Going to the DNC.. On the INside

Most of you already know that I’ve been elected to be a Bernie delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The time is winding down before RoZ and I return to Philadelphia for the first time since we lived there over 21 years ago. So we are excited to spend a few days reconnecting with our old neighborhood, which will be followed by the intense experience of the convention itself.

Very few people get such an experience, so I plan and hope to share that experience thru a new blog that I’ve started at… http://inside-the-dnc.purplearth.net/

If you go there right now, you can read the story of how I got elected, and what I faced in the aftermath of becoming a national delegate. I still need to catch up on the adventures in fundraising, travel planning and delegation conference calls that fill the months leading up to the convention.

We may try something new: Since writing can be time-consuming, we may sometimes post audio narration of events, especially given the hectic pace of convention week.

One annoying thing I’ve encountered lately is the attitude that “Bernie doesn’t have the delegates, so why does it matter anymore?” People forget that the convention is about a lot more than nominating a candidate for president. It’s mainly about defining what the party is going to stand for during the next four years, and what message the nominee and all of the down-ticket candidates are going to carry into the general election.

As I type, the platform committee is meeting in Orlando. Our side is not getting everything we want, but the platform is a much stronger and more forward-looking document due to the influence of Sanders delegates. We are slowing – and in some cases reversing – the corporatization of the party that’s been happening for too many years, and beginning the process of turning it back into the party of FDR and JFK.

So yes, going to the convention DOES matter. I plan to make my presence count for all it can, and fight for a country where everyone can thrive and enjoy life without killing each other or the Planet. And I plan to find a way for every delegate to go home happy and united, ready to send the party of greedy bigots and assholes to the disgraced dustbin of history.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention that this is no free ride. We are required to stay in the very expensive “official” hotel, which is $420/night for five nights. We had enough credit card reward points to cover our round-trip train fares, but the hotel bill is going to hurt without some help. So it would really help if you can pop into my gofundme page and throw something into the hat.

In the meantime, go read what I’ve written so far while I try to get caught up.

Why Bernie’s Idealism Beats Hillary’s Pragmatism

Bernie Sanders has made many bold proposals in this campaign, only to have them dismissed as “impossible” or “unrealistic”. His primary opponent will have us believe that Americans are no longer capable of doing Big Things.

If all of our presidents had thought this way, we would have never defeated the fascists, built the Interstate Highway system, or landed on the Moon. These big and visionary projects would have been incompatible with such “pragmatic” leadership.

In an American football game, the winning team is the one that is always trying to score a touchdown. That doesn’t mean they won’t accept first downs along the way, but they will devote every play to moving the ball down the field until it is in the end zone.

A team run by Bernie Sanders’ detractors would celebrate and go home after one first down, telling us that the goal line is too far away to even try to get there. That is not a winning strategy.

If we strive for idealistic goals, that doesn’t mean we won’t accept incremental steps that get us closer to those goals. It just means that those steps must be followed by more steps until our goals are achieved.

We only get what we want if we ask for it. So during the primary season, it is important to vote for what we want, rather than what we’re willing to settle for. That is why I am supporting Bernie Sanders for President, and I urge each of you to do the same.

Trump: The New Profanity

There’s a carnival clown on our TVs. His surname is the word you get when you merge tush and rump. Since those words are synonymous with each other, the merged word must also be a synonym of tush and rump.

I suggest we use this new word to replace another synonym – a word that some consider vulgar even though it appears in so much of our common lexicon. It would give us a way to say these things in “polite company.”

For instance:

Be careful in the winter or you might “slip and fall on your trump.”

When faced with an annoying and difficult task, you could call it, “a pain in the trump.”

One that is willing to vote for the carnival clown could be said to “have his head up his trump.”

A football coach could encourage a player to hustle by yelling, “Get the lead out of your trump.”

Before the big game, that coach could end his pre-game pep talk with, “Now go out there and kick some trump!”

Hopefully by now you’re thinking up more of these on your own, and laughing your trump off as you do so. Have a good weekend!

BONUS ADDENDUM: Some years ago, a sitting US Senator had his surname turned into a disgusting profanity. It would be easy to build a sentence containing both of these new words, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Trump: Defining the Size of the Republican A$$hole Caucus

As America’s quadrennial campaign circus heats up, pundits are tearing their hair out wondering how Donald Trump could be leading in the Republican primary polls while being such an a$$hole. I have a theory that (in my humble opinion, at least) makes a lot of sense.   Read on

Nixon Memory Lane

This past weekend, we “celebrated” the 40th anniversary of the day Richard Nixon resigned as US president. The iconic image of that event was Nixon smiling and waving the “V-for-victory” sign (some of us knew it as the peace sign) over his head with both hands before ducking into the helicopter to be taken away from Washington for good.

It’s at times like these that I like to read the work of my all-time favorite Nixonologist, who – as Rolling Stone magazine’s representative on the White House press corps – was watching from the Rose Garden as the helicopter flew away.

I felt sorry for him. He hit his head. Right after he did this thing [makes the v-for-victory sign] at the helicopter door, he turned and lashed his head on the top of the rounded door, staggered sideways, and he was so  — in some jurisdictions we might have called it “luded out” — he was tranquilized. There’s a civilized word for it: sedated. He was almost led up the stairs. Yeah, I felt sorry for him. Can you imagine that ride west? Jesus Christ, they flew to Andrews Air Force Base, I guess, on the helicopter, and then they had like a six-hour flight to San Clemente. Whew. That must have been a really dark flight.

From interview by Matthew Hahn in The Atlantic

I didn’t watch the resignation speech on TV but I heard it on the radio. I was working that night, making popcorn and pizza and filling sodas at a drive-in theatre near my home town. I brought my radio to work, which was frowned upon but tolerated for this special occasion. I don’t know if I really remember or if I just want to remember that the first song the DJ played after the speech was “Kings”, from Steely Dan’s album Can’t Buy a Thrill. (“We’ve seen the last of good King Richard…”)

So anyway, this weekend I was passed a link to Nixon’s obit, which I found quite entertaining, but I knew there had to be something that was written on the occasion of the resignation. It took some digging to find a full copy of “Fear and Loathing in Limbo: The Scum Also Rises.” That was too much to read, but I did read the introduction, which is mostly a rant of anger and frustration. After having just submitted a 15,000-word piece on Nixon’s resignation, Thompson was informed that “Ford pardoned the bastard.”

Hunter Thompson and Richard Nixon were more than professional adversaries.. the way Thompson tells it, they were mortal enemies. But given a common interest, mortal enemies can become the best of friends, and for Thompson and Nixon that interest was football. Thompson was the only person on the press corps who could talk football, and Nixon knew it; and he would often seek him out when he wanted to talk football instead of politics. Thompson once wrote, “the only thing Nixon was honest about was football.”

The closest I ever came to Nixon was as a hitchhiker in the early 80’s. Running out of energy late one night on a trip from LA to San Diego, I was stuck in San Clemente and rolled out my sleeping bag in the bushes outside the gate to Nixon’s compound, where I slept soundly until the sprinklers woke me up at 5am.

If Data is Collected, It Will Be Mined

Subversives, fugitives and drug dealers have operated under the assumption that all phones are tapped for as long as there have been phones. This is even more the case with today’s digital communication. The safe assumption is that every line is tapped, so when engaging in any form of electronic communication, it’s good to heed the advice given in The Anarchist Cookbook way back in the 1970’s: “If you can’t say it in front of a cop, keep it to yourself.”

So now we learn that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and analyzing all the data they can grab. This should come as no surprise. If the data is there, they will mine it. They always have, and they always will. I’m not saying that it’s right. It’s actually contrary to every sacred principle this nation was built upon. But it is what it is.

Most of us knew all along that the emperor was walking around naked. Now that the official media has finally noticed, they’re going bat-crap crazy talking about it. Let me throw a few random thoughts into this cacophony. Read on

When is a “Scandal” a Scandal?

When a government acts in a way that some consider scandalous, it’s interesting to compare the reactions of opposing parties.

Ten years ago, the Bush regime engaged in a long litany of violations of civil liberties and international law. Their opponents were alarmed with this blatantly illegal behavior, while their defenders shrugged their shoulders and said, “No big deal.”

So now the IRS has admitted to selectively targeting organizations for scrutiny based on a political agenda, and the Justice Department has admitted to seizing the phone records of AP reporters. As a progressive, I am disturbed by this news.

After all, if these acts had been committed by the Bush/Cheney regime, they would be disturbing (although they would be lost in the long litany of alarming acts). So to have these acts committed by “our side” is no less disturbing.

And that’s the difference between authoritarians and progressives. For the right-whinge conservatives, selective enforcement or spying on reporters was OK when their side did it, but when the other side does it their heads explode. Progressives get upset no matter who does it.

So when you’re arguing with a conservative and he brings up the latest “Obama scandal,” ask him where his outrage was when Bush was conducting selective politically-motivated audits, or spying on every phone call and reading every email in the country.

A Lie By Any Other Name

Last night, Paul Ryan gave a speech to the Republican National Convention. We didn’t watch the speech, but we heard that he did a lot of lying, even though very few writers used the L-word to describe it.

This observation is not about the lies themselves (follow the links below for the rundown), but it’s about how major media outlets go out of their way to avoid using the word “lie.”

From The Guardian: “… speech includes glaring inaccuracies…”
Another headline in the same paper: “A round-up of Ryan’s most audacious untruths.”

Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog used the term “demonstrable lies” before going on with his own round-up of alternate wording.

The Huffington Post headline originally was “Paul Tales: Ryan Misleads Again & Again,” and was later changed to “Paul Ryan Address: Convention Speech Built On Demonstrably Misleading Assertions.”

The Boston Globe said the speech “strained credibility,” AP’s headline talked of “factual shortcuts,” the Washington Post‘s James Downie called it “breathtakingly dishonest,” and Brian Beutler on Talking Points Memo wrote of “misleading claims.”

Among the most euphemistic was Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

…although I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will.

In other words, “… a lot of that sounded like bullslop, but I’ll wait for someone else to point that out.”

John Nichols was not afraid to say “Lies” in The Nation.

The biggest surprise came from Sally Kohn writing for the official media outlet of the Republican Party. Her “3 words” (actually, 3 D-words) to describe Ryan’s speech were “dazzling”, “deceiving”, and “distracting”. It’s remarkable enough for a Faux Neus piece to call one of their heroes “deceiving,” but Kohn’s elaboration includes stuff like “the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech,” and “the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth.”

It’s reassuring to see the journalistic community calling “Bullslop!” on all of this bullslop. I just wish they could use the same language the rest of us use. A lie by any other name is still a lie.

Scott Walker Must be Fired for Fraud

One week before he was elected governor, Scott Walker told the editorial board of the Oshkosh Northwestern that he was willing to work with unions and to listen to any ideas they had to save money. In general, Walker presented himself as a reasonable and collegial manager.

After the election, he told a billionaire donor of his plans to bust public employee unions as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy. This governor turned out to be the polar opposite of what he advertised himself to be. We all have friends, neighbors and family members who were directly hurt by Walker’s divisive and mean-spirited agenda.

For those who say that recalls should be reserved for cases of criminal behavior, I answer with one word: Fraud. Just as a worker would be fired for lying on a resume, the people of Wisconsin must fire Scott Walker for the frauds he committed to get elected.

Walker’s rich out-of-state cronies are dumping planeloads of money into our airwaves, mailboxes, and telephones to deliver their next round of lies. Voters must not be fooled by these expensive packages of deception, but I trust we are smart enough to recognize that gold-plated bullslop is still bullslop.

The people of Wisconsin made a major collective mistake in November 2010. Those who regret voting for Walker (or not voting at all) in that election can redeem themselves on June 5 by electing Tom Barrett as governor and Mahlon Mitchell as lieutenant governor.

“Creating Jobs” is the Wrong Reason

There’s an illogical argument consistently used to support big projects. I hear it in support of projects I’m against, but I’m equally uncomfortable with its use in favor of projects I support. It’s the argument that a project will “create jobs.”

Any endeavor must be evaluated based on whether the result will enhance our lives and improve our world. Once we decide to do something, then we find the workers to complete the project. I’m not denying that many people need more work (I’m one of those people). But at times like these we must ask, “What is the best way to deploy this idle workforce?”

Let’s look at an extreme example of the “create jobs” argument: War creates jobs. There are jobs building tanks, planes, guns, bullets and bombs; and jobs operating the machinery and firing the guns. But the end result is that a lot of the stuff we built gets blown up, and a large part of our population comes home emotionally and physically crippled (if  at all). “Creating jobs” is not a reason to start a war.

Before we blindly “create jobs”, we should make sure the product of those jobs will make our world a better place. Then we can offer our citizens work that is worthy of their efforts, and that produces results they can point to with pride and accomplishment and say, “I helped build that.”