Archive for the 'Politics' Category

A Drop of Hypocrisy

Back in the old days, I used to watch the Today Show a lot.  You will never catch me admitting that I did this because I was a big Deborah Norville fan.  But that’s a story for a different day.

Today’s story is that I remember them having someone from the ACLU on to argue for a museum’s right to display artwork that many people found patently offensive, and just a few days later having someone else from the ACLU on to argue for something – I don’t remember exactly what – that required them to take exactly the opposite position.

It struck me as strange enough that I actually called the Today Show, got a producer on the phone, described what I’d seen and said, “I think it would be really interesting if you got a senior ACLU official on the show and asked them to explain how they could take such diametrically opposed positions only two or three days apart. I’m not anti-ACLU at all, but it seems like there’s at least a drop of hypocrisy in there somewhere.”

The producer agreed it was a good idea.  Alas, it never happened.

But that thought came back to me this morning as I was listening to the news coverage of the Anthem Antics at many of yesterday’s NFL games.

A significant chunk of the American people seems to believe that the First Amendment guarantee of free speech is a wonderful thing as long as the speakers are white and speaking about what they see as “preserving important aspects of American culture,” but that can and should go right out the window when the speakers are black and speaking about preserving something else they see as important – namely the right not to be shot in the back by the police.

Sadly, it goes without saying that the beacon for these conflicting views is the current occupant of the White House, who told us that in August that many of the pro-statue demonstrators in Charlottesville were “good people,” and said last Friday that NFL players who choose to kneel during the anthem are reprobates who should be fired.

Seems like there’s at least a drop of hypocrisy in there, doesn’t it?

Now comes the hard part.  It’s easy to point the finger at the current occupant of the White House because he’s, well, a moron.  But 60 million Americans voted for him.  Once again, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Advertisements

Confronting a Would-Be Tyrant

Years ago, I heard Mel Brooks being interviewed.  He was asked how he, in general but especially as a Jew, justified wrapping The Producers around a faux-musical called Springtime for Hitler.

His answer stuck with me.  As best I recall, he said that one of the best ways to deal with  would-be tyrants is to laugh at them because it just deflates them.

Obviously, he was a little late, as was Charlie Chaplin with The Great Dictator.  But maybe we can learn a lesson.

In that spirit, here’s what’s been going through my head over the past 3 weeks:

I think the Republic is strong enough to survive four years of this.  During that time, the best thing to do may just be to laugh at the news, and then go back to trying to preserve a great nation and build an even better one.

Pass it on.

Still Trumped Up

In the week since my last post, I’ve received a surprising number of emails (by surprising, I mean three) from people saying that while they agree with my assessment of Trump, they just can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary.

The arguments have ranged from “What’s wrong with a protest vote for Gary Johnson?” to “I want to send a message to the Libertarian Party that they could be a legitimate contender if they put up candidates better than Gary Johnson, like maybe Bill Weld” to “I just can’t bring myself to vote for someone who should be in jail.”

Let me check. . .yup, that’s three.

My responses:

  • Protest vote: I get it. In fact, I cast one in 1992.  But that was a year in which neither of the major party candidates was a nut-job who posed an existential threat to the Republic.  When there is a lunatic in the race, and this year there is, the protest vote has to wait.  Job #1 is to make sure the lunatic doesn’t get elected.

 

  • Send a message to the Libertarians:   This is a great idea.  And here’s a way to do it without contributing to the election of a nut-job.  Just copy the following text into a letter: “Dear Libertarian Party – I would like you to know that I think you could be a serious contender, but only if you nominate better candidates than Gary Johnson.  Like maybe Bill Weld.”  Print it, sign it and mail it to:

libertarian-party-address

  • Belongs in jail: First, in fairness, that should be “might belong in jail.”  Innocent until proven guilty, blah, blah, blah.

That said, I get it. Here’s how deep my desire not to vote for Hillary runs.  In 2008, living in the most Republican county in Illinois, I pulled a Democratic primary ballot, which meant throwing away the rest of my votes, and voted for Obama because I believed it was the only chance I would ever have to vote against her.

Her judgment has often been weak (see my post on the email server here).  Her ethics are fuzzy at best.  Colin Powell uses the words “greed” and “hubris” to describe her.  Remember – hubris doesn’t mean arrogant.   It means “thinks the rules don’t apply to you.”  That’s her (and Bill) in a nutshell.

 

All of that is true.  But the choices we have are the choices we have, and like it or not, here they are:

  • A career politician with questionable judgment and fuzzy ethics who might actually belong in jail.

 

  • A guy who belongs in an asylum. By “asylum,” I do not mean “what you apply for after you finally make it across the Rio Grande because the gringos haven’t built that wall yet.”  I mean the loony bin.  If you really don’t think Donald Trump is a nut-job, please go back and read the links in my last post.  We’re talking about a man who by all appearances is an ADD-addled narcissistic sociopath with a significant brain defect.  A man who has absolutely no interest in facts.  A man who lies like a bearskin rug and actually seems not to know he’s lying. A man who is either a sexual predator or is so insecure that at age 60 he felt the need to curry the approval of a 32-year-old entertainment reporter (take your pick, it has to be one of the other).  A man who is unnerved and provoked into response by the slightest insult (imagine if the provocations came from the Iranians, or for that matter the French, and the tools of response involved the United States military instead of a smartphone and a Twitter account).  A 70-year old who behaves like a six-year-old – whose pattern of behavior will be recognized by anyone who ever encountered a bully on an elementary school playground.  Oh, and let’s not forget the long-distance love affair with Vladimir Putin, who is currently running a close second to Kim Jong Un for Most Dangerous Man on Earth.

 

  • A dope-smoking crackpot whose knowledge of world geography ends at Santa Fe, and whose soul seems to be stuck permanently at a Doors concert.

 

  • Jill Stein

 

I don’t like that list of choices any more than you do.  But everything in life is relative, and that’s what we’ve got.  Given those options, “belongs in jail” starts to look pretty good, doesn’t it?

It’s going to be OK.  Really.  Here’s all you need:

clothespins

Trust me on this.  I tried it on Friday and I’m still here.

Trumped Up!

There’s an old saying in bridge: “Get your trump out early.”  Apparently, the Republican Party is not populated by bridge players.

In the eight years since I started writing this blog, I’ve tried to find ways to explain the underlying reality or root cause of various issues, often political in nature.  In that time, I have been careful never to tell you how I voted or how I thought you should vote.

I’m changing that now. If you’re reading this, you probably know what’s coming, and maybe this is just piling on.  Please read it anyway.  And then tell your friends.  And ask them to tell theirs.

A while back, my brother asked me what I was going to do in this election.  Here is my answer:

“I have two choices – to hate myself a lot or to hate myself even more than that. When election day rolls around, I will go to The Container Store, buy a bag of 100 clothespins, put all 100 of them on my nose, and go vote for Hillary Clinton.  There’s a lot that I don’t like about her, and I don’t think she’s going to be a great president.  But she doesn’t pose a threat to the Republic. Donald Trump does.”

There.  I said it.

When this mess is over, I hope there will be some soul searching as to how we got to this ridiculous place.  I may have a few comments to offer in a subsequent post or two.  And I hope, but don’t expect, that the deepest soul searching will be done by the Republican Party, with which I used to identify, and which once was the noble Party of Lincoln. Today, it’s the Miracle Party.  The miracle is that they managed to make Ted Cruz look like a rational option.

Whether the soul searching happens or not (spoiler alert – it won’t), here’s what matters now:

  • Trumps lack of impulse control is legendary (see “Three Disastrous Debates” and “Awake at 3 AM Tweeting About a Former Beauty Pageant Winner’s Weight”).  This short article from the National Institutes of Health explains how impulse control is provided by the frontal cortex of the brain, which normally becomes completely developed around age 25.  Trump’s utter lack of such control suggests that this part of his brain either never finished developing or was damaged somewhere along the way.

Add all that up, and here’s what you get:

The Republican Party, in its infinite wisdom, has nominated for President of the United States, an ADHD-addled narcissistic sociopath with a significant brain defect.

I wish I were trying to be funny, but I’m not.  The appropriate response to people like that is to pity them and to help them as best we can.  It is not to elect them to the most powerful office on the planet.

So let’s not do that, OK?

Just Plain Not Smart Enough

Political commentary coming shortly, but first, here are two recent conversations, one that I overheard and one that I was part of.

Overheard: The other day, in my neighborhood Walgreen’s, I saw a skinny young man who was wearing pants that defied gravity and an oversized baseball cap that was overwhelmed by it. I thought he was accompanied by one young woman, but it turned out to be two. I’m still not sure what that was about. He sidled up to the pharmacy counter and here’s what I heard:

Young Man (face mostly obscured by oversized cap): “Mumble. Mumble mumble. Mumble mumble mumble.”

Pharmacist (loud and clear – might as well have been using a bullhorn): “Over the counter?”

Young Man: “Mumble mumble. Mumble. Mumble.”

Pharmacist: “Fertility tests? Yes, we have fertility tests for women. They’re in Aisle 3.”

Young Man: “Mumble! Mumble mumble mumble mumble. Mumble.”

Pharmacist: “What?!?!”

Young Man: “Mumble mumble mumble!”

Pharmacist (looking a little disgusted): “No! For a test like that, you gotta go see a doctor!”

The pharmacist fled to the comfort of filling prescriptions. The young man and his crew slouched out of the store. All looked dissatisfied.

Part of: Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent way too much time on chat and phone with various forms of tech support. Most of it has had to do with Quicken, which inexplicably stopped working right, and then piece-by-piece, started working better. It now appears to be fine, although no one knows who or what caused the improvement. In the world of technology, an experience like this is known as a “Full Smolinsky.”

I have great respect for people who provide tech support from call centers in the places like India and the Philippines. To make better lives for themselves and their families, they work miserable hours supporting poorly built products that are used by ungrateful people like me.  And last week, one of those wonderful people called me and said the following:

“Hello. I’m trying to reach Mr. Daniel Wallace. Is this Mr. Daniel Wallace? Hello, Mr. Daniel Wallace. I’m calling from Intuit Quicken. I am the support agent who will be helping you on this call. My name is Ann-Margaret.”

You know my rule. I never make this stuff up.

Now, on to the political commentary.

Hillary Clinton has, at last, thankfully, conclusively demonstrated that she is not qualified to hold the nation’s highest office. This time, it’s not the general smarminess, the lack of transparency or the squishy ethics. It’s not the habit of doing questionable things and then acting outraged when people question them. And it certainly isn’t the deeply held beliefs, the policies that emanate from them, and the clear, compelling vision for the future of America. It can’t be any of those things because I have no idea what they are and, in fact, strongly suspect that they don’t exist.

No, this time it’s much simpler.

In this day and age, if you don’t know that you can carry one phone with two email accounts on it, if you think that the right way to get a personal email account is to get your own mail server, if you can actually get your own mail server, and yet your answer to the question of whether it was secure is, “Well, it was on a property protected by the Secret Service,” then, at least in my humble opinion, you simply are not smart enough to be President of the United States.

Case closed.

One More Time – And Other Stuff

One More Time

I’m finding myself hugely aggravated by the Obamacare rollout.  Not because of the technological incompetence (see “Sibelius”), not because I think it’s ill-intended, let alone evil (see “Cruz”), but because it doesn’t address the economic reality of healthcare, which means that it can’t and won’t solve the problem it’s supposed to solve.  The unaddressed reality is that the vast majority of what we call health insurance isn’t insurance (see “my earlier posts on healthcare”).  Rather, it’s the confiscation and transfer of wealth from young, healthy people to older, less healthy people (see “individual mandate”). Until we face up to that reality, we’re doomed to a healthcare system that raises blood pressure instead of lowering it.

If someone can come up with a way to make healthcare function like an actual market, and to make health insurance actual insurance, I’ll be first in line to support it.  Failing that, we have an entity whose job it is to confiscate and redistribute wealth.  It’s the government.  Which means that like it or not, we’re going to wind up with a single-payer system for the bulk of healthcare.

To be clear, I don’t like it.  But it’s inevitable.  It reminds me of Ben Affleck’s great line in Argo, when his boss asks if he can’t come up with a good idea to rescue the American hostages.  “No sir, this is the best bad idea we’ve got.”

That’s where we’re going, and I wish we would just get on with it.

Other Stuff

First:  I loved watching Chris Christie clean up on Tuesday.  It turns out that people like candor and problem-solving.  Didn’t see that one coming.  I’m also amazed that he’s being challenged on his conservative credentials since his politics are basically the same as Reagan’s.

Second:  a few weeks ago, I heard on the radio that a group of (presumably wealthy) Saudi women had decided to protest their country’s prohibition against women driving by giving their drivers the day off and driving themselves.  My sympathies are totally with them, but this strikes me as a phenomenally bad way to make the point.  Call me crazy, but turning hundreds of completely inexperienced drivers loose on the roads as a way of proving that they should be there seems like an effort that might. . .um. . .backfire.

Third:  On the radio yesterday, I heard that Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler will be returning from an injury sooner than expected thanks to “a new form of groin stimulation.”  (Again, I refer you to my policy of never making this stuff up.)  That someone could come up with a new approach to what seems like it must have been the first thing mankind ever did is a great testament to the inventiveness of our species.  It’s enough to make me regret both my career choices and my lack of athletic talent.

And finally this:  Over the past week, I’ve learned a couple of new things about the mortgage industry.  How I came to learn these things is a long story that I’m not going into here.  Suffice it to say that however bad you’ve heard the machine is, it’s worse.

One thing I learned is that Citigroup, a company with 300,000 employees, which holds billions of dollars of mortgage assets and services billions more, doesn’t know the difference between the words “approved” and “completed,” something most of us had our heads around out by the 3rd or 4th grade.   This in a standardized email they must send out by the thousands.  And which they claimed they hadn’t sent at all (although they had), which must be a scam (which it wasn’t), and which shouldn’t be opened (a little late, don’t you think?).  Billions of dollars.  Failing 3rd grade vocabulary.  Go phish.

The other thing I learned, which might go a long way toward explaining the first, is that the tax code apparently allows financial institutions to write off 100% of the losses they incur when they take ownership of underwater properties through foreclosure, but only 50% of the losses they incur when they settle without taking ownership of the property.  I was told this by a lawyer who specializes in such things.  I’ve looked online and haven’t been able to verify it (Google yields up only pages relating to the tax impact on the borrower, not the lender).  If it’s true, however, it provides mortgage holders with a massive incentive to NOT work with homeowners to find solutions short of full foreclosure.

A non-free market at non-work, not working.  Which brings us full circle. . .One More Time.

Short, Sweet and True

Watching the news over the past two weeks, I’ve been reminded of a conversation I had 31 years ago (so long that it makes me wish I could claim that I was 12 at the time).

I was managing a(n ultimately successful) campaign for a seat in Congress.  One day, I rang up a friend and political consultant whose services I couldn’t afford, but who had kindly invited me to call him when (not if) the crisis occurred.  It turned out to be a crisis of conscience.

Consistent with my pledge that I never make this stuff up because life is much funnier than I am, the conversation went like this:

Political Consultant:  “What’s going on?”

Me:  “I, um, um, I, I don’t know, I, um. . .”

PC: “I know.  You’ve become concerned that your candidate may not be intelligent enough to be a member of The United States House of Representatives.”

Me:  “Yes <sigh> . That’s exactly what’s going on.”

PC:  “Well, let me put your mind at ease. I know many members of The United States House of Representatives, and he is.”

The more things change. . .?  I’m not sure they change at all.  They certainly seem to stay the same.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

Karen_Duddleston on A Drop of Hypocrisy
Dan Wallace on A Drop of Hypocrisy
Karen_Duddleston on A Drop of Hypocrisy
Karen_Duddleston on A Drop of Hypocrisy
Dan Wallace on A Drop of Hypocrisy

Categories

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

%d bloggers like this: