Sunday, October 13, 2019

But Now for Something Completely Different - Sport.

With great thanks to Monty Python. I had no idea that you could read all of the episodes online.

But back to sport. I was thinking the other day, after China rolled its collective ankle over a pro-Hong Kong tweet by a Houston Rockets executive, about the time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when athletes adopted Islamic names. I know, I know; how quaint, right? An athlete changing their name to match their religion today would yield precious little backlash on the social media.

Right.

I also remembered Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. And having the Australian who won the bronze sympathize with them. And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And Ahmad Rashad. And the others. There was a significant backlash, but on the end, sports enthusiasts generally accepted the changes.

Money changes everything. Remember when Micheal Jordan refused to get involved in the political debates of the 1980s and 90s? Or the relative peace within the Olympic movement after the fall of apartheid and the Soviet Union? Those days are now gone. Sports is a huge business, and having the Chinese buy stuff is every sports marketer's dream. That's why the tweet was a wake up call. The temperature lowered a bit at the end of the week, but this episode will not go away.

The athletes who now represent their sports grew up in the same political and social milieu as the rest of us, and they see themselves as more than just paid athletes. They are role models, ambassadors, social media stars and, yes, political animals. They speak out against police actions, injustice, sexism, economic inequality, and now, international affairs. Well, at least the team executives do. I also remember when American athletes protested the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq. They were not labeled traitors. Carlos Delgado, who played for the Mets, and is not an American citizen, came under criticism for not coming out of the dugout for the national anthem. Sports radio provided lame attacks, but in the end, he didn't change his behavior. Lebron James tweets back when the president attacks him.

And honestly, someone has to stand up to the Chinese. They have had an outsized influence on the world economy because sellers want to sell to a billion people. But when we are, I believe, on the brink of a Chinese incursion into Hong Kong, someone also has to stand up for justice and democracy. It's not going to come from the White House, so it might as well come from more famous people who have morals. I understand that some of the athletes want to keep their noses out of the fray. Self-preservation, higher salaries and all that.

If you want to stand up to a bully, though, you need to have the right argument. And we do.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Smoking Cannon

So much evidence, so little time.

It seems like every time the president speaks, he says something that could be construed as abuse of power or something that the founders clearly meant to protect us from. Trump calls these things, "perfect."

Now comes the unraveling. The president is obviously not going to get contrite. He's getting angrier and angrier and his communications are getting more and more abusive, personal and vile. He's clearly angry because Rudy and his other sycophants probably told him that what he was asking of foreign leaders was perfectly fine, and that in their opinion, the president cannot be the subject of a criminal complaint while in office. Of course, that's just conjecture and will have to be tested before a judge, but I'm thinking that once somebody tells the president something he wants to hear, then the president takes this as an iron-clad guarantee of correctness.

Uh oh.

There's that darned United States Constitution in the way again.

And the real issue is that most of the other people who work in government know what the rules are and that what the president has either asked them to do or what he's done under the impression that everything a president does is legal, is actually not. The next phase of this drama has already begun. It's where the civil servants and the credentialed professionals, as opposed to the aforementioned sycophants, begin to talk, release documents, ask for whistle-blower status, hire attorneys, or seek bargains. They will not give up their humanity or morals for a president who seems to have left his in Queens, exactly at the spot where Trump and his father decided to build apartments, but not rent them to African-Americans.

We are almost at the "my kingdom for a horse" moment. But first, the president has to repeat conspiracy theories while accusing Joe Biden of something for which there is no evidence. He must curse and sputter and offer excuse after contradicting excuse to cover his behavior. Then he will ask the last of his sycophants to fall on their professional and person swords. And some will.

In the end, though, his behavior makes the country less secure, more divided, and sullied by the mud he's slinging.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Calling the Impeachment Bluff

Well. That was predictable.

And given that the administration has also moved phone calls to Russian and Saudi leaders into a classifies computer shows you just how common it is for the president to embarrass, at the least, and be criminally liable, at the worst, when performing his presidential duties. This president, though, has always been woefully unprepared to be president, both temperamentally and intellectually, and clearly believes that anything goes in foreign policy because, well, he has advisers who who have supported that view.

And this was not just Trump's interpretation. The powers, both real and perceived, have grown exponentially since the end of World War II, and were greatly enhanced in the Nixon White House because of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Until now, though, we've had presidents who understood the constitution and the basic ideas of democratic republicanism. Now we have an executive who thinks he has unlimited powers and doesn't understand how to use the system to get his agenda passed.

Which also makes Trump's lament that an impeachment inquiry will bring his legislative program to a halt the howler he doesn't recognize it to be. He had two years of Republican rule and barely got a terrible tax cut bill passed. He could have started with infrastructure and had a bipartisan agreement  on something that would help the whole country. When you rule through your base, you don't go very far.

So here we are, facing months of investigation because the president put us here. And I'm sure there are more revelations to be learned, more finger-pointing, more resignations and more vile, unrepentant, personal attacks from a graceless man who considers himself history's greatest victim. I don't know what else he expected when he released the transcripts of his phone call with the Ukrainian president and essentially confirmed everything the whistle-blower's report contained. The president is the perpetrator, not the victim, and thankfully we have people in the government who see his actions as undemocratic and dangerous. Add in the fact that Rudy Giuliani was acting as a de facto Secretary of State, and you can see why this scandal is so grave.

Unlike the Mueller Report, which showed the president trying his best to cover up and ask people to do illegal things, and his people delaying, stonewalling and denying his requests, we have a clarifying situation here where the president has been caught red-handed perpetrating an offense that he doesn't see as a problem.

That's a problem. And like Nixon, but unlike Clinton, there is far more below the surface of his actions that will reveal him to be the unfit leader we always suspected he was.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest