Monday, August 8, 2022

To The Future

 I just read an article in the Times about a review of peoples’ views regarding the present and the future. A small survey was carried out, asking, if people had the choice, which period would they like to be living in? Apparently, Paris 1920 was the big winner. Perhaps not too surprising given its reputation. However, curiously, almost nobody taking the survey voted to live sometime in the future.  And that is not a reassuring signal. However, attractive and even romantic was Paris 1920, the absence of any sentiment of living somewhere in the future, perhaps reflects our collective state of mind about that future.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Trump Supporters

In Sunday’s New York Times, within their Weekly Opinion Section (used to be Weekly Review) is a set of articles by their editorial (opinion) writers, concerning things they got wrong, despite the care with which they prepare their articles.  One of the writers, Bret Stephens, wrote one of particular interest—getting it wrong about Trump supporters. It is useful to note that he did not say he was wrong about Trump, especially now, after the January 6th hearings. We now know conclusively that Trump planned and inexpertly tried to overthrow our legal system of governance in an attempt to remain in power.  But Stephens thinks he was wrong in how he harassed Trump supporters. He opens his piece thusly:

Bret Stephens -- NY Times Opinion Columnist

The worst line I ever wrote as a pundit — yes, I know, it’s a crowded field — was the first line I ever wrote about the man who would become the 45th president: “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.”

This opening salvo, from August 2015, was the first in what would become dozens of columns denouncing Trump as a unique threat to American life, democratic ideals and the world itself. I regret almost nothing of what I said about the man and his close minions. But the broad swipe at his voters caricatured them and blinkered me.

It also probably did more to help than hinder Trump’s candidacy. Telling voters they are moral ignoramuses is a bad way of getting them to change their minds.”

 

In other words, he does not think the Trump supporters were/are good folks who were just misled, and thus should be spared any criticism. No, rather, he thinks that calling them nasty names is counterproductive. And he is probably right. Calling someone a racist pig is unlikely to get them to join your side.

 

And I began wondering myself, what can one say about the people who continue to support Trump?  Frankly, I am baffled.  So, then I wondered, well, why does anyone, knowing what we all now know, continue to support Trump?

 First, I guess we should understand that all of the people who now support Trump do so because they believe that he is on their side.  So, what are these “sides” taken by Trump, to which his supporters are devoutly attached? Because Trump has so few positive attributes, it is difficult to attribute voter support to things positive.  But it may also be the case that voters are all a mix of personalities, and professional characteristics. Perhaps unlike their chosen leader, they reflect both positive and negative qualities. But I see them drawn to Trump because he appeals to some of their strongly held negative views.  So, what are some of these views?

 

1.       Racism: Trump seems strongly racist. Now this characteristic is an interesting one. First, he denies being racist, despite his track record. Probably 60% of this country thinks that Trump made racism worse in this country. Now, how many people in America are racist? I don’t know.  I could find no statistics revealing how many Americans are racist, mainly I assume because, who would reveal in writing that they are racist?  We know that we have systemic racism in America. People of color experience more instances of violence against them by law enforcement. People of color experience relatively greater difficulty in obtaining jobs in the upper sectors of our economy.  So, if you are White, and are feeling economic pressures, you may be drawn to a man who seems to understand your plight and who promises to protect White, Christian America. Also, a curious issue exists among Trump supporters. Our country is a country of immigrants, yet many Trump supporters want our borders closed. They seem to hate especially immigrants of color arriving from South of our Border, while ignoring the ones arriving from Europe.  So, Trump supporters find his racism appealing, and they might well vote for him on that basis alone.

2.       Misogyny: This one is baffling. On the one hand, Trump seems to treat all women as his actual or potential mistresses. On the other hand, he numbers many women within his group of active supporters.  Why would women be drawn to a seemingly active misogynist?  Maybe it is the case that those women in particular view all men as misogynists, and select men based on other characteristics, like racism.  He seems to have experienced three unsuccessful marriages (his last to Melania continues but it seems less than successful), as well numerous sexual affairs, some more public than others. So, perhaps some of his male supporters like his maltreatment of women, while his women supporters prefer him for other odd reasons.

3.       Mental Incapacity: whether he is as idiotic as he often sounds, or acts remains a question I guess, but his fundamental incompetence is likely associated with a lack of intelligence. He has experienced six bankruptcies in business, and his performance as President can only be described as near-catastrophic.  Many believe that he simply is not very bright, and his operational incapacities (e.g., six bankruptcies) follow. It is possible that people who have had less than stellar educational experiences, feel angered at the folks who succeeded intellectually and used it to their advantage in business.  They might be drawn to Trump who seems more like them.

4.       Anger at the World: Trump seems angry at much of the world. He explodes easily and frequently, and often simply lies to explain his anger—he is angry because so and so (Hillary, Barack, Joe) did such and such, even though they did no such thing. His supporters don’t care if he lies, because they likely spend much of their lives angry at somebody or something beyond their control.  Which brings me to a last characteristic.

5.       Lying: Lying is one of the more baffling characteristics, drawing support.  According to The Washington Post:

When The Washington Post Fact Checker team first started cataloguing President Donald Trump’s false or misleading claims, we recorded 492 suspect claims in the first 100 days of his presidency. On Nov. 2 alone, the day before the 2020 vote, Trump made 503 false or misleading claims as he barnstormed across the country in a desperate effort to win reelection.

This astonishing jump in falsehoods is the story of Trump’s tumultuous reign. By the end of his term, Trump had accumulated 30,573 untruths during his presidency, averaging about 21 erroneous claims a day.”

Now why would folks want to support a human who lies that much?  My only conclusion here is that they like the fact that he lies his way out of trouble (remember, he is not yet in prison, despite the facts against him, many of which seem to require imprisonment). So, I think his supporters like his chutzpah. He routinely, daily really, sticks his finger into the air, or into someone’s eye, and they love that, because it is how many of them feel daily. He is just like them, rather than those other politicos.

 

So, we may have a permanent support troupe who will continue to show at his rallies, and would certainly vote for him, or for any candidate he endorses.  And depending on how many folks fall into that pool, we may have a permanent “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the American System of Government. Note please that the only solution to this potential cataclysmic event is for folks who are intelligent enough to understand the risks posed by Trump, to get out and vote for any and all forces opposing him and his minions. If you wish to see America continue as a democratic nation, You Must Get Out and Support ethical candidates.  You Must.

 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Switch Is On

Is it just me, or does it feel as though someone just threw a switch and suddenly the world changed? I know we have been talking about global climate change for a while now, well arguing about whether it exists, and if it does, what it means for humankind.  But suddenly, on comes 2022, and the entire world seems on fire.  First the West Coast of America began getting our attention by essentially literally burning down. One gigantic fire after another.  And these fires weren’t just forest fires. I mean, we have always had forest fires in our West. No, these fires are always way beyond human control. We send out crews and we bombard the fires with things intended to douse them, but they just keep on burning.

But then, all of a sudden, our own little region of North Carolina seems converted into a frying pan. Every day the thermometer hits 90 and then climbs a bit more, sometimes breaking through that magic mark of 100.  Then some clouds roar overhead and deliver some rain. Ahhh, yes, the blessed rain, right?  Well, not quite. Yes, it is true that the rain soaks our landscape, making our plant life happy. But it doesn’t just rain, like it used to. No, now when the heavens deliver, they practically drown us. The other day we had two little rainstorms over a few hours, and they dropped 5 ½ inches of rain. That is a lot of rain.

And now I am reading about Europe. All over Europe the heat is on, full blast. It’s over 100 degrees all over, climbing in some regions to 115 or more. Great Britain is experiencing over 100 degrees (or 40 degrees Celsius, which they seem to prefer).  Places that almost never see 40 degrees C. are seeing it now almost every day.  Railroad transit has been interrupted because tracks are failing. Roadways are failing, and so they are encouraging folks to just stay home (replacing the pandemic as a closing device).

In places that used to have ice, the ice is departing. Now, when ice melts, sea levels will begin rising.  Florida beware, you will soon be under water, and you won’t even be able to blame that Idiot-Malenfant Ron DeSantis.

And I keep wondering what happens when that thing called “Winter” begins to appear. Will winter be reduced to 75-80 degrees, or should we expect some sudden reversal, and the heat gets shut off? Who knows? And are we doing anything about all this? Well, no, because WE (the collective WE) haven’t really decided that global climate change is here. No, we are still pissing on each other about what is going on. Ask Joe Manchin, whose state produces, apparently, ONLY COAL. And Joe will tell you that there is no global warming, or even if there is, his state has nothing to do with any of that. No, Joe doesn’t believe in collective good, only his own good.

And now, just when we became totally fed up with COVID and masks and all that crap, there appears a new variant—yeah, the variant of the month. And this one seems to spread more easily and even evades the vaccination.  So, we are back to heavy duty mask wearing, except that we’re not. Just when we should all be routinely donning our masks again, most of us are ignoring all that in the pretense that nothing is going on.  And, it turns out, the various public health authorities are cooperating with that laissez faire attitude. Yeah, I guess they are now fed up with the public yelling at them all the time.  So, what the hell, let’s all pretend that we’re not going to get sick, none of us, right??

And then, as though the above isn’t bad enough, the American political system now seems totally broken.  Our system has always been annoying, mainly because the American people are often annoying.  But something happened that has changed us and/or the system.  Maybe it was the Barack Obama elections. You know, electing a decent, intelligent, thoughtful and ethical man of color was apparently too much for many Americans.  And so, they came out of their closets and decided to become openly hostile, you know, thoroughly republican. And so, their first act was to enable the election of perhaps the most despicable human being in the country to the US Presidency. Yeah, that Donald Trump thing. And he gave them all permission to be awful, as was their wont.  And so America turned towards racism big time, and misogyny, and we began turning away from the rest of the world, making believe we were the only creatures on the planet.

Now, to be fair, the awful people—Donald’s Tribe—failed to prevail in that next election, and so the country elected Joe Biden, an old guy who is also decent.  But The Tribe refused to concede. Yeah, The Donald told them it was ok to riot, so long as it was in the best interest of keeping him in power. So, first he encouraged the Insurrection, in which armed white dudes invaded the Capitol and started killing people, and actively looking for more people to kill—like Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi.  And, though they failed at that, they went back home and decided to focus on creating chaos. Partly, they began by electing idiot-malenfants, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Bohbert, Josh Hawley (one of the active cheerleaders at the Insurrection) and others like them. And those folks gave Mitch McConnell an open ticket to create chaos.  And Mitch is so experienced and so competent at creating chaos that he became America’s Dream Chaotic-Maker.  Mitch simply refuses to help along anything sensible in the way of legislation that might help America. Nope, if it’s good and created under a democratic President, it ain’t gonna happen.

And so, the failure of America has begun. I keep thinking of that famous book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  And America is on track as we speak. We are a Nation headed into a state of total failure. And, worse yet, we still have all those nuclear weapons and that really big heavily armed military. Can you imagine what that Military might do in the hands of people like Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, Greene/Bohbert & Co,? The mind boggles.

And here I sit, at the really ripe old age of 87, waiting for someone to flip the sanity switch back on and turn off this damnable switch to Infinite Chaos. We really have had enough, and our grandkids and Great Grandkids have more than had enough.  They want sanity to return.  They want the insane folks to go back into their closets where they used to sit and drink booze and suck their thumbs. That’s where they belong.  It’s time folks. Go home, and let the adults recover our Nation.

Monday, July 4, 2022

SCOTUS v. America

 Well, that was certainly a week of SCOTUSIANA. Let’s see, they crushed abortion rights, removed the ability of EPA to regulate the environment, and trashed New York gun regulations.  So, what’s next? I assume someone will go after the FDA’s ability to regulate food and drugs. Can’t have the government messing with our food supply. And why would we ever want the government to oversee our drugs? I’m sure the money managers at all the large drug and food chains are our best guide to safety, right??

And guns . . . I mean why would anyone want to mess with the public’s ability to buy, sell, and use guns? We have such a good record, right? So, of course SCOTUS would intervene. They of course know so much about the quality of food and drugs. And who else but SCOTUS could possibly understand the social and physiological complexities of pregnancy? I’m sure that Brett and Amy will be our best guides.

And, what happens should one or both of the other two branches decides that the crew at SCOTUS has overstepped?  Is there actually a fix for having someone like Brett Kavanaugh overseeing our American system of Democracy for the rest of his natural life?  Our founding fathers decided that SCOTUS should be different from the other two branches.  Mainly, it would seem that SCOTUS is intended to serve as a check on the other two branches.  The Executive and the Legislative branches are both fairly explicitly political.  Over time, those two branches are elected by the people, based at least partly on what each branch promises to do for the people who elect them.  And those promises tend to follow political party dogma. Republicans today seem to favor relatively minimalist government prescriptive and oversight policies. They seem to want private capitalists to run our country via money channels. Democrats are perhaps a bit more mixed in what they favor, but generally want more public investment in things like health care and public assets (like roads, parks, public waterways), plus relatively greater oversight of private sector business practices. They also favor paying for government services through public taxation, whereas republicans seem to disfavor taxes, at least of their ruling classes.  Ronny Reagan, for example, seemed to believe in the theory of the Laffer Curve:

The Laffer Curve is a theory formalized by supply-side economist Arthur Laffer to show the relationship between tax rates and the amount of tax revenue collected by governments. The curve is used to illustrate the argument that sometimes cutting tax rates can result in increased total tax revenue.

Reagan was mocked greatly, since he managed to produce some impressive national deficits. The federal deficit went from about $78.9 billion at the beginning of Reagan’s presidency to $152.6 billion at the end of it. At points between 1983 and 1986, the deficit was actually more than $175 billion. Now, to be fair, the two Bush’s managed to produce even larger deficits than Reagan.

Now, the Court has relatively little to do with any of that, except to the extent that individual justices might favor one party’s policies over the other.  But at least in theory, SCOTUS is intended to rise above the mud of electoral politics and decide cases based on law, the Constitution, and our system of democracy.

But if we assume that individual justices are appointed by the political creatures who lead our government, we can see that those justices will be viewed by the folks appointing them as either friendly or not to the policies of the appointing crowd.  Largely we have been relatively fortunate in that regard.  But like many things, SCOTUS appointees have been increasingly politically biased towards one party or the other, but mainly republican. Trump, managed to get three appointees approved, whereas McConnell refused to even review Obama’s choice, Merrick Garland. So, because Trump is Trump, we now have three justices who seem highly questionable. And with Clarence Thomas reliably ultra-right wing, the Court has suddenly swung to hard core right wing republican. With the latest three decisions –killing Roe v. Wade, opposing New York gun regulation, and opposing the workings of EPA, we now seem to have a Court that is borderline out of control.  It is now to the point where opposing folks are at least examining alternative strategies.

And what are some of these strategies?  Well, one is to kill the legislative tactic of filibuster.   With filibustering, passing a law requires 60 Senate votes, which neither party has.  So, it would seem natural to at least turn to this practice in an attempt to return to a system in which the majority (i.e., 50+%) can in fact pass laws.

But the other approaches being examined now are looking to modify the Supreme Court itself.  Several approaches include:

1.       Add more seats to the Court. Under one proposal known as the “balanced court solution,” the court would be expanded from 9 justices to 15. 10 justices would be selected through the existing process, but would be split evenly between Democratic and Republican appointees. Those 10 justices would then select 5 judges from lower courts for the Supreme Court to serve with them for a year. This solution would make the confirmation process less partisan and insulate the Court from politics. 

2.       Alternatively, the Supreme Court could be comprised of a rotating panel of appeals court judges, who would cycle through the Supreme Court on a scheduled basis. Federal judges already serve on rotating panels on lower courts. Doing the same for the Supreme Court would eliminate the current high-stakes nomination process, and make the Supreme Court less partisan. 

And some are looking to methods whereby justices who have some vested interest in an outcome could be forced to recuse themselves. For example, Clarence Thomas’ wife was an active participant in Trump’s attempt to overthrow our government on January 6th. Thomas should not be anywhere near any proceeding that involves the insurrection.

Now revising the Supreme Court at all is one of the most difficult challenges facing any government legislators. So, it will be at the least fascinating to see whether any government we elect is capable.

However, it begins to look like we face a crisis in the actual continuation of our system of government. For reasons I cannot fathom, our republican party seems to have moved far in the direction of neo-fascism. With Democrats blocked at one level by the filibuster, and at the other by a “bent”, if not fully corrupted SCOTUS, it will be interesting I am sure to historians to see how all this turns out. WE may be witnessing the beginning of:

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire.

I am sure some historian has already begun his first chapter. Stay in tune and watch your neighborhood book stores.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Separation of Church and State

 So this is why you want separation of church and state, or perhaps Freedom FROM Religion.  I have never been drawn to religion, although the older I have grown, the greater has become my disdain for religion.  I think, as one grows old, you are pushed in one direction or the other. I can actually understand why some folks are drawn into the web of religion. Increasingly, my mind wanders to that place wherein a human breathes his last breath, and then all brain activity ceases. With religion, one can make believe that the last breath is simply a transition into the wonders of Heaven.  But logic tells me that there is no transition. That when the brain ceases, there is no more. Why would humans levitate into heaven, but peacocks, lions and elephants simply cease to be? See, it makes no sense to me, and so I reject that thought.  But also, I conclude that whether afterlife is real or fake, we discover whatever we believe.

Long ago, I came to understand that religion has nothing to do with an afterlife. Religion is all about controlling other people within this life.  Control is the sole purpose of organized religion.  Now one might conclude that humans need to be controlled, therefore it is ok for religion to be the control mechanism.  Why not religion?  Well, again, I am old, but I concluded long, long ago that religion might be the least desirable vessel of control humans have ever invented.

At least with government rules and regulations, humans invent them and humans can cancel them.  With religion, humans make believe a superhuman GOD invented the rules, and, therefore, no human is to be allowed to intervene, or change the rules in any way.  Now think on that. Man invents the concept of GOD and then insists that other humans are not allowed to mess with the GOD figure. Because GOD just IS. And then some of those same humans make believe that they are able to communicate directly with the GOD figure. So anything those humans say, or write is also unassailable. What a neat system, huh?

And so the laws of man proceed to be developed, but those laws are often not allowed to disagree with the Word of GOD. Now, the “Word of GOD” apparently depends on who is doing the interpreting. A Buddhist monk, a Hindu or Muslim priest, a Christian priest might each reach different conclusions about various subjects, and so, GOD apparently speaks differently depending on the audience.

And so, we begin to wonder about the GOD thing. Maybe, just maybe, there are only human thoughts and GOD simply isn’t there.  And were that true, then, since I am human, is not my view just as valid as the next person’s?  Well, yes it is.

And so we come to subjects like “abortion”. And what is abortion you ask? Well abortion is a medical procedure in which an early fetus is discharged from a female body before that fetus is a viable human being.  Now sometimes, that procedure occurs naturally, without any outside medical intervention. And sometimes some external intervention is necessary. But in any case, the fetus cannot survive and become a living human and is simply discharged from a woman’s body.

Pregnancy is truly one of the world’s most complex procedures, whether that pregnancy is human, or one of the thousands of other creatures on this planet. It is complex because any living creature, whether it be a human, or a tiger, or a butterfly, is amazingly complex.  But complexity should never be confused with Godliness. And this is where religion intervenes. The leaders who control their religions, and, therefore, their religious followers, endow humans with special, Godly characteristics. Humans are special because we are created in God’s image. We are linked to God.

And so, the process of pregnancy becomes interwoven with Godly motives and characteristics. Humans are not allowed to intervene so as to terminate this Godly process we call pregnancy, regardless of how that pregnancy came into being.  Whether a woman becomes pregnant through a loving relationship, or a violent rape, or perhaps an accident, those who control believe they can brush aside the concerns of the woman and dictate to the woman that she should no longer have any control over what occurs within her body.  And that is truly bizarre, but so much of religion is bizarre.

Now one thing we do know, because science has taught us much about the human body, is that this pregnancy period is fraught with complexity and it often fails to proceed adequately. And sometimes, that process ceases to be viable and self-terminates, or has to be terminated for sound medical reasons.  These situations set up the possibility for a disagreement between knowledgeable medical professionals and ignorant religious controllers. And this is precisely why the “Separation of Church and State” was devised by our forefathers. We do not and should not allow ignorant (delusional?) humans, who believe they speak to God, from intervening in procedures that demand special knowledge, i.e., medicine.  The Pope might know a lot of stuff, but he does not know much about human physiology.

But we have ignored all those little things, like actual knowledge. Instead, we have chosen to allow largely ignorant humans, like Brett Kavanaugh, or Clarence Thomas, to devise rules, or even interpret rules that intervene in procedures over which they have no knowledge.  I don’t know, would we ask Clarence Thomas, or Amy Coney Barrett to intervene in the launch of a space vehicle, to define when it would be safe to launch?  Likely not, mainly because God never told Judge Amy when, or even whether to intervene there. And yet, she has no more knowledge there than she possesses over a pregnancy.

So, there we are. Ignorant people have been given charge to decide matters of life and death, when they actually are ignorant of the details. And that is now America 2022, perhaps more like America might have been in 1622.

Somehow, we need to remove such folks from their benighted tasks. Maybe voting is the answer, although to be fair, it is no longer clear that the American people are trustworthy at this voting thing. Too many Americans have given up on thinking and knowledge, and have reverted to the pretend world of organized religion.  I guess it is easier when you don’t have to think for yourself and can allow the Pope or Judge Amy to do your thinking for you.  That way, you can always retreat to, “Didn’t happen on my watch”.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Getting Old

 It seems the older I become, the more folks around me keep croaking. I keep seeing pictures and notices in newspapers, or on TV of people whose names I know and who just croaked, and virtually all of them are younger than me.  The latest person was Mark Shields. From Wiki:

Mark Stephen Shields (May 25, 1937 – June 18, 2022) was an American political columnist, advisor, and commentator. He worked in leadership positions for many Democratic candidates' electoral campaigns.

Shields provided weekly political analysis and commentary for the PBS NewsHour from 1988 to 2020. His on-screen counterpart from 2001 to 2020 was David Brooks of The New York Times. Previous counterparts were the late William SafirePaul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal, and David Gergen. Shields was also a regular panelist on Inside Washington, a weekly public affairs show that was seen on both PBS and ABC until it ceased production in December 2013. Shields was moderator and panelist on CNN's Capital Gang for 17 years.”

I know, I know, folks are dying all around us, each and every day. So, what’s new?  Well, it’s not new, or even “news”. It’s just that, as noted I’m old and it seems that everyone I know is just slipping away. Happily, it’s mostly old doofuses like me.  But, more often than not, it’s someone I liked, Like Shields, one of the good guys of this world. Each time, I think, so why doesn’t Putin kick off, or even Trump, you know, some Mafia gangsta’s of the world. But no, they seem to hang around. Although, to be fair, there are at least rumors that Putin may have some disease that is life threatening. Hmmm, sounds promising.

On the whole, I feel reasonably good for a really old fool. I’m not really sure how the hell I got here. I keep thinking about playing hide and seek on 71st Street near Second Avenue when I was 7 or 8. Yeah, I played on the streets of New York. It’s what we all did.  Here’s me by an apartment house on 72nd Street when I was about 6. See, I was young at some stage.


And we used to play in Central Park, which was only a few blocks away.

And then, we moved away, cuz my mum was afraid that my bro and I would get killed playing on the streets of Manhattan.  He did get hit by a truck one day and had to be hauled off to the hospital, and I was always doing something that required a cast or stitches.

But those were the days of World War II. And that horror story used to get reported on our radio, to which I listened even though pretty little.

And I grew up and I went off to college, and then got married, and then off to my working career in aerospace, and then, for heaven’s sake India for four years.

And then life went on until I retired and moved here to North Carolina and began aging seriously. See you don’t actually begin aging seriously until after you retire. Then, I guess it’s a mind game. When your brain begins to understand that you no longer play a serious role in the affairs of the world each day (inventing new computers, or selling coffee and donuts at the corner store, it doesn’t matter), then your brain decides it’s time to retire, so you begin “aging”.  And the aging thing continues as a mild change each year, hardly noticeable, unless someone hasn’t seen you in a while.  And at some point, I began to understand that I was now past the age of everyone in my family—grands, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, even cousins, all disappeared into the netherworld.  Now, happily, I also began seeing stories about folks who were 10-25 years older and still truck’n on. That’s nice.

But then the aging thing began merging with the day’s politics. Trump showed up in America, and my world began changing.  And not only politics, but climate change began interfering. And I began thinking, so will climate change destroy our world, or will the Trump forces destroy America first? See, I have inadequate mental reserves to deal with crap like Trump and global climate change.  But what little I have left suspects that Trump is actually the greater threat to America and, therefore, to the ones I love.

I am having increasing difficulty even understanding what I hear and read about how Trump closed out his tenure by trying to destroy America, and how he is actually continuing on his path of destruction. He supports political candidates for various state offices, including that odd one—the Secretary of State. I never thought about that one, until I began to understand that those folks, if corrupt enough, could well change an election by screwing with the actual votes.

And the worse Trump looks from all the Congressional testimony into the January 6th Trump insurrection efforts, the more his supporters seem to love him. Imagine, after all you have heard, that folks actually contributed $250 million into a fake Trump political fund. Really??? You are that stupid??? And the answer is, YES, they are that stupid.

And now I find myself day-dreaming about what I would do were I 30 again.  And my answer? Well, it’s simple, I would migrate somewhere, maybe New Zealand—they seem to have an intelligent ethical political leader. Course, so does Canada, but I’m not sure Canada would welcome Americans. How smart are we, after all? We elected Donald Trump—think 1936 Germany. But I’m not 30 again. And so, I am not migrating anywhere—and the world breathes a sigh of relief.

But I await each day with some trepidation. What will republicans do today in their quest to destroy America? And I used to think Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were awful. By comparison, they were saints, although Reagan may have been the one who let all the crazies out of their closets.  Who knows?? The Shadow knows!

And so, each day keeps arriving, and I keep getting older, and Trump keeps getting worse, and our American system of governance seems more at risk. My answer to all such problems is to let the people VOTE.  But now, with the crazed Trumpies out there, I am no longer sure.  Still, please, all you civilized Americans, do go out and VOTE when it is your turn. We will still hope for the best, and who knows, maybe I will still be here to observe the outcome.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Gods and Aging

 As I continue to age, increasingly I wonder about what life might have been like, had I lived these many 87 years in a land that was free of religion.  Each day, we greet our two cats with love and some fun, but never with tales of Hell if they stray from their path of goodness and love towards us.  And then, each morning, we sit by our pond with a nice cappuccino I prepare in our kitchen, and we sit by our pond, and feed our three Koi’s, Harriet, Nick and Nora. We named our koi’s after 1930s radio program characters, Ozzie and Harriet, and the detectives Nick and Nora Charles.  And, yes we speak to them, or perhaps at them as we feed them some floating Koi’s food, chatting about their dining experiences this fine day.  And again, we never mention that God thingie up above, mainly because it would seem even sillier than our chats with them.

And then, every now and again, we are visited by our newest great granddaughter. And no one ever mentions god to her, at least not yet because she is way too young to understand that awful concept.  Whether she receives guidance in that regard is, happily, not our responsibility, but her parents.

But again, what if we lived in a world free of such concepts?

I have often wondered why that first human ever created the concept of God. I mean, what would have driven an early human to create such a concept? Was it an act of desperation, a human driven to such an idea because the very notion of “Nothingness” was simply unacceptable? Or was it perhaps an act in which some early human was seeking a measure of power or control over other humans, and claiming such knowledge granted instant power.  And as I wandered through the mists of time, I realized that religion has a complex and very old origin. That Christ on a Cross thing defines only one part of religion’s origins, depending on what you might like to think of as “religion. And the more I read, the more confused did I become.  How about “animism”, the concept that all things, including rocks have souls—see  Edward Tylor through his 1871 book Primitive Culture.  And in Wiki, another author, Nurit Bird-Davis speaks of animism. Nurit Bird-David argues that: “Positivistic ideas about the meaning of 'nature', 'life' and 'personhood' misdirected these previous attempts to understand the local concepts. Classical theoreticians (it is argued) attributed their own modernist ideas of self to 'primitive peoples' while asserting that the 'primitive peoples' read their idea of self into others!” She explains that animism is a "relational epistemology" rather than a failure of primitive reasoning. That is, self-identity among animists is based on their relationships with others, rather than any distinctive features of the "self". Instead of focusing on the essentialized, modernist self (the "individual"), persons are viewed as bundles of social relationships ("dividuals"), some of which include "superpersons" (i.e. non-humans).

So you see why the more I read, the more confused I become.  But key here is that thinking of and articulating views about the “otherworld” are very old, reaching back thousands of years into the BC era.  And views about “God” are many and also reach back very far into the past. Again, from Wiki: In monotheistic thought, God is usually viewed as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith. God is usually thought of as being omnipotentomniscientomnipresent and omnibenevolent as well as having an eternal and necessary existence. God is most often held to be incorporeal, with said characteristic being related to conceptions of transcendence or immanence.

Some religions describe God without reference to gender, while others use terminology that is gender-specific and gender-biased. God has been conceived as either personal or impersonal. In theism, God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, while in deism, God is the creator, but not the sustainer, of the universe. In pantheism, God is the universe itself. Atheism is an absence of belief in any God or deity, while agnosticism deems the existence of God unknown or unknowable. God has also been conceived as the source of all moral obligation, and the "greatest conceivable existent". Many notable philosophers have developed arguments for and against the existence of conceived God.

So, needless to say, most thoughts about religion are all over the map of logical and even illogical thinking.  We can construct many counter-arguments about God, but for every counter-argument, there are several counter-counterarguments. My personal belief system, probably leans toward the agnostic, i.e., we do not and likely never will “Know” whether God exists, at least until we die, and then all brain activity ceases, thereby at least getting in the way of understanding the God thing.

I guess I understand why people all over the globe might develop some sense of an ethereal life force. I mean how else to explain why we are all here?  An accident might be the most logical explanation, but surely it is the least satisfying. A superforce creator, i.e., a GOD, who either created all this stuff, including us, or at the least oversaw the creation seems at least as reasonable.  So, it seems reasonable that, as early folk wondered about this question, at least some of them would have conceived of a creator—a superbeing.

But then comes religion, And that seems different in kind. Religion is really just a set of rules by which one is to live, depending on your particular view of that superbeing.  And the key to the central problem of all organized religions, is that some folks argue that they have been chosen to understand all the rules of the game.  See, that superbeing actually speaks to them, so they are able to interpret the rules of life. And, it is important to understand, that LIFE has RULES. You can’t just live your life without paying attention to God’s rules. And those “God’s Rules” thing is what makes me wonder about what life on this planet would be, without them.

So far as we know, our animal kingdom, and our insect kingdom operate largely without written rules of behavior. And typically, the critters, should they operate in violation of some actual rule of existence, will end up as someone’s lunch, or, at the least, laying in a ditch somewhere. Similarly, our various plant kingdoms seem to either thrive or wither depending on the whims of the gods of weather. Nobody instructs your daffodils on their behavior.

So, how come we humans seem to need all these “rules of behavior”.  Well, mainly, it seems to me that humans allowed to act on their own, like hummingbirds, or lions invariably seem drawn to the lion behavior pattern. That is, humans seem not drawn to behave nicely to other humans, and that forms the basis for organized religion.  Lately, we observe American humans drawn to killing machines, and, even though we do have rules of behavior that frown on humans killing other humans, many humans choose to ignore those rules of behavior, whether the rules are religious, or legal.  As humans, many of us seem to get off on killing other humans—see Vlad Putin and his gang of thugs, and all those NRA folks armed with AR-15s.

And organized religion, despite all its rules, seems completely incapable of controlling either force. So, maybe the rules of organized religion are largely intended to control other, more civilized activities, like sex, or payments to priests to keep them from frowning on us.  In any case, the many rules of religion seem not to do us much good, given their incapacity to prevent humans from killing other humans.  Instead, they focus on having fun, including those games people play with each other, called Sex.  Those “Thou Shallt Not Kill” rules seem now merely quaint.

So, maybe now might be a good time to simply switch off the rules of religion, and assume that people will be guided exclusively by the rules of our legal system—you know, if you kill someone, there is a reasonable chance you will yourself be killed, or at least locked up.  And as to those rules regarding sex, i.e., contraception, abortion, sex aimed at fun rather than more kids, maybe they should just go the way of all fairy tales.  And should the seriously religious, e.g., Amy Coney Barrett and her BFFs, object, perhaps they should just go somewhere else to live, say the North or South Poles, where they can chat it up with whales and penguins, who won’t listen to them either.

But life here might just be more pleasant for the rest of us. We could remove most of the guns in our Land, and provide everyone who wants one, some condoms to play with.  Convert all the churches to children’s playgrounds, and homes for the homeless. That would be nice. And maybe all the priests of the land could go out and get real jobs, driving trucks perhaps.  That would be useful in addition to being nice.