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The State of the Union: Why I’m Not Optimistic

The State of the Union: Why I’m Not Optimistic

“And after a while you’ll hear a deep voice saying, ‘Neighbor, how stands the Union?’ Then you better answer the Union stands as she stood, rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed . . . “ — Stephen Vincent Benét in The Devil and Daniel Webster

This isn’t going to be a blow-by-blow account of President Trump’s State of the Union address last week. If you didn’t see the speech, you should, so go find it somewhere and watch and listen to it. Allow plenty of time — it went on for more than an hour and 20 minutes, one of the longest ever.

To offer my own view of it, having weathered many SOTUs from a number of presidents, I thought it one of the most positive and flawless, both in terms of substance and delivery. I’m not alone in that. The CBS poll conducted after the address found 76% of viewers had a positive view of it and the CNN poll found 59% saw the speech as “very positive” and another 17% rated it somewhat positive. Only about 23% of CNN’s viewers, which normally one would judge to be mostly opposed to the President, had a negative view of the address. Still, there is a distinctly partisan subtext to these poll results. The CBS poll found that while 97% of Republican viewers and 80% of independents had a positive view of the speech, only 30% of Democratic viewers saw it as positive. Still, in the days after the SOTU, Trump’s approval rose to 50% in the Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll, and overall his ratings stand as the highest of any President at this point in his presidency since Ronald Reagan.

All that said, if Daniel Webster confronted me at this moment and asked the question Benét attributes to him, I’m afraid that I’d fail his test. After listening to Trump and observing the reaction by the Democrats in attendance to most of what he had to say and looking toward the future, I’m not very optimistic about the actual state of the Union, and whither it is headed. This isn’t a new development for me, but, if anything, the SOTU address just deepened my less-than-optimistic view of things.

Without getting lost in the weeds of what numbers were completely correct and which ones were fudged a bit – there is evidence the President did fudge some of his figures, though my recollection is that this isn’t the first president to do so, and in terms of painting the big picture they more or less accurately did – there was plenty of positive news reported in the speech. And much of that news would, one would think, please all Americans, regardless of party leaning or affiliation. This fit with the predictions made in advance of the address, that the President would attempt to bridge partisan gaps and reach out to the nation.

Of course, judging by the reaction on the Dem side of the aisle, the partisan gap not only wasn’t bridged, few were willing to even give him credit for any of the progress the nation has made in the past two years. Last year I wrote about Democratic reaction during the SOTU in my piece Haters Are Gonna Hate. The title of that piece sums up pretty well the attitude on that side of the aisle, an assessment that hasn’t been moderated by words and actions by the Dems in the intervening year. And it wasn’t much better during this year’s SOTU.

Of course, in the November mid-terms the Dems picked up enough seats in the House to gain control of that chamber. And many of the newly elected Dems are women. They made their presence known by all wearing white to the SOTU. Joining them was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — who, if you weren’t marooned on an ice flow in the Bering Sea last month, you know caused a postponement in the SOTU during the government shutdown — sitting to the rear of the President.

I confess that when Pelosi came into the chamber, my reaction was, “She’s wearing white after Labor Day?” Something one is not supposed to do. But then as all the other Democratic women filtered in also dressed in white, I realized this was done to make a statement. Apparently it was meant to honor the suffragist women who worked to secure the right of women to vote in the early part of the last century, who also wore white, but at the same time it created a very strong visual effect as television cameras scanned the audience. It could have been a positive effect, but I think much of that potential was squandered as the speech went on.

Early in his address Trump discussed how the economy had improved since he was elected, underscored by historically low unemployment rates for African-Americans, Hispanics, the handicapped, and women. More Americans are employed today than ever before in our history, he said, and even manufacturing jobs – written off by the previous administration – were coming back in significant numbers. One would think any American, even Democrats, could applaud all this. But no, the Dems sat on their hands, all the more visible amid that sea of white. This would appear mystifying, unless you recognize that this is a party that depends on a permanent underclass for its very existence. The numbers contradict Democratic claims that President Trump doesn’t care about blacks, Hispanics, women, or just about anyone else, just as they represent huge positive improvements over the numbers of the previous Obama administration. But the Dems wouldn’t give Trump credit for any of that.

Trump, following the lead of preceding presidents, had a cohort of honored guests present in the gallery, and he and his staff did a masterful job of selecting them: Veterans who had helped bring about the Allied victory in World War II; a Holocaust survivor who, as a child, was en route to extermination at Dachau when American troops liberated the death train he and his family were on; the father of a sailor killed in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole; a police officer seriously wounded during a gunman’s attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue in October; a 10-year-old girl who raised funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and then won her own battle against a brain tumor; three generations of a family who lost parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to a criminal illegal alien; an ICE agent who investigated and charged cases of sex trafficking and abuse among illegal aliens crossing the southern border. Even Buzz Aldrin, second man to set foot on the moon (and with whom I had opportunity to pal around with briefly back when I covered the space program), was in attendance.

It would have been pretty scandalous if the Democrats didn’t stand to applaud these guests. But there were times those in that sea of white appeared to not know how to react. They’d look at each other trying to see what others were doing. Should they stand? Should they sit? Should they applaud, or maintain silence? There sure weren’t many signs of individual initiative. And at times Speaker Pelosi gave hand signals to them, mostly indicating that they should cool their more negative responses.

At one point, later in the speech, Trump said, “No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the newly created jobs last year.” Now this was about the strong economy and how it has benefited women, but the women-in-white took it as a queue to congratulate themselves. They jumped up and started cheering and high-fiving one another, as if the President was talking about them. Clearly taken by surprise, Trump, smiling, ad-libbed, “You weren’t supposed to do that.”

As Trump went on, noting that all Americans could be proud that we have more women in the work force than ever before, the Dem women continued to congratulate themselves as if they had anything to do with it. Trump again paused, and then added, “Don’t sit yet, you’re going to like this.” He then went on to his biggest applause line of the night: “And exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before.” That line even brought Speaker Pelosi to her feet, and the chamber, beginning with the women-in-white, burst into a chant of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” It was the second one of the night, the first one breaking out earlier on the GOP side, and the President clearly wasn’t expecting it. He looked around, and then said, “That’s great. Congratulations.”

But the show of enthusiasm was brief. Just as things calmed down, Trump went on to decry the late-term abortion bills recently passed in New York and considered in Virginia, and described how these would permit what amounts to infanticide. And not one of the women-in-white was willing to show any emotion about this. What struck me was how anyone, especially a woman, would not be troubled by killing babies, as Trump put it. But the only thing the women-in-white seemed troubled by was that it was even mentioned.

As the cameras panned around the room, the looks on some Democratic faces showed nothing other than cynicism. Throughout the speech, whenever the camera focused on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, slumped down in his seat and smirking smugly, the only word that came to mind was “smarmy.” I had a similar response when the cameras panned to California Senator Kamala Harris, or Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono. One exception was West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who seemed about the only Democrat willing to applaud for many of the positive things the President reported. It seemed to me that Manchin is in the wrong party, which probably also has occurred to the majority of West Virginia voters who re-elected him.

Which brings me to the crux of my concern for the state of the actual Union. In general, I can’t get too worked up over any particular politician. In theory, that’s what elections are for, and voters can vote out, or not vote in, bad apples. But it is exactly that, or they, the voters, that gets me worked up and very, very worried. Who are these voters that put people like Schumer, Harris, Hirono, and Pelosi into office? What would besiege someone to vote for the likes of an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or a Maxine Waters or a Richard Blumenthal?

What the Democratic Party and many of its so-called rising stars have learned is that the promise of free stuff wins votes. Free healthcare for all. Free education for all. Free income for all. Free, free, free. As a marketing professional, I know that the word “free” is one of the most powerful motivating words. It sells products. It generates responses. And it wins votes. The only problem is, when it comes to things government does, nothing is free. Sooner or later it all has to be paid for by someone, that someone being those who pay taxes. Which, on some level or other, is most of us. But then, there comes the call, by pols like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to soak the rich (or, as Warren would do it, confiscate their wealth, the Constitution be damned). Not that even such schemes would be able to fund all the “free” stuff being promised. Not even close.

The lack of economic sense boggles the mind. And there is nothing more boggling than the “Green New Deal” resolution rolled out by the Dems a couple days after the SOTU. This piece of vote-bait was notably touted by Ocasio-Cortez, who has the economic sense of an otter (with no insult intended to otters, which are one of my favorite animals, and even otters have the sense not to get involved with things about which they don’t have a clue). This thing is so ludicrous that the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel, who tweeted that she laughed so hard she nearly cried, said that “if a bunch of GOPers plotted to forge a fake Democratic bill showing how bonkers the party is, they could not have done a better job.”

That’s all well and good, and those among us who can see reality through the fog of fantasy, if not fraud, are likely to reject these political hucksters. But let’s not forget for even an instant that the majority of voters, as slim as that majority was, would have put Hillary Clinton in office in 2016, and it was only the Constitutional dictates of the Electoral College that prevented that. As we look around the country, we see how the tide is slowly turning. States that used to be solidly red are turning purple, even blue. And many of those Democrats elected are on the far left of the party, with enticements of free stuff flying. Despite the President’s promise in the SOTU that America would never become a socialist country, that’s a promise many on the Dem side are willing to challenge. Even in my own state, Florida, key gubernatorial and senatorial races very narrowly went to Republicans, despite a strong economy. The self-avowedly socialist Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, now facing state ethics charges, was defeated by just 32,463 votes out of more than 8.2 million cast, a mere .4% of the vote. And very small numbers of primary voters were able to get Ocasio-Cortez elected in New York, voting out a well established, but less radical, Democratic incumbent.

Meanwhile, the media, which should be a mainstay of an informed electorate but isn’t, maintains a steady anti-Trump drumbeat, with 92% of the coverage of his presidency being negative, according to an extensive study by the Media Research Institute. And they almost completely ignore – like the Dems at the SOTU – his major accomplishment, the soaring economy. After all, if you want to make people feel like victims, and you want to make them believe that you have the solutions, no matter that those solutions make no sense on the reality plane, and you have the media on your side, you have a pretty good chance of winning over voters. Just as in ancient Rome, bread and circuses play well with the populace.

That’s the formula I see the Dems applying. And, neighbor, put it all together, and that’s why I’m not very optimistic for the state of the Union.

 

Justice and Other Oxymorons

Justice and Other Oxymorons

On Monday, the editors at Merriam-Webster, the acknowledged delineator of American English, named “justice” as its Word of the Year for 2018. The company cited a 74% increase in look-ups of the word over 2017, and said it was one of the most consulted words throughout 2018.

“The concept of justice was at the center of many of our national debates in the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice,” Merriam-Webster said in explaining its choice, going on to add, “In any conversation about these topics, the question of just what exactly we mean when we use the term justice is relevant, and part of the discussion.”

 Indeed, it is. As well as our interpretation, the connotation, not just the denotation, we put on the word. And how it relates to our belief systems, both in the instant and in the bigger scheme of things. And how it works, or doesn’t, in actual practice.

Ironically, I got the news of this selection on the car radio on my way back from St. Pete, where I had my latest encounter for what passes for “justice” in contemporary America. I had filed a motion to hold the miscreant who had destroyed one of my boats, in clear violation of an agreement he had entered into with me and over which the court retains jurisdiction, in contempt. What I told the judge – this was before learning it was Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year – that I was seeking one thing, summed up in a single word, and that word was “justice.” I was boiling things down to their most basic objective, and that word expresses it.

Well, I got some reasoned explanations from the judge, and some references to precedence in prior court decisions on the kind if issue I was raising, and agreement that I had suffered significant losses at this guy’s hands. And what I came away with was . . . wait for it, wait for it    . . . not justice. Anything but. Even, in an oblique way, the judge agreed I wasn’t going to get justice, regardless what I did or the other party did. Sure, I could continue to pursue the matter, at whatever cost and effort it takes, but it wasn’t going to make any difference in the end, as far as the judge was concerned. I was, in the slang acronym that applies in this case, SOL.

So you can understand why the radio report on M-W’s Word of the Year got my attention. It wasn’t the only thing on my mind driving across Tampa Bay on the Howard Frankland Bridge on the way back when I heard it, given the ongoing and persistent reminders these days of the injustice inherent in our system and those entrusted with implementing it. But it certainly brought the reality of that injustice home once more. In truth, I didn’t have much expectation going into the hearing that I was going to get the justice I sought. This wasn’t my first encounter with the American system of “justice,” including several tours through so-called “family court,” which is an oxymoron if there ever was one, so I was conditioned by experience to know how these things usually go. And in that sense, I wasn’t disappointed.

This is not meant cynically – you can draw your own conclusion whether cynicism is justified or not –but what I’ve come to expect is that wrong-doers are more likely than not to be rewarded for their misdeeds, or at best not penalized for them. And the wronged party is, if not outrightly punished – which experience and observation has shown me happens in a significant percentage of cases – left as I was in this case, SOL.

If this was just a personal issue it would be bad enough. But today we were witnessing an American hero, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, facing sentencing (later deferred) for lying to the FBI. Normally one might assume that, as the judge in that case said this morning, this is a serious offense. But put in the context of how the FBI conducted itself in this and related matters, how the FBI, in dealing with Flynn, thoroughly abrogated the standards it imposes on other law-enforcement agencies and, most telling of all, the total inconsistency evident in how individuals who committed much more serious violations of law and national security, Hillary Clinton and many others associated with her, were allowed to skate by, one has to wonder, where is the justice? Looking at the big picture, if you conclude that the American people is SOL if it expects justice, you’d certainly be justified.

I’ve said before that we have a dual system of justice and nothing I’ve seen since then dissuades me from that view. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has spent millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars chasing after process crimes, like that which Flynn has admitted committing, offenses unrelated to his primary mission, which is finding collusion between the Russians and the President – which, to date, not a single piece of evidence has been shown to exist – futile indictments of Russian oligarchs, and other chimeras. Meanwhile, the most obvious offenses committed by Clinton, which include destroying evidence of her crimes and lying to the FBI, go untouched and unprosecuted.

Then there are the 25 FBI agents in the past year who have been fired, demoted, or resigned for their expressions of bias against President Trump and their unprofessional behavior. Have there been any prosecutions of any of them? Not a one. This includes former agent Peter Strzok, who took part in the questioning of Flynn that later led to the charge of lying to the FBI, even after other agents involved in the interview said they thought Flynn had not lied. It was Strzok, you might remember, who changed the wording of former FBI Director James Comey’s statement to exonerate Hillary Clinton, and then later told Congress, under oath, he didn’t remember doing it. Now Strzok was no low-level flunky. He was head of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section and second in command of the agency’s Counterintelligence Division, and he was involved in every investigation that could help Clinton or hurt Trump. And he’s the same agent who wrote to his paramour at the agency, FBI Attorney Lisa Page, answering her alarmed question whether Trump could become president by saying, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” Several other Strzok emails to Page, reported in the Department of Justice’s inspector general report on him, reinforce the same anti-Trump bias. Can there be any question that the dichotomous treatment of Clinton and of Flynn, not to mention the President himself, does not have political motivation behind it? Political motivation within the country’s top law-enforcement agency? And you wonder whether there is not a dual system of justice?

Not to let Comey off the hook, the former FBI head, who increasingly looks like an arrogant buffoon, and a dishonest one at that, admitted the FBI would never have gotten away with what it did with a more “competent” administration. Comey had some other profound things to say after meeting with Congressional investigators behind closed doors on Friday. He said he didn’t learn anything new about the investigation into Trump from the session. Well, Mr. Comey, the point of questioning a witness is not for the witness to learn something new, but for the questioners to do so. Apparently the Congressional investigators didn’t learn much from Comey, either, after he told them an astounding 245 times during the session that he didn’t remember, didn’t know, or didn’t recall, in response to questions put to him. Incompetent or a liar? Take your pick. Great choice. But no prosecution of Comey for the outrageous illegal acts he’s admitted to in earlier sworn testimony to Congress and has even written and bragged openly about since. Equal justice? Where?

I told you in an earlier posting I wasn’t going to forget about these things, so consider this an installment on keeping that promise.

Getting back to my own case, which pales in comparison to these much larger miscarriages – abortions is more like it – of justice, the extent to which justice eluded me in court also applies to law enforcement as well. Before filing the contempt motion that was the subject of Monday’s hearing, I tried repeatedly to get the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department to take action against the “Defendant,” and noted how he had violated at least four criminal statutes, which I cited by number and text. Well, speak about wasted effort. One level of the chain of command after another, starting with the deputy who witnessed the damage done and spontaneously termed it “disgusting,” and escalating, insisted it was a civil, not criminal, matter. They even insisted that the State’s Attorney’s office said it was a civil, not criminal matter. This the same State’s Attorney who refused to prosecute a man who allowed his young son, 23-month-old Lawson Whitaker, to die in a hot car, despite clear signs, and even admission by the father, that he was on drugs at the time. And this is the same Sheriff’s Department that failed to test the father for drugs, despite those same clear signs and admission. Pinellas County Prosecutor Bernie McCabe shamelessly went on TV and said he decided not to prosecute the father since he had “suffered enough” by losing his son. He suffered enough? Really? What about little Lawson? How much did he suffer, locked in his car seat in a sweltering car, while he slowly died? At 5 p.m. on the early September Florida day he perished, his body temperature was reported to be 108F. This is the state of “justice” in this country.

I am reminded of something my friend Ed Sanders said back in the 1970s. I knew Sanders when I lived in Woodstock, N.Y., and we worked on some investigations together. If you don’t know who Ed Sanders is, he describes himself as a poet-investigator, and among other claims to fame he is a founding member of the rock band The Fugs. He also wrote the book The Family, which laid out the events that led up to the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson Family, and Sanders told me he once shared a sleeping bag with Charlie Manson out in the California desert while researching the book. This is what Sanders said to me then about the police, and I think seldom in my life have I heard truer words, which to this day I frequently quote:

“Big crime, big problem. Little crime, little problem. No crime, no problem.”

That’s how it was then, and that’s how it is now. Mostly you’ve got to try to get the police to do anything to you – much less, for you – unless somehow you just haplessly fall into their clutches, often for some insignificant offense that hurts no one. I’m not specifically anti-police, but they’re just one more element of this unjust justice system we have.

Yesterday I was reminded of something else out of the past. I presented the judge with the stack of photos of the damage the “Defendant” had done to my boat and what he stole, since the exhibits as filed online may not have been very clear. He kind of flipped through a few of them as he was telling me I was SOL. Later, I could only think of one thing, the lines from Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 masterpiece, Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, which go:

We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. Man came in said, “All rise.” We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog and then at twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, ‘ cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American Blind Justice, and there wasn’t nothing he could do about it, and the judge wasn’t going to look at the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. And we was fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow, but thats not what I came to tell you about.

Well, coincidentally – I swear it’s true – I had submitted exactly 27 photos of the damage and also the actual stolen air conditioner, and I absolutely wasn’t thinking of Alice’s Restaurant when I did. The judge didn’t have a seeing-eye dog, but he wasn’t going to look at the 27 photos, with or without circles and arrows or a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was. And in the end, I was SOL.

I think Oxford Dictionaries’ choice for Word of the Year is perhaps telling: “Toxic.” And Dictionary.com’s selection says what we get: “Misinformation.” As for “justice,” reverting to Meriam-Webster, an oxymoron – which could be Word of the Year any year — is, “broadlysomething (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.”

Yup, “justice,” an oxymoron, for sure, as it exists in America today.

The Pretense Is Over

The Pretense Is Over

We had an election this week but it would be hard to recognize that. Whether in the media or in the streets, in the halls of Congress or even in the counting rooms of electoral officials, one side seems unable to swallow the results of the voting, which didn’t turn out as it had hoped and been promised. And now, in the aftermath, the pretense of civility, as thin as it might have been, has been cast aside and the true colors of the left are out in the open for all to see.

The left had been expecting a blue wave, a massive Democratic renunciation of the current administration and all that it stands for, and instead the voters returned what, at best, might be termed a blue ripple. While the Dems took control of the House of Representatives – which the party out of the White House does more often than not in off-year elections – it was by a much thinner margin than they had been expecting. Meanwhile, the Republicans deepened their control of the Senate, something that historically has happened only a handful of times in off-year elections, and which in real political terms is far more significant than control of the House.

Even more galling to the Dems was that Republican candidates who had embraced and been embraced by the President did better than the ones who didn’t, to the point where voters cast out such Democratic stalwarts as Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Joe Donnelly in Indiana in favor of Trump-backed candidates. While it wasn’t a big surprise that Heidi Heitkamp, who had angered North Dakota voters by her vote against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, was soundly defeated – just as fellow Democrat Joe Manchin, who had voted in favor of Kavanaugh, was returned to the Senate in West Virginia – the loss of Missouri and Indiana came as a bigger shock.

Apparently, though, it wasn’t enough to simply respect the will of the people and lick one’s wounds and wait for the next election year. Instead, Dems are resorting to some of their old, tried-and-true ways, in places as diverse as Florida, Arizona, and Georgia. The idea, unspoken but obvious by the tactics being employed, is if you can’t win an election you do your best to steal it. We’ll get to that a little later in this piece, but there are more egregious assaults on our democracy under way at present I think need to be discussed first.

Antifa, that group of anarchists that bills itself as anti-fascist but actually embodies and practices fascist tactics, has escalated its violent and confrontational actions to target commentators and journalists it doesn’t approve of. On Wednesday night, an Antifa mob descended on the Washington home of Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. They threatened Carlson and his wife – fortunately their four children were not in the house at the time – vandalized their home and car, blocked off streets, and yelled about pipe bombs.

Tucker Carlson, we will fight. We know where you sleep at night!” the mob chanted.

The group’s Twitter feed – which Twitter has yet to take down – carries the same threat in a sticky post, and the group used a practice known as “doxxing” to publish the addresses of conservative commentators Carlson, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and others. Meanwhile, left-wing commentators refuse to concede that the attack on Carlson’s home was staged by a “mob,” calling it instead a “protest.” Some protest. Meanwhile, this kind of threatening behavior has become a commonplace as so-called “protesters” drive public figures from restaurants and other public places, egged on by no less than members of Congress, most notably California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Building on the neo-fascist theme, if you weren’t locked in a bank vault all day today, you heard the phrase, “This was a glass-breaking moment,” or some version thereof, repeated over and over, ad nauseum, by the parrots of the mainstream media, as well as by some politicians. Ostensibly what they were referring to was the President’s decision to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General with Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, who will be filling the post on an acting basis. Never mind that the ones using this expression are the same people who criticized Sessions and his initial appointment as AG. Apparently consistency has nothing to do with it when politics are concerned (I already discussed the whole issue of hypocrisy among the Dems, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it).

The real issue, though, isn’t consistency or its lack. The real issue concerns the utterly and irretrievably disgusting use of that phrase, “glass-breaking moment,” on the exact 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht – Crystal Night or, as it is otherwise known, the Night of Broken Glass, one of the darkest times in all of recorded human history. It was the night of November 9-10, 1938, when German paramilitary forces and civilians launched a massive pogrom against Jews in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. The exact number killed is not known, though it is estimated in the hundreds, and 267 synagogues were destroyed along with 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses that were damaged or destroyed. Additionally, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht, that Night of Broken Glass, is marked as the beginning of the Holocaust. And it is to this monumental atrocity that these despicable excuses for human beings compare the firing of Jeff Sessions. Given the lockstep lack of originality among most in the media, one has to assume that this choice of phrase was carefully chosen on this specific day. The inescapable question is, now, who are the real anti-Semites?

And just when we thought it was impossible to stoop any lower, Senator Richard Blumenthal, that notorious liar from Connecticut, himself said that this was a glass-breaking moment, this action that is every bit the right of any President, to change members of his cabinet. Let’s not for even the scintilla of a second forget that Blumenthal is Jewish, and Blumenthal’s father fled Nazi Germany for the United States when he was 17 to protect his very life from the evil that had taken over Germany. And now his son was reducing all that to a glib political sound bite. Again, do we have to ask who the real anti-Semites are?

It’s hard to swallow my disgust over all this, but I will hold it down so we can get back to the electoral shenanigans I mentioned higher up in the piece. I saved these for last since, as bad as they are, I think the other things mentioned are even more serious and, as newer developments, pose an even bigger threat to our democratic institutions and way of life. Not that the integrity of our elections isn’t important, since it is, but the threat to electoral integrity is part of our history, considering how many dead Democrats have come out of their graves to vote over the years in various parts of the realm.

Anyway, in my own state of Florida, Congressman Ron DeSantis came out on top Tuesday over his radical opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, in what can only be described as a squeaker of a vote tally in the governor’s race, with less than 1 percent separating them. And Governor Rick Scott defeated long-time Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson by an even more narrow margin in the senatorial contest, within the half a percent needed to trigger a machine recount in the Sunshine State. While Scott declared victory late on election night, even without Nelson’s concession, Gillum later actually conceded to DeSantis. Well, that was until those trusty stalwarts of Democratic electoral shenanigans, the Broward and Palm Beach county elections supervisors, took over. And their actions have thrown both key races into turmoil.

Most people in the country above the age of 21 remember the hanging-chad controversy of Palm Beach County that held up results of the 2000 presidential election for weeks. While those events predated the current elections supervisor, Susan Bucher, Bucher seems to be prepared to continue the tradition. And not to be outdone, Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes has a long history of issues going back through her 14 years in the position. Delayed counts, misplaced and missent ballots, and misprinted and destroyed ballots have been chronic issues and have led to several law suits filed against her over the years.

The most recent law suit, filed by Scott against Snipes since Tuesday’s election, has in just the past couple of hours gone against Snipes. Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips found in Scott’s favor, saying in her ruling, “This court finds once again Broward County is under the microscope and being viewed by the entire nation. Hearing argument, this court finds that there has been a violation of the Florida Constitution, the Florida statute public records act and pursuant to the applicable case law.”

The question is whether the problems afflicting the count in Broward and Palm Beach are the result of corruption or incompetence. As the other Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, noted, the kindest judgment would be to say they are the result of incompetence. But after years of repetitive issues, that judgment might be far more kind than is justified. Even incompetents can show some sign of a learning curve.

Meanwhile, counting issues persist in the U.S. senatorial contest in Arizona between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. You might recall that Sinema was telling people it was okay to join the Taliban while McSally was fighting combat missions over, among other places, Afghanistan, and also successfully suing the Defense Department over its policy requiring U.S. servicewomen while stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the abaya when off-duty. In any case, three days after the polls closed Tuesday, some 600,000 ballots remain to be counted, mainly in Maricopa and Pima counties, home of Phoenix and Tuscon, respectively, both Democratic strongholds. And ballots continue to turn up in unlikely places. How can this be, one asks? Incompetence, or corruption? There is that great choice again.

In yet another hotly contested race, the Georgia governor’s race — you will remember this as the race that Oprah weighed in on, in support of Democrat Stacy Abrams — votes continue to be counted, too (are we seeing a repetitive common thread here?), and those pesky missing votes continue to show up. So far Republican Brian Kemp holds a narrow lead over Abrams, and if Kemp’s tally stays above 50% he will avoid a run-off election as called for by Georgia law. But days after polls closed, the counting (and vote finding) goes on. And now CNN has come out with a piece by Van Jones (now there‘s an impartial observer) urging Abrams not to let Kemp steal the election. So much for journalistic balance. But that’s a whole other subject.

We keep hearing from the Dems how they want every vote to count, but it seems the votes they want to count are those favoring their candidates. Disenfranchisement through extralegal and illegal means doesn’t seem to matter to them, except when its their candidates affected. As Nelson’s chosen attorney, Marc Elias – the attorney who retained Fusion GPS on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign to produce the infamous and largely bogus “dossier” that had Trump peeing on a bed in Moscow – said, he didn’t come to Florida for a recount but rather to see Nelson elected.

With all this going on, one has to ask who needs Russians to meddle in our elections when Americans are doing a perfectly respectable job of mucking things up on their own?

I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but all this continues to leave me deeply troubled, and things stay on course in a very negative direction. Negative, and scary.

Historical Footnote and Disclaimer: I know Bill Nelson personally from when I was a reporter in Brevard County, Fla., in the 1980s and he was a congressman, and I can’t imagine how anyone in their right mind could vote for this guy. There, I said it.

 

Crazies to the Left of Me, Whackos to the Right, Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle

Crazies to the Left of Me, Whackos to the Right, Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle

Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you

                                                                                          — Stuck In the Middle With You, Stealers Wheel

Do you increasingly get the feeling that this country has gone mad? I mean, really mad? I’ll come right out and say it: I do.

Just look at the events of the last week or so. First we have some whacko in Miami sending out pipe bombs all over the country. And then, with those events still occupying the news, we get some other crazy who goes into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and kills 11 people at a baby-naming ceremony. Either of these events would be deplorable enough on its own and one would think all Americans of right mind would stand together to reject them. But no, not in the current frenetic environment, where everything it seems has to have a political interpretation put on it.

While the pipe-bomb thing was going on every shade of political spin was put on it. The Left said it was Trump’s fault, while the Right hypothesized that it might be some Democrat trying to discredit the Republicans in advance of the mid-term elections. And then, in the aftermath of the synagogue shooting, once more the Left said it was all Trump’s fault while Trump condemned the violence in the strongest terms and somewhere in the clamor calmer minds learned that the killer couldn’t stand Trump and was just some garden-variety loner anti-Semite.

These dichotomous reactions, disturbingly, are becoming pretty reliably predictable. To the Left, of course, everything bad that happens, without exception, is Trump’s fault. This includes some misguided whacko sending out pipe bombs, a crazed anti-Semitic mass murderer targeting innocent people, category 4 hurricanes, rising sea levels, Russians showing up in jack boots at U.S. polling places, and – if it ever comes to pass – Martians landing in New Jersey. It’s not a misnomer when this is called Trump Derangement Syndrome. And on the Right all blame rests with the Democrats and that misleadingly labeled sub-set, the Progressives, whom they say are the real instigators of violence in the country.

Amid this national insanity I somehow, and somewhat unexpectedly, find myself in what arguably remains identifiable as the Middle. I guess I can say it’s the Middle if I find myself condemning violence of any ilk, whether advocated or carried out by anyone of any political persuasion. I guess I can say it’s the Middle if I keep troubling myself with seeking out the facts and not relying on the blather that increasingly marks what one gets told in the mass media. And I guess I can say it’s the Middle if I still value discourse and reasoned debate and don’t go willy-nilly cutting people off because I disagree with them.

Actually, I think I’ve inherited this Middle because all the other shades of middleness receded around it. Mostly this has been the Left moving far away, indeed, in that direction. And the Right, while not moving all that much, taking up something of a fortress position in its direction to defend against the war parties of the Left. While before one could say one was in the mainstream to be in the Middle, lately it feels pretty darned lonely here on this shrinking island.

The divisions brought out by the two big news events of the last week didn’t end with just hurling accusations and inuendo back and forth. No, they go far beyond that. And – I have to say it – mostly the more extreme divisiveness is originating on the Left. For instance, since when has it become acceptable to spurn the President of the United States and shout out insults at him? What has happened to the idea that, even if we don’t like the occupant of the office, we respect the office of President? I was no fan of Barrack Obama or his policies, but I can’t imagine that if he invited me to the White House (spoiler alert: He never did) I wouldn’t have gone. Or, if he came to visit some group I was part of, I wouldn’t have welcomed him. That’s called respect for the office of the President. One can even say it’s common courtesy. But all that has gone out the window when White House invitations regularly are now spurned, whether by athletes, performers, or business people.

But wait, it gets worse. In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the President said he was going to visit the scene of the worst act of anti-Semitism in U.S. history. It’s hard to imagine that he would not do this. It’s equally hard to imagine how he would not have been roundly criticized if he didn’t. But then he’s criticized for actually going, spurned by members of the congregation, and greeted by thousands of organized demonstrators loudly hurling insults at him. Is this the madness America has descended into? At least Rabbi Jeffrey Meyers, whose congregation it was that was attacked, in the end did the right thing and met with the President and First Lady.

“I welcome him as an American. He is the president,” Myers told the Washington Post before the visit. “I chose to take the polite and respectful path.”

Exactly.

Myers had some other words of wisdom to offer. Speaking to his congregation after the killings, he said, “Words of hate are unwelcome in Pittsburgh. It starts with everyone in this room, and I want to address for a moment some of our political leaders who are here. Ladies and gentlemen, it has to start with you as our leaders. Stop the words of hate. My mother always taught me, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing.’ If it comes from you Americans will listen.”

Well, I don’t know how much Americans are listening. Or maybe they are, as the rhetoric of our so-called leaders becomes more and more vitriolic and inciting. There is little talk of unity, of mending fences, of coming together first and foremost as Americans. Instead, every trait, both mutable and immutable, seems to have become a point of division. It goes beyond the political divisions, and encompasses race, sex, religion, class, income, even age, with one group pitted against another, each individual set against every other individual. This divisiveness didn’t start in the age of Trump, but it certainly has not abated, either.

It seems not that long ago when we could be classified as a net-gain society. A gain made by some could be seen as a gain by all. When did we become a net-loss society, when a gain by some becomes a loss to everyone else? It feels like that’s where we are now, and have been for much of this century. It’s more than sad. It marks a fundamental change in our previously optimistic society. And it will be hard to turn it around.

Is this really where we want to be? Is this as good as it gets and it’s all downhill from here?

Well, there’s still some room in the Middle, and I’m going to do my best to cling to this shrinking island and hope the crazies and whackos don’t overwhelm it. Are there any other resistors and residents of the Middle out there? If so, please make your presence known.

Why It’s Become Impossible to Vote for Democrats

Why It’s Become Impossible to Vote for Democrats

I consider myself an independent. To my recollection, I have never registered with any party in the half century in which I have been voting. For many years I felt my journalistic ethics prevented me from choosing one party over another. More recently, my frustrations with the various parties and the state of the American political system in general have continued to make it difficult to cast my lot with any one party.

Over the years I have voted for what I felt was the better candidate. In my younger years that usually, but by no means always, translated to the Democratic candidate. In more recent years, as my views evolved and the Democratic Party seemed to stray further and further from my values, my choices more commonly translated to voting for the Republican candidate. And in between and occasionally, despairing of both major parties, I have voted for the Libertarian candidate, who often has represented my views best even knowing there was virtually no chance that candidate would be elected.

Now, while I still won’t identify as a Republican, after Thursday’s travesty in the Senate Judiciary Committee and seeing the despicable, dishonest, and blatantly political behavior of the 10 Democratic senators on the committee, I believe it has become impossible for me to vote for any Democratic candidate, in any race, in any locale, ever. I don’t like using words like “evil” when it comes to political behavior, but what I witnessed on the tube during the grilling of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by the Democratic senators I feel qualifies as just that – evil. What’s more, I cannot see how any right-thinking, fair person of good will could ever support or vote for one of those people or support a party that would orchestrate – as was absolutely clear was the case – such a display of utter mindless political barbarity. Certainly not me. As of Thursday afternoon, I’m out.

A big part of my antipathy stems from my feelings on hypocrisy. I’ve never been able to stomach hypocrisy, regardless the party or source from which it stemmed. But it was hard to hold down my lunch observing the unbridled hypocrisy on display on the Democratic side of the committee dais.

Here is how Merriam-Webster defines hypocrisy:

a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not : behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel

especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion ”

Let’s run down the list of the most egregious cases of hypocrisy on display Thursday:

  • Dianne Feinstein, Senator from California, Ranking Member of the Minority. Feinstein received the letter from accuser Christine Blasey Ford in July and sat on in for two months. She did not mention it to the committee or committee chairman, she did not mention it to Judge Kavanaugh in her meeting with him, she did not request an FBI or any other kind of investigation of it, and she did not mention it at any point during the intensive confirmation hearings Judge Kavanaugh went through. Instead, she waited until after the process was completed and the appointment was set to go to a vote, and then suddenly she produced the letter, demanded an FBI investigation, and claimed she hadn’t gone public with it to protect Ms. Blasey Ford’s privacy (this is a whole other can of worms, but we’ll get to that a bit later in this posting). The Senate should censure Feinstein for the outrageous way she handled the whole matter.
  • Richard Blumenthal, Senator from Connecticut. Watching Blumenthal challenging Kavanaugh was, to put it politely, revolting. This fraud repeatedly lied about his military record during the Vietnam War, referring on several times during his electoral campaign to his service in Vietnam and what it was like coming back home from the war. The only problem with that was that Blumenthal never served in Vietnam. After receiving five draft deferments, and with conscription closing in on him, he enlisted in the Marine Reserve, meaning he was safe and sound in the U.S. and would never see combat, nor anything else, in Vietnam. Without faulting him for staying out of a war many people, including this author, sought to steer clear of, the issue is with how he deliberately lied and misconstrued his military service. His lies (which he explained by saying he had “misspoken”) were revealed by The New York Times, which noted that, while he had uttered them so many times they had become part of the news record in Connecticut, “It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes.” Blumenthal at the time was the attorney general of the Nutmeg State, which would seem to carry a high bar for integrity. Blumenthal clearly lacked, and lacks, that integrity. Regardless, we can lay the blame for sending this fraud to the Senate on the voters of Connecticut, who elected him despite the falsehoods he plied on them. As is said, we get the government we deserve. Or, in this case, even less.
  • Mazie Hirono, Senator from Hawaii. This is another senator that makes one wonder how the voters of her state could ever send such a low figure to the Senate. Hirono showed her sexism last week with her own words, which I hope are henceforth always tied to her: “Guess who’s perpetuating all of these kind of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up.” That was bad enough, but it wasn’t the only thing Hirono said or did that underscores Hirono’s hypocrisy. She actually sent out a fundraising email 30 minutes into Blasey Ford’s testimony before the committee, seeking to garner donations for her political campaign off the back of someone she believed suffered sexual assault. When the faux pas was realized, Hirono’s crack team sent out a second email apologizing for the first one, saying any funds raised would be donated to “organizations helping survivors of sexual assault.”
  • Dick Durbin, Senator from Illinois. Now what can we say about “Dirty Dick,” a serial liar, or the voters who keep sending him back to the Senate? Dick Durbin is going to question someone’s veracity? Really? One can’t make these things up.
  • Kamala Harris, Senator from California. Harris distinguishes herself by browbeating and rudely speaking over white men giving testimony. She did this last year with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then Homeland Security Secretary and later the President’s Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, and NSA Director Mike Rogers, and she did it again Thursday with Brett Kavanaugh. Harris, who has presidential aspirations, is known for protecting prosecutorial misconduct when she was California Attorney General, and while she is quick to criticize sexual harassment, she got her start and some cushy jobs as the 29-year-old mistress of Willie Brown, the married 60-year-old mayor of San Francisco who was then overseeing what is viewed as one of that city’s most corrupt administrations. There is so much corrupt and hypocritical about Harris one could write an entire piece, but we’ll let it go at this for now. As for the voters who sent Harris to Washington, she has said California is the future of the country. Let’s hope not.

While all the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, on the committee showed the highest respect for Ms. Blasey Ford – as well they should have – once it was Judge Kavanaugh’s turn to be heard, the Democrats turned into a pack of jackals, attacking him, challenging his veracity, asking him the most banal and minute questions about when he was a high school student, and demanding repeatedly that he call for an FBI investigation of himself and the allegations. Kavanaugh for his part called the Democrats’ actions for what they were, a “calculated and coordinated political hit.”

The irony of the Democrats’ clearly orchestrated campaign meant that any chance of a fair hearing for either Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh was lost. Even if one was persuaded to believe Blasey Ford, it was impossible to take her testimony out of the context of the Dems intent to derail Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. And that same intent to derail his candidacy meant there was no fair chance given to Kavanaugh or his rebuttal of the accusations made against him, and he was forced into the impossible position of having to prove a negative. I’m inclined to think raising his voice and crying while making his statement, and later his growing belligerence at the Dems’ questions, didn’t enhance Kavanaugh’s position, but neither did it give us any real insights into the veracity or lack thereof in his statements.

Repeatedly we heard how Blasey Ford had made a compelling and credible presentation, but I’m sorry, I heard nothing of substance from her that we didn’t already know. She still was unable to state exactly where this alleged attack took place, how she got to or from the house in question (which the Arizona prosecutor, Andrea Mitchell, that the Republican senators relied on to question Blasey Ford and, at least at the outset, Kavanuagh, established was some 7 miles from Blasey Ford’s home), or the names of any other parties who could have corroborated her allegations. I don’t usually like to agree with political commentator Dick Morris, but I have to concur with his assessment of Blasey Ford as a “very damaged woman.” While something at some time somewhere might have happened to her, it was not at all clear that it was what she has accused Brett Kavanaugh of doing. I come back to my contention in my previous posting that we might never know what did, or did not, happen between Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh, and for someone to pretend they do know is absurd.

Perhaps the most contentious and most questionable issue concerns Feinstein’s insistence that she had not shared Blasey Ford’s accusations when she first received them in July because Blasey Ford wanted to maintain her anonymity. Yet Blasey Ford was attempting to share her accusations with the Washington Post, and eventually she shared those and her therapist’s notes with the Post as well. Now let’s say you wanted to preserve your privacy. Wouldn’t the Washington Post be the place you’d go to do that? Blasey Ford also acknowledged that her attorneys, Debra Katz and Michael Bromwich – both, especially Katz, strongly supportive of Democrats and Democratic causes – had been recommended to her by Feinstein’s staffers. While Bromwich said they were working pro bono, during one break Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was caught on video handing a cash-sized envelope to Bromwich, who promptly put it into his jacket pocket. What was in that envelope, we wonder?

Until this week I have not been a huge fan of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. But it was Graham who finally broke the tedium of Mitchell’s questioning of Kavanaugh and spoke out, just as the Democrats had had an opportunity to do, and called out the Democrats’ thinly veiled attempt at destroying Kavanaugh’s nomination, as well as his reputation.

Addressing Kavanaugh, Graham asked, “Are you aware that at 9:23 on the night of July the 9th, the day you were nominated to the Supreme Court by President Trump, Sen. [Chuck] Schumer [Senate Minority Leader] said – 23 minutes after your nomination – ‘I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have and I hope a bipartisan majority will do the same. The stakes are simply too high for anything less.’ Well, if you weren’t aware of it, you are now.”

Then addressing committee Democrats, Graham bellowed, “If you wanted an FBI investigation, you could have come to us. What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020. You said that – not me!”

Speaking again to Kavanaugh, Graham said, “You’ve got nothing to apologize for. When you see [justices] Sotomayor and Kagan, tell them Lindsey said ‘hello,’ ’cause I voted for them. I would never do to them what you’ve [the Democrats] done to this guy. This is the most unethical – sham – since I’ve been in politics. And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn’t have done what you’ve done to this guy.”

Graham went on to say the Democrats had no interest in protecting Blasey Ford, adding “she is as much of a victim as you [Kavanaugh] are.”

And then addressing the bigger issue, Graham said, “This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward, because of this crap. Your high school year book [one of the things the Democrats had repeatedly questioned Kavanaugh about].”

Even Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, often a darling of the liberal media though he is a Republican, unloaded on the politicization of the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh by the Dems.

After all was said in done, on Friday, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican, after initially saying he would support Kavanaugh’s nomination, putting to rest whether the Republicans would have enough votes to secure the nomination, went off to a secret meeting with Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat. And by the time that meeting was over and Flake and Coons took their seats with the committee, Flake announced he would only vote for Kavanaugh if an FBI investigation was conducted. A time limit – maybe up to a week – he said should be set on this investigation so a vote could be held, but in one single stroke Flake handed to the Democrats exactly what they wanted, justifying his decision by saying he was doing it to keep the country from being torn apart.

Well, Sen. Flake, the country is already torn apart, and caving to such a naked political ploy won’t make it any less so. If anything, it will make the divisions deeper and more set. And as for me, the Democrats won’t get another one of my votes. After Thursday’s events, my conscience couldn’t accept giving them any.

Image CNN, AP via theguardian.com