Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Poppy Bush


George Herbert Walker Bush.  A one-time president who followed arguably the worst president (at the time) in modern times, St. Ronald of Reagan. I know, I know, republicans revere St. Ronnie, but republicans seem to revere anyone who promises to open the coffers of America to them.  And Ronnie knew how to open those coffers. He produced perhaps the largest deficits of our time simply by following the “Laffer Curve”, that pseudo-economic theory arguing that, if one reduces overall tax rates, overall tax revenues will rise. See, that’s why it was called the “Laffer (or Laugher)” curve. Now, to be fair, we don’t know what Poppy Bush had to do with all that Ronnie economics drivel. He never had much of a chance to demonstrate his understanding of anything real while St. Ronald of Reagan was in the catbird seat.

But Poppy did seem a portrait of sense and sensibility after 8 years of the idiot president (now, be fair, Richard. Reagan was a model of intellectual brilliance when compared with our current idiot-malenfant, Comrade Trump).

But Poppy Bush seemed at the least a thoroughly honorable man.  He served his country honorably during war time, and he seemed at the least a decent man who tried to do right by his fellow countrymen.  His legacy in the mess that is called the Middle East is at least reasonable, especially when compared with his idiot son.  He at least tried to build an international coalition, unlike Junior.  
He also raised taxes, something considered heresy after Reagan, but he was actually trying to be responsible.

He is criticized a lot for indifference during the building AIDs crisis. But Reagan was actually Mr. Indifference. Reagan did nothing during the building AIDS crisis (he was too busy increasing the Nation’s public debt), whereas Poppy Bush passed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, which, while not an AIDS bill, nonetheless enabled assistance to people with AIDS. He also, on the heels of the Exxon-Valdez catastrophe, passed into law the Clean Air Act, building on public awareness of the risks to the environment from pollution.

Although he was a reasonable president, especially when compared with his predecessor St. Ronald, he was unable to build a constituency that could keep him in office and he succumbed to the Clinton charm act.  But when we examine our current status, as the joke of the universe, George H.W. Bush seems a paragon of virtue.  Actually, almost any of our preceding presidents do also. But even by comparison with his idiot son, Poppy looks pretty good.

Our standards have changed, perhaps forever. However much we might yearn for presidents in our past (oh, Barack Obama, where are you when we most need you?) we need to get on with the work at hand. And what is that work you might ask? Well, mainly, I see our main job as Americans, as limiting the long term damage done by our incompetent, dishonest, corrupt . . . oh you know—Trump.  I don’t even see impeachment as being part of that game. I think we need to let it all play out. First of all, if we impeach Trump, successfully, we get Pence. And how would that be better? Pence is even more of an idiot than Trump.  His religion so gets in the way that there is perhaps no way to even figure out if Pence is halfway intelligent.  So, no, I do not want Pence as the replacement president. I want us to suffer under Trump for two more years and then to see him voted out of office by a large vote margin. He will scream voter fraud, but he will be wrong as he is about almost all of the issues facing our country.  If the people vote to retain him in office, then I have no further hope for this Nation. We will be officially at an end.

But I do not anticipate such an outrageous election result. No, I imagine that reason will prevail and we will vote into office someone else, perhaps this time a woman of some decent intellect and moral character. Perhaps Kirsten Gillibrand, but perhaps someone else. We don’t know yet. But we must choose and choose wisely, because our nation is on borrowed time. We cannot afford another gigantic mistake like Trump. We simply no longer have the financial or emotional resources left. It is time, folks. Think, and think hard about whether we wish to see our nation continue.

Monday, November 19, 2018


What Do We Need?
The Mid-Term elections are now over and we begin the next Presidential election cycle. And you are asking, “What??? Can we not have a break from the endless campaigning?” Well, however much we need/want such a break, I do not expect one. I think the jousting for nominations has already begun. Beto anyone? Cory?? Kirsten?? Joe?? Elizabeth? Oh, and the list goes on and on. The real question to me, is will the GOP allow The Donald to run again, or will they conjure up some reason that he might consider just retiring to MaraLago. I know, I know, they never actually challenge President Stupidhead. But they really, really want to retain power. Having lost a lot in the mid-terms, they may well wish to reconsider that strategy.  Of course, they have no actual candidates, but when did that ever stop them?
But the even larger question than who will run is, what do we need as a Nation from and after the next presidential election? And are there preparations that need to be completed, or at least initiated before that event?

We have been heading slowly and now a bit faster towards a serious revolution in our Nation. And I don’t mean that everyone will get their guns and begin shooting their neighbors (although that always remains a possibility in the minds of the MAGAHeads and their NRA terrorist gangs).  Instead, I am thinking of a serious redefinition of the kind of society in which we live and wish to continue living.  I think the 2008 crash should have triggered such a redefinition, but those in charge (mainly the Obama Administration and their GOP allies) decided not to punish the bankers, but instead allowed them to escape back into their golden chambers so they might begin planning anew the next chamber of horror show for the lesser classes (me and you) throughout the Land.  Bankers generally seem never actually to learn anything from their disasters.  Sometimes, it just takes them longer to revisit them.

Just how many such disasters the Nation will tolerate is a serious question.  It always reminds me of Ms. Marie Antoinette and her last fling.



Surely we can commit to something more thoughtful, however painful for the empowered.
Our nation seems headed towards bankruptcy, that favored state for Donald J. Trump endeavors. Mainly, he seems not to understand global finance, or any finance for that matter. So, when he gets a tax bill for the wealthy passed by his compliant Congress, he has no clue what the effects will be downstream on our global financial status.  At some point, I imagine the world may well stop buying our debt and then we are screwed.

But, maybe with the next serious election stage, when we replace the Drumpf with anybody else, we will need to address some serious issues, like global finance. Here’s a beginning list of the stuff we will need to begin changing/resolving: 

1. Finance: We really do need to begin paying for what we buy. I realize that credit cards are a wonderful invention, but even my family has limits. At some stage, the bankers look at our debt and our incoming money, and would/will decide that we need to pay down on the debts. Understandably, the bankers of the world would frown if we wished to charge, say, ten million dollars to buy a nice new yacht.  But they might actually stand a better chance (however fleeting) of getting repaid such a preposterous loan from us than they are the many trillions of debt currently owed by the US Treasury. So, when I suggest that we need to begin re-examining our global financial picture, I would begin with our tax structure that seems to expect way more from the middle classes than from the mega-wealthy. I know that Reagan made believe that the “Laffer Curve” was a real thing and that it would produce huge tax revenues (it didn’t, it was a joke), we now know that the world simply doesn’t operate that way. When you cut tax rates, especially on folks with serious money, it doesn’t produce more tax revenues by folks investing those savings in our economy. Instead, it seems to flow into offshore accounts and other hideaways that the wealthy use to avoid future taxes. In other words, the rich get richer. That’s the only serious effect, well aside from that bigger deficit thing. So, we need to re-examine our basic principles of taxation, revenue and expenditures. Maybe, it would be a nice change to attract some of our smarter economists into the next administration to begin designing a new and smarter tax system. And if the mega-wealthy hate that new, more productive system, then they would be free to emigrate to, say, Saudi Arabia.

2. Infrastructure: Ok, it really is past time to reinvest in our infrastructure. That takes money, but more, it takes a serious interest in the subject of America as a place to live and a place for kids and grandkids to live. Remember President Eisenhower? Ike was actually a republican, of the old school republicans. He believed in America and wanted it to be a place in which we all would wish to live and prosper. So, he invested in creating the interstate highway system. Why was that a good idea? Well, interstate highways are a way of integrating the nation’s communities. It serves commerce, and it serves the ability and willingness of folks getting to know our country. If you have lived in your village, or county, or state your entire lives, you will be amazed by getting your car onto the Interstate highway system and driving to another state. You really cannot understand our country, or our world by visiting Disneyworld. You really need to get off your asses, and actually travel to other parts of our amazing countryside. I am fortunate. I have now at least visited all 50 states, many by car. We live in a wonderful country, and folks who live in different geographic regions may well be different from the folks who live in your home village.  But they have much the same fondness for our country as we do. Try it, you’ll like it.  But, more. Our entire national system of roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, and, yes, subways, are desperately in need of money to recharge those systems. We have bridges falling down (London bridges aside). Our systems of transport, water purification and distribution, power generation, all the systems by which we can claim 21st century national credentials are desperate for investment. We need investments now. 

3. Education: We are at risk of becoming a nation of seriously stupid people. Our public education system used to be an engine of prosperity. It educated the masses, many of whom became the Great Middle Class, and that middle class produced America, with all its wonders.  That system has never been a perfect system. But it used to work a lot better than it does now. One of its problems is that it functions heavily on the “follow the money” principle. Because it is heavily reliant on local/county taxes for its funding, the system produces unequal school systems. The richer counties have more money, so they tend to have better-funded school systems.  So, we need to address that issue. But other problems have been growing over time, problems that we have largely ignored. And then, someone thought of the charter school solution. We think the public schools have problems, but, rather than figuring out the causes of the problems and then devising appropriate solutions, we said, “Oh, I know, let’s send our public tax dollars to private schools. We know they are better by definition” It’s called, kicking the problem downfield.  A solution only stupid people would love.  We know now, from actual evidence that charter schools do not solve the public school problems, mainly because they were not actually designed to resolve those problems. Students do not perform better at charter schools, sometimes worse. We need to stop tossing good money after bad, and instead commission studies of our public schooling system to uncover the sources of their problems. Only then can we begin to devise real solutions to the problems. 

4. Health Care: The United States is the only nation in the industrialized world that does not have a universal health care system. The reason seems obvious, however deplorable. I am uncertain whether this principle adheres on both sides of the political aisle. But, it goes something like this. If one side of the aisle devises and gets passed into law a program that later becomes wildly successful and popular, the other side of the aisle must oppose it, and spend much of its time and political capital trying to kill or reduce it.   For example, Social Security.  For example, Medicare and Medicaid. And of course, of more recent origin, the Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare.  These programs are beloved, and they cover most of the population. ObamaCare is, of course, of more recent origin and has been fought every step of the way. President Stupidhead has joined forces with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in an attempt to kill it.  One might ask, why would any responsible legislator oppose providing quality health care to everyone in the country?  Well, because, if it is labeled or perceived to be a Democratic program, republicans must by definition, oppose it. It has nothing to do with health care, per se.  It is all, 100%, a political decision. The opposition creates mostly false arguments as to why they oppose it. But oppose it they must.  Somehow, perhaps in our next life, we must figure out a way for Congress to act in the best interests of the American people, so as to devise a proper universal health care system, in which everyone in the country will receive health care of the same quality. The only reason for denying such a system is that those opposed do not believe that all Americans should receive health care and that, perhaps, health care is a privilege reserved to the upper income classes in the country.  

5.       Climate Change: We need to remove all stupid people from all discussions that involve science.  It is by now abundantly clear that climate change is not only occurring, but that we are rapidly approaching a catastrophic point of no return.  If our Congress cannot agree on both the nature and extent of the problem, and then on potential solutions to this problem, then not only our nation, but the entire globe is doomed and we face extinction as a species.  Think dinosaurs folks.  At least in theory, we are more intelligent than were the dinosaurs. We actually already have the beginnings of a solution, and, arguably, additional solutions can be devised. But first, we have to stop denying that there is a problem.  I realize that most solutions to climate change require that we change the way we generate power, and that some current solutions need to be shunted aside in favor of more enlightened methods. I also realize that many people, perhaps millions might be affected by such dramatic changes to the power superstructure. So, we may well need to devise economic solutions for the problem created by many folks (millions??) out of work. But devise we must, unless we are content to destroy the globe. That really is the only Plan B.

6. Population Migration: Why do people migrate to other lands?  By migrating in the numbers seen in recent decades, the migrating folks create a backlash of anger and fear, mostly fear among the receiving populations. But, we all know that it is not simply economics that drives the migrants to uproot themselves and move to other, possibly hostile lands.  My grandparents migrated for largely economic reasons. But those were simpler times. Now, folks move for economics, yes, but often to avoid being murdered by gangs, thuggish religious enterprises, and just downright murderous despotic regimes (think Saudi Arabia, and virtually all of the Middle East).  There seem to be two kinds of solutions: 1) allow the populations to flow hither and yon, as dictated by the whims of the folks being murdered; or 2) attempt to fix the problems that cause folks to want/need to migrate.  We seem increasingly to hate solution #1, and are seemingly incompetent at #2. If we cannot all join forces internationally (at least among the theoretically civilized nations) to advance one solution or another, preferably #2, then we face permanent War as a natural state for our world. Now, it is true that many people actually like states of war. They allow planes to bomb places, and create splendid vistas of pure firepower. But eventually, we will also destroy the world by accident. Maybe it is true that we really are just dinosaurs in disguise. 

There are other problems to be resolved by the next administration, unless we re-elect Donald Trump. In that case, I assume we have opted to continue destroying the world, so nothing else matters. 

Maybe we are smarter than that??? Fond hope springs eternal.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Lying in America


I continue to wonder about the continued support for Trump and his minions.  How, after two years of very public demonstrations of his complete incompetence, and psychological imbalances, could any thinking adult decide to vote for someone who is on the side of the Trumpies?  To be fair, he wasn’t on the ballot literally, but he has kept on announcing that a vote for some republican is in fact a vote for him, so he literally placed himself on the ballot psychologically.  If you vote for Bryan Kemp, or Ted Cruz, you are voting FOR Donald Trump.  I wonder whether he inserted himself in the race to elect the dead pimp –see Nevada?

Now, it simply is not the case that people just do not know/understand who Donald Trump is, and what his strengths and weaknesses are. We have been bombarded by him. By one count, he has told ten lies per day since being inaugurated. And the lies are not subtle things that one needs to uncover through research. They practically scream (LIE) at you, every time he opens his mouth. So, people know, and, apparently do not care.  But how can that be?? The latest outrage was the altered video of the Acosta interaction with the White House intern. That it was altered is beyond any doubt. Whether Trump set up the encounter in advance so as to get rid of Acosta is at least a reasonable supposition.  But here again, everyone saw the original encounter, with the White House intern being the intruder on the space of Acosta, not the reverse. It is clear that she was the intruder, not him. And everyone saw that. So, how/why he would concoct such a preposterous story, which everyone knows is a lie, is beyond belief. He and his White House thugs seem no longer to care whether everyone knows they are lying.  It is as though lying is now the acceptable form of communication. It no longer matters whether he and his thugs are lying. People no longer expect the truth. 

I am reminded of the Brexit process, during which Nigel Farage proclaimed on his buses/ trucks/billboards, that the National Health Service would receive hundreds of millions of pounds after Brexit. Then, almost immediately following the Bexit vote, he came out and said, “well yes, but we didn’t really mean that”. So, he conned the voters, now they know he conned them, but there is no recourse. He pays no penalty.

But then what kind of universe have we just entered? Apparently, now, it is ok for anyone to lie at any time, and it does not matter. And, also, it apparently doesn’t matter whether the matter being lied about is important, or trivial.  So, now, it is ok for anyone to lie about anything and there are no consequences. That now is our world. And, because I observe that Trump supporters, the many millions of MAGA-Heads, do not care whether Trump is lying to them, that they similarly will not care if anyone else lies to them. Suppose, for example, that the Bank of America decides that, to get people to invest with them, they tell people, “well, if you place your funds with us, we will pay you 2% above anyone else.” And then, when you place your funds with them, they can say, well, sorry, but we really didn’t mean that.  And we would be ok with that, right??  Or, if your local highway patrolman stops your car and says, “ well I decided you were going 20 MPH above the speed limit, so I’m ticketing you for that amount (helps his work performance record, don’t you know). And you scream, “Hell no, I wasn’t going 20 MPH above the speed limit”. And he’s lying, but you have no way of proving that he’s lying, so you’re now ok with that, correct??
And if President Stupidhead decides to declare War on, say, Mexico, and he concocts a lie, then you’re ok with us going to WAR with Mexico, right??

So, that is the world in which we now find ourselves. Anyone can lie about anything, and it’s ok. Why we may even laugh about it all. And you’re all ok with such a world, right????

Monday, November 5, 2018

Awfulness in America


So what are we to think or do, aside from actually voting to rid our nation of the nationalists/fascists/Nazis among us, including the ones sitting in Congress—see Steve King?   The awful events keep escalating, seemingly following Trump’s awful rhetoric. His speeches seem to be getting increasingly violent, and the violence that follows seems increasingly worse—horrific even.  The synagogue shootings are so despicable it is hard to put it into simple words.  And the acts all seem to be acts of domestic terrorism. But when our president declares himself to be a Nationalist, should we expect less? The central issue in his proclamation, of course, is what does Trump mean when he says he is a “nationalist”? His detractors, myself included, tend to be drawn to one of the extreme meanings—that related to Nazism and Nazi Germany, circa 1930s and 1940s. Nationalism can, of course, be simpler, implying an identity with our Nation, as distinct from other nations.  But Trump has chosen again and again to employ racial dog whistles about “horseshit nations”, Mexican rapists and murderers, and now the caravan strolling its way through Central America, and headed in our direction. The fact that Trump has promised to deploy thousands (how many seems in doubt) of troops to prevent their entry, and is suggesting that they shoot to kill should anyone throw rocks, all seems way beyond a simple preference for one’s nation. It speaks instead to the type of Nationalism displayed during the 1930s and 1940s in Nazi Germany. That interpretation is amply supported by actual Nazi and KKK groups that come out in support of Trump, and which he seems to enjoy urging them to act out their fantasies.

So, when someone sends out pipe bombs, or enters a Jewish synagogue to shoot people, or enters a Kroeger’s grocery to shoot black folks, one can reasonably tie such acts to the Trump MAGA band wagon.

Trump has always promoted violent approaches (see “Lock her up”) as opposed to rational argumentation.  Mainly I think his rhetoric is drawn to violence because, a) his hordes of thuggish followers seem delighted to engage in violent fantasies and acts, and b) his rhetorical skills seem lacking in the extreme. We know that Trump is a few brain cells under the idiot level. But we don’t really know about all of his followers/supporters. We know, of course, that the ones carrying torches and wearing KKK hats, or sporting the Nazi swastika, are likely beyond any hope of returning to the American dream. For whatever reasons, they seem lost in their own devilish universe, where most of America is viewed as “the enemy”.  

But surely there are other supporters who are not of the extremist perspective, and who might return to America and the ideals of our Great Nation.  I am told that, if we continue to simply brand them as evildoers, or idiots, then by insulting them, we lose them forever.

But, how I keep wondering, might they return to what I view as sanity? Because, supporting Trump is supporting a potentially terrorist regime, one that seems aimed at destroying the comity that characterized our nation pre-Trump.  Maybe I am stretching it to speak of pre-Trump “comity”.  But, having lived through the 1930s and into the 21st century so far, it occurs to me that, whatever the rhetoric employed by Trump, we are not yet in the 1850-1860 America period of self-destruction. Yes, we have racism. Yes, we have Antisemitism. And yes, we definitely have anti-immigrant sentiments.  Americans seem vaguely oblivious to our own heritage. 

In my case, my grandparents on both sides came over from Europe during the 1890s, one side from Scotland, and the other from Austria and Latvia.  Neither set had any serious money. In fact, that is why they came here, to improve their lives economically.  In neither case, did they possess serious academic qualifications.  One grandpa decorated china by hand painting. The other grandpa was a serious carpenter, who began building houses after his arrival.  Neither made a fortune after their arrival. They made enough money to maintain a middle class lifestyle. Now, to be sure, they were all white Europeans. So, perhaps they were “acceptable” immigrants, as distinct from the rapists and murderers who come from "shithole" countries, or invade our space from the South.  Still, when they came, we were largely a welcoming society. As our Statuesque Lady in the harbor suggests (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) we at one time actually welcomed immigrants.  Now, apparently, according to our president, unless you are coming from Norway, or Sweden, you would not be white enough to be welcomed.

It now seems clear that Trump simply derives his power from his rhetoric of fear. If he can make his hordes fearful enough, they will stay by his side. Evidently, if you don’t scare your followers, they might continue to think, and Trump doesn’t want any of that thinking stuff.  Since he is incapable of anything resembling rational thought, he certainly doesn’t want any of his followers engaging in thinking.  Thinking tends to promote scenarios of alternate universes, and he wants only one universe—the one he inhabits and, for the moment, rules.

But, how might we even attempt to engage folks who have been infected with the MAGA virus?  I would exclude, of course, the torch bearers, and Swastikadets.  For the others, and however difficult, I suggest that there are likely issues on which we might agree with the folks who voted with Trump.  For example, not everyone who voted for Trump wants our public tax money given to private charter schools, thereby depriving public schools of needed tax dollars.  And not everyone wants our air to return to the days of 1950 Los Angeles.  And, likely not everyone really wants off shore drilling just off the coast of Nags Head.

The hot button issues such as abortion, gays, and immigrants might be considered issues too tender to address, but that still leaves dozens of just ordinary policy discussions one might have with people of MAGA-color.  It is on those cool-button issues that one could reach agreements, or at the least agree to disagree civilly. Then, because we are treating each other in a sane fashion—no yelling, curse words, or nasty labels—we might begin to build the bridges needed to allow folks to return to a civilized society, and maybe even to vote in their own best interests.

The current rhetoric being used by the president continues to be worrisome, since he keeps suggesting that he could not possibly lose influence (read, lose GOP Congressional seats) unless evil-doers were perpetrating illegal acts of election fraud.  I do worry what might happen if the GOPers actually lose influence in both houses. Are we on the brink of a Civil War? Well, maybe not, but the thought has at least crossed my mind. All those torch bearers are heavily armed one assumes.  Hopefully, our military actually is neutral politically and will not cross the barriers into civil conflict.  I would like to think that the 101st Airborne is on the side of rationality and would oppose any armed torch bearers.

So, aside from simply voting, we might all begin to think of civic engagement with our neighbors, at least the ones who still appear to be rational.  It couldn’t hurt. But do vote. Please????

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Harder and Harder


It is getting harder and harder to conjure up words to convey how I feel about the Trump. I know how difficult it must be for the bank of comedians who strive to capture each day’s inanities. I realize that the comedians can at least just play back stuff he has said, or really any words his administration has uttered. I mean when one listens to Sarah Huckleberry lecture the Press, it’s like listening to “Can You Top This?”

And then there is the bank of Fake News correspondents—you know the CBS, NBC, ABC, NPR/PBS, CNN, BBC, ABC, CBC, The Guardian, NY Times, et al, who have to write for a living and who have a responsibility to those of us who read/listen to these particular Fake News outlets. But I should stop joking here.  We all understand that Fox is the main Fake News Outlet in the world, and all the other outlets continue to at least attempt to bring real news, facts, truth, etc. to the world each day.

But what is becoming even more difficult than listening to the idiot Trump or his idiotic underlings, is listening/reading to the MAGGOT-Heads out there who continue to say, “Trump is the best president we have ever had”. Really . . . they actually say that.  And I keep wondering . . . what ever do they mean? They actually cheer when President Stupidhead says that he admires Congressman Gianforte’s body slamming of a Guardian reporter.  They cheered! Now, how is that possible?

I have thought for some time now that Trump has simply opened the closet doors throughout the land wherein we had stored our crazy, racist uncles.  I mean, St. Ronald of Reagan made it possible again to be a racist in America via his comments on Welfare Queens.  But he at least maintained some coding. Trump cheers them on with his running commentary.  He thinks there are surely some good folks among the Neo-Nazi and KKK crowds out there.  And I keep- wanting to shout . . . “No, you dumb shit, there are no “good folks” within the crowds of Neo-Nazi’s and KKK supporters. They are all domestic terrorists.” They need to be shut down, or locked up, whichever comes first.  We fought actual wars to defeat such nasty little people. Men and women of America died to keep them out of power.  You are not allowed now to cheer them on you little cretin.

But he goes on and on. Each day he commits some new idiocy. Now he is apologizing for his BFF the Crown Prince of that failed autocracy Saudi Arabia.  Or he is telling us that he is “in love” with Kim over there in North Korea—did Kim promise to let him build a new hotel in North Korea I wonder?

On the Saudi debacle, we know that the Saudi’s invited 15 thugs to enter their consulate, just after the reporter arrived. They came equipped with a bone saw, although how we know that is beyond my ken. We appear to believe that they killed the reporter by sawing up his body while he was still alive. Think of that. And then understand that this is an official Saudi Arabia act of terror. They lied about it, and now have invented a fake story about Khashoggi getting into a fight with the 15 thugs, leading to his death.  And apparently the 15 thugs have left town, and have been “arrested” within Saudi Arabia (likely they are being held in a Trump hotel and served smuggled Scotch and some new wines as punishment).

And Trump buys into their explanation—well MBS is his new BFF after all.  I wonder whether Trump will now visit Riyadh and be roomed with some of the prince’s lady friends, where he can pee on some Saudi linens, before getting blowjobs. Or maybe just a new Trump Hotel in Riyadh, or maybe even Mecca.

But, I suspect that in a few days, the murder of Khashoggi will be forgotten because Trump will have created some new bizarre event. I keep waiting actually, for Trump to actually get himself a gun, visit Manhattan, walk to Fifth Avenue and just shoot someone . . . just to test his theory that his poll numbers would increase among his MAGGOT-Head supporters.

See, it is becoming a world of total absurdities. Can You Top This will be the name History applies to his Presidency.  Can we actually survive the Trumps, who seem to represent existential threats to the survival of this once great nation, and perhaps to the globe itself? Short of Trump succumbing to a heart attack, stroke or some other natural threat, to which he is err, perhaps our best hope is for Trump to himself decide that he does not wish to pursue a second term, since he did not really want or expect a first term.  It does seem clear that he does not wish to govern, or perhaps he simply does not understand the governance thing, i.e., what he should be doing to actually serve in the post of US Presidency.  He seems to spend his time playing golf, or campaigning for someone, mostly himself, but secondarily some other MAGGOT-Head.  Mainly, he seems to love this campaigning thing. So, perhaps the best course for this nation is for him to step back from the presidency, and allow the system to select someone else, hopefully some thinking human adult who prefers governance and rational discussions among thoughtful people to warring and insulting other people.

Short of that course, I assume we will be treated to Trump going to war with Iran, or some other unfortunate, hopefully not with Vlad the Impaler, or with the Chinese folks, either of whom could easily annihilate the entire world.

Now, if The People decide to get out and actually vote the current fools out of office (and you know who the fools are, don’t you), that might facilitate the Trump withdrawal thingie.  He might decide he no longer wishes to play if the other side actually possesses some power. So, folks, it’s up to you. Become educated about the political process, learn something about the actual issues and candidates and then go out to vote. It’s the only course for a safe and sane world.  And please, do not go the course of,

Oh, I don’t vote. My vote would not matter, plus I have no idea who I should vote for . . . I mean, you wouldn’t want me to just randomly select candidates, would you, like a dart board?  That was actually told to me by a young woman working at a local restaurant. And I walked away thinking, woman how can you be so lazy, so uneducated, so uncaring? Are you simply that lazy, because your folks did everything for you and now you are simply a useless piece of protoplasm? That is how Donald Trump became our 45th President, you idiot.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Caligula


Caligula[1] keeps appearing in my mind, every time I have to observe the Trump doing something asinine, well doing anything actually.  We briefly stopped in to see our granddaughter the other day, and I asked her whether she had ever heard of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire[2]. Because, I said, we may be witnessing the same thing here, the Decline and Fall of the American Empire. And, I told her, I expected, when she turned 18, she and her brothers would have to begin rescuing our once great nation from the dismal state into which it has fallen. She was fascinated by the comparison, but declined the honor of assuming responsibility for our rescue. She thought, since we messed it up, it would be up to us to solve the problem(s).  Seems fair, actually.

But, then we have Caligula.  Our Caligula has been either playing golf, or speechifying at some campaign rally full time, ever since he was elected . . . that is, when he isn’t making love to some brutal dictator, like Kim. I keep wondering what his “Days in Washington v. Days Elsewhere” ratio is, if compared with any other president.  But, we should have known this was coming. He really is just an amateur entertainer playing at being President, with heavy stress on the term “amateur”.
I keep wondering whether, now, we have so lowered the bar, that we have effectively eliminated any notion of qualifications for the post of American President. Remember the Clown Car in the circus? Would we care any longer if one of the clowns got out of the Clown Car and announced that he was now president of the United States? Would we cheer and yell, MAGA???

The Kavanaugh hearings, with McConnell grumbling nasty things, and the idiot from South Carolina yelling about how we the people had carried out such a foul attack on this wonderful man that we were guilty  of crimes against humanity. This from Mitch, who denied Mr. Garland even the opportunity of a hearing.  Mitch, you and your kind are the disgrace.

That hearing, resulting in the appointment of a second sexual pervert to the High Court, now completes the work of the republican government. They have now corrupted the Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court.

But how are we to recover from this onslaught of thoroughly corrupt, indecent pseudo-humans, who now occupy our government?  Well, yes, VOTING is the first and best step towards that end. But what comes next? What is wrong with our Nation, or perhaps just our Government, that we can produce such a corrupted result?

Well, it would seem that we need to proceed systematically to begin unraveling the systems by which we have become this corrupt.

1       1. Money: first things first. Money may indeed be the root of all evil. But, at a minimum, we need to get big money out of politics. They say power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But I think it is money that corrupts and “absolute” money that corrupts absolutely. So, we need to elect a Congress and President that will take on Citizens United directly, and find some way to get that kind of money out of our system of government.  Maybe we need a system under which all political financing is public, and no other funds are allowed.

2      2. Term Limits: we have term limits for the Presidency. Maybe these “lifetime” appointments to the Supremes needs rethinking.  I know there are advantages to the lifetime thing—it theoretically frees the justices from the petty partisan political thing, but we now have evidence that our Supremes are definitely not free of partisanship –see Tony Scalia, and now see Brett Kavanaugh.  Then, perhaps we need to consider term limits to the House and Senate. Maybe three terms for the House and two terms for the Senate should be it.  Then let these folks go back to real jobs.

3       3. Gerrymandering: I have thought for some time that we need an independent body to design and then create voting districts that are independent of partisan advantaging. I am not sure how to create such districts, although I am certain that it is technically possible, and that the political parties –neither one—will ever be capable of creating such independent districts.  So, first we create the independent body (or bodies) and then we set them to work creating the districts. Perhaps we will need a constitutional amendment to support such work, but it would be worthwhile. Otherwise, we are doomed to the eventual Decline and Fall of the American Empire. And say Hi to Caligula should you see him on some golf course.



[1] Caligula (/kəˈlɪɡjʊlə/;[1] LatinGaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 31 August 12 – 24 January 41 AD) was Roman emperor from AD 37 to AD 41. The son of the popular Roman general Germanicus and Augustus' granddaughter Agrippina the Elder, Caligula was born into the first ruling family of the Roman Empire, conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Germanicus' uncle and adoptive father, Tiberius, succeeded Augustus as emperor of Rome in AD 14. There are few surviving sources about the reign of Caligula, although he is described as a noble and moderate emperor during the first six months of his rule. After this, the sources focus upon his cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion, presenting him as an insane tyrant. While the reliability of these sources is questionable, it is known that during his brief reign, Caligula worked to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor, as opposed to countervailing powers within the principate. He directed much of his attention to ambitious construction projects and luxurious dwellings for himself, and initiated the construction of two aqueducts in Rome: the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. During his reign, the empire annexed the client kingdom of Mauretania as a province. In early AD 41, Caligula was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by officers of the Praetorian Guardsenators, and courtiers.

[2] The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire[a] is a six-volume work by the English historian Edward Gibbon

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Nation Divided



A friend said to me recently, in response to an e-mail from me, that she was “on a news blackout”. Instead of listening to NPR while preparing dinner, she was listening to a piece by Liszt. And I thought, hmmm, a news blackout. Maybe we should all do a news blackout for part of the day every day.

And we listen to NPR, not Fox News. We get our news from NPR and from our e-mail sources: the BBC, the A(Australian)BC, the C(Canadian)BC, The Guardian, the NY Times (until they cut me off each month because we no longer subscribe), The Conversation, and then a long list of either political (MoveON) or science (LiveScience) sources.  We no longer watch TV news of any kind, and have never watched, except as a joke, Fox News, the Faux News network.  Actually, we do technically watch pieces of Fox News, as they appear regularly on the late night comedy shows. They are surely a joke as a news service, but the joke may be on us, as they are slowly destroying the comity that is vital to a civilized, if pluralistic society.

We are not one people under God, or under anyone or anything. We are collections of folks who live in isolated communities bound together loosely by what we have come to think of as common rules of civilized societies.  Although we may differ politically, socially, and in our relative belief in the God thing, we have, until recently, been bound together by our belief in our Nation State.  That belief fell apart during the 1860s when the South rebelled and attacked that Nation State, in an attempt to become free of the nation State, so as to better pursue their belief in the superiority of the White Man, and their need to hold Black people under a system of slavery.

Happily, that effort failed and the Southern rebels were subdued, leading to the elimination of the formal system of slavery.

But despite that loss, the underlying belief in the superiority of the White Man, over any/all “Colored” people never disappeared. Racism, per se, perhaps went into our collective closets.  It has remained as the dominant separation belief. Oddly (at least for me), organized religion has never been successful at eliminating, or even moderating this corrosive belief system. But racism is not the only divide in our nation.

Surely the God thing more divides than binds our people, and that divide grows almost daily. The Catholic Church surely didn’t help to unite us when they knowingly ignored evidence of ghastly priestly behavior towards the common folk-mainly through raping children.  But many of the other churches strive to divide through their rhetoric—it’s “My Way or the Highway” as their main message. They hate Gays, Women surely, and sex (for their opposition to birth control and abortion is simply their way of exercising their opposition to sex, when it isn’t aimed at child production). But they don’t really argue to convince. They argue to subdue.   So churches everywhere have become engines of national division.

Oddly, at least to me, we have a serious element of division related to health care, one which I have trouble fathoming. Why would any group of Americans oppose universal health care? We are virtually the only industrialized nation on earth without universal health care. The former head of the UN—Ban Ki-Moon – recently decided that the US health care system is immoral –In an interview with the Guardian, Ban called the U.S. government’s failure to provide health coverage to its citizens “unethical” and “politically wrong, morally wrong.”. I assume our failure to do so is all about the money. The insurance and drug companies make more money with the current system than they would under a universal health care system, regulated by our government. And when money matters, money talks, very loudly. And when money talks, the republic party listens.

There is another element dividing us, and it relates partly to the health care issue. Folks in this country are divided by the idea of government regulation. Well, perhaps it is government itself that divides us, but it is the ability of government to regulate our behavior that seems to matter.  And why are ordinary folks opposed to government, or to government regulation?  Well, mainly because groups such as Fox News tells them that government in general and government regulation in particular is bad for us—all of us. People listen to Fox News decry government and regulations and they believe the lies that Fox tells on a regular basis. And why does Fox lie? Well, because that’s what they are paid to do.  Fox is really an arm of the corporate world, or of the monied world. And we know that money talks and talks seriously.  I often become really angry at the Fox talk people—like Hannity and the blond bimbo set, et al.  But I also need to talk myself down from that position. Hannity, et al, are simply paid actors, mouthing the lines written for them by Fox writers, and dictated by Fox owners who are themselves really just fascists. So, it is the Fox owners and upper level managers we should decry. Getting angry at the idiots on stage is akin to watching a movie and getting angry at the bad guys in the film.  So, just calm down Richard. The real bad guys are not on screen. It’s the ones behind the screen who are truly bad.  Yeah, I know that Hannity is an idiot, but then so is our president. We apparently prefer idiots to intelligent beings directing us. And of course, I should, I suppose, have greater patience with our idiot president, since he is really just an actor (all due apologies to actual actors everywhere) who needs someone to write his lines. When he writes his own, his idiocy shouts at us.

The really interesting issue about the “we hate government” folks—the right wing MAGA-heads—is that they have been convinced by the Fox News people and by the republicans in general, that, since government is bad, the best approach is to elect really stupid people into government. Their theory here is that a government filled with smart people is bad for them because they would be effective at their job.  And a government filled with stupid people will simply bumble around harmlessly.
The problem with that theory is that it is 100% wrong.  We have actually experimented with that theory---think Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump.  Reagan and Bush were not smart. We all knew that. Reagan did a bunch a stuff demonstrating that he was not smart:
1.       He seemed actually to believe in the so-called “Laffer Curve”, that economic theory that said, if you keep reducing the tax rates, the amount of revenue generated will keep rising, because the lower tax rates will stimulate the economy. In fact, what happened when Reagan tried to demonstrate that theory is that he created the largest deficit in the history of our nation.  Turns out, as you lower tax rates, you also reduce the tax revenues. Who knew, right??
2.    Reagan did stimulate somethings—mainly racism. With his talk about “welfare queens” arriving in their big cars to buy food with their food stamps, he opened the closet doors where we had been storing our nation’s racists. Reagan made it ok again to be a racist.
3.    Perhaps his greatest triumph, though, was selling arms to the new Iranian terrorist regime in order to get them to release their hostages. He then used the resulting money to fund Nicaraguan Contras, thereby creating havoc in that country.  From Wikipedia:
“Also referred to as IrangateContragate or the Iran–Contra scandal, was a political scandal in the United States that occurred during the second term of the Reagan Administration. Senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. They hoped, thereby, to fund the Contras in Nicaragua while at the same time negotiating the release of several U.S. hostages. Under the Boland Amendment, further funding of the Contras by the government had been prohibited by Congress.
Several investigations ensued, including by the U.S. Congress and the three-person, Reagan-appointed Tower Commission. Neither found any evidence that President Reagan himself knew of the extent of the multiple programs. Ultimately the sale of weapons to Iran was not deemed a criminal offense but charges were brought against five individuals for their support of the Contras. Those charges, however, were later dropped because the administration refused to declassify certain documents. The indicted conspirators faced various lesser charges instead. In the end, fourteen administration officials were indicted, including then- Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Eleven convictions resulted, some of which were vacated on appeal. The rest of those indicted or convicted were all pardoned in the final days of the presidency of George H. W. Bush, who had been Vice President at the time of the affair. The Iran–Contra affair and the ensuing deception to protect senior administration officials including President Reagan has been cast as an example of post-truth politics.”
And George W. Bush (aka Shrub)?  I guess 911 defines his presidency, but his actions and their results go well beyond 911. From The Intelligencer:
If you want to look kindly on Bush’s presidency, you can fairly say that, while he deserves significant blame for ignoring warnings of an Al Qaeda strike and the housing bubble, the disasters of his tenure were not entirely his fault. But what did he do? His economic policies exacerbated income inequality without producing prosperity. His massive increase of the structural budget deficit, which ballooned to over a trillion dollars before President Obama took office, left the United States less fiscally equipped to respond to the economic crisis he also left his predecessor. He initiated a costly war on the basis of both mistaken and deliberately cooked intelligence, and failed to plan for the postwar period. His policies not only ignored the crises of climate change and a costly and cruel health insurance system, but made both much harder to solve.
The failures of Bush’s governing method — the staffing of hacks and cronies, the disdain for evidence — was perfectly reflected in the outcomes. The Bush presidency was a full disaster at home and abroad, and whatever small accomplishments that can be salvaged barely rate any mention in comparison with the failures. The general reckoning of Bush is not too harsh. It is too kind.” (THE NATIONAL INTEREST APR. 25, 2013 --  Yes, George W. Bush Was a Terrible President, and No, He Wasn’t Smart” By Jonathan Chait.

And then, finally, we have President Stupidhead. He seems not to understand almost anything, mainly, we think, because he can’t or won’t read anything.  His policies are increasingly defined by opposition to the central purpose of whatever agency is at issue. Education? He appoints Betsy DeVos who seems to hate public education, and herself has no experience with it. She prefers private schools, although her favorites, charter schools, show no performance improvement over their public counterparts.  The environment? He appoints Scott Pruitt who hates the very idea of government regulation. With their deregulatory zeal, they promise to return us to the good old days of smoggy days every day.  His tax policies are designed to produce huge deficits. His warlike approach to global economic development (tariffs are good by definition) promises to reduce the world to a confrontational economic system. Cooperation is to be avoided at all costs.
But Trump almost defies one’s ability to describe his inanities. He redefines all previous standards of stupidity in government. Trump actually promises to reduce our government to a global joke, but a joke that may well reduce the world to rubble. The jokester, remember, has nuclear weapons at his disposal.  And he seems desperately to want to become a wartime president.
So, I at least conclude that appointing (or electing) stupid people into our government is more likely to produce damage than positive results.   What we need, I conclude, is that we elect people who understand that government is a necessary element in any human system.  I return to something I wrote a while ago to President Obama. I call it “Balance is Good”: I end with that thought.
1.                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 neithergood 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. 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.