Finding Uncommon Ground in Politics

Does anyone else think this “Girl Power” thing is sexist? At least they have women, and women of color, on the front page. You don’t see that often. Photo of Wednesday’s New York Times cover by Eric.

Dear Friend and Reader:

The political nominating conventions have made for difficult watching. I must admit that I maxed out on the Republican National Convention (RNC) last week, and have only been sampling snippets of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which climaxes Thursday night with the first major-party female candidate for president accepting her nomination.

Letters are removed from the Trump Plaza Casino signage in Atlantic City, 2014. Despite his many failures, Trump manages to portray himself as a stunning success. It seems to be working. Photo by Mark Makela.

If you only watched these conventions, you would think that the United States was two different countries.

One is a dystopia where everyone is threatened and everything is spinning out of control and terrorists are roaming every street.

The other is a utopia where we’re going to feed the poor, end racial inequality, rein in the banks, get some measure of gun control and remove corporate money out of politics. This is just one model of our divided, polarized society, inaccurate though it is.

Last week’s RNC was like a four-day advertisement for the police state, mass deportation, racism and the American Taliban, which for some reason still wants to ban reproductive rights for women.

The party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt nominated an avowed racist and misogynist who’s using the psychological and rhetorical tactics of Mussolini and Hitler.

Do you know there’s something called Godwin’s Law, which in essence forbids comparisons to the Nazis in public discourse? The term is now included in the Oxford English Dictionary. If you make such a comparison, you forfeit the argument. So you’re unlikely to see the necessary, accurate comparisons being made.

It’s OK to compare someone to George Wallace, the segregationist candidate for president in 1964. He and his goons did all the same things that we’re seeing come out of the Trump campaign, but he did them in different times when the social immune system could stop him before he became the nominee. Today that immune system is severely weakened.

George Wallace, who ran for president in 1964 on a platform of bigotry and rage, is an apparently useful model for the Trump campaign.

There’s been a cave-in of what’s known as “literate space,” that is, inner, private space that defines someone as an individual; it now barely exists. We live in a world largely made of tribes, where people believe whatever rumor is convenient. In 1964 TV and radio had indeed disoriented people and society, but not with the incredible power of the Internet.

Remember, it was Trump who said he could shoot someone on a Manhattan street and his supporters would not care. It’s true that we live in a society that holds violence as a positive association with the personality.

The less you know who you are, the stronger that association is likely to be.

Trump the Nightmare Landlord:
Take Off the Front Door

I am privy to one story from Trump’s past as a New York City landlord. When he wanted to get rid of a tenant, such as an elderly person who was holding onto a valuable rent-controlled apartment, he had a simple tactic: remove the door to their apartment. Invariably feeling vulnerable in a space they could not secure, they would move out. This was cheaper than offering a buyout. The psychological insight and cruelty of this maneuver are equally chilling, particularly from someone threatening to deport all undocumented immigrants.

He had other tactics as well, leading CNN Money to call him a “nightmare landlord” who would harass and torture his tenants into submission to his will.

Trump’s lawyers spend a lot of time in court. A recent investigation by USA Today found that “the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his businesses have been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades. They range from skirmishes with casino patrons to million-dollar real estate suits to personal defamation lawsuits.”

The USA Today report continued, “The sheer volume of lawsuits is unprecedented for a presidential nominee. No candidate of a major party has had anything approaching the number of Trump’s courtroom entanglements.” I’ve read he’s even being sued by his former attorneys.

Not so glamorous: Donald Trump and his fingers are sworn in for a deposition during one of many lawsuits against him in November 2014.

This behavior is from the candidate allegedly standing for law and order. In addition, his apparently widespread connections with the Mafia have been documented by Politico and the Washington Post. If there is some way to be a commercial real estate developer in New York City without mob ties, I would love to know about it.

Last month, a child rape lawsuit was filed in federal court against Trump. The complaint, filed June 20, says that the woman bringing the suit was, at age 13, “subject to acts of rape, sexual misconduct, criminal sexual acts, sexual abuse, forcible touching, assault, battery, intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress, duress, false imprisonment, and threats of death and/or serious bodily injury by the Defendants that took place at several parties during the summer months of 1994.”

Nobody in the mainstream media is paying attention to this; I have not heard it mentioned once. For this information you must go to alternative sources. In any past election cycle, this kind of lawsuit against a candidate would be a major issue. Remember, Pres. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about sexual conduct with a consenting adult.

And just last week, Roger Ailes resigned as the longtime head of Fox News, after sexual harassment allegations surfaced, including by former anchor Gretchen Carlson and current anchor Megyn Kelly.

Commander of Making America Great Again

We now know that Trump has no real intention of carrying out the duties of office. Thanks to a recent New York Times investigation, we know that he offered them wholesale to Ohio Gov. John Kasich when he offered him the vice presidency. Kasich would have run domestic and foreign policy, while Trump would have been in charge of “making America great again.” Presumably he’s offered the same deal to his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the most mainstream fundamentalist Christian Republican of the lot.

Who the hell is Mike Pence? If Trump wins in November, this man is likely to be president after the media starts paying attention to everything they pretended wasn’t happening around Trump prior to the election.

To me, none of this is the scary part. Politicians have long been the elites of the criminal class. What’s so disturbing, and puzzling, is how Trump can be polling so close to Hillary Clinton.

Nate Silver, the statistician of baseball and politics who publishes the FiveThirtyEight blog, this week had Clinton ahead of Trump by just 17 electoral votes. His model factors in all national polls, and he’s proven to be accurate in the past.

Silver wrote Thursday, “Trump’s position in our polls-plus forecast, which adjusts for convention bounces, is almost unchanged over the past week; the model continues to give him about a 40 percent chance of winning the election, meaning that Clinton has a 60 percent chance.

“Without adjusting for the convention bounce, however, the election is a dead heat. Our polls-only forecast, which doesn’t account for the convention bounce, gives Clinton just a 53 percent chance of winning, and our now-cast — which is more aggressive than the polls-only forecast and estimates what would happen in a hypothetical election held today — has Trump as a 55 percent favorite.”

Part of the issue is that he’s being taken seriously as a candidate by the media, despite all of this. To report what I’ve just written anywhere but on Comedy Central or HBO would be considered slanted journalism. As Stephen Colbert famously said, “Reality has a well known liberal bias.”

The problem that many liberals have with Hillary Clinton is that she’s not one. She supported the Iraq war in a Senate floor speech that could have been written by Dick Cheney himself.

Clinton on the Senate floor, claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

She admitted that her vote was a mistake. She was not alone in that mistake; the Senate voted 77 to 23 in favor of invading Iraq, and the House of Representatives voted 297 to 133 with three abstaining. The problem as I see it is that Clinton, as the wife of a former president, had all the CIA briefings that she needed to know the truth.

Clinton has connections to the investment banks, to Monsanto, to Walmart, and to everything else that liberals claim they cannot stand. But in my view this makes her a wholly unremarkable political candidate. She is just your average Republicrat. In past elections, all of these facts, including her pro-war and pro-bank stance, would give her credibility. Today, many on the left recognize Clinton as an establishment conservative, with the exception of one issue: women’s reproductive rights.

It has not helped her that Bernie Sanders did unexpectedly well offering what seemed to be an authentic liberal agenda, talking about redistribution of wealth by taxing the ultra rich, ‘trust busting’ huge corporations, funding public higher education and providing real healthcare. He got close to half of the pledged Democratic delegates, who have been expressing their anger at this week’s convention.

Sanders may have pushed Clinton to the left a little, but he also revealed that many, many Democrats and Independents want someone who is neither bankster nor warlord.

Sexism is Contributing to the Problem

It’s not helping much that Clinton is a woman, either. Young women don’t support her to the degree that older women do. If you’re curious about a possible explanation, you may read this analysis in The Washington Post.

Through the primary season, Trump’s rallies grew increasingly violent, which he seemed to encourage and instigate.

I suspect that there’s considerable unspoken antipathy among sexists of all sexes and genders, specifically because she’s female. I have no documentation for this.

I just know how women tend to be treated by society; they are rarely taken as seriously as men are, even by other women. This is not being spoken of openly.

The problem is being treated as if it does not exist. Many women are proud that Hillary has come this far as a woman, but are not accounting for those who despise this fact. (This is similar to how much of the anger directed at Barack Obama has been about little other than the fact that he’s black, but as an inherently racist country it’s not appropriate to bring this up.)

Conversely, Trump seems to dominate the news cycle, and I don’t think this is merely his salesmanship. Mainstream news media are, with very rare exceptions, biased against women. Given that Clinton is an actual qualified candidate and Trump is both unqualified and disqualified, the imbalance in coverage is ridiculous. (It’s also ridiculous that Trump got so much more television coverage than Sanders, which is likely to have impacted the Democratic primary process.)

But I don’t think this is what’s really going on. I don’t think this is why we have someone so absurd as Trump doing so well.

My take is that the problem is rage, which is being expressed violently. That rage is not merely coming from Trump or any other politician. It’s coming from people who are genuinely in pain and anguish. It’s coming from people who feel left behind by a changing society, and left out of the supposed economic recovery.

Trump is appealing to outraged people, who see themselves in him; and to sexually repressed people, who tend to seek authoritarian rulers. This helps them fulfill an inner emptiness and lack of self-direction.

The recovery has benefitted Wall Street, which itself caused the Great Recession, and as usual, many people are planning to vote against their own interests.

Rage is coming from people who were already only marginally literate being driven deeper into tribal consciousness (in the form of mass rage) by the impact of the internet.

People who feel powerless are angry, and they are looking to Trump for an answer. This has nothing to do with Trump; he just knows a good marketing opportunity when he sees one. His campaign is powered by pre-existing pain and frustration (including sexual frustration), and it’s validated by the hatred and fear that he himself is stoking violently.

This raises the age-old question: what do people without the guns do about the people with the guns? On this matter, I would value your thoughts. I’ll take them up on next week’s Planet Waves FM.


Our crew in Columbus, OH. Can you feel the explosion? Photo by Harold German Bustamante.

Planet Waves Monthly Horoscope for August, 2016, #1110 | By Eric Francis

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Much of what’s been shocking the world for the past few months involves your birth sign or your primary planet, Mars. This may be resulting in change, clarity or some chaos. You may know that the great astrological event of our era — Uranus conjunct Eris — is happening in Aries. For its part, Mars, on a long visit to Scorpio, has been provoking some results out of the conjunction. Personally, this could be serving to get you interested in being free. By that I mean participating in your relationships on new terms, able to make ongoing choices about who in this world you’re intimate with. The notion that one must give up nearly all close contact with people for the sake of one relationship actually works for very few people. It’s altogether reasonable that anyone would choose to coexist on their own terms. If you notice one thing, maybe it will be this: the social rules that pressure people to be certain always seem to be rooted in the past, but really they are held in place by peer pressure. Couples are often more influenced by the group around them than they are by their own values and ethics. Where do you stand on this? Once you’re solid with yourself and your partner, or potential partner, it’s much easier to do what you want, no matter what the crowd is up to.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — What the world needs is stability, though what most people don’t recognize is that they must bring this to the equation of life themselves. Consistency is something that grows from the inside out. It’s up to you to provide that in your life and, to some extent, in those of the people around you. At the same time, you’re being summoned in the direction of a change or breakthrough. That may seem like it’s about some total shakeup; it’s really about deepening your creative journey. If you’re someone who has made a life of suppressing your curiosity, your desire and your creative impulses, this may indeed seem total. If you’ve stayed in contact with your passion, you may understand the idea of integrating the ability to maintain some consistency with the ability to experiment, stretch and grow. In any event, you seem to be working out some significant blockage right now, and it will be worth the effort. The resistance you’re addressing is on the level of your agreement with existence. You might think of this as ‘getting a new religion’. Your old religion goes back a long way. You’ve already figured out some of what you cannot abide. For example, you need peers, not parents. You need the power to negotiate and enter agreements rather than having morals imposed on you. You need the clear view of a future that you can abide.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — The more you cling to your reality, the shakier it will seem. If you can hang loose, you’ll find it much easier to adapt. It might seem that your adjustments mainly involve people and their changing needs and desires. In truth this is about you. There are certain outer circumstances, such as work or partnerships, that seem to protect you from the truth that you’re growing and changing on a constant basis. It’s true that Gemini is the master of being a different person every day, though I’m referring to something deeper. For example, possibly you’re becoming aware that you need your family of choice around you, rather than your family of origin. You may have ideas about how you want to structure your home, or where you want to live. Most of all, you have ideas about what will help you feel safe and secure on the planet in a time when that’s an extremely rare commodity. You may not have the answer to that, though you may also recognize that certain factors in your environment run contrary to that goal. If you discover and acknowledge that something or someone aggravates you, you have the power to remove that influence. Don’t expect it to go away or mysteriously get better. You know it’s your job to take care of yourself. It’s your job to make your own decisions.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — You may seem to be building your fortunes at the same time you’re dealing with constant uncertainty. In fact you’re standing on more stable ground than you may recognize; what you need to do the most is to keep your priorities in order. Stick close to your core mission and your minimum needs. Understand your motives and remind yourself what they are when you forget. It’s true that you see all kinds of potentials and many possible paths to the future. You cannot tell at this point which are valid and which are not. Yet the one thing that all paths have in common is your feet. Therefore, keep the abstractions to a minimum and focus on what is tangible: that is, what produces the results that you want, and how that fits into a larger pattern. Focus on the short- and medium- range, living one day at a time. Set goals you can accomplish, and notice your feeling of even the most mild achievement when you get something done — then move on quickly to the next tangible goal or project. At this time, it’s necessary to invoke the future with care and caution. For you, the future is not what you want to do, but rather who you want to be. And you can be that person exactly where you are right now.

Photo by John Wilkinson / Cape Town. Live it. Love it.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You are standing at an intersection in your journey through space and time. There are a few ways to look at this: for example, you might take the more challenging route or the easier one. You might choose to be jealous or forgiving. You might choose to deceive, or to tell the truth. All of those potentials are open, and many more. Yet what I suggest you not do is let ‘fate’ decide. You must determine the approach you want to take to life, and understand your motives for doing so. It would help if you recognize that subtle choices and shifts of energy can make far greater differences than seems obvious. In that environment it makes no more sense to leave your life to luck or destiny than it does to take your eyes off the highway for a few minutes when you’re driving 75 miles per hour. When you’re driving, minuscule decisions can have profound outcomes. Trusting to seeming fate is not appropriate, though for you right now it’s a real temptation. Why you might do that is another question, and it involves your experience of your power. Most of the time it’s far less nerve-wracking to be ineffectual and subject to the whims of others. Invoking one’s own strength and influence can seem dangerous. Fear of failure and fear of success can both loom large. But they are not equal values.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — You have spent well over a year stretching into a new idea of who you are, which has not been easy. This has involved learning, absorbing and evaluating the tendencies of others, and establishing a dependable relationship to your environment. All of this leads back to one experience: existing in an unfamiliar state. This is the very definition of being ‘out of one’s comfort zone’. This has persisted so long you’re finally getting accustomed to the feeling, even if you don’t have tangible confirmation of why this process has been so important. You’re likely to get a solid clue as to the meaning of what you’ve experienced, and how what amounts to a transformation will shape your future. Turn the clock back to January 2015, and tune into the feeling at that time in your life. How were you doing on themes like your sense of purpose, your sense of your potential and your desire to live? How does this contrast with today? You may feel like you’ve got more than you can handle. You might feel pushed to exceed your current capacities. What’s really happening is that you’re flushing yourself out of a corner you hung out in for way too long, and are getting a taste of what life has to offer. You can now start to make some refinements and adjustments.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Jupiter will soon be arriving in your sign; that happens on Sept. 9, for the first time in 12 years. Until then, you may feel like you’re stuffed with potential but are having a difficult time expressing any of it. You might be feeling a bit trapped within yourself. I suggest you hold that space as consciously as you can. Feel all that energy you have inside of you. You’re under no special obligation to sort it all out. Let the elements you contain mix and match as they please for now, and see what ideas come to you. I do suggest that you leave yourself at least one creative vent. It might be writing every day, or drawing, or taking pictures, or playing music — though it will help abundantly if it’s an active vent rather than a passive one (i.e., participating rather than observing). You’re not doing this for any special goal, or you don’t have to. Rather, it’s about staying limber and expressive, and keeping contact with your inner world. To this end, keeping a dream journal for the next two months could provide a resource that you treasure for a lifetime, because that’s the most likely way that you will get a sense of your own potential. Notice, feel and observe the way that your sense of self comes in and out of focus. Then keep noticing.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You seem to be getting yourself moving dependably enough to set some new goals. By necessity, you’ve invested considerable time and energy this year into resolving the past, and addressing some emotional issues. This has added up to one necessary development: being honest with yourself. Why exactly is this such a challenge, and not just for you but for so many? The answer can be found in one emotion: guilt. I don’t mean regret for something you actually did wrong. Rather, I mean that nagging, toxic sensation of self-questioning. Among other things, guilt is an adhesive that sticks us to the past. Seen one way, this is a vastly complex issue; seen another, it’s as simple as: what would you do if you didn’t feel guilty? Have you ever questioned how one emotion, taught to all children and enforced with a real degree of violence, can so deeply mess with the relationship you have to yourself? And have you considered that’s the main purpose? By now it’s likely you’ve come to an emotional-level understanding of who you are and what you want. Your new learning goal, as I see it, is how to be that person unabashedly. If you feel resistance, notice that and keep going. It will be a combination of optimism and persistence that keep you going through the next month — to a much better place.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Powerful forces of change are at work in your life. They point to one thing, which is the need for flexibility. Sagittarius is the most interesting blend of broad, sweeping vision (skipping the fine points) and total obsession over every last detail. You may be leaning toward the control/detail side of the equation, though you would benefit from more emphasis on your larger ideas. This may be a case of how all the facts in the world don’t add up to the truth, but the truth can be supported by certain facts. Mars will be back in your sign all month, and it’s driving you to explore life from a space of passion and freedom of being. As you do that, you may notice an obstacle. This is not a physical block but rather an idea that’s separating you from your life force. You may feel the desire to confront whatever this is, though you might take the nonviolent approach and ask yourself: is this true? What good is this serving? The belief may be so deeply rooted as to count for religion. Yet it’s likely to lack any poetic elegance or mark of the divine. It’s more like some huge should or should not. What is this doing where it is? You don’t need any self-governing devices. You merely need to make decisions that make sense and feel right, to you.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — Pay close attention to your level of anxiety as the next few weeks unfold. Indeed, it would be wise of you to invest a little extra time and space into your inner life, whatever that means to you. Sagittarius, the sign right before yours, is the one that relates to your inner being. Mars will be in there, making a conjunction to your ruling planet Saturn. This could be the formula for a struggle — or it could be the perfect setup you need to help you figure out how, exactly, you can live in peace with yourself. You might get over the idea that you need all the answers, right now. You might set aside the notion that you can control what is true and what is not (which is usually done by ignoring valid information). There is, however, something else. What you thought to be true in the past and what you know to be true today are not compatible. It would seem like you’re trying to reconcile the two, and not very successfully. One last clue: that previously true thing was true for your parents, not for you. And if you find yourself in the midst of some anxiety-producing crisis, it’s really about trying to please them, or somehow live up to some expectation in the past that has nothing to do with you and never did.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You can afford to sidestep controversy and conflict. In fact, you would be wise to do so — and to invest your energy in more productive things. You might want to keep that skill close to the top of your personal toolkit this month. You will find that if you use your diplomatic resources, you will have much more influence over your environment. Nobody is asking you to suffer fools but rather to know how to deal with them effectively. Relate to everyone on the level of their agenda. That will help you fulfill your agenda, about which you need to be abundantly clear. That is to say: know what you’re working for; be clear about the specific goals you have in mind; and then fit that together with all the people you need to cooperate with you. I suggest keeping that number as low as possible, and placing emphasis on those whom you actually understand, and who are responsive and engaging. Remember: you have a vision. You are working diligently to bring that vision to fruition. You know how tricky this is in a world where everything seems to change every five minutes, and where the one thing you need is stability. Succeeding under the bizarre conditions of the world right now depends on having special skills. You have them, or you’re learning. Make sure you use what you know.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Now you must do all the things that no astrology book ever said a Pisces was good at: exert strong leadership skills, be practical, and focus on clear objectives. It’s time for you to be a taskmaster, which means a master of tasks. And you must do all the things for which we know and love those born under your sign: express empathy, take everyone’s needs into account and, most of all, be artful in everything that you do. This combination of factors will help you get to a new place in life, one that you’ve been reaching towards for many seasons running. Certain factors might lead you to be impatient; work with that as a resource, like fuel that you burn slowly and carefully rather than all at once. At other times you might get pushy; turn that down to the smallest, most invisible flame that you use to prod people gently rather than aggressively. What you must always remember is that your efforts to shape ‘the world’ or your life are really all experiments in self-becoming. You are, above all other factors, in a profound phase of character formation. It’s therefore essential that you focus on being rather than on doing. Keep your life in order and in balance. Make time for what you love, and learn to come from that place all the time.

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