Friday, April 28, 2017

Losing It

Lately, I have been seeing a variety of vaguely catastrophic titles or subjects popping up in books, articles, and Facebook.  Chomsky’s latest book, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power” is but one example. In an interview with EcoWatch, Chomsky noted that “On Nov. 8, the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election. The outcome placed total control of the government—executive, Congress, the Supreme Court—in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.”

Hyperbole? Maybe, but if we simply look at the list of plans and executive orders being issued almost daily by Trump, none of which are challenged by his GOP Congressional cheerleaders, the assessment begins to look reasonable . . . awful but reasonable.  His latest assault on sensibility is his executive order directing his Federal staff to examine the country’s National Monuments, to see whether and how they might be, in his words, returned to the people.  My interpretation suggested the picture below:

Yes, yes, I know, it is silly to consider a Trump Tower being built atop one of the grand structures of that grand canyon, but is it really silly?  We have now become inured to stupid ideas flowing from his mouth or twitter feed. So many stupidities, so little time.

And his behavior would have provoked shrieks of outrage, had it been Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama. Can you imagine the outrage that would have occurred among the GOP Illuminati had Obama appointed his wife, or an uncle, or even one of his kids to a top secret job in the White House.  What if Hillary were President, and she appointed Chelsea to oversee the reorganization of the entire Federal government?  Can you imagine Paul Ryan, or the billygoat Mitch McConnell?

And then we have the media silos, beginning with Fox, and others of that ilk. O’Reilly would be having such fun were all this happening under President Hillary Clinton. Even his multiple sexual predations would have been ignored by the Murdochians had they Hillary in their sights.

And that leads me to consider what is happening here in the formerly great America, now just a collection of silos, filled with angry people.

I think back to the 1940s, when I was a little kid, growing up in Brooklyn and Manhattan. We were a nation of immigrants. My grandfolks on one side came over in the 1890s from Scotland. From the other side, they hailed from Austria and Germany. Italians, Irish, Jews from many countries fleeing to escape poverty or the Third Reich.  They landed on Ellis Island and then scattered, some fled south into the Appalachians, some to Brooklyn, or Manhattan. Little Italy, Yorkville where East European and German immigrants lived. They arrived, scattered and then fled into enclaves in New York and in many other places in this vast country.  Initially, they stayed in their ethnic groups, speaking their original languages, but slowly their ethnic groups began dispersing, and gradually English became the language of choice.

Some were Catholic, some Protestant, some nothing or something else.  Then they just disappeared and became Americans.

Then came the War, the second war to end all wars (since WW I failed miserably at that grand idea). And some folks joined up or were drafted and went off to fight Hitler and Mussolini, or to fight in the Pacific. My mom and my teenage sister joined all the others who went to work to support their sons and daughters who had gone to fight.  There was something approximating a unity of purpose. Even people who disagreed politically, or spiritually, came together to support this grand effort.

This same spirit prevailed in the 1950s. We went to war in Korea, and it was the Nation that went to war.

Then we rested for a while, not long but a while. Few noticed but Ike, the man who oversaw the powerful forces that finally won the second Great War was now President.  The hot war had been replaced by the Cold War. And both the Soviets and the Chinese were moving to establish their regions of control.   Left and right wings within the country became captured by movements, such as “McCarthyism” during the 1950s, when Communists were seen behind every bush in America.  Pointing fingers and yelling labels at folks became commonplace, a substitute for intellectual thought. McCarthy was among the worst, but was far from being alone in these pursuits of inanity.

Enter that formerly unknown place called Vietnam. Vietnam became one of those contested regions. Initially, Ike remained outside, decrying even the possibility of committing troops to Vietnam, in which the French were busily trying to reestablish their days of Empire there. But he relented and committed support, but not troops. Then in 1954, the French army was beaten (as usual) and left their former colony in defeat. Only then did Ike decide that, well maybe we could support Ngo Dinh Diem in the South, so as to prevent the North, supported by China, from overtaking the whole country. So, there we were . . . on course for a new war. Enter LBJ and the invented tale of an attack on our warship and we were off to the races.

Now, here, for the first time perhaps since the Civil War, the US began to separate. It was not a regional thing as had been the case during the 1860s. Partly, it was young v. old. Many young people objected viscerally to a war in Vietnam. Partly, students and others of draft age simply did not wish to get drafted to fight in a war for which they had no stomach. See, they did not believe a hot war in Vietnam was the way out of the Cold War with Russia and China. Protests sprang up all around the country, and the great divide began. People suddenly became “lefties” or right wing fascists, or pinkos, or, later Libtards.  Protest movements against the war began and became a serious divide all around this nation.  In part, Nixon and the GOP won the election in 1968 because of the war, and because Nixon had a “plan” to end the war.  Turned out his “plan” to end the war included expansion of the bombing, including bombing Cambodia, a formerly neutral country.  And the war dragged on, until even Nixon gave up and we finally left in disgrace in 1973.

That war left scars and a divided nation.

The divide began to differentiate. It was no longer anti-war and pro-war. Rather it became anti-war and anti-antiwar.  The people began to point fingers at one another, instead of at politicians.   Enter Ronald Reagan.  Reagan’s rhetoric, perhaps because of his training as a mediocre actor of some note, was fairly inflammatory.  While running to run the government, Reagan declared that government was not the solution but the problem.  He ran against Jimmy Carter, and ran behind the scenes to “resolve” the Iranian hostage crisis—remember Iran and the takeover of the American Embassy, when the grand Ayatollah overthrew the Shah (our former buddy)?  So, while Jimmy was trying to resolve that mess and at least get our people returned, Ronnie was negotiating behind his back with the Iranians. So, Ronnie won the election, and voila, the hostages came home, in exchange for a large arms deal.

Then Ronnie began his new GOP approach to government, which solidified his base of folks who love talking tough and dropping bombs.  The Democrats were a shattered bunch, as Ronnie charmed the Nation, while invading Grenada, so as to rescue some medical students from the awful regime there.  His supporters loved the toughness.

It may be that the Reagan administration really began the final process of dividing America into multiple camps of people, who didn’t simply disagree with one another, but who seemed viscerally to despise the other side.  But it was really after Ronnie left the scene to the Clinton’s that the separation began to become hardened. Enter Fox News.

In the old days, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, our news came to us via things called newspapers, then the radio. I still remember the radio, from my earliest kid days, when Fiorella LaGuardia read the Sunday funnies (1945), and FDR broadcast his chats with the American people. But that was when we were still one people.  Walter Cronkite and the Huntley-Brinkley news hours competed with one another for accuracy and timely reporting of actual facts.

Slowly, but surely, in order to gain audience, first radio stations and then television stations began to cater to particular audiences. Then during Clinton’s terms in office, Murdoch and company began Fox News, and serious catering (some might say slanting) began.  Surely, Murdoch, a very rich man who made his money in Australia, England and then here in the US, was a man of the rightest of the right wing folks.  He tuned his audiences to his message.

Murdoch entered the “news” scene at the same time as people in the US were beginning to acquire and use computers in business and at home.  Murdoch tailored his messages to the right wing folks among us, with one result being that that message was treated by his growing following as Truth. Many, perhaps most people assumed that if they saw/heard something on a TV or radio news outlet, it must be true—that they were not allowed to broadcast things that were not true.

Slowly, the silos began to acquire hard walls, as folks separated themselves by their choice of news outlets.

Enter George Bush and his wrecking crew. George and his colleagues were a singularly hard-nosed group, apparently prepared to act at any and all opportunities.  Enter Osama and his gang of thugs. 9/11, numbers that will forever live in infamy.  Where were you when that first plane hit the World Trade Center? You know, I’m almost certain of it.   That attack galvanized the American people like nothing since the Pearl Harbor attack.  The silos crumbled as Americans united again against a common foe . . . but who was the foe again? Osama Bin Laden? Who the hell is he? Oh, he’s a Saudi Arabian who managed to escape the wrath of his king and took up residence in that forlorn place called Afghanistan—best known by that book, The Places In Between.

So, George and his buddies took up arms against, not Saudi Arabia, but Afghanistan, and our people cheered.  But many nations had taken this course to their regret. The Brits had been there during their Great British Empire days in India, and tried and failed during the mid-19th century.  Then the Soviets tried to move in and finally retreated, after we armed the opposition. George’s invasion was perhaps inevitable, if ultimately pointless.

George, unsatisfied with his successes (and failures?) in Afghanistan decided to rally the troops (and the public) behind yet another war. At that stage, war was the way to rally the public.  So Georgie launched his own war against Sadaam Hussein in Iraq, yeah the same Sadaam that George’s cabinet guys had been friends with in earlier and simpler times.  Now, the official dissembling began in earnest, with Bush and company lying through their teeth to justify a war in Iraq that eventually created chaos throughout the whole of the Middle East.  That war continues to this day, as does the disaster in Afghanistan.

Now, Americans do seem to love a good war, and will cheer on our troops whenever presented with a good opportunity.  But the Middle East is not now, nor has it ever been such an opportunity.  It is instead a place of barely controlled chaos at the best of times.

So, the silos re-emerged, with folks on different sides of the debates about the Middle East. With Fox News in charge of one side, the silos hardened even more.

Enter Facebook.

Well, to be fair, enter Facebook, then the myriad of other social networks that came into existence to make money by catering to audiences young and old as places to “chat” publically.

You could decide who would be your “friends” on these social information networks.  Curiously, our definition of “friends” began to shift, as we discovered what our friends actually believed, or were willing to support.  So, we began filtering our friends.  Happily, one can filter out one’s “friends” without offending any of the people we know. So, we built our own silos and hardened the walls. In this grand adventure, we were able to gain support via the “news” outlets to which we tuned.  Increasingly folks tuned to Fox, or to one of the remaining network news outlets for their news, with Fox on one side, and all the others on the other.

Now we could define our friends by which news pundits we admired and tuned in.  And so, little by little our nation began to separate into little bias groups. And so we now define ourselves. It is not a stretch to say that many folks actually hate the others, i.e., those folks who see the world differently than we do.

And as we all now have to come to grips with this apparent narcissistic moron whom the Nation “elected” to its highest office, our silos remain intact, filtering our thoughts daily, and hardening our views of the world and, mainly each other.

Since our politicians seem intent on gaining/maintaining power without regard to the effects of their decisions and actions on the body politic, our silos thicken.  So, who will see the light? Who will examine what God hath not wrought and say, “this shall not stand”. Who will say, “ we can, we must come together once again, or we are finished as a nation”.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Humor and Trump

I just read an article in The Atlantic (How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump) about how our favorite comedians—Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert-- are possibly fueling the support for the Trump. The author, Caitlan Flanagan, points out, in particular, some of the episodes wherein the comedian includes interviews with Trump supporters and proceeds to make them look like fools, even one where Samantha Bee interviewed a young boy who did not realize that she would be making him look foolish—cruel it seems. Although making a very young boy look foolish is perhaps cruel, I have wondered often how and why the folks who allow themselves to look foolish on these comedy shows, do in fact signal a yes to being interviewed. Could it be that they do not know or understand who Samantha Bee, et al, are and what is their intent for such an interview? Are they perhaps so arrogant themselves that they believe they can outwit Samantha and make her look doltish?

The author has no particular recommendations, except maybe, stop doing what you are doing, because you may be inadvertently strengthening his hand.  Or perhaps, stop what you are doing because you have in fact simply become cruel. There may indeed be no further point to such interviews, since we all, on the right and on the left “know” each other so well that further evidence is no longer necessary.  I do wonder whether the author’s next article will be one in which she examines Fox News, or Alex Jones to discover whether they too are being cruel and fueling the “Resistance” building against the Trump monarchy.  But maybe not.  For apparently it is only the lefty intellectuals who are doing the devil’s work here in this poor benighted land of ours.

And I began thinking, maybe we need to begin thinking about our end as a great republic.  Because, we may now be witnessing the beginning of the end for America.  And our highly vaunted communications systems, including especially television, is bringing us to that end stage a little sooner than we might have wished. Perhaps the end will come when Trump supporters, all of whom are heavily armed, begin showing up at his rallies and shooting people, and then those anti-Trump folks—The Resistance—begin arming themselves and shooting back, leading to the last great Civil War in America, the one that brings down the Republic entirely.  Meanwhile, the Nation’s police forces, and the Nation’s armed forces sit on the sideline and watch it all happen, while President Trump sits in his palace at MaraLago, writing and sending inane Tweets about the glories of Americans fighting to support his honor.

Or perhaps we no longer have room in our society for humor of the political stripe. Maybe we need to return to Archie Bunker style humor, where we were allowed to make rednecks look foolish, or Jack Benny, where we made everyone seem foolish.  Maybe the lower middle classes no longer permit humor into their lives, which have been destroyed by the bankers and industrialists of the world, but who believe their lives have been destroyed by the globalist intellectuals of the land.

Trump, Marine LaPen, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage all play from similar playbooks, although most are not as psychiatrically unhinged as our President.  But that matters not at all apparently, since his troops do not care whether he is an unhinged malenfant.  But their playbook is globalism generally is terrible for you my supporters. The current systems whereby we allow relatively free trade among global economies, and allow unrestricted migration of the world’s desperates is the problem, and I will fix that problem.  That their playbook also includes telling repeated large lies to their adoring public is a matter of record, but again, seems not to matter to the supporters.  Farage repeatedly insisted that the treasured NHS would recover hundreds of millions of pounds back after a successful Brexit, and then said, “Oh, no we really didn’t mean that” seems not to have affected those pro-Brexit voters.  Similarly, Trump’s continual lies and deceptions (see Trump University, see the Trump fake health plan) when revealed, again have no effect on his supporters’ belief in his Presidency.

That he continues doing and saying monumentally stupid things, because he is entirely ignorant of the world around him, is, I assume, irrelevant.  So, what should we the Lefties of the world, do in response? Are we supposed to simply sit back and await World War IV, where we all disappear in a cloud of radioactive dust? And should we, prior to that eventuality, adopt a politically sensitive (politically correct is no longer acceptable apparently) attitude towards his wonderful, America Great supporters? Are we allowed, incidentally, to complain when his supporters eventually kill someone trying to protest one of his stupidities? Or must we now say, “oh, well that person should have known better than to protest at  or about a Trump affair”. And then we will be at peace within our formerly great nation.

Oh, and do get rid of those snarky comedians. Let us all get our humor directly from The Donald, and his support troops.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Waiting for the Drumpf to Act Beyond . . .

Maybe it’s just me. I am of a seriously advanced age, don’t you know. That age, beyond which few of my ancestors ventured.  So, maybe too many things now scare me, seeing as how I seem to be facing my own mortality on a daily basis.

But really, would you trust Donald Trump with the nuclear codes, or even with the decision authority to drop a bomb on Afghanistan. Yeah, that big motherf#*#er he dropped the other day. Well, technically he didn’t drop it. Some air force general told some pilot to fly over a specific spot and let loose with that hell.  But the Drumpf? Well, he doubtless told the general to do it.

I guess Trump was getting tired of being criticized all the time about his Russian mafia connections, so he decided to drop some really big bomb on a target someplace—so many targets, so little time.

But see, that’s where I have serious problems with this idea that we gave this idiot the authority to do something like that.  We know he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder as well as sociopathic personality disorder. I’m also pretty sure he suffers from advanced, untreated ADHD, which I connect to the seeming fact that he does not appear able to read, or write (beyond 140 characters).

So, those three things seem to me to be disabling conditions. He is like a really whiny 6-year old with the conditions described above. He doubtless is always on the verge of doing or saying something stupid and even dangerous. Now, were he still 6, you wouldn’t give him a gun and tell him to go play on Second Avenue would you? Yet, we give him nuclear weapons and entire armies of guys and gals who know how to point and shoot real weapons.

See, mainly, I wouldn’t give him the authority to carry out the garbage, because of the likelihood that he would somehow screw it up, and dump the garbage all over the floor, or maybe the street.

I keep thinking. Suppose Theresa May, or maybe Boris Johnson says something snarky about him, like, “oh, yeah, but Trump is not a real conservative. What the hell were the Americans thinking when they put him in charge?” Now, he reads that, or worse, listens to it in a commentary on the Faux News Network. And then he begins whining. “Oh, yeah, well I am too. So, how would you like one of our 12,000 pound bombs dropped right on top of your fancy-schmanzy Parliament building? Hey, General . . .  go drop one on them.” Who would stand up to him and say, “well no, Mister President, that would be illegal. We cannot drop a bomb on our British allies without cause.” Who is there around him who might dare to tell him No?

So, aren’t we just biding our time until he manages to do something so catastrophically awful that one of his kids tells him to knock it off and come back to The Empire?  Ivanka . . . are you prepared for this?

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Last evening, we watched a film called Jackie. As you might guess, it tells the story of Jackie Kennedy, after the assassination of JFK. The film is wonderful and awful at the same time. We were both painfully aware in November 1963 of what transpired that fateful day in Dallas.

Carol was sitting in our apartment on Nob Hill in San Francisco that morning. We lived right behind Grace Cathedral. Suddenly, the bells at the cathedral began chanting their sad tale, and carol had no idea why they were pronouncing their message to the world of San Francisco. We had no television, only radio. We had given up TV in 1959, hoping our kids would grow up without the banality of TV entertainment. So, Carol tuned into our local FM radio station to learn about the intoning bells. She sat in shock, while listening to the sad tale.

I had just flown into Boston that morning from San Francisco. I had rented a car at the airport and I was driving to our home office HQ in Cambridge. As I neared the office, the news came on the air. JFK had been shot while in a motorcade in Dallas. JFK was dead. JFK was dead. JFK was dead

I sat in the car, in the driveway of our office, in shock. I could not move.  I didn’t know what to do, or say to anyone.  Finally, I left the car and entered our office. Inside, it was quiet, except that a radio had been on. Everyone in the office sat there silent.  We had all been supporters of the Kennedy’s.  We had lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis early in his term.  I was still working at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, as an engineer working on the Polaris, submarine launched missile system. We would retreat after work, and drink martini’s, while discussing where we would go, should the missiles begin flying to and from Russia and/or Cuba. Should we drive to the ocean, away from the city, or instead, maybe it might be safer to drive to the Sierra’s . . . yeah, the mountains. They would be safer.

So, we were tuned into the world, and to the Kennedy’s.  Jackie was like princess.  They brought us . . . Camelot.

And now he was gone, gone because yet another idiot had a gun and decided he needed to kill JFK. Why? Just cuz he could.

When I flew home, I experienced fear of flying for the first time. Why? Because I was a mere mortal. Death was at hand and who knew when/how Death might appear.

Yes, the film brought all that story back into our heads. They recreated a tale of horror from our own past.

Yes, the film was worth watching. Yes we were again saddened, revisiting another episode in our very full lives together.

We have witnessed  a lot of man’s inhumanity to man.

World War II . . . Korean War . . . the JFK assassination, Vietnam, and now the Middle Eastern never ending horror story. Apparently, the main thing mankind has learned from its many gods is, when in doubt throw some bullets at it.

And now we have The Donald to teach us anew.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Stupid as a Generator

With the latest action by the President Stupidhead Administration, visitors to the United States now may be required to turn over their phones to immigration officials and to provide their passwords. One assumes this requirement includes items like Tablet and laptop computers.  So, now visitors (and not only Muslims it is noted) are required to stand by while an ICE official roams through their previously private information in search of . . . hmmm . . . in search of what again? Well, never mind, Trump or President Stupidhead as he known to those closest to him, was never big on logic. He just does stuff cuz . . .

So, I’m thinking, were I a visitor from, say, London, flying into Washington or New York, assuming I could not just change my mind and stay home, or fly to Canada instead, I might be tempted to leave my smartie phone at home, along with my other tekkie gadgetry. I might buy a cheapo dumb phone and bring that with me . . . you know, the ones with no passwords and nothing to find . . . just a phone don’t you know.

And now I’m thinking. Wow, here’s a case wherein a truly stupid decision by that Fountain of Stupid Ideas might trigger a whole new tekkie trend . . . Uber Rent-a-Phone. Yeah, that’s it. Here’s the deal. You arrive at your departure airport and check in. Then you go to the Uber Rent-a-Phone desk where they have waiting for you a brand new Samsung S8 Plus Smartie Phone, or an Apple I-Phone 8 Plus. And it already has on it all the gadgetry you requested in your reservations.  Plus, if need be, you can also pick up your Samsung Tablet which you can use to carry out your business in New York, or wherever. Now there is no data on the devices, so when ICE requests your password, you can say, well, there is no password . . . you just turn it on and there it is.  And they can look to their heart’s content, but they will find nothing, because there is nothing to find.

And then you leave the airport and head into town. Once there, you first go to the nearest Uber Rent-a-Phone store, where they will restore all your data from its Cloud storage and your phone and Tablet are ready to use.

On the way out of town, as you head home, you will stop by that Uber Rent-a-Phone store again and they make all your data vanish back into the Cloud.  They will, of course, provide you with a dumb phone for your trip home, just in case someone wants to call you.

Once home, you will retrieve your Smartie phone and it’s business as usual.

Think of this as a business model.  Uber Rent-a-Phone will make a lot of money, which you get to write off as a business expense, so everyone is happy.

And I keep imagining that more terminally stupid decisions will continue to be made by President Stupidhead and his equally stupid cabinet BFFs. As each decision is made, a new business model will be born. Think of Stupidity as a generator of new technologic solutions.  So, I realize that this is a weird and twisted way of looking at our president, but I’m trying here to be positive. As he makes more decisions to kill jobs and destroy education, the climate, health care, etc., perhaps new solutions will be generated by our more creative business entrepreneurs to cope and to make money.

So think of the White House as the new Fountain of Stupidity, with each stupid idea being a candidate for a whole new business. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Addictions & Other Weird Behaviors

As I go about my business working out at my local Y, I cannot help but notice what I have begun to regard as yet another form of addiction. No, not coke, or acid—smartie phones.  But, I think, it is not the phones per se, but rather what smartie phones provide in the way of access to a world of chatter—Facebook, LinkdIn, SnapChat, Twitter, et al.  I use Facebook, so I am aware that Millennials and likely 30-somethings, largely avoid Facebook. So, that social medium is turning slowly into a place where the elder sets go to exchange viewpoints.  But it matters not which medium causes the addiction. They all seem vaguely addictive.

But, back to the Y. What I notice with growing frequency are both dudes and dudettes, sitting on some workout bench or piece of equipment, staring at their phone. It seems clear they aren’t just listening to music, but rather they are staring at the screen, I assume because they are viewing some Facebook-like screen informing them that their BFF is now working out at the Y, or drinking beer at some pub, or driving to wherever. And, so I maneuver around them. The practice is so common, that I have begun counting. It is not uncommon that I will complete 4-6 workout machines before the dude will return to his workout and stop staring.

And it makes me wonder, why on earth did you get up this early to come to the Y, so that you could stare at your phone for 30 of your allotted 60 minute workout?  Why not just stay in bed and stare at your phone from a reclining position? Because I am able to simply move around the dudes, on to other machines, my own workout remains largely uninterrupted, although on occasion I have simply given up on a machine for that workout.  So, it is more a sense of amazement than annoyance that I am driven to wonder about this strange behavior.

And it makes me wonder even more about these same folks’ behavior, once they leave the Y and climb into their cars. Do they remain fixated on their phones?  We know that some do, since they can be observed operating/staring at their phones while driving.  And here I begin to hope for driverless cars in our near future.  Could they possibly be any worse than addicted drivers who are so distracted that they are unaware of things like red stop lights, or pedestrians in crosswalks? Seems unlikely.

And then it makes me wonder about the bizarre behavior of President Stupidhead, and his Twitterati world. Is that behavior similarly an addiction? I have assumed that his twitter behavior was simply a reflection of the fact that he cannot read or write anything beyond 140 characters. So, this is his means of communicating with his adoring Minions, since neither is able to communicate in English.  Just a thought.

So, how long do you think we all have on this here Planet Earth? If folks are slowly but surely becoming addicted to staring at little machines instead of working, and if our Leader communicates only to his Minions in DumbTalk, how long will it take for something calamitous to occur that ends everything?

Maybe that’s why I can no longer sleep beyond 4-5 hours a day. Hmmm . . .