(Apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary

Over a many quaint and curious quotes by Trump of yore

While I shuttered, hope unwrapping,

Suddenly there came a tapping

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at the White House door

“Tis some imposter,” I muttered, “tapping at my country’s door

Only this and nothing more.”


Much I marvelled at his ungainly scowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was cursed with seeing Trump above his nation’s door—

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,

Against such a thing, we say “Nevermore.”


Can it be so? My country led

By such a spectre of fear and dread

Where has our sense, once common and sane departed

To abandon us now at our time most dire

Will upon the world such a man be thrust once more?

Quoth the voter, “Nevermore”






Echoing History: The Trump Way

“…Whoever disturbs this mission is the enemy of the people, whether he pursues his aim as a Bolshevist democrat, a revolutionary terrorist, or a reactionary dreamer. In such a time of necessity those who act in the name of God are not those who, citing Bible quotations, wander idly about the country and spend the day partly doing nothing and partly criticizing the work of others; but those whose prayers take the highest form of uniting man with his God, that is, the form of work…”

“The value of every wage and salary corresponds to the volume of goods produced as a result of the work performed. This is a very unpopular doctrine in a time resounding with cries such as “higher wages and less work…”

It would seem Donald Trump has the facts of history on his side. These words reflect his philosophy and policies he embraces. The tenor is similar, the ideas consistent, the intent clear. Trump, like the original speaker of these words, promises to make his country great again.

The only question remaining is, like Germany when Adolf Hitler spoke these words, will we blindly plunge this country down the same path in pursuit of a false dream.


The Whole World is Watching (Again)

(For added special effect, here’s a link to Chicago’s “The Whole World is Watching.” Just skip the ad if it pops up, let the music start, then read away)

During the first presidential campaign debate, Donald Trump answered the question about the future direction of America by favoring stronger law and order. His answer implied that the law enforcement community is either unwilling or unable to provide what he considers acceptable law and order.

His obvious scorn for preparation for the debate was on stark display with that pronouncement.

In 1984 President Reagan signed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. This was a wide-ranging consolidation of penalties for criminal violations, started a more widespread use of forfeiture of properties and assets of organized crime, and reinstituted the federal death penalty.

In 1994 President William Jefferson Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.  The bill was a reaction to the increase in violent crime and rising homicide rate in the US. This created a set of minimum mandatory sentences, increased use of electronic surveillance, and increased federal aid to state and local law enforcement.

Proponents argued, despite recognizing there would be a significant impact on minority communities, that each of these bills had the support of minority legislators and community leaders.

This is only partially true.

While many minority members of Congress voted for the legislation, they argued for added provisions including increasing aid to education, job training, and programs aimed at reducing poverty.

These provisions were never incorporated.

Which leads me to the point of how Trump panders to lowest common denominator with each position he takes. In this case, the strong law enforcement crowd. They see themselves as the solution to the crime problem. In fact, they, like the previously mentioned laws, are reactions to the problem.

They are not the solution; they are one element of the solution to a complex problem.

You can flood the neighborhoods of the south side of Chicago, or anywhere else, with an army of cops and lessen the number of incidents of violence. Yet the problem will remain.

Law and Order is not a solution; it is a TV show. And like a TV show, it is not reality. It replaces the truth with fantasy.  A fantasy embraced by those seeking a quick solution to an embedded and difficult problem.

There’s a line in the movie, Fort Apache: The Bronx, about the former 41st precinct in New York. One officer, experienced and jaundiced by the reality of the time, explained to another officer, “We’re not a police department. We are an army of occupation.”

Like other armies of occupation, the Police Department soon realized that occupation is a short-term strategy. Eventually, they had to address the root cause. Police departments are ill-equipped to deal with these endemic problems.

Yet Trump would suggest stronger law and order is the answer.

We need to recognize that armed response to violence is not a solution, it is a placebo. We need to reduce the culture of violence and prevent those conditions which foster it from arising again.

We need to learn from the successes and mistakes of the past to create a more responsive and effective law enforcement model.

By all measures, the 1984 and 1994 crime measures both offered fixes to short-term problems and exacerbated the deeper, underlying causes. While some credit the passage of these laws with the reduction of violent crime, an equal number point out that the decrease in violent crime was already underway.

Through what amounted to a trick of accounting, we removed thousands of people from the welfare system by putting them in prison. And put them back in prison when, on release, they were unable to find jobs and re-offended.

Then, we turned the prison system into a for-profit enterprise. I have no doubt we could find a cost-saving method of implementing the death penalty through the private sector as well. Capitalism at its finest.

Despite the braggadocio of Trump, you cannot solve poverty with prisons, embrace enforcement of laws without also embracing education, or create “armies of occupation” as solutions to the racism and hopelessness of a segment of American society.

“Law and order” solution to crime is like injecting morphine into a broken arm.  The pain is gone. The underlying problem still there, waiting to reemerge when the medication wears off. The problem, like the pain, will be worse.

Recent events would suggest the medication has worn off.

Trump touts the endorsement of organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police as validation of his position. I think it more a sign that the Fraternal Order of Police has lost sight of its true purpose in pursuit of empty promises of more cops.

If Trump had his way, there’d be thousands of more cops on the street. But if I were them I’d be worried how, or if, he would find a way to pay for them. Look at his business “success.” He contracts for something, then refuses to pay for it.

Listen to his own words about paying taxes. He doesn’t pay them because he’s smart. Those same taxes that go to support law enforcement. Trump doesn’t put any value on them. He merely panders to an unsophisticated, narrow-minded, short-sighted mentality.

No one had a stronger law and order approach to crime than the Gestapo or the KGB. Crime was rare in Moscow. Paris was almost crime-free during the occupation. Crime is pretty low in Pyongyang as well.

That’s strong law and order.

The law and order pronouncements of Donald Trump invoke the chilling echoes of a Final Solution.

Is that the kind of America we want?



America’s Long Walk on a Short Pier

The America I know, the one that once served as a bright shining beacon to the world, is changing. Our headlong panic rush to insulate, rather than defend, ourselves from those that would do us harm is disheartening.

Talk of building walls, denying entry based on religion or origin, craving a national policy of carpet bombing without regard to innocents is not a solution. It is the easy way out. That is not America.

We are on a very long walk on a short pier.305880-pier

America was once the country who built piers to welcome those who seek the American dream. We stood greeting those looking for a better life. Yet now, because it is so easy to focus on those who misuse our welcome, we are throwing it all away.

When did we become so afraid of standing up for what is right, that we are willing to bury our head in the sand?

We bought into this ‘I’m being bullied nonsense’ and cry to our mommies. I know this may offend some people but you don’t run from bullies, or try to legislate them out of existence. You stand up to them.

It’s the only way to solve the problem. Time to recapture our pride and dignity.

Now, we are faced with a Presidential election. The campaign is a bunch of meaningless drivel, hurled by both sides, that offers no real solution, no intelligent analysis of the problem, and no real hope for change.

We are better than that. We deserve better than that. And yet, most of us just follow along like blind sheep lured by the aroma of fresh feed right into the slaughter house.

Instead of doing the hard work of identifying those who would misuse welfare, we punish the entire program.

Instead of doing the difficult task of bringing the fight to the enemy, we embrace politicians with no idea of the rules of engagement who see carpet bombing as a solution to end a philosophy. Innocent casualties be damned.

Instead of making the effort to understand the complex problems facing us, we engage in screaming matches that do nothing.

Instead of focusing on the logjam that is Congress, we scream and yell about useless Congressional hearings and speeches that capitalize on our ignorance.

Instead of embracing education, we dilute the standards then blame teachers for the results. Johnny can’t read and we do not care.

But there is still time.

There is time to remember that Congress holds the purse strings of America, not the President, and understand who holds the purse strings of Congress.

There is time to return to an America where holding public office meant doing public service not keeping it for life.

There is time, but it, like the end of the pier, is growing short.

I have noticed a troubling trend among the tattooed generation of Americans. I am noticing more and more individuals sporting a barcode tattoo on the back of their necks.

If we are not vigilant. If we do not wean ourselves away from chasing Pokémon. If we do not think instead of remaining mindlessly enslaved to our cell phones.

If we do not realize that we have stopped adding to the pier that is the American dream but continue to walk at our current pace, we will find ourselves at the end.

Those sporting this barcode tattoo may be a foreshadow of the American future.

Where once each new generation represented an addition to the treasure of America, our people, they may be reduced to nothing but inventory from a failed dream.

Think before we walk into oblivion.

Patently Offensive

When did being offended become the national pastime?

People take offense at everything they find different or contrary to their own beliefs or perspectives. The concept of tolerance has gone the way of the dinosaur. Something we dig up by accident once in a while to marvel at the magnificence that once was.

If someone wants to display the Confederate Flag, let ‘em. I think it more a reflection on them that they choose to celebrate a representation of a repulsive philosophy than an acknowledgment of history.

And they lost. I prefer to celebrate a victory. If someone wants to cheer, “We’re number two, we got beat by you,” have at it.

Some people take offense at the display of the American flag. A symbol of their very right to disagree and talk freely about these differences.

Some people are offended by religious displays, patriotic displays, sports, military, police, and other symbols.

All of this offense at symbols belittles the very nature of intelligence and tolerance. It demeans a rational approach to understanding our differences that, when blended in the best way, make us all Americans.

When did it become necessary for the whole world to restrain from championing a cause out of fear that some would disagree? It is in a civil and rational discussion of these different causes that we find a common solution.

Those who embrace the symbol of the Stars and Bars suffer from a lack of fundamental understanding of the overwhelming stain of racism in this country.

Those who would burn the American flag fail to see the contradiction in their actions. They are able to do such things because brave men and women died to uphold the rights represented by that flag.

Those who are offended by the display of a Christmas tree, a Menorah, the Star and Crescent, and others demand tolerance for themselves yet refuse it to others.

Knowledge and education are the keys to the world’s problems. Focusing our efforts on arguing what shouldn’t be displayed drains energy from that which would do good; seeking to understand the history behind these symbols and recognizing them as powerless unless we imbue them with power.

The best example is the Swastika of Nazi Germany. To most people, it represents an unspeakable horror and destructive philosophy. Yet the symbol, called Svastika in Sanskrit, means auspiciousness. Nazi Germany co-opted the symbol for the Third Reich.

Most take offense at the sight of such a symbol. The image of Neo-Nazis in today’s world reflect the continuity of the ignorance, brutality, and irrationality of that era and philosophy. Yet, by understanding the original meaning, one can see the irony in a bunch of ignorant white bigots embracing a symbol created in a Buddhist/Hindu tradition.

A symbol carries meaning only if we recognize it. A Christmas tree is a symbol of the Christian faith or it is a tree sacrificed in the tradition of the Druids.

A flag with stars and bars is the symbol of the proud history of the south or a representation of the failure of one race to impose its false superiority on another.

If you find something offensive, first make sure you understand why. Then work to foster a better understanding. Seek to educate not merely cover up.

Americans should be made of tougher stuff than to let symbols, words, or insignificant displays offend us.

Don’t take offense. Don’t whine and cry and whimper in weakness. Seek to understand that the most offensive symbol in the world represents the ignorance of those who promote it, not the power or truth of what is represents.

Grow a pair America. If this offends you, good. Do something.



Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend John?

My wife and I spent an afternoon at the JFK Library in Boston. Since our trip to Texas and our visit to the LBJ Library, we’ve decided to make visiting Presidential Libraries a sort of hobby.

At the LBJ library, the media exhibits hit home since they reflected our childhood and coming of age. Those formative years when breaking news meant something. Those years when one read a newspaper to get the story.

The era of Vietnam, race riots, Johnson’s Great Society, the realities of an increasingly complex and fragmented world and the joys of A Charlie Brown Christmas and the wonder of men landing on the moon.

The Kennedy Library offered much of the same, albeit more limited as was his Presidency.

We were both struck by the differences in the tone and timbre of the politics of the day. The video of the famous Kennedy-Nixon debate was shocking in the lack of anger and incivility.

Two men of differing ideologies and political persuasions argued for their positions, they did not engage in vitriol and character assassination of their opponent. They argued with logic, intelligence, compassion, and civility. The contrast to the world of today could not be more startling or disheartening.

Kennedy was a magnificent orator. We would do well to listen to some of that wisdom as we consider the choices for President.

Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

 Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.

 For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.

It would serve all Americans well to visit a place like this library. I fear for many Americans it might be their first time IN a library, but we can hope.

Kennedy recognized a lack of education as one of the greatest risks to this country and the world. His words presaged the depths to which we’ve embraced ignorance and intolerance as substitutes for hard work and compassion.

Has anybody here, seen my old friend John? Can you tell me where he’s gone…?

Some of you will remember, do the country a favor and educate those that never had the opportunity to experience the hope of that era.

Show them there is wisdom to be found, but it takes more than 144 characters and spelling counts.

P.S. For a memory sure to bring a smile, click here

Insights from 60 Revolutions of the Sun

In my now sixty complete revolutions of the sun, I am struck by how much the world has changed and how little people have progressed.

We are a single race. The human race. Yet, one is hard-pressed to find examples of this.

We live at a time when access to information is at an all-time high and rationality at a depressing low. Instead of recognizing our differences as nothing more than window dressing, we isolate ourselves with those we share those shallow aspects and separate ourselves from those we see as different.

Why is it we fill our hearts with the irrationality of prejudice, the willful ignorance of others, instead of embracing the commonality of our nature?

Tolerance is something we demand for ourselves and deny to others. The surface differences that comprise such a small percentage of our being cloud the overwhelming similarities.

At a time when it would seem the very survival of our common race is at hand, we focus on promoting our differences instead of joining together to insure our survival.

The faiths of the world publicly espouse their common goal yet continue to teach the doctrines of difference.

Politicians play to the lowest common denominator of fear to further than own careers no matter the cost.

We resort to violence as a solution rather than recognizing violence is at the root of the issue. Violence is the tool to protect differences not people . What we need is the rationality of diplomacy and acceptance.

I can only hope that five hundred or a thousand years from now the descendants of the human race look back on the foolishness of this time as a product of ignorance and stupidity.

Much like we mock the ignorance of the Dark Ages or the image of Stone Age man cowering in his cave from the thunder and lightning of the gods, future humans will find a similar ignorance in the history of our time.

If there are any descendants to do so.  I can only hope we survive  to live up to our self-described moniker of Homo Sapiens.

With all the tools of destruction and our skills at killing our fellow humans over artificial differences, there may not be anyone left to attain such insight and maturity of character.

American Divine Right: Fallacy of a Presumptive Nominee

The latest headline of the trend-driven media proclaims Clinton as the presumptive nominee. Her delegate totals, if one includes super delegates, puts her over the threshold for the nomination.

But if there is one truth in politics, it is that when someone says they are committed to a certain course of action it means for the moment.  Between now and the Democratic convention on July 25th (coincidentally my birthday and only good things can happen on that date) there are many moments for new commitments to arise.

One cannot ignore the rising tide of popular votes sustaining Bernie Sanders. One cannot ignore the increasingly dangerous prospect of the anti-Clinton movement propelling Trump into the Presidency (and, I fear, America into an abyss.) One cannot ignore the clamoring for a stop to this American version of Divine Right determined by party insiders and political supplicants.

Those of us outside the inner sanctum of party politics want our voices heard. Those on the inside, while pantomiming statements that say they support this new paradigm, are more interested in protecting what they see as their moment.

As I said in the beginning, moments change. Clinton does not have the number of delegates to secure the election. She has 300 more delegates than Sanders. Super delegates do not count until their vote is cast.

Much can happen between now and then. We can hope that enough super delegates will listen to the voices of millions of Americans, weigh the chances of their two candidates against Trump, and vote their conscience not their self-interests.

An open letter to Rhode Island’s Super Delegates

Whatever happened to the will of the people? The results of the Rhode Island primary are pretty clear. Rhode Islanders prefer Sanders to Clinton 55% to 43%.

That seems a pretty clear message.

But that’s not the way the system is designed to work. It’s designed to insure continuity of control. It’s designed to insulate the party from the rabble that do not understand government and those who manipulate it for their own gain.

Fair play at the least would say apportion the super delegates the same as the vote. 6 for Sanders and 3 for Clinton.

That seems fair. But that’s not what is happening. All 9 super delegates have pledged to support Clinton.

The results of other primaries throughout the country should mean something. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with Clinton.

Not that Sanders is perfect but it seems the will of the people supporting him is growing.

So why do you unilaterally support her?

Is it out of party loyalty? You committed to this support long before the primary as a matter of party solidarity.

Is it out of a practical consideration? You see her as the clear winner in the numbers game and want to be part of that.

Is it because she’s a woman? The goal of seeking equality is to eliminate such considerations, not endorse them.

Is it out of fear of retaliation from a Clinton White house if you vote your conscience and support someone else?

If so, the fact that you believe a candidate capable of retaliation against a delegate voting with the will of the people is reason enough not to vote for her.

Politics are an ugly thing. It seems to strip away all the good intentions in pursuit of victory, or a job in the administration.

The growing dissatisfaction is this country is underscored by two things:

The rising tide of support for Sanders and the Trump phenomenon.

One has the potential to fundamentally alter politics for the good, one raises the specter of a national calamity.

It is time for someone in this state to do what is right because it is right and not continue down the path of ignoring the very people you represent.

Just in case you don’t know who they are:

Gov. Gina Raimondo

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse

Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline.

R.I. Democratic Party Chair Joseph McNamara

Democratic Party Vice-Chair Grace Diaz

National Committeeman Frank Montanaro

National Committeewoman Edna O’Neill Mattson

Why not drop them a line and let them know who they are supposed to represent.