Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Others



Related imageThe Others, a 2001 film starring Nicole Kidman, takes place at the end of World War II in a remote house in the Channel Islands.  The matriarch of the family Grace(Kidman) and her two children eagerly await the return of her husband Victor and their father from the battlefront.  Meanwhile, they experience a number of odd events which Grace attributes to “the others,” spirits she believes also occupy the property.

It is clear the house has been the site of some tragic or heinous event.  The moment of illumination comes when Victor’s parents conduct a seance in hopes of cleansing the structure of its past.  Only then does Grace realize she and her children are “the others,” the spirits who still dwell on the premises.  As her memory returns, she recalls killing the two children and herself in a fit of madness when she learns Victor has died in battle.  Her “others” are actually future occupants with whom she now accepts as co-habitants of her home.


If Hollywood can bring back Jamie Lee Curtis in a new version of Halloween, maybe it is also time for a remake of The Others.  Except the location is not the Channel Island.  It is the United Stated of America.  And rather than a story told by a handful of actors, this version is an epic production with a cast of millions.  However, the basic story remains the same.  The players are haunted by fears there are demons lurking around every corner who are the antithesis of their vision of America.  Immigrants, socialists, Muslims, minority voters, and a dishonest press.  Their fears are daily affirmed by the nation’s current patriarch.

As did Grace, these residents take every safeguard to protect themselves from the others.  Ban some from entering the country.  Build a wall to deter others.  Erect barriers to keep them from voting.  And ostracize the media as “enemy of the people.”  Only then, do they believe, they will be safe.

But yesterday’s attempt to harm “the others” who share their space was the “seance” which for them, like Grace, should have been that moment of illumination.  The anarchy and vigilantism they predicted materialized.  But as in the 2001 original, the others were not some imagined boogeymen.


As I watched clips from Trump’s rallies in Montana, Texas and last night in Wisconsin, my eyes were drawn not to Trump but to his avid supporters behind the stage as he enumerated “the others” who represent a threat to some imagined ideal for lack of a better term I’ll call “the good old days.”  I could not help but wonder if any of them, in their search for “these others” realize, in the words of Walt Kelly’s alter-ego Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

For what it’s worth.


Who Should Be Your Neighbor

The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hoped he would “one day live in a nation where (his children) will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.” How people treat the dead says a lot about who they are.  Consider the following two examples.  In each case, a sovereign government planned and executed the killing of an individual who was considered a threat.

The first occurred on May 1, 2011, when a team of Navy SEALs took out Osama bin Laden, nearly 10 years after he masterminded the terrorist attack resulting in the death of approximately 3,000 Americans.  The mission took months to plan.  Each step was considered and reconsidered both to increase the odds of success and minimize collateral damage.  With one exception.  At the risk to members of the assault force, they were instructed to remove bin Laden’s body in order to give it a proper Islamic burial.

According to emails obtained by the Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request, the public affairs officer on the USS Carl Vinson reported the following on the morning of May 2, 2011.

Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed. The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.

Contrast that with the planning and execution of the murder of Washington Post writer and American resident Jamal Khashoggi on October 2, 2018.  As was the case with bin Laden, Khashoggi’s death was meticulously arranged.  Based on the details already available, only a fool would think otherwise.  There is one very important difference.  Khashoggi’s death can only be described as Islam on Islam killing.  And the perpetrators, including the members of the royal family which sanctioned Khashoggi’s homicide, demonstrated who they were, not so much by the assassination itself, but by their total disregard for and violation of Islamic law in the treatment of a fellow citizen following his death.

Which brings me to this morning’s news.  From the Associated Press:

HUIXTLA, Mexico (AP) — Still more than 1,000 miles from their goal of reaching the United States, a caravan of Central American migrants briefly halted its arduous journey Tuesday to mourn a fellow traveler killed in a road accident.

I ask you, who should Americans fear the most?  Refugees from persecution and violence who demonstrate humanity in the face of threats that their children may be taken from them because they seek a better life for themselves and their families?  Or autocrats who show no respect for their own laws, holy laws no less?  Which group would you open your home to?

For what it’s worth.


The Closing Argument


The following is a transcript of the prosecution’s closing argument in the case of The Voters v. Donald Trump (November 6, 2018)

Thank you, your honor.  And thank you, members of the jury, for enduring the seemingly endless presentation of evidence over the past 21 months.  But we, the prosecution, felt it was important to remind you of the FACTS of this case. The defense has tried to convince you there are alternative FACTS.  That is simply not true.  When that did not work, the defense argued that the FACTS represent a different TRUTH.  And they are right.  FACTS are universal.  TRUTHS are personal.  Their mistake has been to try and make you believe THEIR TRUTHS are universal.  The defendant is on record as saying, “Everyone knows…  Everyone agrees…”  That is why the defense expects you to come back with a unanimous verdict in favor of their client.  Today is your chance to tell the American people that is just one more alternative fact. 

This case is not about whether the defendant is crass, childish or narcissistic.  This case is about what he and the sycophants in his administration and his party represent.  The choices they make when faced with decisions that affect the lives of every American. The messages they send to our allies and adversaries around the world.  It is a referendum on those who choose to support these decisions or fail to confront the defendant when, in their hearts and minds, they know he is wrong. 

Lawyers are not supposed to say this, but we believe these proceedings will end in a mistrial.  There will not be a unanimous verdict.  Some of you will hold out.  YOUR TRUTH will tell you some of the facts don’t matter.  You will even admit some facts make you uncomfortable, but you have overriding priorities.  That is how our system works.  But both we and the defense have agreed, regardless of the verdict or non-verdict, the judge will poll the jury and the results will be made public.  This is your chance to let the defendant know he is wrong.  EVERYONE DOES NOT AGREE WITH HIM.  NOT EVEN A MAJORITY AGREES.

The defendant is betting you do not care about the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution as he sees no conflict between his continued profiting from foreign investments and how such financial entanglements make  every foreign policy decision suspect.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant thinks climate change is a hoax and will miraculously correct itself.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant thinks repealing the Affordable Care Act with no idea what will replace it results in better and cheaper health insurance for all Americans.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant values the sale of weapons over moral leadership when an autocratic government tortures and murders a U.S. resident.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant believes in deficit financing of tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant believes the government should be the arbiter of a woman’s reproductive rights.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

When it comes to supporting the perpetrators or victims of sexual abuse and harassment, the defendant chooses to side with the accused and denigrate the accuser. TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant opposes universal background checks for gun owners and instead asserts citizens have a Constitutional right to semi-automatic assault weapons.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant supports family-based immigration for his wife’s parents but not for those seeking asylum from political persecution or violence.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant is a self-proclaimed champion of deregulation except when it comes to a few corporate giants having control over access and pricing of the internet.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant believes a person’s sexual orientation is grounds for being excluded from the military or being refused service at a commercial establishment.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant chooses not to unequivocally condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant accuses the press of being “the enemy of the people.”  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant chooses to believe autocrats over the U.S. intelligence community.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

The defendant tells us when his opponents exercise their constitutional right of assembly and protest under the First Amendment they are an “angry mob” while holding rallies at which he celebrates vigilante responses to those who disagree with him and his policies. TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

And finally, the defendant is confident he can simply lie his way out of his abuse of power and violation of his oath of office.  He denies any attempt to obstruct justice.  TELL HIM HE IS WRONG.

This case can best be described as a “Janus moment” in American history.  Janus was the Roman god of transitions.  He had two faces, looking to the future and at the past. January, the month when we begin each new year, is named after this ancient deity.  Members of the jury, today each of you is Janus.  You can look back and affirm what has been or look forward and create a  better future.

For what it’s worth.


Fool Me Twice

Once again, the media and the Democratic Party recently proved the counter-intuitive adage, “With enemies like this, who needs friends.” Consider the following.

Tennessee Senate Race 

Image result for tennessee senate candidate supports kavanaughOn October 5, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee Phil Bredesen announced, that if he were the incumbent, he would vote to confirm then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  Did Bredesen actually believe he could attract moderate Republican votes by taking what could only be described as a perverse #metoo (as in I’m also willing to sell my soul) stand on this issue.  His only hope of winning was by mobilizing the potential energy of women voters, especially suburban independents, who feel Trump and his local mouthpiece Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn do not represent their interests.

Did Bredesen not pay attention to the last attempt by Democrats to placate Republicans in hopes of building bipartisan support?  Did he fail to see what happened when Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer accepted Republican amendments to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in hopes of garnering a few votes from across the aisle?  How did that turn out?  The Democratic Party ended up having to defend a Rube Goldberg health care program created by the Heritage Foundation and then Republicans used ACA as a central issue against the Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections.

When are Democrats going to wake up to a very convenient truth?  On social issues, the overwhelming majority of Americans are progressive.  They love Social Security and Medicare.  They think women have a right to control their own bodies.  They support a living wage.  They know climate change is real.  They do not equate money with freedom of expression.  No one wants a college education to mire graduates in years of debt.   Users do not want the internet to be controlled by a few service providers.  The Democratic party agrees shares those views.  So why won’t Democratic candidates own policies which the majority of Americans support, even in many so called red states?

It’s not like Bredesen didn’t have other things to tout.  For example, every time Democrats bring back the economy from the brink of disaster or begin to chip away at the deficit, Republicans use it as an excuse to finance massive tax cuts for their major donors.  Or does it really make sense to disrupt global agriculture markets with a trade war and then ask taxpayers to bail out the victims?  Hell, his home state of Tennessee is being hurt by European Union tariffs on Tennessee whiskey. Even when it comes to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, most Americans felt a more rigorous investigation of the assault accusations were in order.  All Bredesen had to say was, “When I’m in the Senate, regardless of the president’s political affiliation, I promise candidates for the Supreme Court will be fully vetted with public access to the information which now only members of the Senate are allowed to see.  I’d like to tell you how I’d vote on the Kavanaugh nomination, but like you, I’m kept from seeing the very information on which I would base my decision.”

Instead, Bredesen’s logic says, I’d rather play to people who will NEVER vote for me.  And now he’s probably lost the support of those who were looking for an alternative to Trump and his Republican lemmings.  According to Politico, “Campaign volunteers have been calling to cancel door-knocking and phone-banking shifts for Bredesen since his statement backing Kavanaugh, according to an internal spreadsheet maintained by the campaign.”  If the Democrats fall one short of retaking the Senate, there is NO question who is responsible.

Jamal Khashoggi

Not once this week has a single media outlet asked the question, “What is it about Turkey which makes it the go to place for dealing with political dissidents?  Not unexpectedly, the attention has been focused on the disappearance and likely murder of U.S. resident and Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi.  But how short of a memory could the press have to discount the fact this is the second incident in the last two years in which a U.S. resident was the target of abduction by a foreign government?  Did they forget former Trump national security advisor and confessed felon Michael Flynn was under investigation for aiding the Turkish government in kidnapping cleric Fethullah Gülen who the Erdogan government accused of plotting a coup in July 2016?

Image result for tom clancyNor has any newspaper, even the one that carried Khashoggi’s column, asked, “Why now?  Was Khashoggi working on a story which was of particular interest to the Saudi royal family?”  I have tried my best to avoid conspiracy theories, so I’ll use the pseudonym Tom Clancy.  Imagine, if prior to his death in 2014, Clancy wrote a Jack Ryan novel titled Prince of Ties.  It might have gone something like this.

In hopes of garnering support from the United States government, the Saudi royal family becomes a major financier of an American real estate developer who has fallen on hard times.  Their beneficiary, who has threatened on multiple occasions to run for president of the United States, finally throws his hat in the ring.  And to the surprise of many, including himself, wins with the help of foreign funding and possible intervention in the electoral process. 

As a result, the president makes Saudi Arabia and especially a charismatic heir to the throne the centerpiece of Middle East policy.  This results in arms sales to ensure the survival of the current Saudi regime and support of Saudi military actions in Qatar and Yemen which appear contrary to America’s global interests.

A Saudi dissident, living in the U.S. and writing for the Washington Post, has begun to document the financial ties between the president, the chief executive’s family business and Saudi Arabia.  To prevent the story from making headlines, the Saudi government devises a plan to capture and interrogate the journalist.  European intelligence agencies discover the plot and share the information with the CIA which chooses not to include it in the president’s daily intelligence briefing.  Jack Ryan, now serving as CIA deputy director, questions his boss’ decision to withhold the information and is stonewalled as he tries to make sense of the situation.

I am not suggesting the Trump administration has colluded with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to silence Khashoggi.  But the mere possibility has the makings of one great spy novel.  What I will suggest is the lack of transparency about Trump financial entanglements makes everything suspect whether it should be or not.  American voters should not have to guess whether there is a personal quid pro quo behind oval office decisions on U.S. foreign policy.

Hey, Phil Bredesen!  Maybe you should have thought about running on that instead of blind support for Brett Kavanaugh.

For what it’s worth.

Murderers Row

Related imageDuring Tuesday night’s coverage of the Yankees/Red Sox baseball game, the post-game analysts wondered how the potential acquisition of free agent Bryce Harper would change the Yankee’s future championship fortunes (which for 2018, had just ended with a 4-3 loss to Boston). One panelist compared the addition of Harper to the current roster as approaching the 1927 lineup known as “murderers row,” led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

While I cannot predict the impact of one more pinstriped superstar on the “Bronx Bombers,” they will have to compete with a new lineup of deadly opponents for whom the pseudonym “murderers row” is a literal description.  Since taking office, it is no secret Donald Trump prefers the company of world leaders who demonstrate the common trait of making their opponents mysteriously disappear.

Let’s look at the starting line-up.

  • Leading off is Trump’s new BFF Kim Jung Un.  Since taking power in North Korea, Kim has ordered the execution of numerous relatives and government officials to solidify his power.  These include Hyon Yong-choi (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Choe Yong-gon (Deputy Minister of Construction and Building Materials) and his uncle Kim Yong Jin (Minister of Education).
  • In the second position is Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who admits he has been preparing for his major league career from an early age.  At a November, 2017 meeting of the Asian-Pacific Economic Council, Duterte told participants, “When I was a teenager I was in and out of jail…During a fight.  Stabbing. That was when I was 16 years old, just because we looked at each other.”
  • Traditionally, the third spot is reserved for the batter with the highest batting average, not necessarily the most home runs.  No one fits this bill better than Chinese President Xi Jinping.  Rather than murder journalists, Xi has earned his MVP bona fides by winning the title of “world’s worst jailer of journalists” for two years in a row.
  • In the clean-up spot is Trump perennial go to player Vladimir Putin.  Just this week, the Kremlin denied any involvement in the murder of three Russian journalists last July in the Central African Republic (CAR).  The trio had been investigating Russian arms sales to the CAR government.  The number of Putin opponents and Russian reporters who have died or disappeared just since Trump took office is now approaching 20.

But this has not kept Trump from scouting more free agents to reinforce his line-up.

Last week Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was photographed entering the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey.  Intelligence reports including intercepted communications suggest within two hours of his arrival, Khashoggi was murdered and his body was dismembered.  Although Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has denied the allegations, intelligence sources say the execution was ordered at the highest levels of the Saudi government. Was the recent USA sale of $1.4 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia the Crown Prince’s signing bonus?

You can constantly tell a child not to stick objects in an electrical outlet.  But if the socket is broken, there are no consequences and no ensuing change in behavior.  In days past, the  occupant of the Oval Office was the moral equivalent of the shock which signaled behavior such as that associated with the Trump All-Stars was both unacceptable and potentially dangerous.  Sadly, the outlet is broken with no electrician on call to fix it.

For what it’s worth.