Tag Archive: Politics


I learned over the last few years, about the price one pays, to some degree, for living in a self-made political bubble.

I don’t know when it happened, probably somewhere during the early Bush years.  I slowly began to ensconce myself in politics, and it began to pick up speed, if you will, during the Obama years.  I went from being a “follower” of politics, to being more involved, to being totally immersed in what “my side” was up to, and how it was taking on the “other side”.  As social media began to rise, I began to follow, and comment on, and post almost purely political things. I didn’t realize how bad I had gotten, until one day, during a conversation with my mom, I launched into a rant about one political thing or another, and was literally yelling at my mom.  I don’t know why, but I was that wound up in it.  I was quoting websites, and blogs that I read.  Trying to make a point that my mom didn’t really care about.   To say that I upset her, is putting it mildly.  The upshot of the whole thing was I had not realized just how involved I had gotten in politics, and how much of my life was focused on whether or not something was in line with my political beliefs.  I analyzed TV shows, I analyzed books, and music, and movies, for anything that was not in line with my political beliefs.  In short, I had become insufferable to family, and even my kids and girlfriend.  I had always been “political” in that I had views, just like everyone else, however, what happened, is that those views became the end-all-be-all of my existence.  I began to think, somehow, that my views were necessary for my survival, and the survival of the country, well, a country containing all of the “right” people.  You know, the people who shared my views. I had surrounded myself with people who believed as I did, and ignored any counter arguments, or opinions that challenged what I believed to be true.  It didn’t matter that the argument presented was factual, what mattered was that it ran counter to my beliefs, and therefore, needed to be rejected.   It took a family gathering, where I managed to upset my entire family with a bunch of political remarks that managed to offend several people.  Shortly after that, I was talking with my mom, who informed me that because of my remarks at the previous gathering, discussing politics was off limits at the next gathering, and if I so much as brought it up, I would be asked to leave.

Now, you have to understand something.  My family is pretty easy going, and mostly laid back, and we can discuss many subjects reasonably, its how we were raised.  The problem with me was I was saying things without any regard for anyone else there, and practically demanding my view be accepted as the only correct one.   It is what woke me up to the way politics had consumed me.  My Facebook was full of nothing but political content, either groups I belonged to, or stuff I had posted myself.  My Twitter account was nothing but political follows, and my Twitter feed was an endless parade of memes, links to blogs, and news stories that favored my point of view.  I attacked anyone who posted content that ran counter to my beliefs, and by “attack” I meant I insulted, and belittled the person who dared to post something in opposition to me.  I didn’t offer a logical, cohesive counter-argument, I offered vitriol, because I believed that my position was the only one.  Now, note that I didn’t say someone posted disagreeing with my politics, no, they were in opposition to me.  To me.  That’s how deep I had gotten.  Someone who disagreed with my politics, was disagreeing with me, because I had become political.  It was all I was.  It was so bad, that my politics had pushed aside my faith in God, and every thing I had been taught. My religion, my values system my beliefs had been pushed aside, rather, replaced by my politics.  It was, at this time, I woke up and realized what I had become.  I was no longer me.  I had become a political creature.  This was all prior to the 2016 presidential race.  It was near the end of the Obama administration, and things were shaping up for 2016.

The other thing that woke me up, is a “news” story that I read.  The story was about a container ship that had sunk in the Indian Ocean.  The story breathlessly related that the container ship was loaded with weapons and other support for the Syrian rebels, that had been approved by Obama.  I read the story, and in a moment of clarity, I realized the story was fake  Using Google image search, I found another story, from 2014, featuring the same photo of the sinking ship.  The ship had sunk in the Indian Ocean, that much was true, however, it had nothing to do with Syria, the rebels, or, Obama approving any kind of support for them.  The ship had broken up and sunk because it was old, and the shipping line that owned it was going to de-commission it at the end of the voyage it was on.   Here I was, so committed to my side, to my politics, that I believed every story that I read, everything put out by my side had to be the truth, because we were right, we were the only ones with the correct ideas, with the correct solutions to the country’s problems.  Yet, here was a group, a “news” source that I followed that I had believed without question, posting a story that was, to use today’s vernacular “Fake News”. It pissed me off.  It really pissed me off.  I began digging into the some of the stories that were posted by other groups. I began to find more of the same.

In the coming weeks, logic broke through.  I began to evaluate my subscriptions, the groups I belonged to, the “news” sites I followed, and even some of the bloggers I followed.  I stopped using Facebook for anything other than keeping up with friends, and activities within my Amateur Radio group as well as the hobby in general. I cleared my Twitter feed of all the political follows with the exception of a couple.  I began following people based on anything but politics, and in some cases, they were people I had followed because of their politics, but quickly realized that politics aside, they were funny, interesting, and decent people.  I also discovered that I could disagree with people, and not let it anger me.  I ignored people who tried to engage.  I quit paying attention to my mentions, and I was much better for it.

When the presidential race began to heat up, I distanced myself further, I stayed away from debate and discussing the candidates, because I thoroughly disliked both of them, and I couldn’t see any profit in taking a side.  So I let it be.  I still read other’s opinions, but I didn’t engage. I did know I didn’t want Hilary as President, but I could not get behind Trump, and that’s where I left it.  I stayed away from the arguments because they were everything I used to be, and everything I used to post.  Anger, insults, and no regard for anyone else’s humanity.

Politics is poison.  When your politics becomes your life, when everything you say, do, and get involved is nothing but politics, it ruins your life.  When you base someone’s worth on who they voted for, and ignore everything about them, you are short-changing yourself, and you have become unbearable. Whether or not you like Trump or hate him, or any other office holder, for that matter, is one thing, letting that admiration, or disgust dictate how you feel about family and friends, and is the deciding factor on continuing or discontinuing that relationship, then, you are the one with the problem.  No politician, or political cause is worth severing family, marital, or friendship ties over.

Back off, take a breath, re-evaluate, look at your life, and things around you.  Friends, and family are far more important than politics, or activism, or anything else. When the dust settles, and things have moved on, all you will have left is your family and friends.

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I rarely interact on Social Media, especially on Facebook.  I hang out on Twitter, comment from time to time, but I avoid arguments, and disagreements at all costs.

Why?

I am tired of it.  Since November of 2016, I do little more than read others people’s FB posts, I almost never post to my timeline.  For me, there is precious little that is worth reading any longer, and, add to that, there is nothing worth responding to.   All I ever see is the latest “I hate Trump” or “MAGA” type post. Or the latest “Anti gun” or “Pro 2A” post.  The problem with the posts are not the content, but, rather the attitude with which they are served up.  It’s a “this is what I believe, and f*** you and go to hell if you don’t agree”  No one has rational discussions any longer, and I do mean no one.

I am also tired of the conspiracy theories surrounding, well, you name it; Las Vegas, Parkland, Newtown, etc. etc.  The worst part about all of this, is these posts are coming from people that I know to be intelligent, and, I thought, reasonable.  Many of them old classmates, and others that I have known for 30 years.  Politics, and one’s political views have become the yardstick, (and with some people the only yardstick used to measure someone’s worth.) .  I have witnessed lifelong friendships come to an end, over a vote, or a political stance.  There is no “opinion” any more, there is “My post is irrefutable fact, and f*** you if you don’t think it’s true”.  People post things that they find, somewhere in the deep, dark bowels of the internet, as truth.  Not only truth, but incontrovertible, irrefutable, truth, because their favorite website, blogger, or pundit said it.  In this day and age, it’s not “for” or “against”, no.  It’s “you must believe or you are a heretic, and must be destroyed”.  It happens on both sides.

If you are pro 2nd Amendment, you are branded a “baby killer”, an “NRA Terrorist” or you “Support the murder of children” and the ownership of “weapons of war”.  If you want support Gun Control, then you area “gun grabbing communist” or a “traitor”, or an “anti-freedom leftist”.  No quarter is given in these arguments.  There is no discourse, only insults, and if it’s a woman posting her support of  2A, it’s the most vile sexual type of insults I have ever seen.  There are threats, and more insults.  Hashtags are thrown around like so many bean bags.  Frequently posts are in all caps, as people become more and more unhinged.  Eventually the donnybrook loses steam, and everyone is on to something else, but not before feelings are hurt, anger flairs and relationships are strained, if not broken.  I am amazed at the hurtful things people, especially family members, say to one another over a discussion of politics.  Isn’t family supposed to be better than that?  It is the disagreement that severe that some stop talking to siblings or parents?  How crappy is that?  I don’t always agree with my brothers, or my sister, but I would never, ever stop talking to them over their stance on something.  My dad, if he were still among us, would not stand for it.  I feel bad for those people who feel that a relationship, especially a long-term one, be it familial or romantic, has to end, because of a political opinion.

I hate all of the stupid fighting, and when one side presents the other with facts, then the arguing switches to whose “facts” are more factual.  We get our news and information from many sources these days, unfortunately, we all know about “fake news”, and in many cases, the “facts” as presented, depending on which “side” is presenting them can vary.  In more than a few cases, news sites will post a story, and include facts that only support their side of the argument, then other people quote that source as being proof that they are right, while the other side of the argument cites a story about the same issue from a news site, or blogger, or pundit, that includes information that supports what they have to say.  It’s exhausting.  Woe to the person who enters into the fray, in an attempt to be reasonable, cites a balanced story on the issue, then they get torn into from both sides.  The worst part about all of it, are the vile insults that people hurl at one another, either strangers they don’t know, or people that they do.  It’s unreal, and it almost hurts to watch it.

An example of what I describe above, goes like this:  I will use the latest raging debate over guns, that is burning up social media.

Friend A; (a long time friend of mine) Posted a story about a study done by two criminologists, citing the number of times a gun is used to defend life and property, and stops a crime in progress.  He posted his comments, as well as a link to the study, so anyone reading his post can avail themselves of the information, and read the study in it’s entirety.   Several people posted comments after reading the story, and the study.  The comments are all positive.

Stranger A:  this person pops up in a comment, after a news story that this person believes “debunks” the study by the two criminologists.  The news story takes the study to task, and selectively cites facts that support the gun control side of the argument.  So Stranger A, goes off on a paragraph long screed about the NRA, and evil corporations funding gun companies, buying politicians, and etc, etc, etc.  Friend A politely asks Stranger A to read the study.  Stranger A replies he doesn’t need to because the article he read speaks for itself, and he knows the study was funded by the NRA and the gun makers (it wasn’t) so, of course it is going to back up their claims.

It’s this kind of attitude, the “If you are against gun control, you are for the deaths of children” is really rather tiresome, and it is a tactic used by many in an argument to deflect from their arguments shaky ground.  It is also used as a way to end the argument, because the tactic forces the other person to argue that they are not “for the killing of children”, which then puts the anti-gun person on the offensive.  Or, it forces the other person to walk away from the argument, because it just got stupid.  The tactic is designed to shut down debate, and silence opposition.  People on both sides use it.  It’s not a “left” or “right” thing.  So, the above exchange over the study went back and  forth, but the problem is, everyone wound up arguing with Stranger A about how they are not for the killing of children.  It was several comments before someone else got the argument back on track.

The point of the anecdote above is an example of what typically happens on social media.  The other phenomenon is the habit among many to read the headline of a posted story, and then comment on the inaccuracy of the story   It is embarrassing when someone I know, and always figured was intelligent, decides to go off on an article they did not even read, and puts their intellectual laziness on display.  It is amazing to me how little there is in the way of critical thinking.  What ever happened to analysis, reading comprehension, and logical thought?

It is indeed sad, that the current level of debate on Twitter, and Facebook resembles an argument between a bunch of 12 year old kids on the school playground.  It really is.  The crises that face this nation are not going to get solved by emotional outbursts, name calling or finger-pointing.  The problem is, no one wants to hear the other side out.  It is as if we all want our side to be the only one that prevails.  When you get right down to it, the truth to just about any of the issues is much more nuanced, it hardly black and white.  In the studies mentioned in my anecdote, each one can, when facts and passages in the study are cherry-picked and taken out of context, support either the pro-gun, or the anti-gun side of the argument.  However, that kind of cherry picking does little to shed light on the problem of violence in this country, and what effective steps can be taken to curb the violence.   The same could be said of any study, on any of the issues that face the nation.  The sad fact is, that any side in an any argument wants to be the “only” side that is right.  It’s as if being right, and defeating one’s enemies is more important than solving, or working towards solving an issue.  “All or nothing” rarely works.  When one takes a position that the only way to solve an issue is an “all or nothing” solution, then people on the other side of the issue, are going to be unwilling to talk, much less compromise, or reach an agreement.  This is also how fights start, because once an argument gets to the point where one side feels compelled to use force to convince the other side, then all is lost.

All I know is, and I urge my kids to do this all of the time;  If you are going to debate a question, come to the table with facts, and research, and also come to the table with an understanding demeanor.  Disagreement is not a personal attack.  One can understand the other side’s point of view, without resorting to personal attacks, name calling, and the like.  If you have made your point, and the other person, or group, still disagrees, then, move on.  You have made your point, you stood by your argument, and that’s it.  One cannot change another’s mind, well, can rarely change it.  The most that can be done is “agree to disagree” and move on.  There is nothing wrong with that, either.  Everyone has different beliefs on everything, from the big issues of the day, to the question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. (it’s not.  Stating my position right now) or whether or not ketchup belongs on that same hot dog (It doesn’t, at least if you bought it from a hot dog stand.  If you made it at home, then, ketchup is permissible).  It is those differences that make us who we are, and one is not “less” because one believes differently than someone else on any given subject.  We sometimes forget we are human, and we should never dehumanize someone else over a disagreement  Ever.  It’s wrong, and leads to all kinds of scary things on a larger scale.

For those interested.  The link posted by my friend is below.  Read it and decide.  The article cites at least 3 studies and has links to them.  Read it.  Thank you.  Article my friend posted  I offer no opinions here.

Trump. Again.

“The Donald” has won New Hampshire, and now, the din has become almost deafening.  In fact, on both sides of aisle, as socialists celebrate Bernie Sanders crushing of Hillary Clinton.

Trump won New Hampshire, rather handily, in many ways it was expected.  However, one primary does not a nomination make.  (Although, with the crows and cries from the Trump supporters, you would think he just won it all)

What is it about Trump supporters? Why, in many cases, are they so virulent, so vocal, so “in your face”?   I like Trump supporters to this:  Picture a Trump’s campaign, even, Trump the person, as a banquet, a banquet laid out by someone to satisfy a group of hungry people.  Now, on that banquet table, are carefully prepared favorites, things that the preparers know the hungry people want to eat.  However, also on that table, among the platters of delicious foods, are platters of things no one would eat, and many would find disagreeable., in fact, they may even be garbage, they smell so bad.  The hungry people arrive, and decide, “well, we are here, lets eat, at least at this banquet, there is stuff we can eat.”  So, everyone decides to get their fill, but in the process, have to reach over, around and aside of the platters of garbage, from which the emanating odors mingle with everything else, making it hard to smell the good stuff.  Still and all, once they navigate around the foul inedible, they pronounce the banquet as “The best” and “delicious”, despite warnings, and even, evidence, that the presence of the garbage at the table is going to harm them, despite all of the good food they have eaten.   In the meantime, the banquet goers are being told by others to take a step back, and look at the entire table.  For if they did, they would find the whole thing unappetizing, and walk away, despite the presence of their favorite foods.   And some, continue to eat, hoping that someone comes along, and cleans up the garbage, and gets rid of it, so all that is left is what everyone wants to consume.

I see tweets, and FB entries, praising Trump, talking about how he is a “leader” and “what this country needs”.   Now, I also understand what has given rise to Trump, and on the other side, Sanders.  It is an electorate that is fed up, finished, and angry, citizens who feel betrayed, and even, sold out.   People that are tired of “politics as usual” and the empty promises and hot air that comes out of Washington.

I get it, I am one of those people.

We are tired of the threat that is being posed to us by terrorism, unrestrained illegal immigration, a President who acts more like a dictator than the leader of a nation.  Tired of do-nothing Senators, and Congressmen.  We need, no, we want someone to do something about that.  Someone who will stand up and say “No more, this has to stop”.

Unfortunately no one has.  Well, except for Donald Trump.

The problem with Donald, and there are many. (take your pick) is that he is not, and never has been a Conservative, even a moderate one.  He is in it for himself, he is not in it for the country, the people, or our sovereignty.  He is in it for his ego.   His speeches on immigration, and terrorism strike a chord with many, because that is what people want to hear, he knows this, and he speaks to it.  It is little more than populist nonsense, with no real substance behind it.  It is what is selling though, and it is what is getting people to support him.  What most Americans want, is their country back, a sense of security, and the knowledge that Washington is not actively trying to run their lives.  Most of us just want to be left alone to pursue our version of the American Dream.  For various reasons, many Americans believe Donald Trump is, or can be, the man that does that.  Many of us disagree with that notion, and disagree with much of what Trump has to say.

Nonetheless, people are paying attention, taking it in, and following him.  In a speech just before the NH primary, Trump offered more of the same, talking points, and applause lines with very little substance, or policy behind them.   When I ask Trump supporters what he offers, I get very little in the way of responses that either point out what it is that he has, or, even make any sense.  I did get one reply on Facebook from a FB friend who is a Trump supporter, and she said “Trump is saying what we want to hear”.

That, folks, says it all.

Trump actually had his own, on the mark critique of his supporters, when he quipped during a speech recently in Iowa, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,”.  Which to me, is telling commentary on what he thinks of his supporters, and of himself.   In that one line, he is saying that his supporters blindly follow and support him, and it matters not what he does, they are so loyal, they wouldn’t abandon him.  Additionally he is saying that he is also above the law, and that if he shot someone, it shouldn’t matter.   There is not an ounce of humility in that man, and certainly, no respect for the people that support him.

Furthermore, the number of racist, white supremacists that support Trump, as well as Nazi, and other anti-Semitic types is more than a bit disturbing to me, and something that, I would think, any candidate would want to distance himself from.  It would seem, that Trump, while never acknowledging the support from these people, has also never disavowed it, and has never distanced himself from it.   Every extreme is present in every presidential election, in the past the extremism has always had little effect on the out come of the Presidential race.  This is the first election, in the 50 years I have been on this planet, where it seems that extremism has a much louder voice, and, while certainly not being courted, it is being tolerated, which should disturb just about anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The View From Here.

I guess I can say that we live in “unique”, for lack of a better term, political times. Never before in my life, do I remember this kind of dynamic between people and politicians.  Growing up, and in my youth, I learned that politicians are the people who run things.  Not always trustworthy, always glad handing, speaking, and making promises, but people who ran things all the same.  There was then, as now, a certain level of cynicism regarding the process (especially since I live in the Chicago area) but, you could generally count on the politicians to go to Springfield, or Washington and “bring home the bacon” as it were.  You voted for the guy who got that done, and that pretty much was the way it went, or, it was my perception of it,  There was also the sense that the person in office, be it in Springfield, or Washington, was part of the place he or she came from. You knew where that person grew up, what Chicago neighborhood, or suburb they came from.   That person carried with them some of the traits from where they grew up, one could identify with them, one could actually feel, that that elected person, knew from whence they came. It was comforting in a way, because the person that everyone elected was “one of them”.  If you lived in the same town, or neighborhood where an elected representative was from, you got to hear stories from the people who knew that person as a child, or student, or altar boy, or cheerleader, or whatever.  They may have been a politician, but they were “your” politician.

Not only that, you could count on seeing them at the local neighborhood festival during the summer, or at the County Fair, Village Picnic, or “Gathering on the Green”, walking around shaking hands, swapping stories, greeting old friends, and neighbors.  In many cases, whether forced, or sincere, these elected officials acted as if they were still part of the old neighborhood.  You could actually talk to them, shake a hand.  Perhaps they walked about with a couple of assistants, but they were there and they were visible.

Yes, it was still politics, and yes, they were still politicians, doing what politicians do, but at least, back then, they gave the impression that they wanted to talk to their constituents, and remind the voters that they  themselves came from the same place, and they were their champion in Washington, or the state capitol.  As I stated, in a way, it was comforting, if I cast my vote for my Congressman, or State Representative, I felt more or less, that they would take my interests to Springfield, or Washington with them.  Of course, it wasn’t always the case, but, hey, these were politicians, we expected this from them. There was still corruption, scandal, and all of that, let’s be honest, politics has always been that way.  Back then, however, I always had the impression that most politicians devoted some effort to connecting with their constituents.  It’s never been perfect, and never was, but back then, 25, 30, 40 years ago, it was different in some ways.

That was then, this is now.

Back then, the impression I got, was that my elected representatives were accessible, on some level.  If you spoke to them, wrote them a letter, sometimes you got a form letter, other times, you got a personal response, but, you got a response from them.  These days, I am not so sure.

Regardless of the charm they try to exude, many of our elected officials come across as fake, and arrogant, and above the rest of us.  Condescension seems to be the norm.  We are dismissed with a pat on the head, and a condescending form letter reply to our concerns.  Sometimes, we don’t even get that.  We might get a tweet, or even, a Facebook response with an emoticon.  It feels like a brush-off, a “Get away from me boy, you bother me”.   In Springfield, as in Washington, we have  elected people who just don’t mesh with us anymore.  Summer Festivals?  Sure, their staff is there, with pamphlets, and a booth, and brochures touting accomplishments. Questions?  Concerns? “Sure, the Congressman is on Twitter, and Facebook, be sure to “Like” us!”  The elected representative might even show up at the event for some photo oppurtunities, with other local politicians, and perhaps labor, or civil rights leaders, but not with the people who put them in office.

What has been even more transforming over the last twenty years or so, is their transition from “politicians” to “Ruling Class”.  It started with Bush and Clinton back in the early 90’s.  You  could see it, the sense among the elected, that they were there, because somehow, they knew better than us.  The attitude is prevalent on both sides of the aisle.  There are no more “men and women of the people” in our Statehouses and especially in Washington.   We are given the brush off, we are spoken to like wayward children.  Even campaign literature has a note of condescension to it.  They are, for the most part, Ivy League educated, or products of elite universities. Taught by the same professors, the same theories, and develop the same attitudes and outlooks. In the “Ruling Class” Democrat and Republican are indistinguishable. Through the 90’s the Clinton’s and their ilk began to solidify the “Ruling Class” as it were.  If there were starting point for the elite arrogance that pervades these people, it would have to be the Clinton Administration.  Yes, the first Bush Administration had it too, but the Clintons and their ilk brought it home.  They institutionalized it in Washington.  They made it part of the landscape.  The attitude, however, infects every one of them in Washington, even to the lowliest intern.   The Clintons were the first to tie the bonds between Washington and the Hollywood Left.  No longer did we matter, here in the rest of the nation, we became “Fly-over Country”.   Hollywood’s big and powerful slept in the White House, hung out with the Cliintons, testified in Congressional hearings (remember the whole Alar thing? Actresses giving speeches to Congress on the dangers of the chemical, because they played a farmer in a movie) Spoke on Climate Change (then “Global Warming) policies.  All of the sudden, we had Hollywood types telling us to listen to Washington because they knew better.

Through the Bush Administration, it ease off, but not much. Hollywood may not have been visiting as much, but the arrogance and elitism were still there. Government became bigger, and more bloated, and more bureaucracy  With Obama’s entry into the White House, it only got worse.  Hollywood was back in the White House, bigger than before.  The arrogance grew in volumes, and politicians turned their backs firmly on the American people, and began a process of dividing us against one another, and also beginning to show shades of the tyrants they wish to be.  Obama began acting like the emperor that he wished he could be, what he displayed he wanted to be with his “I have a phone and a pen” comment.

What also changed was everyone’s perception of the government.  Instead of being ‘the government” they became “The Government”.  Back in my formative years, Washington was viewed with a bit of disdain, and cynicism.  Why not?  Bureaucracy moves slowly.  Getting anything done requires massive amounts of time, energy and paperwork.  Washington was an annoyance, something to gripe about, but not really worry too much about. We could go about living our lives without worrying about the government doing anything to us for the way we lived, unless, of course, we ran afoul of the law, and got the FBI’s attention.

That is definitely the one thing Obama changed.

I never used to fear the government.  I do now.

Are they going to come kicking my door down, and take me away somewhere? No, I don’t think they will, but I live with the fact that now, it is much easier to run afoul of the government than it was at any time in the past.  More regulations, more rules.  Special interest groups that used to be fringe organizations, are now sitting in the White House helping to draft policy. Groups that want to take away our rights to speak our minds, to own guns, to travel where we wish, even groups that want to regulate the lunch you send with your kid to school. It was never like this. I didn’t have to worry about my barbecue grill and it’s capacity to pollute.  Now I do. I never had to worry about “Carbon foot print” or “thought rape” or “hate thoughts” or “white privilege”. I have to now, however.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  I don’t want to have to worry about my grill, and the smoke it emanates, or if something I say is going to come back to haunt me in some way, or even worse, demonize me for simply having an opinion.

As an everyday American, I feel less like a citizen, and more like a subject.   When looking at the broader landscape, it is not hard to see how a Bernie Sanders and a Donald Trump are rising now.  Many people see Washington the same way I see it: Overbearing, intrusive, and bigger than it needs to be, as well as totally disconnected from the needs of this nation.   American citizens are wary, suspicious, and cynical, and we feel like no one in Washington even knows we are here. Crisis come and go, people die, and the President picks and chooses where he is going to get involved.  His disdain for American people is evident in the way speaks, and his actions while in office.  A crisis finds him on the golf course more often than not. Only the plight of certain people and groups in this country garner his attention, and then, it’s fleeting at best. There is no leader in Washington.  The Republicans we elected have waffled and caved, disappointing use even further.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are packing in the crowds, garnering TV time, and dominating news cycles. I do not support either Sanders, or Trump.  But, I fear either one of them could get into office, simply because a sick and tired America wants someone who will do something to fix what is wrong with this country, and not really care how it is done, just so long as someone pays attention to us, and fixes some things. Or, at the very least, kicks most of the elites out of Washington.

On the GOP side, we need to dispense with The Donald and his Circus.  We need to take on Hillary, and Bernie, and repudiate their ideas.  We need to unite everyone as an American, and find a way to begin healing this nation.  Four years of Trump, Hillary, Biden, or Sanders will just make things worse.

Whew…

Two posts in one night….. Doesn’t happen often at all.

After perusing my Twitter Timeline, and my Facebook Feed, I have come to a conclusion of sorts (A totally unscientific one at that) regarding those who like “The Donald.”

Forget the fact that he his spewing populist excrement.  Forget that, as a candidate, and the leading one (for now) at that, he should be telling us what his vision his, his plan, his idea to “Make America Great Again.”  What is pulling people in, is that he is saying what people want to hear.

You mean people want to hear this crap?

Yes, some of them do. At least, those of the knee-jerk  “Oooh, I like what he just said” type.  Now, I am not going to disparage anyone’s IQ, intelligence level, or anything like that.  But, we all know that this country is full of people who are, to coin a popular phrase, “low information voters.”  In other words people, who, for whatever reason, just don’t follow what is going on, beyond what is happening in their household, job, or social circle. Current events are something they see on the news for a few minutes a night, or something Kimmel or  Fallon joke about. They are just not involved, or following anything in depth. (Unless it’s Cecil the Lion, then, they are all over that. Can’t find Zimbabwe on a map, but they are all over the lion story)   They live on soundbites, and form opinions based on tweets they see in their time line, or on click bait in their Facebook feed. They may or may not be intelligent, that, we can’t discern here.  They do know they are not happy with some segment of America, be it politics, social issues, economic issues, or national security.  They may not have all of the details, or nuances of any issues, but they know something is “bad” and needs to be made good.  So, when someone comes along, speaking in those sound bites, and saying exactly what appeals to them, these people stand up and take notice..  Their ears perk up, and they say “Yes, I agree, Trump for President” and don’t bother to go beyond that.  People are drawn to the outspoken, makers of bold statements, those who can speak plainly about an issue.  When there is discontent, the person who speaks the loudest, with the words that people want to hear, is the one who gets followers. Doesn’t matter the motivation, or any other ulterior motive on the part of the speaker.  They are saying what the discontented want to hear, and the discontented mistake this for intelligence, and a statement of the outspoken one’s intentions.  Sometimes this is enough to carry someone to a leadership position.  Which, can be a scary proposition for the more rational, and thoughtful among us.

When challenged, I have yet to have anyone tell me what Trump’s positions are on the issues facing the country.  I get:

“He will build a wall”

“He’s a businessman, he can fix the economy”

“He will beat Hillary.”

and on, and on, and on.  None of those make any sense, and saying “Build a wall” does not fix our immigration crisis.  Saying “He can fix the economy” doesn’t put people to work.  Every election, probably since this country began, has had someone who sticks their head in the race, says a few things, runs a campaign, but never does much beyond a couple of percentage points.  They stir up public opinion, get some headlines, but, eventually fade away, mainly due to lack of any kind of substance.  Generally these folks have been outliers, “radicals” if you will, or fringe folks who are trying to make a name, but have no serious intent.  In this day and age, however, where the very survival of this country is at stake after 8 years of Barack Obama, an outlier with a big mouth is someone we can ill afford.   People, tired of the Washington Establishment are looking for someone who will “take the fight” to the establishment.  Trump is making those noises, and to people who have spent the last 8 years or longer, barely paying attention, his words are resonating.  They are hollow, full of self aggrandizement, ego, and narcissism, but they are resonating. This country cannot afford any more narcissistic, self aggrandizing leaders.   We just can’t.

I am waiting patiently for Trump to implode, evaporate, blow away, or do something, something other than running for President.

Add to the above, this little fact:  Trump has never, in all that I have read about the man, ever been a Republican, much less a conservative.  Being a business man, he is going to follow whatever direction the political winds blow.  The survival of his business and his fortune depend on it. He was a Hillary Clinton supporter and donor in the past.  He got political advice from Bill Clinton.  Tell me, does that sound like a Republican to you?

We need Mr. Trump back in his penthouse, doing what he does from a business standpoint.  We don’t need him jumping in to the presidential fray. We need solid leadership, from someone with a vision, and who is willing to do the work that is required to take this country back down a prosperous path.  We need someone who can secure this country, and our place in the world, someone who understands statecraft, foreign relations, and how everything works in the big picture.  Trump is not that guy.  I do not know who is at this point, but I know it’s not him.

 

 

If you are one of those who watched the Fox GOP debate the other night, then you are one of many who saw what amounted to a verbal fistfight.   For the record, I did not watch the debate. I also have not seen much of the video from the debate that has made it’s way around social media, and the like.  So, this is not an opinion piece about the debate, in fact, I didn’t really care much about the debate.  Too many candidates, and I need some time to watch the process and see who rises to the top.

When I started “Chairman of the Awkward Squad” a few years ago, my goal was to write as comprehensive a political blog as I could.  I like to write, I enjoy politics (or, at least, I used to) and I have strong opinions. (Just ask anyone I know.)  However, post 2012 election, I stopped.  I pretty much gave up on politics, following politics, the GOP, and all of the like.  Yes, I paid attention to the news, followed my Twitter feed, and in general kept as informed as I could, but I just didn’t, and I couldn’t jump in to the fray any longer.  The 2012 election soured me, really soured me, and, quite frankly, pissed me off.  Why?  Never in my life have I ever felt so betrayed by the politics I believed in.  Never in my life have I felt so lied to by the GOP, and really, conservatism in general.  I quit listening to Rush, reading Red State, and backed off of any conservative media, with the exception of a few Twitter feeds that I enjoyed, and some blogs in other places.  Romney was a nice man, but didn’t stand a chance, and yet, throughout that cycle we were sold a bill of goods regarding him.  When the returns came in on Election Night, the betrayal bit deep.  I was led to believe that Mitt had a chance.

Now we are approaching 2016, and I feel compelled to get back into following this stuff, and perhaps opining on some of it.  First off, I am not surprised by the size of the GOP field.  When election time starts to approach,  everyone with an idea, and that thinks they have a chance, jumps in. I was also not surprised by Trump’s entry, because, well, he’s Trump, and he is always looking for the spotlight. (If you have ever watched
“The Apprentice” you understand)  I figured he would flash in the pan, and be gone.

It would appear my assumption was wrong.

The reason, and I hear this from my FB feed, and friends and co workers, Trump is resonating, is simply because he is saying what people, who are fed up with everything that is going wrong in this country, want to hear.  What Trump is spewing is really nothing more than populist horse-hockey, that is designed to rabble rouse and nothing more.  Furthermore, and I remembered this from Queen Hillary’s Senate run, that Trump was one of her donors, and a supporter.

What is this guy doing trying to be a Republican?  Or, even worse, trying to portray himself as a Conservative?  Trump has a been a business man, and, I have always assumed, based on past behavior, a Democrat.

What Trump is doing, is trying to divide the vote, really.  He is a spoiler, a distraction, a carnival barker.  As I said above, he is saying the things that the discontented want to hear.  That is what is causing him to poll well.   A third party run?  Yes, most likely.  Why? Because he will cull away all of those in the GOP, if you will, who focus on one issue.  In this election, it will be Immigration.  He is appealing to those who are tired of the immigration crisis in this country, but, he is also appealing to those on a more baser level.  The racists, the xenophobes, and those who wish to just trash anyone who isn’t them.  I see it in my Twitter feed, and my Facebook feed, and, with an issue that requires a thoughtful, and comprehensive approach, shouts of “Build a wall” and “Send ’em all back!” are not a solution.  It’s rabble rousing at its worst.  Not only that, they are little more that catch phrases for people to rally around, and don’t require much thought.    Additionally, the stupid spat with Megyn Kelly of FOX is a distraction, and a device to further the moribund “war on women”, by providing fodder for the lefty pundits to bash conservatism with.

Trump is something the GOP, and this election cycle does not need.  With all of the crisis, both current and looming, that this country is facing, there is no room for someone who is going to nothing more than pound a fist, and shout catch phrases.   Has Trump said one word about how he would deal with Iran? or ISIS?  If he has, I haven’t heard it.  Because of his business acumen, he may be good on the economy, but occupying the White House is more than a one-dimensional job.  He knows it, and we know it, and we also know, like our current occupant, he is lacking in what many perceive as necessary skills.  Statecraft? Trump as no idea what that is.

Also, in the vein of what this country doesn’t need, is another Bush, and, we don’t need Christie either.  Those two really need to take off their RINO suits, and put on the “D”, because, really that is what they are acting like. (I don’t have time in this blog to go into it, perhaps later….)

I haven’t settled on any one candidate yet.  Too many to keep track of, and I am looking for someone to emerge as a leader.  There a couple who are starting to show some potential, but I will reserve my judgement for later.

So, I am getting back into this, and I will most likely regret it.  Look for more.  It may, or may not be interesting.

 

 

Everyone is reflecting on 9/11 this day.  It would be cliche for me to write about where I was and what I was doing on that day.  Since I do not like being cliche, I won’t.   That day did affect me profoundly, on levels I cannot even describe.

What did affect me was the way today, ten years after the most vicious attack on this country since Pearl Harbor, dawned.  It was the same as it was 10 years ago, maybe a bit cooler, who knows?  I went about my morning, getting ready for church, and going to the Pancake Breakfast at the fire house.  My mind kept going back to that morning.  I cannot explain how it affected, at least, I cannot explain completely.

As the years have gone by, I have never completely forgotten the images I saw that morning, they were too horrific, too frightening, and even, too surreal to forget.  Part of my heart was in those towers on that day, it was there with the firefighters of the FDNY.  As I watched the towers burn, in my mind, I could see the firefighting activity going on.  I could only imagine how crowded the radio channels were, and the chaos that must have been taking place at the 9-1-1 Center, and in the “radio room”  (regardless of it’s size, and number of occupants, where ever the fire dispatchers are located, it is always called the “radio room”)  My mind was in several different places at once.  I never in my life fought a fire of any type approaching that level of intensity, and I certainly do not put myself on the same level as a firefighter in a big city.  That being said, we share the same bond, in many ways.  I also know the fire service from the dispatch side of things. I know how hectic it can get in a given dispatch center during a “regular” incident (Large auto accident, big fire, etc)  I could only imagine the stress and the strain the dispatchers were going through, and through it all, each one maintained their professionalism and communicated clearly and effectively.

So, that was one level… and then there is the other one.  My mind is still haunted by those images, especially of the people jumping, and the footage of the people trapped above the fire in both towers.  The images were heart-rending, and to this day, are difficult to watch.  Watching video is one thing, but seeing the still photos, is something else.  Even though you can’t see individual expressions, the fear is palpable nonetheless.   It’s hard at this point, not to lapse into meaningless cliche about who those people were, their dreams, desires, what they did, who they loved. It’s all been done, and I cannot do it any more justice, but, I do feel that aspect, and it makes things all the more unforgettable.  All of those faceless people in those grainy photos and video of the upper floors, were someone to somebody, and they all left this world in a way none of them expected.   I often find myself wondering what that day must have been like, especially for the person who looked out the window just as the aircraft approached.  I cannot fathom that feeling, and I cannot fathom what it must have been like.  Even worse, the people on the plane, who knew, like that flight attendant who was on the first aircraft to hit the towers, she was talking to someone from her airline’s headquarters, and she knew what was going on, she knew it.  I cannot comprehend what that must be like, the overpowering helplessness that must have overcome all of them.   Still photos abound of the people who watched the attack, and its aftermath, unfold.  They were on the street surrounding the Twin Towers, they were in buildings throughout the area, and they were in Times Square watching it happen on the “Jumbotron” TV’s on some of the buildings.  The photos of the people nearest the attack site are the ones that are the most unsettling.  Each one shows a person, or group of people, their expressions showing a mixture of horror, and disbelief at what happened.

Then there is the other level, the one that kicks in involuntarily when I see something happening, it’s the analyst in me.  I can’t help it sometimes.  I can be reacting emotionally to something, but a detached part of my brain is recording sounds, words, and things that are going on around me, for later analysis when I my emotional outburst is over.  It is an extremely rational part of me, and something that doesn’t go away.   I remember that morning.  I was getting my boys ready for school, and it was a typical morning with them  Channel 11 is on the TV, and some kid show is keeping Andrew entertained, while the radio is tuned to Don and Roma on WLS, I am scarcely paying attention to the radio as I rush about getting breakfast, the volume isn’t that loud, and I will have time for it later.  It was my day off from my job at Gateway Country Store, and I was going to enjoy it.   As I pass through the kitchen, I hear the words “air traffic controller” and “New York” from the radio, and pay no mind to it.  Just then, the phone rings, it’s my mom.  “Tim do you have the TV on, watch the news, an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center.” …

That’s when it started, the analyst kicked in.  I thought, how in the heck does an airplane crash into the World Trade Center.  My first thought, before turning on the TV is to grab my Road Atlas.  I quickly flip to New York City, wanting to know where JFK and LaGuardia were in relation to the World Trade Center, I found the proper page, still talking to my mom, and turned on the TV.   I didn’t expect to see what I saw.   A huge amount of  smoke was pouring from the 1st tower that had been hit.  I remember saying.  “That had to be a huge plane that did that mom, that’s got to be 8 or 10 floors on fire, the only plane that’s going to do that is an airliner.”   and she replied.  “Well the news is saying they don’t know what kind of plane it was.”   I hung up and sat to watch.  My mind was seeing the images on the screen, and listening to Diane Sawyer, but the other part of my mind was thinking.

What kind of plane was it?

How did it hit the tower?

How fast was it going?

How many people on board?

and the most chilling of all.  “It had to be deliberate”.   To me, at that moment, nothing else made sense.  I have spent my life, literally, studying World War II, and that also lead to study, and reading about military history in general, as well as terrorism.  That also led to learning about military strategy, military thought, and other things I cannot list.  My analytical mind was coming to only one conclusion.  Terrorists did it.   At that moment, it was the only thing that made sense to me.  Airplanes just don’t take off from an airport, and crash into skyscrapers.   The term “accident” was dismissed completely from my mind.  I knew an attempt was made in 1993 to destroy the WTC by Islamic Terrorists.  Somehow, I knew I was watching their second attempt at it.    As if to underscore that line of thought, the second aircraft hit the other tower.   Then I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt it was deliberate.  Immediately, my mind was in overdrive.    A deep sense of foreboding told me it wasn’t over, that there would be more.   My mind was racing, listing potential targets, and dismissing them.  I then began to look outside for the signs that a plane was heading for the Sears Tower.   By now, one had hit the Pentagon, and the news was reporting that another aircraft was missing, and presumed to be heading for Washington.

I couldn’t contain myself anymore.  I was on the computer, trying to do my own amateur analysis of who the culprits were, and before his name was even spoken on the news, I knew it was Osama Bin Laden.  I pulled an old copy of  the Naval Institute’s magazine, called “Proceedings” from my bookshelf.  In it, was an analysis piece about Osama Bin Laden written in 1999 I think.  I could think of no other person, and no other group other than Al Qaeda.   I had the radio, computer, and television going all at once, I was on the phone with my friend Peggy from Ohio, talking about the situation in New York.   Just then, I heard the high pitched roar of what could only be fighter planes flying overhead.  I leapt to my front window, and grabbed the binoculars I always kept nearby.  I caught them out of the corner of my eye, and turned the binoculars to the movement, after a momentary wobble, I settled the binoculars on the aircraft.   4 F16’s were clearly visible, flying in two pairs, and what really struck me was the fact that they were armed.  “Sidewinder” missles were clearly visible on the wing tips.   As fast they appeared, they were gone, rocketing northeast.   I continued my conversation with Peggy, as we both watched the coverage on ABC at our respective homes.

I will never forget how I felt that day, and I will never forget how this has affected me.  To watch the documentaries, as I did yesterday, it is almost haunting.  What was scary, or, perhaps, just weird, or whatever, is how some of the documentaries echoed some of my initial thoughts on the day’s events, some of the people involved, in both Public Safety, and the Federal Government were thinking the same things I was thinking in the initial stages of the day’s events.

9/11 haunts me, in ways that I can’t even describe.   On one level, it’s the memories of what I saw, and then on other, deeper levels, it’s an almost frightening understanding of the machinations that brought us to that point.

Like others before them, those who wish to inflict a given political, or belief system on a society, through terror, are not “madmen” or “out of there minds” they are not “twisted” or irrational.  They are rational, by their own standards, and, like many before them, people like  Hitler, Stalin, Mao, just to name a few, the aforementioned labels do not fit, and are not even appropriate.

A “madman” may be frightening, but a madman is not rational, he is not calculating, he doesn’t think systematically, he acts on impulse, and destroys things without rhyme, reason, or a greater, if you will, purpose.  Hitler, Stalin, and the Islamists were not, and are not madmen either.  They are cold, calculating, political creatures, who would willingly waste human life in pursuit of their political goals. That is what makes them more frightening than a madman.  They believe, and because they believe, they will act.   And they did just that.  That is where the understanding has to start, and the understanding is necessary so we can protect ourselves in the future, and strike them down if necessary.