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35 Days. . .(and counting)

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President-elect Donald Trump likes present himself as a wildly successful businessman; someone in possession of uncanny abilities, and possessing such rare insights as to be able to best the brightest and most accomplished competitors at the negotiating table.

Mr. Trump also likes to emphasize the magnitude of his intellect by repeatedly exclaiming, he “has the best words” and that he “knows more about ISIS than the generals.” He attributes these amazing faculties to the fact that he’s “like, a smart person” with a degree of disingenuousness that is simply stunning.

All that being said, one could be pardoned for thinking Mr. Trump’s vocabulary lacks depth or breadth, owing to the fact that during and after his campaign his language was more appropriate to an elementary school playground than anything resembling an adult conversation. Those “best words” he alleges to possess must be some words because he is loathe to use them (at least in public) for fear of alienating his worshipful followers. Besides, “The Donald” loves “the in-(under)-educated”; stands to reason he would use language better suited to their limited intellects.

As for Mr. Trump’s much vaunted (by his own account) knowledge of ISIS, the source of this intelligence remains a mystery. Perhaps his varied business dealings in the Middle East have provided rare insights into the inner workings of the ISLAMIC STATE. Could ISIS be controlling the construction industry in Dubai? It’s known they control the flow of oil from their captured territories. Could ISIS be using the sanitation industry as a front for their nefarious schemes. Both the construction and sanitation industries are heavily involved in the real estate business; something Donald Trump knows a great deal about; that and “branding”. Perhaps he has sources in these industries feeding him inside information. Or maybe he just sat through a couple of screenings of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (although that’s highly unlikely, Mr. Trump isn’t known for a long attention span). One can only hazard a guess as to where Mr. Trump’s information originates. One thing’s certain, though, it isn’t coming from his own government’s intelligence sources.

And speaking of intelligence sources, how could someone as supposedly brilliant as Donald Trump fail to recognize the danger in inviting a foreign government — one that admittedly does not have the best interests of this country at heart — to spy on his competition?  If the last of the three pigs opened the door for the wolf, the wolf would be an idiot to insist on huffing and puffing instead of simply walking in. Does Donald Trump believe Vladimir Putin is an idiot? I think not. Mr. Trump sees Mr. Putin as a friend. (A friend, by the way, who spent his entire adult life in the espionage services of his country on his way to absolute power). After all, Mr. Putin complimented “The Donald”, calling him “an amazing fellow” (in Russian, the same way you or I would say, “Isn’t that squirrel on a surfboard amazing?!” or “Isn’t that bear on a unicycle amazing?!”) I’m sure Mr. Trump is of the opinion a friend wouldn’t do something as crass and underhanded as spy on the opposing candidate and swing the election in his favor. What would he have to gain? What indeed.

During the Cold War, anyone who openly promoted reductions in nuclear weapons or the expansion of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) was labelled “a dupe of the Kremlin”. In the run-up to the first Gulf War, anyone who advocated for continued diplomatic efforts to avert the war was labelled “a dupe of Saddam” and accused of “giving aid and comfort” to the enemy. I think, in the present circumstances, that label can (and should) be assigned to Donald Trump, a man who invited an adversary to spy, denied do so and, when faced with the fact that spying took place, said, “It could’ve been anybody. It could’ve been China. It could’ve been Korea. It could’ve been a 400 pound fat guy in his bed in New Jersey.”(Chris Christie?)

Come on, Donald! You know you’ve been punked. Admit it.

It’s the smart thing to do.

Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. . .

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It’s been rumored, in some of the print media, Sen. Rubio will drop out of the Republican race after the Florida primary this coming Tuesday, and throw his support behind his soon-to-be-former opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz in what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to stop Donald Trump from amassing the delegates to claim the Republican nomination.

Should “The Donald” win the nomination — and the likelihood of that happening  increases day-by-day — he would become the standard-bearer of the Grand Old Party; a homophobic, bigoted, billionaire, misogynist, reality TV star who attracts right wing, lunatic fringe, conspiracy theorizing, violence-prone nut-cases to his cause. And the GOP elite and powerbrokers don’t think the Trump campaign represents “core Republican values”.  Think about it! This is the party that campaigned for ‘Citizens United”, restricting voting rights (including restrictive voter ID laws) and against funding for Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare), immigration reform, marriage equality, and gun control (along with a host of other issues of vital interest to the citizens of this country). And who do they think would be a better representative of “core Republican values”?

Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz. Senator Ted Cruz, who since being elected to the Senate in 2013, has managed, almost single-handedly, to shut down the government over ‘Obamacare’; referred to the raising of the debt ceiling to avoid another government shut-down “a complete Republican collapse”, called the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, “a liar” on the floor of the Senate, and thus alienating all his fellow senators. During his campaign Cruz has vowed to repeal “every blessed word of Obamacare”, dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and eliminate the Dept. of Education. He has enthusiastically encouraged the Republican-led Senate to not hold hearings to confirm (or reject) President Obama’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court as a result of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and, in related comments, said he would not allow “our” Supreme Court (meaning his and his Christian-cloaked Tea Party cohorts’ Supreme Court) to be “stolen” by liberals who would destroy the Constitution.  Sen. Cruz fashions himself a “strict originalist” when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, which means he feels the Justices should cleave to the ideas and meanings the framers originally intended; making the Constitution, as we understand it, irrelevant in today’s society but very relevant to the 18th century. This is the man the Republican party would choose, in place of Donald Trump, to be the representative of “core Republican values” in 2016.

Donald Trump would be a huge embarrassment to the Republican establishment; a caricature of what they see as a “true” Republican. But a manageable embarrassment. He is, after all, a neophyte when it comes to politics. Trump may be a “wheeler-dealer” but he would need people around him who could advise as to when to “wheel” and when to “deal”. If the GOP isn’t going to support his campaign, the least they could do is offer him some much-needed “assistance” should he win in November.

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is a horse of a different — very different — color. The junior senator from Texas has already in his brief Senate career shown his willingness to disrupt the traditional workings of government. Like a petulant child, he would rather there be no game unless everyone agrees to play by his rules. Sen. Cruz is, like his colleagues in the Senate, unwilling to compromise, but unlike his colleagues in the Senate, he is unwilling to compromise with members of his own party, not just those on the “other side of the aisle”. He has said he will tear up the Iran Nuclear Arms deal brokered by President Obama, and thereby destroy whatever modicum of trust the President has managed to extract from, not only the hard-liners in that country, but the other eleven signatories of the agreement. As if this weren’t enough to give pause, Sen. Cruz has stated he would make the Middle East sand “glow in the dark”; a more than vague indication he is willing to use nuclear weapons. Ted Cruz would be more than an embarrassment for the GOP.  He would be a  disaster for the Republican Party and a catastrophe for the rest of the world.

 

 

 

The Republican field is about to get a lot smaller. . .

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One of the problems with not being a “committed” writer (although many have suggested I should be — committed) is that I have a problem trying to decide how I want to say what it is I have to say.  This, more often than not, leads to long periods of apparent inactivity, as anyone who has taken the time to follow this blog can attest. It also means I’m often “beaten to the punch” when it comes to subject matter. Take, for example, this post.

I’ve seen in the media – both print and televised – reports that members of the Republican establishment opposed to the Trump candidacy are actively searching for someone other than Marco Rubio to try and stop, or at least delay, the freight train that is the Trump campaign from pulling into “Nomination Station” before his coronation — excuse me, I meant to say the convention.  It seems the Republican establishment has soured on Sen, Rubio, owing to his less- than-stellar showing in all the primaries and caucuses thus far.  Sen. Rubio is placing all his eggs in his home state of Florida’s winner-take-all basket; a strategy many of the Republican elite don’t see as viable.  The result of their second-guessing on their strategy is that they have to find someone else to rally around in hopes of, if not stopping, at least slowing the Trump juggernaut and forcing a “brokered” convention, where they can, or at least hope to, deny him the nomination. To that end they may have found themselves in the distasteful position of picking the one candidate they see as being able to, if not defeat Trump outright, bring him to the convention sans nomination.

It has been reported former presidential candidate Jeb Bush is scheduled to meet with all the remaining Republican candidates except Trump. There are two meetings set up before the Florida primary; one with Sen. Rubio and a second meeting with Sen. Cruz and John Kasich. The agendas of the upcoming meetings have not been made public, but it’s a fair bet to say they do not bode well for Sen. Rubio. That could be (and probably is) the reason Jeb Bush was tasked with breaking the bad news to the senator, rather than some other high-ranking Republican. Bush is a former governor of Florida and for a time acted as a mentor (of sorts) to the young first-term senator. It’s likely Jeb’s presence will take the sting out of the news he has to deliver; that the GOP “kingmakers” don’t think Rubio can win in his home state, and, in the unlikely event of his doing so, that he would be unable to sustain whatever momentum such a victory would provide.  I’m only “spit-balling” here (I have no insider information or leak sources to draw on) but during the one-on-one with Rubio, Jeb could – could – suggest his one-time protégé step aside before the primary and forego the embarrassment of losing what the senator has described on numerous occasions as a “sure win”. The alternative would be to face the humiliation of losing his home state, and all the bad press that would result, drop out of the race and throw whatever fast diminishing support he could muster behind the party’s preferred candidate.

Jeb, in all likelihood, has the same message for Gov. Kasich who is pinning his meager hopes on carrying his home state of Ohio (which primary is held on the same day as Florida’s), without the courtesy of a private delivery.  That would leave only one viable alternative to Trump (or Drumpf, if you’re a fan of John Oliver) – Senator Ted Cruz.  The choice makes no sense to me. Why would the GOP pick a candidate they despise (and the GOP despises nobody as much as they despise Ted Cruz)? The Republican party is in a panic over the possibility of a “Drumpf” (you guessed it, I’m an Oliver fan!) nomination. It’s palpable and in their desperation, they’ve turned to the one man capable of completing the destruction of the GOP.

After next Tuesday, the race for the GOP nomination gets really scary. I’ll have more in the coming days. Until then. . .

 

 

 

Welcome To The Party. . .(the “Mad” Tea Party, that is)

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I’m thinking some — okay, most — of what I write is pretty dull stuff. I mean, when I read it aloud it sounds like a lecture. I spend so much of my time telling people what they should do, how they should think, feel, etc . . .(at least it sounds that way), it only makes sense that my writing should carry the same “voice”. It probably accounts for why so few people read what I’ve written or bother to follow my blog. Nobody looks forward to being told how to do anything unless, of course, you’re a member of the Tea Party, or the NRA, or the ARC, or the Heritage Foundation; in which case you’re only too willing to allow some “wingnut” (by the way, I find that sobriquet highly insulting to a very useful piece of hardware) tell you what to think, do, etc. . .

As I wrote those last few lines I had an epiphany of sorts; I realized why they call it the “Tea Party”. It’s because it’s held in a mythical place called, “Wonderland” and presided over by a “Mad Hatter”, (the current Mad Hatter being one, Donald Trump, aka, “The Donald”), while the attendees sip nothing from their empty teacups and smile and nod inanely at their host’s nonsensical utterances. And all the while, the Cheshire Cat (Alex Jones, Alan Keyes, Sean Hannity, etc.) smiles maniacally at the assembled insanity, and a bloated Caterpillar (Roger Ailes or Rush Limbaugh ala Peter Max) sits on his mushroom, puffing on his hookah, chortling like some psychedelic Sidney Greenstreet, “Heh, heh, heh. By Gad, sir, you are a sly one.”

And what of poor Alice, finding herself in the midst of such insanity, with each of the attendees behaving so seriously and regarding one another with such hyperbolic seriousness, and wondering why anyone would choose to attend such a silly gathering in the first place?

But is it really all that silly? One only has to gain some distance from the superficial frivolity and the shenanigans of the Party to see the method in The Mad Hatter’s madness.

Donald “The Donald” Trump, the prevailing host of the Mad Tea Party, has managed to make himself impervious to assault by his competition (but not his own missteps). If any of the other 15 or so announced Republican candidates attempt to challenge him on any of his alleged “positions”, they run the risk of alienating not only his base but their own as well. Any attempt to unseat Trump as the “frontrunner” would mean taking one or the other of two positions. One would be “to the right” of “The Donald”, a position that may be too radical even for the Tea Party. The other would make the challenger appear to be “to the left” of “The Donald”, and anything “to the left” of anything is anathema to the Tea Party. And anyway, it’s not as though any of the other “contenders” for the Crown have any position of strength from which to launch such an attack (at least not for the present); they’re all much too busy trying to decide just what their position(s) are to try to unseat “The Donald”.

But what if the unthinkable (and “unthinkable” here is an understatement) should actually happen? What if The Donald maintains his lead in the polls and captures the Republican nomination?  Can you imagine what the next presidential campaign would look like, not to mention the mid-terms? It’s entirely possible The Red Queen would take center stage, screaming, “Off with their heads!” It could very easily become a political “bloodbath”, if not an actual one.

Jesus: Conservative or Liberal, a response

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There is currently an ongoing debate, in and out of religious circles, as to whether or not Jesus was a conservative or liberal. Actually, the debate has been ongoing since shortly after his execution, when the first oral versions of the gospel stories began circulating. Relax.  I’m not going to rehash the entire debate here. What I’m going to do is comment on the two most recent entries into the debate; one by Frank Schaefer entitled, “Conservative Christians would have hated Jesus”, which appeared originally in AlterNet (and reprinted in Salon) and one by Trent Horn entitled, “Jesus is not the property of Liberal Commentators”, which appeared in Catholic Answers. (Both of these articles have been posted on Facebook and you can, if you wish, read them at your leisure).

While both commentators present ample examples from scripture to support their particular point-of-view, neither of them seem to grasp the crux of their disagreement.  Why must Jesus be all this or all that? It seems to me Mr. Horn and Mr. Schaefer are determined to “deconstruct” Jesus and, from the remains, reassemble him into two different (and opposite) men, each one capable of representing their conflicting perspectives. The problem with this approach is, it doesn’t work like that. I doubt, in spite of how they present themselves (and their arguments), neither Mr. Horn nor Mr. Schaefer is totally liberal or totally conservative in every single aspect of their lives.  Neither was Jesus. Neither are any of us. (If you are, you need to stop watching Fox News).

In any event, that’s not the main reason I was incited to write this post. What prompted my keyboard was something Mr. Horn wrote in his response to Mr. Schaefer.  He wrote:

“The only way we can know anything about Jesus or what he wants us to do is by reading the Scripture God gave us and listening to the teachings of the Church Christ founded.”

There are two things that irritate me about the above statement; one is minor, the other not so much.

I get really peeved when people use the word, “Christ”, as if it were Jesus’ last name.  It’s not.  Jesus’ full name was Jesus ben Joseph (or Yeshua ben Yosef, if you prefer). Christ ,”cristos” in Greek, means “anointed”, an appellation bestowed on the “messiah” by the High Priest and was bestowed on every king of Israel as a sign of his legitimacy, a sign that he was chosen by God to lead the people.

The other point of contention I have with Mr. Horn’s statement has to do with Jesus founding a church.  He didn’t. The idea of a church, Christian or otherwise, was as foreign to Jesus as monotheism was to a Roman.  Jesus was a Jew preaching to Jews, and only Jews.  The truth is, Jesus was more than a little xenophobic when it came to preaching. When he sent his disciples out to preach the coming of the kingdom of God, he purposely told them, “. . .Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But rather go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Matthew, Chap. 10; v. 5,6). Kind of strange, considering how Jews have been treated by “Christians” ever since.

What became the Roman Catholic Church was founded by another Jew, Saul of Tarsus (later to be known as “Paul” of Tarsus. Given his early reputation as a persecutor of Christians – for heresy, no doubt – it’s not surprising he changed his name).  Until Paul came on the scene, “those who followed the Christ” were a small Jewish sect presided over by James, the brother of Jesus, and Simon Peter, Jesus’ foremost apostle. After his “conversion”, Paul approached James and Simon Peter with the idea of preaching the “word of Jesus” to the Gentiles.  James and Simon Peter agreed the idea had merit, but there were certain conditions that had to be met; namely, that prospective converts had to convert to Judaism before joining the sect.  There were other conditions, as well, but, suffice it to say, the three men disagreed and Paul left Jerusalem intent on spreading the word of Jesus to anyone who would listen. There’s a lot more to the story, but Paul has enough to answer for, so I won’t dump a lot more on his plate.

Anyway, that’s how the Church was begun. Now I realize Mr. Horn, a convert to Catholicism and a conservative commentator writing in a Catholic publication, has to tow the “company line”, but there’s a limit (or there should be).

I realize, in today’s climate of conservative ascendancy, with right-wing “Christian” conservatives and TeaParty wingnuts leading the charge, it’s necessary to present one’s religion as non-threatening as possible.  After all the gospel writers did the same thing to escape persecution by the Romans.  But lately all this “Jesus was a Conservative” talk has begun to sound as though Mr. Horn and his conservative co-commentators are apologizing for Pope Francis’ recent decidedly non-conservative behavior.

Sad, that.

Chief Justice Roberts, et al. . .(if it walks like a duck. . .)

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In the matter of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding campaign financing, McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, I’d like to pass along a few thoughts.  First among them is the fact this particular decision should come as no surprise to anyone, especially those who follow the workings of the Court.  What did surprise me was how blatant and heavy-handed were the means used.

Conservatives have long endeavored to rescind some (or all) the government’s restrictions in the area of campaign financing, and with the enthusiastic assistance of Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito they have succeeded admirably. 

In 2009, in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, these same justices held that corporations, independent of the people employed therein (and in complete contradiction to the very idea of “personhood”),  are “persons” and as such entitled to First Amendment rights of free speech; which, in this instance, means corporations are free to dispense trainloads of money in elections.

Now, in McCutcheon, the Court not only removed the most important restrictions on campaign financing, the aggregate amounts, the Court also admonished the government for instituting the restrictions in the first place.  As Chief Justice Roberts, (writing for the majority) states:  “The Court has identified only one legitimate governmental interest for restricting campaign finances: preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption . . . Moreover, the only type of corruption Congress can target is quid pro quo corruption.”  (For those among you who don’t “do” Latin, allow me to translate.  Quid pro quo can be (loosely) as, “You stuff my pockets; I’ll stuff yours”).

Chief Justice Roberts continues:  “Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but NOT in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to quid pro quo corruption”.  (Will someone please explain for me, “Why would anyone, other than the candidate, spend “large sums of money” on an election?”)  “Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties”.  So, according to Roberts & Co.,  if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . .it’s probably a rhinoceros.

Don’t Hide History — Show It, Share It . . .all of it

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An article in Sunday’s paper from Reuters caught my eye and I thought I’d like to write something about it.  For those of you not familiar with my blog, let me just say I’m a big fan of history, any history — big, small or in-between, I’m a fan of history.  So it was only natural this particular item caught y attention.

A statue which once graced a pedestal in front of the Queens Borough Hall has been “transplanted” to the grounds of the Green-Wood cemetery.  According to the article, two years ago the statue was deemed “sexist” and “offensive” by some group or individual (the article never says who) with little taste in sculpture and a less-than- healthy amount of time on their hands.  The statue, created in 1922 and titled, “Triumph of Civic Virtue”, features the figure of a nude male of imposing stature (and a strategically placed sash) standing in a defensive posture with a group of “supposedly virtuous” ladies huddled at his feet.  I’m not exactly sure what is “offensive” about the statue, unless you add the “sexist” sobriquet: doubtless, some lady or group of ladies found the idea of a woman in need of having her virtue — civic or otherwise — defended (by a man, no less) to be both “sexist” and “offensive”.

I suppose, in today’s world, where women have the advantage of “equal protection under the law” (well, not exactly equal) and a host of laws enacted to ensure that protection over the years since this statue was created, offense could be taken, and there is, I guess, a valid argument to be made on those grounds.  But such was not the case in 1922 when the statue was installed.

A similar brouhaha is presently attending another statue, this one New York’s Central Park.  A memorial honoring James Marion Sims (who the article notes, is revered as the “father of modern gynecology”) has come under fire because it was recently revealed the “good doctor” experimented on female slaves (the memorial was erected in 1892).  Yes, slavery was and is a terrible thing and unwilling experimentation, whether perpetrated on slaves or anyone else, is anathema.  But we have even more illustrious historical figures, men with a host of “skeletons in their closets” which are not causing the outrage surrounding this one memorial.  Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States, was known to have waged a genocidal war on Native American tribes.  Jackson’s face adorns the $20 bill.  I don’t hear anyone demanding we burn all our twenties.  Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, was an acknowledged slave owner (and according to an article in Smithsonian magazine, devised a slave-breeding program to increase profits.  Jefferson’s visage graces the $2 bill.  (Of course, there are a great many people who’ve never even seen a $2 bill unless they frequent their local racetrack.)  Haven’t heard any demands to burn $2 bills, either.

Make no mistake, I’m not trying to lionize these men and ideas.  I’m trying to point out (and doing a poor job of it, at that) we should not destroy these memorials or hide them away, lest others see them.  These memorials and ideas should be held up as “teaching tools” so the next generation (and the generation after the next) can see and hear what it was like for different segments of our society before the walk-ins, sit-ins, marches and out-and-out riots forced the government to enact laws that led to improvements for those segments of society who suffered (and died) as a result of bigotry, hatred, intolerance and just plain stupidity.

In his book, 1984, George Orwell wrote the following:  “The frightening thing — the frightening thing was that it might all be true.  If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely was more terrifying than mere torture and death. . .And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all the records told the same tale — they the lie passed into history and became truth.  “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”  And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered.  Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting.”

If we, as a people, continue to hide our history, if we continue to refuse to acknowledge both the good and the bad of our past, no matter how painful, sexist cruel or offensive, we will effectively erase that history. It well be as though the evils our predecessors fought never existed, as though the rights and privileges they secured for us were always with us,  The old adage, “Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” carries with it another, simpler truth:  If you have no history, you can’t learn from it.

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