Tuesday, May 26, 2020

All About Money


I guess I should test this on other folks, but I have begun to think that almost all direct correspondence is now about money. So, I begin to wonder about the continued utility of these systems.

Let’s see, the US mail system, or maybe mail systems everywhere, operates as a public agency. Use of that service has been declining since about 2001, with about a 43% decline by 2017. Mail services globally have been operating for several thousands of years. By one account, by 3000 BC, Egypt was using homing pigeons for pigeon post, taking advantage of a singular quality of this bird, which when taken far from its nest is able to find its way home due to a particularly developed sense of orientation. Messages were then tied around the legs of the pigeon, which was freed and could reach its original nest.  So, maybe that’s what’s lacking today. Pigeon-mail. I wonder how Mark Zuckerberg would transform that. Or Donald Trump. Think of how he could corrupt Pigeon-mail.  Oh the ways of the wandering con-men.

But, looking at our incoming mail, I would guess that 80% of it is mail aimed at extracting money from us in some way, mostly for charitable purposes.  Whereas, the other 20% . . . oh that’s for extracting money from us also, but via an actual bill for services rendered. Now, most of our bills are paid on-line. Only a couple are paid by a check in exchange for a bill.  Note now, I have accounted for 100% of our direct mail, the stuff delivered by the US Postal Service via an actual mail carrier.  That leaves zero percent for personal mail, you know, things called letters, or even notecards.  Or postcards. Remember postcards? Those things folks used to use to jot down a few notes while traveling to exotic locations and then sending on to you, so as to make you jealous.  I once, not so very long ago, tried to buy some postcards. I had to drive 3-4 miles to a headquarters of our little town’s main office.  And there in their little supply store, they had a few postcards of our downtown. Now, to be fair, I make my own postcards, and my own notecards. I used to sell them when we had real Art Walks, but since we gave up the Art Walks a couple of years ago, I have had no outlet for them.  And mine were at least as good as the official supplier.  But that’s a tale for another day.

The point here is, even if you wanted to send a few postcards, you would have to look long and hard to find any to sell.  Now, for notecards, you need to await Christmas. There, people still go to the trouble to fill out and mail cards. But even here, we note that year after year, our incoming Christmas cards are falling short of the previous year.  And we adapt, of course. We used to send out about 125 Christmas cards to various places around the world each year, fairly steadily. Then, maybe 10 years ago, we began noting that the incoming cards were reducing in number.  Last year, I think we received perhaps 30 cards. Now to be fair, some of that is attributable to the fact that we are aging in place.  And a funny thing happens as you age. People begin dying around you.  So, fewer cards. But even beyond death, we note that people are getting tired of buying and sending cards, and so the number keeps shrinking year by year.

And note that I have not even mentioned letters.  Remember letters?  When I was engaged, in 1954, and away in college, my honey and I would write daily letters to each other.  That was several hundred letters during that year, just two folks in love.  But even later, letters were still common. Within families, siblings and parents and kids would write to one another, just to stay in touch and keep people up to date on what was happening in their lives.  Friends who lived too far away to see on a regular basis would write to one another.  So our mail boxes, if not full each day, at least contained some personal letters on a routine basis.  Your normal mailbox would have one or two personal letters, and several bills for services rendered. If you were of the right age at the right time, you even received an official notice from your friendly neighborhood government, that your services might be required for military service . . . unless you had bonespurs of course.

Now such personal correspondence continued until maybe the mid to late 1980s.  And then . . . personal computers entered our world.  Now computers had been within our world for quite some time. I still remember carrying out a study of engineering manpower within the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in about 1960. We collected data on workload in an attempt to determine what triggered the need for manpower increases or decreases, a classic industrial engineering study. And, having collected the data, we then entered the data onto punch cards, and then took the punch card stock into an office in downtown San Francisco, where we entered the data via the punch cards into an IBM 350 computer. That computer was the size of a large room. And we worked til the wee hours with that computer grinding away on the data we had supplied.

But that was then. Then, during the 1980s I worked for a time in Government, running an evaluation office in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. We also carried out large scale computer analyses using large mainframe computers of the IBM 350 ilk. We would send the data via phone circuitry to the mainframes at NIH, and then receive our analytic output back on paper stock.  But then, during the mid-1980s, we discovered the world of personal computers. Both IBM and Apple began producing personal computers. Apple produced a thing called the Apple II, and IBM began producing an IBM-PCXT. The Apple was a kind of cute toy, but the IBM was a more serious business model.  It had a hard drive, with, gasp, a ten megabyte capacity (can you imagine, ten megabytes??).  And the PC had an internal memory of 64K - 640 KB. Wow, huh?

But that’s an aside. Mainly, what I began seeing was other ways to communicate with people.  There was no Internet as we know it today, no Facebook, not even any formal e-mail. But there was something called CompuServe.  CompuServe operated something called “Chat Lines”, which were little systems you could call into and then chat via your PC with people you knew.  I used them initially to “chat” with other consultants with whom I worked.  But that was in the 1980s. Slowly, of course, the PC became ubiquitous, and became larger in capacity if not in physical size. And then the systems whereby we communicated using these PCs began to arrive and to grow in popularity.
I think initially, the PC had only a modest effect on the US mail system, perhaps into the 1990s, after which the world really did begin to change its paper practices.  I imagine one of the first things to go was the personal letter, replaced by the phone of course, but mainly by e-mail. Email actually was developed in the early 1970s, using something called ARPANET. But that quaint system changed when restrictions on carrying commercial traffic over the Internet were dropped, and e-mail began expanding rapidly during the mid-1990s.  Soon, virtually everyone was using e-mail, and paper systems began reducing.

It is interesting to me that as paper communications began diminishing, giving way to electronics, the latter, electronic systems took hold only for a brief period.  Considering that mankind had been writing and sending things called letters for a couple of centuries at least, I might have expected the electronic systems—E-Mail—to last a bit longer. Now, to be fair, E-Mail still exists, so we have maybe a 35-40 year history. But really, what has begun happening is that formal communications between people in that tradition of informing people we know what is happening in our lives seems to be diminishing and headed out the door.  I still receive E-Mails daily of course. But now I note that perhaps 95% of my E-Mail is from people who want money from me. That is, solicitations, mainly from charitable organizations, rarely arrive by regular mail, but instead arrive via E-Mail. And the occasional bill for some service also arrives via-E-Mail, instead of regular mail.  Now we continue to receive regular mail, mainly solicitations for donations, but now our E-Mail is a duplicate for those communications, sometimes from the same people.  We also get both by E-Mail and regular mail solicitations for services in which we have no interest—they may be scams but I prefer to call them unsolicited service inquiries.  The true scams seem to have moved permanently to the telephone system. Again, I receive maybe a half dozen telephone calls per day, of which ¾ are from some scam caller trying to sell me some service that might be real, or more likely a fake on the Donald Trump model.

So, now, virtually all communications directed at me or my wife seem to be about money, and some method of extracting our money for services we do not wish to receive and have not requested.  It’s now all about the money.  Virtually the only non-money communications we receive are either text messages, or commentaries of some sort on postings we introduce on social media.  And I note that even text messages are beginning to contain scams about money, i.e., trying to sell me a service I did not request.

And it all makes me wonder what happened to human communications. Do people simply no longer communicate with folks they do not see on a daily basis?  And are all formal communications now consigned to the waste bin because they are all about money—extracting money from me? And if so, when will those systems begin disappearing? I wonder especially about the US Postal Service.  It currently employs over 600,000 people. And Trump wants to disappear the Service and privatize it. Unless we succeed in Dumping the Trump, we may well have no postal service within a year at best.  And that would be sad. But, on the other hand, since no one writes any longer, and most financial transactions are now electronic, do we actually need a US Postal Service, public or private?

And are we then all about to retreat into a little world of our own making, in which we no longer communicate with the outside world? And what kind of world is that—a one-way communications system of radio and TV, in which we no longer participate except as a passive listener. I fear that will be an unhappy world at best.  But I fail to see in what way we could begin improving from that sorry state. But perhaps that's for another day. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Fantasy Life


It’s really interesting participating in Family Zooms, because it gets you in touch with folks you can’t see any longer in person.  We even did a zoom call recently with a friend living in Germany. And our grandson had a Zoom graduation and follow-on Zoom celebration.

And in Zoom, people keep appearing in pop-up little screens, when they talk, then popping off again.  And the entire show, to me, resembles a dream. You know how, in a dream, people can wander into view, do something, then wander off again.  That’s life in today’s Pandemic world, or the World of COVIDIOCY as I now like to call it.  Trump keeps doing and saying monumentally stupid things, reminding us daily of what an immoral, incompetent asshole he really is.  One day he announces that he is taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID striking him, and the next he is firing one inspector general or another, before telling us he really doesn’t know the guy he just fired.  And then there’s the mask thing. He won’t wear a mask in public. I guess he doesn’t want us to think he’s really just one of us. No, see, he really is not just one of us. No one else on the planet is quite as big an asshole as our president.

And meanwhile,  we can’t see any of our friends or family, and we can’t/shouldn’t  go out shopping or anywhere if we don’t absolutely have to.  So, we Zoom. And our fantasy life continues in this dreamlike state.

Because we (my wife and I) are now way past our sell-by date, I am caught in this “Waiting for God” state (I know, that’s the name of a really funny British sit-com, but still . . .). We’re not working, so we’re waiting. But waiting for what exactly? Well, I guess for a vaccine. But that’s a year or so off, regardless of what Stupidhead wants us to think.  So, until we have an actual tested and reliable vaccine, we really can’t/shouldn’t go anywhere, or see anyone close to us.  Mainly, the problem is our age. If we were 30 again (ahh, yeah, the good old days), even if we got the COVID thingie, we would likely survive, even if after a nasty disease state—worse I guess than the flu. But if we get the COVID, we likely don’t survive. Enter the fantasy world of Zooming.  And life itself becomes a dream-like state. Nothing is quite real, except for Stupidhead.  And even he is really just a character on TV playing our president, like some Sitcom character. Maybe there is no reality any longer and there is no actual world. Maybe we’re all just characters in one of my more realistic dreams. And maybe I will awaken someday to realize that I’m 10 again, and I have just been dreaming this whole life thing.

But wait, how about all those wars? Were they real, or were they just part of my never-ending dreams?  And did Ronald Reagan actually succeed to the Presidency, a B-Movie Actor becoming president of the United States? No, surely that was part of my dream. That was not possible in the Land that gave us Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

And where did that land go, the one that gave us victory in World War II, and that elected Franklin Roosevelt, not once but three times? Does that land still exist in some actual reality, whilst I am stuck in this fantasy world with a pandemic and a TV Apprentice host as President? So, when, then will I awaken? And will I really still be only 10?  And if so, will I remember anything, well at least enough to make me smarter this time?  And what might that do to the world, were I actually smarter? Would we be able to not only create a United Nations World, but avoid that Cold War stupidity? Would we all get smarter, and decide that guns were not an answer, when we could instead use our brains to devise moral solutions to the world’s problems?  And therefore, we would no longer begin shooting people in Korea, and Vietnam would become again just a piece of Asia that folks might wish to visit when they had the time and could travel.

Oh that would be so nice, wouldn’t it? But am I now just conjuring another dream to replace the one in which I seem to be stuck? Maybe, but it’s a nice dream. In it, people are born, grow up, become educated, and learn to live together in peace, regardless of whether they are white or black, or straight, or Gay. Well, I guess people might still be born narcissist and not care about others, but we would never elect them to be President.  No, they would still exist and still live their lives by blaming everyone else for all their problems, but they couldn’t kill the whole world.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll just stay in that dreamlike state, instead of this other dreamlike state I have been occupying. Then I wouldn’t have to think about an immoral idiot in the White House. Maybe instead, we would have a smart, moral woman. Yeah, that would be nice.  So, dream on Richard, but pick your dreams carefully, huh??

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Death & Dying


Are we all just dying, day by day, with each day representing one less day of adventures in our future? Or are we instead awakening each morning to a new set of life experiences, so that each day is a potential wonder, telling us that we are alive with wonderful possibilities? I think such thoughts whenever I think about yet another COVID death, or, worse yet, another Ahmaud Arbery.  I think that killing someone is stealing from them all the life experiences they would have had. You are taking their future away from them.  And we don’t know anything about those years we are stealing, the wonder, even the majesty of those years.

I awaken each morning, and I know what will happen to me directly or to the world.  That is, the sun will rise in the early morning, with or without cloud cover. Then the sun will pass over head, and make its pathway to dip below the horizon, signaling eventide.  There will be a few meals in between, some chit chat, maybe a phone call or two, some evening TV fare, and then back to bed.  But that’s for me. For that young man, Mr. Arbery, he took pleasure in each day taking a nice run. I used to run a lot when I was younger, so I understand the pleasure one can take in a nice run of several miles.  And I am certain he was enjoying his run, until he encountered two racists from a neighborhood, a father and his racist kid.  Much like Trayvon Martin, Mr.  Arbery was unaware that fate weighed against him that day.  The two racist pigs decided that he, being Black, was a threat to their neighborhood and so, they encountered him, began a scuffle, and then shot him to death.  Being White, they then of course decided that the entire incident was caused by Mr. Arbery, and they were forced to kill him in self-defense. The fact that it took a personal video by a local neighbor, a video that went viral after it was released, to even get the local police to act on the killing tells you perhaps everything you need to know about America in 2020.

So, now these two White murdering dudes basically stole from Mr. Arbery perhaps 50 years of life experiences . . . maybe 50 years of a love affair with a wife and children and hopefully grandchildren.  A lifetime of laughter, and loving. Maybe a successful working career in which he contributed to the betterment of our planet.  Maybe exotic travels to faraway places. Little things, like fine meals with family, opening a fine bottle of wine and sharing it with his wife.  Receiving praiseworthy notes from a boss on a job well done.  Birthday laughter, celebrating the coming of the New Year.  All the hundreds of things we think of when we imagine LIFE.  Think of what they stole from him. That’s 50+ years, 18,250 days, 438,000 hours of life’s experiences.  And they thought to justify such a gigantic theft of Life, because they imagined he was a threat to their community?? Think of the hubris that created that moment of terror for the young Black man.  These two little subhumans were armed, and therefore used their arms to steal that life. It is perhaps the best argument I can imagine for removing guns from humans. Because so many humans and subhumans cannot handle weapons with any degree of security for the rest of us. Armed, such subhumans are always a threat to humanity.

And then we arrive at our present mess—the Pandemic of 2020. Here, we mostly don’t have subhumans taking up arms, well aside from places like Michigan where our idiot malenfant president has urged the locals to protest, vigorously the government’s orders to remain at home until it is safe to move about. The heavily armed subhumans care not for such logic.  Like predatory sharks, they prefer wandering our streets with their armaments, in search of “threatening” people, mainly threatening Black or Hispanic people.

The Pandemic seems to have unlocked the crazy part of some folks’ brains. They apparently can’t stand being told what to do, even when it is in their own best interest.

Now, if we had a real president, one with a functioning brain and some actual ethical principles, we might not have such idiots roaming our streets with guns raised. No, a real president would be calming the people, and would be using actual data, real logic, and intelligent rhetoric to inform and calm the public.  But we don’t have a real president. We have a fake one, one who is desperately afraid that the pandemic will spell the end of his dream job, and will get in the way of his family stealing from our public storehouse of money reserves. See, he had hoped to end all of those financial failures he experienced and he and his family would be able to retire to some nice palace somewhere under Soviet protection.  Now, he may have to return to his miserable little pseudocriminal enterprises and act out his crappy marriages, perhaps even entering a 4th, 5th or 6th marriage before he finally bites the bullet of life and his breathing ceases.

But in the meantime, our Nation may well come to an end. He has so thoroughly destroyed the very fabric of our society that we may never be able to return to that place of high potential it held only 5-10 years ago.  He has, in short, done to America what he did to most of his financial enterprises, and brought us to the point of possible ruin. Whether we can recover is at least debatable. 

He has brought us to a point that we have not seen since the mid-1860s.   May we do better than we did the last time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Catholics for Trump?



I was listening to an NPR report this morning. They were talking about a telephone call between Trump and Catholic leaders, most specifically Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.  It seems clear that Dolan was actively seeking to provide the support of the Catholic Church to the re-election of Donald Trump. In a prior appearance, it seems clear Dolan has a pleasant relationship with Trump. Here they are at a dinner party prior to Trump’s election.
In news reports on the call and a subsequent interview on Fox, CRUX and the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) report:
“The capitulation is complete.
Without a whimper from any of his fellow bishops, the cardinal archbishop of New York has inextricably linked the Catholic Church in the United States to the Republican Party and, particularly, President Donald Trump.
It was bad enough that Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Sean O'Malley of Boston, joined by Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, currently also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, participated in Trump's phone version of a campaign rally on April 25. With hundreds of others on the call, including Catholic educators, the bishops were once again masterfully manipulated. They previously gave Trump certain campaign footage when they delivered Catholics to his speech at the March for Life rally in Washington early in the year.
Now Trump will have Dolan's language The whole cringe-worthy exchange (yes, Trump did self-describe as "the best" president "in the history of the Catholic church") was made worse the next day when Dolan provided more campaign footage from inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in announcing that the president was "worshiping with us," purportedly livestreaming the Mass at the White House.
Friendships have existed in the past between U.S. presidents and princes of the church. How those affected the church's involvement in politics and policy, negatively or positively, differed from one circumstance to another. But it is rare, if not unprecedented, that the church's leadership apparatus would be co-opted to the degree seen in the case of Trump.
Certainly, it is without precedent that the leadership would cozy up so cravenly to a president whose most consistent attribute is an uncontrollable propensity for lying, continuously and about everything. He is dangerously disconnected from reality and is defined by characteristics that normally are condemned from pulpits.
In People of Hope, a book-length conversation Dolan conducted with journalist John L. Allen Jr. published in 2012, a chapter is devoted to politics in which the cardinal concedes that there is an understandable perception that the U.S. bishops are in a "de facto," in the questioner's words, alliance with the Republican Party.
The reality, Dolan contends, is more complex. "My experience is that we bishops are actually fairly scrupulous in wanting to avoid any partisan flavor."
One might reasonably conclude today that such scrupulosity has gone out the window. For Dolan and his fellow episcopal travelers, the all-consuming issue is abortion. That tops the agenda in any political consideration. Allen asked: "Are you saying that the perception of being in bed with the Republicans, or the political Right, is the PR price that has to be paid for taking a strong stance on abortion?"
"Yes, that's exactly right," Dolan answered.
Unfortunately, the bishops have paid a much higher price than poor public relations in their political strategy the past four decades. Abortion is a serious subject that they've turned into a political volleyball in a game with no winners except the groups on the extremes of the issue who cash in every four years, sustaining careers and an endless debate.”
So, should we be surprised that the Archbishop, a close friend and public supporter of a man who seems to violate virtually every principle of the Archbishop’s professed faith, decided to offer the support of his church?  It is asserted that his support for Trump has something to do with abortion. That is, ostensibly Trump opposes abortion, and therefore the Archbishop supports him.  Apparently, had Adolph Hitler opposed abortion, Cardinal Dolan would have supported him also.
The thing is Dolan has now committed the entire Holy Roman Catholic Church to a mechanism for support of Donald Trump. The fact that Trump violates virtually every principle (maybe even including abortion) of that Church system is apparently irrelevant to the Archbishop. I assume with all of his sexual abuse of women, Trump has almost undoubtedly caused one or more abortions to occur, whether he was personally involved or not. He often remains an aside to many of the unpleasantries he creates in other peoples’ lives.
But the central question now is, what will Pope Francis do about this threat to the authority of the Catholic Church? If that Church does nothing, then officially the Catholic Church has endorsed Donald Trump.  To me, that would signal the final moral bankruptcy of a church that has existed for hundreds of years, even if it is but a hollow memory of its founding principles. Endorsing Trump would, in my view be worse than the common Church practice of shipping off its rapist priests from one parish to another without dealing with the underlying issue.
I see no alternative for the Pope except to literally fire Cardinal Dolan. I don’t mean, moving him to a different city parish. I mean firing him. Kicking him out of the Church hierarchy, and never letting him darken the doors of the Church in any city.  Failing that, perhaps it would really be time for the Holy Roman Catholic Church to declare moral bankruptcy, sell all of its assets and distribute the resulting funds to the World’s poor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Clearing the Decks


Pandemic. I think I finally figured it out. The Pandemic, aka COVID19, is Nature’s way of finally deleting the 20th Century, a sort of clearing the decks to allow for the 21st Century to really take hold.  We really can now think of the 20th Century in the same terms we use for, say, the 16th Century—you know, it happened, it really did include a bunch of stuff, but it’s way gone, erased from our collective memory banks, retrievable only through history books.

Until now, the 21st Century seemed an afterthought, maybe some stuff that happened to Millennials and of no real importance.   Oh, you were born then? Yeah, right, so now on to more important stuff, like World War II, or The Great Depression, or even, that Vietnam War thing.  So, where were you and what were you doing when Kennedy was assassinated?  And, how amazing was the first Moon Landing? Remember that, sitting there transfixed, watching your Black and White TV as he stepped onto the surface of the Moon?

Now, to be fair, 911 was a transfixing moment in time that people now alive, will always remember. Where were you when the plane hit that building? But, in retrospect, 911 seems like maybe the ending of an era, the 20th CENTURY ERA.  Yeah, 911 was a definitive 21st Century event. I mean, it happened only 9 months into the new century.  But it really represented the culmination of a whole series of wartime events, kicked off largely by Reagan, Bush, and others of their ilk. I mean, we had been messing around in the Great Morass known as the Middle East for decades, cozying up this dictator, or that dictator, and then getting pissed because the dictators wouldn’t mind us.  They always seem to have a mind of their own, these petty tyrants.  So, eventually, we were bound to really enrage one of them and they would do something terminally stupid, like blow up the World Trade Center with an airplane—thanks Saudi Arabia.

But then we entered the 21st Century for real, with the odd unnecessary War (thanks Shrub) that was really a holdover from that nasty 20th Century.  And we seem to have stumbled along with various presidents, Shrub, Clinton, Obama, and then Mr. Dreadful, President Stupidhead.  It’s interesting how he seems to actually define the 21st Century.  I mean, the first three, Shrub, Clinton and Obama seem to me to represent a continuation of the line of 20th Century presidents.  Some of them were good, great even (think FDR), some were not so good (well Reagan was actually awful, but . . .) but most were at least reminiscent of other 20th Century presidents.

And then Trump hit. And it is as though the 20th century left us, and we are in the full grip of the 21st century.  And then, the PANDEMIC strikes—COVID19. And we have a whole new language, COVIDIOCY, spoken by all the COVIDIOTs in the White House (don’t forget Fox News. They also speak nothing but COVIDIOCY).  And bang, the 20th century vanished from the earth.  We are now fully in the grip of the 21st Century.

And I can hear my grandkids now, as they regale (bore) their grandkids, much like I have been doing for several decades.  And kids, let me tell you about the time the PANDEMIC struck Earth. I was in college, see, poised to graduate (or whatever) and then this thing hit us. And, I know you will not understand this, but nobody was allowed to go outside with other people. Yeah, it was like the whole world suddenly disappeared inside their homes and nobody could come out.  I know, I know, that sounds really stupid, but if you did go outside and meet and greet with your BFFs, you might well die. I mean, I might not be here now to tell you about that mess.”
And so the stories will go on, to the delight of the grandkids, until they get bored and ask, “So, grandpa, what’s on the multiverse (replacement for TV)?” And then grandpa will have to change the subject.

So, kids did I ever tell you about the time President Stupidhead told us about the time he drank a cup of Coevfefee??? Hahahahahahahaha

Grandpa, you’re just joking, right?  I mean, a president of the United States couldn’t pronounce coffee??”

“Yeah, it’s true. But he didn’t seem to know how to read, so he couldn’t pronounce a lot of words. I mean, he said that he graduated from college, but we think he never made it past the 4th grade.” We think maybe, his daddy paid to have someone sit in class in his name, while Stupidhead stayed at home eating hangaburrs.”

“But then he told us that maybe we should be drinking or injecting bleach to kill off any of the nasty viruses. And later he said he was only being sarcastic and joking, but by that time, some of his stupid followers had actually tried it and experienced less than pleasant sensations.”
“See, he used to give these COVID19 press briefings, in which he tried telling lies to the press, and then would get furious when they asked him questions about some COVIDIOCY he had just uttered. Yeah, it was a mess. Those were such fun times.”

And the games went on, daily. Every time you turned on the TV to some news program, they were forced to reveal his latest idiocy. It was like some never ending game of Stupidhead rules the world.”

And on and on. And so, the pandemic began to define the new century, erasing all thoughts of that century gone by.  All the good stuff, and all the bad stuff simply disappeared, and the century itself seemed to disappear, becoming a blank state that nobody ever entered. And whatever else occurs as a result of this pandemic, the erasure of the 20th century will remain, in my now dim mind, the single most important effect. Yes, people died. But Wars did that too.  But now, all we know is this 21st Century. And, for better or worse, we now need to look ahead to what comes next in this weird new century that seems to have just begun . . . 20 years after it technically started.

So, stay tuned citizens of the 21st century.  Hopefully COVIDIOCY will soon be just a laughing matter about yesteryear.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Dreaming


I dreamed last night. Well, I always dream. But I had awakened and then fell back into a dream-sleep. I was standing there and then I looked up and my Mother was standing there looking down on me.  I don’t mean that she was floating in the air or anything. I was just sitting down on the ground, and I looked up and there she was. I said hi to her, but she didn’t really reply. She just said. “It’s raining out”.  And then she just stood there. Then I awakened.

Now, I’m in my 86th year, so I’m sort of past my sell-by date.  I don’t think this was some signal that I’m heading out the door soon, but who knows?  This pandemic has an effect on everyone, I realize. I’m no exception.  Awaken in the morning and I realize that another day has begun, but that’s all. Nothing else. If I’m in good shape, I realize what day it is.  Not that it matters what day it is.  Oh I guess it matters a little bit. I mean, Sundays we eat a bigger breakfast. Oh and then the Sunday New York Times is delivered. That’s a good thing. I get to read something other than Facebook, or my e-mail.  And on Wednesdays and Fridays I have to walk out the front door and go pick up the Tribune, our tiny local paper.  Then, typically on Friday afternoon, I have to drive out to one of our Harris Teeter supermarkets, where I park the car and then press a call button to announce my presence. Then a helper from the store will come out to the car with a few grocery bags of stuff we have ordered on line.

Then once a week, generally on Friday, we get to go to our local Barbee’s Farm Stand store to pick up some veggies we have ordered on line.  Then come Saturday, we drive out to Davidson to where the Farmers market used to be. But now, we head to the parking lot of the closed Davidson library. And there a couple of farmers will arrive, stay for an hour and have available the meat and eggs we have ordered also on line.

So, exciting huh?

Now I haven’t mentioned my every other day walk on Union Street, and my workouts on our home stairway or with the little weights. That’s exciting too.

So, with such a busy schedule, is there any chance my body would be telling me that it’s time to go?  Well, “to go” is a euphemism for cease existing.  But who knows? Even The Shadow doesn’t know the answer to that little life question. When it’s your turn, you simply stop existing. It isn’t pleasant or unpleasant. Your brain just stops working and when that happens, you are blissfully unaware . . . of anything.

So was Daisy trying to tell me something? Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe I simply conjured up her image, because each day I get a little bit closer, and my mind sees her as an image of no longer being.  Or maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself for having this unexpected way to close out of life. I don’t know what I expected, but this social isolation thing definitely wasn’t it.

Now I expect that I should just stop feeling sorry for myself. I mean, I’ve lived pretty long. The Great Depression was still on when I was born; then World War II; then schooling and college, and marriage, and all those other wars—remember Korea and Vietnam?? Yeah, they were fun, huh?? And then a really long, really happy marriage, with kids, and kid marriages and grand kids and all those nice things.  So a pandemic ending is at least interesting huh?  What would I be feeling were I our grandkids who are poised to graduate, one from high school and one from college?  Hell of a way to end those life stages I think.  Bet they had alternative conclusions that were a bit happier than this thing.

But, like all things, I assume this pandemic thingie will turn out to be one of those life experiences our grandkids will use to regale their grandkids, like I do about growing up poor in Manhattan during WW II. They can milk it for all its worth, just like I do.

So, now we can get on with things, except for the going out and socializing thing. And the hugging and kissing thing. And all those old fashioned socializing things. Yeah, they are sooooo 2019.

So, hang in there. This too will end . . . maybe.

Trump & The Media


Thinking. I wonder what ever happened to our country?  Maybe it really is just the extreme income inequality. That phenomenon has created a special class of humans who seem to be different from the rest of us. Different in that they exhibit no real interest in the things that happen to ordinary humans, good or bad. They seem to care only about themselves.

It makes me wonder about the royalty of ancient times. Did the royal families, not merely the kings and queens, but the dukes/duchesses, barons, and all of the other semi-royal hangers on, also care only about themselves?  To some extent I suppose they must have, although they also had to take care of their armies and their personal guards.

And who are the “armies” of the ultra-rich today? That makes me even wonder about Trump’s “armies”. That is, if Trump decided to wage war against, say, the Biden voters, or democrats in general, could he command the various brigades and divisions of our military to literally wage war against our civilian population? And if he did, whose side would the 101st Airborne Division be on?? See, Trump is pretty much totally unhinged, in addition to being not too bright.  He seems to get worse daily, if his tweets are to be believed. And when he appears in public, he is so angry that he really does appear as a five-year old in the middle of a temper tantrum. Only this five year old commands nuclear weapons.  And oh, by the way, suppose Trump were to command a nuclear strike against Albany, to get rid of Governor Cuomo, would the air Force obey him??  I would like to think that our armed forces have a sufficiently independent streak that obeying obviously illegal orders from a deranged president is not in their playbook.

But then what of his other political BFFs? What ever happened to his party . . . remember that republican party? No one in that party of old has spoken against Trump.  I wonder what ever happened to George Will? He is reported to have offered this assessment last July, 2019, in an interview about his book, "I believe that what this president has done to our culture, to our civic discourse ... you cannot unring these bells and you cannot unsay what he has said, and you cannot change that he has now in a very short time made it seem normal for schoolboy taunts and obvious lies to be spun out in a constant stream. I think this will do more lasting damage than Richard Nixon's surreptitious burglaries did."

But Will seems unable/unwilling to counter the daily lies being spun out of both Trump and the Right Wing PR machines, Fox, et al. We would need George Will to be shouting from the rooftops daily and even that might prove inadequate. We keep seeing comparisons between Trump and Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s.  In part, he did gain control of the German Press to help in his ascension to power. From one such text on his rise:

Establishing Control of the Press
When Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the Nazis controlled less than three percent of Germany’s 4,700 papers.
The elimination of the German multi-party political system brought about the demise of hundreds of newspapers produced by outlawed political parties. It also allowed the state to seize the printing plants and equipment of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties, which were often turned over directly to the Nazi Party. In the following months, the Nazis established control or exerted influence over independent press organs.
During the first weeks of 1933, the Nazi regime deployed the radio, press, and newsreels to stoke fears of a pending “Communist uprising,” then channeled popular anxieties into political measures that eradicated civil liberties and democracy. SA (Storm Troopers) and members of the Nazi elite paramilitary formation, the SS, took to the streets to brutalize or arrest political opponents and incarcerate them in hastily established detention centers and concentration camps. Nazi thugs broke into opposing political party offices, destroying printing presses and newspapers.
Sometimes using holding companies to disguise new ownership, executives of the Nazi Party-owned publishing house, Franz Eher, established a huge empire that drove out competition and purchased newspapers at below-market prices. Some independent newspapers, particularly conservative newspapers and non-political illustrated weeklies, accommodated to the regime through self-censorship or initiative in dealing with approved topics.
Now, will we see such a thuggish control mechanism here? Seems unlikely, doesn’t it? On the other hand, none of the media here foresaw such a power grasp by Hitler during the 1930's.  In part, we keep seeing/believing what we wish to see/believe.  And, so long as Trump can portray the bulk of our media as “fake news”, and so long as Murdoch & Co. allows him to say whatever he wishes and promote Trump as a truth-sayer, then at least some segment of our public will believe whatever lies he promotes.

And I assume that the Murdoch family-controlled Fox media gives the family what they want—control over a very large segment of our national population.   But how did they gain such control?
Well, I just finished reading an article about what the Liberal elites fail to see about the Trump supporters. The article portrays the nation as being divided between two population segments—the rural folks and the liberal city elites.  And apparently, the right wing media (Fox, et al) is highly effective at telling the rural folks what they wish to hear, whereas the “progressive” media has failed utterly to sell its agenda to these folks. What I don’t understand is what is it the rural folks believe they are getting from Fox and Trump?  The only thing I can understand is that rural folks seem to despise city folks, and perhaps the reverse is also true. And maybe it is the case that Fox sells the story line that urban elites are simply awful people, and Trump is trying to protect the good rural folks from all the evil things city people want to impose on them.  I imagine the whole case for social isolation goes over better in the cities, because the people there are practically falling in the streets. When the pandemic begins taking its toll in rural areas as well as urban, I assume they will begin paying attention.  But maybe not. Trump can/will always blame any resulting chaos in rural areas on the urban elites (democrats).

So, salesmanship is the name of the game, and the right wing is better at the game than the left wing.  And that was true, eventually in Hitler’s rise to total power. Turns out, when you believe you can lie with impunity, and you tell lies the people want to hear, you will succeed.  And that is what is happening here. A very large segment of our population believes itself to be aggrieved, is told lies by the right wing to convince it to believe their problems are all caused by left wing elites, and so they continue to be enraged against those liberal city folks.  The fact that Trump is not protecting them is largely irrelevant. Turns out people believe what they wish to believe, because it is convenient for them.

And so the game goes. We “liberal elites” can do little to affect this game, other than voting. And remember, Trump, the republicans, and I assume the Foxies will do everything in their collective power to inhibit voting.  So, we really need to be paying attention. This pandemic is a perfect opportunity to inhibit voting.  You better believe the republicans will do everything in their power to take advantage. 

In addition to doing everything in your power to make certain you can vote, maybe we need to begin paying attention to this income inequality thing. We need to begin pressing for tax policies that can change that. Perhaps we need to begin lobbying for  tax reforms, and that includes  reforms of the policies by which the ultrarich currently hide their incomes.  Yeah, maybe voting coupled with some activism to return us to a state of civility and national consciousness would be good.