Archive for February, 2018

  • Blog
  • February 23rd, 2018

THE FUTURE IS IN THEIR HANDS

By Joel M. Vance

There is an ultraconservative website called Townhall Daily which I check periodically just to get my anger quotient up. Reading any of the columnist postings is guaranteed to raise my anger quotient exponentially.
Recently, a column by Michelle Malkin, a regular of the right wing media outlets, really lit my fuse. Here is one paragraph of what she wrote: “Pubescents are fueled by hormones and dopamine and pizza and Sonic shakes. They’re fickle and fragile and fierce and forgetful. They hate you. They love you. They need you. They ignore you. They know everything. They know nothing. All in the span of 10 seconds. I know. I have two of them. If you’re lucky, they’ve only Googled ‘Should I eat Tide pods?’ or ‘What happens if I snort Ramen powder?’ and not actually attempted the latest social media stunt challenges. But that’s what kids do. Because they’re kids.”
I suspect that a normal teenager, reading her description of a normal teenager, would react by saying, “Thank God I’m not one of her two kids!” If that truly is her opinion of an average teenager, she deserves not to be thought of as Mother of the Year, but as Mother From Hell.
Malkin unsurprisingly is the darling of the right wing media, a syndicated columnist a contributor to Fox News and a frequent guest on the Sean Hannity show as well as Fox and Friends. I find it difficult to believe that Malkin, given the often demonstrated antipathy toward women of Fox News and its various sexual predators, would associate herself with such a misogynistic and demeaning band of male chauvinists, but she obviously thinks more of them than she does of teenagers.
Her jeremiad against teenagers was the result of teenager anger reacting to the school shooting in Florida and came simultaneous with a march on the state capital by survivors from that horrendous shooting rampage at the Parkland high school which took the lives of 17 of those fickle and fragile and fierce and forgetful pubescents. Those “know nothing” teenagers were, for some reason, upset about the lack of common sense gun restrictions which enabled a mentally derailed 19-year-old to legally buy an assault rifle which he used to gun down 17 non gun bearing teenagers. Perhaps he was the teenager whom Ms. Malkin was thinking of when she described her concept of the typical teenager. “….their moral agency and cognitive abilities are far from fully developed,” she wrote. “Most are in no position to change the world when they can’t even remember to change their own bedsheets.”
Enough of Ms. Malkin. Let her crawl back into bed with her gun toting, right wing, bedsheet wearing compadres where they can compare notes on just how depraved today’s teenagers are, and how they all will grow up to be liberal enemies. How dare they dream to change the world for the better! The little bastards!
Give me five each of today’s congressmen from both parties—make them the leaders of their respective parties in Congress— and pit them against any ten of the hundred or more teenage survivors of the Florida high school massacre who traveled to the state capital pleading for sensible gun regulation and ask them what it is they stand for. Do you think the two groups would measure up in cognitive ability and moral agency and a dream to change the world for the better? I’d put my money on the kids. Give them 10 years of adult development, if things continue to deteriorate in our country and they may be just as morally bankrupt as today’s leaders, but I would hope there will be a revival of the teenage rebelliousness of the 1960s when it was the youth of the country that brought change, not the mudstuck adult leadership.
The images of high school students, angry but incredibly articulate expressing their outrage, their trauma and their cry for sensible gun legislation, as they protested in the halls of the Florida capital were moving and if they fail to impress the legislators and kick them to action, it would be a graphic reflection of the indifference of today’s politicians to the concerns of the nation and its unraveling moral fiber. Almost predictably, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has been named A+ by the National Rifle Association, first refused to meet with the protesting students because he was “too busy”.
Country Joe declaimed in song, “hell no, I won’t go!” And teenagers burned their draft cards, and their outrage against our involvement in a bloody and useless war in Vietnam finally pushed Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite, to realize that, as a country, we had royally screwed up. Instead of 17, it was more than 50,000 youngsters who paid with their lives to bring about fundamental change in the country, but the point was that young people made the difference. It could happen again if youthful anger continues to spread and grow until Congress is forced by the weight of that anger to take action against senseless slaughter in schools, clubs and other public places. It was the angry, sometimes violent, actions of a young America, pushed too far, by the irrational behavior of adults who brought about social change in the country. Perhaps Martin Luther King was the spokesperson for young black youth which forced meaningful civil rights legislation, but it was their voice speaking as much as his.
And it wasn’t homicidal anger like that of the mentally ill shooter in Florida, but an anger that demanded that the adult population of the country come to its senses and quit acting like spoiled and unruly infants having a national tantrum.
Malkin (okay, one more reference to her and then we will purge her like a bad clam) also takes a shot at Common Core, the education system that is reviled both by the conservative right, and the generally liberal leaning professional education left.
Adopted in one form or another by 45 of the 50 states, Common Core basically is a system of standards that schools must live up to or face penalties. Standard tests serve as guidelines for student achievement. On the surface the idea sounds like a good one. Lord knows, the education system needs stimulation. The United States lags behind other countries in student achievement and the reasons are varied and many.
But the prime arguments against Common Core are two: One is that the concept of one size fits all is fundamentally flawed. People are not stamped from cookie cutters and what applies to one, does not apply to the next. The other argument that seems to me to make eminent sense is that all schools are not created equal. Factor in the money available to pay good teachers, the social structure of the student body and the local society, as well as other factors which divide schools into high achievers and those not as progressive, you have a system which does not equate to the ideal envisioned by Common Core.
Further, the emphasis on mathematics and language skills, while necessary and admirable,, tends to sideline such studies as art and music, which may not mean much in the conservative world of business and hard-core economics. But I happen to feel that art and music and such touchy-feely sidelines in the educational spectrum are important in creating total human beings rather than pragmatic machines marching through life in lockstep.
By mandating that teacher achievement and value is measured by their ability to teach to a test score inevitably stifles creativity and initiative on the part of the teacher. The whole concept of Common Core is flawed. Set the standards too high and they are unreachable. Set them too low so that every student reaches them and you run the risk of creating a society of worker bees.
Every classroom is an amalgam of bright students and dull ones, those with ambition, those without. The challenge to a teacher is somehow to touch all these levels of enthusiasm not only with knowledge of a given subject but also with a desire in the student to learn more as well as an appreciation of having learned something.
Slapping a standard test in front of a kid and saying “you need to pass this or we’re all screwed” is no way to run an educational system. Weed out the bad teachers and pay good ones what they deserve, allowing them the initiative to teach, and inevitably the educational system will improve without the need for standardized testing that does nothing more than cramp a given teacher’s initiative and put pressure on him or her to force-feed certain subject areas at the expense of the total package.
The traumatized Florida students had barely finished their eloquent pleas for the politicians to do something about sane gun regulations when the conspiracy madmen—and Michelle Malkin aside, they all are men— were busy posting social media rants claiming that the students were paid actors. At the risk of being accused of being a conspiracy theorist myself, I suspect the grimy hand of Vladimir Putin and his henchpeople being involved in the social media tweetstorm against the high school students. These are people who should be denied the right, Second Amendment or not, to buy assault weapons—you know, mentally ill. Except, as gun regulations now exist, mentally ill people are unfortunately able to buy and use assault weapons.
You can always count on Bill O’Reilly to say something inflammatory and stupid and he tweeted this: ”The big question is: should the media be promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases? “
To which Nicole, an articulate teenager responded thusly: “The same people that said 13 and 14 year olds were perfectly mature enough to date Roy Moore are now saying 17 and 18 year olds are too immature to have opinions on gun control.”
Bill O’Reilly and his odious ilk notwithstanding, the country’s youngsters are angry, pushed too far. Fired up, they have changed the country before, and I pray they can do it again. Go kids! This is not high school sports— this is the real big game–your future– and yours to win.

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  • Blog
  • February 19th, 2018

THE TIME IS OVERDUE

By Joel M. Vance

Once again there has been a massacre shooting in a school by a mentally disturbed youngster with an assault weapon he legally obtained. There is something wrong with this picture. The anti-gun legislation folks immediately blamed the shooting on mental illness and appeared to place much of the blame on the inability or failure of acquaintances and others to report the potential for danger posed by the shooter. It was the old refrain of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

There are several fallacies in this approach, one of which is that with no exceptions anyone who commits mass murder has to be mentally askew, but to approach the problem of wholesale slaughter with an assault weapon by claiming that the shooter is mentally ill and that’s the sole reason for the incident is both stating the obvious and missing the point. Completely sane people don’t commit mass murders. And yes, guns do kill people, but without guns people are unable to shoot other people.
The point behind every one of the all too frequent massacres of innocent people is that those most responsible for finding some way to end the carnage have abdicated their obvious responsibility to do so. Congress resolutely refuses to pass sensible gun restrictions, mumbling, “It’s too soon to talk about it,” and “Let’s wait until all the facts are in” and similar meaningless locutions. It’s not too soon and the facts are in. It’s way past time to get serious about stopping the bloodshed.

I am a gun owner with a dozen guns which I use for hunting and I would oppose anyone demanding that I turn them in or otherwise stop using them for their intended purposes, none of which involve shooting other people. Guns belong in hunting, in shooting sports, and in gun collecting. There is no justification for what amounts to weapons of mass destruction to be acquired by potentially homicidal people. The proposition that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is untouchable is a flawed one.
Remember that the Constitution is a continually evolving document. If it were not we still would have slavery, women would not be able to vote, and you couldn’t stop at the corner bar for a bump and a Bud.
The Second Amendment was created in a time when the only guns were single shot flintlocks and the only people they likely would be used against were soldiers of his Majesty’s British Army and the occasional aggressive indigenous Indian tribes. None of the founding fathers envisioned a time when teenagers, not old enough to buy a beer, could legally acquire an assault rifle and an extended magazine, capable of firing 30 or 40 bullets per minute.
The National Rifle Association deserves much of the blame, abetted by craven congresspeople who do their bidding for whatever reason— probably because the NRA kicks in big dollar donations toward the reelection of those who will do their bidding.

I have been a lifelong hunter and, as I said, currently own a dozen guns, both shotguns and rifles. I mostly am an upland bird hunter as well as an ardent waterfowler. I’ve killed several deer and, aside from my first love of quail hunting, I worship hunting wild turkeys on the chilly ridges of spring. Most of my guns have come to me through ways that would be illegal were proposed changes to gun regulations enacted. I inherited several from my father. I bought several others from friends. I also bought my most cherished shotgun, a 1913 grade 3 LC Smith double barrel at a gun show. I suspect none of these people had federal firearms licenses but I also suspect that common sense would grandfather in the possession of firearms acquired in these ways and before any legislation became effective.

Although Ronald Reagan often is regarded as the ultimate conservative president, don’t forget that Democrat Jimmy Carter was the most ardent hunter among recent presidents, since fabled Teddy Roosevelt chased game all over the world. Reagan’s eldest son Michael has become a spokesperson for conservatives and recently wrote: “Instead of the federal government raising my gas tax 12 cents a gallon and pretending it’s going to be used to fix our highways, why not use the money to hire guards for our schools – and give them guns they know how to use.” I think Reagan has been seeing too many of daddy’s shoot-‘em-up Westerns and would like to see the country revert to a Wild West mentality where everyone is looking for an excuse for a Travis Walk shoot out on Main Street. Instead of using gas tax money to fix the highway infrastructure we can revert all highways to dirt and gravel, adding to the Wild West ambience.
Our daughter, grandson, and two granddaughters-in-law all are teachers and none of the three has any desire to be packing heat in a classroom . I would venture to say that the vast majority of teachers in the country chose their profession with the desire to stand in a classroom and teach young people, not to stand in a classroom as an armed guard.

I know an outdoor communicator who once had the audacity to write that an AR 15 (the gun most commonly used to commit mass murder) is not really a hunting gun and he saw no reason that it should be in the hands of anyone. Overnight the wrath of the gun lobby fell on him like 10 tons of lead bullets and he lost virtually his entire source of income. He was fired by a major magazine, lost a television show, and probably other outlets for his talents. In an attempt to make amends, he even went hunting with an AR 15 with Ted Nugent, the wild man of rock ‘n roll, whose philosophy of “whack ‘em and stack ‘em” is about as far removed from the ethical concept of hunting—at least, as I feel it, and as those I hunt with feel it— as you can get and still call it hunting. Measuring the success of a hunt by the size of the gutpile or the weight of the game bag is simply not what hunting is all about.
Anyone who has a glorious day in the field and complains because he or she didn’t get a limit has totally missed the point and might just as well be at home. And anyone who kills a living creature from a quail to a bull elk and doesn’t feel at least a pang of regret has lost a few points off his or her moral compass.
The point of the story about my acquaintance, obviously, is that you don’t tempt the might of the anti-gun regulation crowd without risking retribution. That’s the position that Congress is in where many of its leading members, those in a position to dictate legislation, are heavily supported by money from the NRA. For the record, the most heavily supported Congressman by the NRA is the otherwise eminently admirable Senator John McCain. My own Senator, Roy Blunt, who in my opinion is not worthy to carry John McCain’s luggage, is third on the list of the NRA supportees.
I ask, reasonably enough I think, what is wrong with outlawing assault weapons, cop killer bullets, and any other armament-associated paraphernalia that has no purpose other than warfare? Why not close the gaping loopholes in the sale of guns at gun shows? What’s wrong with background checks and prohibiting the possession of firearms by convicted criminals, the mentally afflicted, and those who fire up warning rockets via social media that they may become a danger to society?

I think it’s a damn shame that society has come to a point where we discuss the viability of arming teachers in the classroom, have to pass students through security checkpoints and treat each other as if we were only seconds away from yet another bloody shooting. We have come a long and discouraging way from the days when I was a kid and you could take a gun to school because you were going rabbit hunting after class. Merle Haggard famously said that they didn’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee Oklahoma, but they didn’t shoot each other there either. Mass murder has become so commonplace that it barely makes lasting headlines anymore and each gruesome story is only good for a few days until the next one, and the inevitable reaction, calling for gun regulations, is even more ephemeral than the bloody story that inspired it.

Now, in the interest of full and complete disclosure, I will admit to a long time bias against the NRA for two reasons. Take what you will from it and feel free revile me as, I suspect, many of the Association members would.

I have been a member of the NRA two different times— the first when I was a young hunter who believed in the prevailing philosophy of the organization at the time which was to emphasize gun safety and the training of youngsters in safe gun handling. There was little if any politicizing by the NRA then and I believed (and still do) in the necessity of encouraging young hunters and teaching them to use guns responsibly and safely.
The second time I joined the NRA was after they rewarded me with a back page column in The American Hunter, one of their publications. It was fun to write about hunting outings, but the column lasted only a few months and they dropped me without explanation. That was an editorial prerogative and while it hurt, it was their choice to pick and choose a back page columnist. The axiom among outdoor columnists is that “nothing is forever.” The vagaries of communication are such that Audubon Magazine also dropped me as a columnist after a couple of years making me possibly the only outdoor writer in history to have been canned both by the extreme right and the extreme left of outdoor communication.

But it wasn’t getting fired as a columnist for the NRA that bugs me to this day— it is that they owe me $500 which I never will see. At the time the NRA was a supporting member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. I won an NRA-sponsored writing contest on small game hunting for which the top award was $500. The NRA had signed a contract guaranteeing money for the honorees in the contest. But OWAA and the NRA got in a fuss over what should have been a minor controversy, which resulted in about a third of the OWAA membership quitting the group, as did the NRA, taking its money (and mine) along with it.
So the whole point of this column in your minds may amount to sour grapes, not worth your consideration. But perhaps the next time there is a mass shooting somewhere in the country (and there will be) at least think about what I’ve said. Get off the case of a bumbling FBI and get on the case of a disastrously bumbling Congress and demand constructive action rather than disastrous inaction.

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  • Blog
  • February 13th, 2018

PUT ON YOUR OL’ GRAY WIFE-BEATER

By Joel M. Vance

I have a suggestion for Donald J Trump, the Parademaster in Chief of the United States. When he orders the military might of the United States to parade past his personal reviewing stand, no doubt at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, he can by presidential decree,(something that he favors over the rule of law) order the massed troops to wear specially designed uniforms for the occasion.
They will, of course, have been designed by Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, who continues to profit lavishly from her sprawling fashion empire and her associated close contact with the presidential father. Souvenir copies of the new uniforms after the parade will be on sale for ridiculously inflated prices through her many outlets. This uniform will consist of golfing shorts (it promising to be a very hot day in Washington DC) and a top commonly called a “wife beater.” This is a T-shirt with no sleeves.
Given the caveman lifestyle of Trump and his various aides and supporters in recent weeks, a wife beater T-shirt seems to be appropriate as the uniform of the day.
For those female members of the military the T-shirt of course will be wet to appease the drooling tastes of the Trump entourage, those who only see females of the species as targets, whether of physical, emotional, or some other deviant form of abuse. Higher ranking officers, especially those accused of insensitive remarks toward or treatment of female military personnel would be required to wear tutus. I look forward to seeing Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly wearing a tutu, even though he’s retired from the active military, although not from making insensitive gender remarks and if he doesn’t get fired in the next few days.
The wife beaters could be decorated in front with a picture of Trump and the slogan “Make America White Again” prominent above it. The back could be adorned with the logos of organizations that persist in supporting Trump, despite the mountain of evidence that he is a fraud— think Breitbart, Fox News, and others of the extreme right (and don’t forget the Ku Klux Klan).
That the wife beater should be the official new uniform of the military should come as no surprise to anyone who has read a news story in the last five minutes. Anymore, the news is not who has been accused of spousal or other abuse of women, but who hasn’t. But in Trump world, which more and more resembles Oz or some other fantasy world, the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” now translates “to innocent because Donald J Trump says so.” Remember, the Defender in Chief said that Roy Moore, the Alabama deviant and ardent Trump supporter, claimed he was innocent even though there was an avalanche of evidence to the contrary. Thus we should have ignored the evidence, and accepted Trump’s claim that Moore was a good candidate for the United States Senate
And in case you haven’t been watching the news in the last five minutes, the saga of Trump and his now disgraced top aide Rob Porter is symptomatic of the whole Trump versus woman saga. Porter, in case you didn’t know, has been accused by two former wives of spousal abuse and also by a former girlfriend. One former wife exhibited a black eye she says Porter gave her, and the other once obtained a police restraining order against him.

Trump’s response to these allegations which everyone in his or her right mind believes, was this tweet: “people’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused— life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?” In this as in other cases where men have been accused by women of abuse, Trump took the side of the man against the woman, trying to throw doubt upon the accusations and minimizing if not outright denying their accuracy. Of course, considering he has been accused by at least 19 women of unwanted sexual advances, and paid a porn star $130,000 to keep her mouth shut about their mutual diddling, whether it was consensual or not, one has to, well, consider the source.
And he and his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, with or without a tutu, knew about the allegations against Porter months before they surfaced, thanks to investigative reporting, and the First Amendment, which still exists despite all the administration efforts to eliminate it. They did nothing. Even after Porter resigned, both Trump and Kelly were quick to praise their disgraced former colleague for what a wonderful job he had done, and how hard he had worked, somehow failing to mention the reason he no longer was the president’s right-hand man was that he was a spousal abuser. They conveniently did not mention the spouses involved. It’s kind of like praising an armed robber as a good family man, simply trying to provide for his children, without mentioning the victim he shot six times.
It is inconceivable to me that any woman in the United States of America would have voted for this misogynistic jerk, and would continue to support him, given the mounting avalanche of information about his inability not only to serve in the office of president, but to function as a decent human being. Don’t these women remember Trump’s famous caught-on-tape comments before the election about his ability to do anything he wanted with a woman up to and including grabbing her by the crotch? I suspect even Tammy Wynette would have trouble standing by her man, if the man were Donald J Trump.
Even some of the most prominent women still supporting Trump seem to be terminally confused. Kellyanne Conway, the Wicked Witch of the West Wing, issued a strongly worded statement in support of Porter after the allegations broke in the news media, but then a few days later told Jake Tapper on CNN “I have no reason not to believe the women.” Neither does anyone else, not tied to Trump’s coattails. Since, she has been silent, perhaps reconsidering her betrayal of abused women everywhere.
In another incredible tangle of alliances right out of Days of Our Lives, Kelly’s defense of Rob Porter after the accusations surfaced, apparently was at least partly crafted by another female Trump supporter and aide Hope Hicks, who is the current girlfriend of Rob Porter.
One wonders where Melania, Donald Trump’s third wife, stands amid all this hullabaloo. She has been conspicuously silent and the most notable female in the Trump orbit has been his daughter, about whom he once notoriously said he would date if she weren’t his daughter, and asked the reigning Miss America if she didn’t think Ivanka was “hot.” While it may or might not be true, it certainly in the realm of possibility given the overall web of spousal and sexual abuse surrounding Donald Trump, his first wife, Ivana, claimed in a book that her husband had raped her. She later backtracked some and now cannot amplify correct or otherwise shed light on what she originally said because she signed a nondisclosure agreement. She is Ivanka’s mother.
I suspect Trump was busy watching Fox news and missed the whole thing but I watched with awe, joy and pride as 17-year-old Chloe Kim won an Olympic gold medal in the women’s snowboard half pipe, and, wrapped in the American flag hugged her parents and teammates. It brought a tear to my eye. Born in the United States, Chloe Kim is a citizen and I immediately checked her family to make sure that her parents, immigrants from South Korea (hear that, Trump, you arrogant xenophobic blockhead) are, indeed, citizens of the United States who shouldn’t have to fear that agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement will swoop down like the American Gestapo they rapidly are becoming and deport them back to Korea.
Chloe Kim’s father, a retired engineer, is quoted as saying, “it’s just great because it’s kind of the American dream, American dream come true. It’s a land of opportunity. Why not?”
David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker magazine, recently wrote something worth quoting, and I hope I’m not abusing the idea of fair use by repeating him. It so perfectly sums up the situation with Trump and women that, if I am overusing Mr. Remnick’s words, I apologize. Here’s what Remnick said: “He “(Trump) diverts attention from his own encyclopedic record of miserable behavior toward women by casting doubt on the accusers. This is a neat trick, yet hardly original. It has come to the point where even Trump’s closest aides know that a reckoning is coming. It’s not going to be okay.”
Chloe Kim isn’t old enough to vote yet, but she will be, and the future of the nation is in the grit and intelligence of her and women like her who refuse to put up with bloated and predatory old white men like Donald Trump. As David Remnick says, “a reckoning is coming”. Meanwhile, the sight of petite Chloe Kim wrapped in the American flag waiting to have a gold medal draped around her neck will continue to warm my heart for a long time to come.

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  • February 8th, 2018

I LOVE A PARADE

By Joel M. Vance

In 1932 there was an animated movie short called “I Love a Parade” which featured a parade of sideshow acts including the wild boy, the rubber man, Siamese twin pigs, a tattooed man, a hula dancing hippo, and an Indian snake charmer, all marching to the title tune, written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.
Appropriately enough, this was a Looney Tunes cartoon, and now we have come to the 2018 version, launched by our own Looney Tunes president Donald J Trump. The ironies pile, one upon the other, like episodes from a fever dream. If you are a fan of the television show M.A.S.H, you might recall the first appearance of Harry Morgan, who would become the beloved Col. Potter in later episodes. It was a guest appearance before he became the M.A.S.H commander and he portrayed a mentally ill general who sang a snippet of “I Love a Parade” as part of his crazy persona.
One can visualize our 71-year-old commander in chief, who is developmentally going on four years old, stamping his feet and crying, “I want a parade! And if I don’t get one, I’m going to hold my breath until I die!” Parents universally recognize this emotional explosion as the Terrible Twos, except that Trump has spent 69 years trapped in his two year old’s tantrum phase— or at least as it’s displayed for the public to see. Apparently he is prone to screaming fits of anger when things don’t go the way he wants them to. We are being ruled by a grade school bully mentality, complicated by aberrant mental short-circuits. Just the kind of guy you want running the country.

Our grandson teaches developmentally troubled youngsters who often have outbursts of anger as a result of emotional and mental aberrations, and who are capable of inflicting physical harm on anyone who gets in their way. Much of the behavior of these elementary school children closely resembles that of the president of the United States, except that they don’t have their fingers on the nuclear button and the authority to order military action against anyone who pisses them off.
So we have a president of the United States, now calling for a parade which, according to him, would be to celebrate the nation’s military might— but anyone who’s been watching him for more than a day or so realizes it would be a parade to honor him. One military official who, understandably enough, didn’t want to be identified, quoted Trump as saying “I want a parade like the one in France,” referring to a Bastille Day parade Trump witnessed in France a couple of months back when he allegedly also told the president of France, “we’re going to have to try and copy it.”
There certainly is nothing wrong with honoring the nation’s military, which is underfunded and understrength most of the time. We went into World War II woefully unprepared for it, and had to play catch up for a long time before the military was ready for the horrific battles that it encountered. That was because we were complacent and satisfied with an outdated military.
But you don’t win wars with parades and you don’t scare the enemy off by showing off. The idea of a parade of military might which would cost, according to some estimates, millions of dollars to mount, would not in any way enhance the military preparedness of the country. Why not instead pour those millions of dollars into the making of a better armed, better paid, and more modern military, ready for whatever might come?
We currently are engaged in the longest war in the nation’s history in Afghanistan, we are running bombing missions in seven different countries, and periodically engage in brushfire skirmishes in other areas of the world. And yet all our crazy president can think of in military terms is to have a parade in his honor. We already have an Armistice Day, originally to celebrate the end of World War I, the (war to end all wars” (pause for a chuckle here), which now is designated as Veterans’ Day. We have Memorial Day, which often is used as a chance to visit and decorate the graves of those who have given their lives in defense of the country. We also celebrate the Fourth of July when we celebrate our gaining independence from England.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s Mortimer Snerd alter ego, press secretary said “a military parade would highlight and show the pride in our military.” And Trump said, “people don’t know what great warriors they are in France but when you see that and you see all the victories, it was a tremendous saying,” in reference to a Bastille Day parade he witnessed in France a couple of months back.
It wasn’t too long ago (2003) that people in this country were changing the name of French fries to freedom fries, when Republican Congressman Bob Ney renamed them on the menu in three congressional cafeterias because of France’s opposition to our proposed invasion of Iraq. The French and then were not great warriors; they were frog eating bastards who hate the United States. Three years later when it became obvious that the invasion was a big mistake, freedom fries once more became French fries. Perhaps Trump now envisions himself as a modern-day Napoleon, master of conquering armies and worthy of great parades and universal adulation. Study history— Napoleon’s dreams of grandeur didn’t turn out all that well.
The insanity of the Trump parade idea is a mixture of political Looney Tunes, a lunatic commander, and a parody of the often filmed parades ordered by such world luminaries as Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, and the late Adolf Hitler. Let’s pray that Trump doesn’t demand that his parading troops march in lockstep or goose step. One never knows what the deranged nutcase is thinking in the largely empty space between his ears.
Trump’s preference is to have a parade on July 4 the date on which we commemorate the independence of the nation and is as much a tribute to democratic government as it is to anything—and our government has evolved over the last 250 years as a two-party system which today means Republicans and Democrats. Yet, rather than celebrating a two-party system, Trump said that the Democrat reaction to his State of the Union speech was treasonous and that the Democrats were traitors to the country.
I must admit that my antipathy toward military parades dates back many years to a hot summer day at camp Ripley, Minnesota, where the 35th division of the Missouri National Guard was due to pass in review. I was scheduled to march in that parade, one of many who if they had their druthers, would have opted to head for the nearest watering hole in the nearest town—Brainerd or Little Falls or anywhere but Camp Ripley. I managed to convince our battalion commander that, as a representative of the local newspaper, and as the de facto public information officer of the battalion it was my duty to prowl the sidelines, as it were, much as I did during local football games, and report on the parade as a news story.
As a scam it was much in the tradition of Hawkeye Pierce, and it worked. While many hundreds of other sweating soldiers stood in the blazing sun and solemnly marched past the reviewing stand, I prowled amid the dignitaries who included former Pres. Harry Truman (a veteran of the 35th division and a real president, as opposed to the one we have now, and who also was a combat veteran of World War I) and I took photographs which dutifully appeared in the local newspaper.
I really rather doubt that July 4 in Washington DC would be any cooler than Camp Ripley Minnesota, and that the many soldiers involved in Trump’s parade would be any more comfortable than the poor troops of that long ago exhibition of Minnesota military might. Pres. Truman who had his share of miserable trench conditions in World War I visibly radiated sympathy for the miserable soldiers parading past the reviewing stand. He knew bullshit when he saw it, instead of practicing it like the present president of golden hair and leaden intellect. Trump, of course, never served in the military, having received several deferments because of what he claimed were bone spurs. He and one of his most ardent sycophants, the right wing mouth that roared, Rush Limbaugh, both avoided military service because of dubious health claims, which doesn’t seem to stop either one from frequent golf games.
Since Donald Trump gets all giggly over the idea of a parade I have a plan for him. Rather than activating United States Army to march down Fifth Avenue in his honor, he could make use of an existing parade. Every Thanksgiving, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is in New York City, Trump’s hometown.
Why not commission a giant float to be included in the Macy’s parade? It could be a gigantic representation of Trump’s head. What could be more appropriate than a massive gasbag, filled with hot air? He could join Snoopy and Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters as they float along the famed Fifth Avenue, right past Trump Tower, the president’s glittering monument to excess and personal glorification. Trump could stand on a specially built balcony on the façade of the tower, passing benediction on the crowd below and posing belligerently like Benito Mussolini. Not exactly the Pope, another Italian personage, but what the heck you go with what you got.
Many thousands of fawning New Yorkers could gather to worship the drifting gasbag and official photographers could take photographs that Trump later could claim as evidence that it was the largest crowd ever to witness a parade and the greatest parade in the history of the universe. He could brag that even God couldn’t mount a more spectacular parade and Sarah Huckabee Sanders could drool at the daily press briefing that once again the president is vindicated, dissolved of all the scurrilous things that those awful Democrats have been saying about him.

Of course there is the distinct possibility, that no one would show up and that someone would take lying photographs of empty streets and even the Snoopy float would show the beloved beagle snarling like a wolverine in a foothold trap.
It’s a thought….

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  • Blog
  • February 4th, 2018

PRESIDENTIAL PRATTLE

By Joel M. Vance

I couldn’t make this up if I tried, not that anyone more articulate than a second grader would want to. Below is a direct quote from the president of the United States, the person an uncomfortably large portion of the voting public elected to be the leader of the free world.
If you can read this quote with a straight face and without gagging, more power to you. With this incoherent babble, Donald J Trump has proved that not only is he a threat to the country, to democracy, and possibly to the world, he is a demonstrable enemy of the English language.
Okay, here goes:

“Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart —you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.“

And there you have it. Any comment would be superfluous. It stands alone, like a dung heap, of tortured syntax, fractured language, and the outpouring of a diseased mind. This is stream of consciousness rambling like the overflow from a sewage treatment plant. I didn’t make that quote up, the Democrats didn’t make it up, Hillary Clinton didn’t make it up and neither did any of the perceived enemies that seem to plague Donald Trump’s paranoiac mind. It is a direct transcription of a filmed verbal eruption by the Clown Prince of politics.
They used to make fun of Dwight Eisenhower’s sometimes awkward locutions, and the malapropisms of George W. Bush, but compared to them Donald Trump is Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln, great orators of the past. Dr. Martin Luther King doubtless is spinning in his grave. Sure, no president is immune from occasional spoken gaffes but Donald Trump has taken the verbal fart to an art form, composed of equal parts self-aggrandizement, shameless bragging, outright lies, and utterly nonsensical babbling.
Just as he has, unfortunately, elevated the presidency of the United States to a kind of sick joke, a daily example of silliness that, in comparison, makes the Three Stooges look like the three wise men of biblical fame.
Just as television viewers of America’s Funniest Home Videos laugh slightly cruelly when some poor sap lands crotch first on a railing while attempting some silly stunt, thankful that it wasn’t us it happened to, we should be laughing at the clown antics of the pretend president, but the penalties for treating his daily bungling as laughable are not funny— they’re terrifying. Trump spends much of his time engaging in “mine is bigger than yours” bragging, which might be funny if he were only talking about his stubby fingers, not about using one of those fingers on the nuclear button.
Trump has managed to gather about him a band of sycophants whose dedication to the Republican Party transcends their dedication to morality or the good of the nation. I can’t help but hope, although I don’t believe it, that at night in the dark of the moon they don’t huddle in their respective beds cringing with shame, wondering what indignity the great leader will heap upon them when the sun comes up.
You saw Paul Ryan and Mike Spence flanking him on the podium as he made his state of the union address, their faces set in a rictus of approval as he made one outrageous statement after another. And Trump had the audacity to criticize the Democrats after his speech during which he vowed to dismantle democracy as we know it for not applauding him. That would be like applauding at a public hanging.
The recent collision between a trainload of Republican Congressman and their families and a garbage truck in West Virginia is filled with bitter irony. The Internet is rife with comments from folks who are understandably reluctant to make jokes about the ironic nature of the collision— a train full of garbage politicians colliding with a garbage truck. And there is nothing funny about an accident which takes the lives of innocent people– predictably enough, some of the more insane conspiracy theorists have claimed that the Democrats planted the garbage truck on the tracks.
From the outset you have to wonder about the motives of the Republicans who feel it necessary to flee from their duties as congresspeople on a chartered train headed for one of the most exclusive and expensive resorts in the nation while, at the same time, they trumpet their dedication to putting more money in the pockets of the nation’s poor and disadvantaged. There is nothing wrong with a retreat, per se, to regroup and brainstorm and seek to find solutions for the many problems that plague the country. But retreats seldom include families and you have to wonder about the necessity of doing it at a place dedicated to luxury for the moneyed class.
It would be nice to know that the Republican congresspeople, instead of blowing big bucks on a luxury vacation, thanks to the generosity of their billionaire donors, would instead make individual retreats to their congressional districts to visit with their constituents and find out what in the hell is going on in the real world.
But the almost Shakespearean tragic aspects of the incident are impossible to ignore once you know the whole story. Many years ago during the height of the Cold War, the administration had a secret bunker constructed beneath the Greenbrier Resort, the destination of the ill-fated Republican train.
The idea was that, if the Soviet Union launched a ballistic missile toward the United States, Congress would load up in a special train and head to the bunker under the Greenbrier, and continue the business of the nation beneath tons of steel and concrete, living in Spartan conditions, sleeping in double-decker bunk beds, and eating freeze-dried survival rations out of cans.
The bunker cost about $14 million to build, which translates into more than $100 million today. The idea was improbable enough in the 1950s when advance warning of an incoming missile might have given Congress hours to escape; now it is even more ludicrous when the warning time is only minutes.
The mental picture of some of the more corpulent politicians who would’ve been involved again raises the specter of Shakespeare— the beefy specter of Sir John Falstaff trying to fit himself into a sagging bunk bed and eating shit on a shingle is impossible to ignore (that’s what the military universally calls chipped beef on toast).
After the fall of the Soviet Union my dear friend Ted Gup, a protégé of Bob Woodward, the Washington Post investigative reporter who, with Carl Bernstein, exposed the Watergate mess and brought down Richard Nixon, blew the whistle in print on the existence of the Greenbrier bunker. Ted was vacationing and stopped at the Greenbrier for lunch and out of curiosity followed through on hints of the then still secret bunker, which had long outlasted any significance. He broke the story in the Washington Post and that was the end of the bunker as a refuge for threatened Congressman in a national missile crisis. Even today, when the bunker has become a tourist attraction rather than a necessity, Ted’s expose incurs snarls of outrage from the bunker tour guides. Possibly the loss of government funding for bunker maintenance has something to do with the outrage, more than any perceived threat to national security.
If Kim Jong Un ever does launch a missile at the United States the usefulness of the Greenbrier bunker is long since done with. The entire idea of a special train, leaving Washington, with the nation’s lawmakers aboard, ahead of an incoming missile, was ludicrous to begin with, and a typical legislative waste of money. Today, the bunker, is a tourist attraction which, for thirty dollars, you can tour, and then return to reality for a gourmet lunch, or, if you happen to be a Republican Congressman, a super expensive vacation. Instead of escaping an incoming ballistic missile, you will be escaping your duties as a representative of the people.
The more Donald J Trump, the pit master of presidential politics, trumpets about “fake news” the more he energizes the nation’s investigative reporters to shovel aside the manure that he spreads so carelessly and expose the truth beneath. Nixon didn’t get away with it and given the dogged persistence of the Washington Post and the New York Times and others who believe in a free press and truth in government, Trump won’t either.
Trump’s concept of a free press is one that flatters him endlessly, and probably is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and has as its most notable spokesperson Sean Hannity or any of the various hand puppets on Fox News and Friends. Trump’s Benito Mussolini-like visage crying feebly “fake news!” To any story that he doesn’t like grows increasingly unbelievable, one would hope, even to his most ardent backers. The truth has an undeniable ring to it like that of fine crystal as opposed to cheap plastic. Whether the truth will out remains to be seen in the coming months as one election after another pits truth tellers against the lying toadies of the Trump administration.

And, we can only hope that the Robert Mueller investigation will result in prison sentences, if not the ouster in disgrace of the seedy band of rascals that has insinuated itself into and corrupted the nation’s more than two century long system of democratic government.

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