Surviving the Trump Threat and Moving Forward

There is a question we no longer need to ask. You know what it is. It’s that question we asked Germans for decades after WWII. How did Germany allow themselves to succumb to Adolf Hitler?

We don’t need to ask any longer because we are seeing how it happened, as it happens right here. In America. In the 21st century. Trump is taking America down that same road, and all we do is watch.

Trump has a rabid core of supporters formed of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and fake ‘Christians’ who call themselves evangelicals. He has the support of a Republican party that has lost all sense of either ethics or morality. They are dismantling the core values of the Constitution. They have already made America a laughing stock on the world stage. Now Trump and his National Socialists are taking America from laughing stock to world terror.

And all we do is watch. Because, you see, we depend on our democratic underpinnings to save the day. First the mid-terms, then the ouster of Trump in 2020. Hopefully.

*Hopefully*

Just like all those Germans in the 1930’s who were sure reason would triumph before Hitler and his Nazis took over completely. Oh, and the hopeful ones were in the majority, too. Because, you see, their democracy had two fatal flaws. It was too democratic. It really had no built-in safeguards against a takeover by a charismatic psychopath. And there were insufficient restraints on the power of a single man.

Our own forefathers made exactly the same mistakes. There are no provisions in our Constitution to keep an immoral tyrant from seeking control. And there are roadblocks sufficient to stop a determined Hitler persona from doing whatever he (or she) wants, once in office? The Congress can serve that purpose only if the President’s own party doesn’t also control both houses. The Supreme Court holds no enforcement powers. The nation’s top law enforcement officials serve at the pleasure of the President and his party. The emoluments clause has as much real substance as a Marvel comic book hero. There is no Superman.

IF the United States does manage to survive Donald Trump, these failings need to corrected by Congressional action up to and including Constitutional amendment. It needs to be done with a sense of immediacy. Yes, I have suggestions. They may need to be refined, of course.

1. Psychiatric testing for all Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate. This can be done by a panel made up of an equal number of psychiatrists from each party. They should also all be teaching level psychiatrists at respected Universities and medical schools, not just anybody with a shingle.

2. No party shall be allowed to control both houses of Congress. The easy fix is for the Supreme Court to allot ‘extra’ votes to the minority party in one of the houses. This is not unfair. Having a single group viewpoint in charge of both houses of Congress is unfair, and dangerous.

3. Abolish the Electoral College.

4. Give the Supreme Court enforcement powers.

5 Reduce the power of the President to make war. He/she should not be able to initiate military action alone except as a direct act of defense/retaliation against a specifically identified hostile force/country in response to a clear act of hostility against America itself. This must be limited to defensive action not to include American forces invading foreign nations. Anything other than this must be authorized by Congress.

6. Once justice department officials have been appointed, the President must not be able to fire them without the concurrence of both houses of Congress.

7. The emoluments clause must be re-written and given teeth. A majority of either house of Congress should be able to instigate the opening of an evaluation. The President’s cabinet, since they have been appointed by the President, can have no part in the process, other than opening an evaluation process by simple majority.

8. No individual who has ever lobbied for industry can be placed in charge of a government agency.

9. The Vice-President cannot serve as the tie breaker in a tied Senate vote. A tied vote must send the questionable legislation to a select committee made up of an equal number of Senators from each party to reach an equitable solution.

10. The President must not have the ability to single-handedly push the nuclear button. He/she must have the concurrence of the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs. To this end, That individual’s office must be located in the White House instead of the Pentagon.

11. Congress must take immediate action on legislation which spells out clearly that the government shall have no connection whatsoever to any religion or religious body or group.

12. Citizens United must be revisited and overturned. Congress. must take corporate and lobbyist donations completely out of American elections.

13. Congress must review every area of Presidential executive authority and determine legislation to limit it.

Come Back Marshall Dillon

America, we have a problem. It’s sad but true. Police are out of control in many places in America. They use flimsy excuses to excuse bigotry while beating, maiming, falsely accusing, and killing. This has to be stopped.

Now understand, these unfit officers represent, hopefully, and we are told, a very small percentage of those who wear the uniform properly and proudly with humanity and distinction. But until that vast majority who truly protect and serve stop protecting the racist, bigoted beasts within their ranks; until that vast majority, and the departments themselves, take a stand for what’s right, they can’t complain about the negative spotlight cast upon all of them. John Q Public can’t waltz into a police department and clean it up. It must be the organizations themselves, purging and cleaning from within.

Make no mistake. I’m far from naive. Our police officers have the most difficult, dangerous moment by moment job in the country. They see and deal with the worst levels of our society. I respect them immensely. They face sights and situations and dangers the rest of us can most avoid, thanks to them. Their bravery is for the most part unquestioned. The simple traffic stop we take granted is, for them, never simple and never safe.

But here’s the deal. As tough as that job is, as dangerous, as discouraging, as scary, as thankless, if they cannot find a way to maintain their humanity and discard their prejudices, they shouldn’t be doing the job. For the vast majority of good cops out there, my heart goes out to you, for your bravery, your dedication, your humanity, and perhaps most of all, your resilience. You are the stellar examples we need. But when you protect those among you who shouldn’t be wearing the badge—and in most departments I’m sure those are well known—you do a disservice not only to those whom you have sworn to protect and serve, but more keenly to yourselves.

And yes, I’m fully aware that many if not most, of the excessive force and shoot first, ask questions later incidents are, more than anything, the result of fear, quiet insidious fear, that police officers live with every minute. It has to eat at even the strongest person in uniform. I can’t truly imagine, no matter how hard I try, what it’s like to feel that with every call, every traffic stop, and maintain one’s humanity and not prejudge and not give in to doing it to them before they can do it to you.  And yet, that’s exactly what we need our police to do.
I have an idea, for what it’s worth. It goes something like this. I recommend that every officer, particularly in the larger departments cities, be assigned to spend time every week, on the clock, in some activity to help counter the negatives they face. Group talk it out sessions, uplifting and positive activities with the community, things that do nothing but depressurize. Maybe that will help. Maybe you have a thought to make it a better idea. Go for it. Please.

But the bad apples have to go. Now. Immediately. Previously good officers who show signs of tending toward excessive violence may not even need to be fired.  There are probably plenty of honorable desk jobs that can to be filled, at full pay and benefits, by officers with severe signs of burnout. That seems to me to be the best way of ‘protecting our own.’

I grew up knowing officers. I grew up admiring and respecting police. I still do. But the incidents of brutality and killing of unarmed people, of policing with violence and brutality first, humanity and reason third or fourth, has to stop. The job itself is incredibly hard. There’s no doubt about that. But I also know this. A person with a badge a club a gun and the cover of authority, but lacking in humanity or possessed by racism and bigotry or just burned out, is far more frightening than reassuring. That isn’t the kind of policing we can live with in America.

We can’t accept policing our citizenry with Negans. Not even Dirty Harrys.  We need Reagans. We need Marshall Dillons, Reed and McCoys, Jon and Ponches  Joe Fridays. And we need officers who see humans rather than colors.

 

That Praying Bus Driver

I just read about a school bus driver in Minnesota who was relieved from his route due to leading students in prayer on his bus.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/school-bus-driver-fired-after-praying-with-students/ar-AAw9Sam?ocid=spartandhp

The article said he forced the students to pray with him. He denied that. But he did pray with them, and evidently, on occasion led them.Whether he forced them to pray with him or not isn’t the issue. He should not have been praying with them. Period. Removing him from school buses was entirely proper. It was necessary. The driver said his First Amendment rights were violated. He was wrong.

The action taken by the bus service here is entirely appropriate. Students have the right to pray individually or among themselves. However, the bus driver leading the prayer was in clear violation of the separation between church and state. This is a critical pillar of our Constitution that must be safeguarded at all costs, for the good of the entire citizenry. It had to be addressed, and was. The driver, by the way, was not fired.
During the forty years that I taught theatre, students frequently asked to hold prayer circles before play performances. I never advocated it. I never suggested it. But if they told me they wished to do it among themselves. I always allowed it. I never participated. I made clear to them I couldn’t do this, and I distanced myself. That is the way it must be handled.

Religion is perhaps the most acutely personal aspect of any human being. No particular faith has any right whatsoever to be endorsed by the government, or individuals in government positions, over any other. In the school setting, a teacher or school official must not participate in religious activities during, though it is acceptable in many places for clubs, initiated and conducted by the students themselves, to meet as an after school activity, with a student-requested staff member who agrees to be present for supervision only. The public schools cannot be, and must not, be in the business of advocating any particular religion over any other.

Christians who claim they are ‘under attack’ are crying wolf. Please. They are not in any way under attack. Do they still have the right to pray in their churches and homes? Yes they do. Have any Christian churches been closed down by city/county/state/federal agencies for practicing their religion? Of course they haven’t. Are Christians still free to “witness” for friends and others on behalf of their faith? Yes they are, as long as the people they are witnessing to agree to it. This claim of being attacked is based on one thing only, their not being allowed to enforce their own religions beliefs on others in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society. 

BUT 1: The state does not advocate for any particular religion. That is the only way the state can fairly represent all faiths. It is unreasonable, unethical, and improper for Christians to expect to be given preference.
BUT 2: Business owners operate under a state/local license that empowers them to offer their goods to the public. This means ALL the public. It does not give them the right to refuse service to those with whom they disagree, whose skin or nationality or sexuality is different from their own, who wears their hair oddly, etc. It’s a simple—and absolutely vital— matter of civil rights, which are guaranteed to all citizens. Baking a cake or making a pizza for someone who’s ‘different’ does not indicate agreement, comradeship or partnership with them. It’s nothing more than the matter of meeting the responsibility of being licensed to sell to the public. Anyone who thinks that refusing service to someone whose skin color or lifestyle is different from their own is one of their civil rights, is grossly mistaken. The buyer’s civil right to buy a cake, etc., easily overrides the business person’s assumed right to insert the prejudices of their personal religion into the public obligation which is part of their license. Again, the government doesn’t deal in religion. It deals in civil rights. These must be safeguarded for all of its citizens.
BUT 3: The First Amendment of the Constitution does not expressly give, nor does it imply, permission to violate the separation of church and state. It does not allow one person’s religion to eradicate the civil rights of another person. It does not make one person superior to another in the conduct of business due to their religion. Period.

The founding fathers of our country, who were mostly Christians, saw the danger of mixing government and religion. They did everything they could to prevent it.  Regardless of what Christian zealots like to think, the Constitution did not—and this was by design—establish the United States as a Christian nation. Our country is a country of many religions, just as it is a melting pot of many cultures and traditions. None has the privilege to enforce itself over others.

Christians who complain that they are “under attack” because they are, in actuality, seeking and being denied special treatment under 1, 2, or 3 above, are behaving like petulant and badly behaved children who don’t get their way. It’s time they realized that. Neither God nor Jesus ,at any time, gave them special permission to consider themselves any better than others. Otherwise, they make end up making their imagined “war on Christians” a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

A- Religion is personal, and cannot be enforced by one faith upon another.
B- Society is governed by laws and mores for the well-being, the “…life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” of all the people.

Never the twain shall meet. Amen.

Do NOT Call Donald Trump Stupid

Do NOT mistake or underestimate Donald Trump. He realizes damned well that informed Americans know this kind of tweet, and all the ones like it are bullshit. They are not intended for informed Americans. They are intended to keep his core supporters engaged and enraged. This is exactly what Trump’s angry,  poorly informed and analytically challenged supporters call “..talking like us.” He knows that the secret to his success is holding onto that rabid base, including racists, white supremacists, and the uneducated poor, then getting just enough others to cross the line because of various personal dissatisfactions, whether it be closet racism of Barack Obama, hatred of Hillary Clinton, or economic dissatisfaction. 
 
   Donald Trump is woefully ignorant in most of the ways that we judge as genuine intelligence and intellectual capacity. He is clearly narcissistic and psychotic, a veritable textbook sociopath. He is a serial liar, but one that can sell those lies like few in history.
   He is the granite statue of the con man who can sell ice in the Arctic and sand in the Sahara. He is the role model for ministers who live in million dollar mansions by taking the last dollars from already poor worshipers. If he had lived in the old west in the 1800’s, he would have lived in luxury while selling snake oil for fifty cents a bottle. If you believe in the antichrist, he will look and sound like Donald Trump.
   Donald Trump is brilliant in his understanding of how to manipulate the most vulnerable people around him in order to build and maintain a power base. His expertise is in doing this while preventing the people upon whom he preys (and depends) from seeing behind his curtain. He is then ruthless in ridding his personal power circle of anyone who disagrees with him.
  
   Calling Donald Trump stupid dismisses him without truly understanding the danger he represents. It creates a false sense of security. a comfortable sense of safety from him. It provides an illusion that he is mentally incompetent and therefore not really dangerous. It weakens resistance. It helps us to think it will all be okay because after all, he’s stupid.
 
That is the worst mistake we can make. Donald Trump is the most dangerous individual to surface since the end of WWII.
 
   Donald Trump is Adolf Hitler, right down the line, all the way to the last point of comparison. All that remains to be seen is if he has the same kind of world domination psychosis as did Hitler. He cannot be allowed to answer that question.

The Telephone

This is a short mood piece I played around with the other day. The style is 1940’s/50’s noir. The story is . . .

The telephone rang. The woman looked at it. The man looked out the window, pretended not to notice. It rang again. The sound was soft, melodic, not the loud silence shattering clanging you read about in novels. The woman stared at it. She guided a stray wisp of blonde hair back into place with a glossy red, newly manicured pinky finger. The man shifted position, leaned against the wall.

A third ring broke into the subdued jazz music. Glenn Miller’s orchestra playing ‘In the Mood.’ The man moved away from the wall, leaned back against it. The woman made a move as if to get up, changed her mind, sat back.

The instrument rang a fourth time. The man checked his watch. The woman lit a menthol cigarette with a small gold plated lighter. The clerk glided silently across the thick carpet, picked up the receiver. Said something inaudible. Listened. Said something else, laid the receiver soundlessly on the polished wood table, left the room. The woman watched him go. So did the man. Their eyes connected for half a second.

Glenn Miller faded out, replaced by Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra, ‘All the Things You Are.’ Outside the window, the faint rumble of distant thunder announced the approaching storm. The clerk returned, picked up the receiver, delivered a quiet message, placed the receiver back on the cradle with a hushed click, returned to the desk.

The man went to the window, studied the darkening sky. A couple entered the room, talking quietly. She was short. brunette, trim, black dress, spike heels, almost as pretty as the blonde. He was tall, athletic, gray Brooks Brothers, black shined loafers, not quite as handsome as the man. She laughed at something he said. A faint trace of expensive bourbon drifted from them. They went to the desk. The blonde casually studied the brunette, flicked ashes into a glass ashtray, smoothed the folds of her red satin skirt.

The black gilt trimmed phone rang again, stopped after one ring. The man turned from the window, studied the instrument briefly, returned to looking out as the first big drops drove themselves against the window. The woman stubbed out her cigarette, a single graceful movement. She looked back at the phone as it range again. Once. Twice. She stood up with the same elegant grace, crossed to the phone, picked up the receiver. She spoke a single word, listened, smiled, answered, replaced the handset..

The woman looked up to find the man watching her. Their eyes connected, held for a small moment. He smiled a crooked half smile. She also smiled, the smallest lifting of the corners of her mouth.  He nodded. So did she. She turned, walked from the room. The man watched until she was out of sight. The clerk approached, handed the man a glass containing exactly two fingers of aromatic amber liquid, smiled, replied to the man’s questioning look, “On the house.” The man smiled his wry smile, nodded his thanks. He turned back to watch the rain cascade against the glass.

 

The Shortest 38 Chapter Murder Mystery in History

For those who like a good hard-boiled noir mystery but like their crime succinct.

Chapter 1: This was where it started. I knew the dame was trouble as soon as she walked in the door.

Chapter 2: The guy was dead alright. He was an ugly sight. Death can do that to you.

Chapter 3: I smoked some cigarettes, drank some beer, talked to some people.

Chapter 4: Two goons showed up at my office and told me to lay off. We talked wise for awhile. I was wiser.

Chapter 5: I called the dame. I told her we needed to talk. She told me to come on over. I did.

Chapter 6: I drove to her apartment. She was dead. I called the cops. They weren’t happy.

Chapter 7: Bad cop said I must’ve done it. Good cop said he knew me. We talked wise for awhile. My wise was still better.

Chapter 8: I jumped in my jalopy. I talked to the guy’s friends and enemies. I didn’t get much. I met dame number two. She was sultry.

Chapter 9: I drank some beer, smoked some cigarettes. Nobody wanted to talk to me.

Chapter 10: The goons came back. We talked wise again. One took a punch. My punch was faster.

Chapter 11: I rolled up more miles on the jalopy. I managed to trace the guy’s recent actions. They didn’t seem like much.

Chapter 12: The cops called me in to talk. Bad cop still thought I did it. I told him his wife dressed him lousy.

Chapter 13: Dame number two called me and wanted to talk. I hoped she’d stay alive long enough.

Chapter 14: She was alive, all right. We talked awhile. Then we didn’t talk at all. I was smoking when I left.

Chapter 15: I sat in my office overlooking the city while I thought. I smoked some more. I was out of beer. Being a private detective is hell sometimes.

Chapter 16: The FBI came calling. They told me to lay off. I talked wise. They talked FBI.

Chapter 17: I followed up on what dame number two had told me.  I remembered to buy some beer.

Chapter 18: I found a clue. It was a big one and it made me mad. Took me eighteen damn chapters.

Chapter 19: I was smoking and drinking beer when the goons busted in with guns. Their mistake.

Chapter 20: The cops took the bodies away. Bad cop didn’t like it. We stared hard at each other.

Chapter 21: The FBI dropped in. They gave me another warning. The female agent watched me. I watched her back.

Chapter 22: I looked at something I’d already looked at. This time I looked at it from a different angle. Son of a gun. I stubbed out the cigarette and jumped in the jalopy.

Chapter 23: I retraced the guy’s tracks again and found it. It was the evidence that broke the case. I drove back to dame number two’s place. It was empty.

Chapter 24: The phone rang. A nasty voice said they had dame number two. They said they’d trade the dame for the evidence. I asked to hear her voice. They made her scream.

Chapter 25: I phoned my buddy the good cop. I laid out the details for the meet. He said they’d be there. I made another call.

Chapter 26: I knew it would be a trap, so I got to the meet early. Hours early. I hid and waited. It was cold and damp before it got warm and dry.

Chapter 27: I watched them set the trap. Then I walked right into it. The cops didn’t show. The good cop was part of the whole thing. 

Chapter 28: My friend the crooked cop was surprised that I knew, but said it wouldn’t really matter. They had me dead to rights. Soon I’d just be dead.

Chapter 29: They took my gun. It looked bad, but that was before the FBI sprang the trap on the trap.

Chapter 30: But the baddies hadn’t brought dame number two. Now I was short on time to find her before she joined dame number one. I was in a sweat. 

Chapter 31: I was pretty sure where she’d be. I raced through the city’s maze of streets. The FBI was right behind me.

Chapter 32: It was morning rush hour. Traffic was hell. Time was running out. I was pounding the steering wheel and cursing. 

Chapter 33: I found the right street. I made a screeching left turn against a red light and got t-boned. I jumped out and ran. There was a lot of cursing behind me.

Chapter 34: The police Captain was locking his front door. He didn’t know I was coming until I rammed him into it from behind. He went down with my hands on his throat.

Chapter 35: He reached for his gun but mine was out first. The Feebs arrived before I pulled the trigger. I ran into the house.

Chapter 36: The house was empty. I got the crooked Captain’s keys and opened the trunk of his car. Dame number two was there. She was alive.

Chapter 37: It took a couple of hours and a full chapter for me to explain all the details to the FBI.

Chapter 38: It was raining the day after. The doorbell rang. It was the female FBI agent. She was alone. She was carrying a saucy smile and asix pack. I already had cigarettes.

The End.

Did the NRA Try to Hijack the CNN Town Hall on the Parkland Shootings?

Most people aren’t really familiar with how radio and television works, and especially in the case of a ‘town hall’ broadcast.  Please allow me to do what teachers do, and explain.

You already know that all programming is allotted to certain time frames. You may not realize how tight that timing is on a national level. Live sporting events and breaking news coverage are essentially the ONLY types of broadcast that are allowed to go over a specifically allotted time, even by a second or two.

Please don’t let the words “scripted questions” throw you. ALL PROGRAMMING is essentially scripted. In the case of a town hall, this means the following, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. A certain amount of time is allowed for questions, and for answers. Members of the questioning group ALWAYS submit questions they want to ask. This ensures that two people don’t ask the same question, also that the questioners don’t embarrass themselves with bad grammar, perhaps foul language, and that the questions are succinct, that is, without rambling, which really skews the time factor and can cloud the focus of the question. It’s normal for the presenter, CNN in this case, to work with the questioners (who in most cases aren’t professional writers/speakers) in order to help them get the best phrasing. There is nothing wrong with this. It is still the question John Doe, or in this case Colton Haab, wanted to ask.

Questioners are not allowed to make speeches. If Colton Haab gets to make a thirty or forty or sixty second speech, then every other questioner has to be allotted the same opportunity, in the name of fairness.

I look at the email exchange, and I see a young man (assisted and influenced by his father, don’t forget that part) with a question which the network helped him phrase. No problem there. As I said, it’s standard procedure. I also see that the young man then wanted to make a bit of a speech, which is simply not going to work. I also see that a key phrase has been omitted from those emails by the father’s version, which he has advertised.

My conclusion is that the network is not at fault. This is the father trying to advance an agenda, and I have to wonder if perhaps someone else, most likely the NRA itself, was in the father’s ear. To me, this is the NRA and gun lobby attempting to hijack the town hall, and when not being allowed to do so, creating a very deceptive version of what actually transpired.

 

“Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!”

Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17