Category Archives: Fe-911

Unequivalent Equivalency

Their coverage and criticism of her must be equal to their coverage and criticism of him. That is the rule applied by the press in this and in every presidential campaign. The press must pursue and scrutinize coverage of the candidates, their speeches, gaffes and events with equal persistence.


Okay, fair enough. Therefore, when Clinton said “basket of deplorables” in describing half of his supporters, Trump suggested that “her Secret Service agents disarm” — an insinuation leaving her open to assassination. This is assassination innuendo #2. Or is it #3? (I’ve lost count.)

Now how are these two statements by the candidates equal again? This campaign has proven one thing. The new ‘normal’ isn’t normal. It’s monstrous. From the newspapers to the news shows, the underwritten story of the 2016 Presidential campaign is the complete and utter disintegration of political journalism. As the Dallas Morning News says: It shows.

This failure encompasses the ‘equivalence’ in covering the two candidates: reporting on Clinton’s health and not about Donald’s refusal to release his tax returns; the Clinton email server story versus Trump’s ties to the Russian oligarchs and Qaddafi at the time of the Lockerbie crash; all his ties to business interests with countries that place him in conflict of interest with US national security and a President’s solemn oath swearing adherence to the Constitution. It is true “all enemies foreign and domestic” has always been a moving target in our foreign policy. Yet are these two candidates the same? As many qualms as people have about Mrs. Clinton, and some rightfully so, the two are not the same.

It’s a journalist’s job to weigh the facts and give them an equal hearing. Yet, Trump’s propensity to move mercurially from one outrageous tweet, to slip of the tongue, to walk-back of a statement (Obama was not born in the US) — and then to lie about it all — does pose a challenge to reporters used to covering ‘normal candidates’. But that is the pattern of distraction that Trump’s candidacy excels at: Trump’s supporters lap it up.

I wonder if the physical gag reflex of reporters covering Trump has been suppressed through pharmaceuticals. To be fair to reporters, I would imagine it’s one thing to focus on a small stream of untruths and extrapolate from there. They’ve done that with both Clintons since the beginning. When the untruths come at you as Trump’s have, with the force and velocity of a fire hose at full blast, it’s hard to know where to start, or even catch them all.


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Unless the National Enquirer decided to go Politico, if there was anything more slimy than that morass of innuendo — and not just against Clinton, but against Planned Parenthood, LGBTs and liberals and progressives in general — you can find it on Breitbart. Since Steve Bannon, news executive chairman of took over as a chief advisor, they moved the style tentacle of Breitbart to conjoin with the Trump campaign.

As a species-to-species coitus, it was a close-to-perfect fit. Mr. Trump’s tweets seem to now have a regular pattern of distraction, rather than being a disastrous gaffe. They are using them to veer away from the rumblings of sharp criticism against him by the press, focusing on yet another shiny object to grasp the attention of the press: deplorables; baskets; pneumonia; Parkinson’s.

Voila! Disaster averted. Trump supporters duly aroused with glee, Democrats aghast. Outrage effect achieved. No one focuses on the details or nuances. Or on the issues. Or the weight of the arguments against either candidate. We know ten shallow things of equal weight when we need to boil down to deeper essentials: character, depth, history and subject knowledge. Therefore they are attempting to use Clinton’s strengths against her. It’s ‘swift boating’ just like they did to John Kerry in 2004. But this, my friends, is swift boating on both steroids and methamphetamines.

And it’s this new uber-swiftboating that has many of us alarmed. I am certain Mrs. Clinton will continue to be well-protected by armed Secret Service people while on the campaign trail. I am certain Mr. Trump will continue to run his mouth while speaking on the stump. It’s Trump’s supporters that concern me, who are given an even louder message that it’s okay to be openly a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and to punch old women who disagree with them. Let’s see, we’ve thrown out tolerance and decency in the space of three months. What’s left?

The press is just waking up to the cudgel hitting them. As Kierna Mayo adroitly expresses in her comment on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, the press is taking the insanity of this campaign and “framing it as if it’s the norm.”

You may feel that this norm has been the case since modern-day 20th and 21st century election campaigns began. But a terrible line in the sand has been breached, and can only get worse, throwing us headfirst into a backwards trajectory that none of us want or need to see ever again. There’s no equal to that.

Unhealthy Penchant

Tweet from David Axelrod 9/12/16, 5:20 AM
Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?

That, from David Axelrod, says it all. Nothing more needs to be said about the current news cycle dwelling on Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneumonia. Mr. Axelrod was one of the principal architects who launched the successful run of candidate Barack Obama over the “presumptive nominee” Hillary Clinton in the Presidential campaign of 2008. If there’s anyone who can pinpoint Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate, it would be him.


In all but three of the nine factors that predict which political candidate is winning a Presidential race, Time Magazine reports that Hillary Clinton shows the most likelihood of winning office over Donald Trump.

These nine factors are: polling; Electoral College lead; campaign surrogates; get-out-the-vote efforts; advertising; fundraising; earned media; debate preparation and enthusiasm. Between the two it’s a toss-up when it comes to earned media because Trump manages to hog the news through his Twitter account, and surprisingly it’s also a toss-up when it comes to debate prep. But then again, the latter is due to expectations for Trump’s debate performance being very very low.

It’s the last one — enthusiasm — that we’re here to talk about today.

Of the many things we expect and need from a presidential candidate — a sense of the candidate’s trustworthiness and openness as well as a campaign’s competence — are the understated factors in a campaign that can’t be underestimated. These factors bubble underneath subconsciously in the mind of the voter, undermining or supporting voter confidence and enthusiasm in a candidate.

This is something Mr. Axelrod understood when Obama was attacked during the primaries by the Clinton campaign and the Republicans for his association with Reverend Wright, prompting what would be one of Obama’s many groundbreaking speeches that will be talked about in historical textbooks in years to come.

Obama’s penchant for successfully tackling gaffes and blindsiding attacks was one of the many ways we understood how much of a well-oiled, well-informed and open (at least for a political campaign), operation he was leading. He then could drive the attention of the voters back to the issues at hand. For a candidate new to the political scene, and for any candidate, that skill was and continues to be essential. It spoke well of Obama the Candidate’s character and the campaign’s effectiveness. It set up expectations in the electorate of what is now famously known as “No Drama Obama.” This is a character trait that even David Brooks, a conservative Beltway pundit, stated openly he will come to miss in this next Presidential go-around.

Yet, this week’s news of Mrs. Clinton’s bout with pneumonia, or whatever her illness is, and the cancellation of her California campaign stop raises specters — old and new — of the issues that keep cropping up and haunting all things Hillary. It is not as though her campaign hasn’t been effective. It has. But voter enthusiasm about her has always been hit-or-miss for her supporters, some of whom are supporting her because the alternative is tantamount to having the country, democracy, and the stability of the planet driven off a steep cliff.


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Right now, the actions of her staff to keep her illness under wraps these last few weeks, coupled with Clinton’s inherent Scorpionic secrecy, raises legitimate concerns. It is ripe fodder for the alt-right white supremacists, who are Trump’s base, looking to take her down any way they can. It’s all about trust. This is not something we should be discussing two months out from Nov. 8, election day.

I am not certain she has Parkinson’s disease as some in the news and the tabloids speculate. But having had a bad bout of walking pneumonia for two months in my late forties, I know a little about what that is. Your body is constantly fighting to keep the infection at bay, and thus you are weakened emotionally and physically.

There were points in my illness where all I could do was lie down and hope to die because I was tired of living under the stress of being sick and having too much to do. That was before I stopped believing that it was nothing more than a bad cold and bronchitis, and that a few over-the-counter medications would help. It finally took a bout of antibiotics to clear things up. By the way, please don’t ask me what I think of Claritin, Mucinex or other anti-histamines. They don’t work. Not with pneumonia.

Now imagine this disease in the body of a woman in her late sixties under the pressure of political campaign. The grueling schedule of having to appear with energy and, yes, enthusiasm — added to constant flights in airplanes which aren’t exactly shrines to sterility — can take their toll. My knees would buckle too.

But now and in the long run, the Clinton campaign needs to take the note from Mr. Axelrod, which is a deep and biting slam and a message to the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee on how they are doing and what they need to do with the mystery of Hillary’s pneumonia. Given the character of the candidate, this amounts to hurdling over a deep character flaw, which her touted historical experience and political effectiveness barely overcomes.

Cancelling her campaign stop in California is not as big a deal as many would like to speculate. California is an ultraviolet blue state and is basically the ATM for the Democratic Party. All of her campaign contributors here will understand, because California is a safe state and an easy electoral college win.

But, candidate Clinton needs to “get over herself,” as Eric has said in his analysis of her chart, and as Mr. Axelrod implied in his tweet. She needs to open up and get past at least this. Far far too much is at stake, and not just for this election.

The Power of Work

My parents taught me a very valuable lesson before I was to attend college. They got me a job with my mom’s employer, Green Giant, Inc., for the summer season — the busiest time of the year.


I joined dozens of other new workers at the graveyard shift — 11 pm to 5:30 am — to cut and trim broccoli spears for broccoli and cheese sauce in plastic packets. The boil-in-the-bag kind of food that Green Giant, Birds Eye and other big agra companies were known for. My first day of work, I was allowed one light blue plastic handled carbon steel knife, a regulation pair of thick rubber gloves and a plastic shower cap to keep my hair out of the food. I wore knee high rubber work boots and a clear plastic apron.

I was still a teenager. Sleep was important, not only for health but escape. Being up to work at the time you’re normally lights out took some time to get used to. Then there was the monotony of seeing the same thing — broccoli — coming at you in an endless, relentless stream.

You were paid by the hour and your work product was graded. After two long hours we were given a break. It was necessary. The combined exhaustion of the late shift, the monotony and the repetition was enough to make you hallucinate. And that was not the worst thing that could happen to you while working a graveyard line shift.

At first, mom and I worked the same time, but three days into my schedule, her seniority on the floor allowed her an earlier shift. I was happy for her; she would get some rest. I, on the other hand, would have to stay on the graveyard shift. It was then that one of the more senior women, a middle-aged woman from Arkansas, came over during lunch break and showed me the ropes of working in the jolly Green Giant machine.

The giant vats used to make the cheese sauce never employed real cheese. Fifty-pound bags of orange powdered product were poured in to these vats and blended with an emulsifier that delivered cheese “product” into each of our little broccoli bags. You had to be strong to heft the loaded bags into the vats, or you would topple into the machine.

Next we snuck into the cauliflower section of the factory. It was dormant in summer. Cauliflower season hadn’t begun. There were rows of what looked like stainless steel basket steamers splayed open. But these were trimmers, not steamers. The folding steel plackets were razor sharp blades that spun to trim the excess greenery from the cauliflower heads.

The workers would place the crown of the cauliflower head onto a spike dead center in the circular trimming machine, and the blades would activate with the pressure, whirling and cutting until each cauliflower head was “uniform.” It was not uncommon for workers to lose a finger or a portion of a hand while working the cauliflower shift.

For the two weeks I worked there the summer of 1973, I watched the plant safety sign each night, with the small OSHA logo on the bottom right margin. I always checked to see how many days had passed at the plant since the last accident. As a laborer, you need to be aware of those things — especially nowadays, when some companies don’t report accidents or fatalities, or even do anything about them unless worker or union pressure comes down hard. Now, more so than before, even that won’t prevent labor abuse.


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Fortunately, Green Giant was a Teamsters shop. Mom was a standing member. The union pressured the company to abandon the cauliflower trimming machines. By the time I landed my first big management job in the public sector, Green Giant sold the plant to another company, which ran it for another twenty years until the property was sold again and the plant converted to do something else. I’ve stopped checking to see what has happened there since.

Working there when it was a food factory was one of the hardest and most important things I have ever had to do, which was exactly the reason my parents wanted me to work there that summer in the first place, and for which I am forever grateful. They wanted to make sure I would apply myself to my studies more, rather than dream away my life working in a factory in a small town without a future. Lesson learned.

I also came to appreciate the workers, including my parents, who have had no choice but to do those jobs that most people would never dream of or want to do. For a very short time I was one. From the agricultural fields to the kitchens, in plants and factories around the planet, human toil still provides comfort and sustenance to those comfortable enough to afford it, and profit to those rapacious enough to exploit it.

For those whose life is hard labor, and who continue to do the work most of us refuse to do, Labor Day commemorates the hard-fought rights won to protect workers who are part of the widest and lowest layer of the pyramid upon which the world rests.

To celebrate this holiday beyond the barbecue and the beach and the last days of summer, the meaning and the power of the labor performed by workers who make our lives easier needs to be appreciated, remembered, and never taken for granted. By their life, breath, skin and blood, they make our lives look easy by comparison.

The Last Thing You Think About

Journal Entry, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016: I approach the coming of autumn as a time of profound energy. The kind of energy that moves life: the end of summer and the beginning of the school year, the bright colors of the leaves of deciduous trees. The time of harvest. Apple season. The cycle of life and death reflected in creation.


August has rarely been a good month for me. This month again has been no exception. I woke this morning determined not to have a normal day. I got up, got dressed, no shower. Drove to the Elmwood Cafe, ordered a coffee and a biscuit, settled in and started this entry.

Yesterday at my office my friend Wendy called and left a message. I retrieved it, calling her back. We’ve known each other over twenty years, so our calls are often filled with bouts of joyful, intense gossip: “Wendola!!! What’s happening girl?”

She answered, “Fe, Britt died.”

For a moment that seemed an hour I sat stunned, phone at my head, unable to speak. It felt as though my office was my own childhood bedroom, me staring at the empty presence of mundane life: four walls; a chair; a desk; a rug. Items without meaning existing to function. When my mind attempted to respond, every thought that made an attempt to scale the wall of my own shock failed, each thought sliding down and away into a swirling pool of emotion. I couldn’t even begin to name everything I felt.

Britt, Wendy’s step-daughter, was 39 years old. A mother of a six-year-old girl named Elsa. Wife to a chef. Teacher at Longfellow School in the Berkeley Unified School District. Only daughter of my beloved friend and mentor Bob. I helped organize her wedding. Every moment of all those facts helped me to begin speaking again, and yet in summoning the experience of her existence in my life I have still arrived at the unthinkable thought.

I finally asked Wendy about the how and why. Being a nurse, Wendy succinctly described the sequence of events: she got a call from her son-in-law Steve. Britt didn’t wake to her alarm. He couldn’t wake her. He called 911. The doctor at Alta Bates Hospital couldn’t revive her. One. Two. Three. That’s it. That’s all.

There was, on every level, no possible way to prepare for this. The closest thing was the last thing I wanted to think about: being witness to my father’s death. He was on the mend from a heart attack the year before. He lost 50 pounds, looked healthy and happy, relieved to be retired and free from the back-breaking work of being a cook. I didn’t know on that day — me being 18 and full of myself — how bad he felt the afternoon I went shopping for school with my aunt.


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We were at Ford’s Department Store and while aimlessly window shopping, I felt a strange sensation — a vibratory anguish that called me home. Acting completely out of line and disrespectful to my aunt, I ordered us both back to the car. The urgency of my feelings transcended respect for one’s elders.

We arrived quickly home, pulling in to the driveway. We were fast followed by my Aunt Ethel’s car. Mom and dad in the back seat. They were coming back from the hospital. Mom and Ethel helped my dad up the stairs. It was three o’clock.

Dad looked furious. He told the doctor he wasn’t feeling right. Even though both EEG and EKG tests at the hospital were negative, he knew he was dying.

But the doctor sent him home. At 4:30 Mom was broiling lamb chops for dinner. I sat at the table with dad, talking about the meager things I bought at Ford’s. I noticed his eyes getting bigger, the blood pulsing through the veins of his head. He stopped looking at me and began to slide down his chair, collapsing onto the kitchen floor.

I remember Mom screaming. Me dialing emergency. Mom on the floor doing CPR. The siren. The gurney. Mom and Dad leaving to the hospital again, me staying behind, closing the front door, staring at the clock and praying to God. Forty-five minutes later the phone rang. It was Auntie Ethel.

“Fe, your father died.”

The world of place and things becomes meaningless when you’re faced with finite existence. Everything about your own breathing is the only reality. All your sensory perceptors become focused on your body, the shell, and the life essence — your soul, your symbiont — existing in it. At that moment I found myself in relationship with my soul, unprepared. I had no idea how to navigate it, discover it, allow it to express itself outside of the tsunami of grief coming over me. My world was cratered, and there was now a deep slippery hole that I would have to climb to get out.

It has taken years, decades to find and keep my soul intact from the grief of this sudden loss. My father’s death awakened me to the existence of soul, spirit, as I watched the dimming of his eyes while his own spirit passed from his body, lying on the kitchen floor. I’ve seen it again and again in the deaths of humans and animals. From that day, I had to grow up as my father’s daughter and my own. I had to finish the job of parenting my father couldn’t. Now I understand why I never had children.

I am 61 years old with a lifetime of friends, family and deeds. By the grace of this experience, I am grateful that I have lived this long and this hard and I still stand. I think about my friend Bob, a father, losing his daughter; and me, a daughter, losing my father. This terrible symmetry of loss binds us together, along with all parents who lose their children and all children who have lost parents. In my community, in the world.

Elsa is only six years old and without a mother, with her dad and family to support her. The only words, the only thoughts, the only feelings I could begin to muster to tell Wendy was this: “Everyone in your family needs to love that girl like no one else on earth could be loved.” In the firmness and determination of her nurse’s soul, Wendy said, “We’ve got to rise up and be as big as we can possibly be.”

The Games

Please excuse me for not covering politics this week. I needed some relief from the toxicity of the Presidential campaign, which is now even this early, at a point of reeking. Instead, I’d like to take this moment to personally thank the planets for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Because of it, we had two weeks’ reprieve from the epic muck that is the current state of the US politics.


As an Aquarius with her Mars in Aries, Pluto in Leo, and Venus in Sagittarius, I have enough fire signs in the personal planets and deeper outer planets to appreciate, if not participate in, competitive sports. Yet, even when part of me in my youth wanted to play sports and I tried, I was also an artist first, and a person with a bad knee second. So I have some regret that I was totally unable to compete in anything other than dance.

Yet I enjoyed watching the swimming, the gymnastics and track and field events of this Olympics. The realized potential of the human body is a thing of beauty to watch, no matter the country you represent. Trump’s change of staff didn’t matter, nor did Hillary’s emails or health. For two weeks I had some great distraction.

I cried when Simone Manuel broke the Olympic record in the 100m women’s freestyle swimming race and shattered the dark history of segregation in America’s swimming pools. I loved watching Gabby Douglas standing at attention during the national anthem and not giving a shit whether or not she had her hand on her heart. I cried when the two women in the women’s 5000-meter race tripped over each other and fell, yet helped each other back up to try and complete the race.

I cried watching Carmelo Anthony’s interview — his last as an Olympian — listening to him speak about how momentous a moment it was for him to say goodbye to the Games and how important this was for the US, especially in its current state of racial and economic crisis. And let’s face it: that shiny Tongan guy was so easy on the eyes.

I enjoyed the Games, even though I admit they came at a great cost. I have been privy to personal stories from my Brazilian friends about the history of political turmoil surrounding the Games embroiling Brazil — deeply taxing itself by hosting this expensive, overblown and corporate-dominated international event in light of the country’s chronic and worsening social, racial and economic disparities.

At the time Rio was announced as the host city in 2008, the country was on an economic upswing, becoming a major player in the global economy; and the majority of the country felt optimistic for its future. By 2010, the time construction was in full force, it was apparent Brazil was in a deep economic crisis, helped along by widespread corruption at the highest office. This was the first Games in my recollection of history that a leader of the host country, Dilma Rousseff, was suspended and awaiting an impeachment trial for corruption.

By the time the Games opened, only half of the country wanted them; the other half were in staunch opposition. Compare this to 2008 when over 60% wanted the Games. But too late — the train had already left the station. There was no stopping it. By the weeks before the Games actually began, all felt resigned to them happening.

Rio’s infamous favelas were portrayed at the opening ceremonies as computer-generated images with choreography by Cirque de Soleil. It was a fanciful cartoon portrayal of the realities of Brazil’s crippling poverty. Rio has a 25% crime rate and the favelas are riddled with drug dealers and violence. This precipitated the aggressive use of police: a heightened militarized police and security presence was used throughout the games both inside and outside the sports venues.

One was hired to protect the athletes and tourists, the other to keep the city’s poorest out and away from the Games — keeping them out of sight and out of mind. You know, there were the parts of Brazil we never see. There weren’t any poor or homeless people broadcast on NBC, but you could find them here.

As a country that needs much more than these events provide, Brazil put a face on the International Olympic Committee’s continued exploitation of host countries. The Games leave no lasting legacy other than abandoned stadiums and arenas that don’t have much use even in the developed world.

The Games have time and again proven unsustainable on an infrastructural, economic and environmental level. There are some rare short economic boons before and after an Olympics, as was the case in Los Angeles in 1984 and London in 2012. But over time, building codes tighten. Massive facilities become obsolete, unsafe and ultimately abandoned.


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Even though the cariocas of Rio bravely put on a good show, it was a bad mistake for the International Olympic Committee to proceed with the Rio Games. I believe they were hoping against hope that Brazil would recover from its downturn at least partially, in time for 2016.

But the costs, as evidenced by the history of the Games — including the ones that concluded yesterday — remain devastating. If only there was another way that the Olympics could happen without leaving such a brutish footprint on a country’s fragile economy and society, I would be all for it. All in all, we humans still need to have celebrations of human spirit and achievement, not just as a distraction but as a given.

We still need a great distraction to take us out of ourselves even for a little bit. We need to see others in different parts of this world in a positive light. That’s what the Olympics did for me. Yet these types of celebrations don’t all have to be so expensive, covered by major networks, costing huge sums countries can’t afford to build venues, or sponsored by Coca-Cola and Nike.

We could use, as a world in motion and drastic change, a means to facilitate these Games more thoughtfully, and to be more considerate and sustainable for a country’s natural resources and human society. In this fast-moving age, can we come up with something that can achieve those goals as a new Olympian ideal?

Even though the 2020 Games are in Tokyo and building is already underway in their modern, developed country, I call upon the youth of this world to imagine and develop an Olympics in the future that can speak to our highest human goals of achievement — of ending poverty and increasing opportunity for all, so we can hold these events with no harm, and no fouls. The game is on to begin.

Tolerance Threshold

My daily casual carpool in Berkeley is the official Fe-911 “Person-on-the-street” poll for domestic politics. There, while surrounded by a captivated audience of three passengers, I turn up the volume on NPR news and let the snippets of information seep in. Then I start the discussion.


Last week, after NPR’s report on Trump’s “2nd Amendment Call to Arms” — Trump’s ‘hint’ sanctioning his supporters to take literal aim (as in gun) at Secretary Clinton — I turned to the other passengers and said, shaking my head: “I want the next two months to have already happened, and that election day is tomorrow!” This was followed by a resounding ‘Amen” chorus in the backseat of my little Honda Fit.

Calling for the assassination of one’s political foe wasn’t the end of Trump’s last bad, bad, very bad and horrible week. Oblivious to fact and history — that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney started the war in Iraq that destabilized the region leading to the creation of ISIS — he called President Obama and Secretary Clinton the “Founders of ISIS.”

The fact that Hillary was New York’s senator at the time the war started, and that Obama was an Illinois state senator, didn’t faze him. What made it worse were his spokespeople trying to pin the start of the war on Obama, extending the story line of Trump’s wrong re-writing of history days longer than needed. Add to that his own obstinate stance, repeating the same lie. As Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist, said in Time magazine: “… normal candidates don’t careen from one self-inflicted wound to another on an hourly basis.”

But this is not a “normal” candidate, nor is it a “normal” election. Members of Trump’s own party have started to peel off. First in thin layers, and now reaching numbers closer to flesh and sinew. Former Bush Administration members have started to jump. As polls steadily climb upwards for Clinton approaching the Labor Day holiday and post-convention bounce, Trump’s support among Republicans dwindles.

This has one effect: it makes him crazier, rousing up his crowds into rabid support and drawing the curiosity of those who are still — amazingly — undecided. There’s a circus effect going on. Adding to that, the press has actually been doing its job, seizing on Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort’s seriously lucrative financial ties to Russian oligarchs, which I covered here briefly on Planet Waves. The media have also jumped on the long history that his lobbying firm — Black, Manafort & Stone — has of “making over” the world’s nastiest tyrants and dictators, including Ferdinand Marcos and despots in Central and Latin America and Africa.

That Trump was introduced to Manafort by Roy Cohn (of McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities fame) should give one pause as to what this guy’s interests are from the outset. He’s one of those black holes of politics sucking up human life for a lot of money in billable hours.

These days, the mantra of the press about this year’s presidential campaign has been, “we are in unfamiliar territory,” a theme that Eric explored yesterday in his weekly Planet Waves video feature. Best to expect the unexpected; or better yet, not expect anything. I doubt, however, with this candidate and this campaign, we will be pleasantly surprised.

We passed through the looking glass when the Republican National Convention concluded with Trump’s amazingly long and dark screed. He has the dubious distinction as candidate of epic catastrophe — whether he loses, or worse, if he wins. May we all be rescued by the cloaked and invisible roving motherships hovering overhead, filled with light-shimmering aliens, if the latter. Maybe even the former if Trump’s rabid base begin to follow up on his ‘suggestions’.


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In my little carpool, and hopefully elsewhere across America, we know we won’t be rescued by aliens. We only need to vote, after what will be an interminable two months beginning Labor Day. That our tolerance threshold has to hang tough and not break over the next two more months of this lunacy is the next test of our national character. Will we remain civilized, let alone civil?

Last night, Eric’s video and today’s message for the Full Moon should be in full effect for all of us:

…we can reasonably expect a little turbulence in our lives and extra chaos in the news. Uranus-Eris is also in the spotlight because Mars is gradually making a conjunction to Saturn. That is exact Aug. 24, though the pressure is building. There is a temptation to outright revolt against something; I would propose being subtler than that.

If there is something to push against, that would seem to be beliefs that no longer serve you. Are you really sure you actually know what you believe? Or is that level of thought transparent? Now is the time to notice your habits of assumption and presumption. This is not the time to do something simply because it’s there to do; rather, it’s time to act on the right thing to do, based on what you actually know.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Planet Waves community, you’re invited to join us as we hold ourselves together and carry on, calmly. The present time feels like a burning process that purifies and ultimately will find release when we punch our ballot cards and get this election done.

In the meantime, our tolerance and love for each other is the real shimmering mothership that can draw us nearer together and save us, as well as our individual creativity and gentleness to ourselves and each other. Let us seek that daily and hourly, like a North Star.

Strange Dreams

Last night I dreamed I was hired as a nursing assistant to take care of Donald Trump. Coming after deliberately avoiding political coverage for the weekend, I found this dream an unwelcome excursion by the Republican Party into my psyche.


The awful, awful week Trump has had since Hillary’s post-DNC convention trampoline bounce has been something to behold. The backlash in reaction to Trump’s comments against Khizr Khan and his family sent a large number of stalwart middle-of-the road Republicans literally to the Hills — as in Mrs. Clinton. Seeing the abyss awaiting on Election Day, the Republican National Committee — the group in charge of electing Republicans to the White House and Congress — was compelled to take @realDonaldTrump out to pasture.

I saw no Trump tweets re-tweeted over the weekend. Or at least nothing that would add more gasoline to the fire still smouldering after Trump’s Twitter meltdown last weekend. If there were tweets, they were measured. It appears the campaign took over his Twitter account to make him appear more grounded. The real Donald Trump was missing in action, muzzled to canned campaign talking points and sound bytes.

I know given my record of coverage here my dream of feeling compassion for the man is out of character. To dream of taking care of and feeling pity for the Donald was more alarming than the other dream I had earlier last night, of dispatching a serial murderer from my community.

But that alarm is for reasons other than what you think. I am not missing Mr. Trump. I miss the thing about Trump the political candidate that makes him so compelling. A few weeks ago in “Day One”, I made a comment which I expand here: the degree of fear projected on us (by the campaign) is toxic — radioactive. It is also addictive. It triggers intense feelings of fear and anger, which is followed by depression and powerlessness. And it’s that powerless void that “Strong Men” want to fill.

Trump’s negative stimulus enlivens the survival part of the brain, which thrives on it; and it gives people who have difficulty expressing themselves or don’t have means to express what they feel a chance to say what they really feel, ‘politically correct’ or not. The Trump stimulus provides vehicle and validation to express the aggressive feelings bubbling underneath our American skin. That release, as well as our horrified reaction to it, becomes deeply gratifying.

In a sense it all sounds like the very essence of methamphetamine’s appeal. The glory of the first adrenal rush, which ultimately leads one down the road to ruin. Which is why the new, improved-and-muted Trump — introduced to us by the forward motion of his ascendant from a proud and overbearing Leo, on its last anaretic degree, lunging toward zero Virgo — is indeed a strange sight.

As Eric described this point about Trump, excerpted here from his column, What’s Up With Trump? Let’s Check his Progressed Chart:

The Sun in Leo these past 30 years has coincided with Trump’s rise as the Republican candidate, which he seemed to do on the force of personality (a good image of Sun in the ascendant degree). I would say he’s proceeded with the force of his ego, but the correct psychological term is id.

Trump’s progressed Sun is not only crossing his rising degree; it’s ending a 30-year cycle and changing signs, all at the same time. The sign change is from Leo to Virgo. His Sun has been in its own sign for all those years — a masculine, hot, fiery, fixed sign. It’s now about to enter Virgo, a feminine, cool, moist, mutable sign.

Virgo presents challenges for many men, because it’s just so feminine. Any well-adapted Virgo man has a touch of transgender to him…we are seeing Trump, who has lived veiled in his own 12th house for three decades, emerge as the person who he really is…then his hot, fiery, macho, out-of-control Sun is about to get cooled off by Virgo. For him this will feel like being extinguished.

However, there is nothing especially creative about Trump. In true toxic 12th house style, he seems on the brink of losing his mind. Now he will find himself in some other state, as if he’s woken up from a 30-year bender.

Trump isn’t speaking extemporaneously. At least not today. Now he speaks — uncomfortably — from a teleprompter. He is a lion on a leash of iron chained to a wall. It must feel very strange to him. It feels strange to me, which may explain why I have feelings of ‘missing’ him. He has portrayed himself as such an absurdly terrible — almost evil — candidate in such a laughable way over the last year that it was easy and convenient to despise him. He was the obvious black-hatted, mustache-twirling candidate.

This is not to say the toned down Trump will be any better. He’s just more controlled. His arguments and policy bites are more or less Party line: the terrible cafeteria food that is the Republican Party platform of trickle-down economics with a side helping of misogyny and racism. Many believe that Donald Trump the Candidate was planted on the American electorate by the CIA, Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party to get Hillary elected President. Personally, I don’t believe any one of them good enough to do that.

Trump managed on his own, using his brand of id-identified politics to tap into and release the toxic build-up of economic, racial and sexual tension rising to a climax into this country. He did it with deadly efficiency. In that way, he serves a greater social purpose, one that he himself never anticipated. This, on a spiritual level, may ultimately be seen as the point of his campaign — at least from our perspective.


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I have been covering American politics on the web for the last 14 years — since George W. Bush started waging war on Iraq. The polarization of US politics began as a fissure started by a Supreme Court selection of the President in 2000, erupting at the false flag explosion of the Twin Towers.

That fissure collapsed into a great divide in this country which, over the last decade, destroyed civility and more moderate voices in both Republican and Democratic parties.

The end result has been a maddening, life-threatening inertia in government. Trump’s voice provided us — even as negative feedback — a necessary mirror to see how badly that divide has damaged us, and how much more we need not only to grow away from that damage, but to grow up into something much healthier as communities and as a country.

Which brings me back to my original point: compassion towards our enemy, represented by Trump, as a case for compassion for ourselves. As a person who has been through abusive relationships, it wasn’t until I recognized I needed to forgive myself for being involved with such a destructive person that I then began to choose more healthy relationships.

As my friend, a community healer, said to me this weekend: “This country is going through a battle between the dark and the light.” Not in the candidates — they are only symbols — but in our reactions to them.  The healer also said, “We’re getting ready to move out of the womb, setting ourselves up to be born. It’s going to be difficult, but we are moving into something new.”

Our adversaries, like all of our relationships, are a mirror of ourselves. In the meantime, we will have much to do as a nation to heal deep rifts that divide us. We are going to get to work to be healthier — to dream more brightly. I see this all not as a dream, but a possible future. A future that yearns for us to reach it.

The Speech

Last Thursday at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), there was Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech, and then there was The Speech. You know which one I’m talking about.


Before last Thursday, there were probably many who believed the ‘the personal is political’ is something great in theory, but rare in practice. Then again, before last Thursday we didn’t listen to, watch or stream Khizr Khan’s speech in front of the delegates at the DNC in Philadelphia.

In a matter of seven minutes, the late Captain Humayoun Khan’s father slowly and deliberately delivered a speech written from a personal well of grief no one outside of the community of Gold Star parents — those who’ve lost loved ones in battle — could imagine. He did it before 5,000 delegates and, ultimately, the rest of the world.

Taking a Constitution out of his pocket and asking if Donald Trump had even read it, he drove a wooden stake into the vampiric heart of Trump’s unendingly frenetic and cowardly Twitter feed, and into the candidate himself. Khan reclaimed American ideals of patriotism and sacrifice not belonging to one race, culture or religion. He shoved Trump’s concept of anti-Muslim American exceptionalism right back into Trump’s face.

Being a Twitter watcher this campaign, it was remarkable to see the ‘radio silence’ from @realDonaldTrump on the Friday after the DNC. It was as if his own handlers had to lock up his cell phone and shut down his Twitter account that day for fear the candidate would damage himself further by attacking Khan’s parents. Or more likely, the Trump campaign had to come up with a way to respond to The Speech without sounding like a bunch of heartless, bigoted, right-wing, xenophobic, anti-patriotic Christo-Fascists.

You have no idea how much fun it is to write that last sentence.

Fun, because Khizr Khan’s words could have been spoken by my father, who became a citizen in Hawaii when it became the 50th state, or by my mother who at the age of 76 became a citizen in 1995, a few months after California passed Proposition 187 — a ballot initiative to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit illegal aliens from using non-emergency health care, public education and other services in the State of California.

Fun, because my sister and I were born here, but until 1995 my mother was a legal alien. She registered annually by sending in her alien registry card at the post office every year of my childhood. I remember holding her hand as she dropped that card into the brass-colored post office box slot — feeling a child’s sense of relief from the words of re-assurance she uttered — that she could stay here in this country with us for another year.

She was half-joking at the time. She was fine, being married to an American citizen. Yet, we felt doubly re-assured by our mom’s own sense of relief doing her civic duty as a registered alien. The thought of being separated from my mom was something I had to constantly suppress as a child. Those thoughts came in waves of panic from a terrible fantasy that only a child in fear of being separated from a parent could have. We lived in an America that had not placed immigrants on their national radar as political bait. Not yet. That came later.

The lives of immigrants living in America — no matter what their status — is a mixture of a fierce desire to belong, a sense of shame for being different, and the terror of being excluded, isolated and persecuted. And that’s while there’s no anti-immigrant sentiment wafting about the national political discourse. Now imagine what it’s like when there is.


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To witness a bigoted, vain, bullying millionaire get his comeuppance from a Pakistani-American, Bronze Star soldier’s parents was so deeply satisfying I found myself watching Khizr Khan’s speech again and again. It was medicine. Medicine for the sickness of xenophobia and bigotry we’ve been experiencing here this election year — and each day of every year since Sept. 11, when we not only lost 3,000 people, we lost our way.

This weekend, I could not be out and about to socialize. There were feelings I was processing after the convention — as you can see — about my own history and my own struggle here as a child of immigrant parents. That’s how hard and how deeply I felt the speech.

It had me question and re-affirm the value of my own otherness and all the experiences I have had from childhood until now in this country. It also raised my alertness level on what is happening to children now who, like me 60 years ago, are now ‘others’ in this new, strange land.

Yesterday I read an article by the Southern Poverty Law Center that details the impact of this year’s presidential campaign on children. It is summarized as this: “Our report found that the campaign is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported.” 

There are moments described in the report that recall so many of my own, which I won’t recount here. But no child should have to suffer them. Not here or in any country.

Which brings me back to The Speech. We don’t often experience moments in history that throttle the nexus of racism and bigotry that permeates this country’s history, let alone this year’s presidential campaign — Martin Luther King Jr., John and Robert Kennedy the exceptions — at least, they’re not experienced by everyday folks like you and me. Yet, so simply, movingly and powerfully the speech said what we Others have been saying all along. And said it on a bright and vivid media canvass that few have penetrated, no less: a national political convention.

There are no pats on the back necessary for the Khans. They were compelled to speak out of civic duty, pride in their country and grief for their son. The rest of this country — and people anywhere else in the world where xenophobia grips our communities with fear of others — needs to look up to them and re-evaluate closely, asking: Where was the place we lost our souls? By providing first-hand witness to the reality of sacrifice for love of country, the Khans point their fingers at the place we need remember to go.