Aug 182017

I’ve held off on posting about Trump’s presidency, but it’s time to wade into the muck.

If you haven’t seen this yet, there’s a fun video where Brooke Baldwin at CNN sums up Trumps presidency so far:

We’re starting to get a pretty good picture of what kind of President Donald Trump is. For a guy who claims to be a political outsider, Trump has all the markings of your stereotypical scumbag politician. He has it all, the whole package:

  • Lying
  • Rampant hypocrisy
  • Breaking promises
  • Scandals
  • Taking credit for accomplishments that aren’t really his

He is on track to being remembered as the worst president in our country’s history. The only thing potentially stopping him from winning that title is that his rancorous personality and political ineptitude actually make him (thankfully!) fairly ineffectual at enacting the worst elements of his policy agenda, at least so far.

The problem, though, is that the people on my side, the Left, the “Liberal Elite,” somehow think Trump’s apparent downward spiral means we’re winning. We’re not.

Trump is winning and we’re losing.

The current moral outrage at Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville will disappear like chaff in the wind by the time the next election rolls around.

In fact, I have a prediction:

Donald Trump will win re-election in 2020 and serve two full terms.

HuffPo has been promising Donald Trump’s imminent resignation. Their headline the other day was “The Descent.” They’re trying to make us believe that somehow some miracle will happen and Trump will disappear. That’s delusional.

The exact same thing that happened during the campaign is happening again. HuffPo told us Hillary Clinton had a 98% chance of winning, which was of course a major contributor to her loss. People voted for other candidates or simply didn’t vote, because they assumed Hillary would win.

The liberal echo-chamber is undermining us. Again. We’re so desperate for hope that we’re not able to confront reality. We’re deluding ourselves, lying to ourselves.

We need to stop being so damn positive. False optimism is killing us. We need a healthy dose of pessimism right now. And we need to focus our attention on the right things.

Understand this: TWEETS ARE NOT NEWS.

Quietly, while the media focuses on his inflammatory tweets, Trump has been a busy beaver signing evil little bills passed by the Republican congress, and make no mistake: bad things are happening in our country under this president, bad things having nothing to do with the alt-right. Here’s just one small example. He signed H.J.Res.38, a bill repealing the Stream Protection Rule, an Obama administration rule that barred the dumping of surface mining waste into streams. This is just one part of Trump’s attack on clean water.

He is stacking up a list of such “accomplishments.” These initiatives will stimulate the economy in the short term, but at great cost to the environment and human health. Besides being morally repugnant, these choices will end up being economically disastrous. Someday, someone is going to have to clean up those streams, and that’s going to cost much more money than we stand to gain by polluting them.

But in the short term the deregulation will boost the economy and that, together with Trump unabashedly taking credit for economic momentum from the Obama years, gives him an economic message to sell to voters. And it’s going to work.

Additionally, Trump has a couple of other genuine accomplishments that progressives aren’t acknowledging, but voters will:

  1. Illegal immigration from Mexico appears to be way down. This is something even Democrats have said should be a goal.
  2. Trump’s tough talk on North Korea may actually work. At least it’s something new. Everything we’ve tried before has failed.

And we shouldn’t celebrate the resiliency of the ACA just yet, either. Trump has failed to repeal it so far, but he still has time.

Trump is the troll-in-chief. He says the most maddening things, and he knows what he’s doing. He thrills on frustrating Liberals. His base thrills on it, too. They post on their forums how they love to drink the tears of weeping liberals. And liberals who express their frustration through violence are falling right into Trump’s hands.

We keep underestimating this dude. We haven’t grasped that his power lies in his appeal to the national id. We don’t know how to counter that. We haven’t yet learned how to fight Trump. Whenever we think we’re outsmarting him, he is outsmarting us. Whenever it looks like we have him on his knees, ready to submit, he’s actually planting a grenade in our back pocket.

Donald Trump’s presidency is a disaster. The harm being caused is immense. But we’re not close to stopping him. America is losing, but Trump is winning.

How do we turn it around?

Democrats need new blood. We need new leadership, new voices. We need someone like Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, who can make a strong case for an investment-economy. But this economic message needs to be matched with a political message of non-violence, humility, and love. Like MLK or Gandhi. Also add grace and humor.

And don’t even mention Trump’s name. You don’t have to attack Trump. Everybody already knows Trump is a blowhard, a liar, a jerk, an ignoramus, a racist, a fascist, and so on. Even Trump’s most ardent supporters kind-of know it. Trump wins when the story is about Trump, even if it seems like a negative story.

Make the story a positive one, about a new political movement based upon love. Refuse to talk about Trump.

But what about when Trump insults you with one of his famous tweets?

How you respond is of utmost important. If you get hot under the collar, if you let Trump ruffle your feathers, if you become hateful to match his hatefulness, if you get ugly to match his ugliness, you’ve played right into his hands. Trump doesn’t care if people think he’s a petty a**hole as long as he can get his opponents to look like petty a**holes, too. He’s a born mud-wrestler, and he knows if he can turn a contest into mud-wrestling match, he’ll win. He knows when to go on the assault, when to play the victim, when to feign moral outrage, when to be a lovable rogue, when to boast about his intelligence, when to play dumb. You can’t win that fight.

But you also can’t ignore it. If you refuse to answer you let Trump define you.

Whether you like it or not, a nasty Trump tweet about you will become the story of the day. If your response is boring, Trump’s tweet will get the attention rather than your response, and you’ll lose. Your job is to make your response the better story.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but I think it would work: When Trump insults you, hold a big press conference, and smile and admit all the ways that those insults might be right, and then say, with genuine humility, what you’re doing to try to improve yourself. Don’t insult him back. It’s a disarming technique that is supremely humble, and yet keeps the spotlight on you rather than transferring it back to Trump. Turn Trump’s nasty tweets into little gifts. Respond to every one, in person, on camera, telling jokes and being self-deprecating. Don’t be bitter. Use them as chances to speak from your heart about your policy agenda and how it will help people.

Joe Biden could pull it off.

 Posted by on August 18, 2017
Jan 202017

This may be a bit Norman Peale-esque, but here goes…

I used to be an actor in New York City. One of my acting teachers was a really brilliant guy and he had great wisdom to share, primarily about acting but also about life. Here’s one of his lessons.

Toaster1.jpg from by user:Peng

He told a story about a man who brought a toaster to the Customer Service Department at Macy’s. The man was irate because his toaster wasn’t working. His face turned red and he yelled insults at the store clerk. He slammed his fists on the counter. He made a real scene. He even yelled curses at the toaster. The lady at the counter couldn’t understand his complaint. She was so offended by his tone that she had a hard time even listening to him. He made it impossible for her to help him, which, after all, was all she wanted to do.

Another man also brought a toaster to Macy’s that same day. He was perfectly pleasant to the lady at the counter. He used words like “please” and “thank you,” and he chatted with her about the weather. He explained to her, very nicely, that his toaster wasn’t working properly and he wished to return it, which he understood he could do under Macy’s 30-day return policy. He calmly showed her the part that wasn’t working. The lady was glad to help him and within just a couple of minutes had issued him a full refund, and she felt her day was brighter for having met the man, even though he had come to her with a complaint.

At the end of the story, my teacher said this:

Don’t argue. Make the argument.

You don’t need to roar like a lion or beat your chest like a gorilla. You’re a human being and you’ve got language. Use language to convey ideas. If you’re in the right, then your case will speak for itself; you just need to make the case clearly. If you need to use anger to get your way, that’s probably a sign that you’re in the wrong. Argumentum ad baculum is the refuge of the weak.

Arguing is putting up a fight in order to dominate. When you argue, you lose your cool.

Making the argument isn’t fighting at all, it’s simply using language to express facts.

In the face of trouble, when you’ve got to deal with conflict or potential conflict with others, just stay cool, be courteous, be cheerful, and let right ideas do the work for you.

Don’t argue. Make the argument.

 Posted by on January 20, 2017
Nov 092016

We find ourselves in a surreal nightmare. This was a stupid, unnecessary loss, caused by misinformation and carelessness and apathy, and the consequences will be dire. Now we must watch helplessly as our new ignoramus-in-chief dismantles all the progress made over Obama’s presidency. It’s tragic, it’s heartbreaking, it’s maddening. I’m still processing it. And I need more time for that.

But I’m ready to start looking for hope within the gloom. I was reminded today that Gandalf can be a good source of positivity in dark times.

“There are other forces at work in this world besides the will of evil.”

That’s a pretty good quote. And here’s another one, a quote from the abolitionist Theodore Parker:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Martin Luther King paraphrased Parker in a line in his “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech, which Obama likes to quote: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I believe in this. Not in any supernatural force bending the arc of the moral universe, but that it bends. We bend it. Eventually, love and reason triumph over fear and ignorance.

 Posted by on November 9, 2016
Nov 092016

Like most liberals, I’m having a really hard time with Hillary Clinton’s loss. I’m feeling shock, horror, dread, anger, and immense disappointment. And most of all I’m very, very sad.

But let’s get back to the anger.

I’m angry that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and that liberals outnumber conservatives in this country, and yet Republicans now control the presidency, the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. Every branch of government at the federal level. That doesn’t seem fair.

Susan Sarandon, 2016-02-23I’m angry at Susan Sarandon endorsing Jill Stein and saying, “I feel even those in swing states have the opportunity to vote their conscience.” It only took 16 years to completely forget the lessons of the 2000 election. Ms. Sarandon, stop patting yourself on the back for your purity. You aren’t more progressive than Clinton supporters, not one jot more progressive, you’re just less realistic. Your irrational form of idealism may feel good to you but it comes at a steep price. (But I love your acting.)

I’m angry at Huffington Post for claiming Clinton had a 98% chance of winning. Such rosy prognostications from HuffPo and others encouraged liberals to just stay home yesterday or vote for third parties, even in swing states (see above), which really helped Trump. Irresponsible.

I’m angry at evangelical Christians for their cynicism and hypocrisy. Even if you don’t believe he raped that 13 year old girl at Wexner Mansion with his buddy and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the evidence of Trump’s womanizing is hard to refute. Evangelicals, after all your holier-than-thou bullcrap when Bill Clinton stood accused, how can you possibly support a guy like Donald Trump? How can you support a guy who is so cruel to immigrants? You are liars without any genuine decency. I’ve never much agreed with you on policy issues but at least I respected your convictions. You never deserved that respect. Your fine talk about morality was always a farce. I see that now.

Vladimir PutinI’m angry that Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange meddled in our democracy and we let them get away with it. And I’m angry that the Republican Congress refused to confirm a Supreme Court nominee until after the election and we let them get away with it.

I’m angry at anybody intellectually lazy enough to conclude that Trump and Clinton were equally flawed candidates.

I’m angry that our country, by rejecting Clinton, has rejected the current administration’s economic policies, which have been successful by any reasonable measure and have led to our nation’s recovery, in favor of Trump’s vague promises to make things “great,” especially considering that most of Trump’s ideas are the very sort of ideas that caused the recession in the first place.

I’m angry at people whining about Obamacare and what a disaster it is. They’re wrong and they’ll miss it when it’s gone.

I’m angry that a clearly qualified female candidate lost to a clearly unqualified male one. I don’t believe this election would’ve gone the same way if the democratic candidate were male. I’m angry that so much of our country is so deeply sexist.

I’m angry that I’m going to have to look at Trump’s smug, pampered, ignorant, self-absorbed family on TV, with their obnoxious sense of entitlement. How did we let these creeps bamboozle us? How did our nation’s outrage at the 1% fuel the rise to power of people so emblematic of the 1%?

I’m angry that our next president will be a chauvinist, a sexual assaulter, a racist, a demagogue, an erratic narcissist, a pathological liar, a tax evader, a science denier, an NRA crackpot, and a religious bigot.

meteor impactAll of the progress of the past eight years–the Paris Agreement, the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, America’s repaired image abroad, the reversal of Bush-era torture policies, the fuel efficiency standards, the EPA restrictions on coal plants, the Iran nuclear deal–it’s all in jeopardy. But not only will Trump walk us backwards, not only will he rewind the progress we’ve made, he’ll walk us in an ugly new direction, giving our country new problems we could have avoided, problems that will plague us for years to come. There’s a reason he’s so beloved by KKK-types like David Duke. Trump’s election has breathed life into the alt-right, a new movement of nationalistic, white-supremacist fascists.

So that’s where we’re at, and that’s why I’m angry.

I know we’ll be okay. I know there’s reason for hope somewhere, somehow. But it’s hard to see today.

 Posted by on November 9, 2016
Nov 012016

Why did I vote for Clinton?

Hillary Clinton

The two pro-Hillary articles I found most convincing were these:

1- The New Yorker’s endorsement, here.

2- Zompist’s take down of Trump, here. Also see here.

It’s time for a female president. HRC is immensely qualified for the job and her opponent isn’t even close. She will improve upon the successful policies of Barack Obama, not roll back the clock on the progress we’ve made over the past eight years. Her policy positions are outstanding.

What about the scandals?

Most of them appear to be trumped up by Republicans for purely partisan reasons. Bengazi was a tragedy but not a scandal. The email server was sloppy but ultimately not that big of a deal. With all the voluntarily released emails plus the hacked stuff, HRC is (whether she likes it or not) one of the most transparent candidates ever to run for president in a general election. She has been scrutinized and re-scrutinized and re-re-scrutinized, and for the most part we’ve seen there is no “there” there. Republicans have admitted that their attacks on HRC were motivated by a desire to thwart her campaign for presidency.

Two of the scandals, though, are genuinely disturbing. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others at the DNC sided with HRC’s campaign against Bernie Sanders in the primary (conspiring to politicize his atheism). And Donna Brazile sent HRC’s campaign debate questions prior to debates with Sanders. The profound lack of ethics shown by these supporters of HRC is troubling.

And then there’s Bill Clinton. But that’s a topic for another time.

So do I have concerns about HRC? I do. I’m concerned about the ethics and the judgement of those around her. And on a policy level, I’m concerned that she will be more interventionist than Obama and lead our country into unnecessary wars.

But Hillary Clinton is the correct person for this moment. Obama has steered our country in the right direction. Now we need a steady hand on the tiller to keep things moving forward. HRC’s calm patience and strong work ethic, her piercing intelligence and dogged determination, her dedication to the middle class and her focus on substance over soaring rhetoric are exactly what we need now. She has the potential to be a great president.

She also has the potential, if she’s not careful, to deliver the presidency and both houses of Congress to the Republicans in 2020. I hope she’s not so blinded by defensiveness about WikiLeaks that she cannot fix the problems in her organization that WikiLeaks have revealed, because if those problems aren’t fixed they will poison her presidency, assuming she wins.

 Posted by on November 1, 2016
Oct 312016

If you’ve got Netflix, check out the documentary Kumare.

I’ve been fascinated lately by gurus. The documentary takes a fun look at how people suspend their critical thinking when they believe they’ve met a “real” guru. To some degree the film-maker pokes fun at his subjects, like when Kumare draws a symbol of a dick-and-balls on a guy’s forehead and then gets the guy to meditate to photos of Kumare, Barack Obama, and Osama Bin Laden. But mostly the film shows respect and affection for Kumare’s duped followers, and paints them in a favorable light. They aren’t foolish people, they’re just people. We can relate to them and to their struggles. They’re intelligent and good-hearted. If these people can be fooled, anybody can be fooled. We’re all vulnerable to getting duped by charlatans.

 Posted by on October 31, 2016
Oct 312016

Ballot is in the mail.

I voted for Hillary Clinton and for other Democrats up and down the ballot, except for mayor.

Time for a Republican there. I voted for Djou.

In 2014, I didn’t want Djou in the House of Representatives because he would’ve joined other Republicans in their ridiculous anti-Obama obstructionism. At the federal level, we needed (and still need) a strong Democrat majority.

But at the county level Djou might actually do a great job. His agenda is modest and non-partisan. He’s intelligent and he seems to have integrity.

And I can’t get past the fact that according to Civil Beat, Kirk Calwell received at least $200,000 from Territorial Savings Bank, more than his salary as mayor. That was in 2015 alone; he received more other years. When you combine that with the mismanagement of rail and his disturbing pro-development bent, I just can’t support the guy. Big developers pour massive cash into his campaign (example here). I’m pretty sure I know who Caldwell uses his office to serve, and it isn’t me.

Why is there no such thing here in Hawaii as a liberal progressive who is NOT in favor of over-development? We need somebody who is pro green energy, pro conservation, pro agriculture, and pro equality, somebody who will protect our environment and take radical steps to combat climate change, but who isn’t in the pocket of special interests and isn’t obsessed with paving over the island. We just don’t have that here. The Democrats, who are supposed to be fighting for these causes, are all slaves to the developers and the construction industry.

 Posted by on October 31, 2016
Oct 312016

Mike Huckabee was on Fox News recently and he said he prays that Donald Trump wins the election.

Mike Huckabee by Gage Skidmore 6

I don’t fault Mr. Huckabee for supporting the candidate whose views are closest to his own, even if I disagree strongly with those views. I don’t fault him or any other religious person for relying on his faith for comfort during a stressful election. But I’m not sure I understand why a Christian who believes in an omniscient deity (Yahweh) would pray for one particular candidate in an election.

What response is Mr. Huckabee expecting from Yahweh?

“Thank you, Mike! I was sitting around up here in Heaven, all bored and omnipotent and looking for appropriate ways to intervene in human affairs, but I had no clue how to proceed. I knew I wanted to manipulate the 2016 USA presidential election but… who to support? Then you came along with your prayer and, in your perfect wisdom, which far surpasses Mine, you chose Donald Trump. Now, on your recommendation, I’ll manipulate the election to make sure Trump wins, thereby undermining American democracy and disregarding the ‘free will’ of my children.”

Mr. Huckabee thinks he knows which candidate is the right one for our country and he wishes to enlist the Almighty in ensuring his favorite candidate wins. What’s wrong with this? Setting aside the fact that Mr. Huckabee is asking his god to commit election fraud, it never seems to occur to Mr. Huckabee that if Yahweh exists and He is omniscient, a better and more sensible prayer would be for Yahweh, not Mr. Huckabee, to determine which candidate is the right one for our country.

But even this would be a waste of time, for Yahweh, if He is perfect, is already intervening in the world in all of the “correct” ways.

There is an inherent irony in prayer. If you truly believe in an all-knowing, all-wise, omni-benevolent deity, why would you waste your breath making pleas to it? The only sort of deity that needs guidance, information, or inspiration from its devotees in order to behave rightly is a highly imperfect one, not the sort of deity worth worshiping. Anyway, your omniscient deity must already know what you want. And if you truly trust in the perfect judgment of your deity, why would you ask it to put the full force of its divine power behind your imperfect judgment?

 Posted by on October 31, 2016
Jul 172016

O’ahu is a plutocracy, plain and simple. Perhaps it always has been, at least going back to 1893 and the Committee of Safety, the gang of businessmen who found the rightful Queen of Hawaii inconvenient to their sugar profits and got rid of her. Ostensibly we have a democracy but the candidates who win elections are usually the ones who are the best funded, and the best funded are puppets for special interests. We are still ruled by groups like the Committee of Safety. Bullies. Thugs in suits. Same as before, only now instead of making their money from crops they make it by paving over them.

Kioni Dudley is the rare person with the courage to stand up to the bullies. Here he is fighting Ho’opili at the Land Use Commission:

Dudley is running for City Council against Kymberly Pine, the incumbent. I don’t agree with Dudley on everything. He has made his share of mistakes. For a politician he’s a bit unpolished. But he fights for the right causes for the right reasons. He has guts, his ideas are good, and he sees clearly the problems that everybody else pretends don’t exist. He is a champion for agriculture and food security, and we need a leader like him on these issues badly. And the polished politicians all turn out to be total scumbags; I’ll take a Kioni Dudley over that lot any day.

I don’t know much about Pine other than that she is a Republican and she sided against people in Makakilo who live in townhouses on the issue of garbage collection. She was in favor of us paying for private garbage collection even though we pay taxes that cover public garbage collection, same as single-family home owners. Not cool. And when I scan through her campaign contributions, it appears she has received a hefty sum from DR Horton. How can you trust a politician to regulate and reign in the developers if that politician is funded by those same developers? You can’t.

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