Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thoughts About Tomorrow


Thoughts

So, now we know, and no one on this globe can say they didn’t know.

Our President is a closet racist-Nazi.  I know he denies it, but I also know he lies, almost every time he opens his mouth. How does one know our President is lying? Well, when he opens his mouth and words come tumbling out, we know he is lying. This is perhaps his biggest problem . . . and ours. We have a President who almost never tells the truth. We think sometimes that he just doesn’t know or understand the difference between lying and truth-telling.  But I now conclude that he doesn’t even engage in “lying” per se. He simply says whatever would suit his needs/purposes at any given moment.  He doesn’t actually care whether what he says is true or false. If it meets his needs, then he will utter the words. I guess this is the narcissism, or the sociopathy at work.  Remember always, he is the compleat narcissist, and is a sociopath such as we may never have seen before.

Now what that means, is that no one will be able to engage in discussions with him requiring coming to agreement over future courses of action. He will utter whatever suits his needs and then, subsequently, may act or direct a completely different course of action. Then he will deny any problems caused by him (he always has Obama or Hillary to blame).

So, no domestic or foreign leader will be able to negotiate with him in good faith over any issue.

On the racist-Nazi thing, he was, to be fair, probably raised by a racist-Nazi father.  We seem not to know anything about his mother, except, we are told that she arrived in this country as an illegal immigrant.  But, he was perhaps indoctrinated early by his Nazi daddy.  And we have now seen that, because he cannot restrain himself when his pathetic brain is exercised, his infant brain, trained by his daddy, kicked into action over the Charlottesville mess.    He allowed the whole world to see clearly that he acted as a racist and a Nazi in his failed attempts to express sympathy for the victims of the Charlottesville massacre.  I remain sure that David Duke and his Nazi counterparts were pleased and even emboldened.  I assume his daddy would have been thrilled.

So, now our Nation faces years ahead of interracial hatreds being expressed more or less openly by Trump’s stockpile of deplorables . . . you know . . . his voter support.  And we, the remainder of our Nation have to figure out what to do about him, his policies, and his nasty supporters.

One thing that occurs to me is that we dare not remain “tolerant” of their actions. This is not really a free speech issue any longer. I am given to understand that free speech rules do not allow yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theatre. So, I am thinking that, they should not allow Nazi’s or KKK thugs to openly demonstrate. Free speech and the right to assemble can and should be denied those who profess Nazi or KKK beliefs.  If the German people decided it was no longer ok to be a Nazi, then perhaps we should pay attention and also deny them. Remember, it is illegal in Germany to fly the Swastika flag. So why not here also?

And it is long past time to declare both the KKK and any organization espousing Nazi beliefs to be domestic terrorist organizations. Then we can proceed to deny them permits to assemble, and deny them permits to carry weapons of any type. They must be made to understand that their purposes are not to be allowed here. If we would deny ISIS such permits, then surely we can and should deny our homegrown terror groups such permissions.

And Trump, well, I guess the only sensible solution to his behavior is to let him ramble (maybe delete his Twitter account?) and then vote him out of office. Congress also needs to do something pre-emptively to  legislatively remove his ability to declare war or to drop bombs on anyone without their express permission. In short, he cannot be trusted with the nuclear codes and should not be allowed to take us to war. Remember, he will lie if he really wants to go to war. And I believe his fondest wish is to be a wartime president.  He may have been a draft dodger, but he sees himself as a glorious wartime leader, clad I suppose in colorful armor, or maybe wearing a Superman costume.

That may be our only hope for a future without nuclear war.

Unfortunately, with President Stupidhead still in charge, we will no longer be able to hold off the worst of climate cataclysm.  That will require a new President (and a new Vice President) and a whole new non-republican Congress.

Good luck on that one.

Ta ta folks.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The end is near, the end is near . . .


Nothing like two crazed two-year olds each in the middle of a temper tantrum, but each armed with nuclear weapons to gain your attention.  And Rex Tillerson tells us all we can sleep peacefully at night, and we should not be concerned. Well, Rex, you’re an idiot, but I suppose you already know that.

Way back when I was an engineer in the aerospace industry, we were working on a missile design that could be launched from a nuclear submarine, and each of the 16 missiles on board each submarine, could deliver ten nuclear warheads, independently targeted on different cities.  That was back during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It was a time when we didn’t used to elect total idiots to the presidency. Dwight Eisenhower, and JFK come to mind. They were smart, understood both foreign and domestic policy issues and seemed to possess the intellectual awareness needed for a complex world.

And they had to deal with the Soviets. Stalin, Khrushchev, et al, were determined to maintain the status of the Soviet Union after WW II. Their leaders were as determined as ours to promote and maintain their views of how the world ought to be run.  And so the Cold War was initiated and then maintained for decades, with each side armed to the teeth, but still run by rationalists.

As I have noted in past writings, we were momentarily sidetracked by Cuba and its attachment to the Soviets. We had the military might to dispose of Cuba, but the Soviets began claiming it as a satellite ally.   They brought in arms and some troops.  But, then they began bringing in missiles that could reach the US. That was a measure beyond what we intended to tolerate. So, as Soviet ships approached Cuba with missiles, we said NO. We would not tolerate a Cuba armed with nuclear missiles. We engineers continued our daily work, but each night, we would retreat to a local pub to drink and contemplate our future, or lack thereof.  Should we head to the Sierra’s, or rather try to reach the coast when the missiles began flying?  See, we knew with reasonable certainty what would occur should the missiles in fact begin to fly.  It would mean the end of everything we held dear, and perhaps the end of our universe.

Now, the only thing that sustained us was the leadership at the top of our nation, both civilian and military. We thought we had intelligence at the top, even if that intelligence was now being tested to the maximum.

So, now spring forth to 2017. We have known for many years that the Kim family, daddy and junior, were/are authoritarian dictators who seem not to mind killing anyone in their way.  North Korea has been that way for decades, perhaps as a result of that UN "peace action" back in the 1950s. They neither won nor lost.  Both sides called it a draw, but the North at least was forced to withdraw. They/we have been relatively hostile ever since.

Then the Kim’s came in to power, and they seem to behave as crazed two-year olds, especially Kim the younger.  He is always saying or doing something terminally stupid, just to show he is in charge.

He was always a problem, but one we thought could be “managed”.  Enter Donald Trump, another two-year old with a classic terrible-twos temper tantrum, on seemingly all the time.  He also says and does terminally stupid things, just to show he is in charge. Tweeting up a storm at 3:00 AM because someone has said something snarky about him is not the stuff of National Leadership we all dream of.

And, despite having earlier said admiring things about Kim, the Donald has decided he is to be “handled”.  And Kim, does not wish to be “handled”. So, he has continued to proceed with his missile and nuclear warhead design challenge to the world at large.  He will possess them by God, and if the world does not like it, then he might just take out that part of the disapproving world.  And if the Donald in particular does not like it, then Kim just might aim one of his infamous missiles at our bases in Guam, just, you know, to show that he will not be “handled”.

Now, the Donald, in full two-year old temper tantrum mode, will not be spoken to/at by just any old two-year also in full temper tantrum mode. So, he fires back in full might, all about fire and fury such as the world has never seen. Well, see, actually, the world has seen the fire and fury. They were called Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  And we, the World, don’t quite know what to make of this display of two-year old temper tantrums aided by nuclear weapons.  We once were governed by responsible, thinking adults, who surrounded themselves by responsible thinking adults. No longer.

 Now, we have to sit and bite our nails each day, til one or the other two-year old decides to go play and torment someone else. And the awful part is that we no longer have any assurance that there are any intelligent, responsible adults left at the top . . . on either side.

And, I am left, nearing the end of my life, wondering whether my children and my grandchildren will be able to continue living in this world.  And it doesn’t help when I read articles by folks like Stephen Hawking who keep yakking about how we all need to leave this planet because, even if the Donald and Kim don’t destroy us, we have already done so much damage to our environment, that our world may not be livable much longer. Oh, gee, just what we all needed to hear.

And, I am left dazed, and wondering what happened to the adults in our universe.  Reading the continued approval by even 25 or 30% of the people who supported our lunatic president makes me want to throw up. And, looking at and listening to his appointees is not helpful.  Where, I wonder, does he find these people? Our leaders, even our dimmer ones like Reagan and Bush II, used to at least try to fake it by bringing in some folks who appeared to be responsible adults.  But, not the Donald. He apparently only knows people who are either terminally stupid, angry like him, or permanently on the make . . . other con artists like him.

So, I go through the motions each day, and hope this will not be the last day I will observe a butterfly, or see a smile by a loving child.  And, I fail to detect any adults at the top of our land who seem moved by the continued histrionics. Folks in our land seem either borderline hysterical, like me, or angry with folks like me for daring to disapprove of their chosen two-year old “leader”.

How did we reach this pass?

And how will it end?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

American Coup D'Etat


Interesting. Increasingly now, I am seeing articles suggesting that we have moved into a new era of American democracy, an era that may well spell the ending of what we have come to believe is our entire system of constitutional democracy.  This new era could I suppose be characterized as a form of the classic coup d’etat, except it seems both less remarkable and more catastrophic.  Let me explain.

What exactly is meant by the term coup d’etat?

Coup d’├ętat, also called Coup, is the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. The chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements. Unlike a revolution, which is usually achieved by large numbers of people working for basic social, economic, and political change, a coup is a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel. A coup rarely alters a nation’s fundamental social and economic policies, nor does it significantly redistribute power among competing political groups.

What we have been observing within our government, especially within our Executive branch, is a rather sudden change in the behavior of our senior-most executive—the President. President Trump seems not to grasp the fundamentals of our system, and more specifically the nature of the Executive.  The President appears to believe he is not, or rather should not be bounded in any way by other forces within our government. He thinks he is able to do whatever pops into his head.  Moreover, he thinks he should be able to do whatever he pleases without any criticism of any kind, from any quarter.

Because our Press believes contrary to that belief, being guided by that First Amendment thing, an endless series of back and forth critiques have been occurring since Trump’s first day in office. He does something. Someone in the Press comments, generally to criticize, and Trump sends out a series of Tweets at 3:00 AM, and the game is on. Note though, unlike in the past, this President does not change anything he is doing or planning on doing. He simply rants, accuses the Press of being FAKE NEWS, or FAILING NYTIMES, and then goes about his business.  Then the Press continues its criticism, and Trump continues his early morning rants.

What we might have observed in the past, with really any of our Presidents, is some consultation by the President with other Congressional leaders, or with his counselors, and then some modification to his behavior. But because this President understands no boundaries—he seems literally to believe he can do whatever he wants to do—a change in his behavior is never one of his options. We might observe changes over time, but it really seems to be that he has simply lost interest in one thing and is now attracted to something else.  Pressure of a critical nature seems not to be a motivating factor in moving him in one direction or another.

Now, how does that approach on his part begin to describe a coup?

Well, if we assume that a coup is a change in power at the top of a government, one that includes control of the armed forces, and, often replacement of people at the top of government, then we may be witnessing such a change. Note, coup’s often involve violence, and thus far we have escaped any violence. I say “thus far” because Trump himself has often thrown out challenges to his loving audiences to resort to violence against people who disagree with him.  He almost seems to thrive on the prospect of violence.  His admiration of authoritarians like Putin, Duterte, and Kim Jung Un, suggests he may even be yearning for an opportunity to use “his” armed forces against “his” opposition. He also seems unconscious regarding our precious civil liberties. If they get in his way, he seems not to mind brushing them aside even crudely.

Then we come to his most common characteristic—his hatred of the free press.  Apparently only Fox News escapes his constant anger at the news media. But Fox is an entirely adoring “news” media, since Rupert Murdoch, that billionaire media mogul who hates almost everybody, seems to favor the Trumps of the world. Fox is an entirely scripted fake news network that in fact is simply a PR outlet for the Republican Party, or for whichever political party Rupert happens to favor, in whatever nation he is trying to corrupt. Remember, Trump is completely narcissistic, so he cannot stand any criticism of him or his actions—that is, no criticism, none.  When he inevitably receives criticism—so many stupidities, so little time—he appears to lose his cool altogether. He apparently is incapable of writing anything beyond his 140 character Twitter onslaughts, but he uses that approach preferably at 3:00 AM—I guess he cannot sleep. So, he tweets vicious tirades in 140 character beats.  He apparently believes he can browbeat the actual press, so that they will stop criticizing him.  Oddly, that never seems to work. The actual press seems to greet his maniacal tirades with a mixture of bemusement and awe—awe at the thought that an actual sitting president could act that stupidly. The press is independent of him--who knew?

But lurking behind his twitter tirades is this thought that he will, by God, control them, one way or another. He labels them “Fake News”, or “Failing NYTimes”, as though that will stop them. Because nobody seems to be capable of reining him in, it can only be a matter of time before he tries to move beyond simply tirading his way out of his press problems, and perhaps move into some actual First Amendment meddling, to put the actual free press out of business.

That is the way of authoritarians everywhere—see all of his best buds, Putin, Kim, Duterte, act to control their press. Those they cannot control, they kill.  We will see how closely Trump adheres to that model. Remember, he cares nothing about the results of his actions, so long as he gets his way.

It has become abundantly clear that Trump is a man out of control. At least in theory, our system of government is based on checks and balances among and between the three branches of government—the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. The President is not supposed to be able to simple act out his madness in any way he chooses. Theoretically, there are potential checks on his behavior.  But the GOP control over the legislative branch, their control of many state governments, and their apparent control of the judicial systems throughout the country, means that no one is acting to control Trump. They could, if they chose, try to rein him in, but they seem to prefer not acting in that direction. To the point, that I have now designated the GOP as a dead beast, replaced by something I call the Castrati Republic, with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell acting as the chief Castrati.  The Castrati, as you may remember, were male singers, who had been castrated to maintain their high voices. I now characterize the GOP leadership as castrati, i.e., castrated males, whether they can sing or not.

So, Trump, as a result, has no apparent control over his increasingly weird behavior. And because we are not as a nation, used to such weird behavior on the part of our Presidents, we do not seem to know how to react. And therein lies the problem that may eventually produce an actual coup d’etat. Not knowing how to react, is being understood by Trump to mean approval. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what produced the glorious Third Reich during the 1930s Germany. Trump seems headed at least in that direction. How far he moves, and at what risk to the world and to our formerly glorious republic remains an open question. He has already alienated most of the civilized world. Whether he acts to destroy that which he fails to comprehend is the big question. If someone does not stop him, we may well find out, and we may not like the answer.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Change the Subject


“Can you imagine what Trump did at the G-20?”

“He did what . . .?”

“Oh, no, surely he did not do (say) that”

And then, Stephen Colbert, or Samantha Bee, or John Oliver, or Trevor Noah begin working with their writers to produce more script for the next show. 

He’s facing the wrong direction at the G-20 table.

Ivanka replaced him at the G-20 table . . . maybe she’s there to sell shoes to Angela?

He descended from Air Force One and then walked right past his official limo, until an aide kindly turned him around and redirected him back to his waiting car.

He was babbling again on Twitter at 3:30 this morning. Is there something wrong with him??

And on and on it goes. Then his latest press spokesperson defends him to the Press, asserting that we are always criticizing him, and he will strike back.

But, I keep thinking, how can one not criticize him, when he sounds like a complete moron every time he opens his mouth.  Can’t they just keep him inside the oval office and never allow normal humans anywhere near him?  I mean, Pence is a nasty piece of business, but at least he seems to communicate above the third grade level. People would disagree with Pence, perhaps every time he said anything, but they might not just laugh at him.  Same with Ryan, or Tillerson, or Mnuchin, or any of his “Basket of Deplorables” he calls his cabinet or close Congressional allies.

Maybe then, we could revert to The Obama, or The Clinton, or the Reagan, or the Shrub days, when the right wing or the left wing perhaps hated the Big Man in Charge, but they at least acknowledged he was the actual President.  Shrub might also have been dumb as a pet rock, but he was the President.  Now, we never quite know whether Ivanka, or Kushner, or Bannon are really the President today.

There are actual global and domestic issues floating around that need serious intellectual consideration. Our scientists need political folks to share their ideas, especially, but not exclusively, about subjects like global warming. Instead, they are forced to debate the dumbasses of the universe known as “Flat-Earthers”, or maybe Alex Jones’ latest theory that the Deep State is holding hostages on Mars, or, worse, Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest idiocy about the healing powers of her latest sales gimmick.  

And foreign policy experts should be debating the serious issues around the EU, immigration, Russian meddling in other national’s (not just us) affairs, or maybe even North Korea.  Instead, they are debating what it means that Ivanka occupied her father’s chair at the G-20 meeting.

And then we have the issue of ethics. A senior official in the government ethics office just resigned, presumably because he could no longer be associated with the obviously unethical behavior of the head of our government and his family.  But are we debating that issue? Well, instead, we are debating the meaning of body language while watching Vlad the Impaler meet with President Stupidhead.

So, we cannot escape this monster, no matter how many days he is in office.  We cannot/will not shift our attention to other subjects far worthier of our intellect.  So long as this dickhead is allowed out in public, we will never be able to engage in discussions of national, regional, or global significance.

I cannot even switch my crappy little blog to another subject, much as I might desire.  I begin to wonder what is happening in our colleges and universities.  Are there actual discussions occurring about calculus, or quantum physics, or about international history, or about the latest findings in cancer research?  Or have our professors and teachers also just given up and now devote each day’s lecture to that morning’s Twitterati rant?

The interesting things is that, when he was The Apprentice-Leader we gave him an occasional nod, or smile, but we largely ignored him. When his Trump University was revealed as a fraud, we nodded as it was definitely his operating approach.  But we never really paid him any attention, because he wasn’t worth more than a few seconds of our precious time—remember, our time on earth is limited. It seems pathetic to waste more than a second or two on The Donald, the con-man, the seducer of simple-minded women, the liar, the marriage-destroyer. He just isn’t worth it folks. He may eventually kill us all by starting World War IV (or X depending on how you count). But his partners-in-crime, the Republicans are not going away any time soon, and they are not going to hold him accountable, because they no longer have any moral principles at all.

Keep me in power.

That’s their only principle.

So, pay attention to your kids and grandkids folks. Try to smile more at them.  Take them out for an ice cream. Give them a hug and a kiss.  Switch subjects.  Pay attention to the humans in your lives. They matter.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Leadership


Someone, Steve Benen on The MaddowBlog, wrote an article about how Trump’s ignorance on health care could have real consequences. And, how we might use it as yet another example about Trump we might laugh at.

When I read the article, I thought, “surely you jest. His ignorance on health care is accompanied by his ignorance about dozens of vital policy issues of national and global significance.”

Yes, it is sadly true that we laugh at Trump a lot. Our bank of comedians have been having a field day over the past 6-9 months. But even they, in between telling jokes about the Drumpf, are throwing up out of sight of the cameras. Laughing at him is all we can do at the moment, aside from “Resist”, which hopefully many are in fact doing.

He is so ignorant on so many subjects that all I can think about is mushroom clouds appearing over the horizon. He and his colleagues are bent on killing people with their health care bill. But he may well kill even more should he decide that he really prefers war to discussion. In North Korea, in Syria, in almost anything that affects Russia, he poses a threat to humankind.  Make no mistake, Trump is potentially a murderous tyrant, and he is amply supported by the likes of Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, et al.  I realize they don’t think of themselves that way. They just want to “get the government off the backs of the American people”.  By that, they really mean that they want to stop using tax dollars for almost anything short of war. They want to return most of the tax dollars currently paid in by their rich owners and get the rest of the war machine paid for by the middle and lower classes.

Trump seems not to know that the so-called health care bill is in fact a giant ATM machine intended to give the 1% much of their money back.  But he really seems not to know anything. He can’t/won’t read, remember?  People who brief him have to speak at the level third graders might understand.  So he is a problem across the board—on almost any subject of importance.

But that is what keeps us focused on our ignorant President. He is such a convenient target of scorn and humor. And we prattle on about impeaching him, as though that would solve all of our problems. We have Nixon on our minds. But who is standing behind Trump? Mike Pence. And Mike would not ease our concerns; in fact he might exacerbate them.  He is, if anything, to the right of Attilla the Hun.  And then there is Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan. The lineup ready to move Stage Front is large and terrifying.

But it is not just who might replace the Drumpf that is the issue. The central problem is that we no longer have anyone responsible left in the Halls of Congress who will stand up for the people. Republicans seem no longer to care about the American people, about the Constitution, about our Nation as a whole. They just do not care.  And that is our problem.

How we arrived at such a tragic juncture is a subject of much debate, beginning with the tragi-comedy that goes by the name of the Democratic Party. Whenever I see Nancy Pelosi in print, I am drawn to this thought—“the sky is falling. Send me $5.” Nancy seriously needs to move off the stage. And we railed a lot about that national conspiracy of money that did in Hillary during the election. But, to be fair, Hillary did herself in. She ran a terrible campaign and then blamed it on Trump and Comey. Yes, they did their part, but she was the mistress of her own fate. Hillary also needs to move off the stage.

Then we need to decide whether there is a serious political party left. Bernie shredded the middle and left of the party. I will ignore The Greenies. They had an effect surely, but they have as much right to the stage as anyone else.

We need responsible leadership, vaguely in the middle of the political spectrum, folks who can speak to both the left and to the right (ignoring Ryan of course, because he apparently only speaks to God).

But I still do not seen anyone that speaks to that role. Elizabeth Warren . . . Kirsten Gillibrand, maybe. It is surely way past time an intelligent woman takes that center stage, even if Hillary was not that woman. But we seem to have become a nation of small-minded people, more interested in money than ideas. That needs to change, or we are doomed as a nation. We are now slipping down the hill towards second world status.  Is there anyone out there who cares enough to arrest our decline? I hope, but am no longer optimistic.
Think people, think. If the men of America are failing us, now is the time for our Women to move into the spotlight and assume their rightful place.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dust in the Wind


I was looking at a review of a book by Thomas E. Ricks, CHURCHILL AND ORWELL, The Fight for Freedom. It is a book, I am reminded, of two people who, even today remain well known, famous even.  And then, I began thinking of all the people not so famous. And I thought of my father, now remembered (even if faintly) by me alone.  No one else on earth has even a slim memory or mind-picture of Rudy—Rudolph (NMN) Schmidt, born in 1901, somewhere in New York City. Did he have any school chums back in, say, 1911-1915 who might remember him, when he might arguably have attended some school?  Likely not, since they are long gone, along with Rudy who disappeared from view in the late 1950s.

Think about that for a moment.  Someone was born, lived for a while, married and produced several children, and now has disappeared from all conscious memory, save one aging soul.  And soon, that limited memory fragment will also be gone and that person, once a Rudy, will be as though he never was.

I know that those of the religious persuasion believe that Rudy is lounging on a cloud somewhere, doubtless playing his violin, which he once played while on earth.  And that, those of us who once knew him will be able to chat with him up there, so as to inquire why he was such an asshole while here on earth.   But the rest of us hold no such thoughts, so for us, he has simply disappeared.

I cherish photographs, especially ancient ones, because, in part, they refresh my aging memory bank. When I want to reconsider my Grandma Inglis, who left while I was standing by her side in 1951, I simply find a photograph, and her image is reconstructed, and then my memory bank kicks into action and she is, for the moment, alive again, and memories flow into my active mind.



I am also drawn, however, to this notion that we are all temporary dalliances with nature. We arrive here, we play for a bit, we forge memory bits with other temporary creatures, some human, and then we disappear.  We are as “dust in the wind”, or as Kansas wrote and sang:

I close my eyes, only for a moment
And the moment's gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water
In an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground
Though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind”

As children grow into adults and enter through passageways—graduation, marriage, parenthood—I am drawn to the thought that we need to understand the dust that we are. And that Donald Trump will as soon be dust in the wind as everyone else. He will also leave behind a memory legacy—bits in many memory banks. But none will be happy or positive bits, and I wonder . . . does he know that? Does he care? Is he capable of understanding that he too, is dust in the wind?

So, I need to keep thinking and keep remembering. Remember the good thoughts. And there are many such dustlets. While they are now gone, they forged little happy bits in my head. And that’s a good thing.

And then, someday, I too shall be dust in the wind.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Morons Will Out


It is increasingly hard to write a blog about our lives in 21st century America. I mean, how does one shift away from our idiot President?  He is a daily source of corrupt, or just idiotic sayings—“Covfefe” anyone?? I keep wondering, did he do this moronic tweeting at 3:00 AM before he was President, or is this a function of him thinking he is important?

We have issues of great global importance and our President is fixated on his TV ratings.  It is increasingly clear that he tweets because he cannot write. Tweeting requires little beyond a 3-year old’s vocabulary and understanding of the world. One does not need to communicate in complete sentences, or even complete thoughts . . . or indeed any thoughts at all.

Floating around the world are issues such as:

Catastrophic global climate changes

Terrorism run amok

Collapsing American infrastructure

Bipartisanship run amok, wherein nobody is running our ship of state to benefit the people

Russian interference in our democratic system of governance

Collapsing international systems of cooperation

One could go on and on, because our President seems not to understand our system of government at all, so he has no clue how to oversee it, including how to staff the oversight functions. His appointments to run important Federal functions have been uniformly catastrophic. When you have Federal roles in subjects like education, environmental controls, public health, et al, and you appoint people who are fundamentally opposed to any federal role, you are abdicating your responsibility. Whatever their reasons for voting for him, it seems unlikely that people voted to elect Trump because they wanted no public education of their children, or no health care, or smog levels rivaling India or China.  He seems to want to turn over to private interests all functions of government. What could go wrong with that scenario?

I think back to Jimmy Carter, and the end of airline regulation. We had, until then, a relatively healthy and productive airline industry—two international carriers, a half dozen major national carriers, and numerous regional carriers.  I flew then, often, both domestically and internationally.  Flying was, if not fun, at least something you need not agonize over.

Then Jimmy deregulated the industry. Almost immediately, the predators, omnipresent in any private enterprise, began taking over. And the industry began collapsing from within.  Low cost became the sole criterion of interest, and service went to hell in a hand basket.  We stopped flying altogether in 2001 when one carrier, USAIR, dumped us in Baltimore, halfway to our destination, and told the passengers, “sorry ladies and gentlemen, that we could not get you to where you wanted to go.”  FULL STOP. No mention of buying us dinner until they could board us on the next plane to our proper destination.  The plane’s population simply disappeared into the airport to figure out their next course of action.  We decided then that the airline industry had collapsed from within. It has not materially improved since then.

Similarly, we seem to be on course to transfer responsibility for educating our children to private interests.  For reasons I fail to understand,  rather than focusing on figuring out how to improve our system of public education, a decision was made to shift resources to a system of private “charter” schools, some non-profit and some for-profit.  What our ruling geniuses seemed not to understand is that the national systems of public education really produced the middle class in America, and that the middle class produced the powerhouse known as America.

It is not that public education was problem-free. On the contrary, public schooling has been ailing for many years, decades even. Many schools are superb, among the best in the world. But many, especially within low income neighborhoods, have been failing their students for many years.  Part of the problem is attributed to inadequate funding, and part to student inability/unwillingness to learn. Low income children often live within families that were failed by the system. Without a tradition that values education, children would often rather do something else.

Mind you, the systems of public education, while still public, have been financed largely by state and local tax dollars. There is Federal money in the system, but the contributions by state and local governments means that differences in per pupil funding are inevitable.

So, our system was ripe for change. But change requires thought. Abandonment, e.g., let’s shift to private schools, publically financed, so we can stop worrying about all the ugly details, seems attractive to legislators who choose not to think a lot as a vocation.  One would need to commission studies in all districts to look for insights into success and failure, and to tease out the reasons. Then productive solutions might be possible.

On average, charter schools seem to do no better, and might be doing worse than public schools, so this solution seems a non-solution.  Trump and his mistress Betsy Devos, a person who has zero experience with public schools, seem to prefer to ignore reality and embark on a whole system of let’s pretend schools—think Trump University.

Similarly, Trump is now proposing turning our air traffic control system over to private enterprise –oh that should make air travel so much better, and he seems to be toying with the idea of turning the job of infrastructure development over to the private sector.  Ike helped to build the US interstate highway system. Trump may build the Trumpway system—use your own imagination.

So, is the private sector never better than a public sector? Well, no, but private vs. public often depends on the function. The public sector doesn’t do profit-motive real well.  We have some considerable evidence that a wholly public sector approach is less than perfect—the Soviet state comes to mind.

I have worked over many years in and with the for-profit sector, both large and small, with public sector entities, and with several levels of government.  One outcome of that working life is that I came to understand that size often matters more than the public-private designation—as entities grow in size they become more bureaucratic and, therefore less flexible and less responsive. 

One difference between public and private is that private is often less hindered by rules, and therefore, becomes more flexible in pursuing areas of interest developmentally.  And that thing, the profit motive can be either a huge plus, or a significant minus when pursuing operational changes.

My observation caused me to think about and pen a few thoughts on the issue of balance. In connection with a perception of corruption within the public sector, I wrote:

In          "in economic matters, extremes do not work. Under Bush, we shifted dangerously in the direction of a fascist state—that is, a state in which private owners of businesses dictate government policies. The inevitable result is Enron, et al, as well as the collapsed financial system. We have been drifting in that direction for quite some time now, even under Clinton. Everyone has been so concerned with government regulation that they failed to notice that unregulated business is as dangerous as unchecked government. One gives you fascism; the other socialism. Private business interests must always be checked to assure that the public is protected. So too must government overseers. Balance in everything is the answer. But balance requires mental agility. The public has little patience—they want the world to operate on autopilot. They need to be convinced that a world in which competing interests are balanced is both an efficient world, and a world that is worthy.

2.                We need to pay for what we need. The Republican Party has been, almost as a matter of policy, fiscally irresponsible. They practice “charge and spend” politics. We will now have to pay for their profligacy. The public—the thinking public—needs to understand that we cannot continue on the course they charted and followed. Mainly the rest of the world will not allow us to continue on this course. They will simply stop buying our debt and then it will end, badly. Taxes are the way we pay for our policies.  Taxes are neither good nor bad, in the abstract. They represent the price of operating our country, or, perhaps, the glue of a civilized society.

3.                We must pursue policies that are aimed at preserving the Earth. We need to conserve. We need to pursue alternative energy policies. We need to use economic forces to create a demand for energy-efficiency and energy independence. Under Bush and Cheney, we have pursued policies promoting wasteful energy consumption, mainly because he and his advisers represent the extractive industries. We need to tax wasteful energy consumption, so as to encourage wiser use of Earth’s limited resources.

4.            We must pursue a policy of economic independence for all our citizens. During my career, I worked for seven organizations over a 45 year career. For 20 of those years, I worked for several large and small companies that contributed nothing beyond Social Security for my retirement. Bush and his republican allies have attempted on numerous occasions to threaten that reserve. If indeed we wish to get rid of Social Security, we do not need to “privatize” it. We need to pass legislation that forces every economic entity in the country to pay into a portable retirement system. TIAA-CREF comes to mind—the system used by most universities and non-profits. If the private sector would begin to live up to its responsibilities by a mandatory contribution system, we would not need Social Security. Take the system used by universities and non-profits and replicate it throughout the whole of the private sector. Do not allow companies to wriggle out by use of part-time workers. If they employ part-time workers, they still pay full retirement benefits. Otherwise, leave Social security alone.

5.                Republicans, continue in their zeal to scuttle public education. We need to begin working with the states to repair the currently deplorable state of public education. In our area of North Carolina, they seem comfortable with a dropout rate of 35%.  Think of that. We can do better. Indeed, we are losing ground to the rest of the world, and we are at risk of becoming a country of stupid people. Charter schools, especially for-profit charter schools, and worse, fake private schools that are on-line, are not an answer.

6.              We must examine carefully the structure of government. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was an absurd idea—a solution in search of a problem. Think of it. The CIA and the FBI wouldn’t communicate and were demonstrably inept, so we forced the Coast Guard, FEMA, and the rest to become one entity. An idea only a truly stupid person could embrace.  Structure is not the answer when the problem is an absence of thoughtful consideration of available evidence. 

      What we continue to need is watchful citizens—citizens who are willing to question both private commercial interests and public government interests. Corruption is a problem that will always be with us, so long as we have serious economic imbalances and so long as we have citizens who are basically dishonest—remember both the corrupters and the corruptees are dishonest.  Both need to be exposed and punished. It is why, by the way, that we continue to need whistle-blowers.  Say what you will of the Assange-Manning-Snowden groups, but they have informed us of some very unpleasant things about ourselves. Transparency is key here, and we definitely do not have transparent systems in either the public or private realms (thanks again Supremes).

     We all need to stand up and be counted. And that means we need to vote, regardless of the efforts by the GOP to prevent folks from voting.  If you don’t vote, you will get the government you deserve.”

Indeed, voting seems the only recourse to what we are now viewing almost daily. The parade of Trumpies continues to dazzle and baffle us. Even our battalions of comedians are hard pressed to keep up with his barrage of inanities.  But, in between his 3:00 AM twitterati utterings, he actually does a few things—like appointing a new loser to run something he/she hates in government, or proposes to fix something by shouting out a solution that is 90% lie/exaggeration and then retreating from the scene to leave us yelling or laughing, or shouting obscenities at him.

But voting to eliminate him takes time—he isn’t running again until 2020 remember. And his GOP henchmen, Ryan, McConnell, et al, seem entirely disinclined to muzzle him, even if they could. They keep approving his parade of malenfants to run our government, and they continue not to disavow his efforts to destroy America.  So, impeachment, regardless of probable cause, seems unlikely in the extreme. Burt even if they did impeach him for cause (so many causes, so little time) we are left with his basket of deplorables sitting in line behind him. Does anyone really believe that Pence would make a better President?

So, there seems no plausible solution short of continued resistance—manning the barriers of protest until it is time to vote all the rascals out of office—including Ryan and McConnell.  Some folks will get hurt in the process, but resistance is not free.

So, welcome to our world of hurt folks. Stand up and keep trying to shout him down. He is a menace. He must be resisted. Or we will become a banana republic sans bananas.