Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit and Trump

Brexit and Other Silliness

I’m beginning to develop a theory about people’s actions. Well, I can’t really call it a theory, since it wasn’t developed after any research, and is based on simple observation over many years.

I have been wondering how so many people could do things like vote for candidates, or issues that really seem, on their face, to be clearly against the interests of those same folks. Like the people here in the US, who seem to favor, strongly, Donald Trump for President, despite the evidence staring at them that he is a liar, a racist, a homophobe, a misogynist, and not even very good at his main game—business. I know that he is a millionaire, but he started out life as a millionaire. So many of his ventures are either outright frauds (Trump University springs to mind) or just economic disasters (four bankruptcies here) that it forces one to conclude he isn’t really any good at what he does for a living.  So, with all those attributes, why would anyone seriously entertain the idea that he would make a good President?

I understand that many Americans are racist at heart, so they hate the idea of a Black President. Everything wrong with America today they blame on Obama, despite the overwhelming evidence that, a) actually things are better today than they were under George W. Bush, and b) much of what is wrong today in America can be laid at the doorstep of a racist Republican Party that decided to oppose anything this Black President wanted to do.  Beyond their core racism, in fact the Republican Party seems aimed at demonstrating that Government is dysfunctional, whereas all they prove is that, if you put Republicans in charge, the result will be dysfunction.  There really isn’t anything inherently dysfunctional about government. It is the folks you place in charge. In this case, the Republicans, as they have gathered greater power, courtesy of the American electorate, have grown increasingly destructive to the functionality of our government. And by “government” here I mean the Congress, not the Executive Branch.

And then there’s Brexit. Most of the polls and most of the pundits decided in advance of the vote, that Britain would remain in the EU.  It seemed abundantly clear that, to leave, could well provoke economic chaos, and could further destabilize the EU, leading to political chaos in Europe. And for those who remember 1914, and 1939, political chaos in Europe is not something devoutly to be desired.

Even the promises offered by the Brexit backers—e.g., greater financial flows back into key British institutions like the National Health Service--were pure fabrications, offered up by people like Nigel Farage and his UKIP Brexit fans to sell Brexit.  The vote was barely cast before he admitted as such.
But you can’t take back the vote. The die is cast, and everyone will have to live with the result, whatever it may be.

And then we have Climate Science and the idea of global warming. The evidence seems to be in, but we still have idiot Congresspersons, bringing snowballs into the Halls of Congress, and tossing them just to demonstrate that the Earth is not warming. “See, we still have snow, so the earth cannot be warming”.

But, when evidence is fairly clear that something is either just a bad idea, or unlikely in the extreme of being true, or, in the case of global warming, obviously true, why would otherwise rational people still go for the other side?

And here’s my theory. Organized religion.

Over many centuries, the organizers and leaders of all religions have concocted a series of stories, fairy tales I like to call them, that after death, we will have an immediate meeting with a kindly old bearded man in the sky, who will welcome us with open arms (assuming we have been good) into the kingdom of heaven (I note that Heaven is never portrayed as a democratic place, but as a kingdom).  Once there, we will be issued our set of wings, and a spot on a free cloud, where dwell all of our beloved ancestors, and loved ones. We will then chat on forever in peace and harmony.

Talk about absence of evidence.

Now, why do otherwise rational people choose to believe such patent nonsense? Well, partly because it seems preferable to the alternatives. But partly, I think, they believe because they have been programmed almost from birth to believe such tales. Even current non-believers have been subjected to this fairy story for so long that they are now capable of wishing things to be true, even when all evidence suggests the reverse is true.  In short, they are capable of acting against their own best interests because they so wish something to be true.  I guess it explains gambling casinos, the Republican Party, the Lottery, Brexit, Climate deniers, and the Donald Trump story.

At any rate, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

And, Mister Pope, stop apologizing about your corrupt Church and do something about it. How about selling the Vatican and all its contents and distributing the proceeds to the World’s poor?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Public Inanities

So, the Brits are approaching their own unnecessary cataclysm—the Brexit vote. Whatever we non-EU persons think of the EU, it does seem obvious that the British are better off within the Union than outside it, where they can influence none of its policies. The Leave argument, as best I can understand it, is that EU representatives, unelected by the British people, are daily making rules that affect everyday life in Britain, and the British people are (or ought to be) fed up.  Turns out, to belong to the EU is to have to act in accordance with its rules.  Sounds familiar . . . where have I heard that before??? Oh, yeah, it’s called the United States of America. And, we too have our TEXIT fans here, periodically threatening that Texas will secede—promises, promises.

One might think that WW I and WW II would have forever convinced the Brits that they better stay involved in European affairs, or they will suffer the consequences. But no. The Brits very own Donald Trump (aka Boris Johnson) has been scaremongering and seems to be succeeding, despite the bizarre lies being propagated about life in the EU.  What Boris neglects to mention is this little thing called the United Kingdom, which shows signs of coming apart, should Brexit be the actual decision. Scotland may well revisit its decision to remain part of the “United” Kingdom, Northern Ireland could well decide it does not wish to remain, and then there’s Wales.  So, Great Britain could soon become that tight little island called England.  The place would lose much of its appeal as an ally to the US, having lost its access to European affairs, it would have to work very hard to resecure its borders, and it would lose ready access to the Common Market, which could devastate its economy.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play???

But what seems to be happening in Britain is similar to what has already happened here in the US of A. And that is, the public dialogue has been captured by the demagogic right wing, and the stupid people have taken over.  There really is no other explanation for the Donald Trump phenomenon, and even more for the gun non-debate.  How anyone with an IQ above 70 can even consider voting for The Donald is utterly beyond me.  People keep mentioning him in the same context as Hitler or Mussolini, but that argument fails utterly. Hitler was not stupid, just demagogic. He did sell his anti-Jewish message to a people who had been undone by WW I, and needed someone to blame. Germans wanted desperately to become once again a great nation. Hitler provided a theme around which the nation’s haters could coalesce.

But here, Trump has no such common theme. Trump is an incompetent, morally vacant businessman who has no grand strategy. Yes, he seems anti-everything, but that’s the problem. He seems to hate everyone who isn’t him.  And what is his message? Elect me and we will be great again.  What does that even mean?  He claims that: a) we aren’t great any longer; b) we are losers; and c) he will build a wall, and we will then be great once again.  Oh, and he will do something to China, unspecified, to defeat them.

That he lacks coherence is obvious, but he seems to lack the IQ to string whole thoughts together into a meaningful concept. He’s like Sarah Palin on steroids. I’m sure he and Sarah Bimbo will get along fine (she’s hot I guess), but maybe he should just marry her and get it over with.  Perhaps she will be his VP?? Wow, what a combo that would be.

So, he really is just a triumph of hate over intelligence—thank you, in part Fox News.

And then we have the gun non-debate.

The Senate actually defeated any meaningful attempt to even begin to discuss gun control.  How could that be, when the measures under “debate” weren’t even especially arguable. That folks on the no-fly list should not be allowed to buy automatic weapons?  That we should consider doing background checks before allowing folks to buy guns?

The gun crowd has become so absurd that it beggars belief that people actually believe the crap coming out of their mouths. The actual Second Amendment has nothing to do with any of this, since the “well-regulated militia” part has evaporated entirely. They just want their guns period. Facts no longer are allowed in the debate. Facts just confuse the folks with guns.

And I really can no longer even understand the NRA. One might imagine that even the NRA would not want this “debate” to move to the absurd levels to which it has fallen, since they begin to resemble some Neo-Nazi tribe.  Don’t they want to preserve any dignity?  Have you, NRA, at last, no shame???

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Group prayers. I cannot imagine anything less useful than groups of folks talking to an imaginary being about the horrific event in Orlando. After which, of course, the same folks go out and have a beer and talk about the latest episode of Veep . . . or whatever TV program gets their rocks off.
We listened to Steven Colbert interview Bill O’Reilly, mostly about Orlando—yeah, that Bill O’Reilly. And I found myself holding the TV remote (we TIVO the show), having to almost forcibly restrain myself from fast forwarding just to get rid of the lying little creep O’Reilly. But I kept reminding myself of Sun Tzu—Know Thine Enemy.

Between the shooting itself, the brainless ramblings of Donald Trump, and the astonishing calls for killing people coming from Republicans, and, especially, from pastors of the right (Christian Taliban folks), I find myself sinking into a morass of despair.   How could this country have sunk to this level of idiocy?

And then I remind myself. This is Amurrica Richard. We are at or near the ending of the great American experiment with democracy. It’s been 200 years, or thereabouts, and that is apparently the life cycle of democracies.  Between the Christian Taliban, and the criminal bankers, both seeking power in their own ways, our country has been hijacked.  We need to take it back, but we (I) seem not to know how to accomplish that. I would say that maybe some horrible event would galvanize the public, and they would then get off their collective asses and throw the bankers in prison, kick the Christian Taliban in the ass and move them back into their closets, and then take away much of the arsenal that the crazy fucking gunners (small penis crowd) seem to believe they need. No, we don’t need to take away all their guns, just most of them, and certainly all of the things that resemble machine guns.  Maybe let folks have single-shot shotguns, and single shot pistols.

See, mainly, I’m not afraid of the State taking away my freedom, so much as I fear the crazed gunners of our country taking away the lives of people I hold dear.  And we all really know that the Second Amendment was not about assuring that every crazy person in Amurrica could own a machine gun.  It was all about a “well-regulated militia”.  In some circles, that’s now called the National Guard.

But our rapid decline into third world country status isn’t just about guns (although they do go together). It’s about the failure to educate our population—our public education system used to be a shining star and it is now rapidly deteriorating into a global joke, leaving us with a seriously dumbed-down population. It’s about our health care system that leaves thousands/millions out of our care system, including our veterans who frankly deserve better.  It’s about our growing problem of student debt, which will lead eventually to the demise of our great system of higher education. It’s about our inability to create an employment base for most of our workforce—we seem not to understand that if we continue to ship all jobs overseas, we will eventually fail as a nation. And that latter isn’t a problem created by our President, or even by our singularly inept Congress. It continues to be created and maintained by our bankers and our business CEO’s who make more money that way and who care not a fig about the effects on the nation’s workforce.  They don’t care folks. They don’t care.
And that is the central problem.  Too many of our people simply don’t care. They are too busy praying to non-existent figures in the sky, or playing video games to care.

Maybe we really have lost the ability to think, and, therefore, to care. Maybe it really is all over. I keep hoping not. I keep hoping that our grandchildren will turn out smarter and more caring than we are, and that they will take back their country from the inept grasp of their forebears.


Maybe, he said hopefully, but sadly.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

That Trumpster

The Con Game

I just finished reading a story in The New Yorker about HSBC and a man, Herve Falciani, who basically pulled an Edward Snowden and made off with many HSBC documents showing how the bank was actively involved in helping citizens of many nations evade income taxes. The bank, of course, uses the Swiss secrecy system, but is really in the business of money laundering.  Mr. Falciani, when caught out, fled to France, where he turned over to French authorities, the records showing the bank system of tax evasion.

We used to actually bank with HSBC. That was just before they were caught laundering drug money for Mexican drug kingpins and setting up off shore bank accounts for them in the Cayman Islands.  It was very clear; HSBC was part of an organized crime ring, yet nobody went to jail. They have been fined many times. In one book, “The Hidden Wealth of Nations”, economist Gabriel Zucman estimates that the world’s rich salt away, out of reach of taxing authorities, $7.6 TRILLION.  HSBC was fined $1.8 billion to avoid any criminal penalties, in only one of several cases brought against them.

That was, by the way, when we stopped banking with HSBC. They didn’t notice of course. They never do.  We don’t have a billion dollars. As an aside, when we opened an account with a local bank, F&M bank, we first asked the branch manager, “ Before we open the account, you must tell us, are you part of an organized crime ring”? He gave us this blank look, and then we explained.
But that experience, and then reading the article, convinces me that the world’s global banking system is actually just part, a key part, of the world’s system by which the wealthiest 1% seek to acquire almost all the money on the planet, by means fair or foul. Neither they, nor the world’s banks care whether the means are legal, only whether they work.

Which brings us, of course, to The Donald, he the ringmaster of the Trump circus, The Greatest Show in Town.  It is said that The Donald is actually in real estate. But I think it is more accurate to consider him in global finance. He is in real estate, the way a hedge fund manager who happens to be gambling in the world of technology, can be said to be “in the hi-tech world.” It is entirely incidental to the main frame of their work, which is, scamming the public out of its gold.

The Donald invests in, or gambles in, real estate to be sure. But he also gambles in higher education, alcoholic beverages, beef, and other assorted ways to also con the public out of its gold. He demonstrates that, if you start out with enough money, you don’t actually have to be very smart to make a lot of money, if you are willing to gamble, and willing to con folks.

The Donald is being sued at the moment by some folks who think he conned them out of a lot of money (for them) in connection with his fake Trump University. He denies everything, of course. He always denies everything. And, while listening to NPR this morning, they interviewed a lady, who happens to be a Trump supporter, about his con game called Trump University. And her response was something like, “well, people need to take responsibility for what they spend their money on. “ In short, it’s not Trump. If he can con someone, it’s entirely the fault of the Connee, rather than the Conner. That comment made me think that Trump was entirely correct. Apparently, if he went out on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, pulled out a gun and began shooting people, his supporters would say, “well, it’s really the responsibility of people to stay away from the paths of bullets. If they can’t do that, then they will get shot. I still support Mr. Trump.”

This, then, is the current state of America. A cartoon con man, the leader of the pack at The Trump Circus, is now the darling the American Right Wing. Megan Kelly is in love with him. Paul Ryan supports him. Mitch McConnell wishes him well, as heads the GOP into the darkest corners of Hell.  The GOP no longer has any claim to honesty, or morality. Nor, I might add, has the Christian Taliban, which will soon be shouting his praises –Hallelujah St. Trump.

And so, on with The Wall, and on with the Great Deportation. And on with the Great Muslim Denial.

I’ll bet even the NRA is thrilled.

And remember, “only suckers pay taxes”.