Monday, March 27, 2017

Trump & Putin


Trump and Putin

I listened with fascination to a podcast discussion between Sam Harris and Anne Applebaum. Applebaum writes for the Washington Post, but her credentials are even more impressive for this discussion. To quote from the Harris blog, Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the Washington Post and a Pulitzer-prize winning historian. She is also a visiting Professor at the London School of Economics where she runs Arena, a program on disinformation and 21st century propaganda.

Formerly a member of the Washington Post editorial board, she has also worked at the Spectator, the Evening Standard, Slate, the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, the Economist, and the Independent. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, Foreign Affairs, The New Criterion, The Weekly Standard, the New Republic, The National Review, The New Statesman, The Times Literary Supplement, and many other journals.

She is the author of Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, which describes the imposition of Soviet totalitarianism in Central Europe after the Second World War. Her previous book, Gulag: A History, won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 2004.”

The discussion contained several threads, including a full conversation about the incoherence of Trump.  He speaks some babble-language, probably mostly closely akin to what a 2-3 year old speaks. Mainly though, Applebaum focused on Trump and Putin. As to the connections, she has some interesting insights.

First, Putin can legitimately be labeled as the head of the Russian Mafia. He is using means both legal and illegal to enrich himself. Of late, it has become obvious that, when his ties to organized crime threaten to flush to the surface, critics mysteriously disappear, are ejected from the country, or simply die under questionable circumstances. So, it would seem that Russia is safely in the hands of its mafioso bosses.  And, now, it would appear, Trump plans the same outcome for America.

His campaign apparently adopted a Russian style campaign of disinformation. Paul Manafort helped to plan the campaign of the Putinesque Ukrainian leader, after which he began as the campaign manager of the Trump campaign.  The Russian style of campaigning is to develop false narratives of the opposition (in this case Hillary Clinton) and then employ both social media and fake news (in this case Breitbart and Fox) to disseminate and expand the false narratives.  In large measure, people believe both the fake news sites and the social media sites.  If it appears on TV, folks assume the facts have been verified and can, therefore, be believed. Why they continue to believe social media is beyond ordinary explanation.

Trump’s financial ties to Russia are manifold and well known. Even his children have bragged about the immensity of the Russian financial connections.  Manafort’s connections are as impressive, receiving ten million dollars per year on one contract alone.  The fact that Manafort withdrew from the campaign is largely irrelevant, since Trump continued throughout the campaign to employ the same tactics used in Russia by Putin.

But her central point is that we really do not need a “smoking gun” obtained by the CIA or a deep FBI investigation. What we already know is reason enough to do something about our President. Impeachment is one, but perhaps not the only remedy we might consider.  His continued illegal financial remunerations break the emoluments clause in the constitution, and he has consistently refused to take any action to stop these payments.   Yet, we do not act, and that is perhaps the most troublesome aspect of this entire affair. Yes, he was elected officially, and he is officially our President. But our President is not above the law, thank you.  So, given that his actions, past and present, actions that likely violate the law, are known and open, why do we not act?  Well, one may assume that republicans do not act, because it is not in their best interest to act. Acting against their leader would be viewed as a suicidal gesture, and republicans are not yet ready for such acts. Also, it is now clear that republicans view holding onto their lucrative positions in Congress as way more important than serving the people who elected them.  And, it should be noted, that, since republicans often fail to act in ways that help their constituents, they clearly will never act to meet the needs of people who either do not vote, or vote for other kinds of folks.

And then, finally, what about all those folks who voted for Trump and his merry band of Mafioso’s? Why do they continue to support him? The last numbers I saw suggest that 37% still support Trump, and that number simply astounds me. Really . . . with all we now know, 37% of our people support him?

Ms. Applebaum suggests that his supporters may well begin deserting Trump when it becomes clear that he lied to them and that he is not acting to meet their needs.  Well, I wonder, when might that be?  It is abundantly clear that he lies nearly everytime he opens his mouth, so it apparently is not just lying that matters to his supporters.  What is it they wanted again from Trump? Oh, yeah, their old jobs back. They want to be 1940’s-style coal miners again, or they want to work in big factories producing things we used to produce in the 1940s and 1950s.  Well, that may or may not happen anytime soon, although he is working at eliminating the regulations that keep coal-fired plants from polluting. We can then resume looking like we did before EPA regulations cleaned up our air. That should be fun.

But I think that his promises about jobs are mostly feckless, because I continue to believe that Trump really doesn’t know anything. He seems the most remarkably ignorant (stupid??) man ever to grace the White House. He helped to blow the health care replacement bill, mainly because he and his staff don’t know anything about either health care, insurance, or even politics.  They wander about in the dark, while he issues his daily stream of witless commentaries that seem barely even in English.

So, what is with his supporters again?

Well, one possible explanation is organized religion. Organized religion has existed for centuries, millennia even, as a force that communicates a belief system that borders on the lunatic. They created an entire after-death world of folks floating around on clouds chatting it up with long dead relatives and maybe even Shakespeare. But the specifics don’t matter. What matters is that many/most people are most afraid of death, and the cessation of being.  The Churches of the world, knowing that, created these fictional worlds that convey to the fearful (faithful) that they need not fear death, if only they pay attention to their church leaders—obey and you will be rewarded. Disobey/disavow and you will be punished with . . . The Zen of Nothingness.  Their game is closely akin to a Ponzi scheme, but because you die first, and nobody ever comes back to testify to the lie, the Ponzi can go on indefinitely.

So, folks now routinely listen to patent nonsense on a weekly basis, and yet they continue to support their leaders, even when their leaders do things like routinely rape little boys, or abuse the hapless in many other ways. 

Now, given that mentality, Trump becomes easier to understand and recognize. He has been compared to a carnival barker. But no, I would suggest he is way closer to a religious leader. We know carnie barkers lie, but they give us some fun along the way. Religious leaders lie, but we rarely acknowledge their lies, because we are too scared to so acknowledge the obvious.  And the more autocratic Trump becomes, and the less he responds to questions, the more he appears like a religious leader.  Most folks don’t routinely question their popes, or their ayatollahs. It just isn’t done.

So, he may get away with his Three-card Monte game for quite a while. Unless and until the other folks we elect to Congress and maybe even the judiciary decide that enough is enough.  But that may take a while, and may actually never occur unless and until we replace all the folks currently holding office, and that would require everyone to actually get off their asses and vote. Wow, voting . . . what a concept.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Endings


I may just be becoming more aware of my age. Yeah, as you speed into your 80s, it’s like you’re cruising. But then, at some stage, you understand that you are now really close to the end. . So, maybe it’s that. I just have this feeling each day that I’m waiting for something to end, so that, I can get on with things—life and all that.

But maybe it isn’t just my own ending that I sense daily. Maybe it’s a bigger ending . . . the ending of everything I have known over these now 80+ plus years of life.

I remember back into the 1930’s . . . yeah I really do.  FDR and his fireside chats. Then Fiorella LaGuardia reading the Sunday comics over the radio.  Then that War thingie, you know, with Pearl Harbor, as I was turning seven.  And my uncle Billy, serving in the Seabees in the South Pacific, building air strips and buildings for our fighting troops.

And I remember vividly most of our Presidents: just think FDR, Truman, Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan (ugh), Clinton, Shrub (double ugh), Barrie, and then . . . and then . . . the end. However much I really did not like Nixon and thought he really was a crook, or Reagan, who made it ok again to be a racist, most of them had some character and some moral values. Most seemed to believe in American values, especially the values conveyed in our Constitution. Some seemed to prefer blowing up things, to talking and trying to figure out how to live peacefully. The Dalai Llama keeps wandering the globe, looking for leaders who are willing to try peace, but he apparently hasn't found any yet. 

So, my life has seen periods of peace, and many periods of horror, when you thought it might never end.

But always, I believed that we were intrinsically a good people, and that somehow our leaders would find some way to make the horror end, and goodness to return. And that is what has now vanished.

This creature now inhabiting the Presidency (I would say the White House, but he seems to be spending more time at MaraLago golfing than he does in the White House governing) is pretending to be a real president. He may not drink, but he loves partying. He just knows nothing about being a president.

First and foremost, it is him. He is truly a one-man horror show. We spoke of him earlier as a Carnival Barker, a circus con-man. And he is that, but those terms really insult all carnie barkers. They may be conning you, but their cons are harmless, and even fun. Trump’s cons are deadly. They will kill people. They will destroy people in many ways.

And, unlike most of his predecessors, he actually seems not to care about the results of his words and his actions. He seems literally not to care who winds up hurt, or dead, so long as it isn’t him, or his deadly tribe.

For a while, during the election, he was a joke, and we all laughed at him. But now the joke is on us. It is said that his support is now down to 40% or less. He has many people running scared. And scared they should be, because his supporters, will soon lose their insurance and be back to no health care. And many, who thought he would bring back jobs, will learn that he has no tricks to bring back jobs in dead industries.  And that their lives are in or soon will be in the toilet . . . and that the President for whom they voted, does not care.

But it brings me to the 40% who still support him. How could that be? I can imagine that maybe 10% of the population is either so wealthy or so stupid that they really do not care either what he does. The Koch’s really don’t care whether the coal miners get new jobs. They don’t care whether you lose your health care, because they will always be able to buy theirs.

And Trump’s republican supporters who currently rule Congress? Well, guess what? They don’t care either. The republican party of Eisenhower is officially dead. In its place, you have either brain-dead creatures like Mitch McConnell, or not very smart and completely amoral fascists/anarchists of the Paul Ryan sort. He thinks he’s being oh so clever when he proposes to implement systems that throw 30 million people off health insurance, or (in his dreams) to gut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Oh and let’s not forget the destruction of the American public school system in favor of vouchers.  Yeah, that’ll get us quality education—all those charter schools that do whatever the hell they like and pretend it’s education.

Where oh where, I keep asking is the republican intelligentsia?  Are they all gone fish’n? Is George Will really dead?  Where is the outrage at such terminally awful behavior, and such absurdist proposals at both state and federal levels of government (and remember, the state governments are home to some of the most awful proposals ever seen in the land).  Any thought of just relaxing and giving Trump some space seems, to me, inconceivable. And for his next trick, ladies and gentlemen, he will nuke San Francisco, just because he can.  See, it is no longer about something called “policies”.  No, now it is about sanity, and about the preservation of the American democratic system of government, and about our constitutional system of rights, none of which he seems to understand, because he cannot and will not read.  Apparently, he has never been able to read, which makes me wonder whether he ever actually attended school . . . or did daddy pay someone to show up in his name and pretend to be Donald Trump.

And I also wonder, well suppose he does something completely and obviously illegal (like he is doing now with his emoluments thing) and they actually impeach him. Well, then we get Mike Pence. Is he any better? Well, they say he is at least predictable. Yeah, and so was Hitler.  How'd that work out?

And the days go on and on, each day surpassing the last in stupid gestures out of the Drumpf, and lately, out of his republican buddies, Ryan & Co. The entire tribe is a threat to the existence of this nation.

I can only hope that groups like Indivisible, #Resist, and other such activist resistance groups will begin to swing the entire nation back to sanity. But I’m pushing on into 83, and I am no longer certain I will see that happen.

Beware America, he is just beginning to operate. He has failed at almost everything he has ever done. We are next. Pay attention. It is your life too.

The only possible path back is for everyone who is eligible to register and to VOTE. VOTE the bastards out of office. Find sane, thinking people to run for office in opposition to the creeps now in power. Remember, the Republican Party is now officially DEAD. The cretins pretending to be republican are fakes. They mean you harm. VOTE them out. There is no other plausible solution.

Friday, March 3, 2017

How Trump???


We just read a David Frum article in the Atlantic[1] about the global growth of autocratic movements, including, obviously, here with the Trump groups. As best I understand them, the analyses concerning Trump suggest that folks out there in America-Land are damned angry, and they’re not going to take it any longer.  They voted for Trump as a gesture to throw out all the rascals—their version, I guess, of “draining the swamp”.  By coincidence, one can observe a similar feeling/belief system operating around the world in other industrialized nations. Certainly the Brexit vote in Britain is but one such example. British workers are fed up with the same things that annoy folks here—mainly the conviction that their careers, their very jobs are either gone or at serious risk because of immigrants, or because of trade pacts that undermine their own national industrial base.  In Britain, unlike here, there is the added annoyance that Europeans are dictating laws that affect the British homeland, and they don’t want their laws dictated by Belgians, French, Germans, et al.

Here, it would seem, the Trump forces divide into a few different population sets:

·         The middle and lower middle class workers whose jobs are threatened, or have disappeared due to technology, shifting plants overseas, or replacement by other industries;

·         A second group of middle class workers who, while perhaps not threatened directly, have grown up within family/business circles that despise government and believe that private business should be unimpeded by government. They seem to love the rhetoric about government being part of the problem, rather than the solution (thank you Ronald Reagan)-- the Reagan “welfare queens driving around in Cadillacs” remains a vital core of their belief system;

·         Racists and other neo-Nazi groups that have emerged as a result of Trump rhetoric that makes it ok again to hate people of other racial, ethnic, or cultural groups;

·         Moderate to Wealthy corporate executives and right wing lobby groups aimed at reducing/eliminating the intrusion of government into their corporate lives. This group is especially active, heavily monied, and seeks to end government regulations across the board.

But, I keep asking myself, why would all these groups vote for Trump? We heard folks out there say that, Trump is a businessman, and that government would definitely benefit by being run like a business.  On the other hand, Trump is also a demonstrably unsuccessful businessman, almost uniquely so. His businesses have failed spectacularly. Six times Trump businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, meaning that many investors lost much of their invested capital.

But he has also demonstrated what can only be called corrupt business practices, when he refuses to pay workers, or contractors who work for him, always claiming that their work was “inadequate”.

So, folks would like to see government run in this same fashion? Really folks??

And then, of course, there is his personal depravities.  Three marriages, multiple trashing of the very concept of marriage, through his casual approach to sex with many partners, and his utter failure to respect women in or outside his family.

It is not the case that all these flaws were hidden from the voting public. They were prominently on display to anyone interested in even casual information gathering about the candidates.

So tell me again why anyone voted for him?

It would seem that the racists/Neo-Nazi’s would continue to be drawn to Trump because he appeals to them much as autocrats of old (see Mussolini) appealed to their native populations. These groups were apparently offended by the election of an African-American President, and, despite his generally statesmanlike behavior throughout his eight years, there was nothing President Obama could have done that would satisfy the primal urges of such folks.  Many have never recovered from the Civil War, and sport Confederate flags at will on every occasion they can.  Trump fully recognized these groups and refused to publically condemn them.

The monied corporate set was also largely “in the bag” as soon as any republican was nominated. The fact that the nominee was a deeply flawed, mentally questionable person with serious personality disorders, apparently troubles them not at all. My assumption is that they believe, since they largely frequent the same country clubs, that he was controllable by them, and that he was largely already in their philosophical frame.  To be fair, some heavily monied corporatists declaimed him, but not enough of them to dissuade the voting public.  Big Bidness was seen as a loyal Trump ally, and the “government should be run like business” set liked that.

So, then we are left with the Middle and Lower class workers who were actually or potentially threatened by the extant global marketplace. Trade pacts such as NAFTA and the TPP were assumed to be bad by definition, because they caused American business to be undermined, as business drifted off to the other countries involved.

This group opted for Trump apparently because Trump voiced their concerns and fears directly, whereas the Democrats, Hillary especially, failed to do so directly.  He disparaged the global trade pacts, described our economy as being practically in the toilet, and blamed Obama and the Dems for its pitiful state.  Someone finally was “telling it like it is”. He was “taking names” and kicking ass, and they rallied to that approach enthusiastically.  His rallies resembled high school football rallies with the faithful screaming loudly in support, even to violently in support.  Trump applauded the violent displays, as they seem to appeal to his basic personality. His nauseous commentary, when he thought he might lose, about how her election might be beyond their control, “aside from those second amendment folks” seemed an outright appeal to assassination, although he would deny that.  Still, he appealed to their basest emotions, and identified with their real pain. Hillary never connected with these groups, and they seemed to see her as being part of their problem.

Could Hillary have appealed to these groups? Perhaps, but it really seems fairly unlikely. They were angry; Hillary represented the cause of their anger, and there was not much she could do to dissuade them from their position.

Curiously, Bernie Sanders seemed to appeal almost directly to these same fears and concerns.  So, might Bernie have formed a more formidable challenge to the Trump phenomenon? Maybe, but we cannot know at this stage. Certainly Bernie represented a fierier approach that had great appeal.  Maybe next time, or maybe in the form of another similar charismatic, such as Elizabeth Warren.

But more fundamentally, what must be done to retrieve the trust of this segment of our voting public, especially after Trump trashes their belief in him. When Trump and his republican buddies get rid of “ObamaCare” without replacing it with something as good or better, they will begin to understand that Trump and the republicans are an empty set, intent on maintaining and enlarging their power without fixing any of the underlying problems in America, other perhaps than the entirely fake problem of an undernourished military.

So, what could we have done, or more to the point, what could be done in the future to remedy these entirely real problems facing the American workforce, and the voting public?

It seems to me that we collectively have simply adopted this global economic model that multilateral trade will always be good for the nation, without dealing with the inevitable negative side effects of these trade systems.  While acknowledging that multilateral trade probably is good for the world, as it spreads money throughout the globe, its effects are not uniform. If Mexico or China can produce something that we used to produce at less cost than we can manage, then they gain and we will lose. The assumption of global economics folks is that, while we will lose on some deals, textiles for example, we will make it up on other commodities, maybe high tech goods or services.  And over time, as we lose those higher tech commodities, we will gain in some other newer set.  Except . . . ahhh, there’s always an exception. When we gain in some new set of commodities, a new group of workers are involved, and the set of workers who lost out??? Well, they are simply unemployed.

Now this trade effect can be seen vividly in the old textile industry, where production moved from the North here in the US to the South, and then farther South into Latin America, thence on to China. Our textile workers became casualties, and many never recovered. Similarly, when coal mines gave out, in favor of other mines, or other energy sources, the miners became permanently unemployed, mainly because they had no other skill set on which they could rely for obtaining employment in a different sector of our economy.

And the list goes on and on.

So, what did we do about these many “side effects” of global trade? Well, largely, nothing—enter Donald Trump.

But what could we have done? Well, here is where a government-business partnership seems appropriate. We all know that, when a coal mine closes, we would not expect the mine owners to devise another enterprise that would accept their now unemployed miners. It would be nice, but that typically is not the way business works. Business owners protect their own capital, and seek new ways to enrich themselves without worrying overly about the workers who used to enrich them.  They are just casualties. Onto bigger and better ways of making money.

See, this is the single thing that folks who want government to run like business don’t get. Business largely cares only about profit and loss. Whatever will enrich the owners is the path that will be followed. Government, on the other hand, is supposed to have a larger set of objectives, more aligned with the citizenry and the safety and wellbeing of that enterprise called The Nation. So, when a President develops and sets into law something like the WPA[2] to put people to work, it is an act that a business would never entertain.

So, have we needed a modern WPA? Maybe, but the central issue is that we have needed for at least the last 50-60 years, some function within our government that is charged with working with industry to devise solutions, both short and long term to correct for the effects of global trade imbalances and damages. Sometimes, the solution might be a short term public works investment, but sometimes we might need to devise longer term approaches involving training, or public-private investment strategies that will keep our work force current.  We might need tax dollars for these investments, and we might need private capital investments in new technology or new facilities.  Who knows, perhaps the nation’s workforce of economists could join together in some enterprise that causes them to do something beyond statistical extrapolation.

But it seems to me that we need something new and that it cannot be solely a government or a private sector initiative, but some combined effort. It might well involve retraining whole workforces, or some permanent systems to retrain threatened sectors. It would certainly involve research into alternative industrial investment patterns, which could include both public and private. And for those who imagine that governments should not be involved in industrial enterprise development, they need to examine the nation a bit more in depth.  Our entire military-industrial complex, which Ike warned us about, is precisely a government-private sector investment strategy. We make no argument here to duplicate that approach, but we argue instead that we need something similar in terms of a cooperative endeavor between the two economic forces.

And the efforts need to be made public, so that our workforce can always see that both our government and our private sector industrialists now always include their welfare in the decision processes.

One final note here. Because many of the abandoned workers have no skill sets beyond their now abandoned industrial jobs, they need to be made part of this system. They cannot simply sit on their asses and whine about how unfair the world is. They need to be active partners in their own economic redemption. Now, how’s that for a challenge???



[1] Frum, David, How to Build an Autocracy, The Atlantic, March 2017
[2] The Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On Hating in America


We seem to be headed downhill and picking up speed. I do hope we can negotiate that 90 degree turn at the bottom of the hill before we crash through the barrier and go flying into the canyon of despair—Donald and Louise???.

It seems almost every day, we encounter more madness on the part of either our President himself, or his henchmen. And the list of henchmen grows daily. It wasn’t too bad when we just needed to worry about Bannon, Priebus and that Spicer idiot. But now, we apparently have to worry about the remains of the republican party. And I do mean remains. The coffin of that once proud institution has now been nailed shut and it has been lowered below ground.  I assume at some point, the George Will’s of the world will attend a memorial service.  Maybe they could get Ronnie Reagan, Jr. to give the  eulogy . . . “alas poor Yorick, we knew him well . . .”  But maybe not. The Reagan boys aren’t too keen on the demise of the party since Daddy ruled the waves.  In one article, they assert:

“Ronald Reagan’s sons have one thing to say to Donald Trump: We knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was our father. And you’re no Ronald Reagan.

The conservative 40th president has been a touchstone in practically every presidential race since he left office, but  (in 2016), from Scott Walker’s fawning tweets to Jeb Bush’s custom T-shirt, Reagan fever seems to have reached a new high.

Not only is the whole party “certainly getting him wrong as a Republican,” says Ron, the idea of comparing Trump to his father disgusts him. “I can’t think of two people who are more diametrically opposed. This egotistical, narcissistic guy with the weird comb over swanning in his private plane. … I mean, look in the mirror, fat boy. Look at that hair, you’re ridiculous! Where do you get off talking on anybody’s appearance? It’s just so unchivalrous. My father would recoil at that sort of thing.”

Michael Reagan, a conservative political strategist who hosted a talk radio program for 26 years, also questioned the idea that Republican candidates today are just like his father, especially Trump. “It’s interesting to see how many of them … recreate my father in their image and likeness instead of his,” he says. “Ronald Reagan would never take 11 million people or three million people or a million people and throw them out of the United States of America.” Plus, Michael says, talking about Reagan all the time is just bad strategy: “I have a 32 year-old daughter named Ashley. She knows who Ronald Reagan is, but name another 32 year old who does.”

And as for Donald Trump being the next Ronald Reagan? That’s ridiculous, says Michael. “To say what he said about Carly? … Is that the face we want for the Republican Party? If that’s the face, then the Democrats have to be going, ‘Go Donald!’”


So, maybe they will have to go elsewhere to find someone who will swoon over the death of the party.  I guess back to you George Will. We know you have no principles. Maybe you should restart writing about, ummm . . . maybe Bill Clinton. You did so love writing about Bill.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, America seems collectively to be losing its head.

On the one hand, we have our Congress practically swooning at the prospect of taking health care away from Americans, from Obamacare to Medicare and Medicaid.  Paul Ryan wants to “privatize” everything, which means to him, arranging to give folks a discount on buying private insurance. Ryan seriously has no actual principles. If we follow his lead, and Republicans seem to have no thoughts except his inane few, then Americans will be virtually the only nation on earth in which its people really have no actual access to health care.  Under Obama, the uninsured had reached an all-time low. Under Trump, it appears that most of the population will have no health insurance, and, therefore, no health care.  Is that really what you voted for, you angry, disaffected voters??? Really???


And then there’s North Dakota, in which a state legislator has introduced a bill to not only criminalize protests, but would allow drivers to use their automobiles to run down and even kill protestors who are in the street . . . so long as it was done “accidentally”.  Really, North Dakota??? really?? But five republican states are planning to criminalize protests. Apparently nobody ever told them about the constitutional right to peacefully assemble, including to assemble in order to protest.


So, we are fast going off the rails, or headed downhill at an increasing pace, as we approach the 90 degree turn and the barrier that we will crash through, as we head into oblivion.

It still is not clear exactly why we turned so hateful.  Perhaps we have always been so, and it took a Black President to bring all the racists out of our collective woodwork.

No one can truly claim that Kim Jung Drumpf is proving to be a surprise. What you see is what you get with him. He appeals to everyone’s lowest instincts. And the current crop of power-mad pseudo-republicans always operate at that lowest level. It is why they are practically drooling from their foaming mouths at the prospect of taking away health care from millions of Americans. Their Christian Taliban supporters will quote their bible in support of removing health care or denying freedom to Americans they hate. And HATE is the new norm for these folks. They don’t just disagree. Now, they HATE. And apparently, they are willing to kill opposing Americans.

It is the new norm in America.


And I imagine that the rest of the world is now working on new ways to cope with America, including withdrawing from agreements or in fact any contact with America. Wait until we are sitting all alone in our own universe of hate, folks. 
Get ready. Here it comes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lying


We seem to have a problem . . . one might call it a serious problem.

We have a sitting President who seems rarely to speak the truth. Instead, some estimates suggest that he lies 75% of the time he speaks---75%. That means he rarely tells you something that is factually correct.

He also, perhaps because of his personality disorder, is in the habit of routinely accusing others, his opponents mainly, of committing the sins that he commits routinely. For example, he seems to know that he lies routinely, so, to distract attention from that little problem, he accuses others, again his opponents mainly, of lying. When he called Hillary, “lying Hillary”, or “crooked Hillary”, he was really trying to shift attention away from his common problem, that he lies, and is of a crooked mind.

Now we all assume that politicians tell “porkys”, or that they, at the least, exaggerate.  But with our President, something different seems to happen. He lies, even when it is patently clear to even the most disinterested observer, that he is lying. It was raining, during his inaugural address, yet he asserted that God had cleared the air for him.  He lied about the size of the crowd watching him, even when photo evidence said that the crowd was modest at best compared to the crowd that had watched Obama. He lies about the issue of illegal voters casting votes for Hillary, even though he has no evidence, and all observers tell us there is no such evidence.

He lies about issues such as murder rates, unemployment rates, when we have fairly objective evidence, available to one and all, telling us that he is lying.

So, we have a new bottom line regarding our President. That is:

We cannot trust anything Donald Trump tells us.

Nor can anyone with whom he comes into contact. That would include:

Congress persons,

Judges,

Foreign officials,

Military leaders,

Business leaders.

I failed to mention church leaders, but that seems unimportant, since so many of them no longer tell the truth either.

Now, why is this serious, you might ask? Well, in normal human encounters, we all make certain assumptions about the encounter, assuming it includes some form of human communication.  One assumption is that the people with whom we converse, will communicate most of the time in words that bear some semblance of reality. That is, they will not simply make stuff up out of thin air and pretend they are communicating factually. We might look askance, for example, were we to meet a friend at night, and have him comment on how wonderful the sunshine was at the moment, when in fact there is no sunshine and the night is very dark.  Or should we meet a friend who is 450 pounds, and he comments on how slim he is looking, and would I not agree?

See, I am not talking about opinions, where there is some room for multiple views. No, I mean that there is an objective truth, and the other person denies that obvious truth. That is our President.

So, why is this important?

Well, the President speaks to the people periodically to tell us about the state of some reality—the world, our relative safety, the state of our economy, or the state we observe in the world outside our nation. He “informs” us about those states of reality. And, although, those realities are always subject to multiple opinions, because they are neither black nor white, we need to able to trust that our President will at least approximate the truth of those reality states. That is, even if he shades the truth to one side or the other, he will not simply lie about the truth.  If we cannot trust what he says, then he cannot and must not be our leader. He must be led outside and removed from his high office. Mainly, if you cannot believe what some person tells you, then you cannot have a human relationship with that person.

Again, we know that periodically most folks will tell “porkys”, bend the truth in some way that favors them, or their perspective on something. But most folks do not simply lie about almost everything. Mainly, lying is too burdensome. It requires complex webs of tales that attempt to support the lies, but only make one appear terminally stupid.

So, why would someone, especially someone as public as our President, tell us so many obvious lies? Well, apparently, this is what he has always done, so he simply is continuing his normal pattern of abnormal behavior. But in the past, i.e., before he was President, it mattered less.  Oh, it mattered doubtless to his contractors, when he hired them to do some work, and then, on completion, he simply refused to pay them, inventing some tale about their inadequate work, forcing them to sue him in order to retrieve their money.  But largely, the public was unaware and unharmed by those lies.

He apparently lies, because he is mentally out of touch with reality much of the time.  His reality differs from most of the rest of us.  His friends and associates keep making excuses, telling us that he “believes” things and so speaks according to his altered state of reality belief system.  And we are not to take him literally. We should evidently take him seriously but not literally. Now what in heavens name does that mean?  He says he will act so as to have a wall erected between the USA and Mexico. And we are to deduce that the wall might be a fence, a wall, some other kind of electronic barrier, or maybe just make believe. He says he will Make America Great Again, implying that America is not now great. But he fails to tell us in what way he will make us great again.  He says he will rearm us, return our military to its former great state, instead of whatever pathetic state it is now in.  He says he will abolish “Obama-Care”, but introduce an even greater health care system. His hyperbolic language is so extreme, that it is now the stuff of comedy dreams. Comedians everywhere are being handed a daily dose of comic material such as they could only dream of.

And this pathetic state of affairs has occurred in less than a month. Whatever are we to do for the next four years? 

He has appointed arguably the worst cabinet in the history of our pathetically ungreat nation.  Almost without exception, he has appointed people who are antagonistic to the very purposes of the institutions they will lead.  One can only assume that he intends ridding the nation of Education, Energy, Environmental Protection, Health Research, and health care for the elderly, income assurance/supplementation for the elderly, protection of the working man through labor protections, and the entire judicial system (he does hate those pesky judges always interfering with his whims).

And this is what the entire Republican Party has come to. It is now the pathetic party of Donald Trump and his circus clown car rule. Wouldn’t Lincoln be proud? One might imagine some stirrings of a sense of horror and doom out of at least some of them. But no, they are no longer a party of principles. Instead, they are the great destroyers of a once great nation. 

They cannot even address the relationship between Trump and Vladimir Putin, or even perhaps between Trump and the Russian mafia.  They seem incurious about his tax returns, even while absorbed for years about Hillary’s e-mails. 

Curiouser and curiouser.

What are to make of all this? Well, for one, it seems clear that money has taken over our political system completely. The current party in charge is the best government money can buy—thank you Citizens United.  Thank you Supreme Court.

We can and doubtless should continue to protest the ongoing stupidities perpetuated by Trump, Ryan, Bannon and the rest of his corps of pseudo-Nazi leaders.

We can hope that leakers will continue to leak information being withheld about the inner doings of the Trump carnival or the republican serfs who now serve his purposes, whatever they may be.

Mainly, we will need to work on voting and getting folks out to vote in 2018 and then again in 2020.  Voting is truly our last refuge, assuming republicans do not remove our ability to vote . . . and they will and are trying, since they no longer have any shame.

So, think and work on 2018 and then on 2020, assuming we are not all dead by then.

Til then, continue watching anyone on TV who still is allowed to make fun of our dilemma and of the Drumpf especially. He is a buffoon, and we all need to make sure he realizes that, on a daily basis. Maybe begin to write the Drumpf frequently, telling him that he is a clown. He won’t like that, but it doesn’t matter any longer. He is what he is. Call a clown a clown.

Ta ta . . .

Monday, February 6, 2017

Making America Great Again


So, the Super-Duper Bowl is now ended, and we have witnessed the yugest athletic event in the history of mankind . . . yuger even than the old Olympic events held at Olympia, Greece. As you all know, the Olympic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD and they were really Yuge, yuge that is until the Super-Duper Bowl. Olympia was also known for the gigantic ivory and gold statue of Zeus that used to stand there, sculpted by Pheidias, which was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Antipater of Sidon. We are thinking that now The New England Patriots may well be designated the 11th Wonder of the World (not sure what happened to 8-10).


And President Stupidhead of course held the best ever Super-Duper Bowl party. Since “Madame First-whatever” was present, we can assume his Super-Duper Bowl Game Party was not held in Washington, since it is rumored that Madame will not set foot in Washington, since it clashes with her many ball gowns.  But his party was the Yugest party ever held in any universe. We have been told that even Darth Vader’s Galactic Bowl party was less Yuge.  Although whether that is an Alternative Fact remains to be verified.  By the way, don’t you just love Alternative Facts? That means, we can all say whatever we want, and if we label it as an Alternative Fact, we can’t be held accountable in a court of law. Besides, we now understand that, since President Stupidhead has declared that it is ok to ignore the rule of law, that anyone can now ignore the rule of law and do or say anything we want. That is what Mlle. Conway said isn’t it???


So, the only question remaining in my mind now is, will this ever end??? Well, what the hell is “this” you are thinking.  I am thinking of "this" as the unending stream of stupidities.--the thing that is preventing us from achieving our Greatness again. Perhaps it is simply the Tweeting thing. Tweeting, bound as it is to 140 characters, isn’t exactly the stuff of Shakespeare. I mean, what would the Grand William say, it we limited him to 140 characters.  


To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep (
oops, out of room here, so Willy would need a second Tweet)


No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause. There's the respect

(oops, there we go again . . .)

that makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
the Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's Contumely, [F: poor]
the pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay, [F: disprized]
the insolence of Office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his Quietus make
with a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear, [F: these Fardels]
to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
but that the dread of something after death,
the undiscovered country, from whose bourn
no traveller returns, puzzles the will,
and makes us rather bear those ills we have,
than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
and thus the native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment, [F: pith]
with this regard their Currents turn awry, [F: away]
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.”



So, you get the point. President Stupidhead is automatically limiting himself to the banal commentary. He will never get any points for being, say, thoughtful, although to be fair, I doubt that anyone has ever referred to the man as thoughtful.  But, who’s to know? Maybe a couple of weeks from now, he will tire of appearing to the World as President Stupidhead and will wish to take on the mantle of President Thoughtful.  See, it all depends on which particular 140 character sets he is taking in at the moment.  So, maybe if he sees a different set of characters, he might wish to change his ways.

And what might that mean?

Well, perhaps he might begin by writing longer pieces, perhaps for his talks, and maybe even for his  discussions with foreign leaders. It is said that he will not now be invited to speak before the UK Parliament.  He is seen, evidently, as a racist and sexist. Maybe if he writes something thoughtful he could retrieve his now lost status as a person of some gravitas. Maybe then, we The American People could be seen once again as a thoughtful people, whom other cultures would wish to know.

That would be a helpful start, because I fear that collectively, we are all viewed through the prism of President Stupidhead’s 140 character tweets.  It is not simply who he is. It is, rather, who we are, and we must never lose sight of that important distinction.

So, perhaps we collectively need to begin a process of healing ourselves, by giving to our great leader (the greatest leader in the history of the world) a grander sense of who he is in the world. He is better than 140 characters.  He needs to know that.



Or maybe not . . .

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Managing Effective Organizations


Managing Effective Organizations

Many people who decry government, really government at all levels, claim that government is:

a.       Inefficient and therefore a waste of taxpayer money;

b.      Overly intrusive into the lives of ordinary citizens; and

c.       Ineffective, i.e., they never achieve their stated goals.

So, these voter-folks cast their precious ballots to elect people who espouse similar views, e.g., the Donald Trumps of the world. And the Donald Trumps of the world promise to reduce the size of government, its cost burden, and simultaneously, to make government work for all citizens.

Permit me to clarify my own views and how those views were formed; During my approximately 60 year working career, I worked for:

a.       large for-profit corporations—Firestone Guided Missile Division and Lockheed Missiles and Space Company as an engineer working on nuclear missile design and development;

b.      small-medium for-profit companies—management consulting at Management Systems Corporation and Peat, Marwick, Livingston (now KPMG), Practical Concepts, Inc., all carrying out program design and evaluation studies, both on aerospace projects, and later on public health systems;

c.       medium non-profit research at The Urban Institute, carrying out program evaluation studies;

d.      Large, i.e., Federal, government while working at the then Department of Health, Education & Welfare under both Presidents Carter and Reagan, running an evaluation office carrying out evaluation studies of public programs, mainly health related;

e.      And finally, my own nominally for-profit management consulting company carrying out studies in strategic planning, and program evaluation.

One of the many lessons I derived from this long working experience is that organizational size matters. That is, large, for-profit corporations resemble large government in many ways. They are equally bureaucratic, both share the same range of executive competence, both have dedicated and “casual” employees. So a large corporate entity can be compared with a federal government agency and you will find many shared characteristics.

There is also, obviously, a relatively large difference between the for-profit and not-for-profit world of corporate entities.  One could say, again obviously, that in one case the for-profit company seeks to maximize profit as its end game, while the other seeks to maximize its impact on its mission.  That distinction can reveal itself in many ways, some that we might view as undesirable, as for example when a Donald trump refuses to pay his  contractors and staff, thereby boosting his bottom line, or when a large banking entity decides to launder drug monies and establish offshore (i.e., untaxable) accounts for gangster drug lords.

Now consider the subject of high-level recruitment of executive staff for these varied organizations. One might assume that rational beings would always look for the most competent individuals to run organizations of any size, whether for-profit or other. On average, that assumption proves true, despite much evidence that we do not always succeed.  Many people believe, for example, that Carly Fiorina was a disaster as CEO of Hewlett Packard. Some arguably would disagree.

But few will argue openly that we would ever consider hiring someone who is basically antagonistic to the central mission and purposes of the entity they would manage.  For example, would you ever hire a global bank CEO who is antagonistic to the global banking end game? Someone, for example, who believed that global banks should be broken up because they are simply too large and counterproductive to world order? I think not.

So, why would we consider hiring people into the highest levels of government who are antagonistic to the central purposes of the agencies they will manage?

I am thinking here of Donald Trump’s list of cabinet appointments. Let’s look at one potential appointee: Betsy Devos to be Cabinet Secretary of Education.  Devos has zero experience running any large entities and, after inheriting her megamillions, has served as an advocate for the privatization of the country’s public school system. Neither she nor her children have ever attended public school and she advocates for what is called “school choice”, which seems to mean using public tax monies to finance private schools which are then largely unaccountable to the public.  According to Wikipedia:

DeVos is a member of the Republican Party known for her advocacy of school choice, voucher programs, and ties to the Reformed Christian community. She was Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan from 1992 to 1997 and served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000, with reelection to the post in 2003. DeVos has been a defender of the Detroit charter school system and she is a member of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She has served as chairwoman of the board of Alliance for School Choice and heads the All Children Matter PAC. DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, the former CEO of multi-level marketing company Amway, and is the daughter-in-law of billionaire and Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. Her brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA.”

One can argue whether charter schools have been successful or not, and there is some considerable evidence they have been less than compelling, but it still seems at best odd that we would want Mrs. Devos to run a public education system with which she fundamentally disagrees.  She is a contradiction in terms as a Department of Education CEO.

Clearly, our elected representatives need to eliminate Mrs. Devos as a candidate for that position. Our children need and deserve an advocate for high quality, publically accountable, public education.