Saturday, December 26, 2015

Turning the Tables on Trump

The four-foot long table in the corridor outside the small HYDRO conference meeting room in the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino is lost, sandwiched between two mammoth, twelve-foot-long tables on either side. The hydrology attendees will be trying to solve ground water problems through meaningful discussions, the people at the other tables may be creating above water problems with somewhat mean solutions.

Those attending the HYDRO meeting are ground water specialists, casually dressed, and their friendly banter comes across with slightly twangy intonations, native to rural areas such as Ada, Oklahoma, Bend, Oregon and elsewhere.

You will find similar accents emanating from plain folk behind the tables on either side, that are stacked high with t-shirts, hoodies, hats and buttons for “The Donald.” These vendors are hustling their wares to the flowing crowd that’s hurriedly heading around the corner. Bright and shiny Donald buttons are selling for five dollars each, or three for ten dollars.

The hustlers are trying to entice the passersby to buy, but the flowing crowd is there for one main purpose. They are heading to a large and loud, common-bond rally for the man they hope will become the forty-fifth President of the Un-United States.

Outside the entrance to the rally, a man in his seventies is selling small, red-white-and blue Trump buttons. He explains that he’d like a dollar for each so he will have enough money to make more of them, but anyone can have one free. When he smiles, there are only three teeth in his mouth, protruding from the upper jaw. A dollar for Donald seems reasonable, to help this chewing challenged man.

Several of the candidate’s supporters, wearing white t-shirts imprinted with “Trump-for-President,” stand outside two double doors that lead into a huge, triple-sized, very deep room. They are the initial welcoming committee, and you have to either show them your ticket, or fill out a form to hand to the secondary level of volunteers standing by a second set of doors some fifty-feet away.  

The form asks for information the campaign can use to contact you, including both your email and postal mailing addresses. It also solicits data on whether you are a registered voter, if you’d like to volunteer, and do you want to commit to caucus for Mr. Trump. There are boxes to check off on the form regarding the eight listed issues that “are most important to you.” The choices include the 2nd Amendment, National Security, Religious Liberty, Immigration, Pro-Life, Veterans Issues, Economy/Jobs/Trade, and Tax Reform.

Once inside the doors, you walk into a huge room that’s 100-feet-wide by 100-feet-deep, and there are more entrepreneurial vendors selling non-traditional Trump buttons, including one that read, “Mammas, don’t let your daughters grow up and date Democrats.” You may have been tempted to look around to see if Willie and Waylon are nearby, for they would easily fit in.

There’s a line of people in the far right-hand corner, waiting to be checked in. After you have turned in your Trump card to other volunteers, you come to a checkpoint. Blue-shirted, uniformed, official Transportation Security Administration men and women, looking like those at any major airport, are in charge. After you have been lead through an electronic body scanner, you are met by a black-clad, dour-looking man in his late thirties, wearing a flak vest with SECRET SERVICE printed across the chest, holding an electric wand in his hand.

Once you have successfully passed through the security gauntlet, you are now in the sanctum sanctorum, where it’s standing room only. It’s not because of the immense estimated crowd of two thousand, but because there are only six chairs available against the near wall, and they are occupied.

The majority of the people have crowded against the far right-hand corner of the large room, where the stage is set for a Donald J. Trump performance. Some people are milling around outside the media bull pen, a fenced in area in the center, where perhaps thirty members of the print media sit, rapidly typing away on their laptops before anything of consequence happens, in the hope that something does happen.

There is a giant television screen in front of them, focusing on the empty stage where Trump will be standing. Higher up on a ten-foot platform, a dozen broadcast cameras and reporters, furiously focus on what will be coming. Their expectations would be answered, and they unknowingly would become the headliners soon enough.

Many other Trump supporters are standing on the far, left side of the bullpen, anxiously awaiting their Moses, who they hope that he will lead them to the Promised Land. People mainly like themselves would best occupy that utopian land; white, grey-haired, overlooked and disenfranchised, less affluent individuals who believe that they have lost what was once their land.

Among those standing in the back of the media section, were one middle-aged black woman dressed in red, two young Asian Americans, a chubby Dolly Parton looking woman with bleached blonde hair, wearing a billowing green dress and tall cowboy boots.

All of those in the room, whether they were a friendly follower or a media foe, anxiously awaited the 7:30pm arrival of The Donald. His supporters held a variety of signs, including “Donald for President” and “Make America Great Again.” Many wear a variety of Donald buttons, and easily partnered up with strangers, in conversations about their man. Many suspiciously eyed those who seemed out of place among the good folk, and you tried to blend in for fear of what could happen if you were deemed an outsider.

The hum of the many voices blended together, was suddenly silenced as a pep rally cheerleader took the stage. Each time he made a pronouncement, the raucous crowd roared in approval, or disapproval. “We could have settled for a Marco, Ted or Jeb,” “No! No! No!” came the unified reply. “Only one man can make America great again,” and “Donald! Donald! Donald!” was the collective answer. “Only one man can beat the desperate establishment,” and once again, “Donald” was the reverberating response.

A seasoned Nevada Trump campaign leader replaced the cheerleader, and implored the crowd to join together for the Pledge of Allegiance. Then he began reading a litany of reasons why Donald J. Trump needs to be elected our next President, and with each reason, the crowd roared.

He began by confessing, “I love Donald Trump, and that “He’ll upset the applecart,” and take care of the “Scoundrels, thieves and frauds in our government.” Then he paused before he shouted, “Hope you’re listening Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton,” because “Trump will prosecute.” The expected loud response resonated across the room   

Then he went on proclaiming what else Donald J. Trump will do. “He’ll build a wall. He will secure the border. He will kill the Iran deal,” and the audience response once again was a roar of approval. Now the speaker was poised for a maximum verbal incitement, as he went on. “And Donald will do all of that on his first day in office,” and the crowd yelled. He paused, and told the throng, “Imagine what he will do on the second day,” and the screams were deafening.

He continued stirring up the faithful masses with short and quick, standard GOP hype sayings, and after each filled the room, the crowd became even more ready for Donald.  “God, Country, Capitalism,” “American Exceptionalism,” “Choice Not Abortion,” and closed with “God Bless America.” The faithful were stimulated and ready.

He concluded with “The next person you will see is the next President of the United States,” and Donald J. Trump appeared on the stage and on the television screen, and now was the time they had all had patiently waited for — including The Donald.

Trump began with abbreviated, superlative descriptions, sentence after sentence, to further connect with his followers. “This is really beautiful. Fantastic. People of this country are incredible. Country has to get away from political correctness. The audience agreed, and then he set after their common enemy — the media.

He pointed to the television crews on their elevated stand, and bragged that they know that he is the story and that’s why they follow him everywhere, and when he said, “Look at the press,” his words were greeted with loud booing.

Now that he had the people firmly with him, he continued to deride the press by reaffirming that “The press is really dishonest,” before modifying that belief and saying, “The media is mostly dishonest, and the Des Moines Register is terrible.”

At the moment, there was a noisy confrontation within the crowd, and many of the media members in the pen, hurriedly chased after what could be another disruption story. Trump said, “Bye. Bye. Anytime when there’s a problem.”

At that time, our main problem was having to stand with neither any relief for our tired, aching feet, nor for the guaranteed bombast that would go on endlessly that night, and last until the primaries are over.

I have the memory of the Trump rally in my mind, along with six Trump buttons to mail to people I know who support other candidates, which is most of the people that I know.

In 1933, Paul Joseph Goebbels became the Reich Minister of Propaganda for the Nazi Party and its leader. There is probably no correlation between his efforts and those of campaign managers today.

I will give credit to the Trumpsters for stimulating such deep devotion for their candidate, much the same as Bernie Sanders has done with his followers. I have sent a small check or two to Bernie, and occasionally wear my Bernie button. I won’t be wearing a Donald button, but realize that by buying his buttons as gifts, I have inadvertently contributed to his campaign. I have assuaged that effort, with my doubts that Donald will not be on the November 8, 2016 Presidential ballot.

Friday, December 25, 2015

If I Were Jewish

Some GOP presidential candidates and their crazed followers believe that all Muslims are terrorists, and therefore (1) they should be sent “home” if they are already living in America, or (2), they should not be allowed to enter our great land if they are seeking refuge from oppression.

Muslims have been a focal point for some irrational, true-blue, red-blooded, and invisibly white-hooded Americans. There have been vandalisms of mosques, mosque burnings, and obscenities thrown at Muslims while they prayed.

Some want-to-be presidents are willing to deny those foreign intruders a chance to practice their “alien” religion, here in the land of the free and the home of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

There are GOP candidates mired in the mistaken belief that we are living in a Puritanical, exclusively pro-Christian nation, and proclaim so as they actively court the evangelical vote. Among the most vociferous are Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. With the latest polls, Ted Cruz seems to have courted and won the hearts of the ultra-religious right.

Carson has said the motto “In God We Trust,” proves that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

Ted Cruz announced his candidacy at Liberty University, a religious institution that is committed to ”Training Champions for Christ.” It encourages a commitment to “a life that leads people to Jesus Christ as the Lord of the universe and their own personal Savior.”  By making his announcement at Liberty, Cruz is telling all good Christians that he is the candidate that will help to ensure that America will continue to be a wholesome Christian nation.

Michael Dale “Mike” Huckabee Huckabee is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, with pronounced evangelical views. In his 2007 book, Character Makes a Difference, ”Huckabee wrote you can live a God-centered life of high moral character, and you can support candidates who share your Christian standards.”

These three candidates have stated that they base their own lives on Christian values, and would want the nation to do the same.

I support them in living a life based on their religious principles, but would feel more comfortable if they separate their church-directed views from my state-directed ones — the United States of America. I would be a bit nervous and anxious if they didn’t make that separation whether I was a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Baha’i, a Zoroastrian, or a Jew.

My God, or My G-D (if I was ultra-religious) — I am a Jew.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It’s A Far Different World From When I Entered It

Things were far simpler in 1936, when I first experienced life. Next January, I turn eighty and each day I seem to understand less and less about the world I am now living in.

We have two snake-oil salesmen leading the race to be the GOP candidate for the Presidency. One is a blustery, loud-mouthed white man, who has yet to propose a workable plan to “Make America Great Again.”  He doesn’t quite tell lies, but has perfected the innuendo style of speaking used by Richard Milhous Nixon.

That style can best be described as, “I’m not saying that my opponent is a (liar, thief, crook, dishonest, incompetent), that’s for you to decide,” statements.

The second is a soft-spoken Black man, who embellishes (or creates) tales of his wayward youth, and how he was resurrected while sitting in the bathroom after one of his misdeeds. He hasn’t exactly told the media, “You are looking for any wrong doings because I am a successful neurosurgeon of color,” and seems to be a bit more subtle in his Nixon-like campaign direction.

On the Democratic side, we have a kindly, honest, fireball of a Jewish grandfather running against William Jefferson Blythe III’s wife Hillary. Some women are supporting her because she is a woman, and they say this country needs a woman President to inspire young girls to have higher goals and rise above the secretarial pool. Isn’t that what Carly did, or said that she had done? There’s a hesitancy to believe anything a politician says.

When Tuesday, November 8, 2016 arrives and I vote for the President, I will once again be forced to decide which candidate from which party, will do the least amount of damage to my country and me over the next four years.

I am fortunate enough to have safe havens to move to if the “wrong” person is elected President, thanks to my wife. She’s not only a citizen of the United States, but also of Canada where she lived for thirty-six years, and of Spain where she was born. We can either move north and be “owt and abowt,” or be “muy contento” in EspaƱa, as long as there isn’t another Inquisition.

Political cartoonists will also face a difficult adjustment figuring out to incorporate the elected candidate’s ears, hair, facial coloring, pantsuit, or other attire, to incorporate within their renderings.

When it comes to television news, I have had a great deal of trouble listening to Obama over his two terms as he vacillates when he talks the talk, without walking the walk. If anyone but Bernie is elected, I will have to figure out how to use the time I will gain by not watching any television news over the next four years. If someone spends an average of only thirty-minutes a day watching any and all television news programs, that would total 43,920 minutes over the next President’s four-year term, or 732 hours of time.

If I gave up watching all television news for those four years, I would have ample time to write a novel, or to write more blog posts kvetching about what’s going on in the world, and wondering if anyone is reading what I have to say.

Incidentally, has anyone read this?

Would you vote for a candidate for the Presidency, whose political resume included less than eight years serving in his state’s legislature?  What if he had been a U.S. Senator for little more than three years, when he sought his party’s nomination to be their candidate for President? What if he had no real experience as a Governor or another such elected position, to show that he could actually govern and lead the United States during troubled times? What if his Father had been born in another land? 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Feeling Blue

The website for the University of Michigan’s Athletic Department is “MGOBLUE.COM.” The “go blue” part of it was sadly apropos after its October 17th last-second football game 27-23 loss to in-state rival Michigan State University Spartans.

The U. of Michigan Wolverines were leading 23-21 with ten seconds left in the game. They had the ball on the 47-yard line, and all they needed to do on fourth down was punt the ball deep and let time run out.

The ball was snapped low, the punter fumbled it and a MSU player scooped up the loose ball, and ran it into the end zone for the winning score.

Most of the 111,740 people in the stadium were U. of M. fans (short for “fanatics”) and had paid $95 for one end zone seats, $105 for one Maize and Blue seat, and $115 to sit in the Victors/Valiant section. The revenue for that one game could have been as high as $10 million.

U. of M’s 234-piece performance band stirs up the crowd before and during every game, playing rousing renditions of the university’s “theme” song, “Hail to the victors valiant, hail to the conquering heroes, hail, hail to Michigan, the champions of the west.” A student wrote the song in 1898 after Michigan beat the University of Chicago to win the Western Conference, which became the Big Nine Conference, and now is known as the Big Ten, and naturally has fourteen member schools. (See more on the band members later on)

The victors weren’t valiant last night, and as the ESPN television camera swept across the stands after the final exciting, game-ending play, one young man's face exemplified what all of the U. of M. faithful had just experienced.

The camera stayed on the be speckled student, adorned in a maize hooded sweater had his hands on top of his head, his eyes wide open, and a distraught look of total disbelief upon his face. 

You can recap the day is several ways.  In 2014, Ann Arbor had an estimated population of 117,770, and they could have all nearly fit into the stadium. More than 111,000 people did fit in, and they had nothing better to do on a fall Saturday. The fumbling punter, a former Australian rugby player, may have lost his scholarship. The Spartan who scored the winning touchdown, also paid a price, for after the score, he was at the bottom of a celebratory pile of players, and his hip was dislocated.

Michigan’s head coach Jim Harbaugh, responded to reporters’ questions with his usual stoic replies. In trying to find something positive about the game’s outcome, Harbaugh said, “They played their guts out,” and followed with, “We have to have resolve, steel in our spine and move forward.”

Michigan State’s coach Mark Dantonio simply summed up the ending by saying,  “Football is a crazy, crazy game.”

I tried to convince myself that I didn’t care who won, but perhaps I did, for my daughter graduated from Michigan State. (See story that follows on Thailand))

Michigan is now at 5-2, and Michigan State improved to 7-0.
Good news for Michigan fans, their next home game is with Rutgers, and the prices for tickets for the public have been reduced to as low as $65 each.

The battle was only a game. Renowned sports writer Grantland Rice put sports in perspective in 1908, when he wrote in his poem Alumnus Football, “For when the One Great Scorer comes, to mark against your name. He writes — not that you won or lost —But how you played the Game.”

I seriously doubt that Jim Harbaugh read that poem to his dejected team after last night’s loss. 

In 1985 when I was visiting a friend in Bangkok, Thailand, he shipped me off by bus to visit the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. I came back on a riverboat, and saw Michigan State’s former football coach and Athletic Director Duffy Daugherty playing cards with Tennessee’s Johnny Majors, and two other coaches.

Since I was paying my daughter’s tuition at the time, I asked Duffy what he and the others were doing there. “Oh, we are on recruiting trip.”

With the average Thai male less than 5’8” tall and under 150 pounds, I now knew how some of the tuition money was used. MSU’s basketball coach was probably recruiting players in Central Africa, where pygmies reside. The average height of a pygmy is below 5-feet tall, and anyone taller is described as a pygmoid.

Their high-stepping band has students playing 12 piccolos, 25 clarinets, 12 alto saxophones, 12 tenor saxophones, 48 trumpets, 24 horns, 33 trombones, 3 bass trombone, 12 euphoniums, 24 tubas, and 30 percussionists.

When marching, they round out their array of performers with 24 flags, 3 twirlers, and one drum major.