Monday, May 23, 2016

Week of 05/23/2016

Academic Whining
Here in the Atlanta area, one of our local news stations does a one-minute commentary segment called “Just A Minute”, which usually has the same collection of media personalities rambling on about something either in the news or just something on their mind.  Some of them have a jovial and comical tone to their voices.  Others just appear to be whining for the sake of whining.
Recently, one of their personalities decided to use that minute to whine about the selection of guest speakers for college graduations.  I won’t say who she is to “spare” her from feeing “shamed”, but her whine is that colleges have been inviting a whole plethora of liberal celebrities from actors and authors to political figures.  Where, she asks, are all of the conservative speakers?  Why, she asks, is academia so hateful towards conservative speakers?
This is typical tripe from conservative minds.  They play the “poor persecuted victim” card at every opportunity when they’re not dominating the subject.  They carry a ready-made “persecution” banner just like shyster lawyers carry arm slings and neck braces so they could claim “whiplash” whenever they bump into someone.  And it’s all an act to validate their past actions and to justify their future ones.  It’s simply bully projection.
I’ll presume that the whining media personality doesn’t know a thing about college graduations or the reason why there are guest speakers.  Having a bachelor’s degree from one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation, I obviously went through the graduation ceremony.  They’re long and boring as hell.  It’s a lot of ceremony and sitting around or standing in line wondering just how long the process will drag on. 
Graduation ceremonies really aren’t made for the students.  They are made for the college faculty and administrators.  They get to wear the fanciest caps and gowns, and you can see the pride on their faces.  And most of the ceremony is about them and what they’ve done.  They are telling the world “Look at all the people that we’ve educated!” 
The only thing that really brightens the ceremony other than the end is the commencement speaker.  And that’s because the purpose of the commencement speaker is for publicity.  They’re there to bring attention to the school.  The school gets to brag about who they were able to invite, and, if the celebrity is noteworthy enough, the media will highlight what that speaker says in one or two sentences, which is free publicity in and of itself.
Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s talk about the so-called “problem”.
First, I seriously doubt that conservatives got “snubbed” from every college graduation ceremony.  You mean to tell me that every single college and university, even the ultra-conservative ones like Bob Jones University and Liberty University (which, by the way, many a Supreme Court clerk came from), decided to snub conservative speakers?  I call shenanigans on that claim!
I would dare suspect that the real complaint is not about colleges not inviting conservative speakers, but that the air-fluffed, ego-driven media is not reporting about conservative speakers at certain colleges and universities.
But, for the sake of their delusion, let’s just say that media bias was not involved.  Let’s also suppose, for the sake of that same delusion, that there really is a deliberate snubbing of conservative and neo-conservative figures from colleges and universities all across America.
Should anyone really be surprised at this, given the hostility that the conservatives and neo-conservatives have shown towards the institutions of higher education and towards education itself?
How many years have the conservatives and neo-conservatives been attacking education, and specifically attacking academia?  How many times have conservatives bashed academia as being bastions of ignorance?  How many times have the college students been accused by conservatives and neo-conservatives of being petty and self-centered and not having a single clue as to how the real world operates?  How many times have conservatives and neo-conservatives attacked educators in the media and demanded they be held to performance standards that they would never hold themselves to?
When educators try to fix things, conservatives and neo-conservatives are the first to scream foul.  Their more recent crusade involves Common Core standards; the very kind of standardized testing that conservatives and neo-conservative required under their own “No Child Left Behind” law.  But, then again, that was back when they controlled the White House and Congress, isn’t it?  As soon as they were out of power, it became yet another “threat” that they needed to stop at all costs.  And, believe me, I have seen plenty a campaign flier from career politicians and their wannabe challengers all pledging to “stop Common Core” like it was a terrorist cell.
Between that and the efforts to defund public education and move kids to private charter schools and home schooling, not to mention the continual campaign to crucify science to save the conservative egos (not to mention their campaign wallets) from climate change, it’s easy for one to conclude that conservatives and neo-conservatives have the same regard for educational institutions as fictional Faber University did for “Delta House”.
Given that, why should any faculty member or administrator of colleges even consider “rewarding” those conservative and neo-conservatives with the opportunity to be a commencement speaker?
Let’s get brutally honest here... you have a right as an American citizen to question and challenge how our children are being prepared for the real world, especially when our tax monies are involved.  But that right does not entitle you or your conservative and neo-conservative personalities an automatic platform in the very educational institutions that you’re questioning and challenging.  You don’t cajole educators and administrators, threaten to take away their finances, demand that they adhere to whatever crazy theory you may have about the world, and then expect them to invite you or your ideological champions to their graduation ceremonies.
There’s a little thing called “cause and effect”.  I’m sure the conservatives and neo-conservatives have heard about it.  They use it when they try to hold others to account for their actions.  Well, it also applies to you.
Remember that graduation ceremonies are really there for the school administrators and faculty.  This is their time, and they invite those that best reflect their institutions.  In that regard, it appears that they have a better grasp of that particular reality than do their critics. 
Perhaps it’s best to simply regard this as a “teachable moment”.  After all, it’s never too late to learn things.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Week of 05/16/2016

My Problem With... Donald Trump
(Note: This is the continuation of the ongoing look at the candidates that make up the 2016 Farce.  Each of the “dominant” candidates will be examined.  The author will not entertain nor permit anyone to try to negate the focus of each candidate by saying “X is bad but Y is even worse” because they all are bad in their own way.  Each will have their turn to be examined and castigated, and you probably will not like it when it is your candidate’s turn.)
I have a problem with Donald Trump.
Readers of my column knew that I’d eventually get to this guy.  “The Donald”.  The “money man”.  The “deal-maker”.  The Ego.  The Fox News media personality.  The man who is the literal interpretation of the #nofilter hashtag.  The self-promoting clown act.  I couldn’t even possibly get into the whole mess with the 2016 Farce and not focus on Trump the Candidate at some point.
And, as the fates and fortunes of the universe would have it, I got to him not long after the big “revelation” that the two publicists that were really, really, *really* helpful to the media in answering questions about Trump... were, in fact, Trump himself.  Yes, the self-promoting clown act really was self-promoting back in the 90’s... or so the newspapers allege.
But I’m not really surprised by that kind of news.  Back then he was rich and he could afford to do it, and at least he knew what kind of information to feed the media to push up his exposure.
That’s why I’m not really surprised or outraged by what he’s had to say the past year.  Once you realize that this guy is a self-promoting clown act, then you know that he would say anything to get attention and to keep that attention on him.  In fact, one of the key reasons why I steadfastly refused to deal with anything connected to the 2016 Farce until this past December was because of things like this.
Of course Trump would come up with some outlandish idea for a “wall”!  Of course he’d say he’d kick out the Muslims simply for being Muslims.  Of course he’d say he’d do mass deportations of people that don’t “belong” here.  Of course he’d “solve” the so-called “bathroom issue” and require people to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”.  Of course he’d say all of the outlandish things that he could; not because he is really prepared to do them, but because he knows that this is what “the base” expects him to say!
You see, I get it.  I figured out the secret behind Trump’s political rock-star success.  It’s not about having the same values or supporting the same causes.  It’s saying the things that “the base” really want to hear.
All this time, whenever Trump would open his mouth and say something stupid, the media would say “Oh he’s done it now!  This is it, folks!  He’s finally crossed the line!  He’s done!  He can’t walk back from this!”  But then the masses love him even more, and he still wins primaries and caucuses, and the media and the party bosses and the self-professed political “experts” all slap their foreheads and they ask how that could be.
Think about it... all of those clowns in the GOP clown car!  Senators, members of congress, governors, doctors and former CEOs, even seasoned presidential wannabes have all fallen by the wayside.  Only Donald Trump, the one man who everyone wrote off as a novelty item and claimed would never win a single primary, is left standing and now (as of this article’s posting) is the presumptive nominee.  This thin-skinned mostly-unapologetic bloviating blowhard who uses his own name as a marketing brand is on the verge of becoming the next President of the United States of America!  How the hell did this happen?
Simple: because Trump the Candidate is not your typical presidential wannabe.
Trump is not trying to advance some party platform or some special interest agenda.  Instead, he’s selling “Trump the Candidate” to the GOP “base”, and he’s doing it by telling them what they want to hear.  He feeds their egos, which in turn feeds his own.
And make no mistake, folks, Donald Trump doesn’t just have an ego.  He has an ego that has its own publicist (itself) and probably runs a few of his businesses.  In fact, his ego is so large, it also has an ego, which also has a publicist and probably will be running a few other businesses in the Trump empire in the near future.
So he’s talking about building a wall between the United States and Mexico and getting Mexico to pay for that wall and kicking out all of the people here illegally (presumably after they build that wall) because that is precisely what the “base” wants done.  He wants to block anyone who is Muslim from coming to the United States because that is what the “base” wants done.  He wants everyone to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” because that is what the “base” wants to have happen.  He would promise a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot and that “all babies must eat” if he knew that it is what the “base” would expect him to promise.
Let’s get brutally honest here... the real secret to Donald Trump is that he is tapping into the very “base” of the GOP in a way that the party bosses would never consider.  This is the real core of the GOP, in all of their bigoted, biased, delusional, self-absorbed glory!
Everything you hear about Trump being bigoted and racist and sexist and xenophobic is really what you hear from the “base” of the GOP.  This is who they really are in newsgroups and social media and email groups.  This is who they are when they call in to talk radio shows and write letters to the newspaper editors.  This is what they tell each other when they’re at church functions and in the breakroom at their workplace and around the bar and at their local barbeque gathering.  I know this because I have heard it myself from their own mouths!
In fact, the whole “wall” issue could come straight out of a conversation between a bunch of half-drunk conservatives pissed off at the world.  “You know what?  We need to just put a whole stupid wall up on the border!  Yeah, that’s what we need to do!  We just need a huge wall from one end of Mexico to the other!  And then kick all of those damned ill-ee-guls out and never have them come back!  What?  Cost?  Screw that!  We’ll get Mexico to pay for it!  They owe us for the Alamo!”
That is what Trump is tapping into.  That is what he’s feeding, and, in turn, it feeds his ego and his ego’s ego.
And that is what the GOP bosses and party players have been afraid of all this time.  Because it’s one thing to have their unending support.  It’s another to have that be the reflection of who they really are.  Remember why they lost in 2008?  It wasn’t just because Barack Obama was seen as the better candidate; it was because they had Veep-wannabe Sarah Palin riling that very base up in all of their irrational, self-absorbed glory and having shown on the nightly news.  When you had that little old lady tell Senator John McCain “(Obama is) an A-rab” right in front of the media, you could feel the whole GOP hierarchy cringe, because that helped cost them the election.
And we can’t even blame this on former Governor Palin, because this goes back decades!  Remember Pat Buchanan?  He also appealed to that “base” that the GOP didn’t want to acknowledge, including some of the most polarized racist and bigoted and sexist groups out there.
And all that time, nothing was really done about that part of the GOP.  They just let it fester and stew and build.  They manufactured a whole pseudo-revolt called the “Tea Party” and used it to help get them back control of the Congress.  When they weren’t happy with John Boehner as Speaker, they used that base to push Boehner out and put in Paul Ryan, who didn’t want the job in the first place. 
All of this... led to Trump.
The thing is... this isn’t my problem with him.  He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last one to tap into that rude, crude, bigoted, and obnoxious segment of the American populace. 
I’m more concerned with what Trump the Candidate really would do should he actually become Trump the President.
We’ve seen first-hand the difference between what a candidate says they’d do and what they actually do when given the opportunity.  We know that Obama from the whole “Obama-mania” craze wasn’t the same Obama we ended up with once he was elected.  But with normal politicians, even someone like Obama, you had some inkling of what that person would do.  That’s not the case with Trump; because he is such a showman, you can’t really tell what he’s really like outside of that showman personality.  And what he claimed to support in the 80’s and 90’s when he was just a businessman is not necessarily what he would really represent today, especially after he’s been a regular media personality on Fox News and the talk radio circuit.
All these other things... Trump’s verbal tirades with Fox News personality Megyn Kelly, his pissing contest with Univision, his Twitter diatribes, his tantrum over his tax returns, all of these things are nothing more than diversions.  They’re ways to keep him in the news.  We need to know more about the man, and less about the show. 
The voters may be voting for “Trump the Candidate”, but we don’t elect a brand; even when that brand is a name.  We elect people.  Hopefully we’ll find out who that person is before we end up with buyer’s remorse.