Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tax Bills We Have Known

So, now, the infamous Republican Tax Bill has passed and will become law. We know President Stupidhead will sign it, because it benefits him and his family, and because he cares not one whiffle about anyone else. He does not care, nor has he ever cared.  But when Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa writes this view, we know no one in that party of kleptocrats cares:

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing… as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Many people are speculating what this disastrous tax bill will do for the future of the Republican Party.  It is said that the rich owners of the party would not allow their politicians to escape without gifting this bit of largesse to the owners, and that they would withdraw support, should the party leaders fail to obey their orders.

But what of ordinary folks? How will they respond once they see what is actually in this pile of horseshit? Well, it is said that the supporters of our disaster called a President will continue supporting anything this creature proposes. There is something of a religion about this relationship between Trump and his supporters. They ignore any and all facts.

  • He is a compleat narcissist. We don’t care.
  • He is a sexual predator. We don’t care.
  • He is a businessman. Yes, we love him for that.
  • But he is almost completely unsuccessful as a businessman. We don’t care. 
  • He knows nothing. We don’t care.
  • He has failed at his marriages. We don’t care.


And the list goes on and on. The Evangelicals love him, warts and all. They are revealed to have no ethical or moral standards at all.  

How did this happen, though? Have his supporters always lacked moral or ethical standards? Or is this like the Catholic Church scandals, where we all knew, but no one was allowed to speak of it? Bad form, don’t you know. It’s called compartmentalization.

It is said that the issue of ethics or morality is not really the point. That his supporters really just hate (take your pick):
  • ·         Government
  • ·         Democrats
  • ·         Women
  • ·         Poor people
  • ·         Gays/Lesbians
  • ·         Young people
  • ·         Old people
  • ·         Blacks (or more to the point, anyone not “white”)
  • ·         Hispanics
  • ·         Asians
  • ·         Anyone not within their church (community, neighborhood, state, whatever)

In particular, his supporters appear to think that Government really is the enemy of their particular group, and that Government gives their hard-earned tax dollars to those wastrel peasants, who are sitting at home drinking booze instead of working hard at their jobs, like they are (or like they want to be).
There is a class consciousness at work in this country, promoted, I think, by the wealthy right-wing, asserting that they, the very wealthy, are the ones who built (or sustain, or create) the Nation and that there are millions who simply sit on their asses and collect Government largesse, and that it is now time that should end.  They declare that welfare should end, government supported health care should end. Abortions should be illegal. Immigration should be stopped, except for the folks who come from (name your country).
Government should get out of their lives, except for:
  • ·         Army
  • ·         Police
  • ·         Garbage Men
  •        Well, maybe the firemen too. Wouldn’t want my estate house to burn down, would we?

So, what does that have to do with Trump and his supporters? Well, Trump basically said that Government sucks and that he would get that awful creature off their backs.  He never said how he would do that, mainly because he hasn’t a clue how to do anything.  He simply mouths crap that he thinks will draw applause.  Then he goes on to the next applause line.  He has never actually had to do anything, well aside from having sex with his various female partners, so as to produce his offspring.  Aside from those acts, someone else has always had to “DO” things for him. I still imagine someone else attending class for him, in his name. Maybe that didn’t actually happen, but it seems right to me . . . maybe the only way I can imagine him actually obtaining a college degree—well, even a high school diploma.
See, he doesn’t ever actually mean anything he says. He just says things, as I say, to draw applause.

So, when he says he wants to “make America great again”, he doesn’t know what that means. I wonder what he would say were he to be asked, “when was America last GREAT, Donald?”

But his followers seem not to notice that he doesn’t actually know how to do anything.  Perhaps they don’t care. So long as he stops whoever they see as “The Government” from operating (screwing them). And if were to be pointed out that the folks doing the screwing are actually The Donald, his banker friends, and his other monied buddies, they would yell and scream NO.  They “compartmentalize”.

Exactly how and why folks became able to so compartmentalize their thinking remains a bit of a mystery to me. Sherlock, where are you, we need you now desperately. Perhaps it is simply the thinking process of lazy people. They want simple answers, even when there are no simple answers.  I wrote a while ago about the need to achieve balance in the world. I said:
  I.       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. 
There were a few other points that need not be repeated here. 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.  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.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Suppose . . .

I have begun thinking lately about a world without religion. Recently, my wife and I watched Spotlight, the devastating film about the role of the Catholic Church in the priestly pedophile scandal. It seemed clear at the time, and the film makes it very clear, that the entire Catholic Church, all the way to the top, knew of its priestly criminal behavior, and not only did nothing, but actively worked to cover up the scandalous behavior.  And I came away thinking, why is this basically immoral institution still in existence? Of course, I realize one might say the same thing about virtually every global bank on the planet, but still, the Church stands out for chutzpah.
And then I began thinking . . . suppose, just suppose, that this scandal so rocked the world of organized religion that the entire edifice came crashing down, bringing with it not only the Catholic Church, but all religious entities everywhere. That people worldwide saw this as evidence that the rulers of organized religion everywhere were simply amoral scoundrels, and they should be cast aside.
Suppose . . .
Then what would follow?
Would the world suddenly become moral and highly principled? One could make a case for that scenario I assume. People globally, would begin to understand that morality and human kindness must after all begin with them, individually. That they must now begin operating according to commonly understood standards of decency.
It could happen. After all, many people do that right now, without the aid of a churchly admonition.
Then I thought, but on the other hand . . .
Suppose, just suppose, one removed the threat of eternal damnation from the world of ordinary humans. That all humans everywhere finally understood the likely truth, that there would be no eternal anything, either damnation or heavenly rewards.  That the mostly likely scenario for death is this:

You are still alert, but your breathing becomes shallow, slows, and your awareness begins to drift off. You now only vaguely sense that you are still in the world. Then, suddenly, your heart stops beating, and your brain is deprived of oxygen. So, after a very brief time, your brain loses awareness. And then, it is over, this thing we call LIFE. And we do not know it’s over, because we have no awareness. We do not see a light off in the distance. We do not “see” anything. Because our brain no longer functions.  We do not awaken to find ourselves on a bus, or a train to heaven, or even to hell.  We do not do or perceive anything, because, again, our brain no longer functions.  And, as it turns out, there is no brain substitute or alternative called the Soul.  So, nothing follows. No journey, no arrival at the gates of heaven or the gates of hell.  Nothing.  We simply stop “Being”.  And, again, we are unaware that we have stopped Being. And we are never again aware of anything.

Then of course, the rot sets in, but we are unaware of that also. And whether our earthly remains are buried in a nice casket, or burned into ashes, we remain unaware, because we are no longer anywhere. It is difficult to describe what being dead is all about. Mainly, because we are here and aware, it is difficult, perhaps not possible, to conceive being unaware. I know I have great difficulty. I will simply stop “Being” some day, and I will not know I have stopped “Being”.

But that is where my mind has taken me, however uneasy such a condition makes me.
Now, having reached such a terrible conclusion, how does that change my being, my ability to interact with other human beings?

Well, it seems not to change anything for me. I react with kindness toward others when kindness seems appropriate. I react with hostility when that seems appropriate. And the fact that I will go neither to heaven nor to hell, seems an irrelevancy to me.

But how would such an awareness be greeted by others?
Well, we have the greedy humans, the Donald Trumps of the world .. . the global bankers, the mob bosses, the authoritarians like Vlad the Impaler, or Duterte. Such a realization doubtless would not compel them to become more awful towards other humans, because “more awful” seems not possible.  Mostly, I imagine, such humans have no personal basis for acting kindly, or fairly towards other humans. They act the way they do, because their personalities condition them to act the way they do. So, for them, I would expect no change.
And for the Haters around the world, those who despise others they deem “less worthy”, i.e., racists, or misogynists, or anti-semitic, or anti-any of dozens of human characterizations, they might not change either. They might instead, feel a bit more secure, knowing that their hatreds would not in any ultimate sense, matter.

But then we have the rest of humanity, just ordinary folks, who now attend some church, or not, but who might be occasionally guided by a sense that what they do, or how they act today, will matter in the ultimate sense.  That their actions will/may push them upwards or downwards after it is all over. 

Will they now change, and always act to benefit themselves, even if their actions may hurt others? Aye, there’s the rub . . . they might change, or they might not, depending on how their belief system predetermines their daily behavior.  And that is what gives me pause in wishing that organized religion would simply disappear because it is more evil than good.

I am not sure.  Not that my relative certainty matters, because largely whatever I speculate here is almost wholly irrelevant to the future of humankind.  Maybe the inherent design of the human being is simply a flawed creation, and maybe it is the best evidence for evolution, rather than intelligent design. For surely, no superhuman, a God, could possibly design this thing we call humankind so flawed.

Nope, not possible. And the winner is . . . EVOLUTION. Yay!!!!!

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Drumpf as one of Life's SemiColons


Gotta hand it to the Drumpf. He certainly causes folks to think. For example, a record number of people are now thinking of leaving the USA for some other country.  I assume we would be also thinking of leaving, except we are really old, so it isn’t a serious option. Iceland anyone??

But even beyond deciding to depart, his very presence in our daily lives causes me to think about life differently. I have in the past characterized my life as something sandwiched between bookends.  At the one side, at the beginning, is immense stupidity--the great depression, brought about by bankers and stockbrokers acting stupidly, as they are wont to do.  That great event brought about great change in the world. Many people just gave up and leaped off tall buildings. Some, like my folks and grandfolks, just quietly gave into despair. Grandma and grandpa Inglis, having migrated from Scotland to the US of A at the turn of the century in order to build a better life, now just went broke, like several million others. But that, in any case constituted the start of my life.  Then a Democrat named Franklin Delano Roosevelt took over from the do-nothing republican Herbert Hoover and began rebuilding America. Republicans don’t seem too good at this nation-building thing.  Mainly, I guess, their focus is on building their own stock portfolios and their own bank accounts, which is fine, I guess if you’re a rich republican.

And then came that second Great War, our second “War to end all Wars”.  Although I was still pretty little when it began, it seemed even to me, that life had acquired a different and more powerful meaning. And that there were more good guys than bad guys in charge of America.  I assume the “meaning” attached to the simple fact that we were battling classic evil. The fascists, defined by Hitler, his Nazi henchmen and the ignorant tyrant Benito Mussolini were so clearly evil that it gave new force to all of our actions. People in America united themselves in opposition to this evil. It had to be defeated and by God, everyone was going to assist in that endeavor.

Then I grew up and the detritus of that Great War lingered and helped to define my era.  We were still more or less united against the forces of evil defined now by the Soviet Union in that great replacement for the war, now called the Cold War.

That Cold War, though, introduced complexity and ambiguity into our lives. Our world began dividing itself into competing, if not warring factions—East and West, with the West defining the “good guys”.   Partly, the divisions focused on competing economic models—“capitalism” vs.  “communism”.  But eventually nationalism began playing a role that stretched beyond these competing economic models. And nationalism gives way easily to authoritarianism (see Germany in the 1930s).  Joe McCarthy paved a path of ugliness, showing us the worst, most destructive form of nationalism.

But McCarthy clearly was not alone in his ugliness.  Perhaps there is something inherent in humans that moves from insecurity to dominance to murderous.  The Cold War gave us a lot of murder. We only let a few years pass after WW II before we re-engaged, this time in Korea—can’t let those commie bastards take over Korea. But there we learned a new lesson. We stopped short of total annihilation and simply gave into a compromise—an armistice if you will. But that allowed us to remain on guard, with claws fully outstretched. And then, barely a few years thereafter, we succumbed again to the battle, when Ike, the victor in WW II, began supporting the French in their zeal to regain their colonial empire in south Asia. I guess it was just irresistible.  Happily, we ignored Britain’s post-war colonialism and so we stayed out of India.

And so we engaged in a twenty-year warlike effort in Vietnam, first French-inspired, but then wholly American.  And there, in Vietnam, I believe we sowed the seeds of our current colonial outlook, now focused in the Middle East.

We now seem to have no clue what we are doing, beyond simply killing Muslims.  We were attacked, to be sure, with 911 sounding the clarion call, “To Horse . . . To Arms . . .” But where, and against whom? Ahhh, there’s the rub.

So, one president after another sought to achieve dominance, partly still out of that old Cold War spirit (we must surely be better than those old Soviets and their Chinese buddies), and partly because we seem to need the dominance thing. If we aren’t dominant, after all, then we would be subservient to someone, and that we cannot tolerate.

So began this never-ending war that now consumes our lives, one that we cannot win, but dare not lose.

And the wars that seem to bounce from one country to another seem also to confuse our leaders, to the point that they no longer lead. Instead, they simply talk a lot, or, some of them, yell a lot.

And our growing population grows ever more confused, and ever more seeking of that dominance thing. If we aren’t dominant, then we are pathetic. And so, one pseudo-leader gives way to the next, with nary a Roosevelt anywhere in sight.  When I worked briefly for the Federal government, from 1979 to 1986, Carter, a decent man but not a leader, gave way to Ronald Reagan, St. Ronald we called him. And St. Ronald played the game well. He was an ignorant man, but he knew how to play to the crowd, especially the crowd of disaffected yearning to be mighty. He actually made it ok again to be a racist, that long smothered trait that was also yearning to be free. 

And St. Ronnie yielded to Poppie Bush, who yielded to the Clinton clan, who in turn yielded to Shrub the clueless. Shrub didn’t understand much, but his gang of thugs knew how to throw armies around.  And so our never-ending war began.

But the real change occurred when we elected a multiracial man, an intelligent, decent, thoughtful man. And that was apparently more than our closeted racists could stand—see St. Ronald had opened the closet door, but largely the racists remained within. Now, with Obama at the helm, the Tea Party could no longer control itself and emerged in full battle armor.  And then we arrived at 2016, and I had entered my 8th decade.  Now I was old, by any definition. And, instead of looking forward to inspired leaders pointing the way to greatness, I observed our nation deteriorating into hordes of fools yelling about greatness, but having no idea what that meant.

Greatness. Imagine that. Greatness being defined by a man who had failed at virtually everything he had ever attempted. Think of his record. Three marriages. Six corporate bankruptcies. A man so steeped in corruption and spiteful behavior that he refused to pay people who did work for him. He bragged about his corrupt behavior with women. He lied every time he opened his mouth and words came tumbling out. He had no clue how anything operated, since he never learned to operate anything himself.  And yet, somehow, through the power of TV, he emerged as the winner, via another apparently corrupt process called the Electoral College. But that’s an argument for another time.  Many people learned of his record, deleted the bad parts and hooked onto the fake parts—he was a successful businessman, ergo surely he could run a better government and bring us back to more Greatness than that Black man from Kenya.  And so they voted him into office.  They did not know that businessmen operate on different standards than public policy leaders, so a “successful businessman” (which he was not) had no relevance and might well be counterproductive as a government leader.

And their ability to ignore the well-publicized reality of Donald Trump and support him anyway began to make me wonder what country I now lived in. Were I 30, like my grandparents of olde, I too might well depart this land for another. For ending this life with an idiot at the helm, and gun-toting racists running wild all around us is looking like a dismal way to end life. I had hoped for more. I even expected more. I thought somehow, we might really grow into this global leadership thing. Instead, we seem to be sinking into some abyss of awfulness.  The inferiors have invaded our land and now claim ownership.

And I have been wondering why.

And I have begun imagining that the ability of my countrymen to believe in the Drumpf, is not materially different than the ability of the hordes to believe in a bearded old man sitting on a cloud up in the sky, directing everything while still pretending that he has given us free will, so he isn’t to blame for our asinine behavior. Daily, this concept gains strength, as the 36% supporters (his core) continue to mouth their unbelievable views that the Drumpf is not the corrupt loser he actually seems to be. How else can I explain it, this “suspension of disbelief” thing? Imagine we are all watching a Shakespearean tragedy unfolding. Oh, that makes me wonder whether this other belief from folks like Elon Musk that our entire universe is merely a simulation in someone’s grand computer—a staged play-- might be correct.  Maybe aliens (Gods??) are watching us perform and are daily amazed and amused at our ability to continue carrying out these really, really stupid acts.

And so my slowly fading life continues to be defined, the final set of bookends to match that other 1930s beginning bookends. Maybe depression is the definition of life.  Maybe we stage happy chapters like the giggle of a baby, or the warmth of a kiss from a loved one to give meaning to this depression that seems to define so many lives.  

Well, maybe I need to reinvent my bookends. Maybe I need to stage new bookends consisting of beautiful sunsets, falling on my darling wife’s smile.  Have another glass of wine Richard, and ignore the destructive fat bastard who occupies the current White House. Hopefully, he will fade into oblivion, along with his sneering children. Drink on, me hearty. Life will end, but perhaps we should not let The Drumpf define its end quite so completely. Let’s make him a semicolon in life.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Lying President

There are two terms being used often in much of the literature surrounding our president:
  • Pathological liar
  • Compulsive liar
When looking for definitions, there appears to be a lack of a consensus, and one is drawn to the conclusion that the two terms are sufficiently alike that they may be used interchangeably.  The terms describe a behavior that goes well beyond simply lying often. They describe a behavior pattern in which the person lies even when there is no apparent gain to be made. Sometimes, the person is well aware of the lying; sometimes not.

Our president is labeled a pathological liar because of his amazing frequency of lies. He seems to lie so often that one is tempted to reach a conclusion, to whit:

“How does one know Trump is lying? Well, when he opens his mouth and words come tumbling out, he is lying.”
Now, it is likely not the case that Trump lies every time he utters words in sentences. But he lies with such frequency, about issues large and small, that it seems safer to assume he is lying. We also know he is a narcissist, and a sociopath, terms that describe someone who focuses exclusively on himself, and who cares not at all about the effects of his actions on others.
Now, how does this matter in day to day life?

Well, first, our president is in the habit of tweeting every morning, very early, before most normal humans are up and about—we think he does not sleep well, which could explain part of his behavior. So, he awakens and he begins tweeting. Why tweeting? Well, for one, he can do it without consequence. He cannot call anyone because nobody is awake.  He also has many, many followers, millions perhaps.  So, when he tweets, his followers see his messages as soon as they become awake.  Tweets also do not require one to have command of the English language. One can be an English ignoramus and still tweet in sort-of English.
So, with his tweets, he is always on the front pages of our collective minds.

He is also, of course, the President. So, whenever he tweets, or actually talks in public, his words are instantly broadcast to the world.  That matters, as it turns out. For example, when he calls names (rocket-man, or, worse, “little rocket-man”) his name-calling has consequences; at a minimum, rocket-man, will respond in a similar vein and the two-year old temper tantrums begin in earnest.
But his lies also pose another problem, namely, negotiations. If our president engages in negotiating with anyone on any subject, the people with whom he is negotiating cannot sensibly believe him. If he says, “I promise to . . .”, or “I agree with you . . .”, he should not be believed.

We know that, before he was president, he engaged routinely in behavior with people, especially people who did work for him that is consistent with the pathological liar. He routinely stiffed people. Now stiffing the carpenter who completes work on your office is different from stiffing the leader of Iran on nuclear negotiations. But the carpenter will be rightly pissed when he fails to get paid.  The leader of Iran might well begin assembling his missiles, or his weapons of nuclear destruction.  And if he negotiates an agreement with Congressional leaders (of either party as it turns out) his words should be treated as just words.  His words, his terms of agreement, have zero credibility.  His stance on the Iran nuclear agreement stand as an example. He is currently repudiating the agreement reached by an earlier president, thereby throwing into doubt all agreements with US presidents. His statements on the deal are either just completely ignorant—all of his advisers assert that Iran is living up to the terms of the agreement and that the agreement is at least reasonable.  He asserts the agreement was an awful pact, perhaps the worst in the history of pacts. Now his conclusions are either simply ignorant, or he is lying to achieve some other end.
And therein lies the problem. Because he cannot be believed, he can be dismissed, whether he may actually be correct (unlikely in the extreme) or not. One cannot believe his assertions, so they will be dismissed, and people will act accordingly.

Now that leaves us with a leader who is totally, 100% useless, as a negotiator, on any subject, large or small.  It means that we should not take him into any venue wherein negotiating is to be completed.  Congress cannot really “negotiate” with our President on any subject. They should simply reach their own conclusions and then inform the President of their position. He may accept that or reject it.  Period.
And, when foreign negotiations are in the offing, they need to leave him at home.  That may not be possible, since he does love traveling in style. But it should be their starting position. No, we can handle this one, Mr. President. We need you at home minding the store.

If he is party to any negotiation, the agreement will be tainted, by definition.
It is too bad Mr. Trump doesn’t drink. It would be very helpful if we could get him to just stay at home and have his servants feed him gin and tonics all day long. Or maybe pot. I wonder if he smokes pot? If we could keep him high all the time and never allow him into any negotiating venue, we would all be better off. Yeah, groovy Mr. President, really groovy, dude.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Grumpy Old Man


Grumpy Trumpy

Every day now, I open my e-mail or facebook account and I see some article by folks who apparently know our president, and they practically shout that he is (pick one) falling apart, ready to resign, having another hissy fit, threatening someone, or some organization.   Virtually never do I read about him doing something honorable, or clever, or moral, or, god-forbid, presidential. 

And, of course, it seems always to be the case that virtually every other article is about him. Since he tweets every night at 3:30 AM, or thereabouts, we are almost guaranteed some meltdown communique. I think it did not always play out this way. In olden days, one might awaken to other types of news—the weather even. Remember those good old days?

Now, we have to think about the nuclear codes, and whether any of his minders has let him have access to that terrifying box with those dreadful codes and switches.  Someone recently characterized the White House as a Day Care Center, with the President in Residence as the chief two-year old resident.  And, we look always to see who is actually minding the store, cuz it sure as hell ain’t him.

It would seem that we really have painted ourselves into a corner and then set the room on fire.  With all the speculation about impeaching him, we all now wonder whether that outcome would produce anything worth having—Pence as President? Why don’t we just get it over with, and designate the Devil – remember Satan?--as our new leader? Could that be any worse than what we are now experiencing, or would experience with Mike Pence? I regard the choice of Mike Pence as a sign of hidden genius on Trump’s part.  He may be a f#$@ing moron, but he knew enough to select his insurance policy in the form of Mike Pence.  This is why the newest cries for removing him all seem based on the election having been rigged by those Russkies. So, if that is true, then the whole election is invalid? Right, say those folks plaintively crying out into the wilderness?

We really seem terminally screwed. My main question is, can we actually survive four years of Trump-Pence? And by “we” I mean all of us . . . the world. Because if he goes off the deep end and can’t climb back, he may do something so terminally awful that the world could well disappear—remember the dinosaurs? Can his minders stop him? Well, we hope so, but I am less than sanguine.

It is difficult even to write about him/it/we/us.  Because I fail to see that rainbow out there somewhere.  Maybe the sun will actually shine again someday, and hopefully we will still be here, and still be able to smile again.

Meanwhile, please, look your loved ones in the eye. Kiss them, hug them. Be kind to strangers, and those less fortunate. We all need each other, as never before.
Be nice folks. It’s all we have

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trump 101


The Trump reaction to the comments by the Mayor of San Juan, relative to the federal government’s response to the horrific damage to Puerto Rico from the last hurricane, makes me wonder about gamesmanship.

Our president is many things. He seems not smart, mainly I guess because he does not or perhaps cannot read much. He seems to care only about himself, and perhaps his closest family members. He lacks empathy, almost completely—I guess that’s the narcissist trait.

But mainly, he hates criticism of any kind directed at him. Note that he routinely directs criticism at others. It is his main characteristic—criticizing others. But any . . . repeat any, criticism directed at Donald Trump causes our President to enter a lengthy stage of unbridled fury. He seems borderline out of control, much as any 2-4 year old when denied something he wants.  Immediately, because Twitter seems his only communications approach (it allows him to direct his anger in 140 character bursts), he sends out one or more, often several, Tweets in a storm of abuse directed at the person, or entity criticizing him.

In the case of Puerto Rico, he blasted back at the Mayor for daring to find him less than perfect.  But the bottom line here is that he—Trump—now has power, and he can create damage beyond his snarky tweets. So, Puerto Rico might actually suffer because Trump is mad that someone there criticized him.

This makes me wonder whether we in the “outer world” (that world in which we humans of America live) need to consider a different strategy for communicating with President Stupidhead.

If we assume that our President will only act positively towards someone if that someone compliments him, then we might consider adopting a communications policy something like:

1.       Whenever you need something from the President, toss a compliment his way. Tell him he’s great, wonderful, yugely effective as President, and you love the job he’s doing. Then, at the least, he won’t be pissed at you. Never, ever criticize the President directly, unless you want nothing from him, or never expect to want anything from him.

2.       Then, you may communicate with whatever federal agency you might need to work some magic for you.  Presumptively, that agency will not have received any negative tweets from the President.

3.       You should then communicate privately with the Congressional offices that might be relevant to your needs. If they do not wish to open the doors to help you, say authorize aid as in Puerto Rico, you can still bring whatever political pressure you possess to bear.

4.       Never put any communication regarding the President in writing as an official statement.

5.       Work quietly locally to assure that your contacts are aware that changes will be made via the elections process if political leaders align themselves too closely with Trump.

So, for the next three years, no one who needs something from the federal government will ever again criticize him openly. Lie to him if necessary. It’s what he does to everyone around him. He can’t stand the truth, so never give him the truth.

Mainly, try not to engage in any communication with the President. It almost always ends badly, so avoid him if at all possible.

Oh, and if you’re Kim Jung Un, just ignore him. He’s an idiot, but insulting him is not a likely strategy for success.  Continue working with the adults of the world.
Eventually Trump will go back to being a real estate developer.  It’s what he does.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Try to be Rational


  The other day, we saw a little clip from Kid Rock, who seems to want to enter the Halls of Congress, or, who knows, maybe even the Presidency? And it struck me hard. How much we have belittled the Presidency, and, even more, all of our senators and Congresspeople.  It would seem with the last series of encounters, that we have eliminated all standards for the various positions to “represent” the people of America.  Now, quite literally, anyone over the age of 35 and born in the US of A can be President.  No other qualifications exist.

In the olden days, we used to want folks to possess at least a modest intellect, be honest to a degree that would not embarrass us all, have some acquaintance with the arena of public policy, and at least pretend to care about the American people. No obvious traitors; no flat-out crooks; people possessing the ability to string together sentences that would not embarrass a fourth grader, and a personality that would not embarrass us in front of the world.

Gone, all gone.

Now, it is tempting to blame Donald Trump for the changes, the degradation that has occurred.  But, realistically, we the people are to blame.  We not only elected people such as Donald Trump, we continue to applaud his inane statements and Tweets. He Tweets apparently because he cannot write, or perhaps even speak in complete sentences.  I am continually drawn back to my early question, how did someone of his limited abilities to read and write ever complete high school, not to mention college?

But, we have also now simply lowered the bar of acceptable behavior. Whenever he does something, or says something stupid or outrageous, we nod and say, “oh well that’s just Trump being Trump. He tells it like it is.” And then his spokespeople stand up in front of us and say, well no he didn’t say that, he said this, and then they invent a fictional account of what we all heard him say.  And then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell sigh and say, “well yeah, that wasn’t cool, but it was just Trump being Trump.” See, they accept his behavior, thereby encouraging the rest of the cretins in Congress, or in the Evangelical forces who seem to love him, or in the various pubs around the country where his supporters fist-pump for his latest idiocy, to decry the rest of us. We the people are now the enemy. Now doesn’t that all seem a bit too familiar?  It is in fact from the playbook of autocrats everywhere, from Hitler in 1930 to the current crop of Putin, Duterte et al.

And increasingly, I am seeing no obvious way out of our current “problem” (a “problem” implies some solution downstream, whereas I am not sure any longer that we have one). The GOP is in total disarray, to the point that I now characterize them as the Castrati Republic, a group whose members are all male and all castrated. That group is headed by the senior castrati in our land, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Clearly, they gave up their balls long ago and now no longer even pretend.

So, where is our Lone Ranger? Well, Hillary is out there ensuring that no Lone Ranger will be along any time soon. It was fairly clear that the Democratic Party is beyond total disarray. Yes, the party has some intelligent folks, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie, Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, but Hillary has been very busy sucking the oxygen out of the rooms they inhabit.  Her book and her tour are all about informing the American people that there is no sign of intelligent life in the Party. She was it and now she is gone, off to that netherworld of money.  I want to shout at her, No Hillary, Bernie didn’t lose that election. You did. Almost anyone in the country could have defeated Donald Trump, but you failed at that simple task. Stop blaming Bernie. Kindly move to Iceland, or the Antarctic and stop appearing in public.

But again, it probably isn’t Hillary either. It’s us. How 35-40% of the people in America could support the clown tells us everything we needed to know about America.  America is, I guess, now over, and it is someone else’s turn to lead the “free World”.  Who that might be is open at the moment, since Britain seems busy with dismantling its connections to the world, and France and Germany also seem a bit preoccupied. Maybe our good friend Justin Trudeau could assume the mantle. He’s young, smart, even attractive. No one seems to hate him, and that is a very large step up that ladder.

I assume that America will continue on its current downward slope into second or perhaps even third world status. We are dumbing down the population as we speak, with Madame Devos leading the pack to ignorance with her private school approach that we already know doesn’t work. But, like her boss, she doesn’t seem to know anything either. 

It is not clear to me that what we are witnessing has much of a world history. Countries have failed in the past, fascist Germany, Japan, and Italy come to mind, but they did not simply decay from within. They set about to conquer the world and they failed.  After their thwarted attempts, they returned to their business as usual (with our help of course).  Italy seems periodically to flirt with degradation, but theirs seems more of a political degradation. Their social and economic systems go up and down of course, like everyone else’s but they don’t seem inclined to pursue a course in stupid.

Some countries seem stuck on stupid, but I continue to believe that our current course is unprecedented. From near masters of our universe, to an embarrassment to the rest of the planet.  I continue to hope that someone much smarter than me has some solution.

What is it we need to reverse course? Well, after our near-death experience in 1929 and the 1930s, we emerged only after a rational political personage assumed the reins, after a disastrous course being followed by a republican who did not believe in government intervention. He believed in bank bailouts, but not people bailouts.  Then FDR appeared on stage and decided to spend public money on recreating the American economic landscape. He spent money, folks became employed and then those same folks started buying things, thereby kickstarting the economy again. Turns out it isn’t bankers who put an economy into fast forward. It’s ordinary people. Who knew? Well, not bankers as it turns out. But FDR and some of his Democratic party bosses also knew.

Then of course, Hitler & Co. decided they wanted to own the world, so they began invading everybody. Finally, FDR got his act together and decided this unitary America thing wasn’t such a hot idea, so he threw in his lot with the World and began assembling a fighting force that could help to counter the fascists everywhere.  Turns out creating a war machine to counter nasties also helps to kick an economy into high gear. America began to climb back from its bank-induced near bankruptcy to its position as a leader in the free world.

So, we won the war, well that war, and then we got back to peace time living (well, ignoring those peace-keeping thingies in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, et al).

But we failed to learn the lessons from that 1930s to 1950s period. That it takes an educated middle class to maintain a class economy. That the very rich don’t really care about maintaining a whole economy, or even a whole country. They just want to get richer and to keep all their money.  And, largely, all the rest of the country folks can suck lemons.

With Donald Trump, we have come full circle, right back to 1929, well maybe 1928.

So, we need someone thoughtful to guide us out of the dark, dark wilderness in which we find ourselves.  We can’t just get rid of Donald Trump, because he isn’t the whole problem. He is the perfect essence of what we have become, but he is a mere reflection in the mirror.  Look behind us folks. It’s us, and we need to seek out and then elect people who can actually think. 

So, we have said it before, but let’s say it again. We all need to register to vote, and then we need to vote—every time there is an election, not just once in a while. We need to elect decent, thinking people in City Councils, in State legislatures, and certainly in the Halls of Congress.  And yes, we need to vote for a President. And if you’re not thrilled with the two choices facing you, pick one of the two anyway.  Don’t vote for “none of the above”. Vote for one of the candidates you think might be better than the other one. Donald Trump was fatally flawed. His entire life experience has been a disaster. He has really never succeeded at anything. Plus he lies all the time, even about stupid stuff, so nobody can trust him with anything. But we knew all that, didn’t we? So, don’t go down that path again.  Remember, Jesus Christ isn’t running. He never runs. Just go with the better of the two candidates. Don’t vote for the asshole just to register your protest. You’re simply screwing yourself.