Democracy

The Dotard Wants War and Concussions

Take that, you John McCain you.

And NFL players who kneel for the national anthem? You need to speak the way we want you to speak. And hit harder, man! Be like Aaron Hernandez.

But what’s happening with Stephen Curry you ask? We don’t want your NBA Championship demeanor and terrific play and ambassador-like personality anywhere near the White House. You’re not invited!

Kim Jong-un should not, in any way, feel singled out, but I certainly understand how hurt he must be that the old man in the White House is yelling at him for having a nuclear program and firing missiles into the air above our allies’ heads. Rocket Man is a good song. He should see it as a compliment.

In other words, international diplomacy has been reduced to name calling and 6th grade playground theatrics. Remind me again; who thought it was a good idea to elect Donald Trump? Yes, I’m sure the base loves the muscular response, which they see as a refreshing change from those pantywaist presidents named Clinton, Bush and Obama. Threatening a scurrilous, dangerous, immoral dictator will get us what we want because, after all, we’re the United States and all dictators cower when the president tells them he is unhappy.

Just look at Iran. They can certainly see that Donald Trump is going to decertify the nuclear agreement we signed with them two years ago. What the president doesn’t see is that this is going to make him an unreliable deal-making partner with Iran, North Korea and any other country who might have an interest n United States’ affairs and trade. The simple, elegant “No” will be this year’s most diplomatic response, and one that will not make the White House happy. Not that the past 30 years of State Department public and private efforts have done much about North Korea. They’ve ignored agreements, broken them and generally thumbed their noses at us. But we could always say that we acted in an adult, dignified, internationally-approved manner while it was happening. In short, we were a role model for the democracies we represented. This administration has spent all of that political capital in nine months. Pregnancies should go better than this.

Just to show that a lack of diplomacy should not be limited to the world stage, the president has now picked a fight with Senator McCain for rightly opposing a disastrous bill that’s not really related to health care, but to the tax savings it can generate for the $1.5 trillion dollar giveaway to the rich that the GOP has been salivating over since January.

Our federal system is a wonderful creation, but health insurance should not be subject to the whims of governors and state legislators who have, shall we say, a spotty record when it comes to science, women’s health care, birth control, budget-balancing tricks and recognizing that religious belief will not cure all of our ills. All Americans should receive health care that takes into account their basic needs and doesn’t allow anyone to charge them more for pre-existing conditions, maternity care, mental health or addiction services. What’s worse is that this bill would penalize those states that expanded Medicaid to cover their most vulnerable citizens and give more money to those that shunned Obamacare. 

Which means, in our contradictory world, that those states that despise federal involvement in their affairs will be the largest beneficiaries of…federal largess.

And really, some people, like the president, should just stay away from sports. Yes, the man plays golf. Oh, does he play golf! But in every other way, he misunderstands the professional sports culture in the same way that he misunderstands larger American culture. The athletes and teams that have decided not to visit the White House are doing so because of the president’s words and actions, rather than as a result of some media cabal his supporters blame for his low poll numbers. Because, really, will professional football become a better game by having more players suffer concussions and brain damage and CTE?

As for the national anthem? Until 2009, NFL players used to stay in their locker rooms when the national anthem was played. You’d think the players had stood on the sidelines since 1814, when the song was written, but in fact that is not the case. You’d also think that they were the first athletes to cause controversy around the anthem, but that isn’t true either, if you take Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and a host of other athletes into account. The opposition to the president’s words have come from players, coaches and NFL owners, many of whom are staunchly Republican. They get it. The president does not.

I understand that Trump is angry because it looks like the health scare law will lose, North Korea will not back down and his preferred candidate in the Alabama Republican Senate primary is behind in the polls. He’s not the first president to face multiple crises.

But he’s not helping himself or the country with his shameful responses.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Featured

The New Normal Is Still Not Normal

Is it just me or is the political circus breaking for an intermission?

Yes, I know that the president watched FOX News, then tweeted that the British knew who the suspects were in Friday’s terrorist attack. And he also reiterate his position that civil rights agitators are just as bad as Nazis and Klan members.

But somehow, it feels different.

Maybe it’s that the president struck a deal with Democrats about the debt ceiling and agreed with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that we shouldn’t deport 800,000 people who were brought here by their parents, have generally lived fine American lives, and now risk having their worlds upended because, well, why? There was speculation that the president was concerned that his poll numbers were just too low or that throwing hard-working people out of the country was too egregious even for the right-wing media, who generally opposed his proposed policies.

Or it could be that John F. Kelly is actually doing a decent job as White House Chief of Staff and was able to get through the haze and appeal to the president on a level that Trump’s children, spouse, past advisers, conscience, sense of decency and humanity, and presidential behavior have not. Or maybe he was just havin’ fun, and next week he’ll go back to ravaging the truth, reacting and tweeting about news stories he hear, and calling for the wall to be built.

In the end, it won’t matter. Another eruption is always just around the corner. But, again, it just feels different.

And this week, the diplomats come calling for the annual opening of the United Nations. The president is scheduled to give a speech and of course anything goes, and will, when he takes the podium. Then he and his staffers must give some kind of explanation as to what his foreign policy will look like, but when you have no clue or knowledge about that it’s difficult to be…cogent.

The great fear among those who oppose the president’s agenda is that his behavior and utterances will become normalized. Perhaps we are seeing that. That’s why this new feeling can be dangerous. This is no normal Republican administration.

And I don’t think it ever will be.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Climate change #Featured

It’s Just the Weather. Nothing to See Here, Citizens. Move Along.

No, it’s not the Apocalypse. That happened last November. This is just weather.

Just weather. And the earth. How quaint.

Three hurricanes, and a major earthquake that very few people outside of Mexico are paying attention to, are taking their physical and psychic toll on a country that does not need any more bad news. Add in a cleanup that will be expensive, daunting and political, and you’ll see more partisan bickering in addition to the usual American disaster response which will include astounding stories of bravery, generosity, and poignancy.

Coming on the heels of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the earthly events of the past few weeks are instructive and worthy of reflection. For as a much as we consider ourselves as the vanguard of technology, knowledge, wealth, sophistication and freedom, we need to remind ourselves that nature ultimately holds us to account. There’s just no way to stop a hurricane or to predict an earthquake in time to safely evacuate residents. We are really at the mercy of our own limitations and our uncanny hubris when it comes to assessing risk. Just as we overestimated our safety 16 years ago, and unconscionably put the New York disaster assessment agency in the World Trade Center, so have Houston and, I’m reasonably certain we will find out, South Florida, will find that they were unprepared for events that stretched the vocabulary of every weatherista in the media.

And the political lessons? Please. Just ask anybody in New Jersey who remembers the Texas Congressional delegation’s incomprehensible opposition to federal relief for Superstorm Sandy in 2012, how they view the Ted Cruz FEMA telethon and screechy request for funds to rebuild, and they’ll tell you quite a story. Just don’t stand too close. And I hope you’re not offended by salty language. There’s also more money to be spent on Florida, and in the end I expect that both states will get what they need.

What these storms ultimately should tell us is that we are pretty good at reacting to disasters (right, Brownie?), but we are terrible at planning, execution, building codes and, yes, infrastructure. We simply cannot continue this way. Other countries, such as the European low countries and Great Britain, have made adjustments and not simply rebuilt up the affected areas. Dunes on the New Jersey shore will help, but building more houses on stilts will just set up homes as field goal attempts the next time we are pummeled with a 100-year storm that comes 95 years too soon.

The last piece to all of this is how we react, long-term, to these challenges, and the main component is the effect our activity is having on our atmosphere. Climate change is real. It is being influenced by choices and actions that humans have made since the industrial age. You can’t believe in meteorology and astronomy and physics, but deny the atmospheric chemistry that is making the earth warmer and holding more moisture. It’s time that we realized that we need to make adjustments and to not put people in danger that is avoidable.

That will require leadership that, at present, we just don’t have.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Featured

Steve Bannon Says Catholic Churches Need “Illegal Aliens” to Fill The Churches

Steve Bannon, leader of the conservative right, and most recently known as the man who whispered in Donald Trump’s ear as his Chief Adviser, explained his feelings on DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – and the Catholic church.

In a recently published interview, Bannon told CBS that Trump’s recent decision to end DACA – which would lead to the deportation of children and young adults who were brought to this country at by their parents – would not go over good with Catholics. Not because the decision is a terrible and insensitive one, but because the church need “illegal aliens” to fill their pews.

Education #Featured

The New School Year: History Will Guide the Future

New school years always bring new challenges for children, parents and teachers. This school year, though, promises to be much trickier, because we are now debating United States History.

Remember history? That’s the class that isn’t tested at the end of the year by the great national testing monopoly, Pearson. The PARCC tests focus on non-fiction readings, which allows for more use of historical documents on the test, but there’s no real history or context that a student has to master in order to answer the questions.

For decades we’ve focused on language arts and mathematics as the key components of K-12 education, relentlessly testing students in those subjects. And what has your school district likely spent a good deal of money on over the last few years? STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or STEAM (ibid., but add Arts). Coding classes are now part of the curriculum in many states as required business and personal finance courses. They get lots of press. And, yes, United States History is required in all states, but far too many of them require only one year of it. And with no summary test, save for a final exam at the end of the class, history has lost a good deal of influence in the curriculum.

We are now paying the price.

As this new school year begins, teachers will be asked to address the explosive issues that are daily in the media concerning our history and what it means. How should we treat Confederate statues and monuments? What place do hate groups such as the KKK and the American Nazi Party have in a country with a strong First Amendment? What should we do about immigration and children who were brought here by undocumented parents? And of course, we seem to be debating President Trump’s behavior, tweets and spur-of-the-moment policy declarations on a minute-by-minute basis, not to mention his speculative knowledge of historical events.

This is the environment in which America’s school teachers must operate this academic year. We are the ones who will be the first point of contact for many children who are feeling the anxiety and divisiveness that has taken hold in our society. Remember that as much as any adult is trying to make sense of what’s happening in our society, children experience these events on a magnified scale. They have less of the emotional regulation necessary to confront explosive debates that adults have and they have little context by which to weigh the consequences of what they’re learning. Great teachers recognize these deficits and conduct their classes so as to support students, to teach them civil behavior, to make sure students respect differences, and to calmly appeal to their students’ intelligence, humanity, and sense of justice.

Of course, some would argue that if teachers had done this in the past, then we wouldn’t be at this place in our history where there is so much disagreement and division. This would be a tragic conclusion. Did any of your teachers teach you to hate? To insult your classmates? To steal? To plagiarize? Of course not.

The simple truth is that teachers can only be as effective as the communities in which we teach, and if a community, or the country, is dysfunctional, then that will be reflected in the schools. We see students for only a portion of the day. The media, social and otherwise, takes over from there. Together with parents, teachers can only plant the seeds of knowledge; society and common sense have to do the rest.

That’s why this school year will be more of a challenge than most years, but I have no doubt that America’s school teachers will do their best, keep their emotions in check, teach from the heart and the head, advocate for every one of their students, and proudly represent themselves as doing one of the most important and difficult jobs in this country.

I wish all of my fellow teachers a happy new school year full of joy and wonder. May we learn as much about our students as they learn from us.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Featured #Racism

Pardon Our Appearance While We Crash and Burn

In the Trump Administration’s best approximation of Friday Night Lights, the president (shudder) treated two of his main constituencies to a Shabbat treat. First by throwing civil rights and equal opportunity to the floor when he banned transgender Americans from serving their country in the armed forces, and then when he pardoned convict Joe Arpaio, a move that sent a solid message to those who believe that medieval treatment of prisoners is not just for the 14th century.

Trump’s defense? That Joe was following the law. We should note that Joe was convicted of contempt for not following the law

The silver lining is that in order to receive a pardon, the person has to admit that they committed a crime. So Arpaio is now an admitted crook. Just the kind of guy that Trump admires.

These actions would be bad in any administration, but for one that is committed to really turning the clock back to 1946, before the armed forces were desegregated, these new twists are simply the method by which this country, ruled by white men, informed by white men, and acculturated by white sensibilities, will be…returned to white men.

Pardon my confusion as we slowly twist in the wind.

While the media focuses on the president’s foibles and twitter follies, he and his minions have done real and present damage to the country. They have sent the message that it’s fine to exclude people from participating in and benefiting from our democracy, opened up public land for economic exploitation, set us back at least 75 years as far as pollution and the environment are concerned, rolled back civil rights protections, and essentially made us a non-player in world affairs. And they’ve shown that they have no shame in perpetrating these policies. In fact, if it’s what the ultra-conservative base of the Republican Party wants, then Trump is eager to give it to them.

I would expect more pardons, more executive orders and more erratic and unpresidential behavior in the weeks and months to come. President Trump’s approval ratings are low enough that he doesn’t have to care about what the opposition thinks. After all, how much worse can things get?

Exactly my point.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Featured

Keith Olbermann And The Dumping of Donald Trump – Video

Keith Olbermann continues leading The Resistance against the failure in the White House, with another epic edition detailing “some” of the individuals and organizations who have called it quits on Trump!

Video