The Value of Fire and Fury

While not perfect, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury – Inside the Trump White House offers value Americans need right now.

The White House is working diligently to discredit this portrait of a presidency’s first months but reporters and Washington insiders have generally agreed that, overall, Wolff got it right. Herein lies the value of this work.

The basic fact is an enormous number of Americans are perplexed by this president and his staff. So many of us really want to know what is going on.

Here’s what we know for sure:

he uses foul language while doing the work of the highest office in the land;

demonstrates sexist and racist tendencies;

taunts leaders of other nations;

hurts the USA’s standing in the eyes of the rest of the world;

attacks anyone perceived as an enemy including allies who make the mistake of getting credit he believes should be his;

both shows ignorance of, and contradicts himself on, his own policies;

creates almost daily chaos with tweets that often echo something he just saw on TV or was told by another person;

And insists he’s doing a great job.

How can this be?

Veteran New Yorkers will shrug and say this has always been Trump. Maybe they are at least partially correct.

Others will say he’s a damaged rich kid who is still overcompensating for 1) a disapproving father, 2) the pampered academics that serious money buys, and 3) the sidestepping of military service via his debilitating bone spurs. Maybe they are at least partially correct as well.

But that’s not the whole story.

The fact is, it is not all Trump’s fault.

Fire and Fury shows us that here is an aging political neophyte of dubious mental and emotional stability being pulled in competing directions by numerous conflicting voices that express opposing agendas and openly mislead this confused, undisciplined mind on a daily, maybe hourly, basis.

That scenario explains so much about the widening gyre that is the White House. Taking a look into the Trump twister via this book will not make us feel more confident about what is happening but it will offer clarity of what ails the struggling leader of the free world.

Understanding is a crucial first step to getting this divided, faltering union to recognize our desperate need to find common ground and maybe, just maybe, a path forward.

Highly recommended.

The author is about to release A Simple Rebellion, which shows us a near-future dystopia uncomfortably close to our present.

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2017 NFL Awards Predictions

Guest post: My son is a gifted sports blogger. Here is is latest post.

Play Ball News

Now that the 2017 NFL season is over there are some awards to hand out. This year is particularly difficult to choose an MVP. Carson Wentz was practically running away with the award. He was dominating defense and leading the leagues top team. Then he blew out his knee against the Rams and that opened the race up. Tom Brady defied odds and had one of his best seasons at the age of 40. Todd Gurley was Mr. Everything and helped the Rams turn from a laughing stock of the league to one of the leagues best teams. Antonio Brown had another record setting season for the Steelers until he injured his calf against the Patriots. Offensive Player of the Year features all of the MVP candidates from above, along with a few others. Defensive Player of the Year is another difficult choice. Aaron Donald held out all summer but…

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New Year’s Eve Epiphany

“It’s the final countdown…”

The was the song playing when I got bagels this morning. Hard not to smirk. Harder to dismiss in this, the era of American divisiveness.

But we haven’t lost all hope, not yet.

At least that’s what I kept thinking last night as the goddess and I tried to see in the new year with as little mind-numbing entertainment as possible.

It wasn’t easy.

We explored television, which is treacherous going but we found a real gift – the first episode of the new season of Black Mirror called “USS Callister”. This dark and twisting story centered around a Star Trek-like television show and a virtual reality platform called Infinity.

I’ll make every attempt to avoid Spoilers, but Spoiler Warning just in case.)

The characters are almost all misdirecting their gifts, making everything about themselves. This metaphor is played out masterfully with hope only presenting itself after they find reasons to serve the greater good.

Lesson: we fail when we make it all about ourselves.

And like the inability to turn away from a car crash, we did turn on “Rocking New Year’s Eve” in time to see Mariah Carey “perform”.

Here is a woman gifted with an amazing singing voice but she seems so caught up in the “being Mariah” of it all, that she no longer recognizes that her art must be honed with vigilance and shared.

Lesson: We all have gifts and with them come the responsibility to use them to improve the world not just for our own enrichment.

All of this brought me to what awaits us in 2018: more Trump, more Congress, more divisiveness. More accusations. More slanted news. More social media trolls. More shutting out anyone who disagrees with our world view. More divisiveness.

It is possible that already we are no longer a country that can do what the Founding Fathers wanted us to do in service to this great nation.

The Founding Fathers, as imperfect as they were, knew for this republic to prosper, we needed people willing to exchange ideas until we reached consensus. That is how this imperfect nation was supposed to evolve into a more perfect union.

But over the last eight or 12 or 20 or 40 years, we have found ways to devolve instead. Now we only listen to our own parties, only acknowledge similar minds, only work to ensure our side “wins”.

And it is destroying us.

The widening gyre between liberals and democrats and republicans and conservatives, makes it progressively more difficult to honestly call ourselves a more perfect union anymore.

But not all hope is lost, not yet.

If only we learn the main lesson the Ancient One tried to impart to Dr. Strange, and through him to all of us: It is not about you.

There are two things we can do to save ourselves.

Number one, we have to get out of our own self-created bubbles and re-engage with the full spectrum of our grand mosaic, abandoning defensivness for attentiveness, abandoning the fear and hate of divisiveness for the strength of consensus.

The second thing is a result of the first: we need to start talking to each other. We need to get out of our isolated bubbles, acknowledge that there’s differences and exchange ideas,working for the true greater good. Neither side wins when we tear each other down.

Without these steps we are truly creating a nightmare America.

So, let’s talk.

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New Year’s Resolution Suggestion: Listen to The Doctor

“They say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….”

As the decade that was 2017 finally ends, I keep thinking of advice spoken in the final moments of a beloved character’s existence (at least in this incarnation – if you don’t understand as a Doctor Who fan). 

After all we have been thrashed by this year, from non-existent climate change, “bold and beloved” government leadership, devastatingly slanted media that has created bubble civilizations where entire swaths of people listen only to thoughts that confirm and strengthen their own beliefs and condemn all other thoughts as dangerous and evil, and economic separation that may prove life-threatening to millions of our own neighbors, many of us are searching for a way forward, a set of principles that won’t fail us.

Thanks to a beloved show, its gifted writers, driven directors, and talented performers, a solid suggestion awaits below.

Here’s to 2018. Keep strong. Keep vigilant. Hang on to these core beliefs:

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10 Reasons to Applaud  Tina Fey’s “Cake” 

Social media is blowing up about Tina Fey’s appearance on Weekend Update Summer Edition, accusing her of white privilege and insensitivity, and all that blame misses several points.

Tina Fey’s piece is brilliant and brave and aimed right at Nazis and apologists and weak political leaders and absurdly dangerous true factsabout American society today.

She delivers smart, lacerating political commentary, biting visual social satire, and caring, protective advice for exactly the people who are complaining about her work in this piece.

I wish these critics would read this post and then watch the clip again (I will include it below).

I believe many miss Tina Fey’s points (I rewatched the clip and get more out of it each time) because they are doing what too many of us do these days, that is to say too many of us “consume with agenda” – we watch with our minds made up as to what we expect to see.

 With respect to everyone’s right to an opinion, I think this piece does merit a closer look because 1) people are blowing it up on social media and 2) it actually is profound.

Tina Fey is not talking from white privilege but from home turf; she went to UoV, and it is clear from her comments that she is pissed Nazis invaded her alma mater and hurt people who have a shared experience of Charlottesville that she identifies with as well.

Plus, she’s “seen Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “wasn’t confused”. This is a great line about how easy it should be to know and identify this evil.

And the smart lines continue, targeting an impressive array of guilty parties while she works to do other things that are profound and worthy of our admiration:

1) she is using humor to urge people to stay out of harm’s way;

2) she’s making the argument that we cannot reason with white supremacists;

3) she is pointing out that these isolated Nazis desperately want attention;

4) she’s arguing that the strongest move against them is to not give them the attention they want (if a Klan rally is held as a show of force and no one but the Klan comes to witness it, where’s the show of force?);

5) she is educating her audience about the absurd amount of self-trained, heavily armed militias in this country;

6) she is also using visual humor to comment on how much pain we’ve been in (especially women) since the election;

7) when Che joins in he is smartly echoing that demonstration of pain;

8) the cake is self-medication, and America does it in so many forms;

9) she is declaring her love for Charlottesville, her alma mater, and people opposing Nazis and 

10) again urging them not to give in to the hate.

She is not saying “don’t demonstrate” just “don’t provide the Nazis a platform to get attention”. Make your own positive statements rather than feeding into their hate.

Damn impressive in my humble opinion.

And worth thinking about before we condemn this slice of progressive brilliance.

Bravo, Tina Fey. Bravo.

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Lightning Bugs Hang Out All Night Long

So I decided to get off drugs.

Sleep aids, actually, because I live a roguishly rough and tumble life. They haven’t been completely successful and they often leave me sluggish in the morning, requiring more drugs, morning drugs, which for me is pronounced “tea” because I live a roguishly rough and tumble life.

To reduce all of this serious narcotic behavior, I skipped the nighttime drugging, and, by way of declaring my complete victory over pharmaceuticals, woke up at 1:20 a.m.

Undeterred, I armed myself with a paperback (good idea) and an iPad (phenomenally bad idea), and an estimation that I would be up for about 20 minutes.

At 4:45 am, as I stumbled back to bed, I had learned three things:

1) reading a paperback at night gets you relaxed and sleepy;

2) following that up with a peek at the internet wakes you up, and eats hours of your life better spent asleep;

3) Lightning bugs hang out all night long.

It is going to be a long day, but at least I didn’t rely on drugs.

Except the morning tea. And I need more.

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Washington, DC or Local Schools: Which is America?

I had two diametrically opposed experiences today. One was the Jeff Sessions Session. The other was a local high school academic awards dinner. And it struck during the dinner that I had witnessed staggeringly different expressions of America within hours of each other.

D.C. World was full of cameras speed-snapping so fiercely they sounded like a swarm of ominous mechanical bees. Then pleasantries gave way to dueling show boaters, spinners, twisters, and contorters torturing the truth into whatever mutated “facts” suited their political agenda or scored points for their team in what Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was fond of calling America’s favorite blood sport. 

Whatever really happened over the last few months, the truth was slaughtered as a result, and I fear we may never find the body. Political ideologies are so carnivorously preying on each other these days that neither peaceful coexistence nor productive leadership seems remotely possible anymore.

Between the behavior of our alleged leaders of all persuasions and the relentless, grinding autopsy that is the 24-hour news cycle, hope in the American ideal would seem nothing more than dying embers.

Or so I thought.

As I watched vibrant young smart people approach the awards podium each full of radiant hope and fertile dreams of the future,  I realized I hadn’t been watching America on TV, I had been baring withness to The Lost. 

Congress isn’t America.

Washington, D.C. isn’t America. 

They now seem to form a level of Dante’s Inferno where those who put ambition before service and greed before community and ego before humility are damned to attack each other regardless of oath of office or the good of the country in nightmare news cycles that erode the souls of all who see this maelstrom.

But America is not this savage circus.

America is people giving back to their community. America is students rewarded for dedication to expanding their knowledge and elevating their lives with ideas and ideals, concepts and hard work. 

America is adults contributing to the uplifting of the community be investing in our greatest resource – the minds of the young. America is not telling them what they must think, rather just telling them that they must.

America is the astonishing sight of a student presenting a classmate a scholarship to memorialize a family member who has past, honoring both the memory and the recipient by helping to finance the future.

America is not lost, it is living in communities that take the time to care for each other. And I will stand with the young and hopeful dreamers over the jaded manipulators any day.

Congrats to the classes of 2017 all across America. You just might be the saviors of the American ideal.

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