You Better Start Swimming Or You’ll Sink Like A Stone

Friday, 7 September 2018, 19:19

Many years ago, I was driving through the Mississippi Delta right after a storm front that dropped several inches of rain over a large area. Flood waters had risen along both sides of US 49. I came upon one farm where the cattle had been forced onto the few raised areas, far too small to be called hills. As the water continued to rise, the cows were forced closer and closer together as the dry land shrank. There were tightly-packed groups scattered across the fields.

I thought about those cows this week after hearing about Bob Woodward’s new book, and reading the anonymous op/ed in the New York Times. Like the cows, Trump’s supporters are being forced into a smaller and smaller island of thought. They can simply choose the route of disbelief, placing their faith in the idea that the media lies, that the Democrats are obstructing, that there are conspiracies to keep Trump from succeeding. But now the claims of Trump’s unfitness for the job, his erratic behavior, his inherent temperamental incompatibility with the requirements of the Presidency, are coming from within his own administration. His supporters are steadfast, taking comfort in their shared belief. But the waters keep rising, and they have to exist in an ever-shrinking intellectual space. They’ve had to discard the idea that personal morality matters, that sexual transgressions are wrong, that truth is important, that mocking the disabled is wrong, that deficits are bad, that relations with traditional allies mean something. The road behind Trump’s supporters is littered with the discarded truths that they once proclaimed so intensely. Now they have to choose again: are these stories all made up, or have some of those close to Trump suddenly become conspirators against him? Because past experience says that the one thing they won’t do is decide that he actually is unfit to be President.

Category : Politics

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I Hate Republicans

Thursday, 12 July 2018, 18:39

I hate Republicans. I used to say I didn’t really hate all Republicans, because there were some good people among them that I just disagreed with on political issues. But that was before they decided that the only thing that mattered was blind support of Donald Trump. Events like today’s hearing reveal people like Trey Gowdy for the complete tool that they are, willing to toss away any shred of integrity they might still have to push the Trump support topic of the day. There is no Republican party any more, just a Donald Trump personality cult. And they’re willing to destroy the country to support him.

Category : Politics

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Donald Trump In The China Shop

Wednesday, 11 July 2018, 6:29

I read recently that the objective of the Cold War was to defeat the Soviet Union, but the achievement was to build the West. We’ve lived with the concept of “the West” so long we’ve forgotten that, prior to 1945, there was no such concept. The geopolitical paradigm was very much the Old World and the New, with fleeting acknowledgement of China and, to a lesser extent, Japan. Russia was part of Europe, even as it moved deeper into Communism. The United States, after World War I, retreated into isolationism to atone for it’s mistake in joining a “European” war. World War II forced America to rejoin the world, but even in the victory-infused days of late 1945 there was no clear understanding of what that world would be. Europe was devastated by six years of modern total warfare. China as it had been viewed in 1940 had been revealed to be en empty shell. Japan, even in defeat, had ironically become the most significant Asian nation. There were two centers of power in the world, the United States and the Soviet Union, separated by a world laid waste. There was concern about what Stalin’s Soviet Union would do, but there was no concept of “the West”. There was only the concept of the Allies, which mostly meant the United States and the Soviet Union, with Britain as effectively a junior partner and France, Italy, and the other European allies almost auxiliary members. Britain and France hadn’t yet accepted that their time as colonial powers was over. Germany was being disassembled piece by piece. There was concern about what the Soviet Union would do, and as it became obvious that Stalin was going to assert Soviet domination over Eastern Europe, the remaining Allied countries realized that the pre-war relationships would not be effective counters, especially after the Soviets began to isolate eastern Germany. Militarily, Britain, France, and the other European allies were too exhausted to offer any resistance should Stalin decide to move west. Thus NATO was born, first as a political association, and later, after the Korean War, as a standing military alliance. From the European perspective, the purpose was “to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and Germany down”. Above all, they wanted to avoid a third war. And so, America joined the Old World, or more accurately, the Old World joined America, and the concept of the West was born.

From roughly 1950 until the fall of the Soviet Union, that was the world in which we lived, the West vs. the Communist bloc. Early on, “West” lost its geographical meaning – the addition of Japan was enough to demonstrate that – and attained a geopolitical meaning that far exceeded anything prewar Europe had defined. The United States dominated the directions taken by the West, whether militarily, economically, or even culturally. As the economies of other countries recovered from World War II, the economic dominance of America began to wain, as Japan and Germany especially grew their economies while the US was dealing with Reagan’s increase in defense spending, instability in the oil markets, and a recession. But the West was still cohesive, and remained so through conflicts in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Syria, at least initially. NATO gave the world 70 years of peace at a time when the weapons of war could easily end civilization as we know it. In 1949, few on either side of the Iron Curtain could have foreseen that.

Into this world came the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. And in the eighteen months since his inauguration, he has confused, antagonized, and insulted our NATO allies over and over, while praising Vladimir Putin and taking every opportunity to cozy up to his authoritarian rule. With his limited grasp of history and geopolitics, he has become the classic bull in a china shop, except that he seems to be doing the damage deliberately, like a child who destroys something without knowing or caring what it does. Under Donald Trump, the United States is retreating from the world, creating vacuums which other nations – China and Russia in particular – will eagerly rush to fill. The damage he is doing to our international standing will take many, many years to repair, if indeed it can ever be done.

On September 12, 2001, the French newspaper Le Monde’s headline read “Nous sommes tous Américains” – “We are all Americans”. For the first time in its history, NATO invoked Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all. At a time when America was as badly shaken as it as ever been, NATO – those same European allies that Donald Trump insults – rushed to make it clear that they stood with us. You have to wonder if they will do it the next time.

Category : History, Politics

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3 AM

Saturday, 10 March 2018, 19:40

3 AM
Why?
darkness my old friend, sure
but why meet so often?
the hours sit like fat toads
staring, unblinking
I get so tired of this

Category : Poetry

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Harassment/Misconduct/Criminal Behavior

Friday, 27 October 2017, 7:20

Well, The Rock Test wasn’t what I was expecting (I was thinking “rock”, not “Rock”), but yes, it’s valid. This all has been yet another revelation in my life. It’s a bit like my experience with work/office affairs (no, I’ve never had one of those, that isn’t what I mean. And I’m not trying to relate affairs to harassment, so bear with me). There was a time in my young professional life when I would hear rumors of Mike who was married to Sally, having a fling with his co-worker Jane who was married to Bill, Or not married. Whatever. And I would think, “no way, they’re married”, or “no way, they’re just friends”. And gradually my obliviousness would be shattered by the reality that Mike and Jane really *were* having a fling, and it wasn’t really such a rare thing either.

Obliviousness has often been part of my character, sad to say.

When it comes to sexual harassment/misconduct/criminal behavior – I think my professional life has been a little different from many, especially in the IT field. For most of my 30+ years in the field, my managers were women. So the environment wasn’t male-dominated, and that made it easy to engage in the thought process that what I experienced was “normal”. My managers treated me as a professional, I treated them, and my coworkers, as professionals, the world turned as it should. Did I know of situations where women were subjected to things they shouldn’t have had to endure? Yes, but those were isolated, and everybody knew those guys were pigs. That’s what I always thought, anyway. And now I look back and realize that once again, I was oblivious to things going on in plain sight. Maybe not in my immediate environment, but still…and I think about the women with whom I’ve worked, and I wonder just how much crap they’ve had to put up with through the years, and I wonder how many signs I missed, how many situations might have been helped if I’d just noticed what was going on. Maybe none – maybe I wouldn’t have been willing to speak up. I like to think I would have, maybe that’s just vanity on my part. But being a white male has meant I could stay safely within my perspective and ignore so many things. As one of my daughters once pointed out, being male, 6’5″, and not a skinny guy meant I could feel comfortable in situations where a woman would feel unsafe. I know, this is rambling but what I’m trying to say is, learning to break from my happy little world, learning to explore other perspectives, learning to have empathy for others, has taken a lifetime for me. And that’s the first step, I think, that people need to embrace. As we began to be inundated by reports of women claiming harassment, my first thought was “really”. And then I began to think “yes, really”. To the women I’ve worked with, if I missed things along the way, if I ignored the signs, I’m sorry. I really am. Being oblivious isn’t an excuse.

Category : Life

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