Saturday, August 19, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Unintended Consequences

I like to think of myself as an optimist.  You know, the glass half full and all that.  I try to look at the best in people and look for positive outcomes in any situation.  At least I try to do that.  I'm not always successful, but I try.  I'm also pretty good at looking for 2nd and 3rd order effects.  If this happens, then what is the outcome and, maybe even more importantly, what will be the effect down the line.  It's really taking the "if/then" problem to the next level.

So with the events of the last week, I'm heartened to see some of the impacts and outcomes.  I wrote about it just a few days ago here.  At the end of that rant, I hoped for the dismissal of Steve Bannon and that President Trump would come before the American people and apologize or at least explain himself.  Well...lo and behold, Bannon is out.  Now he's just the latest in what is becoming a list of folks leaving, but from I can tell, he's a bit of an odious character.  At minimum he is an arrogant and controlling functionary who is not particularly prone to bringing people together.  So he's out.  Now we'll see what impact that has.  What public role does he take?  Whatever it is, it will show his true character.

There are come other positive impacts that I think have started to emerge.  The best one is the pretty dramatic and across the board condemnation of the various white supremacist groups.  Not there was very much support in the past, but these knuckleheads have now become real pariahs.  People are starting to realize that their numbers are small and insignificant in the scheme of things.  That they can be made irrelevant by shining a light on them.

There has also been increased dialog across the board about the issue of monuments and memorials that are related to the Confederacy and the Civil War.  There have been a number of loud voices providing an almost hysterical demand to tear them all down.  But thankfully, those voices seem to be in the minority.  And really a small minority.  Polls show and I think it's true that most folks don't want to erase history.  I've said previously that I'm for ensuring that they are displayed in context and with correct historical descriptions as well as ensuring that local authorities make decisions based on a thorough discussion with the community.  I think that will happen.

The antifa is another odious group that have been outed for the despicable anarchists that they are.  I'm hoping (remember, I'm an optimist) that law enforcement now realize that if these guys are involved in any sort of demonstration or event, there is a need for overwhelming force and a structure to control them at all times.  One thing for sure, if there is another event in which the antifa thugs do their normal violence, law enforcement will be clearly to blame.

So there's a bit of light coming from the end of the tunnel.  But there is still one big issue.  Trump has to moderate his voice if he's going to be successful.  He's got to reach out to minorities and other groups and bring people together.  Or at least try to do that.  Because if he doesn't he'll be increasingly isolated and rendered ineffective.  And it will be a long three and half years!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Epic Fail II

I wrote about the epic failure of Congress to get the new health care bill that they had been promising for 7 years passed last month.  You can read it here.

Now there is another epic failure that the Trump administration is dealing with and it is arguably worse by several magnitudes.  And this one is entirely self-inflicted.  Unless you're living under a rock, you've seen all the stories, analysis and outrage coming out of Charlottesville, VA.  The Reader's Digest version is that a disparate group of white supremacist assholes had a two day rally in a park where there was a statue of Gen Robert E. Lee to protest the removal of the statue.  I'm sure you've seen all the hubbub about removing statues, memorials and really traces of the Civil War from everyday life.  I also wrote about that here and here.

So predictably there was a big backlash and an effort by "antifa" groups to disrupt this event.  Now make no mistake, the antifa are a group of violent, anti-government thugs who aim to disrupt and in many cases do harm.  But on this side of the aisle there were also a lot of peaceful protesters who abhor the Nazis, neo-Nazis, KKK, and all ther other groups purporting to be only preserving the white race.  And also predictably, there was violence and in an ultimate tragedy, the loss of life.  One of the white supremacists drove a car through the protesters, injuring many and killing one.

And let's not forget the role (or absence) of law enforcement.  This was the first epic fail of this whole sordid mess.  They stood by and did very little to stem the violence.  It's no secret that Charlottesville is a bastion of the Democrats and is certainly a hub for anti-Trumpism.  So it is natural to speculate that there was a method in their madness.  Who knows.  All I know is that they could have prevented it.  They could have taken action.  And that they didn't resulted in a death.

But then we come to the epic failure.  Trump came out relatively soon and condemned violence "on all sides".  And of course this was met with scorn and outrage from the media, politicians from both sides of the aisle, and a large number of the populace.  A few days later he had clearly been schooled by his staff on what to say and came out (on teleprompter) and condemned the KKK, white supremacists, Nazis, etc.  But is sorta didn't seem sincere.  And then yesterday during a confrontational and rambling press conference he reverted to his original statement that there was violence on all sides.  He said there were peaceful people on both sides trying to protest or support the issue.

And then it went nuclear.  CEOs resigned from his Industry Board.  Politicians are moving away from him as fast as possible.  His staff is in perpetual spin mode.  Talk radio is exploding.  Long time conservative voices are now wondering what they got themselves into.  Check out this article by a very respected conservative journalist.  Of course, he is digging in.  He is railing about fake news and despicable journalists.  He is disparaging the CEOs.  He is trying to change the subject.  In other words, he's being Trump.

So here's my take, for what it's worth.  The white supremacist, neo-nazi, KKK, alt-right bigots don't deserve the time of day.  They deserve to be shunned and vilified.  They need to be made a pariah of decent society and ridiculed into the ash bin of history.  Full stop. Some want to make this about protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in a park in Charlottesville.  That is a smoke screen.  If you have any doubt, check out this poster advertising the event.  This has little to do with the right.  This has to do with neo-nazi scum and perpetuating their sick views.  If you're a normal American and you wanted to attend an event that would include a rational discussion regarding the idea of removing Civil War memorials, you would not choose this event as one in which there would be any reasonable discussion.  Because this is about hate and oppression.  The other issue that is a smoke screen the issue of the First Amendment.  Everyone has a right to speak.  Well, I agree.  But the city doesn't need to give them a platform and a place that is ultimately volatile.  Don't let them spew their hate where it will instigate violence or is a place that is hard to control.  Put them in a box.  Let them talk, but put them someplace that can be controlled.  I don't know how to say it any stronger, these people are abhorrent and need to be shunned.  And when a light is shined upon them and they are shunned, no one would show up to their event and it would become irrelevant.  As I've said previously, we have examples of how to do it.  Martin Luther King jr, Nelson Mandela, etc, etc, etc.  It can be done.

Now what about the antifa?  Well, they are a bunch of thugs who use violence to achieve their goals.  The ends clearly don't justify the means.  If you don't really know what the antifa is, there is a pretty good article here.  I'm all for stomping out fascism.  I just finished a biography of Churchill and it was clear that if English leaders had listened to him in the 1930's, Hitler wouldn't have wreaked the havoc that he did.  But these antifa assholes are beyond the pale.  No decent citizen would support their activities.

I've already mentioned the failure of law enforcement, but that can't be mentioned enough.  When these violent groups come together, there has to be a controlling agent that provides structure to ensure safety.  That is fundamental.  They didn't do that.  In fact, it could be argued that they let it happen.  That is unsat.

So the white supremacists are terrible and the antifa are terrible.  So what's wrong with Trump's language?  What's wrong is that by saying both sides had violence he making a moral equivalence between an abhorrent and fundamentally anti-human (and certainly anti-American) group and a group of protesters that most likely did include some who were there to protest peacefully.  To most people, as bad as antifa is, there is no moral equivalence.

There is an expectation that our President will inspire us and will uphold the values that most Americans find vital.  He didn't do that.  He has been confrontational and unequivable in his belief that he was right.  He's not.  Many have said that things he's done could doom his Presidency.  I didn't believe that before this episode.  But this could mushroom out of control, if it hasn't already.  He needs to correct this wrong and put it behind him.  In my view he should do two things.  First is that he should come before the American people from the Oval Office and in a clear and calm manner condemn the alt right in no uncertain terms.  There can be no equivocation.  Second, he needs to dump Steve Bannon.  As long as Bannon is around, this issue isn't going away.  I fear it might already  be too late, but this is a time for a huge mea culpa if ever there was one.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Saw this over on FB and thought it was pretty good, especially for those of us over the hump and heading down the other side.  Thought I'd post it here and take from it what you will.

Many of us are between 65 and death, i.e. old. My friend sent me this excellent list for aging . . . and I have to agree it's good advice to follow. I'm particularly interested in tune with #19.
1. It’s time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it. Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a son or daughter-in-law with big ideas for your hard-earned capital. Warning: This is also a bad time for investments, even if it seems wonderful or fool-proof. They only bring problems and worries. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.
2. Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren, and don’t feel bad spending your money on yourself. You’ve taken care of them for many years, and you’ve taught them what you could. You gave them an education, food, shelter and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their own money.
3. Keep a healthy life, without great physical effort. Do moderate exercise (like walking every day), eat well and get your sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs. Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you’re feeling well. Stay informed.
4. Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your significant other. The key goal is to enjoy your money with your partner. One day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then, enjoy it together.
5. Don’t stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten.
6. Regardless of age, always keep love alive. Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbor and remember: “A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection.”
7. Be proud, both inside and out. Don’t stop going to your hair salon or barber, do your nails, go to the dermatologist and the dentist, keep your perfumes and creams well stocked. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it seeps in, making you feel proud and strong.
8. Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There’s nothing worse than an older person trying to wear the current fashion among youngsters. You’ve developed your own sense of what looks good on you – keep it and be proud of it. It’s part of who you are.
9. ALWAYS stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You’ll be surprised what old friends you’ll meet. Keeping in touch with what is going on and with the people you know is important at any age.
10. Respect the younger generation and their opinions. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future, and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them that yesterday’s wisdom still applies today.
11. Never use the phrase: “In my time.” Your time is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time. You may have been younger, but you are still you now, having fun and enjoying life.
12. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it’ll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you older and harder to be around.
13. Do not surrender to the temptation of living with your children or grandchildren (if you have a financial choice, that is). Sure, being surrounded by family sounds great, but we all need our privacy. They need theirs and you need yours. If you’ve lost your partner (our deepest condolences), then find a person to move in with you and help out. Even then, do so only if you feel you really need the help or do not want to live alone.
14. Don’t abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, make new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, volunteer or just collect certain items. Find something you like and spend some real time having fun with it.
15. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, graduations, birthdays, weddings, conferences. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven’t seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). But don’t get upset when you’re not invited. Some events are limited by resources, and not everyone can be hosted. The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a field. Get out there.
16. Be a conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you. Listen first and answer questions, but don’t go off into long stories unless asked to. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to. Try to accept situations as they are. Everyone is going through the same things, and people have a low tolerance for hearing complaints. Always find some good things to say as well.
17. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the cycle of life we’re all going through. Try to minimize them in your mind. They are not who you are, they are something that life added to you. If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be.
18. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone - apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said: “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Don’t take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.
19. If you have a strong belief, savor it. But don’t waste your time trying to convince others. They will make their own choices no matter what you tell them, and it will only bring you frustration. Live your faith and set an example. Live true to your beliefs and let that memory sway them.
20. Laugh. Laugh A LOT. Laugh at everything. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one. Many never get to this age, never get to experience a full life. But you did. So what’s not to laugh about? Find the humor in your situation.
21. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk and don’t worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you’ve lived so far. There’s still much to be written, so get busy writing and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace and as happy as you can be!
AND, as Alan's message suggests. REMEMBER: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” Or, in my case, bad Arnold Palmer.

Motivation Monday

Our Identity and Our Voice

Sometimes something comes along that is so good, so powerful, so accurate that I just have to share it.  Such is the case in today's Frank Bruni column in the NYT.  If you've been reading at all you know I'm a sometime fan.  I can sometimes resonate with his writing and sometimes he infuriates me.  I guess that is true of most of the opinion writers out ther though.

Anyway, check his column today entitled, 'I'm a White Man.  Hear me out.' here.  I'm also going to paste it below because I'm not sure that the NYT will allow it to stay up for free.  For me, this sentiment is one I've felt over and over the last several years.  It seems that more and more intellect is giving way to identity.  And it's a shame.

"I’m a White Man. Hear Me Out.

Frank Bruni
AUG. 12, 2017

I’m a white man, so you should listen to absolutely nothing I say, at least on matters of social justice. I have no standing. No way to relate. My color and gender nullify me, and it gets worse: I grew up in the suburbs. Dad made six figures. We had a backyard pool. From the 10th through 12th grades, I attended private school. So the only proper way for me to check my privilege is to realize that it blinds me to others’ struggles and should gag me during discussions about the right responses to them.

But wait. I’m gay. And I mean gay from a different, darker day. In that pool and at that school, I sometimes quaked inside, fearful of what my future held. Back then — the 1970s — gay stereotypes went unchallenged, gay jokes drew hearty laughter and exponentially more Americans were closeted than out. We conducted our lives in whispers. Then AIDS spread, and we wore scarlet letters as we marched into the public square to plead with President Ronald Reagan for help. Our rallying cry, “silence = death,” defined marginalization as well as any words could.

So where does that leave me? Who does that make me? Oppressor or oppressed? Villain or victim? And does my legitimacy hinge on the answer?

To listen to some of the guardians of purity on the left, yes.

Not long ago I wrote about Evergreen State College, which was roiled by protests after a white biology professor, Bret Weinstein, disparaged the particular tack of a day of racial healing. He raised valid points, only to be branded a bigot and threatened with violence.

That reception was wrong. I said so. And a reader responded: “I don’t need one more white male criticizing young people of color.” Other readers also homed in on my race — or on the professor’s: “Weinstein will be fine. He’s white.” That automatically and axiomatically made him a less compelling actor in the drama, a less deserving object of concern, no matter his actions, no matter his argument.

Mark Lilla, a Columbia University professor, got a big, bitter taste of this late last year when he wrote, in The Times, about the presidential election and “identity politics,” which, he argued, had hurt the Democratic Party. He maintained that too intense a focus on each minority group’s discrete persecution comes at the expense of a larger, unifying vision.

Many people disagreed. Good. But what too many took issue with was, well, his identity. “White men: stop telling me about my experiences!” someone later scrawled on a poster that was put up to advertise a talk, “Identity Is Not Politics,” that he gave at Wellesley College.

“But I wasn’t talking about their experience or my experience,” Lilla pointed out when I spoke with him recently. “I was talking about an issue.”

In a new book coming out this week, “The Once and Future Liberal,” he asserts that “classroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. This makes perfect sense if you believe that identity determines everything. It means that there is no impartial space for dialogue. White men have one ‘epistemology,’ black women have another. So what remains to be said?”

Race, gender, sexual orientation, class: All of this informs — and very often warps — how we see the world. And for much too long, this country’s narrative has been scripted by white men, who have also dominated its stage and made its rules. Our advantage, as a class, is real and unearned.

The “check your privilege” exhortation asks us, rightly, to recognize that. It’s about “being aware of systemic injustice and systemic inequality,” Phoebe Maltz Bovy, the author of the recently published book “The Perils of ‘Privilege,’ ” told me. And she applauds that.

But she worries that awareness disclaimers and privilege apologies have ferried us to a silly, self-involved realm of oppression Olympics. They promote the idea that people occupying different rungs of privilege or victimization can’t possibly grasp life elsewhere on the ladder.

In her book she mocks the inevitable juncture in a certain kind of essay “where the writer (probably a cis White Lady, probably straight or bisexual, probably living in Brooklyn, definitely well educated, but not necessarily well-off) interrupts the usually scheduled programming to duly note that the issues she’s describing may not apply to a trans woman in Papua New Guinea.”

Should we really have say and sway only over matters that neatly dovetail with the category that we’ve been assigned (or assigned ourselves)? Is that the limit of our insights and empathies? During the Democratic primary, a Hillary Clinton supporter I know was told that he could not credibly defend her against charges of racism for her past use of the word “superpredators” because he’s white.

That kind of thinking fosters estrangement instead of connection. Lilla noted that what people in a given victim group sometimes seem to be saying is: “You must understand my experience, and you can’t understand my experience.”

“They argue both, so people shrug their shoulders and walk away,” he said.

Across a range of American institutions, we need more diversity. We need it to expunge and guard against the injustice that Bovy mentioned, and we need it because it’s indeed a portal to broader knowledge and greater enlightenment. That means that white people — men in particular, even Google engineers — must make room in that narrative and space on that stage.

But I question the wisdom of turning categories into credentials when it comes to politics and public debate. I reject the assumptions — otherwise known as prejudices — that certain life circumstances prohibit sensitivity and sound judgment while other conditions guarantee them. That appraises the packaging more than it does the content. It ignores the complexity of people. It’s reductive.

Thomas Chatterton Williams, the author of the memoir “Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man’s Escape From the Crowd,” got at this in an essay about privilege that he published last year, writing: “My black father, born in 1937 in segregated Texas, is an exponentially more worldly man than my maternal white Protestant grandfather, whose racism always struck me more as a sad function of his provincialism or powerlessness than anything else. I don’t mean to excuse the corrosive effects of his view; I simply wish to note that when I compare these two men, I do not recognize my father as the victim.”

At the beginning of this column I shared the sorts of personal details that register most strongly with those Americans who tuck each of us into some hierarchy of blessedness and affliction. So you know some important things about me, but not the most important ones: how I responded to the random challenges on my path, who I met along the way, what I learned from them, the degree of curiosity I mustered and the values that I honed as a result.

Those construct my character, and shape my voice, to be embraced or dismissed on its own merits. My gayness no more redeems me than my whiteness disqualifies me. And neither, I hope, defines me."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cool Pic

"I'm Offended by That"

She's Not Even Trying!


By now you've heard and seen (how could you not?) the horrific scenes coming out of Charlottesville, VA showing the clashes between a bunch of white supremacist assholes and a bunch of folks who wanted to confront them violently and cause news and harm.  Well, they all have gotten their 15 minutes of fame.

The white supremacist assholes have been able to spew their repugnant and dangerous bullshit.  You know, the Confederacy will never die, white people are the new oppressed race, we need a pure society, blah, blah, blah.  We've all heard it before and it is nauseating.  That they have a right to meet and rant a bunch of crap is without doubt.  That they should is not.  They shouldn't.  It incites hate and is despicable.  Supposedly it was to protest the city's decision to take down or relocate a statue of Robert E. Lee.  I won't go into the whole debate about this new phenomenon of moving Confederate statues as I posted about it a few months ago when New Orleans was doing it.  Bottom line is that generally I'm in favor of moving them to a more appropriate place (a battlefield memorial) than a city park.  But that's just me.  But I think this was just an excuse for these white supremacist assholes to cause hate and discontent.  They are low lifes.

But then there are the protesters on the other side.  There is little doubt that they were pissed and wanted to get some attention.  Most of them are generally pissed off most of the time and have been pissed off since Trump won.  I think this was really just a good excuse to get out there and throw a few punches.  They are usually a far left crowd that has little in common with the average American. But they are arrogant, aggressive and relentless.  They mostly don't want to engage in dialog.  They just want to call names and throw punches.  Well, today they got what they wanted.  It was a full on free for all.  And ultimately, one of the white supremacist assholes got in a car, plowed into them and killed someone.  Tragic.  Tragic all around.  That Americans would do this to each other is nothing short of tragic.

A couple of things come to my mind when thinking about this whole situation.  First is I wonder how many people were really involved when you take away all the media idiots and the police.  I bet it wasn't enough to fill a medium sized stadium.  Second, is the treatment that the media gives something like this.  On cable it's an inundation of coverage with views from every angle and talking heads, so-called experts and useful idiots offering 'analysis' on and on and on.  Third, the ultimate goal of the protesters has been met.  They got attention (a lot of attention) and they got the media to blame President Trump.  He came out and condemned the violence, but was immediately crucified for not blaming the white supremacist assholes more vigorously.  But the truth is that there was plenty of blame to go around.  But that will never get out.

And fourth, and this is probably most important, is that the protesters didn't really want what they claimed to be seeking.  What they wanted was attention and to blame Trump.  Because if they really wanted to make a statement there are plenty of examples they could have followed.  Think Martin Luther King, Jr.  Think Nelson Mandela.  Think Rosa Parks.  Think of so many others who have shined the light on violence, prejudice and oppression.  If the story is about you, it's not about the white supremacist assholes.  The light doesn't get shined on them because the media is too gullible and stupid to see the reality. And that is a shame.  Because the reality is that this small group of white supremacist assholes who in no way are reflective of America today, would fade into oblivion if a bright light was shined on them.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Friday Funnies

On vacation this week so had to find something easy.  Far Side never lets me down.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


We hear a lot about this in the media but this testimony makes it real.   Everything goes in cycles and I can only hope that the latest trend on college campuses to stifle free speech is a temporarily phenomenon.  But from everything we hear, I'm not particularly hopeful that it's just a passing fad.