The Death of Truth in the Afternoon

Each afternoon during the impeachment trial, I was reminded of the fragility of truth. Forget “General Hospital,” the Impeachment Trial of Donald John Trump, as some of the networks titled it (as if he wasn’t president), was must-see TV almost every afternoon. Each side had …

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Most of the People

How does a famous quote from Abraham Lincoln stand up today?

Most historians, and people in general, love good old Abraham Lincoln, what with ending slavery and saving the Union and all. But years before then, he was still becoming known for his debating skills (against Stephen A. Douglas) and for some insightful and memorable sayings. One of those, of course, was the following – “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Great words indeed, no doubt about it. In fact, it apparently was an instant hit even back then, being adopted by companies to use in ads to sell stuff and the like. And, what about today? You would certainly think, that with today’s hyper “connectedness” and mass “technology,” it would be hard to fool any of the people any of the time.

First, let’s look at ‘fooling some of the people all the time,’ you know, probably the ones in “fly-over country” where nobody goes to college and they are all “Trump zombies.” That doesn’t quite fit though, because the only reason they settled on Trump in 2016, is because they were no longer fooled by the Democratic Party, the party that took them for granted and assumed that they owned their votes.

Maybe it’s the people who buy in to everything they see on social media propagated by the Russians? Could be, but there certainly wouldn’t be false information distributed by the elite and all-knowing tech companies via mystery algorithms, would there?

Next, we have ‘fooling all of the people some of the time.’ What would there be in today’s world that could be fooling everyone? Given the fractured nature of the country, it would be hard to put a finger on any one falsehood that could unify us all in a single incident of grand stupidity. It’s not for lack of trying though and could be possible. You see, I think the common-sense portions of our brains grow smaller as technology dependence replaces thoughtfulness. Evolution indeed!

Now for the grand finale of ‘but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’ That would be true if the ruling elite had not figured out a sneaky angle for at least fooling most of the people all the time. It works like this: they make sure, over time, that there are only two dominant and opposing political parties. Next, they ensure that each party’s respective members “know” that all the ills of the world are due to the other party.

As Maxwell Smart might say, “Ah yes, the old divide and conquer trick.” Brilliant. If you have two dominant camps, each needs only to fool their own camp (some of the people) all the time, and the sum of the two equals fooling most of the people all the time, simply with different falsehoods. Fortunately, for the moment anyway, I can say ‘most,’ because there are still a few independent thinkers hanging in there!

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The Politics of Personal Destruction and Congresswoman Katie Hill

Both sides want to end the politics of personal destruction, except of course, when it benefits their own side. “The politics of personal destruction” is a phrase originating from conservatives that characterize how Democrats personally demonize anyone that they disagree with. Of course, we know …

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Another Fine Mess

In a shocking turn of events President Trump is still acting like President Trump.

For those familiar with the Bachelor reality television series, there is a running claim that host Chris Harrison makes every season. At some point, you can count on him stating that “the current season is the most dramatic and shocking season ever.” He doesn’t even say it with a straight face anymore since everyone knows it’s just something that he always claims, true or not. That’s how the Ukraine “fast-moving” (could be a drinking game every time the press uses that term, scratch that, we don’t condone binge drinking) impeachment story feels.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a serious matter. But please don’t be dismayed if the public yawns a bit at the hyper coverage of the press and the deafening proclamations of the politicians. We have heard this all before, just about every day in fact, since Trump got elected.

The press (excluding Fox News) openly hates the president and maybe with good reason, but it is not their job to openly hate a president. It is their job to play a neutral arbiter of the facts, something for which they seem to have trouble doing. It makes it harder to be on continual “fact check” mode with Trump, and be believed when you have to “amend” too many stories. That gives your enemy (President Trump), an opening to lie even more because he can somewhat rightly claim to his minions that the press cannot be trusted.

At hand is a phone call the president made to the leader of Ukraine asking for help in investigating Biden for wrongdoing. Let me be clear that this is not a good thing, but am I the least bit shocked that this call took place? No. Are the Democrats and the press really asking me to believe that Trump is the first and only President to engage in such underhanded activities? Really?

It would also be easier to buy in to the impeachment inquiries if they were not led by politicians as equally unlikable and idiotic as the President. It’s like an absurdist comedy turned tragedy, as our way of governing is melting down before our eyes, and the press is standing by, gleefully throwing gasoline onto the burning heap of our Republic.

People will say we have to get to the truth of the matter, but the fact is that truth only exists now in the prism of two equally corrupt sides of the political spin machine. The press, unfortunately, has concluded that there are no profits to be made in honest reporting, and so the death spiral continues.

Maybe getting rid of Trump by impeachment is the right thing to do. We can then get back to the way things used to be, where the political natural order can be restored. A place where corruption, lying and stealing can once again be kept more private, within the ruling class. Then we can also pretend that none of the things Trump did ever happened before he came along.

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Baltimore Calling

Following a tired old script, the politicians from both sides argue to score political points while people suffer. The recent weeks have brought on a host of pronouncements, soundbites, accusations, counter-accusations, and canned talking points about how “horrible” Baltimore is to live in. Always missing, …

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Sign of the Times

When we can’t even manage a Woodstock 50th Anniversary concert, you know peace and love are out with today’s generation.

It sounded like a fantastic idea in these times of protests, political attacks, talks of wars, racial tensions and cyber-bullying – a major concert event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. You know, the event that defined the era of peace and love; where, for a fleeting moment in time, we all seemed to get along, or at least tried to get along. In that moment, music united instead of divided us.

The impact of Woodstock is hard to overestimate. Not only was it a pivotal moment in music history, but Woodstock also helped define the counterculture generation, and it is still widely talked about today. The site of what has been called “3 days of peace and music” has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Joni Mitchell said it best while commenting on the festival, “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half a million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.”

It sure would be nice if we took a few lessons from Woodstock in our current environment. Today, with the help of politicians (including the President) and the press, we are accentuating what divides us to increase those divisions. Music was a unifying force in the sixties and that force attempted to spread love vs hate and togetherness vs tribalism.

Enter the original organizer of Woodstock, Michael Lang. Perhaps trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice, he set out with the goal of organizing a 50th Anniversary version of Woodstock.  What a wonderful idea it was. Unfortunately, the problems began almost immediately for the second go-round. The chief financier of the event pulled out quickly and even went so far as to announce that the concert was canceled. This was disputed by the organizers and of course, lawsuits followed.

Lang then tried multiple attempts to shift the venue and revive the concert, but, alas, no one seemed to want them. Lang still planned to hold the event at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. I know the venue well as it was a prime concert location for us Washington DC teenagers. Another issue was that all previously locked-in acts had been released from their contractual obligations, and there were no confirmed bands performing. In addition, the concert was then listed as being free – Deja vu. And now, the organizers have thrown in the towel and Woodstock is dead.

All in all, the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock’s failure is analogous of today’s political environment – worthy goals, not being achieved, because of in-fighting, divisiveness, lawsuits, and lack of true leadership. Perhaps in today’s environment, we are not only tired of too much “winning,” we are also tired of music, peace and love.

Maybe it’s not too late to save the day. I believe it is time for Michael Lang to call on our president to take a break from winning. Together, they just may be able to make Woodstock great again. I know what you’re thinking: what have I been smoking?

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A Rainmaker and Criminal Justice Reform

I must admit, we are genius’s when it comes to money-making schemes, even in the justice system.

Like many, I have always been an advocate for much needed Criminal Justice Reform. Mandatory sentences, the way police operate, the prosecutorial process, judges’ rulings on Constitutional protections and unjust targeting of certain classes of people or “crimes” are just some of the problematic areas beginning to see reform efforts come to fruition. As touted by the politicians, and rightly so I may add, these reforms will bring opportunities to those who have found themselves on the wrong side of the justice system.

In some cases the opportunities are to be proven innocent, and, in other cases, the opportunities are for second chances to become productive citizens and to have a better life. Still, in other cases, the opportunities come, not for those accused of committing crimes, but for those in charge of prosecuting crimes.

The District Attorney’s office in Rapides Parish Louisiana saw the opportunity in the criminal justice reform movement and transformed that opportunity into what some might call a rainmaker of sorts. The specific means, in this case, was the rapid expansion of what is known as a pretrial diversion program.

In pretrial diversion, defendants are given the opportunity to pay money to have their charges dismissed or dropped altogether. No expensive trials and time-wasting by any of the parties on either side of the case. As one can imagine, this is a slippery slope initiative with abuse opportunities aplenty. What cases get qualified for this program, what are the fees, and who keeps the fees? Is this another example of the rich buying their way out of the justice system while the poor are stuck in it?

Regarding the fees in Rapides Parish, they can range anywhere between $250 for traffic tickets to $1,500 for felonies. At this point, it should be noted that all these fees are kept by the District Attorney’s office. What could go wrong when the office directly in charge of prosecuting crime can achieve financial gain by not prosecuting crime? In 2017, it is alleged that the District Attorney’s office benefited by “diverting” defendants to the tune of $2.2 million. That is more than ten times what previous District Attorneys had done.

Anyway, this all came to light because the Parrish started wondering why money from fines (that went to the Parrish general fund) was declining while the diversion money (stays with the DA’s office) was drastically increasing, and, of course, now there is a lawsuit between the Parrish leadership and the District Attorney’s office.

Lawsuits aside, diversion programs are nothing new and almost all states have them in some form. The question is whether or not they are justly used to keep those out of the prison system who truly shouldn’t be there. There are accusations in many states that diversion systems are administered in such a way as to hurt the poor and help the politically connected. It’s just another example of how difficult it is to keep the scales of justice in balance.

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Simply Inexcusable

When humans become mere pawns for politicians to score points, it’s simply inexcusable.

Shame on both political parties and the press for playing political games at the expense of humans, adding to the suffering of both immigrants and the homeless. As the threatened Trump crackdowns on illegal immigrants have begun, what has either party done for easing the suffering of humans wanting a better life, than to try and make political hay, so to speak?

Those that want a controlled border and orderly process for accepting new people into the country are not Nazis or fascists, and those that show concern for the millions already here are not open border nuts. But, in the current political environment, it seems those are the only two options. Like or hate Trump, he is the current president, and the continued refusal to do anything regarding the border issues, because of him, is a complete dereliction of duty by all politicians currently “serving” their country.

There should be a path to citizenship for the so-called “dreamers,” and we should have a secure border by the most efficient means necessary. We should know who is in our country, but that knowledge should be done in such a way as to not provoke unnecessary fear from those whose only crime is wanting a better life.

This isn’t rocket science for goodness sake. The fact that nothing has been done regarding this issue for decades is a testament to the ineptness of our government. Instead of the press calling out the collective failure, they play “us against them” games with their reporting, adding to the conflict and inaction.

Equally disturbing is the growing homelessness crisis. Recent counts place the number of homeless at more than 36,000 in Los Angeles alone, but the problem is a national one. Where are the politicians on this one? As usual, they are speaking in political gibberish, throwing out standard unhelpful talking points, including how inhuman Republicans are, and of course, there is the always helpful “the problems are in cities run by Democrats” line that conservatives love.

In both cases, these are real people in dire need of help, and our institutions are failing them. It’s as if they don’t care about them unless there is some kind of political angle that can be worked to gain or retain power.

I recently read Kurt Vonnegut’s apocalyptic novel Slapstick. The main character is the former President of the United States reflecting on his life. He mentions his run for the presidency on a platform that would randomly generate new middle names for everyone. The names would be used to assign them to new larger and diverse families that would better care about, and for each other. His campaign slogan was “Lonesome No More.”

I know in our family, when someone is in trouble, we take action to help. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, politicians especially, started acting like we were all family members? Maybe then, they would take action that helped these people in need and those struggling for a better life.

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