TSA and Body Cavity Searches: A Look Inside in the Name of Safety

I recently heard a story of a female Irish citizen, married to an American, who claimed she was subjected to a strip search in the presence of several male and female TSA agents. She claimed that they used a camera to do a body cavity search.

https://izismile.com/2010/12/02/funny_tsa_comics_29_pics.htmlMy first reaction was bullshit, no way TSA agents would be using body cavity probes in an airport environment.

Wrong. Sort of. I’m not sure what happened during the search as for technology, but the TSA can do full strip searches, and the guidelines are a nightmare. Nowhere on the TSA site refers to using cameras in body cavity searches. However, one part of the policy is clear.  The search must be conducted in the presence of TSA agents of the same sex and the person subject to the search has the right to ask a companion to be with them to observe the process.  If the story is accurate, somebody in TSA screwed up.

But my guess is they don’t care.

This woman also claimed, after she explained she was married to an American and held a valid permanent resident green card, the TSA agent told her, “get used to it if you’re traveling here on a green card.”

That I do believe. Having both worked for an airline, and as one who travels frequently, the caliber of TSA agents in my experience, on the whole, is less than optimum. While it may not be a fair characterization of all TSA agents, in general, they are mall cops with a better pension plan.

The attitude toward intolerance of people from other countries and inconsiderate behavior coming out of Washington clearly plays a part in encouraging TSA agents to act in such a belligerent manner.

The change over the past year is dramatic.

Now, having been a police officer for 20 years, I heard wild and incredible (in the original meaning of not credible) stories of atrocious things done by cops.  It was clear they were made up, exaggerated fantasies of someone pissed off they got arrested or received a summons.

Not that some cops don’t engage in some egregious behavior, but it is easy to detect the bullshit stories.

So again, my first reaction to the body cavity search at an airport was one of disbelief.

A slight bit of research on the TSA site and other resources and I was proven wrong. To say I was stunned that TSA agents would be doing internal body cavity searches is an understatement. But the data out there, both anecdotal and reported in the media, is stunning.

Like most government agencies, the TSA website is as clear as mud. I couldn’t find a clear and well-articulated policy on the how and why of the TSA search policy. It leaves one to suspect their internal policy is not any better.

Body cavity searches approach the level of a medical examination. To think TSA agents can be trained to do such procedures is ludicrous. I’ve never encountered a TSA agent where I thought, “this person is wasting their talents here. They should go to medical school.”

Never mind medical school, some of these people wouldn’t be accepted as cadavers.

Now I know I will hear from agents, their friends, or family members about how dedicated and wonderful some TSA agents are. I agree, most are. The problem is, with the level of qualification to become a TSA agent, the position attracts some more enamored of the perceived power invested in the position than out of a sense of purpose, which casts a dark shadow on the good agents.

What the TSA needs is a better appreciation of how the public perceives them. They have no clue.

When most people are queued up at a security checkpoint they don’t see a level of protection for their safety; they see a roadblock to travel. An inconvenience to their getting to the plane.

For most people in line at a TSA checkpoint, the agents and screening process is the equivalent of a marked police car parked on the side of the road slowing traffic and making their commute even longer.

Combine this feeling with a TSA agent who thinks he is the Guardian of the Universe, snarling commands at the great unwashed masses, and you have an agency that serves an important function thought of as bullies and incompetent fools.

Add in the possibility they can take you into a back room and probe areas usually reserved for the most intimate of encounters and resentment will only grow. Until they work on their reputation and mold these agents to be mindful of the public perception, whatever they do, no matter how critical it is to safety, will be met with incredulity and ridicule.

funny_tsa_comics_640_08“You want to look where?  I don’t freakin’ think so…”

I don’t know about you, but that is the LAST place I’m hiding anything.

 

 

(Cartoons copyright by https://izismile.com/2010/12/02/funny_tsa_comics_29_pics-8.html)

 

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

We are in Harrisville, New Hampshire for a few weeks. My wife is attending a weaving workshop, and I have the entire day to focus on finishing up my next book. (More on that later!)

Harrisville (pop. 961), right outside metropolitan Dublin, New Hampshire and a mere 5 miles from Peterborough, New Hampshire is a step back in time to a different America. An America of long ago not yet overrun by urban development.

Each morning we leave the Harrisville Inn, the B&B where we are staying, and walk about a mile to “downtown” Harrisville. Harrisville is best known for its loom making and weaving design center. The building was once a sawmill and grist mill built back in the late 1700’s.

An old channel flows beneath the building and was once harnessed to power the machinery. Converted to a weaving education center, it teaches and preserves the art of weaving.

A short distance away is the Harrisville General Store/Restaurant/Community and Cultural Center. If you want to find anybody who lives in Harrisville, come here. If they aren’t here for coffee in the morning, they’ll be here for lunch.

It is a place with everything you might need and nothing you might want.  Somehow, they know the difference.

A place where people leave their keys in the car.

A place where they trust their kids to know how to cross the street and expect them to say please and thank you.

A place where they say hi to everyone, using first names when they know them, introducing themselves and asking if they don’t.

A place where the flag goes up each morning at 6 a.m. and down at 6 p.m. If it rains, they do not put it up. A tip of the hat to the old rules of respect. I dare say, people would dive into the road to save the flag from touching the ground.

A place where a chalkboard in the town square reports the latest deaths and births.

A place where an ice cream social is a major event.

A place where people will leave their dog with you, telling you the dog’s name as if introducing a family member, while they run in for a paper.

Neither the dog or their owner thinks this unusual.

0719180842a_HDRMeet Hero, my new friend. We meet for coffee each morning on the front porch of the country store. Not much of a conversationalist, but a great listener.

The local conversations range from how much firewood they have split and stacked for winter to how the corn is coming up to how much of the just ripened berries the bears got last night.

It’s a place where they will tell you great places to fish, but not the best places to fish.

It is not the America of Mayberry, but it is as close as we can get in 2018. I am sure they have all the same concerns of politics and world events.

I am sure they have deep feelings about the way the country is going. They keep that mostly to themselves, preferring to speak at the voting booth.

I am also sure that they are the best example of how real Americans can weather any storm, bear any burden, survive any partisan political upheaval, and still remember what matters.

As I sit there, the Simon & Garfunkel song, “America,” plays in my head.

“…they’ve all come to look for America…”

I think I found it, Paul.

 

Returning the Favor of the Nightmare that is Trump

The depth to which supporters of this President will sink is stunning. From parsing words, would means wouldn’t or shouldn’t or couldn’t, to resurrecting long discredited stories of Uranium deals and Obama “emptying” the Treasury to give cash to Iranians and citizenship to their government officials, their pursuit of reviving the comatose brain-dead Commander-in-Chief is pathetic.

A sad, pathetic smoke screen to the reality few of us ever thought we’d see in America.

I may disagree with the policies of a President, but I never want him to fail. Particularly with international matters affecting our sovereignty. No matter how inept the man in the Oval Office may be, our system of government offers a shield to incompetence through intelligence agencies, military branches, Justice department professionals, and an experienced State department to give sound advice and guidance in a complicated and treacherous world.

Such resources are only useful when listened to by the President.

It is abundantly clear this President not only believes himself to be the smartest man in the room, but he believes he is the smartest man ever. Combine that with an attitude of infallibility, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Helsinki wasn’t an aberration; it was a culmination of the disaster that is this administration.

One commentator offered the most disingenuous defense yet by comparing Trump’s interaction with Putin to Kennedy’s dealing with Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He argued that Trump took a playbook out of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War by not humiliating Putin on the national stage. The writer endowed Trump with the wisdom to defeat, but not crush, the enemy in public. Something he claims Kennedy did with Khrushchev by not gloating over the Russians withdrawing their nuclear missiles from Cuba.

The truth is Kennedy agreed to withdraw OUR missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Russians pulling theirs out of Cuba. Kennedy did not try to demean Khrushchev because he recognized that two could play that game. If the original goal of the Russians placing missiles in Cuba was to negotiate the withdrawal from Turkey, one might argue the Russians won that challenge.

Kennedy and Khrushchev played a harsh, but intelligence based, gambit to reach a joint agreement.

Trump is no Kennedy. Putin, on the other hand, is more potent than Khrushchev ever was.

Republican Senator Bob Corker said “The president’s comments made us look as a nation more like a pushover and I was disappointed in that, “ https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-summit-corker/republican-senator-corker-trump-comments-on-putin-make-us-look-like-pushover-idUSKBN1K62D2

Corker also tweeted, “ The president in 15 minutes at a press conference can do more damage on the foreign policy than months of us passing resolutions and making calls to our counterparts.”

If the Russians compromised Trump, then when the full story comes out we are facing the greatest disaster to American standing in the world ever. If the Russians did not compromise him, then we are at the lowest point of the Presidency in history because of sheer incompetence.

Nixon was a corrupt and evil man, but at least there was intelligence behind his machinations, no matter how evil, and he never risked our national security while he ignored the law.

Trump is either the biggest traitor since Benedict Arnold or the most profoundly inept man to hold the office of the President. Despite all this, some will continue to support him. Such blind allegiance withstands all logic and reason.

But it cannot withstand most Americans who, regardless of the political leanings, will not stand by and let treachery or incompetence destroy this country.

How do we return the favor of the Trump nightmare?

I thought of something supportable by rational argument if a bit vengeful.

Return the leadership of the country to the respect and admiration of the world with an eminently competent rational American.

MO2020 President Michelle Obama.

Now that would be sweet justice.

(The reaction to this should be delicious)

 

 

 

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How Fake News Kills Cops

The prevailing trend to choose what one believes in the media is not just problematic, it is dangerous.

According to some media outlets, there are two virulent plaques in America. The first is that the police are killing people in the course of their duties more than ever before. And that there is a racial bias to the shootings.

This is not just false, it is demonstrably false based on many data sources from official government agencies to multiple media outlets that show a consistent reduction in these incidents.

statistic_id585152_people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-2017-2018-by-race

https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

The second dangerous misconception is that the number of officers killed in the line of duty is higher than it’s ever been and rising. Again, the premise is not supported by the numbers.

US officers killed as the result of crime, 1970-2015

(Green) Officers killed as result of crime      (Red) Preceding 10-year average

Cops killed

http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/

Preliminary 2018 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities 

January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. January 1 through July 15, 2017

2018 2017 % Change
Total Fatalities 76 73 +4%
Firearms-related 32 27 +19%
Traffic-related 27 28 -4%
Other causes 17 18 -6%

Please note: These numbers reflect total officer fatalities comparing
January 1 through July 15, 2018 vs. 
January 1 through July 15, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36826297

Now, this is where these two fallacies form a deadly combination. The perception of those inclined to unlawfully possess firearms or otherwise commit a crime, when confronted by police officers, tend toward a more violent level of resistance.

From the officer’s perspective, they anticipate each confrontation likely will pose a deadly threat to themselves or their fellow officers. Officers aren’t trained to apply different risk assessments of suspects based on skin tone. We teach them that every encounter is a potentially deadly one. It is a necessary survival mindset, but one that must be tempered by experience and sound judgment.

When officers operate in an environment rife with false or inflated perceptions of risk, the appropriate level of caution and tactics may be unreasonably amplified.

The false perception of a problem, promulgated and promoted by the media frenzy,  masks the reality and the results are deadly.

There is also the political factor officers face; both internal and external. Politicians and some members of the command staff, far removed from the realities of the street, are quick to criticize officers for political expediency or job preservation. Decisions made in difficult circumstances under enormous pressure with mere seconds to choose are autopsied for days by people who may have never found themselves in such situations.

Thus officers confront the perfect storm; all-to-common violent behavior by individuals with no respect for law, an atmosphere charged with perceived high levels of risk, and the possibility of being thrown to the wolves by politics.

Is it any wonder officers are shying away, either intentionally or by direction, from effective street policing. As a friend of mine, a former supervisor with a federal agency, liked to say, “Big cases, big problems. Little cases, little problems. No cases, no problems.”

Officers have the right to live and to protect themselves. We owe them the opportunity to do their job based on sound judgment and accurate information.

The loss of any officer is a tragedy. Even with the number of officers being killed showing a decline, one is too many.

Police officers must face the reality of the number of weapons, both legal and illegal, in this country. This almost guarantees a tragedy. Whether it is a felon with an extensive and repetitive criminal record on the street because of the incestuous nature of the lawyers (prosecutors and defense counsel) and judges minimizing cases for expediency or an angry and distraught individual, absent any prior criminal record, the guns pose a danger.

Add into the mix a “corrections” system that in many instances in nothing more than an advanced degree program for crime and you have all the ingredients for a fatal encounter.

Combine the misconceptions of these false and fable-like stories with the prevalence of weapons in America and tragic incidents like the most recent shooting of an officer and an innocent bystander in Weymouth, MA will become more and more common. The trend toward fewer police-suspect confrontations will end and likely grow.

Cops will die all because of a lie.

 

Life’s Lessons From a Four-Legged Refugee

SEamus 1This is Seamus. Technically speaking, Seamus is a refugee, rescued by the compassion of several unknown Americans and welcomed into my daughter’s home. These Americans, of unknown political bent, ethnic heritage, or religious faith or lack thereof, saved Seamus and one other dog from a litter of seven. Five died. Seamus and his sibling (in parts unknown) survived through the kindness and care of ordinary Americans. It is an example of the best of America and reflects our natural inclination to human kindness.

The regal bearing of Seamus is unmistakable. While applying zoological classifications would say differently, there can be no mistaking the similarity between Seamus basking in the sun as he surveyed his kingdom and these other two creatures surveying theirs.

lions1This lion picture went with a story of lions attacking and eating three poachers in a nature preserve so I can’t be sure if it is just the warmth of the sun they are enjoying or the post-dinner satisfaction of poacher du jour. In any case, the sun is either the primary comforting factor or a contributory one to their post-meal digestion.

Seamus also has an attitude of accepting everyone as they are (after a thorough sniff.) While wary of new people, once he takes their measure they are as welcome as those he’s known for years.

Except for birds, squirrels, and other similar creatures. They are demons that must be pursued relentlessly.

We can all learn something from Seamus.

Never rush through life without taking a moment to bask in the sun.

Never miss a chance to meet someone new and share a moment of time.

Never pass up an opportunity to chase a ball, explore the woods, enjoy a meal, or lean against someone you love and just be.

A dog is not just man’s best friend, he can be our best reminder to live our lives with compassion, concern for our fellow creatures, and to focus on the good in the world, not wall yourself in out of fear.

By accident of birth, Seamus could have been left to the fate an uncertain life but for the kindness and compassion of Americans who gave him refuge.

Seamus returns that kindness every day in the pleasure he brings by just being a part of our lives. Sometimes taking a chance and letting someone into your life, as opposed to what is safe and practical, is the right thing to do.

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The Janus Decision: Corporate Money Loves Labor’s Loss

In the US Supreme Court Janus case, the court has taken the first step to dismantle organized labor in favor of the influence and power of corporations and Republican-leaning candidates. (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf)

SCOTUSThe history of organized labor and the path to leveling the playing field between management and workers is one of violent resistance and bloody confrontation orchestrated by those who value profits over people.

Instead of taking a cooperative approach to bargaining with those whose labor powers the engines of business, corporations look to put a stranglehold on those who seek such accommodation.

In Janus, the plaintiff sought relief from ‘agency fees’ that covered the cost of collective bargaining. He argued these fees infringed on his first amendment rights because he objected to the negotiation positions and proposals decided on by the union.

While the majority of the court supported the First Amendment argument of the plaintiff, Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Bryer dissented based on the sound precedent of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (432 U.S 209, (1977.)

In the dissent, Kagan wrote,

“Rarely if ever has the Court overruled a decision—let alone one of this import—with so little regard for the general principles of stare decisis. There are no special justifications for reversing Abood. It has proved workable. No recent developments have eroded its underpinnings. And it is deeply entrenched, in both the law and the real world. More than 20 States have statutory schemes built on the decision. Those laws underpin thousands of ongo­ing contracts involving millions of employees. Reliance interests do not come any stronger than those surrounding Abood. And likewise, judicial disruption does not get any greater than what the Court does today. I respectfully dissent.”

The majority ignored the precedent of ‘stare decisis’ arguing Abood was faulty in its logic. With this decision, as Kagan points out in her dissent, “the Court succeeds in its 6-year campaign to reverse Abood.”

What we have here is the best example of the danger in pendulum swings to extremes. An agenda driven Supreme Court is a danger to America.

In Citizens United (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310) the court put the election process up for sale. And despite Janus’s claims to the insidious and greedy nature of the union’s demands, organized labor is a pauper compared to the deep pockets of the conservative, Republican-leaning, billionaires club.

If this were a soccer match, the court just blinded the labor team.

Janus claims the union denied his first amendment rights because he disagreed with the union proposals. Nonsense. It is just as likely he preferred the old patronage system once so ingrained in state and municipal government, and the union was a roadblock to such practices.

Now, this is not to say unions are entirely blameless here. It may seem that unions ignore the greater public good when negotiating. This is disingenuous.

Public unions consist of taxpayers. Unions are not isolated from the public. They have as vested an interest in the public good as any other citizen.

The pendulum of law swings to and fro, with trends toward labor or management almost interchangeable. Except in this case. The court used this as a convenient smokescreen to weaken unions and the political philosophies they endorse.

The spread of so-called “right-to-work’ statutes are an unfortunate misnomer for taking the leverage away from those who perform the work and shifting it to those who control the jobs. Public unions were the target, but private unions are next.

The real enemy here is not the unions or even management but the political system that runs on power and money. In an unpublished manuscript by Professor Nicholas Easton, community activist and former President of the Providence City Council, entitled, The Political Machine Reexamined, Easton writes,

“To begin let me lay out a few propositions. First is the idea that, generally speaking, for at least a century or so the Democratic Party has represented the economic interests of the poor and the Republican Party has represented the economic interests of the wealthy.

Second is the idea that, generally speaking, there are only two sources of power in our democracy; money and people.

Finally is the idea that, given the two previous assertions, Republicans will win most political battles based on money and Democrats will win those based on superior organization and mobilization of people.” (excerpt from https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/07/04/guest-post-the-political-machine-reexamined-by-professor-nicholas-easton/)

Organizations such as labor unions serve an essential function in balancing the power in politics.

Being a member of a union does not limit one’s ability to vote for any candidate, support any cause, or oppose any policy. Freedom of expression, the venerable right of the First Amendment, is not silenced by “agency fees.”

This decision is a microcosm of all that is wrong in our political process. We have lost the once stable balance between those with the personal or corporate wealth to support candidates they endorse, and the collective assets of organized labor.

The ever-growing income gap, coupled with the disintegration of the middle class, now creates two classes in society; those who wield power through economic control and those subject to it.

Until we negate the power of money in politics, this balance between unions and management is necessary.

If you need more proof of the politics of this decision look at the plethora of organizations offering ways to “opt out” of union participation.

For example, https://www.mypaymysay.com/ part of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy https://www.mackinac.org/ which claims to be a non-partisan organization but is backed by a host of conservative Republicans.

Research shows these organizations are all backed by conservative Republican anti-labor groups. Make no mistake about it. Janus is not a First Amendment case. It is another volley in the war of powerful corporate money against the once competing power of unions.

And the court picked sides.

This is not the end, but it may be the beginning of the end of the balance of power.

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Trumpisms: You Can’t Make this Stuff Up

Here’s a collection of highlights of the Presidential Tweets. Just the mere thought of combining “Presidential” with “Tweets” is troubling. One would expect a more finessed and refined level of communication from a person elected to the office of the Presidency; but alas it is not to be.

The vacuity and boorishness of the man know no bounds. Although I will say this, reading his Twittering Twitticisms is almost as entertaining as the sorely missed Sunday Comic section of the newspaper.

English
ISBN-10: 0470930705 By Geraldine Woods

In the interest of protecting those of you who paid attention in English grammar classes, here’s a fair warning. I’ve left the words as is even though Microsoft Word spell and grammar check application was near tears begging to make corrections. It was so distraught I had to disable it.

I am considering sending a copy of English Grammar for Dummies to the White House. Perhaps it will be the sole exhibit at the future Trump Presidential Library/Golf Course/Casino complex outside Moscow.

Let the twitter storm begin… (my snide comments are cleverly disguised in italics to avoid scrutiny by the President.)

“It’s very sad that Nancy Pelosi and her sidekick, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, want to protect illegal immigrants far more than the citizens of our country. The United States cannot stand for this. We wants safety and security at our borders!” (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1010569562138406912)

(I wants what I wants)

I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI (although I do not legally have to), because of the now totally discredited and very expensive Witch Hunt currently going on. But you do have to ask why the DOJ & FBI aren’t giving over requested documents? (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011218033216512005)

(Legally or ethically?)

The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside! (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011212766487728133)

(Trump’s post-Presidential (which can’t happen soon enough) career? Food critic for Gourmand Magazine: Fast Food Glutton Commonsewer)

We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents… (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1010900865602019329)

(Due process?  What’s Dew Process? Is that where they make Mountain Dew?)

Hiring manythousands of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go – will always be disfunctional. People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally. Children brought back to their country…… (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011228265003077632)

(An English teachers grammatical nightmare)

The hearing of Peter Strzok and the other hating frauds at the FBI & DOJ should be shown to the public on live television, not a closed door hearing that nobody will see. We should expose these people for what they are – there should be total transparency! (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1011391230188457984)

(We can only hope for such clamoring for transparency with the Mueller report)

Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption! ) https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1012295859072126977)

(If Russia said it, it must be true. I am a great judge of character and my two BFFs, Putin and that roly-poly Pillsbury Doughboy from East Korea, are as trustworthy as all my business associates and former lawyers who aren’t (yet) in jail)

After having written many best selling books, and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the Fake News constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalize certain words only for emphasis, not b/c they should be capitalized! https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1014286054805987330

(Written? I think not. But J.K. Rowling had the best reaction to this first version (which Trump’s Grammar monitor must have edited) with the incorrect use of ‘pour” she wrote hahahahahaha pour? Hahahahahaha… filling two full Tweets.)

Just out that the Obama Administration granted citizenship, during the terrible Iran Deal negotiation, to 2,500 Iranians – including to government officials. How big (and bad) is that?https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1014117468858650624

(This is the best yet. An outright lie. Trump’s source? An Iranian hardline cleric critical of Iran’s government dealing with the “Great Satan.”

Mojtaba Zonnour claimed “the Obama administration granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians, including family members of government officials, while negotiating the Iran nuclear deal” and “claimed it was done as a favor to senior Iranian officials linked to President Hassan Rouhani,” according to a Fox News report published July 2, the day before Trump’s tweet.  (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/07/02/obama-administration-granted-citizenship-to-2500-iranians-during-nuclear-deal-iran-official.html)

Now there’s a reliable source.

A vote for Democrats in November is a vote to let MS-13 run wild in our communities, to let drugs pour into our cities, and to take jobs and benefits away from hardworking Americans. Democrats want anarchy, amnesty and chaos – Republicans want LAW, ORDER and JUSTICE! https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1015033658548207616

(This idiocy stands on its own)

While not a tweet, I am including an excerpt from one of his rallies of the righteous he seems to revel in all the time. Just to underscore a point.

“I’ve broken more Elton John records, and I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar, or an organ. … This is my only musical instrument – the mouth – and hopefully the brain is attached to the mouth. The brain is so much more important.”

There is a connection between his brain and his mouth. There can be no doubt about that. It’s the essence of what is in the brain, or absent from it, that is the problem. He is the adult equivalent of five-year-old, hearing a word that a five-year-old shouldn’t have heard, taking delight in people’s reaction whenever he repeats it.

Trump has established one absolute truth. No amount of money, funding the best education, can fix things when the raw material is flawed and the character weak.

If Shakespeare is correct, “there is no darkness but ignorance,” we are in a dark time. And the bard also must have seen the future of the aftermath of a Trump-like figure leading a once great country with this one, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

What little good there is of this administration wouldn’t equal the remains of a cremated ant. The evil will rival the worst of history.

It will take years for the world to rid this taste of ignorance-driven idiocy from our collective mouths.

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Guest Post: The Political Machine Reexamined by Professor Nicholas Easton

Guest columnist Nicholas Easton is a community activist, former member and President of the Providence City Council during the turbulent Cianci administration version 1, and Political Science Professor. 

My recent book, The Political Machine Reexamined, for which I am still seeking a publisher, examines in considerable detail, the political machines that so dominated American politics for over a century.  What is unique, though, is that I mount not a critique, but a strong defense of this phenomenon.  Furthermore, I make an argument that the Democratic party should return to building machines. I synopsize that argument herein.

democrat-donkeyTo begin let me lay out a few propositions. First is the idea that, generally speaking, for at least a century or so the Democratic Party has represented the economic interests of the poor and the Republican Party has represented the economic interests of the wealthy.

Second is the idea that, generally speaking, there are only two sources of power in our democracy, money, and people.

Finally is the idea that, given the two previous assertions, Republicans will win most political battles based on money and Democrats will win those based on superior organization and mobilization of people.

Many Democrats have come to recognize this problem and urged the party to focus more on capacity building and the so-called ground game. When it does so, however, it tends to approach the problem by trying to raise even larger sums of money and use that to support efforts to knock on doors and make phone calls before individual elections. While this seems to have worked fairly well in the special elections since 2016 one wonders if such an effort is sustainable with nationwide elections this year. There is also the question of whether Democrat’s recent success is simply a function of having a great enemy in Donald Trump.

There are two fundamental problems with this recent approach. First, it again relies on money, a game the Democrats simply can’t win. Second, it addresses only short-term wins and doesn’t really build capacity at all, it simply gins up turn out at a particular time. What’s needed is a fundamental reexamination of the way the party approaches elections.

My invocation of the machine model is not accidental as it serves several purposes. First of all, it is provocative and meant to be so. The Democratic Party needs a profound shakeup. It is absolutely ridiculous that the party that represents the interests of an overwhelming majority of Americans is so out of power. Second, the party needs to re-examine the fundamentals of its approach, not just individual pieces. Knocking on doors is great and communicating with voters is great but communicating with them only at election time is insufficient to building long-term change. And long-term change is indeed what is needed. The Obama election offered an opportunity for sweeping change, but it only lasted for two years as we got completely outmaneuvered in congressional elections for the following six years and with the possibility of losing complete control of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future the party has to think about long and broad change in its approach.

Third, there are significant reasons why the machine model worked and I lay out some of those reasons in my detailed examination of 18 characteristics of the machine, characteristics that are both significant and separable. Foremost among these is the so-called “exchange system” which basically means you do something for people before asking for their vote as opposed to making vague promises of the Nirvana that will result from your ascension to power. Another very significant characteristic is the 24/7/365 full-time nature of the machine.

Finally, my book debunks the myth that machines were more corrupt than present-day politics. For example, hiring people based on a test as opposed to who they might know only assures that higher social classes will beat out lower ones for jobs that may not require any specific skills. Such practices turn the poor into Trumpers.  And contracting out public services means that jobs are handed out by the same people who contribute tons of money to Republicans to get the contracts, and they are certainly no less corrupt. Think Blackwater and Kellogg, Brown and Root (a division of Haliburton).

In my book, I examine these things in much greater detail. Thus, people can reject my central claim of a need to return to the machine and yet, by looking at how the machine worked, find many valuable pieces that can be very useful to rebuilding the party. For example, I note that machines were usually a coalition.  The present-day party which relies on women, African-Americans, Hispanics, environmentalists, gays, Jews and others has a lot to learn about the management of coalitions. I also included 80 interviews with former residents of the machine neighborhoods in Providence indicating strong support among the populace for this institution.

At this point in time, I find myself extremely torn. I believe and I hope that the outrages that we have endured under Trump will indeed bring the expected Blue Wave and bring Democrats to significant power in 2018. The question is, in their euphoria will they believe that the problem was messaging and now they found the right one and all is well. The problem is not the message it is the messenger and he needs and deserves a thorough self-examination.

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Restacking the Supremes

With the imminent retirement of Justice Kennedy, the specter of another Trump Supreme Court nominee looms. Those “never-Trumpers” are convulsed in anger and disappointment almost to apoplectic levels. Those who blindly support this President see this as the golden opportunity to “right” (pun intended) every Supreme Court decision with which they disagree.

archieAs I read about the announcement of Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the theme song from the iconic 70’s TV show, All in the Family, played in my head,

 

 

Boy the way Glen Miller played, 
Songs that made the hit parade,
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days,
And you know where you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again,
Didn’t need no welfare states
Everybody pulled his weight,
Gee our old Lasalle ran great,
Those were the days

(Those were the Days by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse)

That is the America of the past so idolized and whitewashed of reality. Some see this as Mr. Trump’s moment to return America to baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. They want to recover those “good ole’ days.” To make this a place where “guys like us” exist once again.

They forget that not everyone was “guys like us.” That was an America of black & white TV stained by full-color divisiveness.  And that is what many decisions rendered by the Supreme Court over the last few years sought to address; even the playing field so “guys like us” became us all.

On the day Kennedy announced his retirement, my wife and I met friends in Washington DC. One place we spent a full day was the National Portrait Gallery. Our purpose initially was to go to see the new portrait of President Barrack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

The National Portrait Gallery is just part of the enormous collection of artwork here. One area struck me as representative of the ever-present hope of America. On one wall was a portrait of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. Facing him was a portrait of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Warren, an Eisenhower appointee, was perceived as a conservative addition to the court. Marshall argued the landmark case Brown v Board of Education before the court. The case was contentious and complicated. Marshall argued the case twice before the court beginning in 1952 and again in 1953. In 1954, the court issued a unanimous and unanticipated decision written by Earl Warren. The court overturned Plessy v Ferguson which established separate but equal education systems for black and white students, firmly setting segregation in place.

Warren turned out to be more open and progressive in his views than the hyperbole of his conservatism claimed. The Warren-led court turned out to be more liberal than anyone could ever have imagined. Let’s hope that Kennedy’s replacement offers similar surprises once they assume the bench.

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Making a Point with Hypocrisy

The latest example of political hypocrisy couched in moral outrage is the insistence, polite as it may have been, for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave a local Virginia restaurant.

The restaurant staff recognized Huckabee as a member of a party of 8 and called the owner. She came to the restaurant, discussed the situation with her team (some of whom are gay), and took a vote to ask Huckabee to leave.

The hypocrisy is outrageous.

Their argument was, surrounded by conservatives who supported Mr. Trump, they felt duty bound to wave their liberal progressive (and in this case patently biased) flag in seeking to have Huckabee leave.

There is no doubt in my mind this same staff held a Kumbaya hand-holding, weeping gathering of outrage when the Supreme Court upheld a bakery’s refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding.

There is no doubt in my mind this same group wails and moans at the mistreatment of the GLBT members of our society by some conservatives.

Yet they see no hypocrisy in asking a person to leave based on who they work for? It is the most childish, immature, and idiotic thing they could ever have done.

What’s next, do restaurants post a list of acceptable political positions for admission to their establishments next to the daily specials?

Does Trip Advisor add a new column called Political Position to their restaurant reviews?

Do you ask each guest their voting record, political affiliation, or position on issues of the day?

Instead of using an opportunity to demonstrate to Huckabee their professed rainbow-colored inclusiveness, they did what they despise in others. They denied a person a seat at the table because of a difference of opinion.

sit-in3There is no difference in this country between denying someone a seat based on politics, religion, or color of their skin.

None. The confrontation might have lacked the violence of the Civil Rights struggle, but the principle is the same.

What would the outcry be if Huckabee came in and asked to be waited on by heterosexual conservatives only?

To be clear, Huckabee is the face of the worst administration in the history of the Presidency. Her promulgating the myth of fake news and her revolving door rationale for the President’s irrational and erratic policies is obscene. But to lower oneself to their level of behavior reinforces the prejudicial attitude of those support such policies.

When you are in a public service industry, and you so despise cases such as the baker/wedding cake decision, you must exemplify tolerance not promulgate more intolerance. Instead, they missed an opportunity to demonstrate there is value to progressive liberal inclusion.

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