Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tiny Desk

Many of you know that back in the late 90's I performed in a duo with my daughter under her name, Alexis d, mostly around the Hudson & Pioneer Valleys in upstate NY & Massachusetts.  It was one of the most musically satisfying times of my life.

Life goes on and things change but Alexis and I still perform occasionally and still write every now and then.  This year, we have submitted a song to the NPR Tiny Desk Contest

Check it out...


Here are the lyrics...


V.
Don't know where I'm going
Not sure where I've been
It's the biggest hot mess
This thing I'm in
I call up experience
My blessings and my sins
But I still don't know,
The next step or when.

Chorus
We can talk about the future,
We can wish about the past
But all I want
Is the gift I know'll last

V2
I've traveled around the world
I've sure seen a lot
I've been granted riches
So others envy what i've got.
But all I know,
Is when I look at you,
That's got to be the best thing
I could ever choose.

Chorus

Bridge
Let's spend a little time
Just us two
That's the present,
I'll give to you.

V3
I might be lost
I might get found,
I may be up
I've certainly been down,
Truth be told,
Only one way to be,
Only one place,
That's where you're with me.

Chorus
Bridge
Tag

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trump, Streep, and what happened

Most of us have heard at least exerpts from Meryl Streep's Golden Globe speech where she reamed the president elect for mocking a disabled reporter. 

Here's the referenced video from Trump...

So, here's the argument we're hearing from the right wing... "Trump makes these same movements when he is making fun of people who are not disable, like Ted Cruz.  Therefore, he is not mocking the disabled reporter."  They often go on to acknowledge that Trump is rude, but state emphatically he is not guilty of mocking a disability.

I find that one of the most ridiculous defenses I have ever heard.  Let me give a parallel example.  If I called someone a "retard" who did not have a mental deficiency and then turned around and called someone who was intellectually challenged a "retard" would that mean I wasn't making fun of their disability?  No.  Indeed it would be worse because in the first instance, where I used that slur against someone without a disability, I was holding up the disabled person's condition as a slur.  The intellectually challenged person becomes the living embodiment of the slur.  

That is precisely what Trump was doing when he used the same movements in mocking Cruz.  He was saying "Cruz is comparable to one of those people who are worthy of disdain and mockery."  That he used the same movements when mocking someone who actually has a disability does not make it less offensive.  Indeed, it is more offensive.

There are no excuses. That behavior clearly sets an example for others and normalizes behaviors that are despicable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Failing presidents & hypocrisy

I've heard the word "hypocrite" a lot lately, referring to Democrats who complained about Republicans who pledged to obstruct Obama at every opportunity and yet seem determined to do exactly the same thing with Donald Trump.  It isn't the same and here is why.

1.  In spite of what we heard on Right Wing Talk Radio & TV, Obama is not and never was a communist out to destroy our country.  He is a centrist, committed to working across the isle, many of whose ideas actually reflected Republican ideas.  Take the ACA.  It was a program very similar in its most important details to a health care proposal put forward by the right wing Heritage Foundation.  It was centered around the private sector and enfranchised the insurance industry.  Had he truly been a leftist, Obama would have argued for Medicare for all as Bernie Sanders has done.

Trump, on the other hand, seems to be poised to blow up the entire government.  He has already skirted many of the common practices of the past such as releasing his tax returns so we can all see whether his interests conflict with those of the American people.  He has chosen to avoid intelligence briefings, either because he truly believes there is nothing he needs to learn or because he doesn't trust the intelligence agencies.  His cabinet appointees so far seem almost all to fall into one of two categories... either they have no experience and no knowledge of the area they will be heading or they are committed to destroying the role of the very agency they will head.

2. Obama clearly fell in line with the general trajectory of history.  Whether we like what he dd or not, he didn't do anything that made people go, "What?"

Even before he is inaugurated, Trump is already breaking with policies and ideas that are foundational to our security both nationally and internationally.  His thoughtless actions regarding our treaties have already begun to push Asian allies towards China and he has unnecessarily provoked China by skirting the one China doctrine.  His relationship to Russia is troubling at best.  His calls for the US military to commit war crimes and his commitment to sidestepping accepted rules that have to do with nepotism and conflicts of interest are equally troubling. 

On the national level, he is either allowing or directing the dismantling of many of the social safety nets upon which many people depend. 

3. Obama knew what government is and what its role is.  Trump doesn't seem to understand that government is not a business and the rules by which it operates are not the same.  If his business fails, it can declare bankruptcy and at least Donald walks away unscathed.  It has happened multiple times.  If government fails... that is something altogether different.

4. Obama knows that when the president speaks, things happen, so he is careful about what he says.  Trump has no such wisdom or he enjoys the chaos that happens when he says something unwise.  In either case... it is not good.

5. Obama has a heart to leave the world a better place.  You may not agree with his vision of that, but you cannot argue the point.  Nothing that Trump has ever done in his entire life would indicate that he has any concerns beyond himself.  There is nothing beyond his skin that he seems to truly care about beyond the way that it impacts him.

6.  The best you could say about the Republican obstructionists might be that some were acting consistently with their values - that they hate the federal government and literally want it to fail so by obstructing a president as thoughtful and charismatic as Obama who began his presidency with a real mandate, they were working to that end.  And now they find a kindred soul in Trump, who wants to see government curtailed not out of some political ideology but because it constrains his personal behavior.

Democratic obstructionists will be working to preserve the rights and safety nets, some of which have been in place for decades and upon which many people depend.  Without those safety nets, people will die.

So... are there areas where Dems should support Trump?  Say, like if he proposes working on infrastructure?  I have mixed feelings.  I should say that I believe he will only propose improving the infrastructure if he will personally benefit from it.  Still there clearly are areas where he may see his self-interests and those of the nations align... so yes, I would argue that we work on those issues with him.  But we must never allow those issues to cause us to lose sight of the other things he is doing or allowing to not be done.

If Trump and the Republicans in office work to tear apart Social Security, Medicare, and the ACA (all of which they propose to do), I will do what I can to obstruct them and call upon my representatives to do the same.  I want them to fail there.  If they want to tear up treaties and alliances with other nations and put the entire world at risk, I will work to obstruct them and call upon my representatives to do the same.  I want them to fail.  If they continue to enfranchise hate groups and normalize the kind of behavior I would punish my grandson for, I will do what I can to obstruct them and call upon my representatives to do the same.   I want them to fail.  If the Republicans continue their march to destroy our government by undermining trust in all facets of it, I will do what I can to obstruct them and call upon my representatives to do the same.  I want them to fail.  If the Trump administration actually becomes the kleptocracy I expect it will be, I will do what I can to obstruct them and call upon my representatives to do the same. I want them to fail.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Russia

I don't know whether Russia interfered with the election in any substantive way.  I don't know whether anyone in the Trump organization colluded (if Russia did).  I don't know why Russia might have preferred Trump to win (although I can infer).  I don't know what might have happened had Russia not interfered (if they did) or whether the outcome would have been different.

I do know that information was released that likely damaged Hillary Clinton's campaign both by the FBI and via other avenues.   I know that information was not released on the Trump campaign including from the CIA who believed that Russia was helping out the Trump campaign...

Sooooo... an investigation seems critical.  If a foreign government is interfering in our elections, we need to know and it needs to be addressed.  As one former CIA chief has said, this is "the political equivalent of 9/11."

To those Republicans who investigated Bengazi 7 times, each time hoping for a different result but each time claiming that the American people deserve to know and who are now saying that an investigation into possible interference by Russia into the presidential election is not necessary... once again, you are showing that you have no real interest in the truth or in justice, but only in power.  Your hypocrisy is astounding and blatantly obvious.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Jurisdiction

I've been reading Father Gregory Boyle's wonderful book Tattoos on the Heart.  It is a collection of inspiring and heart-breaking stories from his years of ministry with gang members in LA.  A story from chapter six (and Father Boyle's interpretation of it) particularly resonated with me today and related to things I've been thinking about.

In the aftermath of the election I've been thinking a lot about community and about the way we relate to other folk, near and far.  One morning as he arrived at his office for work, Junior called out from his second story apartment window, "Love you G dog!"

Father Boyle answered back, "Thank you Junior.  That was a very nice thing to say."

Boyle goes on, "He waves me on as if papally blessing me on my day. 'O come on now G, you know.  You're in my jurisdiction.'"

In the interpretation of the story, Boyle observes that the gang members have very limited jurisdictions, areas and communities they know and for which they care.  He doesn't outright say but implies that the barriers at the edge of those jurisdictions are as solid as they can be.  He goes on that our call as Christians is to widen our jurisdictions.

As I've been watching the aftermath of the election both in the larger world and in my heart this call speaks loudly.  We all have a variety of concentric jurisdictions, with each further one getting a little less commitment and caring.  The primary jurisdiction is always the one that gets our deepest commitment.  Sometimes the barriers are porous.  Sometimes they are as solid as they can be.  We all have a point at which the jurisdictions end. 

Personally, before the election I would have felt that my primary jurisdiction was pretty big... or at least my second one was.  Afterwards, I see it was not nearly as large as I thought, but that the barrier between it and the next level was extremely porous.  After the election, everything in my heart, which had been deeply hurt and disappointed, wanted to shore up that barrier and close up any openings shutting out those beyond my closest jurisdictions.

It is frightening to open those barriers and it is dangerous.  The more open you are, the more vulnerable you feel.  It could be argued that that fear is exactly what fueled the election... fear of the one outside of my jurisdiction taking something that is rightfully mine.  And so the walls go up both literal and figurative.  Our role is to risk... to tear down the walls and to see whoever is standing on the other side as "in my jurisdiction."

An observation... we would hope that our elected leaders are people who have wide jurisdictions that at the very least include everyone in the nation along with the ecosystem.  It is better yet when the barrier to their next level is porous and yearns for the very best not only for the US but the rest of the world.

Sometimes we have had leaders like that.  More often they fall short.  Unfortunately there is something about the role of elected leader that calls to the narcissist. The narcissist's jurisdiction is as narrow as it can possibly be... it ends at their own skin.  The only time they care about anyone or anything else is when it impacts them.  A talented narcissist can be charming and even effective... but it is all about ME... ALWAYS. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Election 2016 #6 - my fantasy

From everything I can see, I do not believe that Donald Trump ever actually wanted or expected to be president.  I truly think he was just screwing with us all.  Now that he has won and we see the amazing disarray and ineptitude of his transition team, I have to wonder whether he is looking for a way out.

OK, this is a fantasy and I have zero expectation that it will happen... but it could happen.  Indeed, I believe there are really good reasons to make it happen.  So, maybe we should float this idea out there in hopes it gets Trump's ear.  If it catches your imagination, share it far and wide.

So... first some factual observations.

Trump's presidency will be a failure.  He cannot possibly meet the expectations of those who voted for him and they will come after him with pitchforks and torches in 2 and then 4 years.  His brand will be destroyed.  History will dismiss him.  As a narcissist, this is the worst possible outcome for Trump.

The electors of the electoral college can vote for whoever they want.  Even in states where they are legally required to vote for the winner of their state, the penalty for not doing so is very small.

If Trump were to become president and then resign, that would make Pence president... and from everything I can see, Trump does not share any ideological beliefs with Pence so Trump would not want that outcome.  Plus resigning would be embarrassing. 

Here's the fantasy... Trump could send his minions to privately see the electors and encourage them to switch their votes and put Hillary in.  We're still not sure how many electors he actually has but likely a switch of about 25 would do the trick, maybe a few more.  They could justify their switch as trying both to fulfill the original intent of the electoral college to keep unfit candidates from winning AND as honoring the will of the majority.  As of this writing, HRC has won the popular vote by over 1 million votes.  Alexander Hamilton saw the role of the electors to ensure that  “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”  Duh!

So what does Trump get in my fantasy?  He doesn't have to fail at president.  He can yell all he wants that the election was rigged against him and become not only the leader of his base but also a martyr for their cause.  His dream of a media empire will take off like wildfire.  He could become the true leader of a new political movement and perhaps even a new political party.  None of his shady dealings with foreign governments need ever come out.  If, and I do mean if, he has any degree of patriotism in him, he gets to save the US from a disaster he has to know is coming if he becomes president.

So, Donald, are you up for this?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Election 2016 #5 - now what?

Like many other folk, I found myself reeling at the results of the presidential election.  I had difficulty understanding why anyone would vote for Donald Trump.  I was (and am) afraid of what the future might bring.  I posted a statement on Facebook - "I wonder whether this is a country in can live in."  By that I meant that I was considering emigrating somewhere.  I did play some of those scenarios out and indeed, depending on what happens with medical insurance, I may have to.  Since last Wednesday I've thought differently... it most definitely is not a country in which I want to live, so I am committing myself to work harder to make it the country in which I do want to live.  OK, now what?  What do we do?

None of these thoughts are original.  I've listened a lot to Van Jones recently.  Some of what he has said is reflected here.  I also found an article by Masha Gessen on how to live under an autocratic ruler that I found extremely helpful. 

There is a phrase that's going around (from Salena Zito?) in a number of slightly different variations, "Trump's supporters take him seriously but not literally while his detractors take him literally but not seriously."  I will take him seriously now and I will continue to take him literally.  Gessen's first rule is to believe what the autocrat says.  When Trump says he wants to make Muslims register, believe him.  When Trump says he will repeal the ACA, believe him.  When he says he wants to deport 11 million people, believe him.  When he says that women who have abortions should be prosecuted, believe him.  Now it is possible that he didn't mean what he said in at least a few instances but I would rather be prepared for the worst than be surprised when he follows up.  It is possible that even the Republicans will stand against some of his excesses (although I doubt that) and he won't be able to accomplish some of his plans.  Be vigilant and be ready.

Be aware of what he actually said but also how he has followed up in action.  He spoke out against racists (rather softly) but then turned around and hired Steve Bannon.

Watch those behind the scenes.  Trump does not seem to have any real ideology.  Those behind him do.  

Work to build relationships and community so we can stand against the damages his administrations wants to do.  Be a part of a religious body that takes seriously the calls of faith.  If you can't do religion, get together with a bunch of other people regularly an build something that is working towards being the Blessed Community.  You can't change the world alone but together...

And be persistent.  Wilburforce took 13 years to get his anti-slavery bill passed.  As Hillary quoted in her concession speech, "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up. (Gal. 6:9, NRSV)

Listen to those who voted for Trump and keep the truth in front of them.  I truly believe we have a lot in common.  I was not happy with the direction of the nation either and felt disappointed that Obama did not push more aggressively.  I think we have at least some common goals.  Let's find them and hold them up.  Then, remind them when Trump fails to meet their expectations, as he will, and continue to point out the evils there.  Most importantly, build relationships across lines.

Be outraged.  It is tempting to look for ways to find the good in Trump.  There may indeed be some areas where he does some good things.  Do not allow that to dim your vision.  See what is outrageous and call it out. 

In two years we have the midterm elections.  Throw the Republicans out.  OK, I know it isn't that simple but those of us standing against the goals of this administration must organize and work to turn things around.  A Democratic House and Senate would make things soooooo much easier.  More Democratic legislatures and executives at the state level would make standing for what is right and good so much easier.  Let us put everything we can into making that happen.

Work hard on the issues that are critical.  We must stand with our Muslim friends.  If they do try to register Muslims, be registered as a Muslim.  I commit to do so.  Work with Democratic legislators to guard the SCOTUS.  Work to do all we can to meet the challenges of climate change.

Work to provide a safe place for those communities most threatened by this political change.

Finally, remember that time is on our side.  The arc of history is long but it always bends towards justice.  The fears that motivated the alt-right in this election are based in reality.  The nation is becoming more diverse in every way.  That cannot be stopped.  Millenials didn't show up nearly as much as they needed to, but the election map of those under 25 is almost completely blue.  Yes, the map that went around immediately following the election was not accurate and reflected polling from a few weeks before the election but the real one still looks like this

Time is on our side.