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Standing Up for Football

This fall, when the air starts getting chilly and the leaves on the trees slowly but surely start turning shades of red and gold, tailgaters will return to NFL stadiums across America grilling hamburgers and chugging ice cold beer out of coolers schlepped all the way from home. Scalpers will be on the prowl for their next sucker. People by the tens of thousands in every football town will start streaming through the gates just before the game. Some will have painted faces and be sporting colorful costumes. Many will proudly be wearing the jerseys of their heroes. All of them jealously clutching the tickets that will get them through the concourses to see the game. Anticipation and excitement will be on every face. Come on, they have waited all year to see the Visitors, aka Those Expletive Deleted Guys who knocked us out of the playoffs last year, get their heads handed to them.

Do you know what’s not going to be on their minds? What the players are doing during the one minute and forty seconds on average it takes to play the National Anthem, that’s what.

Donald Trump, in his ceaseless quest to find adversaries and generate controversy to distract America from the dysfunction of his administration, has decided to add the NFL to his Nixonian enemies list. He has made what was a quiet and solemn protest designed to call attention to the issue of police brutality against minorities into a full-blown culture war over patriotism, the military and respect for the flag. His calculus is that if he gets enough people to pay attention to this particular shiny object, nobody will notice that he is likely to beat Gerald Ford as the shortest serving Chief Executive who did not die in office. But his plan has apparently run into an equally distracting and more compelling shiny object for people to focus on:

The Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions. They hail from a city that has never experienced the joy of a Super Bowl champion in their town, and boy do they love their “Iggles”. Trump’s recent decision to disinvite the champs to the White House over a controversy that he himself created has instead blown up in his face. Without the team and hundreds of cheering fans, the “Celebration of America” Tuesday on the South Lawn had the excitement and thrills of an oil change. Looking more petulant than patriotic, Trump’s ceremony had all of the pomp but none of the circumstance.

Now if you love sports and especially if you love the Philadelphia Eagles, this should come as absolutely no surprise. Donald Trump is not going to get Eagles fans, or anybody else’s fans for that matter, to turn their backs on the teams they have loved for generations because players “disagree with their President” and decide to kneel or stay in the tunnel before the National Anthem, which is something the Eagles team never even did during the regular season. Nor are they likely to turn their backs on a sport that has become a quintessentially American tradition because Trump needs a political cudgel.

The NFL regular season is a grand 17 week passion among Americans. Its popularity has fluctuated in recent years, but still exceeds that of baseball, basketball or hockey. People pay hard earned money to get those jerseys and tickets Trump is asking us to eschew. The average NFL ticket last year was $172.00, running the gamut from $380.00 to see the New England Patriots to as cheap as $86.00 for the Cincinnati Bengals. Authentic jerseys average $99.00 each. And people are paying the money. Colin Kaepernick, who first called attention to police brutality against the black community by kneeling during the National Anthem back in 2016, still had his old San Francisco 49ers jersey as one of the best-sellers in the league months after he left the team. Even this year, sales rival those of five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, and Kaepernick isn’t even on anybody’s roster. Americans watch football in stadiums and at home. We experience the agony and the ecstasy of winning and losing in restaurants, bars, airports and even on our phones. Anywhere a TV is broadcasting the local game, there are people watching who love football. Trump doesn’t love football. It’s extremely likely he has never even seen a game in his life unless it was in a luxury box to impress business associates. So why are we listening to him?

I was in Colorado when the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII against the defending champion Green Bay Packers in 1998 after four previous failed attempts. If then President Bill Clinton was waging a personal war against the NFL and told Broncos fans to give up their season tickets and stop rooting for the team because players were showing disrespect for the flag, I can personally guarantee you that each and every one of those fans would tell him to get stuffed. Gen. George S. Patton was right. “Americans love a winner” and right now Trump is looking like the field goal kicker who just missed a chip shot to win the game with no time left on the clock.

During the season, there’s really only one question on the minds of true football fans and it has nothing do with the fixation the President of the United States has on whether or not players are kneeling during the National Anthem.

“What down is it?”

Seriously, that’s it. “What down is it?”

Well, in fairness there are other burning questions. “How many yards do we need before a first?” “Are we in field goal range?” “Did the ball cross the plane?” “Did he strip the ball or was it an incomplete pass? (Spoiler alert: it’s an incomplete pass. Tuck Rule, you know.) “Why didn’t he just throw it away instead of taking the sack?” “Who’s leading the division?” “What’s our ‘Magic Number’?” And by the way, if you don’t know that the “Magic Number” refers to in football, you aren’t actually a fan so what do you care anyway? We argue about whether or not the ground caused a fumble. We want our team to go for it on fourth-and-inches. We are madder than holy hell when the refs don’t call what was clearly pass interference.

But you know something? Thinking about how patriotic we are or how great the American military is just doesn’t cross our minds. Nor are we thinking about whether the President is right or wrong when he tells us to despise what he perceives are overpaid and uppity black men on the field who should be fired for engaging in social activism, which has been part of the fabric of sports for years. I’m sorry if this upsets some people, but this isn’t a political rally. This is a football game. It’s a sporting event and the most important thing is whether or not your team is beating the crap out of the other team.

Period.

Trust me. I’m a sports fan. More to the point I’m a football fan. My family members are all football fans. So are my friends, my old classmates, the people I work with and so is the guy sitting next to me at my local bar on Sundays in October. Except he’s wearing a Seahawks jersey and I hate the Seahawks. But one thing we all have in common is that we love the game. We adore our teams. We shower affection on the players because they make our cities proud when they win. The one thing that seems to be missing from our national discussion on this issue are the opinions of football fans themselves. Sometimes it seems the only people having this “discussion” are the President, who started this nonsense to begin with, and the players, who have been dragged unnecessarily into it because they believe in social justice. Everyone else who is preoccupied with this debate are either members of Trump’s base, the majority of whom demographically don’t seem live in places where there is a professional football team, or highbrow intellectuals who didn’t watch football to begin with because of its hard-hitting play and potential for injury. Football fans, like most fans of sports, don’t concern themselves with political arguments. Sunday mornings are for politics. Sunday afternoons are for the gridiron.

Will people be upset with football this year? Will they hate the NFL? Absolutely. But winning wipes away a lot of sins. The great Chicago Bears coach George Halas once called a win in the National Football League “a thrill that lasts a whole week…and what a thrill.” Sure, they’ll always be booing and plenty of it. But if you think people are angry when they see a player taking a knee before the game even starts, try experiencing the fury of over 80,000 Giants fans at the New Jersey Meadowlands if Eli Manning throws a watermelon you can read from a lawn chair in Secaucus for a pick six against the Cowboys.

Now that’s football anger.

Meghan Markle is Lipstick on a Royal Pig.

meghan-markle-1526401559In the interest of fairness, I would like to preface this by saying that I don’t object to the institution of marriage. I’m a married person myself and it’s an arrangement that I highly recommend. I certainly don’t object to the happy couple. By all outward appearances they are two charming young people and very much in love. A good fairy tale escape is something we can all appreciate. God knows everyone on this side of the pond needed a break from the daily trainwreck on television that is Donald J. Trump administration. But make no mistake, this was far from the storybook fantasy all of us in America make it out to be. There were a lot of problems around the Royal Wedding that nobody likes to talk about. None of which are necessarily about the two people involved, but rather with the institution surrounding the ceremony…and what it represents. As pretty as it was to watch through eyes made bloodshot from waking up too early on a weekend, I found the Royal Wedding to be objectionable, and while the flush of the champagne and Earl Grey tea everyone was drinking on Saturday is still rosy on our cheeks, I may as well raise them.

First, I object to the British Monarchy as an institution. It’s an anachronistic colonial relic whose usefulness in the modern age has long since worn out its welcome. Political legitimacy today no longer arises from a hereditary sovereign. It comes either from republican institutions that place the authority to govern squarely in the hands of the people themselves by the imposition of brute force by a despot both within and outside his borders. The power of the “constitutional monarchy” in Britain exists on paper alone. The Royals themselves are now merely conduits for a massive national commercial enterprise aimed squarely at tourists; a way to sell cheap tea sets and every other kind of bric-a-brac you can name. It should also be noted that what it costs the British taxpayers to maintain the luxurious lifestyles of those in the House of Windsor does not justify the income that is being generated from tourism and merchandising. Yes, people come to visit Britain because of the Royal family. But they come to see the castles, suits of armor on display and buy tchotchkes emblazoned with the Royal seal. They don’t come hoping to bump into the Queen.

Other great nations in Europe have done away with their royal families and prospered. I can see the Palace at Versailles in France without having to concern myself with the affairs of Louis Alphonse, the Duke and Anjou and the French Royal pretender. The fact that the British refuse to jettison their royalty is a reflection of just how differently they perceive themselves from their cousins on the continent. They’re not European. They’re British. Either that or they realize that their once great and vast empire has truly collapsed and all they ultimately have to prop up their economy is the reliable stream of starry-eyed yokels from America yearning to see men in frilly collars and buildings made before 1900.

Second, I object to the already “celebrity obsessed” society that exists in our country today that this media spectacle only exacerbates. I will concede that a healthy curiosity about institutions that don’t exist here is only natural. But ever since the days of Grace Kelly, Americans have become more and more fascinated with European royalty. The late Diana, Princess of Wales cemented our obsession with the current generation of British royals to the point where I honestly wonder if we as Americans want a real, hereditary aristocratic class of our own. Don’t the rich, famous and powerful in Hollywood and elsewhere already constitute a de facto one?

Consider the guest list. Why were Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney there? Are they friends of the family? No. It’s because they are as close to aristocracy this country has. The only thing missing are hereditary titles. Think about that for a moment. There are people today with enough power and wealth to beg the question as to whether they should, by birthright, command deference and servitude from the rest of us. That is a thought that should revolt you…in more ways than one. As for the rest of the attendees: David and Victoria Beckham, Idris Elba, Serena Williams and James Blunt…well, it appears they were there just to be seen and not because any of them knew the bride and groom since they were knee-high. I presume Elton John was there simply because, wedding or funeral, you can’t have a regal British ceremony of any kind without him anymore. Maybe he should have married one of the royals.

I would have been able to stomach this extravaganza more if we could at least admit what we were watching was just fun and fluff. It’s not, though. You got up before dawn on Saturday to watch the nuptials of taxpayer subsidized, ultra-rich people with no purpose in life other than to stand and wave at polo matches. The British taxpayers had to shell out approximately £32 million ($43 million US) for this, of which it is estimated that at least £30 million ($40 million US) was just for security. Part and parcel of the nearly £368 million ($494 million US) they pay just as an allowance for the expensive clothes, jewelry, luxury holidays and highbrow educations the royals get by virtue of just being born. Let’s be honest with ourselves. This wasn’t a wedding. This was a taxpayer-funded costume play to keep the tourists happy. It’s absurd to pretend otherwise.

Third, I object to notion that Americans have that somehow Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, is a transformational figure: an American woman of color destined to turn the monarchy upside down and boldly usher it into the 21st century.

No she isn’t and no she won’t.

This is a dance the British have done before. Americans marrying into the royal line is not unprecedented, but when it happened, it was not a story that Walt Disney would have approved of. In 1934, Wallis Simpson of Baltimore began a love affair with the future King Edward VIII. Their romance ultimately forced his abdication in 1936 after only a year on the throne so he could marry the twice-divorced native of Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.

Now, at first glance, that may sound terribly romantic. The King relinquishing his crown to marry a simple woman he truly loves. In reality, however, the story was less fairy tale and more protracted catastrophe. Her ambition to change the monarchy by sheer dint of will; to force an institution that has been in place with little interruption since 1066 to accept her, a foreign commoner, as Queen Consort left her marriage in shambles. Rumors of affairs and a clear disdain for one another left the Duke and Duchess of Windsor miserable for the rest of their natural lives. They smiled very nicely in public, but according to one observer, they became “international society’s most notorious parasites for a generation”, the result of having no purpose in life except to attend cocktail parties.

That may have been fine for Edward. But as a woman, Simpson was even more useless than her husband the former king. The monarchical system in Britain is such that a woman’s true usefulness lies only in her womb. That is assuming, of course, that your womb is of any use to the kingdom in the first place. And yes, the word is use. Kate Middleton’s only function in the royal family was to have children who would one day sit on the throne. Afterwards, she would become useless. Possibly even a nuisance…much like her late mother-in-law after she gave birth to William, the father of her children. If this sounds less like Cinderella and more like The Handmaid’s Tale, you aren’t far off.

This is the world that Meghan Markle now finds herself in. Her husband will never be king and so at least she will be spared from the obligation to raise progeny to continue the royal bloodline. That fact, however, will not free her from the extraordinarily tight controls that being a member of the House of Windsor demand. Her travel will be rigidly scheduled. Her friends and associates carefully vetted to even be in the same room with her. What she wears, what she eats, and yes, what she says, will be carefully choreographed and scripted according to protocols hundreds of years in the making. She isn’t even granted the basic dignity of a last name.

Meghan Markle no longer exists. She is Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. It doesn’t matter in the slightest to her new family that she was once a California-bred TV actress. Her education from Northwestern University, her internship abroad with the US Embassy in Argentina and her popularity among people of color in the United States are of no consequence. Even her social media presence as an individual has been deleted in its entirety by Kensington Palace. All that is left of what was once an intelligent and vivacious young woman is a persona; part of a peerage that King George III, America’s first sworn enemy, created for one of his wayward children in 1801. But won’t she look great on a collectible serving tray?

This is the price of the fairy tale that everyone got to squeal with glee at on a bright May morning in London. A woman who few people had heard about until recently, unless you were a fan of Suits on the USA Network, has been permanently lost to her native country for the affections of a man, although wealthy and famous beyond comprehension, has no actual purpose in life. They are both forever relegated to acting as mere ornaments; backdrops for his older brother, the future King William V, who is himself doomed to rule a Commonwealth over which he has no real authority.

If you are hoping that she will the instrument by which the British Monarchy will be led into a new millennium, then you’re nursing a delusion. It is an outmoded behemoth, buttressed over time to withstand unwarranted change from any one person. It’s not something you can just throw a new coat of paint on and make it seem new. It is old and ugly, fundamentally irrelevant and totally unnecessary. The introduction of a biracial American woman into the family is just putting lipstick on a pig. No real change can occur. She likely would have had greater influence if she remained a minor television celebrity in this country. Her newly acquired title will grant her no greater platform to speak from. Her celebrity will surely fade as she will eventually have to cede the stage for King William and Catherine, the Queen Consort. The issues that she is currently so passionate about will now no longer affect her in any meaningful way. The things she cares about will simply be dictated to her from Buckingham Palace. Her big day is now over. Things will go back being all about William and Kate again…the way it was always meant to be.

If anyone had the power to change such an entrenched system, it would have been Diana Spencer. She tried to be her own woman, speaking with conviction about important matters to herself and a great many people from across the globe. A passionate advocate for children, a fashion icon, beloved by millions. As exceptional as she was, however, it was ultimately impossible, even for her, to break loose from the role she had been cast in on another royal wedding day in 1981. Her exit from the House of Windsor was heartbreak, scandal, a failed marriage and death in a Paris tunnel.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think it would have been better for today’s Royal couple to be together simply as Meghan Markle and Harry Windsor. Ordinary people with the ability to make your own way in the world is better than one day as an international spectacle that defines who you are for the rest of your life followed by obscurity and silence.

The fact it isn’t this way for them makes the Royal Wedding objectionable.

Progressives, You Need to STOP (or…How the Democrats Can Save Themselves in the Age of Trump).

Enough is enough. My fellow progressives, we need to quit navel gazing, break up the circular firing squad and just stop. Especially you…and you know who you are.

You need to stop quoting Federalist Paper 68, which not a single person here has probably read. If you had you would not be trying to hinge a wholesale Electoral College revolt on this all too brief of an essay (one of 85) written by Alexander Hamilton among others, under a pseudonym no less, for the benefit of making an argument to ratify the Constitution…in New York. There will be no abolition of the Electoral College. It will not happen and why? As I once wrote, it’s very difficult to alter the Constitution to accomplish that. The Founding Fathers designed the Constitution to make that sort of thing extraordinarily hard to do. If it was as easy as you are hoping and praying it is, then the Republicans would have already changed it to get rid of gay marriage, ban abortion, flag burning, etc. and all of the other culture war issues they have threatened to use Constitutional amendments against. As for us? We would have abolished “dark money” in electoral politics, enshrined universal suffrage, guaranteed equal pay for equal work, etc. and all of the other issues we have threatened to amend the Constitution for over the years. The last time the Constitution was amended was in 1992 and it was regarding Congressional salaries. Look it up. It took 202 years for that to get ratified. The drive to abolish the Electoral College is a waste of time. Just stop.

You need to stop leaving scripted phone messages and sending canned emails addressed to members of Congress, the U.S. Attorney General or the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida or whomever. Absolutely nobody except some poor unpaid interns are going to read prefab emails sent from terrified liberals who still can’t accept that millions of people simply didn’t vote on Election Day. Quit trying to find excuses for why we didn’t come out in large enough numbers for Hillary Clinton, or wound up voting for people like Gary Johnson or Jill Stein who could never, repeat, never win the Presidency. It’s over and done with. Donald Trump is the going to be the 45th President of the United States. We put him there and no public official, court officer or arcane law is going to come and save you from him. You were warned. All of these emails and electronic petitions you are “signing” on sites like Change.org or MoveOn are worth absolutely nothing. The electors will not read them and God knows Trump and the GOP, who are still in charge of Congress right now incidentally, do not give a damn about these petitions. It’s a waste of time. Just stop.

You need to stop trying to change state laws that govern how their electors are chosen. It’s far, far too late for that now and besides, in doing so we may shoot ourselves in the foot again one day. Do you really want to risk this nightmare a second time? You can’t hope for or rely on “faithless electors” changing the result either and you really shouldn’t. This is how we choose our Presidents and Democrats, I’m sorry…but we lost. As appalling and frightening as his administration is going to be, this country earned and deserves this President because we weren’t paying attention. We thought this would be a cakewalk. It wasn’t and it is completely our fault. Not the Russians. Ours. We took our eye off the ball. Well, never again. We all need to admit that over the last 8 years, we have been in a bubble. We are still in a hermetically sealed media bubble telling us exactly what makes us feel good as surely as conservatives were over the last 20 years. If you are in this bubble (God knows I was), you need to get out and now. We were listening to the talking heads at MSNBC and reading progressive “news” sites like Blue Nation Review and US Uncut and we stopped fighting as if our lives depended on it to stop Trump. These “Daily Actions” everyone is taking on Facebook are terrific, but they are aimed at completely the wrong target. They are a waste of time. Just stop.

Fellow progressives, you need to START. You need to start thinking about the real target which is 2018. After that, the target is 2020.

You need to start raising money, making phone calls, sending emails, signing petitions in ink, knocking on doors and all of the other things you are currently doing in some vain effort to deny Trump the White House. Break out your wallet, checkbook, PayPal account or the sock under your mattress stuffed with rainy day cash and start giving until it hurts. The rainy day is here and the storm’s name is Hurricane Donald. You need to give and give and give to all those organizations who will be taking fire for us over the next 4 years. Organizations like the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center  will need dollars now more than ever. So will Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign and the Sierra Club to name a few. Money talks. Even a moron like Trump knows that. If progressive values are to remain alive under his regime, it will mean being in court. A lot. Lawyers cost money, even progressive ones, so don’t be stingy.

You need to start putting your time and effort into helping Democrats capture the House and Senate in 2018 and later the White House in 2020. There needs to be a progressive legislature as a check against Trump because without one, this lunatic and his administration will have virtually zero obstacles to destroying everything we have fought for generations to achieve. Do you really think a Republican controlled Congress will have any meaningful investigations into anything Trump does that are blatant violations of law, ethics…even the Constitution? We all know what’s at stake. We all know what the issues are because God knows we debated them long enough among ourselves during the year. Everyone needs to immediately cease and desist from any more finger pointing because in the end we will wind up right back where we started, with Kellyanne Conway’s stupid face gloating on TV that “I’m a winner”.

You need to start supporting good, strong candidates who believe in the issues…and in the people whose lives they affect every day. Find candidates who have broad appeal among all progressives who can win. Here’s a good test. If you have run for the Oval Office before, go away. Hillary Clinton is never coming back, people. Ever. Start looking for someone else to be President. And in case you get any funny ideas, Bernie Sanders isn’t coming back either. He might have shown up with Chris Hayes recently, but come on. The guy will be 79 in 2020. He may very well be dead by then. And leave poor Joe Biden alone. He is never going to run for President because it’s not in the cards for him and he has told us as muchQuips on the Senate floor are simply not enough to start making yard signs, OK? Hasn’t he been through enough? Gary Johnson is an idiot. If you insist on somebody from the old Libertarian ticket from this year, try Johnson’s running mate who is a lot smarter than he is. Jill Stein has gotten rich over our foolish panic to grasp at any straw that could deny Trump his victory and it was stupid of us to fall for it. She also can’t win any elected office above town council and she has the last 8 consecutive losses including this year to prove it. Let her go. How about finding some new, fresh and great candidates every progressive can rally around? How about Elizabeth Warren? How about Cory Booker? How about Tammy Duckworth? How about Sherrod Brown? Hell, show me why we can’t get behind Kamala Harris? We need to start working to fight Trump’s administration at every turn and at the same time do all the hard work we failed to get done in 2016 to make sure this does not happen in 2018, 2020, or ever again. We need to do this now and enough with trying to undo what has already been done.

The first step to beating the son of a bitch is to admit he that beat us. Period. STOP your crying and START getting to work.

Illegitimi non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Do you know what Privilege is?

Do you know what Privilege is?

It is the ability of being able to vote for someone like Donald Trump, to support him and his policies, and yet insist that you are not a bigot.

It is the ability to say “I Matter, Too”, “I’m Being Left Out” and “I Want My Country Back” when people like you have been running this nation ever since it was founded.

It is the ability to ignore the fact that if you are a white, straight, Christian man, you have never had occasion to fear who you are in this country and that so very many people because of the color of their skin, because of where they came from, because of what they believe, because of who they love or simply because they are women have had a very long time to become afraid of you and with good reason.

It is the ability to say something absurd like “The millions of people who voted for Trump can’t all be bigots”, including your family, friends and neighbors based solely on the belief that half the country can’t be so brazenly racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and ultra-nationalist. Yes they can and yes they are, regardless of how as shockingly high a number that appears to be.

What allows us to rise as one people is the understanding that all of us are bigots to some extent. Nobody likes to think they are a bigot, but to some degree everyone is. I’m a bigot. You’re a bigot. Everyone is somehow prejudiced and it is something that each one of us must strive to overcome.

What many of us fail to understand is that prejudice does not require intent.  All it requires is the refusal to acknowledge that there are so many people who hate and despise other people solely because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and then justify their hatred as something other than plain and simple bigotry. We must acknowledge once and for all that racism comes in many forms. It comes as traditions, rules, laws, codes of behavior and all manner of things above and beyond calling someone a cruel name or using an arcane label.

It is saying “You people are lazy”, “You people aren’t strong enough”, “You people cheat and are miserly”, “You people are an abomination against God”, “You people are all violent” or just “You people don’t know your place” and not understand that this is bigotry in its purest form. It is the delusion that by depriving basic human rights from others that you are just protecting your heritage, your religion or your “way of life”. It is excusing your own hatred as “just my opinion”. It is this belief that “No, it can’t be me. I’m not a bigot.” which permits institutions that allow bigotry to stand, function and grow unabated.

What is Privilege? It is the ability to excuse a man who divides the country using every form of bigotry there is and then speaks about unity only after he gets his way. It is believing that by having women and minorities on the staff will somehow make him immune to the charge of being a sexist, a misogynist or a racist. It is ability to ignore the reality that this same man, who by filling the West Wing with known racists, white supremacists and even eugenicists, sends a powerful signal to many in this nation that he intends to hold his grip on power by continuing to divide with fear and prejudice. And it is the inability to acknowledge that by supporting him, you have taken sides with a terrible man who has said terrible things against millions of your brothers and sisters and appears prepared to continue to do terrible things because he like all of us is a bigot. But not just any ordinary bigot. He is a bigot with near limitless power to act on his hatred.

November 8, 2016 may in all likelihood be remembered as the day when we literally decided to make this country as ugly as it could be. I remain curious. What was the Great Sin his opponent committed that you couldn’t live with? Perceived dishonesty? The potential for graft? The failure to acknowledge that These People Don’t Belong Here? The desire for vengeance and punishment for crimes that for over four decades the law could not see but somehow he could? What was it that for all the danger, the hatred and the bigotry that this man represents you still found him a better choice? How comfortable will you still feel about what you did that day when it’s Election Day 2020 and you have the chance to validate him yet again? How about four years after that when the true extent of the damage he has done can be seen? Or in ten years, when you try to explain to your children why you did it to begin with?

We were asked by his supporters to give him a chance. But how many chances do you want us to keep giving and how long do you ask that we wait? The next election cycle will undoubtedly be too late for some.

Maybe for all.

half-staff

This Isn’t Denmark

Let me make this perfectly clear. You can vote for whatever third-party candidate you want to. It’s your right as an American to vote for whomever you please so long as they meet the qualifications set forth in Article II of the Constitution. But here is your quandary. None of those candidates have any mathematical hope of winning the Presidency and that is an inescapable fact. A protest vote in this election is crazy, petulant and above all extremely dangerous.

In case this frightening reality managed to elude anyone, Donald J. Trump is the Republican nominee and he may very well win. It’s easy to say “If not now, when?” OK, that’s a fair question. How about when you don’t have a certifiably crazy demagogue who demeans and insults every person he comes into contact with, calls for racial profiling, banning all members of a religion totaling 1.6 billion followers worldwide from entering the U.S., building a wall on the southern border and forcing another country to pay for it, punishing women who exercise their right to choose and holds foreign dictators in high esteem as models for “strong leadership”? Do it when Paul Ryan is the Republican nominee in 2020, that’s when.

Has anyone else noticed that so many people who want to cast a “protest” vote are young, mostly white and can’t imagine that a Trump presidency will be all that different from the 44 that preceded it? Well, it’s easy when you have enough advantages or privilege granted to you from birth that you feel insulated enough from the machinations of Donald Trump and his ilk. It’s easy when you’re somebody like Susan Sarandon and can watch society burn from the comfort of your penthouse in New York because you have enough money to shield you. It’s easy to shout slogans like CORRUPTION! OLIGARCHY! CORPORATE MEDIA! It’s easy when you think a Trump presidency won’t affect you that much.

Believe me it will and not for the better.

Yes, yes, yes, we all know that money is the root of all evil in politics. But let’s also be a little realistic. You need it to run an effective campaign and neither of the two major “third” parties have much of it. As of August 22, 2016, Jill Stein and the Green Party had $1,876,899 in their campaign coffers. You can purchase two taxi medallions in New York City with that but it’s going to be awfully hard to run a full-blown presidential campaign with the same amount. The Libertarians don’t fare much better. As of the same date, they have $2,953,292 in their campaign war chest. That’s less than the amount of money proposed to upgrade the public swimming pools in Lexington, Kentucky.

Also, consider this. There are 8,163 Federal, state and territorial offices in the United States, starting with the President, Senate and House of Representatives all the way down to state and territorial governorships and seats in their respective legislative bodies.  Do you know how many the Green Party holds? Zero. The highest public official in the United States who is a member of the Green Party is Bruce Delgado, who is the mayor of Marina, California. How about the Libertarian Party? Nope. They don’t have any either. Libertarian Robert Stephens is the mayor of Springfield, Missouri. A third-party needs to have far more candidates at the local, state and Federal level if they want to begin building coalitions and working with Democrats and Republicans to get effective and positive legislation passed. Just shooting for the top office isn’t enough.

It would also help to not have candidates who appear as crazy and unprepared as Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson doesn’t know what or where Aleppo is and was under the impression that nobody was hurt in the recent bombing in New York. These aren’t gaffes. They’re ignorance. Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, the ultimate liberal conspiracy theorist, states that Donald Trump would be better than Hillary Clinton or even Barack Obama, that unemployment figures are manipulated as part of a government cover-up to oppress the masses and is more concerned with childhood vaccines and GMOs than how to combat terrorism. Come on, people. You can find more qualified candidates than that.

Here’s something else. Do you know how many electoral votes the Green Party has won in their entire history as a political party? The answer is none. How about the Libertarian Party? They can boast one electoral vote and that was courtesy of an unfaithful elector in 1972. But any third-party can sure throw a monkey wrench into an election with disastrous consequences. Just ask Ralph Nader.

I can sympathize with many eager revolutionaries who were crushed when Bernie Sanders wasn’t the nominee of a party he eschewed for the whole of his political career. But let’s be honest.  He was as cold and calculating a politician as any of the other big-ticket candidates for President. His campaign was pure political calculus. He remained either an Independent or a member of the old Liberty Union Party stretching all the way back to 1981 and became a Democrat in 2015 solely because he knew you can’t  win the White House as an independent. But for so many people left enthralled by his campaign, they came to the conclusion if they vote third-party, even at this most dangerous time in our history, you could conceivably have everything you and the rest of the country is entitled to: free education, a decent place to live, free medical care, good jobs, etc. because they have it Denmark, right?

This Isn’t Denmark.

This Isn’t News: Donald Trump is Racist Pig (But Don’t Let The News Try to Tell You That).

In its infinite stupidity and quest to forever appeal to the lowest common denominator, NBC News reported today that Donald Trump “conceded” that President Barack Obama was, in fact, a US citizen by birth. Not to be outdone, CNN reported that Trump “finally admitted” Obama’s legitimacy to be President under Section I, Article II of the Constitution.

Other news outlets covered this non-story in a similar fashion with headlines like “Trump accepts Barack Obama was born in US” (BBC) and “Trump Believes Obama Born In US” (CBS) as if this were a major policy address. Even the Washington Post, who is no friend of Donald Trump, had a headline that read “Trump acknowledges Obama was born in U.S.”  Only the New York Times started its coverage of this pointless, idiotic story by printing “Unwinding a Lie: Trump’s Long Embrace of ‘Birtherism’”. They were one of the few media outlets that called out this whole affair using the appropriate term: LIE. But hey, as for the rest of you in the press, we understand. Donald Trump’s tirades are fantastic for ratings. It makes for great copy, too.

Even it is political vomit.

What a service the mainstream media provides in covering truly breaking news. It was certainly magnanimous of Donald Trump to legitimize Barack Obama for us. If not for the press hanging on his every word as if something intelligent and useful were to emerge from that twisted mind of his resembling actual policy or proposals, we would have missed this most important announcement. Thanks to the national press corps assembled at his brand new luxury Washington, DC hotel (no doubt the penthouse of which will be his official residence should he win in November) we can breathe a sigh of relief that we actually have 44 Presidents of the United States instead of 43 and maybe 1 impostor because…shhh! That last one is black!

Forget for a moment the moronic statement by Trump preceding this that: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it, I finished it.” What is far more amazing is that after eight years, we are still talking about this issue. Let’s not be coy anymore about Donald Trump and everyone else who embraced this belief, even for a moment. The fact that the Democratic nominee for President in 2008 was an African-American ignited the so-called “birther” conspiracy theory and nothing else. This story is the end product of racism. It was a desperate attempt to discredit Barack Obama by those who could not conceive of a successful and well-educated African-American ascending to the highest office in the land. To these “birthers”, this whole lunacy is little more than a coping mechanism to try to wrestle with the reality that the people who to them are little more than the descendants of the house help and those who used to work the cotton fields are now everywhere in government, education, law, medicine…even your next door neighbors. Even the President of the United States.

I, for one, am sick of this “white fragility” that Donald Trump personifies. This notion that he and other straight white men like him are just “Americans” with the sole right of defining our national culture needs to stop. People like Trump have always been challenged by the presence of these “others” in society. To Trump, these “hyphenated” kinds of Americans mean trouble for his ilk. They aren’t part of the old dominant structure of this country like he was and therefore must be something less than him. You can tell by the way he talks about people. “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.” Who the hell says something like that and is unaware of how that sounds? He knows. He just doesn’t care. He also knows the press will give him a pass on it because they are dying to hear the next crazy thing he utters and it gives him and his ego a hard on long enough to seal the southern border.

Donald Trump believes America is being smothered by Undesirable People. It has gotten under his skin to the point that he has lashed out and the press keeps letting him do it. But as for us? We let the press get away with it each and every time. Well, no more. It is Privilege by any other name and it’s stupid. Americans of all kinds knew from the beginning that Barack Obama was an American. Why can’t Trump? It’s because he’s a bigot. He’s Archie Bunker without even the courtesy to be funny. But we have allowed the media to cover this and all the other dreck he utters like legitimate news items and that is something that needs to be stopped just as surely as any racial hatred. Want to see a real conspiracy? How about the one perpetrated by the national press with the public’s help that “both candidates are equal”; a notion which is patently untrue and you’d have to be blind not to see that.

I guess we shouldn’t expect more than this. When we have so little in terms of anything else from the Republican nominee we shouldn’t expect much more. But we should. Shame on you, American news media, for the cowardice you show and sensationalism you foist on us as “news”. You breathe life into the never-ending stream of lies this perversion of a man spews out on a near daily basis and that is unforgivable. Walter Cronkite is spinning in his grave. So is Edward R. Murrow.

And shame on you, too, Donald. You’re a racist and if any of your supporters believed this line of bullshit at any point then so are they.

And that’s deplorable.

Why Are You Complaining? These Are Exactly The Candidates You Wanted.

According the Pew Research Center, 2016 was a big year for people turning out for the presidential primaries. More than 57.6 million people voted between the Democratic and Republican contests, a number that fell just short of the 2008 record.

Think about that.

With over 28% of eligible voters casting ballots this past spring, it is crystal clear that there were quite a lot of people who wanted a say in who the 45th President of the United States would be. So I remain baffled at recent polling data reported in the Washington Post that shows so many people are dissatisfied with the two candidates they have to choose from this November. OK, so exactly who were over a quarter of American voters going to their polling places to vote for? If the current narrative is to be believed, they must have been voting for Ferris Bueller or Santa Claus, because according to the Post’s research, and who am I to question this august publication, neither Trump nor Clinton are likely to change Americans’ generally pessimistic feeling about the state of American politics after November. This malaise is probably not helped the infinitesimally small chance of any third-party candidate successfully winning White House…and this was before the Libertarian candidate for President shoved a grenade into his campaign on national television by admitting he had no idea what Aleppo was. Ouch. It would seem that the guy from behind the deli counter and the neighbor’s cat are re-emerging as America’s best hope at ending the hyperpolarization and gridlock in Washington. My apologies go out to delicatessen proprietors and feline lovers everywhere.

So what happened? Well, as it was, it appears that neither Democrats nor Republicans had much to complain about during the primaries, with a grand total of 23 major candidates who announced their intention to seek the nomination of one of the two parties. Republican voters are in the worst position to bemoan their nominee for President in 2016. There were twelve candidates for GOP voters to pick from when the primary season began in Iowa on February 1, 2016. An additional five candidates dropped out before the primaries even began and that may have made a significant difference in who the nominee would ultimately have been if only support for those five had been greater. Yet they still wound up with Donald Trump…but how? This was a guy who seems to have based his quixotic campaign for President in 2012 on demands to see Barack Obama’s birth certificate and college transcripts and ended it only when NBC renewed Celebrity Apprentice for the 2011 season.

The answer was disturbingly simple. The GOP establishment assumed, incorrectly, that Trump was going to be a flash in the pan; a fringe candidate who would quickly wither away under the unforgiving scrutiny of the press due to his total lack of policy proposals and sheer naked bigotry. But the base of the party, who the GOP had inadvertently yet carefully cultivated to be drawn to authoritarian loudmouths courtesy of a steady diet of Fox News and right-wing radio fed over the span of nearly 20 years, loved and adored him. He was entertaining. A real celebrity running for President! He was giving the people what the Roman satirist Juvenal called bread and circuses…and were they ever happy! The activist Republican base wanted only two things in their candidate: someone to spout unceasing hatred of the Democrats and loudly marginalize people who the right-wing media had long deemed undesirable. Anyone who would assume that mantle in the most vocal way would have little trouble getting the nomination. It was amazing to watch. Nobody knew how to deal with him. I almost think some of the other candidates in the GOP failed to confront him simply because they were afraid that either Trump himself or one of his supporters would actually physically assault them. It was, to coin a well-worn phrase, a disaster. The Republicans had 17 total options and the one candidate who absolutely could not be managed or controlled by the party elite, who would not stay on point, who was actually a Democrat as early as 2008, is the guy they picked as their standard bearer. When the Dallas Morning News hasn’t endorsed a Democrat for President since Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, not even fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but nevertheless feels compelled to endorse the one now because of your current nominee, you know you have a problem and a big one.  Well, he’s yours now. Have a blast.

As for the Democrats, only six major candidates were ever in the running for the nomination and that number was quickly whittled down to two after Iowa was all said and done. But I have yet to hear of a single Democrat who laments the fact that Jim Webb, Lincoln Chaffee or Lawrence Lessig didn’t make it to the primaries. As for the eventual nominee herself, I sometimes wonder whether the opposition to Hillary Clinton lay almost exclusively in the common perception that it was “her turn” to be the nominee. Let no one deny that long before she even announced her candidacy, there was a general consensus that her nomination was “inevitable” and that any challengers would be squashed like a bug. Maybe so. The problem is that people generally dislike the feeling of entitlement for anybody. Nobody likes a coronation.

Enter Bernie Sanders. Once decried as a heretic by many progressives for openly suggesting President Obama be primaried from the left during his bid for re-election in 2012, he became a darling among those seeking somebody other than “the chosen one” on the Democratic ticket. In any other year, he probably wouldn’t have even made it past the first few primaries. Even his announcement wasn’t taken very seriously: a hastily arranged press conference in Washington on April 30, 2015 after which he just walked back inside and returned to work. But looks can be deceiving and it turned out there was a genuine desire for somebody to stand in opposition to “The Clinton Machine” (remember that phrase?) and at least give her a run for her money. At worst he could pull her a little to the left. At best he could secure the nomination so why not? And so there was much crying, screaming and gnashing of teeth in the Democratic Party. Had it not been for Sanders, Clinton could have strolled through the primaries, secure the nomination and have all the time in the world prepare for the Republican nominee who was certainly not going to be Donald Trump. Wasn’t it supposed to be Jeb Bush? Things never work out the way anybody plans. I think many progressives came after Clinton because they simply wanted a choice and to be honest it could have been anybody. The base of the party just lucked out with Sanders. But the race to Philadelphia became so embittered that even now so many Democrats remain upset and therefore ambivalent about their choice in November. Remember, it wasn’t just the GOP waving signs that said “Never Hillary”. She isn’t electrifying. She isn’t revolutionary. But like the Republicans, she’s yours now. Have a blast.

I really don’t believe Americans are that pessimistic about their choices at the ballot box this year. My impression is that because of a very tumultuous primary season for both parties, coupled with very early conventions, we are just getting worn down by the near saturation coverage of who the final two are. In this nonstop blitz of talking heads analyzing every move each candidate makes, more warts are coming out than most of us are prepared to tolerate.

The Republican Party clearly has the most amount of buyer’s remorse. Donald Trump’s persona is no longer the hard and practical businessman who talks tough and channels the anger of the common man. Now he’s just a blithering idiot; a bombastic demagogue with little or no grasp of domestic or foreign policy and completely uninterested in the nuances and complexities that are a part of national governance. In short, we are being confronted with terrifying reality that the man the Republican Party chose as their candidate in 2016 is in no way qualified to be the next President. He is in constant state of agitation; always appearing unhinged, unbalanced, unprepared and sometimes just good old-fashioned nuts. Is this an act? Does he even want the job? It would certainly be a step down in both pay and residence as far as what he is accustomed to. Donald Trump has been vilified by the press and 99% of the time rightfully so. But whether he believes it or not, there is such a thing as bad press and his will hang around his neck like an albatross until Election Day.

As for Hillary Clinton, she is more than qualified for the job, but as her round-the-clock coverage continues, she is actually emerging as a fairly dull candidate. She has strong and sensible policy positions and would make a highly effective Chief Executive. Regrettably, it also makes her stunningly boring for a television audience that craves political intrigue. Hence, this ceaseless obsession with emails and trying to find something, anything to make her interesting to the mainstream media. Nothing makes for good ratings like scandals. But I’m curious to know when Americans suddenly became fixated on the idea that everyone running for higher office must be pure of heart in word and deed? Hillary Clinton is often called “untrustworthy” and “a liar” with little evidence to support anyone’s contention that whatever lies she may have told or whatever breaches of trust may have occurred in her years of public service actually disqualify her for the Presidency. That is the perception, however, whether she likes it or not, and like Trump’s perceived lunacy, it’s a problem that will dog her to Election Day.

America, for better or for worse, these are the people you have picked. These are the candidates you wanted. You had plenty of other options earlier, but as I once wrote, only one of these two has any mathematical chance of becoming the 45th President of the United States. You can’t go back in time and it’s a hell of a wait until 2020. Election Day is coming up fast and it is ill-advised that any American relinquishes their sacred right to vote in these uncertain times and just sit at home. So choose…

But choose wisely.