I have the feeling that if the President were to suggest that the sky was blue, someone would pout, “well, it’s cloudy where I’m standing.”

The President has endured attacks on his wife. For transgressions such as, she’s showing too much of her (frankly ripped) upper arms … she looks like she’s rolling her eyes at the Speaker of the House during a state dinner …too this, too that, pick, pick, pick …

But at least Mrs. Obama is an adult and by way of being First Lady, she’s a public figure and therefore, in terms of criticism, will be an eligible receiver. It happens. Same goes for being the actual President. You’re thin-skinned and hopelessly naive if you make it to the White House and still don’t get that.

The President has endured attacks on his kids. (Ostensibly as a way of attacking him. This is what some of his critics think of as clever.) This has traditionally been kinda frowned upon. Leave the kids out of it, as has been suggested in this space previously. Even so, the President has refrained from explaining to the critics of his children at just which bus stop they need to step off.

I admire this. If it were me, and my niece and nephew were treated like Malia and Sasha have been treated on occasion, I would be sorely tempted to recall my third-grade karate lessons.

So, in some small way, I was disappointed last night, when the President didn’t pause, look out at the Congress, and say something like, “…–Really?” Or…

Are you fking kidding me?” Or…

At some point in your miserable, politics-of-personal-destruction, inexplicably-elected lives, are you actually going to attempt to portray grownups?” Or…

Do you not see where you are, what responsibilities you’ve been elected to carry out, how many people across the world are watching how you behave and who you are?” Or…

Do I have to pull this Congress over?”

He didn’t, though.

This morning, he’s being lauded in many quarters for distributing what Slate.com called an “instantly legendary ad-libbed burn”:

He looked out, raised an eyebrow, clearly looked as if his thought bubble was reading, “oh, I get it. We’re still playing that game. It’s still gon’ be like that”, and went off-script. Question: how do I know I have no more campaigns to run? Answer:

I know, ’cause I won both of them.”

He will take truckloads of, forgive me, crap for that, in certain other fair ‘n’ balanced quarters, by the end of today. (“Disgracing the office of the President!”, no doubt.)

And it wasn’t probably as satisfying to the President as “going off on them” would’ve been.

But a little satisfying.

I don’t know; maybe this morning he’s regretting not taking the high road and just ignoring it all.

I didn’t regret that punch in the stomach. But I’m not the President, and I haven’t spent the last six years being called a Fascist Nazi Kenyan Socialist Muslim usurper.

This essay has nothing to do with politics. I promise. And it has nothing to do with whether I’m a big fan of the President, or a big detractor.

This has to do with standards of behavior.

It reminded me of a quote which has been one of my favorites for a long time, and speaks to this moment rather eloquently, if unintentionally.

It wasn’t one of his Starred Thoughts™; instead it was a quote from a magazine interview with the director of my alma mater’s band. In it, he was describing the culture that had been built, over the course of many years, that allowed him to not worry about what first impression his band was going to give people when it went on the road for an away football game, or a parade, or an exhibition, or a rest-area stop for food, or whatever.

There are standards — standards of behavior, standards of how to project the image of the band, which is the image of the university, which is of course the image of themselves.”

One could say that a lot of our elected officials “could stand to improve” on that front … except that their unlikeliness to improve is given away by their pesky ol’ body of work.

January 21, 2015 Posted by | current events, government, news, Starred Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment