MOAB Then and Now

Today the United States dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat. It was dropped in Afghanistan on the caves used by ISIS affiliate Khorasan to attack U.S. troops. The bomb is a GBU-43 named “Massive Ordinance Air Bomb, or MOAB. Am I the only one who was riveted by that acronym?

Moab is a name I am very familiar with since it is on the mountain Nebo, in the Land of Moab, that Moses gazed upon the Promised Land and died without ever having entered it. Why? Because Moses disobeyed God’s direction.  During the Exodus, while the Israelites were wandering in the desert on their way to the Land of Canaan, God instructed Moses to “speak to” the rock so that water could be brought forth to show the people that God would provide for them. Moses “struck” the rock instead and the water poured out.  The consequence of Moses having disobeyed God was that Moses would bring the Israelites to the land but never enter it himself. He died there.

What was so terrible? So he struck it instead of speaking to it. Wasn’t the purpose to get the water out to show God’s willingness to provide? Well, no. The purpose was to be humble, witness faith and be an example of patience with a doubting people. Moses brought forth the water in anger. Faith and patience know not anger. Then, to add insult to injury, he took credit for the miracle!

I don’t want to get all religious on you here. I write about energy not theology. From that perspective, different energies have different frequencies and effect different ends. The type of energy you use has a direct impact on the end you affect…on the outcome.

I remember what a teacher once told me when I was taking a class in Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. He said, “Of course you have to discipline your child. And sometimes it’s necessary to appear to be stern or even angry. That is fine as long as you are angry in appearance only, not in your heart. When you seem angry to that child, you must be holding love in your heart.”

It’s a nuanced approach but I get it. What originate from love can only create good. What originates from anger can only create more anger. Speaking to the rock would have done it without anger. When Moses struck that rock he was angry. So what began in anger ended poorly…for him.

We live in troubled times and, too often, we think we have all the answers. In our hubris, we act precipitously and take credit for the outcome, conveniently forgetting that there is a higher power that provides us with the basics of how we are to live our lives and who assures victory.  Have faith and be love. Its simple. We are still allowed to defend ourselves, or the oppressed, but we must do so with an awareness and circumspection of what is in our hearts. We must understand our connection to all that is. If evil was set back today, and good comes of it, let us understand that it was divine intervention that succeeded not egoic politicians.

So what’s the connection between Moab and MOAB?  I sure hope those pilots had love in their hearts when they dropped that thing.                     Carole

The Untold Story of United Airlines Brutality

The story of what happened on United Airlines has been about the violence and brutality inflicted upon a passenger. That story is not nearly as troubling as the one no one is writing about. What happened on that flight was how the German government, led by Adolph Hitler, was able to kill twelve million people. What happened on that flight was cowardice in the face of abuse of power.

None of us know what we will do in an emergency or life threatening situation until we are there. So it’s easy to say what we would have done had we been there. Hindsight is not only 20/20…it’s also safe. What can be said is that if you know what you believe in, and you know what is worth facing consequences for, then your action in such unanticipated moments will be motivated not by what is expedient or beneficial to you, but rather by your guiding principle.

Everyone on that flight knew that was happening was wrong. I don’t care what United’s Rule 25 says or what its CEO says in justifying the assault and battery that occurred. Nor do I care a whit about United employees who “needed to get where they had to go.” Everyone knows that what happened was wrong. It was the application of brute force with total disregard and disrespect for another human being. It must have been horrifying to watch right before your very eyes. Yet no one present did anything about it.

Why?

We say gold is a rare commodity and difficult to mine but courage is much harder to find. It was totally lacking on that flight. Three hundred people watched, horrified, and did nothing about it. What could they have done? Well, if they weren’t trying to make certain that they weren’t next, and they had a principle of which they were certain, they could have stood and said, “We’re all leaving this plane. You just bloodied a passenger because he was resisting disembarking. Now you can have the whole aircraft for non-paying United employees because we’re getting off and never flying United again.”

That’s what courage looks and sounds like. But instead, what happened on the flight was precisely what German Lutheran Pastor Martin Neimoller wrote about:

“First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out…

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me….and there was no one left to speak for me.”

He was one Asian man, minding his own business, sitting in a seat he had paid for, harming no one. His history and his background are irrelevant. Unless, of course, you are looking for a reason to justify or excuse, in your own mind, why what was done to him was not so bad.

And those people present on that plane? Well, it was happening but not to them. It wasn’t their seat, it wasn’t their problem. Best to not draw attention to one’s self and perhaps be the next victim.

What breeds victims is an unwillingness to stand in the face of evil. Whether it is a bully in a school yard, an abusive spouse, a rogue cop, ISIS, or a corporate policy that justifies violence…the failure to refuse to tolerate what we know is wrong is the slippery slope to enslavement.

It is Passover. It is a holiday that exists to remind us that we are only enslaved to others when we tolerate indignity and deny the laws of God in so doing. Yes, it takes courage to walk into the unknown and risk the safety of what is. But when what is robs you of your humanity then the unknown should be welcomed and the risk worth taking.

On Palm Sunday 50 Coptic Christians were killed in a suicide bombing in Alexandria, Egypt.  First they came for the passenger and we did nothing…                           Carole

 

Trump and The Middle Class

There is no doubt Trump’s election was a victory for the middle class. It was fed up with Obama, the media and the lies that politicians were feeding them. While the media reported on the economic boom and the benefits of Obamacare, the middle class was dealing with lower wages, higher inflation and a shrinking job market.

The middle class had enough and elected someone who they believed would help them.

President Trump’s election highlighted divisions that already existed. The middle class and the Conservative movement hated the policies of Barack Obama; but, they acted in a manner respectful of the Presidency. To the contrary, President Trump has not been given the same measure of respect by the Left whose members have come at him with figurative pitch forks.

I believe we’re approaching what may well be the most dangerous period in our country’s political history. We face a myriad of serious problems, starting off with a twenty trillion dollar deficit. Yet, I continue to be optimistic that what lies ahead will be great for the country.

Because of our enormous debt and the size of government, President Trump has implemented a hiring freeze on all federal employees. Government employees have been put on notice that change is the order of the day, but they are not alone. Lobbyists, and all those who make money off of the government, are worried as well. President Trump is a threat to their way of life and of doing business. When Boeing airlines made known the price of the New Air Force One, the President balked and said, “No. It is too expensive.” It was an unequivocal message to all contractors that the days of bilking the government were over.

The main push back for the President has come from the Deep State. The “Deep State” has been referred to as “the secret government-within-the-government” that actually holds tremendous power.  Many of the government secrets and power structure reside in the Deep State and many members of our government operate there.

Presidents come and go; but, people who have real power often stay in government positions for decades. For example, there are 79 members who have been in Congress for at least twenty years. Now add in all the career government employees, over 1 million, that work at all of the government agencies and you get an idea of what comprises the Deep State. These people  have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. This President is a threat to all of them.

The key to understanding the war being fought between the Deep State and President Trump’s vision of America is knowing how money flows in the United States. For the last 30 or so years, the U.S. economy has been built around a model that created vast power in Washington. This model has three key components.

First, we have a highly “progressive” income tax. This ensures that anyone who makes significant income will pay the majority share of the government’s expenses. We live in a country where half the country pays zero taxes and the top 10% pay  80% of all taxes paid. Because of this, the electorate continues to vote for more and more government. They do so because the pay off is no taxes and increased benefits.

Secondly, the government has an incredibly powerful regulatory scheme in place. This allows Washington to essentially control vast segments of our economy.  Healthcare and Wall Street come to mind. Look at Wall Street, for example. Who gets to sell a bond or stock to the public? Only those approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.  This power results in a tremendous amounts of graft– legal fees, fines, and hidden lobbying that flows into Washington to feed the parasites. The Left’s rallying cry to harness capitalism revolves around regulation. But these regulations only make the players in the industry more powerful while simultaneously shielding them from new competitors. The regulations only exacerbate the problem for the consumer and benefit business…the opposite of what was intended.

Thirdly, there is  the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which gutted the U.S. manufacturing sector when it was sold as a means of boosting it! In addition, these trade agreements have allowed our country to export all of the inflation generated by our central banks, since the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency. This has led to decades of declining interest rates and allowed the government to borrow endless amounts of money without any serious consequences.

I believe these three policies are the foundation of the Deep State. President Trump has started to attack many of these pillars. He has begun a fight with the Deep State. His opposition is coming from all sides. The media and the politicians are trying to obfuscate the issue; but this opposition is real and dangerous because they know the President has the power to dismantle The Beast.

What President Trump is doing right now by way of  his border-adjustment tax (taxes on imports), additional tax reform, and regulatory rollback is targeting each of these pillars at the same time. If he succeeds (“wins” in Trump speak) the power that has been consolidated in Washington, D.C. over the past 40 years will evaporate.

The Left and the Right have both been enemies of the middle class. Take a look at NAFTA.  The case for NAFTA was that it would allow American consumers access to cheaper products, thus helping them. That it did, but at what price? It devastated the manufacturing industry.  So although the the middle class had access to cheaper goods, they did not have the money to buy them. So where did the money go? To Washington and to the top 10% of America’s wealthiest who were able to access foreign markets and shield the resulting income from America’s tax system! Shameful.

Then, take a look at our tax system with its complexity and aggressiveness that have hurt the middle class the most . The U.S. is the only industrial country in the world with global income taxation. That’s right. You have to pay federal income tax no matter where you live. So what have the big corporations and wealthy individuals done? They have moved their assets offshore and set up companies outside the purview the U.S. government thereby shielding their assets from Washington.  The result is that the tax burden has fallen on the middle class to make up this shortfall…punishing wage earners while rewarding individuals and corporations who use overseas labor.  While the rich shield their money the poor pay no taxes. Voila! The middle class foots the entire bill. The result has been a decline in real, after-tax wages over the last 40 years.

Such is the recipe that has destroyed the middle class.

Trump’s tax plan is to effectively lower income taxes to 25% and implement a value-added tax to discourage foreign production of U.S. products. In an nutshell, this tax plan will force companies to come back to the U.S. and produce their goods here. Companies will no longer be able to hide overseas. These two changes will turn this entire economic structure on its ear and gravely hurt the Deep State which controls it. The winners will be the middle class, small-business owners, wage earners, and America’s manufacturing base. The losers? All of those who have invested heavily in the current Deep State regime.

With passage of the bill,  Trump’s new economic model could become a reality by the end of 2017 and initiate a new economic paradigm for the United States. The line is drawn. Let’s keep a close eye on who is standing on which side and why. Then when midterms roll around, let’s hold accountable those who stood on the side of the Deep State in opposition to middle class Americans. No more secrets and accountability. Wouldn’t that be novel.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

The Heart of the Presidency

I abhor war. Any sane person does.

I also don’t support the concept of nation building or think it is the job of my country to impose its culture or form of government upon other nations. I am not a nationalist or isolationist. I’m just an American who knows she is blessed to have been born in the United States.

I am also a Jew.

So when I watch Syrian children writhing in pain and unable to breathe because a barbarian named Hafez al-Assad used nerve gas on innocents, I am vividly reminded of the abhorrent use gas played in the 20th century history of my people. It reminds of a world that stood by silently and watched. And it makes me surprisingly proud of President Trump.

Why?

Because at the very least, bullies only understand an equal and opposite force. They don’t understand diplomacy, they don’t care about public opinion, and they mock “red lines in the sand” that are all talk and no action. In fact, they call it cowardice.

Such was the case with Barack Obama and Assad. What every Arab, and every Israeli, knows is that in tribal cultures such as exist throughout the Arab world, the failure to meet force with force is perceived not only as cowardice but also as an invitation for even greater brutality. Barack Obama invited the growing chaos of the Middle East and the spread of ISIS precisely because his repeated inaction was taken as weakness and he would not, or could not, see the damage he was doing due to his own ideology and ego.

Some are saying that in raining Tomahawk missiles down on Syria Trump was finally “Presidential.” It reminds me of Michael Douglas’s line from the movie “American President” when he orders a retaliatory bombing strike against a munitions warehouse in Libya, knowing he would, in the process, kill the innocent night watchman who was just doing his job. One of Douglas’ staff remarks,”Mr. President, what you did tonight was very Presidential.” To which Douglas replies, “What I did tonight is the least Presidential thing I do.”

Killing is never something to be glorified.

What President Trump did last night had nothing to do with being presidential. It had everything to do with being human. Regardless of your politics, we are Americans and do not stand by and watch children’s lungs incinerated in real time while we stand frozen in either ineptitude or fear. We do not make political calculations or take a poll to see what the popular response should be. We aspire to elect people who, in such moments, understand what is at stake and have the personal fortitude to stand and say, “No. Not on my watch.”

I watched a Syrian man interviewed on CNN who had suffered the chemical attack by Assad’s forces and survived. He was thanking President Trump for his action last night. He said it brought hope to the Syrian people who have been pleading for 6 years for some sign of support from the United States. He begged our President not to stop. When the CNN anchor then asked him what he thought of the President’s immigration ban, he said, ‘We do not want to be immigrants. We want safe zones in Syria. We want to live in our own country without being slaughtered.” So much for the anchor’s failed attempt to invite criticism into a moment of praise.

I rest easier tonight not because my President bombed a country and flexed a muscle. I rest easier because he saw those children, as did I, and his heart hurt.  Oh yes, and because last night he said to bullies everywhere, “No. Not on my watch.”                 Carole

Why You Matter

It’s so easy to blame the politicians and the media. It’s always easiest to blame someone, or something, other than ourselves. But the dire situations we find ourselves in, politically and socially, are no one’s fault but our own.

For decades we have turned a blind eye to wrong doing. For those same decades we have become dependent upon, even expected, government to take care of us.  We have abdicated personal responsibility in almost every aspect of our lives for the corners we cut, the white lies we tell, the principles we say we believe in yet neglect to be heard in their defense.

Politicians are not our masters. They are simply individuals in public service who reflect the health or sickness of the society they serve. Our leaders have not been forced upon us. We have stood by and allowed the inept, the dishonest and the corrupt to seek and obtain positions of power. We have willingly enslaved ourselves to them and those who keep them in power.

After 2008, ask almost any trader on Wall Street and they will tell you they saw it coming. They saw it coming but did nothing about it. It was too lucrative. Mortgages and private school tuition had to be paid. Vacations were booked. Cocaine was costly.

It’s easier to go with the flow than swim against the current. Isn’t that always the case? But what happens when the current is carrying you to your destruction? Blame the current…or your unwillingness to fight against it?

A group of boys and young men of various ages, raped a 14-year old girl in Chicago this week and they did it on Facebook. Live. At least 40 people watched it and not one called the police.

It seems like a long way from the banking collapse of 2008 to live rape…but not really. The perpetrators in both cases knew what they were doing was wrong and so did those who watched. It’s a slippery slope when you give up conscience and all that is decent about human behavior; when self-satisfaction is the ultimate goal and any means to getting there is acceptable.

Every day we read about the corruption in Washington and fake news by the media. It’s all a distraction. The real news and what we should care about is how each of us in our daily lives lays another brick in the foundation of cultural destruction as we justify the corners we cut, the blind eyes we turn and the irretrievable and precious time we deny friends and family because we are addicted to our iphones.

It’s never about someone else. It’s always about ourselves. While none of us may have any control over what Washington or the New York Times does, each of us has total control over what we do in our own lives. Where we invest out time, what principles we stand for, what we value all define, in a very literal sense, our immediate world.

You comfort and excuse yourself because you are, after all, just one person and so what can you do?

Last year I moved into a condominium in Austin, Texas. I quickly learned that there was corrupt management that had drained the finances of the community and neglected the maintenance of the structures. I also learned that for 12 years, various homeowners had tried, unsuccessfully, to do something about it. So , everyone had given up and acquiesced to the corruption and neglect.

I spent a year investigating and compiling evidence of both the corruption and the neglect. I uncovered a privileged relationship between certain owners, the Board of Directors included, and the corrupt management company. I presented the findings at association meetings. I endured an organized effort by those involved to discredit me, including being sued, individually, for my efforts. But I  knew that what was occurring was wrong and I was determined to, as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In spite of it all I endured.

It took 12 months, several court appearances and all the energy and skill I could muster. But the Board resigned and, as new President of the Board, I fired the corrupt management company. We now have exceptional, new management and a law suit against those who depleted or finances and neglected our physical assets.

Was it hard? About as hard as anything I’ve done in my life. Were there times I thought I could not go on? Absolutely. Was every conceivable effort made to stop me? Yes. So why did I keep at it?

The whole is no more than the sum of our parts. I am a part of my community, my society, my country, my species. If I do no stand for what I know to be right, what hope is there that others will do the same?

It’s never about anyone else. It’s always about ourselves. In humanity, it’s not top down. It’s what we as individuals are willing to put on the line for what we believe in. This is what makes the difference and that is what ultimately defines us.

A Christian Polish woman who fed Jews and kept them alive less than than a mile from a concentration camp was asked, recently, how she came to do the right thing given the behavior of those around her. Her reply was simply, “The righteous didn’t suddenly become righteous. We just refused to go off the cliff with everyone else.”

We are each confronted daily with personal cliffs. Now more so than ever with the rapid pace of technology and the warp speed at which AI is developing. If, in hindsight, you can see why it wasn’t such a long way from 2008 to live rape…wait until you see what’s just around the corner. One voice, one person, one principle upheld can save the world. Remember, the next corner you cut, blind eye you turn, or principle you fail to uphold… could be our last.                Carole

No Acronyms Allowed!

“We have to depart the LZ by 0500 so that the recon can be complete by 0600.”  That was about all I remembered from the briefing…or all that I could understand.

The briefing was given in the mess hall of a navy ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. I was part of a Marine unit that was deployed to the Middle East for six months. Given the instability in the world, the MEU Commander had to develop contingency plans for all types of situations.

These types of briefings are normal during a float. For example, if an embassy had to be evacuated, the Colonel of the deployment had to formulate a plan on how to accomplish the evacuation. Logistical complexities of such missions require that the Marine Officer would have to brief the Colonel, in a single meeting, on the strategy to employ. If any of the proposals seemed out of whack, or needed to be fixed, this was the platform where it was done.

Briefings usually lasted about an hour.  It was not uncommon to have thirty or so people presenting. Air officers, helicopter pilots, infantry officers, ordinance officers, radio specialist, etc. would all have their say. In order to make the briefings quick and keep them moving along, acronym’s were used to speed things up.  But given the number of groups inputting their perspectives and expertise, each with its own lexicon, it was like listening to a cacophony of terms that, for the uninitiated, was super confusing.

The U.S. Marines have been around for over 200 years. To their credit, they have been able to successfully orchestrate the system that brings all this diversity of information together. Luckily for me, I was able to figure out what was being said!

When I transitioned to finance and started working at an emerging markets desk, I had to once again learn a new language: this time it was “finance speak” and the acronyms used in that world.

The nature of the finance world is that it is secretive and cut throat. I did the best I could with the new language, but it was close to impossible to understand all of the jargon. In the Marine Corps, the officers would go out of their way to make people understand what they were saying (afterall, lives were on the line). But in finance, it was common for people to give vague and unhelpful answers.

Michael Burry, who made millions of dollars shorting the housing market, said one of the reasons he looked into the trades with greater scrutiny was the sheer number of acronyms and jargon used to describe the housing market. When he called bond salespersons to walk him through the details of the structures he was thinking of buying, he realized that for all of their pedigree they understood very little about what they were selling.

So, to educate himself on all the terminology, he ordered a variety of prospectuses and started combing through them to understand all of the terms. He created a dictionary of those terms and acronyms until he understood everything that was being marketed and sold to investors.  Armed with that knowledge and understanding he bet against Wall Street… knowing that the firms selling those instruments had no idea what they were doing.

Ray Dalio, the hedge fund manager of Bridgewater, does not allow any acronyms to be used in meetings or reports. Everything has to be explained down to the last detail, so that everyone within his firm understands what they are doing. He has stated that acronyms become like a code and secret language behind which people hide.

True knowledge comes from being able to explain things;  even the most complex things.

Part of the reason most of the major financial institutions went under during the last crisis was because information was hidden and guarded. Many of the employees at the banks had no idea the extent of the recklessness of their mortgage departments.  At the time, I worked at Merrill Lynch on a bond desk.  We were having a great year and had no idea the damage the mortgage department was causing. We were shocked by the amount of risk they had taken.  Be assured that had more people been informed of the risks the mortgage area was taking, the positions would have been wound down and the bank saved.

In reading memoirs written prior to the crash about working at a bank and trading for one,  what stands out for me is the lengths to which employees, as well as management, guarded their trading secrets. The mindset was, “If show people how I am making money, the firm will fire me and do it for themselves.” So the information was never shared.

Contrast this attitude with Google which gives away all of its information for free.

Part of the reason Bridgewater is so successful is because it shares its information. Bredgewater is relentless in getting at the truth…even down to the language it uses.  No abbreviations.  No acronyms. If you work for Bridgewater and want to share something, you must explain your thoughts fully…down to the last detail. Imagine if that same rigor and search for the truth had been the standard for the banking industry prior to 2008. How different our lives would be  today!

It really makes you wonder why its ever done otherwise.  Truth is inevitably revealed and when it is, it also prevails. Both companies and individuals willing to embrace that fact are the ones that will survive and prosper this time of cultural transition.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

Hacking Trump

Maureen Dowd doesn’t believe in moderation. If she did, she would have written a column about the pitfalls of hubris and the learning curve that is the Presidency. Instead she came after Donald Trump with the literary equivalent of a chainsaw.

Dowd makes certain valid points about the failed process of attempting to “replace” Obamacare this week, for which Trump owns the consequences. But in her haste to take down the President, she is both obvious and unapologetic in her glee to have the opportunity to do so.

Whenever I wrote about then candidate Trump, or now President Trump, I always feel the need to set the stage: I neither supported his candidacy nor voted for him. I restate this all the time because, when finding anything remotely good about him, #nevertrump’ers immediately draw certain conclusions about my political affiliation and agenda. Its a mistake to do so since the assumptions are almost always wrong. I am now a 15 year recovering Democrat and blossoming Libertarian.

Dowd’s scathing column is indicative of a larger problem.

We no longer seem capable of seeing any good what-so-ever in people who have differing opinions from our own. Even more disturbing is the “waiting to pounce” viciousness that erupts at the slightest opportunity to condemn one another for our differences.

Diversity, like “Hope and Change” is nothing more than a bumper sticker unless we find common ground in defining it. Diversity is more than just having a person from each race perfectly positioned, in full camera view, behind a politician’s podium. Its more than making sure that a certain number of minorities are admitted to a university.

Diversity of thought is the cornerstone of a free society and the free expression of ideas is the foundation of a tolerant society. When we find it necessary to destroy, verbally or otherwise, those whose ideas or actions differ from our own, we undermine that foundation.

I am not saying that Donald Trump is a good or bad President. It would be premature to draw a conclusion either way. But while we are busy picking over the carcass, following the withdrawn Congressional vote this past week, like vultures on roadkill…where were the voices, to be quick and on the record, in praise of President Trump for a brilliant and ethical Supreme Court nominee? Those same voices, now front and center like Dowd’s, who wish to seize the moment and “take down” the President were nowhere to be found when credit was, and is, due.

If we, as a nation, were in our right mind (which as of late is dubious at best) we would dismiss the hawkers of polarization and give little consideration to those who are quick to throw the baby out with the bath water. Trump is not perfect. But he is not always wrong, either. I prefer patience and tolerance to the alternatives.

Maureen Dowd and I differ on this. Yet, I can and will say she has written many good and thoughtful columns. This was just not one of them. Such is my ability and willingness to give credit where it is due… and withhold it when it is not. Perhaps we all need to take a refresher course in diversity.                   Carole

In Support of Lone Wolves

Britain has now experienced what Israelis have been living with for years…a radicalized individual who, consciously and with mal-intent, sets out to murder as many people as possible with a vehicle and a few kitchen knives. One of the murdered was Kurt Cochran, an American and member of the Church of Latter Day Saints who was on the last day of the trip of a lifetime with his wife, Melissa, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

We call these radical terrorists “lone wolves.” I simply cannot understand why.

I understand the radicalization. What I cannot comprehend is why we liken them to wolves, lone or otherwise. Wolves are pack animals that contribute significantly to the ecosystem in which they live by having a positive, ripple effect upon other animal populations as well as plant life.  The remainder of their prey’s carcass provides vital nutrients for the soil upon which it lays.

Wolves kill for survival not indiscriminately, wantonly, or for the sheer joy of it, unlike radicalized Islamic terrorists.

More specifically, the lone wolf who is driven from the pack has been sent away, usually by a breeding  male, or for territorial reasons.  To the contrary, the radicalized Islamic terrorist is very much a part of the pack. He or she is philosophically bonded to the murderous and hate-filled mind set of all radicalized Islamic terrorists.  And they kill not for individual survival.  In fact, their barbaric sprees almost always end in their own annihilation.

Unlike even the lone wolf, they have no sense of survival.

So it always bothers me when we reference animals to describe behavior that is barbaric, inhuman and totally lacking in an inherent sense of survival of their particular species. In fact, it’s an insult to wolves specifically, and animals generally, to call Islamic terrorists lone wolves.

They are simply humans who have so ingested and embraced hate as a form of perverse nourishment, and who so willingly believe the promise of a manipulative fantasy about reward for their barbaric and self-destructive behavior, that they have disconnected themselves from rational human thought as well as the natural instinctive behavior of animals.

Let’s give the actual lone wolves back the respect they are due.  Then, let’s call radical Islamists what they are due. Barbarians.

It’s hard to be Above The Fray on this one. I keep thinking about Melissa Cochran who survived the attack. I guess my usually higher ground perspective, in this post, is on behalf of the wolves.

Carole

 

 

“Get Out” – Movie Review

Some horror films have been great in adding a spice of social commentary to the genre. The Stepford Wives was a poignant film about the feminist movement and its male backlash. District 9, which centers around the living conditions of Aliens living on earth really addressed the plight of living conditions for many blacks in South Africa. The latest in this line of cinematic social commentary is Get Out.  It lifts the veil of “post-racial” America to reveal its underlying ugliness. The dialogue is sharp and pointed…culminating in a daring portrait of American society

The story centers around Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, who are going home to meet Rose’s parents for the first time. In any budding romance the trip would be a rite of passage; but, Get Out has an added dimension: Chris is black and Rose is white. While she thinks nothing of the trip but Chris is clearly worried about what her family’s reaction might be.

Upon meeting Chris, her father seems a bit too hip, immediately addressing Chris as “my man” and making sure to point out that he “loved Obama” and “would have voted for Obama for a third term.” The father’s continued efforts to appear “not racist” makes him seem foolish. The mother, a hypnotist, seems unaffected by race but is eager to get her hands on Chris in order to hypnotize him.

The family has two housekeepers, both black. This clearly makes Chris even more uncomfortable. Both of them seem quite out of place, They are extremely subdued in their expressions and attitudes, which seem completely out of place.

Chris’s growing concern throughout the weekend becomes more heightened when a slew of people descend the second day for the family’s annual party. For the most part, the party goers are all white, successful and the take quite a liking to Chris. He is prodded and poked by the guests about typical black stereotypes such as his prowess in bed and his enhanced physical prowess to the point of absurdity.

While the director could have taken the easier and more oft-taken Hollywood route of exposing the racism of rednecks, Christians and Conservatives, he decided to target the underlying bigotry of rich, white liberals. In doing so he has made a bold and original movie. The guests don’t consider themselves racists; but, their incessant comments about how much they like Tiger Woods, Jesse Owens and Barack Obama expose how they view the world along racial lines.

As all of these incidents begin to add up, Chris decides to leave the party. In some ways , Chris’s  experience becomes a sampling of what many Black people experience in their daily lives. But the director isn’t interested in purely making a point, he’s out to make a horror film and he doesn’t disappoint. Chris, by his nature and disposition, calmly and glumly accepts the rampant racism around him before letting his anger take over. NO SPOILER here. But, the film’s combination of racism and control of others is at the heart of this horror movie.

Get Out mentions the presidency of Barack Obama repeatedly and so I want to address the director’s vision of it. Obama was elected, in some ways, as a symbolic gesture to show how far America had come…that we could elect a Black president in a post-racial society. The dialogue in the movie pokes fun at this idea through by the many comments people make about how they voted for Obama and, therefore, can’t be racist.

Some might chuckle and view the comments and message of Get Out as simplistic and far-fetched. In reality they are all too common. A few years ago when I accompanied a rich, white liberal from Boston to meet an Indian client, the head of the financial desk where we worked had to tell the salesman, “For God’s sake Billy don’t tell the client you can relate to him because you saw Slum Dog Millionaire.

Here is the irony: thinking and voting for a candidate because of his color as a testimony to your lack of concern about it. If they (we) were truly color blind, Obama’s policies would have been the deciding factor, not his race. Here is where liberal America fell short while at the other end of the political spectrum even his detractors were afraid of being called racist if  they opposed him on substantive matters.

We were so busy denying racism we made fools of ourselves committing it.

Get Out is a clever movie that speaks to all the subtle forms of racism to which we remain blind and that we dare not mention. In the end, the horror of this horror film is the real, unaddressed discomfort between races and the twisted lengths to which we go to prove it doesn’t exist.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

President Trump’s False Idol

Who someone admires tells you a great deal about them and their guiding principles. It’s why I am so disturbed by President Trump’s admiration for Andrew Jackson.

Jackson was a bully, to put it mildly. He believed in force, physical and otherwise, as a means of exercising power; he bought and sold slaves; he decimated native Americans such that they suffer to this day from the remnants of his policies; he instituted the system of civil patronage positions that remains the bane of our governmental bureaucracy; he punished by way of tariffs; he set himself up as an authoritarian, dictatorial President who destroyed his opposition while accumulating great personal wealth. Andrew Jackson was a bad President who stood for much of what Americans have come to find repugnant.

This is President Trump’s role model of choice?

I was neither for nor against candidate Trump. Mostly, I was appalled that both he and Hilary Clinton were the best we could come up with in a nation of 350 million people. And I posted my perspective, here, more than once. But once elected, I believed that respect for the Office of the Presidency warranted a period of grace to allow for fact-based evaluation of the man’s ability to act in the best interest of the nation. I want our President to succeed at moving the country in a better and more prosperous direction.

I simply don’t want us to achieve that end at any price.

With the disclosure of President Trump’s admiration for Andrew Jackson, I am deeply concerned that the price we may pay for more “prosperity” will be an almost total disregard for what originally made America great: the throwing off of the yoke of privilege, the rejection of kingship and the adherence to a system of checks and balances that made public servants accountable to each other and the People.

In 2016, enough of the country was desperate for a new direction and the resurrection of national pride that we voted into office a man who was unapologetically in support of both. But desperation causes people to act without first thinking through the ramifications of their choosing. Similarly, in 2008, half the country wanted Barack Obama as President but did not care what his guiding principles were, either. They bought a slogan “Hope and Change” without questioning what change meant to the individual touting it.

Words can mean different things to different people and actions based upon those differing definitions have corresponding consequences.

Candidate Trump promised to “Make America Great Again”; but, greatness can be defined differently depending upon your vantage point and the use of one’s greatness depends upon one’s guiding principles.

Andrew Jackson defined greatness as a means to decimate, control and bestow favor based upon his personal predilections, prejudices and lust for control and personal wealth. He is an astonishingly poor choice for a role model.

It is unlikely that now, having gone public with his admiration for Jackson and recent laying of a wreath at Jackson’s gravesite, that President Trump will change his mind about who he venerates. So it is now the job of us, the citizenry, to keep a close vigil upon our President’s definition of greatness as well as his use of the means at his disposal for getting us there.  It is just possible for the price of “greatness” to be more than the nation can afford to pay.