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

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

That Guy

[Ed. Note: This week, I’m not the first one to post something like this, and I suspect I won’t be the last. That’s how incendiary current events have been. So, you’ve probably read tons of these already … and in spite of my policy about giving a certain public figure any more attention, I’m subverting my own directive.

[I just had to get this off my chest.]

 

Regular consumers of the Blogge will note that, well … I’ve been away.

My last post was a week before Thanksgiving, and here it is, moving into the second week of December. C’mon fella, get with it!

This pause has happened before – usually due to schedule craziness or a lack of writing prompts that I think think warrant a thousand words (or two). (I haven’t got that “short form” thing down, exactly.)

This time, yes, the holiday season has kicked in and life has accelerated predictably. But this time, no, no lack of topics – certainly for this news hound. Things are blowing up, and people are getting shot, and politicians are saying THE DUMBEST things imaginable, and you’d think that would provide some pretty good blog-cannon fodder.

I’ve been figuring that this month-long spasm of news events simply had to die down; then I’d collect a few quotes together, link up a few seemingly unrelated current events details, and voila! Blog post full of incisive commentary and large-arc storytelling.

But this spasm just hasn’t died down.

Most of the last month has featured a steady crescendo of bullets and bombs and boorishness.

I could have written about terror plots and terrified people. I could have written about gun-manufacturer lobbyists’ stranglehold on politicians – politicians who otherwise, freer of campaign money’s grip, might access a little common sense, try to deal with our uniquely American problem with lack of gun control, and become statesmen (and -women). I could have written about the struggles of a particular pro football team I follow. Heck, I could have written about the breathless countdown to the release of, oh, some little movie whose name escapes me at the moment.

Instead?

I have to write about THAT GUY.

And I’m sorry if I lose you, after you read this essay. It’s possible I may say a thing or two that causes some folks to decide not to come back and read here again. I’m truly sorry if that happens. I don’t want to drive people away. I’m a blogger, for heaven’s sake! It’s not in my best interests to drive readership down.

But I gotta get this off my chest. It’s not the newest thought, but in the last 48 hours it has risen, like food that disagrees with me.

One reason I haven’t written in this space in a while is that every damn day, there’s another burst of stupidity, vulgarity, mean-ness, tin-ear-ness, or outright egomania from THAT GUY. The guy who has caused the Republican party establishment to fall on its fainting couch, wondering how ever their Presidential candidate nomination process could have been hijacked by this, this, this horrible man full of awful ideas and awful ways of expressing them.

[Never mind that this political party has advanced other candidates who say their own awful things in their own awful ways … and has been working up to this state of affairs slowly over the course of several decades. But that’s a topic for another time. In any case, I have friends who are conservatives who would want very little to do with the people who attend Republican debates and cheer boorishly and reflexively for some of the awful sentiments that the current crop of candidates advance. A few of those friends attend my very church, and I routinely have wonderful conversations with them, and lots of laughs besides. There’s a difference between “people with a conservative bent” and the current Republican party loyalist types. I’ve met that difference head-on … and I prefer the former, in a landslide.]

But I’m not writing about the other stupid, vulgar, mean, tin-ear-laden, egomaniacal people running for President from that party. Today, at least.

I’m writing about THAT GUY, who is all of those adjectives in one horrible package.

When I was a kid, any Presidential candidate who, while announcing their candidacy, had labeled a large segment of some other country’s population as rapists … would set a world indoor record for shortest political campaign.

Also, if they had labeled a sitting United States senator as being weak or “a loser” because during that Senator’s military career he’d been captured by the enemy, held for years and tortured outright … they would have been booed out of the room, and also asked serious hard questions by any journalists who had mouths. Not that they’d still be a candidate, but, well, supposing they were.

In addition, if they had whined about being asked “unfair” questions by a debate moderator, and then gone on to suggest that the moderator had treated them unfairly because it was that time of the month, there would have been hell to pay from the Cronkites and Rathers and Chancellors and Brinkleys of the media world.

As well, if while questioning the credibility of one of the reporters covering their campaign, they had physically and verbally mimicked the neurological disease that the reporter suffered from, they would have been disqualified from running for any office ever again. Their last name might have become the code word, the euphemistic verb for “said or did something toxically stupid.”

Throughout the Presidential campaign of THAT GUY, I have done my best to avoid giving THAT GUY any more attention or air time than I think he deserves. I’ve largely succeeded. So often I’ve kept from commenting because I thought he was merely a joke, a circus act … a sideshow that muscled his way out front. I thought he was a blowhard of a carnival barker whose inflated self-image rivaled the MetLife blimp and would, no doubt, at some point cause him to go up in flames not unlike a certain other blimp whose name ended in “-burg” and which came down in a New Jersey town not far from THAT GUY’s home.

But in spite of his frankly unbelievable string of frankly awful utterances, these past few months … he hasn’t gone up in flames. He’s gone up in the polls.

A couple of months ago, I wondered if there really was anything THAT GUY could say that would torpedo his campaign – as every time he said something that was more off-the-wall than the previous thing he’d said, it seemed not to end his political career (as it should have).

In even a semi-rational world, this, from the November 21, 2015 New York Times, would have been it:

Under assault from Democrats and Republicans alike, Donald J. Trump on Friday drew back from his call for a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States, trying to quell one of the ugliest controversies yet in a presidential campaign like few others.

The daylong furor capped a week of one-upmanship among Republican presidential candidates as to who could sound toughest about preventing terrorism after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris. Polls show the national mood has soured on accepting refugees from Syria amid concerns about potential terrorist attacks within the United States.

Mr. Trump’s talk of a national database of Muslims, first in an interview published on Thursday by Yahoo News and later in an exchange with an NBC News reporter, seemed the culmination of months of heated debate about illegal immigration as an urgent danger to Americans’ personal safety.

It came as Mr. Trump has regained some momentum in the Republican presidential race, with polls showing his support on the rise nationally since the Paris attacks, and Ben Carson’s on the decline.

By Friday, though, he appeared to pull back slightly from the idea. … Still, nowhere, even on Friday, did Mr. Trump, who has rarely acknowledged being at fault in a campaign predicated on his strength as a leader, clearly state that he was opposed to the idea of a registry of Muslims. …

In the Yahoo interview on Thursday, which came on the heels of his calls to close some mosques and carefully monitor others, Mr. Trump suggested, with few specifics, that he would impose new measures to deal with terrorism.

‘We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,’ he said. ‘And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.’

Asked by the Yahoo reporter about the possibility of a database for Muslims or ‘a form of special identification that noted their religion,’ Mr. Trump did not reject either idea. Later that day, as Mr. Trump left a campaign event in Iowa, an NBC reporter followed up. Asked if he would set up a database to track Muslims, Mr. Trump replied, ‘I would certainly implement that. Absolutely.’ …

And when the NBC reporter approached Mr. Trump a second time and asked about the difference between registering Muslims and what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump grew impatient: ‘You tell me,’ he said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks took hours to circulate widely over social media. But his seemingly serious consideration for the idea of treating an entire religious group with suspicion created the risk of a new set of problems for a Republican Party already struggling to appeal beyond its largely white political base.”

THAT GUY is proposing government-sponsored discrimination.

(How he got there, in the time since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month: asked about counter-terrorism policies, first he proposed “shutting down the mosques”. Then … tracking (and registering) Muslims in the United States. Later … banning Muslims from entering the US. And most recently … banning Muslims – even those who are American citizens and live here – from re-entering the US if they should leave. I wonder … does that include Americans who happen to be Muslims and who are loyal members of our own military?)

Driving to work yesterday morning, I listened to the audio podcast of Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC news show. She interviewed veteran NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel on the subject. Engel is a gentleman who knows a little something about the world. He’s done more on-air reports with background sounds of gunfire than I care to count.

He was nothing short of aghast.

RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): Joining us now is NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel. Richard, it’s great to have you here.

RICHARD ENGEL (NBC NEWS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT): What has happened since I last spoke to you? I was in Paris.

MADDOW: You left the country. We broke everything.

ENGEL: I came back and things have gone totally mad. The country is in a panic. There is demagoguery. This is really not the country that I know.

MADDOW: You are somebody who I know because we’re friends, I know that you do not care very much about partisan politics. You’re not a like horse race kind of guy. And I know that you can, you box a lot of that stuff out when you think it’s kinda small ball. But this, this concerns you. This matters.

ENGEL: This is not small ball, actually. It would be interesting to say “oh, this is just fun. This is just more, you know, he’s trying to score a few points.” But the world watches this. The world sees the leading political candidate from one party making these kind of statements and still doing well and having these rallies. And those vox pops you showed where people are saying, “yes, we need to do them. Send them back home” … those are going around the world right now, and people realize: “this person is leading in the polls. That must be what Americans think.” I was today with an ambassador from the Middle East. Today! And we were talking exactly about this subject. And he said, “well, people in our country watch what is going on, and it makes us very concerned.” So from the world perspective, it is absolutely an image, an impression, a black spot on our collective foreign policy and our conscience. And it also just feeds into the ISIS narrative.

Engel was aghast … and I was faintly sick to my stomach. Happily, by the time I got to his interview, I was sitting in my parked car.

Never mind that Engel is right: the mere mention of THAT GUY’s proposed policies – without him even being elected to any office – would inflame the Middle East, would increase the likelihood of ISIS gaining more recruits, would honestly make the United States an embarrassment in the eyes of the rest of the world. There are fast sweeping plains of wrong on display here.

But here are the main reasons why I can’t possibly support THAT GUY … I can’t possibly even watch THAT GUY … during his bid for the Presidency:

THAT GUY is a walking, talking violation of just about every single Starred Thought I’ve ever heard.

[And this isn’t name-calling. This is journalism … the kind that the toothless Washington media will not carry out.]

Donald J. Trump is boorish.

Donald J. Trump is vulgar.

Donald J. Trump is petty.

Donald J. Trump is mean-spirited.

Donald J. Trump is self-absorbed.

Donald J. Trump is misogynistic.

Donald J. Trump is gleefully nasty.

Donald J. Trump is cruel.

Donald J. Trump is dangerous.

 

THAT GUY is obscene.

December 9, 2015 Posted by | celebrity, civil rights, current events, government, journalism, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment