Friday, December 30, 2016



I keep wondering. Have I ever seen a year like this?  And the answer is, hmmm . . . Yes, of course.

                .               Famous folks died . . . think 1963

                .               economic screw-up . . . think 1929, or 2000, or 2008

.            world in a mess . . . well, when wasn’t it? In my brief time on this spinning globe, we have had the Great Depression, WW II, the Korean “police action”, Vietnam, 9/11, and every year since

.            a screwed up election . . . hmmmm . . . maybe there you have something different.  I am told that the Rutherford Hayes election of 1876 bore some similarity in terms of corruption and awful characters. Samuel Tilden won the popular vote handily, but lost in a disputed recount process that awarded the needed electoral votes to the republican Hayes . . . hmmm . . . sound familiar?

.            And then there was that election in 2000. Remember that one, where Florida votes had to be hand tallied, but then our most corrupt justice in history, Tony Scalia, basically intervened to award the presidency to George W. Bush. Remember him? And that worked out so well, didn’t it? But still, the 2016 election is a standout. Not only did the Drumpf lose the national vote-count, but he seems not to understand what he actually has won. He may be our only President who can’t read.

So perhaps 2016 will go down in history as one of our more memorable years, maybe on its own merits, but more likely based on the likely disasters that will follow on the heels of electing the least qualified person in American history to the most important job our nation has on its books.

Now, to be fair, we still await the outcomes in his presidency. So, I may be writing a different kind of message at the end of 2017, assuming it is still legal to write about President Drumpf. And always assuming that our president does not start WW IV, the “war to end all wars” because it eliminates humankind. So, we will just have to wait and see what our “enfant-terrible” has in store for those of us who did not actually vote for him (a majority of voting Americans as it turns out).

So, bring it on 2017. We await your pleasure . . . or whatever the hell you actually deliver.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Electoral College Has Spoken

So, it’s official. We have formally elected a deeply flawed and apparently amoral man to be President of our United States. One person with whom I am “friends” on Facebook posted a piece suggesting that, with the election of Donald Trump, God had answered the prayers of the Christian Faithful. And I thought, “Really, your concept of your God is that he decided that a narcissistic-sociopathic, congenital liar, and sexual predator who is incapable of ingesting written information so as to inform himself about the world, and who has been consistently a failure at virtually everything he decided to “manage”, should now be the leader of the Free World?  Wow, what a statement about your God.  See that might describe the actions of a “Satan", rather than a “God”.

But, let’s be rational, folks. My thought for the day is, the US election is the final proof that, either there is no God, or if one exists, She really does not care about or act upon the affairs of humankind. What more do we need to know . . . nothing to see here folks, move along . . .

And if that is true, as surely it must be, then why are we here at all?

Well, if we were not here, how could we eat snickerdoodles at Christmas time, or enjoy a cool brew from the Cabarrus Brewing Company? See what we would be missing? Oh, but I get your question . . . you mean, why are we anywhere?

Well, I guess there are two views on that subject. One view is that God waggled his/her finger and poof, we are all here. I know, I know, that’s really silly. But then there is the view that we are here because life exists everywhere, and if life exists everywhere, then why not here, and why not us? See, it could be simply random creativity, acting over billions of years on millions of floating rocks that are attracted to fiery things we call suns, or stars. And given enough millennia on all those floating rocks, we are as likely to emerge as a monarch butterfly. Turns out anything is equally plausible.  See, I could as easily have turned out to be a dragonfly. But I didn’t . . . maybe in a past life?

Ok, so we’re here. Now how does that explain the Donald?

Well, here’s where the randomness thing enters this equation. Turns out not all creatures are created equal after all. Our brains are wired differently, partly due to our genes, and partly due to simple variations on a theme. Some folks are darker in skin tone than other folks. Some have blond hair, while others have black hair. Who knew? And internally, even more variation shows up.  Some people seem programmed to prefer calculus to surfboarding. Some folks look up at the sky and wonder why . . . while others look at the sky and run for the UV blocking crème.  Even funnier, some folks turn out to be guys, some are gals, and some are both or partly this and partly that. Some resemble guys, but are really gals, and vice versa. See, it’s all just variations on a theme, and if you keep producing variations for enough millennia, you get a lot of really different things and folks.

Think. Over time, that variation machine produced Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, William Shakespeare, Adolph Hitler, that Mussolini dude, Adlai Stevenson, Franklin Roosevelt, Jack Benny, and even Donald Trump.  So, the Donald ain’t all that unusual. Many dudes are similar to him, as it turns out, but most fade into oblivion because they aren’t born into extreme wealth and a racist family.

Now, it’s also the case that most of the Donald Trumps of the world don’t come into great power, including the many dudes who have his deep flaws. Mainly, I guess we can blame his money which, when combined with his character flaws led him to become a kind of silly television actor. Well, actor is the wrong term and insults all real actors.  Apparently, “reality TV stars” are not real actors, although they employ the same kind of public venue.

See here we have another variation on a theme, produced by our perpetual variation machine—a personality warped by whatever produces narcissism, sociopathy, ADHD, and then further warped by exposure to unlimited amounts of personal money, and then finally to unlimited exposure to millions of fans on TV, producing . . . MonsterMan. This particular personality disordered creature seems to fail at anything it tries to actually “manage”, but seems successful at appearing in public in front of large audiences and insulting people.  He/it is really good at that game. Just don’t let him be “in charge” of anything.

So, see, that God thingy did not have to have anything to do with producing the Trumpster. He’s just another variation on a theme, however unlikely it might seem. I mean, who would have predicted Adolph Hitler? Happily, for all of us ordinary dudes and dudettes, the rules of chance seem to favor producing more Gandhi’s or Churchill’s, than Hitler’s or Trumps.

So, in this season of supposed good will, we ought to try and act like it, at least towards our family and folks we think of as friends. Try to smile and think happy thoughts, especially toward those who might be less fortunate than we are.  Sharing some of our good fortune with others seems a nice thing to do, regardless of our dark thoughts about The Drumpf.

And then, after the season of good cheer, begin thinking and even acting so as to rid the nation of the influence of the Donald. We’re stuck with him and his companions in evil for a while, but we need to begin working on getting rid of them . . . legally and peacefully.

So, smile for a while, and then get serious.  This Nation has not yet run out of smart, caring people who are willing to seek public office. Look around. They will appear.

Happy holidays folks.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lifetime Special Events

If one is fortunate enough to live a long life, it is likely that a series of events will be witnessed that are transformative, either personally, or of the world, sometimes both. We accumulate these events in our memory bank, and they never leave, but instead form a collective view of the world in which we live.

When I was still pretty little, December 7, 1941 occurred. I was a mere 7-almost, when we listened to the radio broadcast announcing that catastrophic event. Two thousand of our countrymen died in that attack, and our world, indeed even my little world changed as a result.  We lived at the time in Manhattan, in a little flat on Second Avenue, and even though I knew little of the world, it became clear that the world had changed suddenly and might never again return.  I knew it from blackouts, and rationing, and my uncle becoming something called a Seabee, and going overseas, eventually into the South Pacific.  We listened to frequent radio broadcasts by the President and life became The War.

And life went on, and somehow we survived.

Fast forward to 1962 . . . more specifically October 1962. Here is a clip from The State Department Office of the Historian:

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and was the moment when the two superpowers came closest to nuclear conflict. The crisis was unique in a number of ways, featuring calculations and miscalculations as well as direct and secret communications and miscommunications between the two sides. The dramatic crisis was also characterized by the fact that it was primarily played out at the White House and the Kremlin level with relatively little input from the respective bureaucracies typically involved in the foreign policy process.”

I was an engineer, engaged at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, California producing the Polaris missile, a submarine launched ballistic, intercontinental missile capable of reaching the Soviet Union.  When we became aware of the ships carrying missiles to be placed in Cuba, and aimed at the US, and we listened to the broadcasts emanating from Washington, we would gather outside of work at a local pub after work. We sat there and engaged in lengthy conversations about where we should all go, were the missiles to begin flying.  Should we leave the Bay Area and head for the mountains? Might it be safer somewhere along the coast? Given the relatively dark professional world in which we were engaged, producing missiles that could carry ten nuclear warheads each, capable of destroying a large swath of the world, our speculations were not idle.  And since this “event” lasted over several days, with the outcome always in doubt, it was nerve wracking at the least.

And again, the world survived, and we remained within that world.

Fast forward now to 1963, specifically November 22, 1963. We lived in San Francisco at the time, and my home office for the consulting firm in which I now worked was in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I had flown from San Francisco to Boston that day.  As I was driving in my rental car from the Boston airport to our Cambridge office, a news flash came on the car radio—John F. Kennedy had just been shot while in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Slowly, the agonizing news kept coming. Then that dread announcement; the President was dead. John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. I sat in the car, in the driveway of our office, unable to move, almost unable to think. How . . . why . . . who would do such a thing???

I think I never recovered fully from that shock. I became aware of personal mortality. It could happen to anyone if it could happen to JFK. None of us at that office knew what to say, or how to grasp fully what had just happened. When I finally flew home to San Francisco, I was aware of a new thing—a fear of flying.  It never fully left me.

1969 . . . summertime. We were in the process of relocating from Boston to Washington, DC.  We arrived back in the US of A from our four years in India in the summer of 1968. We settled into Sudbury, Massachusetts. Then, winter arrived. Then snow arrived . . . a lot of snow. Springtime finally arrived and we began talking about leaving the snow country for some place more compatible with our mentality. We had lived in California for almost a decade, followed by four wondrous years in India, where snow arrived only in far off Himalaya’s. So, we decided to leave the snow country and settled on Washington, DC.  Yeah, yeah, it could snow there, but not like Boston.

But first we had to find a place to live.  So, we decided to spend the summer in Chincoteague, where the kids could enjoy the beach, and I could commute from DC on the weekends.  It was a Sunday afternoon. We were sitting in the little dining room of our summer cottage, having our first gin and tonic of the approaching evening. We were watching a small black and white TV, transfixed. The first landing of man on our moon was taking place, in front of our eyes. There we were, surrounded by our family, and close friends from our India days, all with mouths agape, watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Man had left our spinning globe and was now on that tiny thing we observed way up in the sky. It was not like flying. No, this was something fundamentally different, capable of altering our whole concept of our place in the universe. When I had worked at Lockheed, in addition to the Polaris missile, our plant also developed and built the Agena satellite system. The Agena Target Vehicle (ATV) was an unmanned spacecraft used by NASA during its Gemini program to develop and practice orbital space rendezvous and docking techniques and to perform large orbital changes, in preparation for the Apollo program lunar missions. So, I was vaguely aware that we were moving toward space travel.

But actually watching an American astronaut set foot on our moon, was an astonishing event—first that it was actually occurring, and second that we were witness to the event.  We were all changed forever.

Many important events happened in the many years and decades after that magnificent achievement.  Richard Nixon ascended to the throne on the empty promise of ending that awful war in Vietnam, after which we endured another half decade of killing in that benighted land.  We elected an empty-headed movie actor, St. Ronald of Reagan to that same high office. And when he spoke of welfare queens arriving in their Cadillacs to mooch off of our goodness as a people, I understood that racists were now coming out of their closets, and it was ok again in America to be a racist.  And then that same man espoused the Laffer (Laugher??) curve as his economic policy, producing the largest fiscal deficits we had ever known, I realized that our President was also a moron, albeit a well-meaning and happy one.

Still, nothing quite prepared me for November 8, 2016. We had all grown weary of watching the parade of fools masquerading as GOP candidates, while on the other side, Hillary was marching toward the throne, and we were being entertained by Bernie. It was always hard to disagree with anything Bernie told us, so much so that we actually voted for him.

But it slowly became clear that the GOP was dissolving into a pool of empty rhetoric, with hate forging the anvil of their message. The Donald, whom nobody could take seriously, slowly began destroying his opposition. Really??? Donald Trump?? A billionaire circus clown??? That’s the best you can do Republican Party?? Really???

But then, as we approached November 8th, the race actually tightened between the two remaining candidates. How this could be was astonishing. It was clear to the entire nation that the Clown lied all the time. How would you know he was lying?? Well, whenever he opened his mouth and words came tumbling out, that would mean he was lying. And the astonishing thing??? He accused Hillary of being the liar.  Well, to be fair, he accused everyone who opposed him of being the liar.  It’s what he does.

But then, Hillary seemed to be leading, even if only marginally.  As we watched the returns, it began to seem altogether too close. But still, we assumed Hillary would prevail. We knew it would not be over til way past our bedtime, so we closed out the TV and went to bed.

I arose early the next morning and turned on the radio to NPR (we never watch TV news). And what to my wondering ears did appear . . . but a notice that the Clown, the Drumpf, had been declared the winner by virtue of his likely take in that creature called The Electoral College. See, we have a really strange system. We make believe we are voting for a candidate when we cast our ballot for Mr. X, or Mrs. Y. But in reality we are voting for an unknown “elector” who will later vote for the real candidate. It’s called “let’s Pretend Democracy”. See, our founders didn’t really trust us to act responsibly, so they dreamed up this make believe voting system, to keep us happy-- dumb, but nonetheless happy.

So, The Drumpf was being declared President-Elect. I called upstairs to tell my dear wife Carol of this remarkable event. She burst into tears.  Later, when I spoke with our daughter who was enroute to her medical practice that morning, she too burst into tears.  How could this be? It was like being told that Barnum and Bailey had arrived in town and had decided to buy the country and install their chief clown as the headman. And if we didn’t like it, why we could stuff it.

And so endeth the tale of events, or in this case, the trail of tears. We had elected a narcissistic-sociopath with advanced ADHD as President. A man who was unable to read or write because he could not focus long enough.  And now, we are both the laughing stock of the world, and pitied at the same time.  We look forward to a long, dreary set of years ahead, with feeble hope that the Clown does not blow up our entire universe, a not unlikely prospect.

Sigh . . . yet another of life’s defining moments. Let the new (Hunger??) games begin, folks.