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Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

Revulsion for the Man vs. Respect for the Office

 

 

If someone you absolutely loath was elected President of the United States, if you were to meet that person, would you agree to shake hands?

 

Within a few minutes, President Donald Trump will make his first-ever address to a joint session of congress.

In response, some opposition legislators have announced their intentions to openly rebuke the 45th president.  Some Democrats won’t attend at all.  Others will stand silently in the House gallery and refuse to clap, which is the customary gesture of respect afforded to all chief executives both when they enter and depart the chamber.  At least one Democrat has stated that he will not shake President Trump’s hand, if it’s extended.

That’s what you call a rebuke.

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we can all agree on one thing.  American democracy entered unprecedented and uncharted political territory, and the ways things are now headed, the great continental divide may only get worse in coming months and years ahead.  In other words, pretty soon, this might get really, really ugly.

How did this happen?

President Trump has brought this level of ire entirely upon himself.  His outrageous behavior, insulting demeanor, repeated lies, petty bickering, and brazen unwillingness to work with members of the legislative branch (even those within his own party) has alienated representatives on both side of the aisle on Capital Hill.  He’s not exactly been Reaganesque when it comes to charm, either.  He is, to millions, actually billions — a repulsive figure.

This unparalleled rebuke isn’t really partisan.  Party lines don’t explain the intensity of repugnance.  Consider that President Bush was viciously slammed by Democrats, especially during the last two years of his administration, when two pointless wars raged on and the economy finally crumbled into the crapper.  Still, the Democrats always stood up and applauded President Bush at all official and ceremonial events.  He was always treated with respect.  Personal exchanges between partisans were even cordial on every occasion.  Indeed, for all his faults (and they were staggering), most of his political opponents personally liked President Bush — the man.  And so, he was afforded not just common courtesy, but respect because of the office he held and the gentleman he was (is).

During President Obama’s eight years in office, Republicans sometimes took off the gloves when it came to civility.  One attention-seeking Republican congressman even shouted at President Obama during a State of the Union address, eliciting audible gasps from both Republicans and Democrats.  Yet, while Republicans treated President Obama in a vile manner, within partisan circles and when riling up the base, they still afforded the 44th president all the standard courtesies.  They stood and applauded when he entered the House chamber.  They might not have been very congenial behind closed doors.  But at least Republicans acted civil in the presence of the President and in front of the American people.

However, President Trump is a different animal, entirely.  And frankly, I’m not even sure how to react to him.  Many on the Left are also having difficulty coming to terms with this new reality.  The question is — can we revile the man, but still respect the office?  

I don’t know.

Certainly, my personal and professional experience in Washington. D.C. culture strongly influences my view on this.  I’ve spend almost half my adult life living and working in the nation’s capital.  Those years not only enriched my life and afforded me an extraordinary world view, it also exposed me to all kinds of different people with a wide gambit of political ideas.  Throughout my experience in Washington, we were taught to respect those who were in office.  Congressmen were always addressed with the preamble, “The Honorable….”  Political appointees were always afforded some measure of deference.  And, the highest elected official in the land was always addressed as “Mr. President.”  There were no exceptions.  Ever.  Republican or Democrat — the office deserved dignity.  Always.

President Trump makes continuing these proud traditions most difficult.  A man who by all accounts appears mentally unbalanced, who is utterly obsessed with himself, who has displayed unwarranted hostility towards a majority of American citizens, and who is attacking basic rights, protections, and institutions does NOT deserve my respect.  That view is shared by a lot of people, it seems.

I tried hard to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt, at least for awhile.  Like many Leftists, I was initially appalled by the 2016 election results.  But, I accepted them and was fully prepared to move on and make the best of things, presuming Donald Trump the bombastic con-man would somehow grow into the office and come to portend some measure of dignity within the office once held by Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.

So far, that has not happened.  Until it does, I see no reason to respect either the man, or the office.

For me, as a political traditionalist, what some might even called old-fashioned, as someone with dozens of friends and associates who have been and remain Trump supporters, this isn’t a decision I take lightly.  I do want to believe my elected officials.  I do want to respect them, even those I’m opposed to politically.  I do want to give them the courtesies they would normally be entitled to.

Sorry.  But I cannot give that respect to this man who will walk into the House of Representatives tonight and address the nation.  My respect isn’t a rubber stamp.  It’s not given lightly, nor automatically.  He was given a chance to earn my respect.  So far, all he’s earned is my revulsion.

 

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Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

Insurance Company Loansharking

 

 

Um, no it’s not, you lying-ass stooge!

U.S. health insurance companies are not, according to this early-morning tweet by President Trump, “provid(ing) great healthcare to the American people.”

Insurance companies are, in fact, undermining health care in America.  They’re doing whatever they can to deny coverage to as many Americans as possible, at the highest possible margins to ensure massive company profits — to the exclusive benefit of shareholders and bonus-whoring company executives.

Yes indeed, great healthcare *is* being provided by some extraordinarily dedicated people in this country.   Allow me to mention them now.

They are called doctors.

They are called nurses.

They are called medical technicians.

They are called caregivers.

They are also called researchers and educators.

These are the genuine heroes of American medicine — not an Oval Office crammed with insurance executives, you morally-bankrupt, dim-witted, anti-intellectual prick!

Add up all the hefty salaries ending in lots of zeroes and the expense accounts paid out just to the 13 insurance industry loan sharks who visited to President Trump this Monday morning.  Their average salary rings in at about $14 million, not including all the bonuses and stock options to be paid out.  Then, there’s all the dirty PAC money spent to keep this corrupt for-profit, milk-the-American public system fully in tact.  These cretins are President Trump’s heroes of healthcare, greedy bastards much like himself with no real objective in life other than to cream their sweet margins off the top at the terrible expense of everyone else struggling to keep up.

Meanwhile, all the medical professionals who actually make the sacrifices for their patients — the doctors and nurses — get stuck with massive student loan debt.  They suffer disproportionate levels of family breakups, including divorces.  They endure considerably more stress than virtually every other occupation, working all hours of the day and night to keep us as healthy as possible.

A Tweet from President Trump thanking the real heroes of medicine would have been nice.  A thought or two acknowledging the dedication of those who willingly chose the medical profession would be a noble gesture.

But instead, the self-absorbed clueless rube sitting at his desk in the most powerful office in the land choose to make an absurd statement that it’s insurance companies which “provide great healthcare to the American people.”

The only thing insurance companies provide is higher costs to all Americans and obscene payouts to their executives.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  Nothing else.

 

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Posted by on Feb 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

The Tipping Point on Gay Rights

 

 

Last night, I attended a monthly meeting at the Clark County Democratic Party headquarters, here in Las Vegas.

As is regularly the custom, speakers from various organizations show up at these meetings to inform and educate those of us in the audience on important issues of the day.

James Healey was the latest guest speaker.  He’s a progressive activist who also works full time as a casino executive for MGM-Mirage corporation.  Healey previously served as a legislator in the Nevada State Assembly.  He also happens to be gay.

I normally wouldn’t mention that, because it’s no more relevant than if he has blue eyes or brown eyes.  But since our nightly topic of discussion was gay rights, which are now under serious threat by the Trump Administration (and many state legislatures and localities — which lean Republican), his presentation was accompanied by both an added sense of passion and urgency.

Let’s be clear.  To our credit as a nation, American public opinion has evolved rather quickly on the once-controversial topic of gay rights.  Virtually everyone now knows someone who’s openly gay.  Popular television shows and movies feature gay characters, who are usually portrayed in a positive way.  Young people overwhelming see a person’s sexual orientation as a total non-issue.  The stats don’t lie — For the first time ever, a majority of the country believes gay people are entitled to equal rights and protections, including marriage equality.

That’s all a good thing.

After I heard the talk, while driving home, I pondered my own mental and emotional “evolution” on the subject of gay rights.  I’m not proud of this, but as a teenager, I used to engage in the typical pranks of philistine adolescence, which — sorry to say — included making derogatory remarks about those who were suspected to be homosexual.  I used insensitive slurs, including “faggot” and other mean words on regular occasion.  That didn’t make me a bad person.  Those actions were however, a reflection of my ignorance, and to a greater extent — a lack of exposure to the full diversity that makes up the American Experience.

I’m not sure there was any single moment that qualifies as a “tipping point” for me on gay rights.  That is to say, I don’t remember any specific incident that transformed me from the typical brutish-acting macho straight guy into someone far more empathetic and compassionate for people who on other times would have been inviting targets.  Perhaps it was attending college and simply being exposed to new ideas.  Maybe it was getting older and wiser.  Probably, it was working long hours in bars and restaurants, a trade where I regularly encountered people who were openly gay.  That was way back in the early 1980’s, an era that wasn’t nearly as tolerant about alternative lifestyles, as today.  There was also the terrible AIDS scare happening at the time, which certainly didn’t help straight culture to better understand gay culture.

Maturity, I believe, is incremental.  It’s all a gradual process.  Over time, I came to understand that gay rights was to our time as the civil rights struggle was to the generation which proceeded us.  And today, there are other noble causes, and there will me more things to fight for in the future.  The struggle for justice never ends.  There’s always a voice in the dark needing aid and comfort from torment.  Freedoms are an obligation to be protected by all, whether we agree or not with those whom need our support.

What I wonder is this — what made most of us (who are straight) to come around on the subject of gay rights?  Was it watching Will and Grace?  Was it finding out that a friend or loved one was gay?  Was it a personal experience that changed your mind?  What was it?

I think this is a critical question to ask because it provides a list of formulas that are proven to be effective.  If many of us who used to sling cruel derogatory slurs could evolve and ultimately become outspoken advocates of gay rights (which includes many reading these words right now), then we should try to employ those same tactics and with others who haven’t caught on yet in the future.  My belief is this — nearly everyone is capable of being swayed on this issue, dare I say — even conservatives and religious people.  I do believe many conservatives and religious people are good people who want to do the right thing.  Perhaps those who continue to strongly oppose justice and equality for all simply haven’t been approached yet….in the right way.  Our mission must be to find ways to reach them.

To be clear, there is a vocal contingent within the gay activist movement which vociferously rejects the notion of gaining “acceptance” from mainstream society.  Rightfully, their belief is that human rights and legal protections aren’t souvenirs to be handed out by the majority as though they’re providing favors.  In other words, they don’t give a damn whether you approve of them, or not.

Good for them.  Defiance can indeed be courageous.

However, since the potential rollback on gay rights is now very real in this country (and certainly continues to be a monumental problem in many foreign cultures), it would be advisable for those of us who are engaged in the fight to try and better understand on what works, versus what doesn’t.

And so, I ask those of you who wish to contribute to our understanding of this issue:  What, if anything, was the major turning point that transformed you from either opposition or indifference, to being a supporter of gay rights?

Obviously, this question is geared to those who have successfully evolved on this issue.

To those of you who haven’t yet, we’ll get back at you later.

 

[To join the discussion on Facebook, please CLICK HERE.]

 

A final thought:  I would be remiss were I not to point out Mr. Healey’s observation that Nevada, while progressive on many other issues, doesn’t have much to brag about on this issue.  Yet, strangely enough, within the poker culture, gay rights enjoys widespread support.  Many top poker pros who are openly gay, which makes poker way ahead of other competitive enterprises.  That’s something to be proud of.

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Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 10 comments

Where’s Your Outrage? Where’s Your Decency?

 

 

You’re looking at one of the last photos ever taken of James Foley.

He was a war correspondent who reported on the Syrian Civil War.

On August 19, 2014, some 44 days after being captured and taken into captivity by ISIS, he was forced to his knees at an undisclosed location in the desert.  An evil man wrapped in a black turban wielded a mighty sword, lifted his instrument of death towards a gorgeous blue sky, and then thrust the blade violently downward, instantly severing off the head of an American.

James Foley was 40 years old.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a picture of Chauncey Bailey.

He was a reporter for The Oakland Post, who regularly covered events within the African-American community.  Bailey was highly-respected by peers and readers alike for his tireless work ethic.  He was particularly adept at uncovering local corruption and was then working on a story that was particularly sensitive to people known for violence.

On August 2, 2007, Bailey was walking from his apartment to work, just as he did every morning.  While strolling up 14th Street, a lone gunman wearing black clothing and a ski mask approached Bailey and blasted three bullets into his body, which killed the journalist instantly.

Chauncey Bailey was 57.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a photo of Cynthia Elbaum.

She was a correspondent with Time magazine assigned to the war in Chechnya.

Elbaum worked as a photojournalist.  She captured the horrors of that terrible failed war for independence in the breakaway state of Chechnya.  Elbaum was particularly remarkable for her courage, not just a willingness to risk her life in one of the world’s most dangerous regions, but also because she was one of the few female journalists daily in the line of fire.

She paid the ultimate price to bring us news, sending back images that most of us barely gave a glance at, perhaps only for a few fleeting seconds while parsing through an old issue of Time while waiting in a doctor’s office.  We don’t think much of the dangers and sacrifices it took to bring us the things we read and see.  We’re oblivious to those risks taken by the brave.

Cynthia Elbaum was 28.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a picture of Michael Kelly.

He wrote from The Washington Post and The New York Times.

On April 3, 2003, Kelly was traveling in a Humvee along with American troops dispatched to a war zone in Iraq.  The vehicle hit a land mine, and exploded into flames, killing everyone trapped inside — including Kelly.  Thus, he became the first journalist who was killed in Iraq.

Michael Kelly was 46.  He left behind a wife and two children.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at the wall of the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial, in Washington, DC.  This is just a partial collection of members of the media who have been killed doing their jobs.

Indeed, this could be a much longer article.  In fact, it could stretch on and on with hundreds of thousands of words.  In all, a total of 2,291 writers, journalists, photographers, cameramen, and other members of the media have been killed in the line of duty.

Two-thousand, two-hundred,, ninety-one.  Let that figure sink in.

The 2,291 gave their lives largely out of insatiable curiosities to which we — the readers and viewers — were the ungrateful beneficiaries.  Rarely thanked, but so often criticized, they trekked into zones where others dared not to travel.  They asked questions others dared not to ask.  They took photo and video of events that were not supposed to be seen.

The least one might expect for this work and those who do their best follow in their hollowed footsteps is — a little respect.

 

 

You’re looking at the screen shot of the tweet that was sent out yesterday by the President of the United States.

He called the mainstream news media, “the enemy of the American People!”

I have received a fair amount of criticism lately for my harsh words and many of the brutal things I’ve said about President Trump.  I recognize that my actions and use of language is not suited for all tastes.  However, as a regular consumer of daily news and someone who has known and worked with a great many dedicated members of the media, I can’t help but be profoundly disturbed by the events I’m witnessing.  I can’t help but get emotional about such a grotesque lack of respect and dignity, by the President, no less.

Where’s your outrage?  Where’s your sense of decency?

 

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Posted by on Feb 5, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

So, the old miser bailed on the new stadium deal — what’s next Las Vegas Raiders?

 

 

In case you didn’t hear the big news earlier this week — the old miser dropped out of the stadium deal.  That places the NFL’s Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas move in serious jeopardy.

So, what’s next?

Sheldon Adelson, the cantankerous fat cat who supposedly pledged $650 million from his vast fortune estimated at worth more than $32 billion — for him, what amounts to an old set of golf clubs sitting out in the garage — backed out of an agreement with Raiders’ owner Mark Davis and the City of Las Vegas, the third partner in the complicated business deal.  Adelson’s involvement (actually, his money — nobody really cared much if he showed at the meetings) was essential to the construction of a new stadium, expected to be built near The Strip and could have been ready just in time for kickoff for the 2020 NFL regular season.  Adelson’s role in the agreement was like the rich family uncle who everyone despises.  But you don’t want to piss him off because there might be something in the will, later on.  Without a new stadium, which required Uncle Adelson’s money to build, the Raiders deal was, and remains, dead.

Adelson cutting and running when his help (money) was needed most reveals a pettiness not even his most vocal critics would have expected.  To be clear, Adelson’s financial contribution could have been a remarkable testament to his appreciation to this city and its people.  For many, even his detractors, it might have transformed his spotty reputation from a casino mogul and political reactionary who’s not particularly well-liked by many in this community into something of a local civic hero.  Yet, when time came to buy into the game and write out the marker, Adelson scootered away from the table faster than a busted gambler at one of his craps tables.

Now, the partnership is $650 million short.  More pressing, the clock on the stadium deal is ticking and could go kaput, as early at March 1st.  Somebody needs to step in and reach deep into their pockets — and fast.  Reportedly, the MGM-Grand folks were open to stepping in and riding to the rescue as our savior.  However, negotiations quickly collapsed.  Unless David Copperfield can magically make a half a billion in cash appear, that deal’s not happening.  Other powerful casino interests could be interested.  But the last time anyone checked, Caesars Entertainment had $17.43 in the bank.

What’s puzzling to me is — why do football stadiums cost so much goddamned money?  Does Las Vegas — or any other city where are schools desperately cry out for renovation and roads and bridges need improvement — really need to squander $2 billion on a mega-sports arena that hosts on the average just ten ball games a year?  Assuming the Raiders were to remain in Las Vegas for the next 30 years, that would come out to about $6.7 million per game, and that doesn’t even include the cost of upkeep and maintenance.

Inexplicably, stadiums have become the new cathedrals of modern civilization.  Sunday worship isn’t much of a church thing anymore.  Now, it’s a football thing.  What the Sistine Chapel and Notre Dame were to the peasantry centuries ago, today the Superdome and Jerry’s World assume that same spiritual and financial ambiance.  Indeed, churches have lots in common with the NFL.  Both cause brain damage and then demand that taxpayers pay for everything.

Here’s my idea:  Screw Adelson.  Screw the MGM.  Let’s slum it and build the stadium for $1.35 billion.  Wouldn’t that work?  Wouldn’t that be enough?  Must every pro football stadium look like a giant UFO?  Can’t we throw down some seeds, water the grass, construct a few grandstands, and enjoy the game?  Didn’t natural-grass stadiums filled with real fans minus all the sky boxes and sponsor-driven hoopla work pretty damn well for six decades?  Didn’t pro football become America’s true national pastime because games were played in authentic arenas like Lambeau Field, the Orange Bowl, and Yankee Stadium?  Sure, no one wants to go back to the olden days of leather helmets.  But can’t we forget about retractable roofs, faux rubber grass, and VIP sections?

How about this.  Let’s offer to build the Raiders a new stadium for $1.35 billion.  Two billion minus $650 million equals $1.35 billion.  That’s the budget.  We can tell Mark Davis — hey, you wanted a Tesla.  We’re offering you a Buick.  Take it or leave it.  Right now, given that they call the Oakland Coliseum home, the Raiders are driving a shitbox.  How to cut down on costs?  Easy.  Since Trump’s border wall with Mexico isn’t up yet, we can use cheap migrant labor.  We’ll cut on the number of stalls in the ladies restrooms.  They’re going to bitch they’re aren’t enough stalls, anyway.  We can remove the escalators because most sports fans are fat and lazy.  They need to exercise more.  We can charge $15 for a beer and $30 for a parking spot.  Oh wait — stadiums are doing that already.

An NFL stadium doesn’t need to resemble the Johnson Space Center.  Yeah, I get that Las Vegas weather is hot as fuck much of the time and perhaps an enclosed facility may be necessary.  But, the weather here isn’t any more uncomfortable than the steam baths of Miami or Jacksonville or Houston or the frigid weather in northern cities.  If Bills and Bears fans can sit in the freezing cold in subzero temperatures and watch those shit teams, Las Vegas football fans should be able to risk a mild case of sunstroke.  250 miles to our south, the Phoenix Cardinals played in an outdoors stadium for nearly 20 years and there weren’t more than a handful of deaths, and pretty much all of those were from eating the nachos.

According to Forbes’ latest figures, the average NFL franchise is worth about $1.5 billion.  For teams who also own their own stadium, the values are considerably higher.  Assuming Mark Davis will own half of the new Las Vegas stadium, it follows that the value of the team would probably double and surpass the $2 billion mark.  That should be anough money to live on for a while, even in the Bay Area.  Besides, he sure as hell isn’t spending much money on haircuts.

If he still short on cash and needs a few bucks, given those figures and that level of collateral, Davis could probably get approved for a bank loan.  If he needs a co-signer, then give me a call.  Unlike Sheldon Adelson, I won’t back out of the deal.  I’ll even throw in my old set of golf clubs.

 

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