Trump And His Traitors Show Their True Colors

This is unacceptable. And wrong, both intellectually and morally. If you cannot disavow Nazis, White Supremacists, and Anti-Semites, then you are not fit to lead this nation. And those who apologize for him, or look the other way in hopes of achieving some political gain, are just as guilty as he is.

As for the silly people who try to pretend this about “honoring southern heritage” or “preserving American history,” stop kidding yourselves. General Robert E. Lee opposed such monuments, along with the displaying of the Confederate flag.

And those who try to claim that such symbols are valid celebrations of our nation’s history simply don’t know our nation’s history. We don’t celebrate traitors in America. For example, the 9/11 terrorist attacks are also part of our nation’s history, but that doesn’t mean we should erect statues to the terrorists who perpetrated them. We don’t celebrate those who attack our nation, and certainly not those who commit treason, which is exactly what the Confederates were all about.

Of course, you would know that if you spent your time reading books rather than staring at carved stone. The Confederacy were traitors, plain and simple. They started an armed uprising against the United States of America. They attacked and killed Americans in an attempt to leave America, because they did not share our values and ideals. Therefore, they have no place in America other than that which is given to them – as an ugly, shameful footnote in our nation’s history.

The Trumped Up President

Last week, Donald Trump made the following statement:

“Even the President of Mexico called me. Their southern border, they said very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get to our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”

And the week before, he said the following:

“I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.”

The problem is that neither phone call took place. There’s a word for that: lying.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s White House press secretary, has since begrudgingly admitted that those calls never took place. But instead of admitting that the President had brazenly lied to the American public, as he clearly had (and as he has often done before), she tried to spin his lies into honest mistakes, claiming that the President of Mexico expressed those sentiments in person, during the G-20 summit four weeks ago, and that “multiple members of the Boy Scouts leadership following his speech there that day congratulated him, praised him and offered quite powerful compliments following his speech.”

But here’s the thing. Trump said these were phone calls, and they were not. That’s not an honest mistake. That’s an intentional misrepresentation of the facts, which is the definition of a lie.

And why is this distinction so important? Because if he is willing to lie about the manner of those conversations, then how can we be sure that he is not also lying about what he claims was the substance of those conversations as well? Or any conversation he has, for that matter?

Sure, Trump claims that was the feedback he got – praise for his policies from the President of Mexico and praise for the greatest speech ever from the Boy Scouts. But he also claimed that he got that feedback over the phone, which was a lie in both instances. If Trump lies compulsively, even about insignificant things, how can anyone trust what he says about things that really matter?

Despite the almost comical efforts of Trump’s 24/7 DC spin machine, these lies cannot be dismissed as honest mistakes. If Trump cannot remember things accurately, as they happened, if he cannot keep the facts straight, then we really need to consider whether this 71 year-old is fit and capable of leading our nation. And if the man cannot tell the difference between a phone call and a face-to-face conversation, then we’ve got even bigger problems than a Liar in Chief.

And it’s not like these are isolated incidents, either. Trump has proven to be a serial liar. The Washington Post has documented an average of four lies per day from Duplicitous Donny since he took office. The New York Times has been running a daily recap of Trump’s lies, just so people can keep up with his ballooning body of dishonesty. And PolitiFact, a site that specializes in fact-checking political claims, has an entire page dedicated to the man’s deceit, examining more than 400 statements Trump has made as a candidate and elected official, with 47 percent of them proving to be absolute lies (that’s nearly half, folks!), 21 percent of them being mostly false, 14 percent deemed to be half-truths (or half-lies, depending on how you want to spin it), 12 percent categorized as mostly true (but still containing inaccuracies or misleading bits), and only 5 percent his statements considered to be completely truthful.

So maybe you didn’t trust Hilary Clinton. Fair enough. Maybe you don’t trust any career politician. Fair enough. And maybe you even like the promises Trump made during his campaign, and believe he was at least being honest about those. Fair enough. But given the man’s propensity for lying, how can you still stand by him?

 

Dunkirk: Abandoned On The Beach

I spent $19.50 to see Dunkirk in all its 70 MM glory last week. The accolades being showered upon the film and its undeniably talented writer/director, Christopher Nolan, had me primed for what’s been described as “a masterpiece” (Atlantic), a “tour de force” and “both sweeping and intimate” (New York Times), “incredible” (Village Voice), “a five-star triumph” (BBC), and “a work of heart-hammering intensity and grandeur” (Telegraph).

But after seeing the film, I felt cheated. And not just because I wasted the better part of a $20 bill along with an hour and forty-five minutes of my life. No, I felt cheated because I didn’t see a masterpiece, a tour de force both sweeping and intimate, an incredible five-star triumph of heart-hammering intensity and grandeur. I wanted to see that movie. I love war movies. And I really admire Nolan’s work outside the comic book genre (namely Inception and Interstellar).

Yes, there are a few moments of magic in Nolan’s Dunkirk. The scattered scenes at sea, particularly those that show a ship sinking, are some of the best you will ever see without getting your feet wet. But these are mere moments, in what is otherwise an overwrought mess of a film, lacking coherency, characters, and – above all – drama. And let’s be honest, you really need to work hard for a war film to fall short on drama.

I can understand why the British press have been so overly generous with their praise of this film. Dunkirk is one of those lingering wounds to the national psyche that needed to be healed. Even after all these years, it needed to be addressed, to provide some closure – especially as the nation faces another monumental evacuation from the Continent, with its formal abandonment of the European Union. And, in that regard, it’s almost fitting that the French are largely ignored in the film (as one could argue they were by the British leadership at the time). And not a single German shows his face throughout the picture – a war film that all but ignores the inconvenience of the enemy.

And who better to bring closure to this period in British history than the British/American cinematic auteur-of-the-moment, Christopher Nolan? Well, frankly, I can think of a number of arguably better-suited candidates. Sam Mendes, for example, though he already made his mark in the genre with Jarhead, a movie about American misadventures abroad. Ridley Scott would have been an outstanding choice, but – again – Black Hawk Down. Similarly Paul Greengrass, with Green Zone. The late Tony Scott would have also been an interesting option. As would have the late Richard Attenborough, who gave us a true masterpiece of military folly in A Bridge Too Far (fun fact: his grandson actually appears in Nolan’s film). It’s a shame that David Lean never tackled the subject. And though Leslie Norman gave it a decent go back in 1958, his Dunkirk was likely still too raw – and perhaps too sterile – to offer any real sense of closure (fun fact: Richard Attenborough was one of the stars of that film).

I have nothing against Nolan taking a crack at the war genre, but his talents were clearly wasted on this film. He is known for his mesmerizing plot twists and nonlinear storytelling, which are arguably better suited for psychological thrillers and sci-fi epics. And, sadly, he forces a nonlinear storyline on this film, which robs it of much of the drama and muddies the waters to the point where you really don’t care what happens to any of the characters.

Not that there are any real characters in this film. For the most part, Nolan denied his actors a genuine opportunity to define their characters, which makes it difficult for us to identify with any of them. Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh, two of the most talented actors in the business these days, did the best they could with what little Nolan gave them. The rest are just nameless faces, often indistinguishable from one another, who pop-up periodically in what can best be described as a nonlinear mess of a storyline, spiraling like an eddy around a sinking ship.

Dunkirk is a film lost somewhere between the fog of war and memories that have faded after 77 years of reflection and regret. Nolan seemed to be more interested in trying to impress us with his craft than in doing the story justice. The critics may have declared it a victory, but most of us in the audience felt abandoned on the beach.

Thought of the Day: Capitalization

As a writer, I always strive for proper grammar. Like a musician, you need to know how to play the instrument if you want to make good music.

And as an atheist, I do not believe in God, Jesus, Satan, Allah, or Zeus. Yet these are all proper nouns, referring to deities that many hold dear. So, like the Moby Dick or Ishmael, I may not believe they actually existed but I still capitalize them. And you should, too. It is grammatically correct. Grammar Akbar!

As you may have noticed, I did not capitalize atheist. Some might argue that it is a belief system and therefore should be capitalized like the nouns that refer to the followers of other belief systems – such as Christian, Muslim, or Jew. But an atheist is not technically an adherent of a belief system. There is no actual atheism, either. There is not some doctrine held by those who do not believe in any sort of deity. In fact, that term is typically only used by theists who need to force us into some sort of category based upon their own belief system. They can only think of people in terms of their belief system, with their world clouded by their own religious views, so they assume that we are a religion of non-belief – or perhaps even anti-God. And, in fairness, there is a strain of militant atheist who act like it’s some sort of religion. Though I imagine a lot of it is just good clean fun, like my friend who insists that his mother is a devout atheist, because she doesn’t go to church every Sunday. Atheist Akbar!

How Schedules and Scheduling Work

I recently received an email response from an employee of one of my clients. I have been trying to schedule a 30-minute interview with them, so I can write their bio for the company’s website. The call will actually only take 15-20 minutes, but I say 30 just in case they happen to be truly fascinating.

The fact that this individual has been unwilling to schedule this call for three weeks already, a call that will not only please her bosses but ultimately benefit her professionally, should tell you everything you need to know about her. But my latest plea to schedule the call was received with the following response, explaining why she can’t schedule a time for next week: “I don’t know what my week looks like other than busy.”

So, how does she know that she is too busy to spare 30 minutes on the phone if she doesn’t know what her schedule looks like? One could argue that she may have several massive tasks to undertake and therefore expects that she’s going to be locked in an endless effort to complete them without even 30 minutes to spare, but the nature of her business precludes that explanation. Like me, her profession requires her to schedule meetings and phone calls with clients and then deliver on whatever promises were made during those interactions. It’s not like she’s leading a rapid-response assault team in a war zone, where she has been designated to remain on indefinite standby, ready to board helicopters at a moment’s notice to assist other troops in the field.

The point I’m trying to make is that she, like so many “professionals” these days, simply does not understand how to make and keep a schedule. If she did, she could look at her schedule, find a 30-minute window to do this call – either this week, next week, or even the following week – and then she would have one less item keeping her “busy.”

Of course, if she were here to defend herself (which she’s not, because she simply couldn’t find the time) I’m sure she would argue that she can’t schedule anything because she doesn’t know what her schedule is. And I’m fairly confident she’d say it just like that, without realizing how utterly stupid it makes her sound.

What she’s really telling me, though, is that she’s a flaky dingbat who doesn’t know how to make and keep a schedule. Sure, she may have plenty of things to do next week, enough to keep anyone genuinely busy, but until she starts scheduling her week, assigning tasks specific days and times, then she’ll be no better off next Friday than she is today. Just as she is no better off today than she was last Friday, when she couldn’t find the time to schedule our 30-minute call for this week.

Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated case. I once had a friend who said they couldn’t schedule a dinner with us later that summer because they had no idea what they might be doing that far in advance. And, no, we’re not talking about transient workers who might have to run off to some farm to pick pears in August. They’re actually in the same business as the woman with whom I’ve been trying to schedule this call for the past three weeks.

But unlike this woman, who works for a client of mine, this individual was a friend, and therefore someone I could – and should – call out on their bullshit. Saying you can’t schedule something for a specific time frame because you don’t know what your schedule is going to be for that time frame makes absolutely no sense. And if it does to you, well, then you are an idiot.

You see, this is the way scheduling works. You make an appointment and, voilà, you now know what your schedule looks like. Unless you have something scheduled, then you are free for that given time period – free to schedule things like a 30-minute phone call, or a dinner with friends. And that’s just as true for three days from now as it is for three months from now.

That’s how schedules and scheduling work. You make an appointment, put it in your calendar, and then you know not to schedule anything else during that time period. And should something else come up for that day, you can schedule it during the time that remains available around your existing appointment (or, if it’s a more urgent matter, see if you can reschedule the original commitment to avoid a conflict). Not that difficult, right?

In my friend’s case, the fact that they wouldn’t schedule a social gathering so far in advance told me everything I needed to know – which was that they were not very good friends. Clearly this wasn’t a question of not knowing how to schedule something, as I know that they are perfectly capable of maintaining a professional calendar. It seemed more likely that they didn’t want to commit to doing something with us because, over the course of the next couple of months, they might get a more interesting offer from someone else. Instead, they’d rather schedule something at the last minute, when none of their other options have panned out, and spending time with us suddenly seems better than sitting around and doing nothing at all.

As for the woman who hasn’t been able to spare 30 minutes over the course of the past three weeks (which is 30 out of a possible 7,200 minutes, based on the average 40-hour work week), I think it’s more due to a lack of basic time management and scheduling skills than holding out for a better option. Which is sad, because her line of work relies heavily on solid time management and scheduling skills. And given her apparent challenges in this area, I fear her clients may decide to hold out for a better option as well.

Puto Is The Trump Of Chants

Like everyone else, the people of Mexico must be wondering how America, once the land of the free and the home of the brave, could have let such an emotionally and intellectually stunted bigot into the White House. Though, in fairness, they are probably more concerned with the man’s overt nationalism and well-documented xenophobia than with exactly how or why America lost its way.

Which left me wondering, as I watched the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup soccer tournament, how a people insulted and outraged by the words and actions of El Trumpo can so proudly scream “puto” every chance they get on the world’s stage…the fútbol arena. After all, barking out a homophobic insult is the kind of thing you would expect from a guy like Trump, not the reasonable and loving people of Mexico.

Sports Fan Behavior
For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, let me explain. There is a certain school of thought among sports fans that if you shout something the moment an athlete is about to take an action, then you might be able to influence that action. I guess the idea is that a loud, sudden noise from the crowd might startle the player and cause them to falter. Although it is worth noting that you rarely see such behavior in sports traditionally favored by the elites, such as golf and tennis, where it might actually have some impact, while it has become quite common in traditionally working-class sports.

In soccer, which is the quintessential working-man’s sport everywhere around the world (except, perhaps, here in the United States), this scream-to-startle phenomenon typically occurs during a goal kick, arguably one of the game’s most low-risk moments (though some keepers have done their best to challenge that categorization). And with American fans, it will occasionally take the form of a deep build-up – “ooooooohhhhh” – bursting into a loud cheer – “HEEYYY” – when the keeper kicks the ball. This particular fan ritual originated during kickoffs in American football. And, especially with the long build-up, it is more of a celebration of play getting underway than an attempt to startle the player, in hopes of influencing the game.

A Fool’s Errand
For what it’s worth, I can’t recall this tactic – shouting or cheering something to startle or distract a goalkeeper (or any other player, for that matter) – ever having any discernible effect on a soccer game, here or abroad. For starters, you can’t be startled when you expect it. And even if the keeper were somehow caught off-guard by a sudden burst of noise, flubbing a goal kick isn’t nearly as bad as botching something like a penalty kick.

Frankly, it all seems quite silly to me. The behavior has become commonplace despite having no noticeable impact. But I guess fans want to pretend that they can have some sort of direct influence on the game, like they are helping to contribute to their team’s victory (though I have never seen a fan accepting a similar level of responsibility for their team’s defeat).

Mexican Fans
Mexican fans already have a history of some of the worst behavior at sporting events. Yes, folks, they invented “the wave.” Or at least they claim to have, at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, though there’s evidence that it has deeper routes in the National Hockey League, and may have first appeared in soccer at the 1984 Olympic final in Los Angeles. I have never understood this behavior, and laying claim to its origin makes about as much sense to me as claiming that you invented herpes.

Am I being too harsh? I don’t think so. You go to a game to see the game, right? But that’s kind of hard to do when the portly guy in front of you periodically leaps to his feet and throws his hands in the air, creating a “wave” of fans doing the exact same thing in a “wave” that “travels” around the stadium. Forget the fact that Chicharito is in on goal…these clowns would rather do calisthenics than watch their team play.

Sure, people will argue that it’s all part of the spectacle – that things like the wave energize the fans, and the players. But shouldn’t the game, or one’s love of the game, be enough to energize the fans, and the players? It would have to be a really boring game for me to seek ways to amuse myself and others. If you want a wave, go to an amusement park. Or, better yet, try the ocean. I hear they are really big there.

The Puto Chant
The wave aside, Mexican soccer fans have set another precedent for bad behavior. They are responsible for the aforementioned scourge known as the “puto” chant. And it’s not really a chant, but rather a word they scream whenever the opposing goalkeeper takes a goal kick. I’ll deal with the meaning, and the various attempts to defend the term, in a moment, but suffice it to say that it is considered – and largely intended – to be a homophobic insult.

In fairness, this doesn’t compare with the overt ugliness and violence you often find at games in certain European, South American, and Central American countries. But much of that comes from extremist groups who have latched on to a specific club or national team as a means of identity. And you can usually trace their bad behavior back to racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, and general bigotry within their respective societies. Also, it tends to be a relatively small number of people who are openly expressing such things in and around the stadiums, whereas screaming “puto” is far more widespread phenomenon – often even a family activity.

The screaming of this word has become so rampant among Mexican soccer fans that FIFA has sanctioned the Mexican Federation for it, more than five times. Of course, being FIFA, these fines are nothing more than a slap on the proverbial wrist, designed to do nothing other than help FIFA retain an image long-since destroyed by its own horrific behavior. And yet this disgusting practice continues. It has also spread to other Spanish-speaking fan groups, and even to some gringo wannabes in Major League Soccer.

For it’s part, the Mexican Football Federation (which governs Mexico’s league and national team) has threatened to physically remove their fans who scream the word during matches played by the Mexican national team. And officials in Russia, where Mexico is currently playing in FIFA’s Confederation Cup, have promised to place monitors in the crowd to help identify fans engaging in racism and other offensive behavior  – including the puto chant. Yet Mexican fans clearly engaged in such behavior during their team’s opening match, and FIFA, the Mexican Federation, and the Russians (who are not exactly known for their tolerant behavior, especially when it comes to homosexuality) did nothing about it.

Fortunately, thanks to public pressure, some action was taken in subsequent games, with rumors of a few fan being ejected for the chant (unfounded rumors, it seems, but that was apparently enough to deter the behavior). As a result, Mexican fans seem to have dialed it down a bit, at least for the time being. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for this ugly, childish behavior, but the real test will come next month, during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which also features the Mexican national team – and their fans.

So What Does Puto Actually Mean?
Getting an accurate translation of puto depends on who you ask. In Mexico, and many Spanish-speaking countries, “puta” is slang for a female prostitute. And puto, in the masculine form, technically refers to a male prostitute. But we’re not talking about a gigolo here. It’s meant to refer to the kind of working stiff that George Michael used to frequently enjoy brief, intimate, paid encounters with in public restroom stalls. To put it in Trumpian terms, it’s kind of like calling someone a “fag for hire.” Definitely a slur.

Puto apologists will make a number of different arguments, as the guilty often do, trying to rationalize their inappropriate behavior. First, they will tell you that it’s not an insult. That it simply refers to a male prostitute. OK, then, is calling someone a whore not an insult? And why are you calling an opposition player a male prostitute, if it’s not meant to insult them in some sort of fashion?

After that fails to hold its ground, they tend to fall back to the argument that the use of the word is commonplace in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking cultures. They will claim that it has become the equivalent of how we use “fucker” here in America, as in “That Fucker!” Which is funny, because now the argument concedes that it is obscene, and an insult, but not necessarily homophobic. After all, anyone can be a fucker. Even you, you fucking fucker!

Others will argue that when they use the word in the context of a sporting event, it means “coward.” And I guess if you are a self-delusional homophobe, you might argue that when you call someone a “fag” that you only really mean that they are a “coward” – which, of course, doubles-down on the insult because you are now implying that someone who engages in homosexual activities is also a coward. But if you truly mean to say coward, then why not just say “cobarde” – coward? Or, if you feel the need to add a little edge, I understand that “pendejo” works just as well, without implying any homophobic undertones. But they don’t use those other words, do they?

It’s like someone trying to defend an expression like “carpet muncher.” That phrase is clearly intended to refer to lesbians in a demeaning manner (though, given modern trends in personal grooming, it hardly seems appropriate these days). Sure, you could say that you are talking about someone who chews on carpeting as some bizarre form of flossing their teeth, but no one is going to believe such nonsense. That’s the kind of half-ass duplicity that has become a staple of the Trump administration.

Others will concede that it is a slur and try to defend it by saying that there are worse things that could be said. The Colombian who manages the Mexican National Team, Juan Carlos Osorio, has offered this lame, hollow excuse. It’s kind of like saying, sure, we threw a bucket of urine on their player, but at least it wasn’t feces.

Despite all these arguments, puto is meant as an insult. And given its cultural context, that insult is meant to be demeaning to both gay men and prostitutes. Which is not only wrong, but totally unnecessary.

Mexican Trumps
The puto chant is also demeaning and insulting to Mexicans, painting them as a homophobic and intolerant people. And it has become a national embarrassment, much like the tweets of Donald Trump.

Is “puto” the best that these fans can come up with? Is that the limit of their creativity? I know that’s how El Trumpo behaves, but aren’t you supposed to be better than that? And what of other fans – Americans and other nationalities – who have eagerly taken up the practice? It’s like a bunch of 13-year-old boys who just learned a dirty word in Spanish and think that saying it is absolutely hysterical.

Look, I have shouted some crazy stuff at soccer games. From “chicken bucket” to “you fucking Philistines,” I am not shy about barking out obscenity-laden rants at the officials, the opposition, and even some of my team’s more slack players. But I never cross the line into ethnic, racial, or sexual slurs. Why would I? It’s a game, after all, and we’re all supposed to be having fun, right? And if I do feel the need to vent my frustration, I would rather do so in a manner that might make someone laugh – not feel insulted, demeaned, oppressed, or threatened.

Hacerse maduro, amigos. Grow up, my friends. Otherwise, you are no better than Trump. And I believe you are.