Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Rudderless Ship

While putting to one side DJT's pronouncement that the initial (not the notoriously offensive one) meeting with members of congress was the greatest meeting in the history of meetings, it must be said that it allowed the viewing public an opportunity to see their representatives actually positioning themselves in a forum where bipartisan statesmanship could take place. Unsurprisingly, the 'meeting' was largely vacuous with our president ultimately failing to deliver a clear directive regarding DACA to the congressional members charged with the responsibility in enacting this important piece of legislation along with a continuing resolution to avoid a governmental shutdown.

DJT lack of leadership was predictable from the beginning of the administration as he has never shown much interest (or intellectual curiosity) in matters of actual policy, preferring instead to delegate to others the implementation of a rather broad and often vague 'conservative' agenda the nature and details of which the president seemingly does not comprehend and in which he is unwilling to actively participate. In the meeting cited above, he actually stated at one point that, being an outsider, he was now turning the matter over to those assembled to 'work out' and return a piece of legislation that he could sign. It sounded good but unfortunately did not provide any clear direction (especially to those of his own party) in terms of what was meant by the phrase 'legislation that he could sign'. The chaos that has followed this lack of direction is evident in the indecision of these lawmakers as they now attempt to decipher the conflicting, confusing, and unclear messages from the White House.

Trump's indifference to detail and penchant for deflecting responsibility for the actual running of an organization should not come as a surprise. As biographers David Cay Johnston (The Making of Donald Trump) and Wayne Barrett (The Greatest Show On Earth...) have illustrated at length, DJT is first and foremost a showman, concerned primarily with the perpetuation of his self-designed grandiose image while displaying neither the curiosity nor the aptitude for mundane matters of actual executive leadership. This lack of command and its accompanying chaos is now on full display as all parties scramble to sort through the confusion, address the crying needs of children seeking family preservation and a path toward citizenship, and keep the government afloat while the ship's captain is content to remain asleep at the wheel.

They All Make Me Squirm

I'm not entirely clear on which of the following is the most unnerving: Mike Pence's perennial death stare of blind allegiance, deep adoration, and unwavering true belief; Lawrence O'Donnall's casual condescension; Chris Matthews' false hardball/hard-ass persona; or Paul Ryan's incessant and insipid smirk. As Dylan famously said in song...'I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name.'
 So many opportunities for annoyance, so little time!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Fourth Estate Under Renewed Attack

After viewing Spielberg's The Post, one is left with sobering realization of how far we have devolved with respect to the way in which a free and independently functioning fourth estate and it's sources are now regarded. Whistleblowers and those agencies who courageously publish their findings to the American people based upon the principle that only an informed public can properly govern itself are now vilified as 'enemies of the State' and, instead of being praised for their efforts to inform and educate, in many cases face jail time. In the latter days of the Clinton presidency and into the Bush/Chaney regime, Thomas Drake attempted to expose a secret NSA program of surveillance on American citizens (Trailblazer Project) and was summarily persecuted and eventually prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Former CIA analyst, John Kirakou, was similarly persecuted and jailed for exposing the agency's torture program in the post-911 era. 

New York Times reporter, James Risen was thwarted and eventually threatened with imprisonment for his revelation of wide spread illegal, secret, and unauthorized wiretapping of American citizens during the height of the Iraq war frenzy. The Times itself opposed Risen's series of articles until it had to relent because of the impending publication of his book which promised to expose the paper's previous resistance to the dissemination of this important story. The irony was complete as Risen received the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for this seminal and courageous piece of reporting. Though it all, he steadfastly refused to reveal his sources and was subsequently indicted by the Obama DOJ on espionage charges which were overturned by the Supreme Court. Lest we mistake the attack on investigative journalism as the purview of one particular political party, it should be remembered that Obama invoked the Espionage Act in pursuit of journalists on more occasions than all other administrations combined.

The relentless pursuit of journalists and their sources by an unsupportive government continued in the case of Wikileaks publication of Chelsea (Bradley) Manning's exposure of military abuses and governmental misinformation in Iraq resulting in a 35 year prison term after her prosecution for espionage and sending the publisher into exile. Similarly, ex-CIA employee and intelligence contractor Edward Snowden's revelations regarding the illegal domestic and global mass surveillance programs conducted by the NSA under the direction and administration of both the Bush/Chaney and Obama regimes and the subsequent publication by Wikileaks also cast both news agency and its source as criminal entities rather than conscientious journalists attempting to inform an otherwise unsuspecting citizenry.

The Post gave one a glimpse into a time where governmental overreach and mendacity were exposed by the courageous efforts of journalists and those who inform them. The same efforts continue today but do so in a dangerous environment of attempted suppression, actual vilification, and impending threat to the role of the fourth estate as a necessary check on governmental excess and malfeasance. Daniel Ellsberg is celebrated by many as a hero who helped end the illegal, tragic, and unnecessary war in Vietnam by bringing to the light of day the decades of official governmental lies upon which our engagement was based. It is indeed sad to realize that, had Ellsberg operated in today's political climate, he too would be either banished into exile or condemned to spend the remainder of his days in indefinite detention.

The Power Of The Words We Use

A number of apologists now seek to explain DJT's recent remarks regarding immigrants from certain countries of origin as merely an expression of 'tough talk'. Their 'argument' seems to involve some vague reference to the value of plain speaking in an age of political correctness and therefore the president is to be excused (even praised) for what most of the civilized world considers to be an unhealthy combination of vile, undignified, racist, and thoroughly inappropriate hate speech.

Perhaps a positive outcome to this otherwise unfortunate and embarrassing moment of verbal debasement will be to finally put to rest the entire notion of political correctness as a real phenomenon to be defiled and resisted in the name of freedom of expression. The issue has never been a culturally mandated manner of speaking but rather a matter of simple civility, kindness, respect for the feelings of our fellow citizens, and a recognition that the words we use have far ranging implications and consequences as how we regard each other and how we might choose to live together in a future, mutually affirming, national community.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Preserving Friendship In The Age Of Trump

At a recent political forum, one of the participants cautioned that we should not allow differences of opinion to ruin otherwise important relationships and to resist hate in favor of love. This sincere and well intentioned statement did resonate with me as I am often impressed and surprised by the ongoing connection I continue to enjoy with many people with whom I disagree (R's and D's alike). A lingering question remains as to the exact nature of the viewpoint, values, and/or vision for America that Donald Trump represented which impelled so many to place their trust in him. I am genuinely curious about this. I suspect that a common answer will involve some version of the 'unacceptably of the alternative' narrative which accompanied my previous inquires with some of the aforementioned friends. It's likely that Clinton voters (many of whom were reluctant supporters) would also offer a similar argument and also would include the criteria of competency, governmental experience, and intellect to justify their preference.

I did not support either candidate because of differences on a wide range of issues as well as personal preference. That said, it must be confessed that if I had resided in an contested swing state, my vote would have been cast in favor of effectively maintaining a status quo with which I had frequently and, at times, vehemently disagreed in order to avoid the chaos which was believed would occur by choosing someone I felt was wholly unqualified and temperamentally unfit for the job in question. Through it all and to this day, I have earnestly and respectfully questioned the decision of the chums who helped place the current president into office. My hope is that the country will mirror the survival of my valued friendships as we collectively attempt to navigate these troubled waters.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Two Faces of America

While engaged is a recent discussion wherein the respective character traits of Obama and Trump were compared and largely contrasted, it was observed that the current occupant of the White House had made his moral shortcomings rather apparent for all to see well ahead of the campaign but was nevertheless elected to the highest office in the land. It was further opined that the two men embodied very real and, in many ways, rather opposite elements of the American psyche. This led to the following hypothetical question: Is it possible synthesize, reconcile, or otherwise integrate these seemingly disparate aspects of the same culture with the idea of making the nation whole again? One of the participants offered an emphatic NO to this inquiry which led to a rather gloomy outlook.

If the internal divisions are truly irreparable and the polarization irreconcilable then we very well might have the makings of another civil war or an actual internal coup d'etat. We already have a government working to undermine its own institutions, a growing number of ultra right wing militia armed to the teeth itching for a fight, and reactionary elements in both the military and in domestic law enforcement. As stated earlier in this blog, we might be just one terrorist attack, false flag contrived or otherwise perpetrated, away from the imposition of martial law and/or the dissolution of a free society as we have come to know it....many have argued at length that the process of societal degeneration is already well underway. The country is ailing; the patient must heal itself or face the real possibility of demise by its own hand.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Revelation

While gazing into the reflected light emanating from the Adriatic from the shores of the island of Mljet just off the Dalmatian Coast, I embraced the opportunity afforded elsewhere on this magnificent planet to dissolve into the luminescence and apprehend the perfect unity of all things in this one glorious and eternal present moment.