Monday, July 25, 2016

Amerika and Other Nightmares

Click your heels Richard. Maybe you will awaken back in Brooklyn in the 1940s, when America had just awakened to its real threats from abroad (as distinct from the Trumpian nightmares conjured by that carnival barker).

I have been thinking about writing an addition to my blog, but our world has become so bizarre that I really have become clogged. Mostly, I have been struggling to figure out what has happened, and how much of it is real.  For months now, concluding with that bizzaro Republican convention, I have been watching our world of democratic politics play out and fall apart, orchestrated by Fox News and the Trump Nightmare Express.  I still don’t know which is worse—Donald Trump or Fox News. Both seem to me to be existential threats to our democracy.

But I think what is even more troubling is the role being played by ordinary (Republican) citizens of the realm.  When I listen to those folk being interviewed about why they plan to vote for Donald Trump, I am struck by an otherworldly tone to these conversations. It is as though the folks understand they are being conned, but no longer care.  How does one know when Donald Trump is lying? Well, whenever he opens his mouth and words begin tumbling out, he is lying. And it is so abundantly clear that is the case, it must be that everyone is aware of that characteristic. He lies folks, all the time. He doesn’t even disguise the fact that he is lying.  He seems not to care that everyone knows he is lying, so long as nobody says anything directly to him. Then he becomes cranky.

He is the dictionary definition of a narcissistic sociopath. And what is that, you might ask?

Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Characteristics include: 
1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Believes he is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement

6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends

7. Lacks empathy

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him

9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes 

Do those characteristics seem familiar, as in every time the Donald shows himself in any public setting? And then we might add his apparent sociopathy. And what might that be?

Sociopathy is a mental condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior. Examine how he deals with his business associates. Mainly, he seems to treat almost everyone with disdain, as though they simply do not matter.

All of these characteristics were on display during and preceding the convention. So, virtually all of his (very serious) flaws have been on public display for some time, including much evidence of his fatally flawed business dealings—the fraudulent Trump University tops the list of late, but his multiple bankruptcies, his constant lying about his financial status, his failed marriages, all point to a man who seems incapable of actually managing/running anything. So, tell me again why anyone would decide that he should be running the country, running our foreign and domestic affairs, overseeing and directing our military, when he is simply incapable of running anything, and has proven that incapacity over and over again?

What in heavens name are people thinking?

The only conclusion I can reach is that those people do not actually want a President. They want a God of some kind who can wave magic wands to make the unlikely likely. Now it may also be the case that they want a magician who will con them so that later they can claim to have been conned (didn’t happen on my watch folks. I was conned by the best conman in the world). It may be akin to what happens when people click “like” or “share” on the Internet and claim they are sending off prayers—which means they are punting the problem upstairs—no longer my responsibility folks.

Think of what might have happened in 1940 if the American people had elected a Donald Trump as President. America might well have simply disappeared as an active democracy. And that is the precise risk we now run in even thinking about electing this narcissistic sociopath.

This all is very sad, of course, but sadder yet is what it says about that institution we came to know as the Republican Party. That political entity seems no longer to exist in any real sense.  I imagine the dead now spinning away in their graves. That the party officials gave away their party to the likes of the Koch brothers, Rupert, and now The Donald is way beyond sad.  It is a tragic loss to our Nation.

We now have one real political party remaining, and that party is under attack by anti-American right wing fascists. That attack is trying to destroy the only political party left in our threatened democracy.  Whether the attacks are supported/funded partly by Vlad the Impaler Putin as has been claimed seems even more weird. Think of that—the Koch Brother (Nazis by almost any definition), Rupert Murdoch, and Vlad Putin align themselves in a quest to destroy American democracy. Now that is way beyond just weird.  It’s the stuff of Randian novels.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Trump: A Strategy

Trump: A Strategy
It finally dawned on me. The Hillary hearings: they are the main Republican strategy for winning the presidency in 2016.  They know that they cannot beat Hillary in a fair fight. Leaving it to the electorate simply won’t do. The electorate will elect a Democrat. In Hillary’s case, it’s a far-gone conclusion.

Thinking about elections. Republicans apparently decided a while ago that they really cannot win in open contests. So, at the State level, they are gerrymandering the districts such that they disable the vote. North Carolina is but one of many ways the republicans have chosen to win at all costs. Make it as difficult as possible for likely democratic voters to become registered to vote, and, if that fails, then screw with the voting districts such that republicans will gain a majority, despite the will of the people.  Again, here in North Carolina, they have succeeded admirably. The Governor and the State House are safely in Republican hands, where they are free to discriminate against Gays, eliminate public schooling, and provide tax breaks for the very wealthy (owners of the party faithful).  They appear to have few principles worthy of the name, but they are faithful to a fault in following the wishes of their wealthy owners.

In state after state, republicans follow much the same playbook:
1. Rig the election game to advantage republicans, and disenfranchise likely democrats

2.  Disable/reduce the public school system (educated voters who actually think tend not to vote for them) 

3. Batter Gays and Lesbians

4. Eliminate access to health care

5. Provide tax breaks to their owners
6. Ignore the crumbling infrastructure throughout their state (see Michigan, Ohio)

But then there is this little nasty game of Presidential politics. Not satisfied with their winning strategy at the State level, Republicans are yearning for the Trifecta—gaining the Presidency so that they can control all three elements of government.

And then Hillary decided to run. Oh, bad news Republicans. Well, first they had to face their own primary season, and it was not looking good.  Oh, they had candidates galore –16 was the count. Crazy people, ordinary nobodies, fascists. And even another Bushie. Oh Jeb, what were you thinking man?? And so they let their games begin. 

But then one of the crazies put his mouth in gear and Fox News (The Fake News Channel) was watching. The Trumpmouth provided fodder for their nightly fake news shows day in and day out. Even when he took on one of their darlings, Fox still prospered, and the Trumpmouth continued to spew forth its daily and nightly dose of garbage—how does one know when Donald Trump is lying? Well, when his mouth opens, and words begin tumbling out, he is lying.

But the illiterati in the land love it.  James Meek, writing in the London Review of Books[1] about the disaster that was Brexit, said, “We also have confirmation that people don’t object to being lied to, as long as they like the lie.  That sums up the Trump support nicely.

But, Then, a Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Trump stumbled, and bumbled, and coughed and sputtered, and the angry folks out there ate it up. He said, at one point, as though astonished at what was going on, “I could walk out on Fifth Avenue, take up a gun and shoot someone . . . and my support would increase.” See, he had no idea what the hell was happening. How could that be?

But, since the Republicans had no Plan B (Plan A remember was to take out Hillary by continuing to run investigations against her such that the public would finally sour on her, or she would be forced to drop out of the race) they elected to just let the game play on, assuming that, sooner or later one of the unholy 16 would finally assert himself (or herself . . . remember Carly Fiorina). And one by one, they dropped out.  Sort of like Ten Little Indians . . . and then there was one.

So, now the Republicans are totally fucked. Plan A is still in play—knock Hillary out of the game. Their last gambit was the FBI investigation.  But Comer failed to cooperate fully. They are still trying, seeing as Comer announced they could not/would not indict Hillary, just accuse her of bad judgment. The problem is that “bad judgment” is unlikely to derail her, so they are now forced to require him to testify, and they are shrieking about how all her e-mails and the entire FBI testimony and report must be made public (i.e., given to Fox News so they could create a story-line that would sway the public to drop her). 

But, what happens if Plan A actually succeeds and Hillary decides she’s had enough? They have no Plan C, i.e., some plan that gets the Trumpster to abandon ship.  It seems at least plausible that the Drumpf got into the race simply to boost his own stock. He would run for a while, get a lot of publicity, then find some way to drop out of the race, while he was still a “winner”, dropping out because he had more important and interesting things to do with his valuable time than run the United States of America.

But, as it turns out, everyone else got fed up first, and the folks who don’t mind being lied to, kept voting for him, thereby disabling his own plan to drop out.  

Now, a real Plan C would have included s scenario whereby the GOP would convince the Drumpf to leave the race in favor of someone else (Paul Ryan??). But Plan C never was developed--Republicans have never been big on actual planning—with them, shit just happens—see the invasion of Iraq.

So, now what happens? Suppose:

A.     Hillary drops out: well their worst nightmare would be that Hillary drops out and endorses someone like Elizabeth Warren. She may be to the Left, but she can out-argue almost anyone left in campaign-land. She would take the Drumpf apart even more effectively than he dismantles himself by opening his mouth.

B.    Hillary Stays in because Plan A fails to connect with anyone: Again, they are totally screwed, because then Hillary would not only take the Drumpf apart, but she would now expose Plan A for what it is, a cynical GOP plot to foil the will of the Nation. They might lose not only the Presidency, but state houses as well. Bummer.

C.    The Drumpf not only stays in the race, but wins it all, despite himself: perhaps this is a nightmare with the same force as A & B above. Perhaps this is the ultimate nightmare. Donald Trump becomes President of the United States. I imagine, even Rupert Murdoch and the Cock brothers would shudder, and slink off into their spiderholes somewhere. Who knows, Rupert might even give up entirely and move back to Oz, except that they hate him down under even more than we hate him here, or the Brits hate him there.

Yes, we all face our own Brexit outcome. What happens if all the republican gerrymandering and pandering to their rich owners produce this ultimate nightmare?  Who knows, maybe he would allow Texit to occur and his wall would be built somewhere just North and East of the former Texas. (One can hope).

Stay tuned folks.

[1] London Review of Books, Vol. 38 No. 14, July 2016, “Where Are We Now?”

Friday, July 1, 2016

61 Years Together

A Brief Highlight of 61 Years
1st – 1955 -- Honeymoon in Yosemite Park, accompanied by my Mother, sister and her family
5th – 1960, now living in our new home in pre-Silicon Valley, CA, a dinner doubtless in San Francisco

9th – Actual anniversary dinner at the St. George’s Hotel in Beirut, while enroute to New Delhi, India.

10TH – 1965, living at D-358 defense Colony, New Delhi, India, dinner of Tandoori Chicken doubtless at Moti Mahal in Old Delhi
11th – 1966—traveled East from New Delhi, through Bangkok, Hong Kong, thence by ship to Yokohama, and finally San Francisco, where we spent our home-leave anniversary with sister and family.

12th – Planned to visit Israel, but the idiot Arabs engaged in and lost (as always) the six-day war. So, we changed plans and traveled instead to Athens, Greece for our anniversary, while a sweet Canadian CUSO couple stayed with our kids. Spent our anniversary on Mykonos, dining by the harbor

13th – Left New Delhi for Moscow, where we toured Red Square, enjoyed the Bolshoi Ballet performing Swan Lake at the Bolshoi Theatre, and then on to London, where we picked up our new (1968) Rover 2000TC at the airport. We stayed at the home of our friends, the Dillons, who were still in Delhi, but had offered us the use of their home in Camberley. Dillo was an ex-Brigadier General who had served in Burma with the British Indian Army, and had been captured there. We were told he was a model for the Brigadier (Alec Guinness) in Bridge Over the River Kwai. Toured around London, before heading off to the Continent, where we lived wonderfully for a few weeks, touring with our three kids.

15th – Now living in the DC area, out in Cabin John, Maryland. Anniversary dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant in Georgetown.
20th – Still living in the DC area. Dined at a super expensive Italian restaurant in Georgetown, with the bill coming to $350. Carol closing in on her college degree, and poised to find her career as a school Librarian at The Bullis School.
25th – Celebrated our 25th with very close friends living in the DC area at the home of John and Susan Scanlon, with Pamela Horst (who now lives in Bangkok) helping to celebrate.  Had just left The Urban Institute and joined the Government under President Carter, only to discover that an idiot was scheduled to take over the reins of government later that year.
30th - Anniversary dinner again in Georgetown, our go-to spot for fine dining. Becoming ready to leave Government under Reagan, for fear of going brain-dead.
35th - Cannot believe it is 1990. We even survived 1984.  Began heading to the North Carolina beaches with our family of five plus Carol’s mom, who came to live with us in 1985.
40th – Wow, who do we know who has been married 40 years?  Traveled out to Seattle to attend Erika’s graduation from her family practice residency, and then we began looking and found a house in Concord, NC, after Erika and Steve decided they would move there so she could enter practice in Cabarrus Family Medicine. We had to fix up the house a lot, since it was an old bungalow, much like the ones we had encountered throughout India. We rented the house, first to Roxanne and Amy, two brand new lawyers.

45th – We began making plans to retire and move to Concord, NC. More house fixer-uppers.  Dinner somewhere in Concord.

49th – We decided to embark on a 9,000 mile road trip to celebrate 49 years together. We began in DC, after a meeting I had to attend at The Foundation School, wending our way down to Virginia and heading for our first stop in Nashville, where we met friends. We then drove through the Southwest and then up to Portland. Our plan was to visit places either neither of us had seen (Grand Canyon), or only one of us had seen (e.g., Grand Tetons.) Amazing 25 day trip. We love traveling together.

50th – Celebratory dinner with family. Then we made our trip up to Niagara on the Lake in Canada, arguably one of the prettiest towns in the world. We stayed at an inn, dined at a wonderful restaurant there (many available) attended a matinee performance of a play by Shaw (The Shaw festival runs there from April to October), and visited some wineries.

55th – Again visited Niagara on the Lake. We celebrated our actual anniversary at The Peller Estate Winery, having one of their wine-pairing dinners, after seeing a play at the Festival Theatre.
60th – We visited our favorite place in Canada again, attending plays, visiting wineries and dining again at The Peller Estate Winery, for another wonderful wine pairing dinner.

61 - Planning on a quiet evening, dining at our favorite restaurant, Gianni’s in downtown Concord.