Vice; the “Unitary Executive”

Today is the 1st day of the 7th week following my heart surgery Dec. 4.  I’m told that most likely the body healing is near accomplished, but don’t rush anything.  Today I began a program of Heart therapy which will go on for some weeks.  I’ve started to drive solo again!  Think of being 16 again!  But I’m on a short leash – short trips around town.  Generally, health things seem to be going well.

I’ve spent these six weeks as a patient – much as inpatient.  The ongoing story is here.

With a few exceptions, the ‘outside world’ has been fairly foreign to me.  I was in a Minneapolis hospital bed watching the President announcing his threatened government shutdown on Dec. 11 to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and all of us.  He scares me, but does not impress.  He can do great damage.  Today was the 32nd day of that government shutdown, the longest in American history, with no end in sight.  There has been other ‘news’ of course.  Some scraps, from my point of view.

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We managed to take in three movies in the time since I’ve come home.

The most recent film I would highly recommend: Vice, about the years of then Vice-President Richard Cheney.  (Look up “Unitary Executive” as you prepare for the film.)

The film has distinctly mixed reviews (I’ve linked the Wikipedia compendium above).  Vice is billed as a “comedy”, though in my viewing, there is not much comedy about it, and its basic data is completely consistent with the reality of, particularly, 2001-2008..  I lived the Cheney years, and I know the history and the actors in it in personal tems.

My reason for urging folks to take the time to take in the film is that it gives an opportunity to reflect back to the past catastrophic (my opinion) post 9-11-01 United States, over which Vice-President Richard Cheney was dominant.   9-11-01 shook me into activism, and while I’m now 17 years older, and not into aggressive activism at this stage in my life, I still feel that 2001-2008 was an extraordinarily dangerous time for our democracy.  Watching the film I found myself often thinking about how good a model Cheney was for the current occupant of the White House…and how dangerous this model was and still is for our democracy.

I encourage you to see the film.

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A Word About Negotiations:  The painful chaos in the United States since Dec, 11 is never far from view, even if a person – like myself, currently – is (it appears) insulated from the consequences.  I don’t have to work without pay, yet.  It’s a benefit of being long retired in a society that years ago cared about working people like myself, through retirement programs, Medicare and the like.  It is hard to keep perspective, but every day the TV brings the message back, as it did while my residence was a hospital bed for 17 days in December, 2018.)   No one threatened me with being left out on the street, as has now happened with hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Just Above Sunset summarized the reality of the U.S. very well this morning: Dealing in Pain.

I woke before seeing this commentary, and as I opened it I was thinking back to my own work days, specifically 1972, when I went from a classroom teacher, active in a teachers association, to teachers union executive director in the same school district, in a place which was just making the hard transition from ‘bring and beg’ ‘negotiations’, to a statutory right to collectively bargain contracts with exotic things like grievance procedures etc.

It was a hard transition for both sides.  Management was used to having all of the power; labor wasn’t accustomed to having any levers of power.  Abundant mistakes were make, but we all grew and adapted, and today, 47 years later, there is still collective bargaining in this state.  People work stuff out.  The last strike I recalls was in the early 1980s.  There were other threats, but people on both sides got the necessary deals done.  It is how problem solving works.

Not now, in Trumps idea of the U.S.  I saw all manner of negotiators and negotiating myself, for 27 years from 1972-2000.  I was one among many trying to o what I could to get something settled.  We were of all sorts.

I can think of no ‘negotiator’ more incompetent than Donald J. Trump.  He stands along, stuck in his own complete incompetence.

It should not have to be that way.

Trump is apparently incapable of realizing that the rules of engagement changed when he became President of the U.S. (and dictator to the entire world) now over two years ago.    Where he could rule by threats and edicts and rank dishonesty in his little New York City empire, he is now  trapped in a system existing for over 230 years, which encompasses far more than vanity towers including his name in large letters, and which has over its long history, in imperfect ways, adapted to a rule of law where everyone matters, at least a little.

We’ll never be perfect; but we’re far better than we could be.

How this will all play out remains to be seen.  At the moment, it doesn’t look promising.  All I know is that every single one of us has an important and active role to play in becoming part of the solution.  We have to actually do things beyond complaining, and our actions of necessity will have to be small and direct acts of down-home democracy.  There is an infinite list of possibilities.

Ultimately, I think – I hope – Trump will collapse in his own mountain of garbage.  Our country can do better than welcome a national bully who apparently cannot conceive of anything or anyone even somewhat equal to himself.  Let’s get to work.

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Post note: I have been less than attentive to my blog space.  Dec 4 I had major heart surgery; Dec. 21 I came home from the hospital.  I’ve been in recovery mode ever since.  At midnight Dec. 22, the U.S. Government shutdown began and as of today is completing its 32nd day, the longest shutdown in U.S. history.  The first shot about the pending shutdown came on national television on Dec 11, when President Trump said he was going to shut down the government if he didn’t get the requested 5.7 billion for his wall on the Mexican border.  He said clearly and publicly he would accept responsibility for the shutdown.  The rest is argument.

Here’s the wikipedia article on the issue.  (Wikipedia turned 18 a few days ago, and has become one of the credibility rock stars for on-line sources of public information.  It got a well deserved shout out in Sunday’s Washington Post opinion section.

1 reply
  1. Peter Barus
    Peter Barus says:

    Dear Dick, it’s hard to think of you laid up, I wish you many more years of vigorous participation! As for 45, notice that FBI funding is also cut, impeding the investigations. Nobody seems to believe this could explain it. But I know kids who have no internal limits, no self-restraint, they will throw themselves in wet cement to get their way. We are obviously under the thumb of a lunatic, and nobody can figure out how to make that illegal yet… so get plenty of good exercise and rest, it’s going to get more bizarre before it’s over. love Peter

    Reply

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