The interdependence of us all…

Many years ago, while I was living off-campus at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, I became friendly with the woman who ran the commuter services office. One day, she gave me a quote that I carried in my wallet for many years. I’m embarrassed to say I remember neither the exact words nor the name of the person who wrote them…but the message continues to ring clear.

It was this: As societies grow in population and become more complex, people tend to stumble into one another more often. That is, the actions of one person or group – often unintentionally – impact the lives of others, sometimes with great consequence. Continue reading “The interdependence of us all…”

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Commodus and The Donald: At the Movies, Part 1

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As I continue to try to understand Donald Trump’s assault on the country I love, I find myself exploring many sources. This blog and the next I will post are about moments in movies I have seen.

You can judge their relevance to today.

Gladiator was released in 2000. Directed by Ridley Scott, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. Russell Crowe won Best Actor for his role as Maximus, a Roman General whose family was destroyed by the Emperor Commodus, a disruptive and demented figure.

The struggle in the Gladiator is for the soul of Rome, whether it will be governed by a Senate cleansed of corruption, as representatives of the people or by an emperor.

After killing his own father, the great Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, who has told him he does not have the qualities to rule Rome, Commodus, having just become Caesar speaks to his sister, Lucilla… Continue reading “Commodus and The Donald: At the Movies, Part 1”

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Matteotti and the Despot…

[translates: You can kill me but my ideas will never die.]

Many years ago, I took a college course on the rise of fascism in Italy.

It was a particular interest to me since my father grew up in that nation during that period and I had visited Italy three times in the early to mid-1960’s. It was hard for me to understand how fascism could rise among those I saw as a good people.

As discussed in the course, a turning point toward Italian fascism was the murder of Giacomo Matteotti.

In 1922, Benito Mussolini became the Italian Premier. This followed The March on Rome.

The March was the result of dissatisfaction with the socialist and moderate coalitions that had been democratically governing the nation. The middle class feared a socialist revolution. There was also anger at being badly treated, despite promises from their allies on the winning side, during the World War I peace settlement. Their economy was severely damaged.

In the face of the Fascist Blackshirts who were preparing to enter and take over Rome, the king and parliament lacked the strength to stand up to the threat. Fearing civil war, they offered Mussolini leadership of a coalition government. By the time they realized that wasn’t enough, it was too late.

As the Encyclopedia Brittanica describes it…

Continue reading “Matteotti and the Despot…”

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This way to the egress…

P.T. Barnum was the showman of the 19th Century.

As he was building his reputation, he created his own, more interesting reality. In other words, he lied…but in a way that got people really excited and made him a lot of money.

One of his early profitable hustles was his purchase of a slave, Joice Heth, who he presented as 161 years old, claiming she was George Washington’s nurse. When she died, he arranged for a public autopsy, charging 50 cents per ticket.

During a recent interview with Chuck Todd, Trump said that he took comparisons to Barnum as a compliment. After all, people need showmanship or, as Barnum put it, “The people like to be humbugged.” Continue reading “This way to the egress…”

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An Open Letter to Donald Trump as You become Our 45th President

I have stepped away from this blog for the past few weeks to see how you might change as you approach your presidency.

You haven’t.

I could have supported your presidency if only you had said, “U.S. intelligence showed me the facts. Putin tried to destroy our election and our democracy and he will pay a price so this will not continue.”

But, you didn’t. You didn’t come close.

Instead, you attacked our intelligence community. They gave you inconvenient facts. You minimized them before the world. You said other countries hack, too. True but nowhere near the point.

You didn’t stop there. You told us Putin liked you “and isn’t that a good thing”. Your being Our President is not about you or your Brand. It’s about the good of the nation. They are not the same thing.
Continue reading “An Open Letter to Donald Trump as You become Our 45th President”

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The Agnew Effect…

As Richard Nixon was moving closer and closer to being removed from the presidency, another crisis was looming.

That crisis was named Spiro T. Agnew.

As Republicans and Democrats came to agree that Nixon’s sin – lying to the American people – was dangerous and unacceptable in a president, they faced the reality of what would happen when Nixon was gone.

The vice-president, Spiro Agnew, was not fit to serve as president. He was one of the most divisive characters of his time, a rigid and angry person and seemed to have little interest in or knowledge of policy issues, a view shared by Nixon.

During Nixon’s second term – which was when the Watergate crisis threatened his presidency – the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland began to investigate Agnew for financial irregularities while in state office. He had been Baltimore County Executive and Maryland governor.

Agnew resigned the vice-presidency on October 10, 1973, after the U.S. Justice Department uncovered widespread evidence of his political corruption, including allegations that his practice of accepting bribes had continued into his tenure as U.S. vice president.”                                                    This Day in History

In return for his resignation, Agnew was allowed to plead no contest to tax evasion charges. He received three years’ probation and a $10,000 fine. In 1981, a Maryland court ordered him to repay $248,000 related to bribes he took while in office.

So, eleven months before Nixon’s resignation – as the headwinds were blowing hard against him – an unqualified leader was forced from the position that would replace the president.

Under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, the president nominated Agnew’s successor who then needed approval by both houses of Congress. The then-House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford, became vice-president on December 6, 1973 and, following Nixon’s resignation was sworn in on August 9, 1974 as the only president in American history never to have been voted for as president or vice-president.

So, here’s why all of this matters today…

The CIA has told us that Vladimir Putin rigged our election. It seems to be a part of a strategy to weaken us, decay our alliances and fracture the European Union. In other words, this former KGB man is out to destroy us…in pretty much everyone’s eyes, except President-elect Trump’s.

While President Obama’s unwillingness to confront this attack in the midst of the 2016 campaign will be a lasting stain on his legacy, Trump’s unwavering defense of Putin makes him downright dangerous to our nation’s ability to recognize a major threat to the nation and defend against it.

request is now being made by electors to provide the electoral college members with the CIA’s briefing information prior to their casting their votes.  In other words, they want the best information on whether the 2016 election was rigged.

This is certainly not an easy question. Changes from the status quo never are. However, in times of need and crisis, democracy adjusts for the greater good…and survives.  That’s the lesson of Spiro Agnew and it applies today.

A democracy cannot be built or sustained on a destruction of truth. It needs to be sought out and allowed to take us wherever it takes us. Despite the warts inherent in being a human structure, that is what has always made America great.

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Truth, Trump and Pizza…

einstein-on-truth

It’s interesting what stands out when you’re listening…

Last night I tuned in to The Gulf Screen Guild Theatre “Between Americans” (CBS, Original air date December 7, 1941) on WPFW- FM. The show had been written by Norman Corwin and was completed several days before its scheduled airdate – the day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

President Franklin Roosevelt had gotten word to William B. Lewis former VP of Programming for CBS several months earlier and asked for a show to be written about American values to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Corwin was reluctantly recruited. It’s a compelling listen…at least the part that was replayed last night and narrated by Orson Welles. The messages about the importance of the First Amendment, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are powerful…as is the definition of America as a series of communities and neighborhoods, working together through belief in common values. 63 million Americans listened across four networks (that’s an amazing 47%+ of the U.S. population of 133,402,000 that year).

Earlier in the day, I watched a wonderful film noir, Northside 777, starring Jimmy Stewart. In it, Stewart plays a Chicago reporter who follows the facts and moves from being certain of a convicted police-killer’s guilt to believing and proving his innocence. It’s a story about truth and the essential role of the press as Americans saw it in 1948, when the movie was made.

Fast forward to the present…

Continue reading “Truth, Trump and Pizza…”

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President-elect Trump: Your nose is gonna grow…

pinnochiotrump

It used to mean something very bad for a president to lie to the American people.  Now, a president-elect is doing just that almost every day.  It has become a daily decaying of who we are.

Yesterday’s tweet by our president-elect is his latest example of over-Trumpeting reality with his lies:

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

In truth, no Electoral College landslide (Clinton is 38 votes below 270, Trump is 38 above)

In truth, the only clear fraud is from his Russian benefactors.

So, while he at present has no accountability, president-elect Trump at least needs a theme song.  Here’s my candidate. Johnny Crawford’s “Your nose is gonna grow”.

Take a listen.

From 1958 to 1963, Johnny Crawford played Chuck Connors son, Mark McCain, in The Rifleman.

Here’s a few of the song’s relevant words…

“Go ahead, explain.
But remember, if you lie The boogie man’ll get you
And your nose is gonna grow.

“So remember, if you lie Everyone will know
Remember, if you lie Your nose is gonna grow
And everyone will know.”

We don’t know yet whether the lies are pathological or strategic…but we do know – either way – they are more dangerous for the U.S.

God help and bless America.

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Rigged…

putin-and-trump

Yesterday, I picked up the Washington Post and read the headline on the top left of the front page:

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

As an American who believes that a free and unfettered press is essential to the continuation of our democracy, I was shaken by the first three paragraphs in Craig Timburg’s article… Continue reading “Rigged…”

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An evolving conversation…on essential values

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My mom grew up in an immigrant enclave in Brooklyn. When her father died a few short months before the Depression began in October 1929, he left a widow with limited English and three children.

To help support the family, my mom – a woman who loved to read and learn – had to drop out of high school in her sophomore year.

Growing up, I learned a lot from this natural born teacher. Perhaps the greatest lesson was this:

“Always judge people as individuals.”

As a child, I incorporated that as a part of our human and our American values.

I find myself thinking about that often these days, as I hear our president-elect group people into boxes and tweet and speak about them as a single entity.  A particularly disturbing example has been ”the crooked media”. Continue reading “An evolving conversation…on essential values”

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