Archive for the ‘Trump’ Tag

Tears And Fears   1 comment

Coping In The Age of Goo
February 1, 2017

 

Do you recall the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail? A classic Monty Python comedy.  Loosely—very loosely—incorporating King Arthur, the Round Table, quests, and death. In 10th Century England there was a plague upon the land. (Note: not the 14th century as history records but the 10th as Monty Python records.) So many people were dying that “dead collectors” went through the streets telling good citizens to bring out their dead. One unfortunate citizen’s body was in the process of being collected by the dead collector when the citizen asserts “I’m not dead.” A debate proceeds but after being hit in the head with a club, the “citizen” is now, well, dead.

A few months ago I fully anticipated that by February I would, at the very least, be near the end of channeling Elisabeth Kübler Ross. Her classic model on how we deal with grief is well known: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Understanding these stages is supposed to help us get through the process of dying and death (in that order). Whether it’s our own mortality or that of a family member or friend, we all can relate to Ross’s conclusions. The good news from the stages is that ultimately we all hope to arrive at acceptance. The night of November 8th I went to bed in what I’d describe as something other than denial, but I was clearly aware of what news the Wednesday morning papers would bring. It’s been a little like that for some people since November 9th.

Acceptance arrived, and I spent a couple of months waiting for the pivot. You know, it was to be that moment when Trump, our recently elected Great Orange Overlord (GOO) would come down to earth and govern. Unfortunately, GOO turned out to be unable or unwilling to pivot, and he spent late January issuing edicts. While many of his executive orders got my attention, it was one in particular that struck a nerve: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”. Essentially GOO was following through on his promise to treat Muslims differently than everyone else. And amazingly by design or rank ignorance he managed to do this on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day in which GOO omitted mentioning the slaughter of Jews. One university professor, Daniel Drezner of Tufts, was so incensed by the order and the timing that he let fly an amazing Tweet:

 

“Dear @POTUS: on Holocaust Remembrance Day my synagogue told me the Syrian refugee family we’re sponsoring is not coming. Go fuck yourself.”

 

Drezner later apologized for the closing three-word expression of disfavor, but doubled down on his feelings about the policy. The New York Times offered this: “That [Trump’s executive] order, breathtaking in scope and inflammatory in tone, was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day spoke of the president’s callousness and indifference to history, to America’s deepest lessons about its own values.” From this side of America we are left to wonder if this latest order is GOO’s stalking horse for a laundry list of people, countries, groups, and religions with whom he and his administration disagree. After all, GOO has one prominent supporter suggesting the United States begin registering Muslims, while another thought the WWII Japanese internment camps were “a good precedent”. Think about it; zealous supporters offer Manzanar as a good idea, a good precedent.

In 1988 a seven-year effort to start a family became a reality for us. Our daughter has been amazing. She’s worked as hard as can be to carve a place in society and this month began a new chapter by changing careers, going to work for a tech-related company in San Francisco. I treasure every moment we’ve had and I hope we have many, many more. But it was the rhetoric of GOO and his close associates that made me wonder just what can be next? Our decision to start a family was not surprising—lots of other people have done it, really—but any journey that takes seven years to succeed, as ours did, sort of focuses the mind. Like Star Trek’s character Mr. Spock, a Vulcan who mates only once every seven years, anticipation and success can be a long process.

     Caitie was born on February 7, 1988, and it was an event that I was not able to attend. For that matter, neither was my wife. Caitie was born in Korea. After

chsb seven years of paperwork, interviews, and waiting, we were matched with this wonderful baby who happened to be born in Seoul. In short, my feeling to this day is that it was like winning the lottery. Only better. We flew to Korea, spent three days in Seoul, and returned with our baby on September 2, 1988. As I once said to friends of mine when their first child was born in 1976, ‘the three of you are now one.’ And now so were we.

In June 1989 we sat in the Los Angeles chambers of Judge C. Bernard Kaufman, and he made our adoption final. A year later we were once again in downtown Los Angeles. This time it was at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and where, along with a thousand or so of our closest friends, we were to participate in a ceremony making a lot of people in that hall citizens of the United States. The room was absolutely colorful. There were whites, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics. Too many countries, and too many stories to list, but the common thread was someone in each group was about to receive American Citizenship. That morning there were plenty of flags, kind words, and a collective singing of the National Anthem (and it wasn’t even a ball game.) There were a thousand people saying the pledge of Allegiance, along with the recorded voice of Country star Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless The USA”. Not a dry eye in the house, including mine.

And here we are almost three decades later. It feels like recalling that convention-hall camaraderie today is more important than ever. In 1990 we were all as one at the Citizenship swearing-in ceremony. It was  a kind of tent revival meeting, with everyone hugging strangers, shaking hands, singing together, celebrating for ourselves and for all of those who came before us. So when our leaders begin to register, arrest, intern, and deport people based on family name, skin color, birth country, or religion, we must speak up. This is not what constitutes making America great again. When GOO attempts to turn the clock back a century or two, to some time in America’s past, we must all be aware and engaged. Forget the stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Save those for bad news from the doctor. What we need now is everyone to stand up for everyone else. No exceptions. This country has a constitution, and a history of tolerance. Last month 200-300 people were marching in downtown Gualala, California as part of the post-inaugural Womens March, and it was a genuinely beautiful sight. On that day millions of people reminded us that it is not the time stay in the house and hibernate. Now is the time to pay close attention and let our government hear why the policies of GOO have nothing to do with greatness.

 David Steffen
© 2017 David Steffen
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Good News! A Trump-oscopy For Everyone   Leave a comment

Bend Over. President Trump Has Plans For You

June 1, 2016

I like the idea that I’m allowed to write just about whatever I wish in my monthly column, which is why it ranges through thoughts on music, the arts, life on the California coast, and occasionally politics. Of late I have been a bit reticent to write about politics in general, and Trump-mania in particular. While I’m not (yet) ready to apply for refugee status in Canada, I must admit I am a little concerned about the disproportionate fandom following Mr. Trump. And that’s just the journalists and the media.

At first I thought it was simply the TV thing. The vision of Trump walking through the State Department, the Pentagon, or the White House kitchen pointing his orange-ish red finger at every third person and arbitrarily shouting “Your Fired” seemed unlikely. Then came the adulation of an unbridled press, following him around and waiting on his every word. Like Gollum, reporters seem to be constantly waiting for the appearance of The Precious. I actually wish I could say that as the primaries went on and on, his rhetoric became more and more distasteful. But that isn’t true. His opening salvo in 2015 from the Vatican-like fortress known as Trump Tower signaled immediately that this person isn’t just provocative. He is genuinely dangerous. His admiration for Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un knows no bounds. CNN’s Carol Costello pressed Trump’s seemingly idiotic press spokesperson Healy Baumgardner on the point. She reminded Ms. Baumgardner of the horrific deeds of Kim, and asked “. . . what [Mr. Trump] meant when he praised the dictator in January as ‘amazing’ for killing his own family members.” Baumgardner’s programmed response was that Trump “wants to keep an open dialogue and repair relations with world leaders.” Spoken like a true automaton.

Let me be clear. Aside from the possibility that Trump will initiate a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, or use nuclear weapons in Europe, essentially provoking World War III, I don’t see Trump as an immediate danger to me. I am, as the saying goes, a man of a certain age. Nuclear holocausts aside (for the moment) there are few things that a megalomaniac like Trump can impose on me in one or two terms in the Oval Office that are going to destroy my life. If he wants to get rid of Social Security or Medicare, he’ll be sleazy enough to propose that it doesn’t go away tomorrow. Instead he’ll help engineer its dissolution over time, say a couple of decades or so, at the end of which I’ll be below the grass instead of walking on it. But my daughter and generations older and younger than she should take note. If you believe getting healthcare was difficult (or impossible) in the past, wait until Trump is in charge. That’s when we’ll learn what ‘death panels’ are really about.

And the GOP will sit by and let him do all of this. Let’s not forget that the sixteen now defeated GOP candidates were uniform in their desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with something better. However, since “Obamacare” was passed and signed into law six years ago, no bill has been put forward by the GOP to replace the legislation. All of their energies have been focused on repealing the act. Forget the millions who have insurance today who were previously denied coverage by for-profit insurance companies for daring to show up with “Pre-existing Conditions”.

Trump’s unique perspective is born of never having to say please, thank you, or I’m sorry. Born (or hatched) into a millionaire’s family, he is the antithesis of Oliver Twist. As a child—assuming he actually was once a child (although there remain rumors about his roots being extra-terrestrial)— when young Trump was hungry and asked for more, I’m certain that he—unlike Oliver—always received more food rather than a smack on the head with a ladle.

Trump brings nothing to the job that will actually help average Americans. Conversely, what he can do is destroy a unique world economy by reshaping it in his own image. A suitable playground for millionaires to pay low or no taxes, have plenty of servants to do all of life’s menial labor, and of course maintain those things that society has decided we cannot do without: A personal jet, and personal helicopters, servants, limousines, replacement spousal units, multiple homes in multiple states or countries. Did I mention servants? That is, after all, what we will all be in the new and great America. He’ll turn this country into a new theme park known as TrumpWorld. It will be like WallyWorld but without the rides. Or the fun. Or even Wally the Moose.

Trump’s ability to have his hair coiffed perfectly in that beautiful Tang-esque shade of orange, should be your first clue that reality is not the strong-suit of this reality TV star. What’s in store in January if Trump is elected? A lack of affordable healthcare, women going to prison for abortion, a giant wall from the Rio Grande to Tijuana, a miraculous military, deportation of all undocumented workers, an exit from NATO, a foreign policy that is anti-British and anti-Europe, and simultaneously pro-Putin and pro North Korea, a default on America’s debt triggering economic problems (or PROBLEMS), plus a new version of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882: for Muslims now, and later you can assume, anyone identifying as LGBT, abortion doctors, and the chronically ill. All these (and more) will need to leave in an effort to make America great. You get the picture.

Trump is dangerous. To you and me, to our friends and allies, to anyone that isn’t wealthy. Sometime in January the increasingly inane Healy Baumgardner will announce that, “Top Line, Mr. Trump wants to provide America with a colonoscopy to identify and eliminate undesirables.” A Trump-oscopy.

In closing, don’t worry. Trump is planning to combine the Center for Disease Control with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department, and stick a probe up America’s ass. In the end, America will be clean again, great again; and presumably very white. As Karl the greens-keeper in Caddyshack might say, “you got dat goin’ for you, and dat’s kinda nice.”

David Steffen

©2016 David Steffen

Everything Old Is New again   Leave a comment

What Songwriter Peter Allen Knew Forty Years Ago

October 26, 2015

In the late 1960s I was in college at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Working for the campus radio station I volunteered to do a series of occasional interviews which ranged from singer/actor Dick Kallman, to John F. Kennedy speechwriter and advisor Ted Sorensen. One interview was with a relatively young yet obviously seasoned performer who, at the time, was one-half of the Australian cabaret act Chris & Peter Allen. CPAllenThe duo was performing at the lounge atop Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel. Peter was about 23 at the time and little did I know then that our paths would cross again less than a decade later when he signed a recording contract with A&M Records. Sitting at the piano in the home of A&M Records President Gil Friesen, Peter entertained about 30 of us in this rather intimate setting. I saw peter-allen-02Peter in concert time and again over the next 10 years, as his songwriting and collaboration produced an amazing body of creative work including “Just Ask Me I’ve Been There”, “I Honestly Love You”, “I Go to Rio”, “Don’t Cry Out Loud”, “Bi-Coastal”, “I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love”, and so much more. Epitomizing his inherent cabaret flair was a song titled “Everything Old Is New Again”. The music and the lyrics came to mind this week as I considered some recent events because, as we’ve seen, everything old is new again.

Fats 2.0: Fats have been a part of my diet as far back as I can remember. I’m old enough to recall butter on or in everything; steaks fried in oil on the stove (the grill was for sissies.) Lard was a principal ingredient in most cooking. Whole milk on my Sugar Pops. And then we were told that fats are bad. So I spent the next 40+ years listening to my doctor and a family full of nurses ask “how ya doin’ avoiding those fats?” My usual response was “I’m working on it.” This past weekend I was making dinner of fatspan-seared Tilapia with Safflower oil, Romaine lettuce, and an olive oil-based salad dressing. Good effort, so I have only myself to blame for picking up the New York Times and reading an article titled “The Fats You Don’t Need to Fear, and the Carbs That You Do”. Give me an effin break. 1000 words telling me I can have fats. I’m not certain I have enough years left to undo all of the damage done avoiding fats the last 40 years, but I pledge with my right hand raised and my left hand wrapped around a chocolate eclair, that I will do my part.

Deja Vu, eh?: The news from Canada on October 19, 2015 was striking. The Toronto Star carried a photograph of a handsome young couple with picture-perfect children. The dashing 40-something father in the photograph just won a trudresounding victory in Canada’s national election. I rubbed my eyes to be certain I was awake in this century as I read the paper’s proclamation: “Ontario delivers Trudeau his Liberal majority“.  What? Pierre and Margaret are back? Not really. Our friends to the north elected the son of the dashing late 20th century Canadian leader Pierre Elliot Trudeau. In the 1960s America had the Kennedys. Jack was dashing in his own right and the era was dubbed “Camelot”. In the 1970s it was Pierre who charmed Canada, and the charm oozed south across the border into the United States. The elder Trudeau was a rock star. And now his son Justin will become Prime Minister of Canada. Lineage doesn’t guarantee success, but there’s something good coming from Canada as outgoing conservative (Tory) PM Stephen Harper departs in a stunning loss. Liberal Trudeau will take the reins of the Canadian government. Bonne chance.

What Me Worry? Part 1: Farther south a different story has been making the front and near-front pages of newspapers and websites around the United States. Hell, it’s probably in this week’s edition of My Weekly Reader. Continuing his “I’ll Say Anything” tour, Donald Trump opened his mouth and, believe it or not, a significant unspoken truth fell out. The October 16, 2015 New York Daily News reported the utterance from “The Donald” and the unbridled disbelief expressed by a Bloomberg News talking head:

“Donald Trump stuck a shiv into the Republican establishment Friday by suggesting that former President George W. Bush bears some of the blame for the 9/11 attacks. ‘When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,’ Trump said on Bloomberg TV. Anchor Stephanie Ruhle appeared stunned by Trump’s remark. ‘Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that,’ she said. But Trump, who is leading the pack of Republicans running for President, would not budge. ‘He was President, OK?’ the GOP front-runner said. ‘Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.'”

The GOP faithful began to go into apoplectic fits. The same Republicans who can attack Hillary Clinton for the Benghazi attacks cannot bring themselves to connect President “W”—then 9 months in office—to the most significant terrorist attack on American soil since the British burned the White House and Capitol in 1814*.

What Me Worry? Part 2: A few days after Trump’s declaration that the 9/11 attacks occurred on George W. Bush’s watch, he added another truth to the discourse:  “Jeb, why did your brother attack and destabilize the Middle East by attacking Iraq when there were no weapons of mass destruction? Bad info?” Good question. Democrats have been significantly more vocal on this topic than Bush’s responsibility as Commander in Chief on September 11, 2001. Republicans can defend “W” all they want, but the historical view isn’t getting prettier for “the decider”. And his subsequent decision to destabilize the Middle East was a mistake that has generated catastrophic results. Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is the poster child for chaos theory.

Forget “W” not understanding Shia vs. Sunni. How about if Bush had just understood the concept of unintended consequences, perhaps even he would have thought twice about invading Iraq. Author Rob Norton reminds us that “The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Kennedy School of Government professor Linda Bilmes gave the Iraq War close scrutiny. Their book, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict pegs the dollars wasted on the Iraq War at $3 trillion—and counting. (By comparison, Bush Administration officials projected $50 billion. That’s a $2 trillion, $950 billion difference. Even Enron did better planning than Bush, Wolfowitz, et al.) Those of us who marched through the streets of New York in February 2003 to try and stop the deliberate march to war in Iraq felt a small measure of satisfaction that the stupidity of invading Iraq is at least being spoken out loud these days. Even if Trump is the mouthpiece.

George Santayana, in Life of Reason, wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Peter Allen’s “Everything Old Is New Again” is no less prophetic. But at least it’s a musical gem reminding us in a gentler way. Perhaps we need to send a copy of Allen’s recording to each member of congress at the start of every new term. Then again, maybe the song they need to hear is “Just Ask Me I’ve Been There”.

David Steffen

© 2015 David Steffen

Note: an edited version of this essay appears in the November 2015 issue of the Lighthouse Peddler coastal newspaper.

*Technically in 1814 the residence was known as the Presidential Mansion.

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