Category: People

Our Chalice

 

God is in the wax and smoke

The lingering scent of a fire

Now extinguished

Still burning

Brighter than ever

 

 

 

A poem by Franklin Oliver 

© Gayle Force Press 2013

 

 

 

 

 

25th Amendment Contingency Plan

 

 

This is the moment to begin making contingency plans for Executive Office vacancies. 

 

Either a VP or Presidential resignation or impeachment would throw the US into chaos. That's why Congressional leaders should make a concerted effort to identify multiple credible, competent replacement candidates in the increasingly likely event the 25th Amendment becomes necessary soon.

 

The President is very likely to have the shadow of impeachment growing closer. That means there are two other big things coming into play. 

 

1- Trump might decide at any given moment to resign. His unstable personality combined with his persecution complex makes that possibility a real concern. He certainly wouldn't go through an impeachment trial. As in his business life, he'd attempt to find a way to 'settle' without admitting wrongdoing. That means resigning. 

 

2- It's already apparent that the scandals enveloping Trump that might actually lead to impeachment are likely to pull Pence into the same orbit. It's not unlikely that Pence might be offered up as the sacrificial lamb if Trump believes having Pence take responsibility would provide Trump sufficient cover. 

 

This why I think it's imperative to find a viable, willing replacement VP. I'd suggest it be someone like Lindsay Graham, Bob Gates, Chuck Hagel or even Mitt Romney who a) could win near universal congressional support b) would pledge not to run for re-election and c) is not tied to Trump or Pence. That's the type of person who could help pull the country out of the Trump/Pence morass AND be politically acceptable on both sides of the aisle. 

 

This feels like a scary situation to even contemplate. Not having a game plan is scarier still.

 

 

 

-Franklin Oliver

 

 

The Cuckoo Clock Is Ticking: The 2016 Presidential Election Forecast

 

Four and eight years ago, I made public disclosures about my predictions for the Presidential elections. In both elections, I got the entire map correct. <back pat> (I was especially pleased with 2012;  virtually nobody got that one right.) The streak probably stops at two. 

 

 

This year, I have far less confidence in polling data, the American polity and my own ability to read the tea leaves. However, the conversation keeps coming up so I might as well give it a shot. What do I have to lose? Besides the rest of my sanity…

 

So here’s my map: http://www.270towin.com/maps/RJjN4 

 

Go ahead, explore it, analyze it, mock it. I’ll wait.

 

My prediction is that in a couple months, Hillary Clinton will be the first woman since Catherine the Great to be the most powerful person on Earth.

 

Yup, I have it Clinton 342- Trump 196. That includes a couple tricky oddities. 1- Omaha area district peeling off for her as it did Obama in 2008 and 2- Clinton winning Ohio  despite polling leads for Trump. I figure that between Kasich’s disdain and The King’s support, Trump has to contend with two of the three most important men in that state. (I assume Urban Meyer is a Trump voter.)


I also kept Utah, Arizona and Georgia red. Those all feel very tricky to me. Utah, because of the Evan McMullin factor, would not surprise me if Trump, Clinton or McMullin won. Trump’s disastrous misadventures in wooing Mormons are the stuff upon which a reality show might be based. If he wins there, it will be because of voter inertia. If Clinton or McMullin wins, it will be because there is a rare, genuine opportunity to send a political message. In that battle, I generally assume inertia will win out.

 

Georgia is just a mess. Ditto for North Carolina but for different reasons. We should just accept that North Carolina is now a blue state. Tar Heel blue in fact.

 

I’m also not going to be surprised if Arizona goes to Clinton. Just because McCain resurrected his campaign doesn’t mean Arizonans are actually going to support Trump.

 

The surprising takeaway from a 342 number for me is that it would push Clinton beyond Obama’s Electoral College haul in 2012. I’d never have guessed that a year ago.

 

One more day until history’s made!

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

 

Where Do You Stand?

 

Every spring, my US History classes learn about the Vietnam War. For most students, it’s a new experience to study Vietnam. Invariably, students have an important misconception about the war: they presume most Americans were opposed to fighting in Vietnam. When I share evidence that the war was incredibly popular for years and never became statistically unpopular, they often feel shock. The reason is simple. People lie about their support for the Vietnam War. It’s now the cultural norm to acknowledge it as a bad war. People want to be on the right side of history in their memory, if not in their actions.

 

We are already seeing a similar process unfold regarding the Iraq War. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly lied about opposing the Iraq War. Why? Again, it’s culturally preferred to acknowledge that Iraq was a bad war. That means average citizens rewrite their positions in much the same way Trump does. These kinds of lies have become both ubiquitous and casual. Unless you’re a public figure, who will take the time to go back and discern where you actually stood on Iraq more than a decade ago?

 

But, do you remember? Do you remember what you thought a year after the September 11 attacks when President George W. Bush insisted Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was part of an axis of evil? Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld telling us all that Iraq was intimately connected to al-Qaida? Do you remember whether you told your family, friends and co-workers that we needed to invade Iraq or that it would be a horrible mistake? I’m guessing you do. I’m guessing that sending Americans to fight, kill and die in Iraq mattered enough that you thought about it and made a choice.

 

Well, what about now? If someone asked you about Iraq, would you tell them the truth? Would you acknowledge the wisdom or folly of your choice?  

 

You already know where I’m going with this, right?! 2016 features the clearest choice between Presidential candidates in modern times. We have major party candidates with stark differences in experience, temperament, perspective and vision. The hallowed middle ground for which presidential campaigns usually compete is a void this year. And at the ballot box, America will make a genuinely historic choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan declared that he would not make any effort to assist Trump’s campaign and other House Republicans should feel free to withdraw their support as well. What Ryan did not do is repudiate Trump or rescind his endorsement of him. He recognizes what a debacle the Trump candidacy is but can’t bring himself to make a public stand against it. Dozens of current and former GOP officials, including President George H. W. Bush have already announced they will vote for Clinton. What about you?

 

A decade from now, there will be an established cultural norm about this election. And in the final referendum of history, every American will have a story to tell their friends and family about where they stood at this critical moment.  What story will you tell? Will that story be true?  

 

In 2016, where do you stand?

 

 

FDO

 

 

This is an update of a previous post.

 

 

Barry Bonds Making History

 

Fifteen years ago, Barry Bonds broke what used to be one of the most hallowed records in American sporting life. He hit 71 and 72 home runs in a single season. 

 

When, in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa launched their epic chase to breach Roger Maris' 61 HR mark established in 1961, the nation rejoiced. America began falling back in love with baseball its ugly strike led to a 1994 season with no World Series. Even when most of us recognized something deeply suspicious about the Hulking physiques of these sluggers, we all smiled and kept watching

 

Three years later, the greatest (and surliest) player in recent memory hit bomb after bomb in a whole new world. Steroids were perceived as the worst destructive force the game had ever seen. The luster of the home run was gone. And outside his home park in San Francisco, fans mostly watched Bonds with begrudging eyes. 

 

I, instead, marveled. Sure, Bonds had enhanced his body dramatically. That seemed de rigueur in that era. I didn't hold him more responsible for steroid use than any other player. His excuses of using the BALCO derived "cream" and "clear" without knowing what they were seemed absurd and childish though perhaps they were a necessary fiction. The reality is that no one else was pursued for using steroids in quite the way Bonds was. Far more than his newfound power, Bonds' disdain for reporters and media etiquette was always his real crime. 

 

Let's remember, baseball is a game that requires exquisite timing and nearly instantaneous decision making, especially in the batter's box. Due to Bonds' unprecedented hitting acumen he was the recipient of astonishing numbers of walks, intentional walks and pseudo intentional walks. (This pattern only grew. In 2004, Bonds reached base 376 times on only 373 plate appearances. NOT a typo.) Despite seeing so few pitches because of the (understandable) desire of pitchers to avoid him, he maintained an unbelievably high rate of success. 

 

Now that the dust has settled and Bonds has been fired from his only post-retirement job in baseball, let's please take a moment to acknowledge the real life history we were able to watch a decade and a half ago. Let's remember when the greatest player since Willie Mays did what no one has ever done in the history of baseball. And enjoy it. 

 

 

FDO 

 

Mike Pence- Trump’s Best Hand?

 

I’m looking forward to watching Tuesday night’s Vice Presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Part of my intrigue is the Trump campaign’s effort to use Pence to appeal to women and moderates. After living through Pence’s term as Governor and watching his antics in the House for the previous decade, I find it telling that Trump’s team is convinced that there is a chance this strategy will work. Pence is a smart, seasoned politician with the kind of governing credentials Trump lacks. What he can’t do is build bridges.

 

There is a laundry list of examples of Pence’s firebrand divisiveness. Whether the issue is abortion, contraception, the superiority of Christianity or his efforts to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ Hoosiers, suffice it to say Pence has more than earned his rep as a FAR right attack dog.

 

The most pertinent recent example involves the thousands of Hoosier women who have participated in a group called Periods for Politicians formerly Periods for Pence. As Governor, Pence supported the kind of restrictive, intrusive anti-abortion law whose provisions sound like they were dreamed up in an Saturday Night Live writer’s meaning. Then dismissed as too unrealistic.

 

Perhaps the Trump campaign is correct in assuming that Pence’s placid demeanor and friendly mien will create the kind of sane, sympathetic image that was supposed to be the hallmark of compassionate conservatism. If so, tonight will be the most successful public event for Republicans since the dawn of autumn. (Poor Kelly Ayotte.) It will also be a shocking change of form for the people Pence governs.

 

 

FDO 

 

Ten Years Gone

I have lots of favorite days every year. Rachel’s birthday, Jake’s return from summer break, 46118 Christmas… They’re all beautiful days for me every year.

 

Today is always the worst.

 

My mom died on October 1, 2005.

 

Rachel and I bought a car that day. It’s the first and only new car either of us have ever owned. We drove to my parents’ house where Rachel, my dad and I talked about the car, discussed my new job at Brebeuf and had as normal a conversation as is possible when someone is dying of cancer in the big bedroom.

 

My dad and I spent part of the afternoon in that bedroom talking about our plans for the next stage of Mom’s care. We came to some decisions and made sure Mom was warm; shared some laughs and tears and rubbed Mom’s feet and arms; we talked about how well we could manage to continue making good choices for her and discussed how we could take care of each other.

 

A couple hours later, Dad called to tell me Mom was dead. My initial thought was confusion; I didn’t know what he meant. When he repeated himself (I’m so sorry I needed him to say it a second time…), I squealed. I groaned. I uttered a primal, urgent sound that I’ve never heard before or since. It was the sound of my soul being sucked out of my body.

 

I was on autopilot as I drove back to Mills Road and I sped as though I could somehow manage to hold on to something of my mother if I just arrived quickly enough.

 

The last thing I clearly remember from that entire day was thinking how mad Mom would be if I killed myself driving recklessly on 465. 
I think I slowed down.

 

In the intervening decade, I’ve lived a wonderful life. The gifts of love I’ve received have blessed me beyond measure. The heartbreaks of living have reminded me how much I continue to love the people in my life.

 

And every single day, I miss my mommy.

 

Today is always the worst.

 
 
 

Trump as Empire Builder?

Numerous prominent Republicans have long suggested that Donald Trump is unwilling to release his tax information because he’s hiding something important, maybe even a “bombshell”. Perhaps his reticence is about having an even lower effective tax rate than the one Mitt Romney revealed in 2012 or using the kind of barely legal tax havens he’s bashed in the past. In an attempt to head off the kind of controversy that now swirls around Trump, National Review published a piece declaring that if “Trump won’t release his tax returns prior to the GOP convention, the delegates pledged to him on the first ballot should abstain” from voting for him. The implications were that something devious or even sinister lurks in the paper trail.

 

Now that we're just a few weeks away from Election Day, Trump has now offered to trade his tax returns for Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails while still pretending his audit status prevents him from releasing his returns. He hinted that he might not actually even pay taxes at all!

 

In the first Presidential debate, Clinton raised a host of speculative theories about why Trump refuses to make his tax returns public. My theory is much simpler. See, I think the only thing that might truly diminish Trump for his supporters is his bottom line number. How much money does he actually have?

 

We’ve all seen the story play out before. A celebrity appears to have an immense amount of wealth but it’s illusory. Michael Jackson used to own an amusement park house for goodness sake!

 

This is why perception matters:

 

Trump’s primary appeal is his status as an empire builder. He describes himself as a winner and people believe it. After all, the strongest association we have with Trump is as ‘rich person’. In an America devoid of culturally significant dynastic families, it’s people like Donald Trump and the Kardashians who represent the 21st century image of American wealth. (We know nothing about most of the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Kennedys and Rockefellers in our midst today.) We’ve already looked behind the curtain at the Kardashians and seen the ‘momager’ Kris Jenner herself. We know she’s the wizard.

 

We have no idea what we’ll see when the curtain is pulled back on the ‘Trumpire’. If there’s far less wealth than we’ve been led to believe, it will be disastrous for Trump. Not because he’s funding his own campaign, despite what he says. But because the core premise of his candidacy will be gone. It’s only his wealth that resonates as successful. Without it, he’s just another reality show star with bad hair and a bizarrely attached following.

 

Now that I think about it, I wonder if Todd Chrisley would have been a better choice?

 

 

-FDO

 

 This is an update of a post I wrote several months ago.

Where Do You Stand?

 

Every spring, my US History classes learn about the Vietnam War. For most students, it’s a new experience to study Vietnam. Invariably, students have an important misconception about the war: they presume most Americans were opposed to fighting in Vietnam. When I share evidence that the war was incredibly popular for years and never became statistically unpopular, they often feel shock. The reason is simple. People lie about their support for the Vietnam War. It’s now the cultural norm to acknowledge it as a bad war. People want to be on the right side of history in their memory, if not in their actions.

 

We are already seeing a similar process unfold regarding the Iraq War. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly lied about opposing the Iraq War. Why? Again, it’s culturally preferred to acknowledge that Iraq was a bad war. That means average citizens rewrite their positions in much the same way Trump does. These kinds of lies have become both ubiquitous and casual. Unless you’re a public figure, who will take the time to go back and discern where you actually stood on Iraq more than a decade ago?

 

But, do you remember? Do you remember what you thought a year after the September 11 attacks when President George W. Bush insisted Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was part of an axis of evil? Do you remember Donald Rumsfeld telling us all that Iraq was intimately connected to al-Qaida? Do you remember whether you told your family, friends and co-workers that we needed to invade Iraq or that it would be a horrible mistake? I’m guessing you do. I’m guessing that sending Americans to fight, kill and die in Iraq mattered enough that you thought about it and made a choice.

 

Well, what about now? If someone asked you about Iraq, would you tell them the truth? Would you acknowledge the wisdom or folly of your choice?

 

You already know where I’m going with this, right?! 2016 features the clearest choice between Presidential candidates in modern times. We have major party candidates with stark differences in experience, temperament, perspective and vision. The hallowed middle ground for which presidential campaigns usually compete is a void this year. And at the ballot box, America will make a genuinely historic choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

 

A decade from now, there will be an established cultural norm about this election. And in the referendum of history, Americans will have a story to tell their friends and family about where they stood at this decisive moment. What story will you tell? Will that story be true?

 

In 2016, where do you stand?

 

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

 

Dennis Green: An Appreciation

 

I was saddened to hear about the death of former Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Dennis Green. According to all, Green truly was what we thought he was: a damn good coach.

 

He was also an important public figure in the great White north of Minnesota. I remain convinced that Green helped ready the Twin Cities for a host of Black leaders. To the best of my knowledge, Green was the Black person t0 ever lead a major element of the Metro community’s public life. (Some might suggest Clem Haskins, but U basketball rises and falls with its winning percentage and has a much smaller social footprint.)

 

Since then, the Cities have had prominent Black civic leaders like Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, Bobby McFerrin, Representative Keith Ellison & head coaches of both the Timberwolves & Vikes. They have all built on Green’s success.

 

My adopted homeland owes him a tremendous debt.

 

RIP, Mr. Green.