Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On the Debate Last Night

I thought it best not to provide comment on the debate until my unconscious mind had a chance to mull it over. With that behind me, I am ready now to render my judgment.

First though, keep in mind I have been wrong at every single point along this journey. I watched Republican Primary debate after debate and thought "there's no way he can come back from this" at every step along the way--and not only did he come back, he surged, buoyed by a legion of defenders who saw the behavior I considered infantile, inspiring. So, apply the appropriate discount to my thoughts.

Trump got slaughtered. Hillary was prepared and disciplined. By the ancient standards of what passes for presidential, she had it, he didn't. He has had MONTHS to gain depth and mastery of the subjects he talks about, but has instead spent his time watching bad cable news in search of calumnies to contest. He spouted slogans (which have--to admit--been very successful for him) but had zero knowledge of his own policies and even less knowledge of hers--grounds for the attack.

Stung in the primaries by his beclownment on the "nuclear triad" question and only minutes after declaring the importance of "the nuclear", the man hadn't a clue when offered a question on Obama's dangerous and ill-considered evaluation of declaring a "no-first use" of nuclear weapons posture.

Strong on law and order, Trump's comfort with that subject is the comfort of the authoritarian, not only embracing "stop and frisk" (which I am still thinking about), but then also embracing the stripping of second amendment rights to anyone on a "terror watch list" or "no fly list".  Keep in mind, the amount of due process that goes into making these lists is minimal--and the process of getting off of them Kafka-esque. This is not the stance of a conservative. This is not the stance of a Republican.

Clinton is so profoundly flawed. So deeply, deeply flawed--personally and politically. Yet he exploited none of it. He pointed not at the massive cost of her plans. He pointed not at her glee to raise taxes. He had no answer for her "wealthy and corporations paying their fair share" blather.

It was a massacre.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trump Will Make an Awful President; He Will Not Bring Down the Republic

I have nothing special against Hillary supporters. I have nothing special against Trump supporters. Both are groups of people who are making a political judgment with which I strongly disagree, but such is the nature of politics.

My impatience is growing however, with some of my fellow travelers in the #NeverTrump movement. Some of you are aware of this once loud and proud portion of the Republican electorate, active before Donald the Conquerer crushed the GOP under his draft-eluding feet. For them (us), the thought of Donald Trump as President was anathema. He stood squarely against virtually all known conservative principles and his views on international relations were deeply flawed. A Trump presidency would threaten liberty, security, and prosperity. He was unfit.

But remember--the source of the #NeverTrump movement was the Republican Party--you remember them--the folks who rightly considered Hillary Clinton a conspiratorial and congenital liar? The party that has for years, stood as a bulwark against the raging and divisive identity politics that fuel her candidacy?  This was a group of people who also rightly considered her unfit for the office.

Now however, a growing number of #NeverTrump people have decided that not only would Trump be a bad president and a threat to our liberty, prosperity, and security--but that the SYSTEM our genius founders put into place SPECIFICALLY TO CONTROL SUCH AN ELECTED THREAT has somehow become a slight breeze in the face of the Trumpian Hurricane, and his potential inauguration in January has been transformed into an imperial coronation. For these "Ready for Hillary" #NeverTrumpers, stopping Trump has become the one and only mission, and not only supporting Hillary--but remaining silent as to her deep and disqualifying flaws and worse, occasionally out-supporting her supporters with their rhetoric. These are the people with whom I am losing patience.

The Consitutional system of divided government/separation of power/individual rights/federalism is one of mankind's greatest achievements. It has withstood internal and external threats that far greater than those posed by the Cheeto Bankrupter. The correct reaction in this situation is not to make peace with the opposition, but to remain oneself in principled opposition--to both candidates. Additionally, the suggestion that supporting Hillary is somehow "good" for the future GOP is hardly more supportable than voting third party (or write in GOP) and then remaining loyal to principles and ideas and voting straight ticket downballot GOP. Because one cannot bring oneself to vote for Trump does not mean that one must vote for Hillary--or worse, attempt to mollify one's conscience by wrapping the dubious decision around a sense of impending civil war.

I have seen on the interwebs, reliable, consistent, sane, and principled conservatives become de facto surrogates for the Hillary campaign--out of this misplaced sense of the impending end of the Republic. Stiffen up, folks. The country can take a Trump presidency, especially if those who retain conservative principles and respect for the Consitution (these are of course, linked, but different) line up and oppose him wherever those principles are threatened. Abandoning those principles to make common cause with someone who stands opposed to virtually every political ideal we hold dear is hardly the answer.

Friday, September 23, 2016

My View from Exile

I am--as most of you know--sitting this Presidential election out, if sitting it out can be broadly defined as "not supporting either of the two major party candidates and doing everything I can to inform others that neither is worthy of the job". To a large extent, I have exiled myself to the land of third-party wingnuts and committed Libertarians. It is disappointing not to be all caught up in the excitement of trying to get someone elected, and it remains to be seen whether my refusal to back the GOP candidate will result in permanent exile or--hopefully--credit for having been loyal to ideas and principles. I realize this strikes some as "holier than thou", but I make no apologies for it.

What is interesting from my vantage point though, is to watch the supporters of the two combatants engage in a sort of bifurcated cognitive dissonance, in which they view the other candidate as utterly flawed, and their own as the embodiment of modern American virtue. Worse still, they simply cannot understand HOW supporters of the other candidate could possibly have that opinion. Each side--which as time goes on seem evenly matched--believes that the mere existence of the other candidate says something incredibly awful about the stuff of which his or her suppoters are made, and the danger to the American Republic that such enthusiasm engenders. Each side has decided to make peace with the cavernous flaws of their own candidate (or worse, deny they exist), yet they retain a keen sense of judgement as to the ethical and behavioral warts of the other. Each believes that any attempt to equate the fitness of the two candidates for this office is an offense against all that is holy, as the other is so obviously evil and flawed as to obviate whatever might be wrong with their own choice. What neither side seems to grasp is that NEARLY HALF OF AMERICA DISAGREES WITH THEM. They have constructed such airtight cases for their support that they are simply unable to comprehend or even process that anyone would disagree, let alone 45% of the voting public. Or--if they do grasp that half the country disagrees, it is not because those people are exercising a similarly dulled sense of political, ethical, and moral judgement--no--it it because those people are 1) dumb 2) benighted 3) racist 4) socialist 5) virtue signallers 6) corporatists 7)globalists 8)isolationsists or 9) white supremacists.

Because I walk in both worlds, I see these dynamics play out on a daily basis. Very intelligent people on both sides have so demonized the political stances and character of the other side as to have reached a state of denial and relativism as applied to their own views. "The other is a threat to the Republic--therefore I must vote for my person. To think otherwise is a sign of great character flaws, political misjudgement, and even darker motives. Because I have so thoroughly insulated myself from everyday interaction with those who see this differently from me, the metaphysical certainty with which I hold my opinions is reinforced by the vigor and rectitude of people who think just like me."

Well, I think BOTH sides are right. Team Hillary's views of Trump are spot on. Team Trump's views of Hillary are too. Neither is worthy of the office. And may God have mercy on the United States of America.

Big Fat Friday Free For All

Well folks, it's about time, huh? What's bothering you? Seen your girl's lead dissipating? Tired of hearing about your man's Russia worship? Your team 0-3 lookin' at 0-4?

Let it all out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On President Bush (The Elder) and Hillary

I've seen a good bit of chatter on the interwebs the last few days about how Bush 41 is thought to be voting for Hillary Clinton, and I don't mind telling you that I'm mighty disappointed. Now don't go too far, Cowboy--I'm not disappointed because he's not voting for Trump--I'm disappointed because he didn't have to do this. Being against Trump does not mean one is for Hillary (for the 10,000th time). He simply could have kept quiet and voted as he chose. But to mess with a favorite Godfather phrase, this wasn't business, it was personal.

This is score-settling at the highest level. Poppy Bush believes that Donald unduly savaged his son during the primary--in addition to almost certainly finding him unqualified for the job. And GHWB doesn't mess around. Anyone who ever considered him a wimp just doesn't understand his kind of strength. No--this is all about settling a score. And while initially amusing, I think this is not a great long-term play.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A New Viewing of The Godfather

"The Godfather Epic" was on TV last night, and I happened upon it at the point where Michael is visiting his father in the hospital and is then brutally assaulted by the police captain. I watched it until the final scene of the origninal movie, when he lies to his wife straight-faced about killing his sister's husband Carlo.

Until I read about "the epic" version this morning, I hadn't known what was up. If you remember, Godfather II had two stories in it--the early life of Vito and then Michael's life after the move to Vegas. The origninal movie sort of "fit" in between the two story lines of the second movie. I think cutting it all up and presenting it chronologically (as the epic does), makes a lot of sense, and I need to set aside the requisite seven hours someday to take it all in thusly.

What's important though, is that I was able to rope The Kitten into watching the movie with me last night. I don't beleive she's ever watched more than a couple of minutes of it, mostly passing through rooms where I have been watching. It is difficult for me to not watch The Godfather...sort of like "The Shawshank Redemption" in that regard.

But she sat down and watched when I said, "sit down with me and watch this. I promise to answer every single question you may have." I think this appealed to her, as I can on occasion, not be as generous with my time whilst watching the telly.

And so we watched, and she would pipe up now and then to ask a question, which I answered enthusiastically. After all, the prospect of adicting her to The Godfather was offering itself, and I was not going to pass this up.

This morning, we were discussing the movie--a movie I've watched dozens of times; a movie in which I can recite line after line. And The Kitten did something that she has a habit of doing--she caused me to look at something I'd looked at over and over--in an entirely new way.

You see, I spent a good part of the last part of the movie talking to her about how well I thought the filmmakers portrayed Michael's descent into evil, how well Pacino under-acted (for the only time in his career) in a particularly effective way. I've always admired Michael in a perverse sort of way for the focus and method he brought to the elimination of his competition on the day of his nephew's Baptism. What I NEVER realized is the degree to which this meister stroke was cooked up with Vito before Vito's death! All along, I had thought Michael and Michael alone had cooked this up, and waited for his father to die to implement it. Not so--as the Kitten pointed out.

In the scene where Michael and Vito are in the garden, Vito informs Michael that Barzini will try to arrrange a meeting, and that the person who brokers the meeting is a traitor. All along I've believed that the Don was talking matter of factly about a future event that was bound to happen. What I NEVER realized was that they were engaged in transistion planning, that the Don was speaking specifically to WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WHEN HE DIED, when the terms of the "deal" among the five families would be considered null and void. Even as he was failing--the Don was the visionary, the Don was the strategist. Here I was thinking Michael to be a prodigy with an edge that even his father hadn't possessed. But I was wrong.

Later, during the scene when Clemenza and Tessio ask the Don to allow them to start their own families, Michael talks about great events that were in motion. Every previous time I've watched that scene--I assumed he was talking about the move to Vegas. But he wasn't. He was talking about a Shakespearean display of power designed to shock and awe La Cosa Nostra -- planned jointly by him and his father!  Vito and Michael realized that when the Don was gone, Michael's position would be perilous. Their plan was so breathtakingly perfect, that it simply could not be discussed with ANYONE else in that room--as we see from Tessio's eventual defection.

Again--I've watched these movies over, and over, and over again--and I simply saw all of this as a sign of Michael's evil virtuosity. But it was not just that. It was Vito's genius.

And I needed a rookie watching it all with intent for the first time to show it to me.  There is a lesson here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

This Day

Many of you know that the Kitten's husband and the Kittens' father perished today in the second tower to be hit in NY 15 years ago. It is never a wonderful day here, but they muddle through, and I try not to be in the way.

My crappy scheduling/increasingly busy life meant that I needed to be in San Diego early this week, so that means flying on this day in which airplanes figured so prominently.

It is--as was that day--beautiful here. Most September 11's are beautiful on the Eastern Seaboard. I wonder if any inquiry has been made on whether it is one of the most reliably consistent good weather days of the year.

I have been alternating between deadline work necessary to complete before flying today and meandering through social media to see how the savages are dealing with the day. So far, pretty good. Nothing in my various feeds that causes me to shake my head. At least not today.

I do long for the feeling this country had in the days and months following the attack, especially in this particularly polarized time. I am certain that it can be achieved again without a national calamity, but I just don't see leaders on the horizon who seek it as an animating goal--or at least some portion of it. I realize that the degree of unity then was outsized, but then again so is today's disunity. We can do better. I am thinking every day about how to help bring that about.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

In the Belly of the MD GOP Beast

I attended a fund-raiser for Kathy Szeliga last night, the GOP Nominee for the Senate seat opening up in January with the retirement of Senator Mikulski. It was held at one of the beautiful waterfront cribs that Talbot County MD is famous for, with valet parking, an open bar, wonderful appetizers, and a scenic setting. The assemblage got to meet the nominee up close and personal, and hear her make her case for her election. A couple of thoughts.

First, Kathy Szeliga really knows how to "work a room". She connected with virtually everyone there, she was convincing in her rhetoric, she was attentive, connecting, and warm. I took a few notes on how to be more sociable in such a gathering.  She was really, really good at it.

Next though, was the elephant in the room. This group of well-heeled Talbot Country Republicans (and the rebel who unregistered) could not help but talk about Trump. I actually was pretty reserved, preferring to listen in mostly to the conversations. Szeliga indicated that she supports the nominee of the Party, that she had supported someone else in the primary (no one asked who), and that she had on occasion vocally expressed her disappointment with things that Trump had said. In other words, she skillfully negotiated what for her must by now be a real minefield. Some vignettes are worth recounting.

In the Q and A, an older woman asked "what can we do to get our state party leaders onboard in supporting our Party's nominee for President?"  This is a shot at Maryland's uber-popular governor Larry Hogan, who has stated very publicly that he will not support Donald Trump, a position I obviously support. Again, Szeliga handled it well, restating her support for the nominee without casting any shade on Hogan.

In another chat, Paul Ryan's name came up, and a woman next to me asked "what are we going to do about him? He needs to get onboard and support Trump." A few heads in the small group nodded, mine not among them.

In several other small conversations, there was absolute revulsion at the prospect of Trump as President. Again, I did not lead or really even participate, so much as I listened.

I'd have to say the affair was split 50/50 on those who thought everyone should board the Trump Train and those who see that train as headed nowhere. This is REMARKABLE given that this crowd was a bunch of committed Republicans.

I don't know where all this leads, but I do know that even in a Blue State like MD, this is a remarkable year for Republican disarray.
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