Monday, October 30, 2017


 And pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked.” - Jane Austen

We collectively have grown tired of reading about all the unaddressed instances of abuse seen on Facebook and Twitter. We have an ongoing epic violation of Twitter's service terms by an account known as @therealdonaldtrump. It's been a harsh decade since the advent of platforms like Facebook or Twitter. 

To varying degrees, we all are potentially living in the court of other people's opinions. We see in the daily news what the President posts on Twitter. Throughout the culture, we live an age of a potential online lynching. To an extent, that danger has caused millennials to use Snapchat or Instagram as opposed to their older counterparts. 

For a public figure, disaster is now one post away. The list of those having been the subject of a Presidential tweetstorm has been nearly endless. There are moments to rejoice in when miscreants named Cosby or Simpson or Weinstein receive online justice. But how many times have you seen a lynch mob go after someone in a Facebook group? 

A bet that there are tens of thousands of daily victims, who have done little to deserve being trolled, is a pretty safe assumption. Too often, the target is a teenager who does not quite fit in or an adult who has pissed the wrong person off. 

What other people think of us is our business. In an era when millions can become instant publishers online, what others think of us matters. We are told over and over again, that we are our own personal brands, making it imperative to control our online reputation, to do P.R. and spin control for ourselves. It's easy to get into the trap of believing that we must be loved, respected, and taken seriously by everyone.


Something happened recently in a large community Facebook group I have belonged to for years, that bears discussion. I actually saw somebody badgered to the verge of suicide one night. All it took was a picture and a comment about owning a service animal and a goose to set a mob off. 

Apparently, a dog and a goose are all that one woman has in this world. I've felt that way myself about an animal. Often the people in our lives break our hearts. Was her reaction necessarily normal? That is in the eyes of the observer. But her hysterical behaviour was much more benign than that of a bunch of adults posting pictures of dead animals in the hopes that someone is broken and maybe, just maybe, will harm themselves. 

This particular Facebook group did not begin as the "harass people into death" page. It started when the owners of a competing citywide group turned it into a forum for their personal egos. One banned people she did not like for saying "hello." Another turned himself into a minor local celebrity while orchestrating endless online lynch mobs and offline attacks. 

People voted with their keyboards and began a second Facebook group. Eventually,  the newer group became as a feral as the first. Solid members dropped off because other strings were nearly as cruel as the one that nearly ended tragically. Certainly, most people knew they should not participate on loosely moderated pages if they cannot deal with the heat. 

But that does not excuse sociopathic behaviors. Thankfully someone was available to help the woman, and I have communicated with her since. Her issues were not made up bullshit. and nobody deserved to be badgered that hard. 

When we consider a Facebook group with 5000 members, logic indicates many of them have injured souls. Some are broken people through no fault of their own, or have been very angry and very hurt by things that happened to them online. As is the case in the offline world,  we do not know if the next person we invite into our home on social media, has the empathy of a serial killer. 


Almost everybody that spends time on Facebook has issued a reply to a post they later sheepishly deleted. I am not going to offer lectures on online etiquette. I enjoy belonging to a group that is not overpopulated by TOS Nazis or overly aggressive admins. But the idea of an "uncensored" or "lightly moderated" page, does not grant members license to show zero self-restraint when battering the weak. 

I certainly have had my share of heated exchanges on Facebook and have definitely passionatey stood up for my political beliefs. I am not claiming my hands are 100% clean from being intemperate and occasionally snarky. Very few among us have always been kind. But I also do not think there is ever a license to keep piling on when it is pretty obvious that somebody is fragile and troubled. I do think its possible to apply personal responsibility and sense into how far we are willing to push people. We are very fortunate that we did not have a tragedy on that night.

If we wanted to blow up the world, it could be simply done.  It would only take making public every e-mail or deleted post anybody has ever written. If every single dumb and/or cruel comment about others hit the light of day, it's doubtful many relationships would survive. The drawback of writing on the Internet is that everything is easily taken absolutely literally. And it lasts potentially forever, somewhere.  

Teasing may be a way of letting others know that you see through their illusions. Making mock of people from the shadows can be a way of bonding, reassuring others that all are correct in their mutually harsh judgments. But more often than not, it's simply mean. 

We all have had someone come up to us, while engaged in saying something hilariously catty at their expense. The pain we inflict on someone else forces us to face some inconvenient truths about ourselves. That we might make fun of people, even people who don't deserve it, who are beneath us in some social or professional order, just to ingratiate ourselves with those who seem somehow more empowered.

Knowing that some other person’s opinion of us is unpleasant reminds us that we’re just the same as everyone else. Others in the world do not view us in an objective way, or a compassionate manner. Some people will simply never be on our side, no matter how much we would like them to be. In the end, it's very seldom about us. It's about another person and their issues.

It still hurts. We feel wounded that someone could actually know us and think of us poorly. We become embarrassed, or damn them as vicious betrayers. Which, of course, we all can be and are. We all have stuck a knife in another back, even those we love the most. Anyone we know well can be irritating, a serial transgressor, unconscious of their flaws and incongruity and anchored to the very things that often screw them up the most. And we all are adept at pointing each and every flaw out. 


We carry interior complexity in ourselves. We each have the talent for compartmentalizing and holding contradictions within. We can be capable of kindness and generosity and of viciousness and malice. We can be unkind and still be fond of someone, and we can be kind to people we cannot stand. It is a delusion to believe that 315 million other people in the United States are not doing the same thing. 

It's been a harsh few years in the court of other people's opinions. We see it in the daily news, throughout the culture and realize we live in the age of snark. It infects our lives personally and professionally and informs most things we ourselves regret. For all who have been crappy to others, the reasons are more about us than who we are "throwing under the bus." Then we awaken later, after being hurt ourselves, and realize what we have done to others ourselves. It's truly hard to discern who is building bad karma when almost everybody has a bit of the stench themselves.

The concept of a "judgment day" when we pass on is terrifying to most. Imagine a life review where we find out all the things anyone had ever felt about us, both good and bad. What's worse is that we have to hear all the worst things we have said and done, before getting to the reasons for our redemption at the end. 

There is no way most would go down such a path if still alive, but there's not much of an option when we are transitioning. For if we want the rewards of living forever we will have to submit to the ordeal of our entire stories being known. It's better to prepare for that time while we can, and start by cutting all others a break. Chances are, we are going to need a bit of grace for ourselves. 



Sunday, October 29, 2017


The sun is setting by the ocean. I am again reading a book of letters varied people have written about events in their life. Some are happy, some are poignant and sad. Few were written with the consciousness that the words would be read a hundred years or more in the future. 

In this day of keyboards, it is doubtful that much of our writing will endure e-mail deletions and crashed hard drives in 100 years. It is equally doubtful that the art of writing in the cursive script has much of a future. I often hope that inspiration will visit, something enduring I could capture on a handwritten page.  Something that would leave some lasting thoughts behind. Something that would illuminate someone's pathway even when I was a memory. 

Great speeches are like those letters. Our appreciation of public address has declined along with the written word, except perhaps for the early years of Barack Obama. The three best speech writers of modern times not coincidentally worked for the three best platform speakers in the business. Choosing between Reagan's Peggy Noonan (Challenger Speech) and Ted Kennedy's Robert Shrum is difficult at best. A sizable percentage of scholars vote for JFK's Ted Sorenson. 

Clinton's Press Secretary Mike Mc Curry once told Sorenson "Every kid that comes to Washington wants to be you. Just out of the University of Nebraska's law school, Sorensen arrived in Washington, D.C. "unbelievably green," as he later admitted. "I had no legislative experience, no political experience. I'd never written a speech. I'd hardly been out of Nebraska." 

Sorensen was soon involved in the authorship of Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage (1955). There is significant evidence Sorenson actually wrote the entire book, Whether or not those allegations are true, Sorenson always made it a point to assert that since JFK ultimately stood behind the words, he was the true author. But then there were cases in which Kennedy's voice gave out in the 1960 campaign, and Sorenson read his speeches to an audience.  Reporters later looked and saw the notebook he used had nothing but blank pages. 

Sorenson went on to co-author some of the most memorable presidential speeches of the last century, including Kennedy's inaugural address, the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, and the American University commencement address on peace. Contrast the way the current occupant of the Oval Office addresses the great questions of war and peace with John Kennedy's approach. Be very scared and very sad. 

After John Kennedy died, Sorensen always was emphatic in terming JFK as the "true author." In his book on Kennedy from 1965, Sorenson explained the rhetorical style of Jack Kennedy. It's still great advice and I'll append it below.

Many remember the story of a politician who resigned as a Cabinet member to return home and run for the US Senate. After he arrived and said a few remarks, he put his paper away and said, "now I have a few words." One senses that Donald Trump believes political speeches are "mere words" and that what he says simply does not have serious implications. When he does employ a speechwriter, it most probably is Stephen Miller, whose appearances on television evoke memories of Hitler's Goebbels. Mr. Miller is a "white nationalist." 

Sorensen noted in 2008,  "Kennedy's rhetoric when he was president turned out to be a key to his success," he told an interviewer in 2008. "His 'mere words' about Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba helped resolve the worst crisis the world has ever known without the U.S. having to fire a shot." 

Interestingly Ted Sorenson also said this in a New York Times piece published on the 1960 campaign two months before his 2010 death, how there existed "far more substance and nuance than in what now passes for political debate in our increasingly commercialized, sound-bite Twitter-fied culture, in which extremist rhetoric requires presidents to respond to outrageous claims." If only he knew what was to come.  


The best Nobel Prize acceptance speech was that of William Faulkner in 1949. Writing at the height of the Atomic Age — another time of threats and dystopian premonitions. We too live in an "Age of Anxiety" a cultural phenomenon alive and well today under different circumstances. Faulkner reflected back them on how soul-killing it is to write from a place of fear rather than a place of hope. 

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat."

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy summed up Winston Churchill's achievements, saying, "In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone — and most men save Englishmen despaired of England's life — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." 

It takes courage to reach out and speak out. We are all aware of what its like to deal with the consequences of having our dreams broken. We also lack the ability to look into tomorrow and know what the outcomes will be. That was what Ronald Reagan wrote of in that incredible last letter that at the end of the day there would always be a bright dawn for America. But he also cautioned that what took generations of Americans to build, could be lost if we were not very careful. 

Under the Trump era, we have seen the President go after the press as "fake news". In 1938, Winston Churchill said dictators were afraid of the power of words. "A state of society where men may not speak their minds cannot long endure."  

Like it or not, we each just may be actors in a great unfolding drama that defines the world over generations.  Robert Kennedy once noted, "There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past which, in fact, never existed." 

A more apt description of our era would be hard to find. Just as all the great demagogues do from Huey Long to Joe McCarthy, Donald Trump has been doing indecent things and lying for years and years.  Will history look back at our time and say that we individually chickened out, when our freedom was at maximum peril?  People are going to look back at this era and ask what were you doing when all these unjust things came down?  

With all the indecency emanating from Donald Trump and his white nationalist base, we must each ask ourselves, what we are doing during this time?  To listen to the White House, there are only "alternate facts" and two sides when it comes to the truth. But we all know reality. And there’s only side: simple and objective truth. 



PS- For those who might want to raise their voices and mobilize the English Language to oppose Donald or deliver a speech on everything and anything else,: here's advice from the best in the business.

"The Kennedy style of speech-writing--our style, I am not reluctant to say, for he never pretended that he had time to prepare first drafts for all his speeches--evolved gradually over the years. . . .

We were not conscious of following the elaborate techniques later ascribed to these speeches by literary analysts. Neither of us had any special training in composition, linguistics or semantics. Our chief criterion was always audience comprehension and comfort, and this meant: (1) short speeches, short clauses, and short words, wherever possible; (2) a series of points or propositions in numbered or logical sequence wherever appropriate; and (3) the construction of sentences, phrases, and paragraphs in such a manner as to simplify, clarify and emphasize.

The test of a text was not how it appeared to the eye, but how it sounded to the ear. His best paragraphs, when read aloud, often had a cadence, not unlike blank verse--indeed at times, keywords would rhyme. He was fond of alliterative sentences, not solely for reasons of rhetoric but to reinforce the audience's recollection of his reasoning. Sentences began, however incorrect some may have regarded it, with "And" or "But" whenever that simplified and shortened the text. His frequent use of dashes was of doubtful grammatical standing--but it simplified the delivery and even the publication of a speech in a manner no comma, parenthesis or semicolon could match.

Words were regarded as tools of precision, to be chosen and applied with a craftsman's care to whatever the situation required. He liked to be exact. But if the situation required a certain vagueness, he would deliberately choose a word of varying interpretations rather than bury his imprecision in ponderous prose.

For he disliked verbosity and pomposity in his own remarks as much as he disliked them in others. He wanted both his message and his language to be plain and unpretentious, but never patronizing. He wanted his major policy statements to be positive, specific and definite, avoiding the use of "suggest," "perhaps" and "possible alternatives for consideration." At the same time, his emphasis on a course of reason--rejecting the extremes of either side--helped produce the parallel construction and use of contrasts with which he later became identified. He had a weakness for one unnecessary phrase: "The harsh facts of the matter are . . ."--but with few other exceptions his sentences were lean and crisp. . . .

He used little or no slang, dialect, legalistic terms, contractions, clich├ęs, elaborate metaphors or ornate figures of speech. He refused to be folksy or to include any phrase or image he considered corny, tasteless or trite. He rarely used words he considered hackneyed: "humble," "dynamic," "glorious." He used none of the customary word fillers (e.g., "And I say to you that is a legitimate question and here is my answer"). And he did not hesitate to depart from strict rules of English usage when he thought adherence to them (e.g., "Our agenda are long") would grate on the listener's ear.

No speech was more than 20 to 30 minutes in duration. They were all too short and too crowded with facts to permit any excess of generalities and sentimentalities. His texts wasted no words and his delivery wasted no time.

(Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy. Harper & Row, 1965. Reprinted in 2009 as Kennedy: The Classic Biography)

Saturday, October 28, 2017


In 1999 it was revealed that an Albuquerque City Council candidate and nine of his relatives had registered to vote at a mobile home in Southeast Albuquerque. He said at the time that his relatives never voted. Having gone to college at the University of New Mexico, it was not a shock this miscreant would have pulled that brand of stunt. I'll go to my grave having to explain why I helped the guy get elected as our Student Body President. 

Even by the low standards of "the Land of Enchantment", a ballot box stuffing stunt seems pretty brazen. Given the optics, it's rather petty and really dumb. Eighteen years later I witnessed a clumsily executed variant courtesy of "Environmental Attorney" Mike Levin's campaign for Darrell Issa's 49th Congressional District seat on California's bucolic coast. 

It was a beautiful morning in Northern San Diego County. Early on a Saturday morning at the meeting of a local Democratic club, there was a vote on which delegates the club will send to the area Democratic pre-endorsement conference. 

At that event, several non-residents of the area were able to vote for the representatives of these tightly knit together coastal communities.  On the very deadline to pay the membership dues to vote in this election, thirty-eight new members suddenly appeared and enrolled. The majority were "carpetbaggers". They were there to vote for a slate favoring Mike Levin. 

Those responsible for these sudden last-minute enrollees saw nothing wrong with a little ballot box stuffing.  Their campaign staff (perhaps) forgot this was not just a case of winning an endorsement for their trailing campaign. In the shadow of the 2016 divide in the Presidential Primary campaign, forgetting the right of neighbors to have their voices heard looms disproportionately large. 

To those on the receiving end of this internecine struggle, it's another example of the Democratic Party processes seeming not right, and unfair. It's a question that potentially will be scorching the party's earth for years to come. There was an air of ruthlessness in the way the Hillary Clinton campaign conducted its affairs in 2016. 

It comes as no shock that Mr. Levin would follow that playbook. A selling point for Mike Levin's candidacy has been that he is "dialed in" to the Clinton family, and spent much of 2016 bundling donations for HRC.  It is also been widely broadcast that Levin went to Stanford at the same time Chelsea Clinton did.  

His stated credentials as an "environmental attorney" would seem to resonate in a district concerned about rampant coastal development and the issues surrounding the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. As expected in a hotly contested campaign, Mr. Levin's bona fides seem to be in some dispute.  Before delving into those matters, a little background information is assistive. 


A year after the 2016 presidential election, festering tensions between the Clinton and Sanders wings continue to divide the Democratic Party. 2017 began with the struggle over who should chair the Democratic National Committee. Sanders and his supporters were behind the losing candidate, Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), while the Clintonian Democrats were seen as supporting the winner, former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez. 

Recently a resolution calling on Senator Sanders to join the Democratic Party was defeated during the Democratic National Committee meetings in Las Vegas October 18-21. It was yet another sign of the tensions between Sanders acolytes and Clinton people still blaming Sanders for the debacle last November. Hopes that perhaps the depths of calamity we witnessed last November 8th would chasten the troops were dashed. There is ample evidence that peace will not ensue anytime soon.  

More than a year after Clinton’s primary win and nearly a year after Donald Trump’s victory on Election Day,  all the infighting takes the focus off of the President. Witnessing Donald Trump bringing us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructing justice, and being "on the take" from foreign governments should be a prescription for party unity. Sadly, the race for the 49th Congressional District on the coast between Orange County and San Diego has become a microcosm of that divide.  


A retired Marine colonel came within 1621 votes of defeating Rep. Darrelll Issa, R-Vista in 2016. Doug Applegate's appeal to the military veterans residing around Camp Pendleton helped Applegate to actually defeat Issa in Northern San Diego County. After the last census, there were 46,441 civilian veterans in the district. Charges were voiced by Issa in that race about a messy divorce, including false allegations of spousal abuse, yet Issa sued Applegate for alleged libel. In the end, a judgment ordered Issa to pay his opponent more than $45,000. 

One demonstration of how motivated the electorate is to purge Issa is that hundreds of voters turnout every Tuesday at 10 am to demonstrate outside of his Vista, CA office. 

Issa defeated Applegate in the closest congressional race in the country last year. The 49th District race is being targeted for 2018 by the DCCC. With a proven candidate there seems to be no compelling reason for another entry into this race.  In theory, a contested primary would be a good thing, if all the candidates were raising money and ganging up on Issa and his ties to President Trump. Sadly, the race has turned into a saga of three significant candidates in the field. It’s an open question whether Democrats have increased or decreased their chances of knocking off Issa by the hard-edged tactics of one of these new participants. 


For Democrats, the good news is that capable candidates will be in the primary field, raising money and shining a lantern on Issa, his record, and his ties to President Trump. The bad news, of course, is that the race has begun to resemble a knife fight. Only one will make it through the primary to face the incumbent in the November general election. Certainly, Mr. Levin is entitled to run for the nomination. For many, it is a pervasive sense of entitlement which is the concern.  

The Levin campaign has insisted that there are no meaningful policy differences between Colonel Applegate and their candidate. That would seem to beg the question of why Democratic voters need to vote for anybody but Colonel Applegate. To date the Levin campaign's rationale for his candidacy goes like this: 

1- Applegate lost last time. We need a winner. 

Linked here is an analysis of Issa's electoral history. The 2016 hairbreadth margin of 1621 is a vast contrast to past Democratic performance in the 49th. 

2- Mike Levin is a family man, with an adorable family that should be in a Kellogg's commercial. Applegate once had a contentious divorce.  

Outside of the rather feline nature of this argument, it is based on the whispering campaign Issa conducted in 2016. Having just received a rather emphatic sanction for his tactics in court, it's hard to conceive that Issa has held anything in reserve as far as opposition research on Doug Applegate. Mike Levin has not really been vetted in terms of surviving the "heaters" Darrell will throw at any nominee's head.  

When looking into the policy utterances of Mike Levin, he appears to be a cipher. His Facebook page, until he declared, was a repository of banalities with some Clinton family hagiography tossed in. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein's comment about Oakland, "there's no there, there." 


For John Q. Citizen, one would expect a page replete with anything that resembles a conviction. For a candidate for Congress, much less one claiming he has spent years in the political vineyards where the Republican grapes of wrath are stored, the absence of the same is jarring. Not only should we ask "where's the beef". we should ask why the refrigerator is utterly empty. 

An interesting aspect of Mike Levin's career is the "environmental attorney" claim. Just this week the Levin camp put out invitations to view this link. It was entitled "myths vs. facts". It sought to address the questions being raised about this vital part of his resume. Here's an example:

Myth: Mike is not a “real” environmental attorney because he didn’t litigate many cases, and there is no record of his advocacy prior to 2016.

Fact: Since 2007, Mike’s work in clean energy has focused on accelerating our transition to a sustainable future. He has worked with companies and non-profits as both attorney and advocate. He is not and has never been a registered lobbyist.

A search for any narrative surrounding Mike Levin's career as an "environmental attorney" is as difficult as penetrating the veil of his policy positions. If your expectation of an attorney dealing with the environment is Atticus Finch filing briefs on behalf of adorable creatures, our air, and our water, Mike Levin’s career is going to disappoint. As one observer noted, "LexisNexis has only three pleadings, none of which are environmental." 

Another question to ask is if a "Director of Government Affairs" can look you in the eye and assert his job is not about lobbying. As seen in the video above: if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it's a duck. Regardless of whether the duck resides in San Juan Capistrano or on K Street. 

Fact- Mike Levin was Director of Government Affairs and later VP of Legal and Regulatory Affairs for FlexEnergy/Ener-Core, a gas turbine/oxidizer manufacturer-distributor.   

Fact- Mike Levin was then the Director of Government Affairs for FuelCell Energy, Inc. Levin's Linked in page states that "FuelCell Energy, Inc. (Nasdaq: FCEL) is a leading integrated fuel cell company that designs, manufactures, sells, installs, operates and services ultra-clean, highly efficient stationary fuel cell power plants for distributed power generation. 

The Yale University Climate Connections site notes the Following "Concern about the natural gas used to make hydrogen in fuel cells reflects what it takes to get that gas – fracking and its impacts, and the methane leakage associated with transporting gas. 

Given this rather interesting dichotomy, Mr. Levin's "Myth vs. Facts" page has either made a transposition error or it's written deceptively. It really should read as follows: 

Myth: Mike is a proud owner of a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle, which emits only water vapor from the tailpipe, has a 366-mile range, can refuel in less than 5 minutes, and has roughly the same carbon footprint as other electric vehicles.

Fact:  Mike supports Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, which are a non-renewable technology which reliees on fracking.

“Any time you’re talking about a fossil fuel,” said Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “no matter how efficient your conversion technology is, you’re starting with something that’s fundamentally unsustainable."

Given this rather interesting dichotomy, Mr. Levin's "Myth vs. Facts" page has either made a transposition error or its written deceptively. It really should read as follows: 

Myth: Mike opposes fracking.

Fact: Mike supports fracking.

In May of 2016, ExxonMobil either bought an undisclosed interest in FuelCell and/or the two companies entered into an agreement to collaborate on carbon capture and clean coal development. This year, FuelCell's Vice President was a featured speaker at the National Coal Council's Annual Spring Meeting. As the industry website H2- International notes:

"During the industry conference Energy – Think Outside the Box in Berlin, William M. Colton, vice president corporate strategic planning at ExxonMobil, talked about the big potential of a technology called “carbon capture.” By that, he meant the option to add CO2 to hydrogen to create methane and convert the result into power and heat inside a fuel cell. ExxonMobil’s partner for generating energy from emissions is FuelCell Energy (NASDAQ: FCEL). Days later, U.S. President Donald Trump said in a speech that he intended to “end the war on coal” and that the United States was going to have “clean coal.” A coincidence? One of the members of Trump’s team is former ExxonMobil chair Rex Tillerson, who could have told Trump about the technology."
Given this rather interesting dichotomy, Mr. Levin's "Myth vs. Facts" page has either made a transposition error or it's written deceptively. If there was an investment by Exxon, they own an interest in FuelCell Energy.  Even if FuelCell Energy is said to be a strategic partner or a vendor,  the following holds true:

Myth: Mike has never worked for Exxon.

Fact: .Mike has worked for Exxon


According to Mike Levin's own assertions on this page,  He has devoted his career “directing lobbying” for grants, financing, and favorable regulations. He has been integrally involved driving legislation as a "Director of Governmental Affairs" of companies that specialize in the development of fossil fuel-based technologies. 

The fact remains that natural gas is integral to the operation of microturbines, hydrogen fuel cells, and carbon capture, for which the number one source is the same ‘clean’ coal a certain "dotard" really likes. Of course, reports state that Trump really believes that "clean coal" means that workers are actually hand-washing the coal. 

At the end of the day, both Trump's claims of "clean coal" and Mike Levin's assertion that he is an "environmental attorney" sound like great spin. Until they aren't. 

All of this brings us back to where we began. Mike Levin's campaign keeps running away from his actual background rather than taking pride in it. Though it might sound better in a "dial group" than fessing up to swimming in the "swamp" as a Director of Governmental Affairs, it does not seem as if the truth is something that is very harmful. 

If we are the "company we keep", perhaps Mike Levin has been unduly influenced by Hill, Bill and Chelsea to parse his own life and career and create an illusory one. It seems one of those tragic situations where one would have better served by the truth than spinning it. The saddest thought that crosses my mind as I write this, is that maybe, just maybe, I would have been helping the Levin campaign heist a small club's delegate selection today. If he had told us the truth. 


The greatest speech I ever have witnessed was Mario Cuomo's stunning keynote at the 1984 Convention. I cried when Ted Kennedy lost the nomination in 1980. 

I’m a dinosaur. If I had had a chance to support Joe Biden last year, I would have taken it. The 'Third Way' that the Clintons embraced was co-authored by their longtime consultant Dick Morris. "Dickie's" other big client back in that day was Trent Lott. Triangulation politics were born from the idea that the best strategy to re-elect Bill Clinton was to split the difference between the 1994 "Contract for America" Congressional Class that Newt Gingrich ushered in, and the progressive wing of his own party. It began a decades-long disconnect between the working class voters that were the party's soul, and the technocratic view of policy and politics the Clinton's embraced. 

The Democratic Leadership Conference crowd never really understood Reagan's appeal to voters. It seems the message they took from the era was that the way to victory was to sound a bit less crazy and less venal than the Republicans. The continued decline of organized labor has been a disaster for our voters. One does not have to be a "Democratic Socialist" to get the issues attendant to avaricious wealth and income inequality. Not only is it a moral matter, it's also one of common sense and crucial to the survival of a stable society. One would imagine that folks might remember some lessons of history. One being, that when the gap between rich and poor gets this broad, revolutions follow. 

Trump's election was a huge primal scream for large parts of what were and should have been our voters. Our party chose to run away from anything and everything that made it the "party of hope" from the early 1930's until 1992 or so. 

One may read this as a polemic against a nice young guy. One could be partially correct in that assertion. But until we as a Democratic Party learn how to be true to our traditions, and learn how to communicate with people once again, all we will be left with are campaigns that do not inspire. Real emotions are not derived from a focus group. 

And real "Environmental Attorneys" actually are practicing "Environmental Attorneys"



Friday, October 27, 2017


"In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." - Aeschylus

Over the past few years, I have become more and more conscious of grief. Obviously, it’s partially a function of age, for though I am not yet an AARP member, simple math tells us that once we hit 35, we are entering the realm where there are fewer sunrises ahead of us than in the rearview mirror. 

This has not been a very stellar time. It has been a brutal one, for way too many in my orbit. Few days have passed without hearing of another tragedy, whether it has been economic, the result of sickness, or death. Some of these stories are firmly in the public domain and have been shared in the media. 

Some have been discussed pretty openly by other writers, or in varied social media. Some have been shared at services, among friends and colleagues. Some have gone unshared, by those who prefer to keep things close to their hearts, or those who have come to believe grief is best left as a solitary journey. 

There are some things that defy words, and the random selection of tragedy is one of them. There are few more helpless feeling than telling someone widowed in their twenties that the only certainty they will face, is that an elusive day will come where they will learn to live with the loss. There are some events in our world, we never quite get over. 

If we live long enough, we will each face grief. There is not a blueprint for how to navigate the corridors of tragedy. No matter how we choose to cope, the cost of longevity is going through the loss of loved ones and the other storms certain to enter into our lives. 

Many people in hospitality, like people anywhere, were affected by 9/11. Some of us knew an affected family, many of us knew somebody who was one small step removed from the events. One of the most indelible images were the memorials that sprang up around ground zero. Sadly we have had too many of those displays visiting us much closer to home the past few years. Sadly, I have had reasons to visit the one by that Safeway in Tucson, and after the Yarnell tragedy, in my old hometown of Prescott, Arizona. 

When I visited each, I was stunned by the number of remembrances, and the numbers of people obviously still moved by an incomprehensible event they had to try to understand. And though I visited both places alone, and did so anonymously, one could not escape the fact we all were united at that moment by that shared experience of loss. We each sensed something similar and inescapable, that for some reason some very great souls had left us for reasons we cannot comprehend. And never will. 

We seek to remember those we have lost. Often we are compelled to do so. Though a Facebook Memorial Wall varies qualitatively with the posters on it, it is amazing the moving and sensitive things you read, as people grope to do justice to those lost. You can feel how desperately each misses the person who was being remembered. And though we often may be uncertain of the identity of whose soul is being bared online, and are not attending a funeral for the lost person, we are still part of a group joined together by that very real need to remember. Earl Spencer said at his sister’s funeral "We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but rather in our need to do so.” He was very right. 


“When he shall die, take him and cut him out into the stars, and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.” - Robert Kennedy at the 1964 Democratic Convention. 

The Atlantic City convention took place less than a year after President Kennedy's assassination. On its last day , Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy introduced a short film in honor of his brother's memory. When Kennedy appeared on the podium, the hall erupted in 22 minutes of uninterrupted applause, causing him to nearly break into tears. Speaking about his brother's vision for the country, Robert Kennedy famously quoted from Romeo and Juliet, in the words quoted above. 

In the next weeks, there will be many memories of Dallas, I have blogged about the anniversary. With the release of hundreds of pages of classified documents, the story of Dallas seems destined to be around for a while.  One story about those days that affected history was how his brother’s enforcer was almost destroyed by grief. It was no small guilt, for he knew that the seeds for Jack Kennedy's murder may have been sown in the issues that crossed his desk. In his memoir, the youngest Kennedy brother wrote of how the Kennedy’s feared for Bobby’s sanity and even feared a second tragedy. Video exists of Robert Kennedy's first television appearance after Dallas,. One could easily tell the pain was still palpable. 

Instead, that great loss caused him to reach out to those around him, those struggling with less publicized grief or suffering hard times each day of their lives. Grief made him change. He was speaking from a perspective illuminated by his life experience and instilled earlier by Catholic social teaching. We are a body of souls able to support others, to comfort the suffering, obligated to help each other on our way. In these times where we too often are paralyzed by shades of red and blue, we forget that we are not powerless truly touch one another’s lives for the better. 

Knowing of the fragility of life, he knew we should never let the moment pass us by. He was raised to believe that those who much had been given, had an obligation to look out for one another, to give something back to our nation, for all it has given us. Sadly the journey was unfinished, but the solution he found was timeless. His speech in the aftermath of Dr. King's assassination is still considered one of the great extemporaneous remarks of all time. 

He lived the words he heard Cesar Chavez speak as he ended his famous fast in Delano, “When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So, it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life.”

When tragedy and setbacks have gotten the best of me, I wrote of my struggles online. I was stunned by the outpouring of support that people showed, the kindness. In a time where there was nothing but sadness, the words of support from many meant everything to me. I had never dealt with so many different kinds of losses, and I almost lost hope. 

The people that reached out to me are the sole reason I was able to move on, at a time I wanted to give up. It took a village to lift me up, for, in a time where I had an obligation to be strong for others, I was having trouble standing. The great people who did that for me saved me. There is grace present when we band together to watch out for each other. It is something we all need to never forget.  



RFK at the 1964 Democratic Convention

In 1967 CBS and the BBC decided to use the still new technology of Satellite TV to stage a "Town meeting of the World." Most observers felt that Ronnie won. You decide. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017


"When the wind is right, a faint odor of kerosene is exhaled from Senator McCarthy"
- Ray Bradbury

During the Red Scare of the 1950s,  Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, a virulent nationalist crusader,  hauled dozens of alleged “Communist sympathizers” before a Senate panel. Earlier, the House Un-American Activities Committee ( led by a young Dick Nixon)  had conducted a "witch hunt" against artists and entertainers in the same vein, resulting in a trail of fear, prison sentences, and ruined careers for hundreds. One favorite charge from that time was "premature anti-fascism" many of whom had found common cause in fighting Hitler a tad too early. That charge, in particular, worked well for Joe and Dick. For when they pursued Jewish folks, it was easy to forget that there was a small event called the Holocaust going down for years before the US entered World War II. 

I never met Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, but he was a family friend before I was born. My family was from Syracuse, but my uncle married a Wisconsin girl. In the faded pictures one sees the demon incarnate. In those days before Jack Kennedy was elected, Irish Americans were more of a cohesive immigrant community. Politicians worked as "retail politicians." The pictures and images of the man in archival footage simply do not agree. In later years, I learned the implications of what our "family friend" had done.

Joe McCarthy ended as a broken man and censured legislator. Most see his early death from drinking as divine retribution for his tactics. I adopted the Democratic Party-driven initially by my sense of being an Irish Catholic and familial pride. My ancestors were part of building the party in upstate New York, on behalf of Governor Al Smith. I never could understand why in a backdrop of professed liberals, and houses full of shrines to the Blessed Virgin and JFK, the pride in knowing Joseph McCarthy was as apparent as those who had met "Honey Fitz", Joe and Rose, or Jack, Bobby, or their relations.

One day it was explained beautifully. "He was "one of us'"  when there was an "us" before we were assimilated." It's amazing how many things have changed since 1960, for our small part of America's melting pot culture. The evil stench left by the author of the "politics of personal destruction" seems to reside in our DNA, in politics, in business, and in modern life. It certainly resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue today.

President Trump and Joe McCarthy are very different historical figures but there are some things in common. There is the fact that Trump was mentored by Roy Cohn, who just happened to have been McCarthy's, right-hand man. I like what CNN's Jake Tapper has said, “They say, ‘history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.’ And when you read about that era, Joe McCarthy was doing indecent things and lying for years and years with Republicans and Democrats not saying anything.” 

Jack Kennedy managed to be absent from the Senate when the McCarthy censure vote came down in 1957. For not only was Joe a friend of the family, he gave Bobby a job as the Democratic counsel to his famed investigative committee. Though it certainly was not the most popular thing to do after McCarthy fell from grace, Bobby Kennedy was nothing if not loyal. He actually attended Joe's funeral.  There was also a political calculus in all this. Until the day he died, Joe McCarthy had a huge base amongst the Irish Catholics of Boston. His opting not to campaign for Henry Cabot Lodge in the 1952 Massachusetts Senate election, essentially elected John Kennedy. 

Only a few individuals spoke out against the Wisconsin senator. One was  Sen. Margaret Chase Smith whose "Declaration of Conscience" came years before the famed intervention of Edward R. Murrow on his CBS program "See it Now." Her words are ring so similar to the words of outgoing senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.   

"....Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:

The right to criticize;

The right to hold unpopular beliefs;

The right to protest;

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise, none of us could call our souls our own. " 

When history looks back at our time, as history looks back at that time, those not standing up against Trump will be viewed with contempt by history.  People are going to look back at this time and say What were you doing with all this indecency, all these games, and all these lies? What did do you when perhaps freedom itself is at another place of danger? Truth is not a fungible thing. There aren’t two sides when it comes to the truth. There’s one side: the truth. 


In a post some time ago we discussed the excellent book Dallas 1963. its authors remind us of so many behaviors from that era that have made a resurgence. Today's images of ISIS may have replaced the villains of the Cold War era, but there is the same atmosphere of a moral right to exclude those who seem different, or who we simply do not like.  

Even "Lucy" was dragged before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Linked here is the Wikipedia article about those times, and the list of the names is breathtaking. Parse the list - there are few you remembered as later generations did Jane Fonda The creative toll the Hollywood witch hunt took was massive, the toll in human tragedy was countless premature deaths and suicides.

There has been great literature written on the era, such as Lillian Hellman's Scoundrel Time, David Halberstam's book the Fifties, and Haynes Johnson's. The Age of Anxiety: McCarthyism to Terrorism, One film set in the time, was "the Way We Were", An integral part of the original plot was the ideological differences between liberal Katie and the apolitical Hubbell. The legend goes that after mixed preview audience reaction, Director Sydney Pollack grabbed a razor and cut the scenes dealing with the true reason for the characters divorcing while they are having a baby. Katie had been informed upon - leaving Hubbell unemployable unless they split. The cut changed the "Way We Were" into a great romantic film. but sent the story downward, Pollack maintained afterward, the change saved the a commercial enterprise.

Being "blackballed" was once common in social circles. Many have been denied a chance to buy a condo, or join a country club or fraternity. Starting in the 50's those times faded (except during "Rush Weeks"). The vast injustice behind apartheid and segregation is apparent, it has takes time to address the smaller scale injustices seen each and every day.

Dissemination of negativity against individuals is made easier by the technology we have at our fingers. Sociologists explain the spectrum of behaviors we encounter in our world, that causes some to lose any relationship to truth. Like "Tail Gunner Joe" they stop at nothing to hurt someone they are jealous of, or even if they are unknown except by rumor.

As a former campaign manager, I relished the times I could go “off the record”.By leveraging the use of deep background, one can shoot your opponents rotten fish in a barrel. But after reading comments reporters ran without an attempt at confirmation, I stopped confiding to journalists that cared that little about their craft. In a modern campaign, it’s all about raising the other candidates' negatives, whether they deserve it or not. But there should always be some limits and some attempt in discerning the truth.

Whether it’s journalism or business, when anonymous and negative sources are accepted, without confirming information, the door opens for the unethical. If one seeks to find feral behavior amongst humans, read the comments in any loosely moderated forum, where people are not forced to provide a true identity. Just read what happened after the 2015 Miss America contest. Eventually, the unfortunate comments were taken down, but at some great cost to a twentysomething winner.  


Joseph Nye Welch (October 22, 1890 – October 6, 1960) was the chief counsel for the  Army while it was under investigation for Communist activities by Senator McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, an investigation known as the Army–McCarthy hearings.

His confrontation with McCarthy during the hearings, in which he famously asked McCarthy "At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" is seen as a turning point in the history of McCarthyism.

On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings, Welch challenged Roy Cohn to provide U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. with McCarthy's list of 130 Communists or subversives in defense plants "before the sun goes down". McCarthy stepped in and said that if Welch was so concerned about persons aiding the Communist Party, he should check on a man in his Boston law office named Fred Fisher, who had once belonged to the National Lawyers Guild, which Brownell had called "the legal mouthpiece of the Communist Party". 

Welch had privately discussed the matter with Fisher beforehand and the two agreed Fisher should not participate in the hearings. Welch dismissed Fisher's association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion and attacked McCarthy for naming the young man before a nationwide television audience without prior warning or previous agreement to do so:

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us....Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. 

It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentleman, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me."

When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him: "Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild ... Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch interrupted: "Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further. I will not ask Mr. Cohn any more witnesses. You, Mr. Chairman, may if you will call the next witness." 

At this, those watching the proceedings broke into applause. That was the beginning of the end. 


I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States

-Margaret Chase Smith, criticizing the tactics of Joseph McCarthy.

McCarthy was a demagogue who would lie, slander and cheat to advance his political career. He used fear and innuendo in his fulsome campaign against innocent  Americans whose patriotism was questioned during the Cold War with the Soviets because they were liberal. Like Trump, he was a divisive politician.  

Rather than be a leader who can bring the country together, Trump tears it apart. He has divided Americans at a time when the specter of racism requires a president who can unite Americans of all races.

The end of McCarthy’s long reign of terror ended when the U.S. Senate censured him. McCarthy’s undoing came because he lost the support of his fellow Republicans, like Smith. The end of McCarthy's terror came when his accusations of communist infiltration of the U.S. Army backfired. Will Trump's indifference to racism effectively end his presidency? His loose relationship to truth? Time will only tell. 

In the meantime, Joe McCarthy’s legacy of hate hangs over Trump’s presidency.  Let’s hope that Jeff Flake's speech is the beginning of the beginning of the end.