Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

 And so we close out another year in our now weird normality. Yeah, weird is the new normal. I guess I really do not understand America any longer. I mean, you would think, after existing here for some 83 years, I would have some reasonable understanding of this place I call home.   I used to imagine that I was pretty much one of several norms here. Now, I believe I am on the outer fringe of a new planet called Exo-Amerika.

A crap star of a crappy TV series about no-talents, in which the crap star gets to fire the no-talents on the show is now President—tell me again why anyone on this planet watched that show? And he overcame all of the relatively experienced politicians in our land to become our President?  And he daily demonstrates his incapacity for even the most minor chores of that job.   He doesn’t understand even the most trivial parts of the Presidency, mainly, I assume, because he apparently cannot read. And because he cannot read, he is abysmally ignorant.

He uses Twitter because it is a techno-vehicle designed for people who can neither read nor write. It’s almost as though Twitter was designed expressly for Donald Trump. And that seems to be his sole communications vehicle.  When he gets up in front of an audience to speak, he just babbles incoherently.

He embarrasses us almost every hour of every day, to the point where our various news and pseudo-news (Fox & Friends) people no longer know how/whether to cover him. But because he is a “reality-TV star”, he demands daily/hourly TV coverage.  It’s all he really wants, so he keeps doing and saying monumentally stupid things to get their attention.

And he won’t/can’t change, because it is who he is.  He could get worse over time, say depressed when he begins to understand that even his pseudo-News folks think he’s an idiot. Then he will likely up the ante—say bomb someplace he doesn’t like (North Korea anyone??). It’s what we have to look forward to folks. How inspiring, how uplifting.

But on the positive side, we now understand the good Christian folks out there in EvangeLand.  There is no longer any surprises there. They clearly are telling us that they have no moral or ethical principles at all. They are in love with The Donald and he is as completely amoral as anyone on the planet. So their love affair tells us everything we need to know about them.  Nothing here folks; time to move on.

Perhaps as an antidote, I have begun reading an interesting book about the evolution of the mind. It is called  From Bacteria to Bach and Back by Daniel Dennett. It is a bit of a challenge in that it is no ordinary text about evolution. The author takes issue with almost everyone. Part of the challenge of the book is that he takes issue, or sides with various “others” while in the act of explaining his theses. So far, I have not yet advanced enough to summarize his main argument (I think actually he has too many arguments for me to ever summarize). So far, I am beginning to imagine that humans are simply one of millions of entities that are slowly adapting and, in some cases disappearing over millennia. We are rocks, or moss, or fish, or bacteria, or . . . We think we are more significant than we are, because it is us.  One reviewer concludes his analysis of the book with this:

Civilisation, he reminds us, is a work in progress. It may die, returning the planet to the bacteria, or, if human sociality can transcend our current problems, it can thrive. The future is open.

So, when I think about The Donald and his minions, I am drawn back to bacteria.  Everyone is trying to survive, even if at the expense of everything else on this planet.  Whether we survive as a species may well depend on our ability to transcend. But before we can transcend, we must comprehend. And that Sherlock is our current problem.
Happy New Year Everyone.

See you in 2018 . . . hopefully.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tax Bills We Have Known

So, now, the infamous Republican Tax Bill has passed and will become law. We know President Stupidhead will sign it, because it benefits him and his family, and because he cares not one whiffle about anyone else. He does not care, nor has he ever cared.  But when Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa writes this view, we know no one in that party of kleptocrats cares:

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing… as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Many people are speculating what this disastrous tax bill will do for the future of the Republican Party.  It is said that the rich owners of the party would not allow their politicians to escape without gifting this bit of largesse to the owners, and that they would withdraw support, should the party leaders fail to obey their orders.

But what of ordinary folks? How will they respond once they see what is actually in this pile of horseshit? Well, it is said that the supporters of our disaster called a President will continue supporting anything this creature proposes. There is something of a religion about this relationship between Trump and his supporters. They ignore any and all facts.

  • He is a compleat narcissist. We don’t care.
  • He is a sexual predator. We don’t care.
  • He is a businessman. Yes, we love him for that.
  • But he is almost completely unsuccessful as a businessman. We don’t care. 
  • He knows nothing. We don’t care.
  • He has failed at his marriages. We don’t care.

And the list goes on and on. The Evangelicals love him, warts and all. They are revealed to have no ethical or moral standards at all.  

How did this happen, though? Have his supporters always lacked moral or ethical standards? Or is this like the Catholic Church scandals, where we all knew, but no one was allowed to speak of it? Bad form, don’t you know. It’s called compartmentalization.

It is said that the issue of ethics or morality is not really the point. That his supporters really just hate (take your pick):
  • ·         Government
  • ·         Democrats
  • ·         Women
  • ·         Poor people
  • ·         Gays/Lesbians
  • ·         Young people
  • ·         Old people
  • ·         Blacks (or more to the point, anyone not “white”)
  • ·         Hispanics
  • ·         Asians
  • ·         Anyone not within their church (community, neighborhood, state, whatever)

In particular, his supporters appear to think that Government really is the enemy of their particular group, and that Government gives their hard-earned tax dollars to those wastrel peasants, who are sitting at home drinking booze instead of working hard at their jobs, like they are (or like they want to be).
There is a class consciousness at work in this country, promoted, I think, by the wealthy right-wing, asserting that they, the very wealthy, are the ones who built (or sustain, or create) the Nation and that there are millions who simply sit on their asses and collect Government largesse, and that it is now time that should end.  They declare that welfare should end, government supported health care should end. Abortions should be illegal. Immigration should be stopped, except for the folks who come from (name your country).
Government should get out of their lives, except for:
  • ·         Army
  • ·         Police
  • ·         Garbage Men
  •        Well, maybe the firemen too. Wouldn’t want my estate house to burn down, would we?

So, what does that have to do with Trump and his supporters? Well, Trump basically said that Government sucks and that he would get that awful creature off their backs.  He never said how he would do that, mainly because he hasn’t a clue how to do anything.  He simply mouths crap that he thinks will draw applause.  Then he goes on to the next applause line.  He has never actually had to do anything, well aside from having sex with his various female partners, so as to produce his offspring.  Aside from those acts, someone else has always had to “DO” things for him. I still imagine someone else attending class for him, in his name. Maybe that didn’t actually happen, but it seems right to me . . . maybe the only way I can imagine him actually obtaining a college degree—well, even a high school diploma.
See, he doesn’t ever actually mean anything he says. He just says things, as I say, to draw applause.

So, when he says he wants to “make America great again”, he doesn’t know what that means. I wonder what he would say were he to be asked, “when was America last GREAT, Donald?”

But his followers seem not to notice that he doesn’t actually know how to do anything.  Perhaps they don’t care. So long as he stops whoever they see as “The Government” from operating (screwing them). And if were to be pointed out that the folks doing the screwing are actually The Donald, his banker friends, and his other monied buddies, they would yell and scream NO.  They “compartmentalize”.

Exactly how and why folks became able to so compartmentalize their thinking remains a bit of a mystery to me. Sherlock, where are you, we need you now desperately. Perhaps it is simply the thinking process of lazy people. They want simple answers, even when there are no simple answers.  I wrote a while ago about the need to achieve balance in the world. I said:
  I.       In economic matters, extremes do not work. Under Bush, we shifted dangerously in the direction of a fascist state—that is, a state in which private owners of businesses dictate government policies. The inevitable result is Enron, et al, as well as the collapsed financial system. We have been drifting in that direction for quite some time now, even under Clinton. Everyone has been so concerned with government regulation that they failed to notice that unregulated business is as dangerous as unchecked government. One gives you fascism; the other socialism. Private business interests must always be checked to assure that the public is protected. So too must government overseers. Balance in everything is the answer. But balance requires mental agility. The public has little patience—they want the world to operate on autopilot. They need to be convinced that a world in which competing interests are balanced is both an efficient world, and a world that is worthy.
2.                We need to pay for what we need. The Republican Party has been, almost as a matter of policy, fiscally irresponsible. They practice “charge and spend” politics. We will now have to pay for their profligacy. The public—the thinking public—needs to understand that we cannot continue on the course they charted and followed. Mainly the rest of the world will not allow us to continue on this course. They will simply stop buying our debt and then it will end, badly. Taxes are the way we pay for our policies.  Taxes are neither good nor bad, in the abstract. They represent the price of operating our country, or, perhaps, the glue of a civilized society.
3.             We must pursue policies that are aimed at preserving the Earth. We need to conserve. We need to pursue alternative energy policies. We need to use economic forces to create a demand for energy-efficiency and energy independence. Under Bush and Cheney, we have pursued policies promoting wasteful energy consumption, mainly because he and his advisers represent the extractive industries. We need to tax wasteful energy consumption, so as to encourage wiser use of Earth’s limited resources.
4.            We must pursue a policy of economic independence for all our citizens. During my career, I worked for seven organizations over a 45 year career. For 20 of those years, I worked for several large and small companies that contributed nothing beyond Social Security for my retirement. Bush and his republican allies have attempted on numerous occasions to threaten that reserve. If indeed we wish to get rid of Social Security, we do not need to “privatize” it. We need to pass legislation that forces every economic entity in the country to pay into a portable retirement system. TIAA-CREF comes to mind—the system used by most universities and non-profits. If the private sector would begin to live up to its responsibilities by a mandatory contribution system, we would not need Social Security. Take the system used by universities and non-profits and replicate it throughout the whole of the private sector. Do not allow companies to wriggle out by use of part-time workers. If they employ part-time workers, they still pay full retirement benefits. Otherwise, leave Social security alone.
5.                Republicans, continue in their zeal to scuttle public education. We need to begin working with the states to repair the currently deplorable state of public education. In our area of North Carolina, they seem comfortable with a dropout rate of 35%.  Think of that. We can do better. Indeed, we are losing ground to the rest of the world, and we are at risk of becoming a country of stupid people. Charter schools, especially for-profit charter schools, and worse, fake private schools that are on-line, are not an answer.
6.              We must examine carefully the structure of government. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was an absurd idea—a solution in search of a problem. Think of it. The CIA and the FBI wouldn’t communicate and were demonstrably inept, so we forced the Coast Guard, FEMA, and the rest to become one entity. An idea only a truly stupid person could embrace.  Structure is not the answer when the problem is an absence of thoughtful consideration of available evidence. 
There were a few other points that need not be repeated here. What we continue to need is watchful citizens—citizens who are willing to question both private commercial interests and public government interests. Corruption is a problem that will always be with us, so long as we have serious economic imbalances and so long as we have citizens who are basically dishonest—remember both the corrupters and the corruptees are dishonest.  Both need to be exposed and punished. It is why, by the way, that we continue to need whistle-blowers.  Transparency is key here, and we definitely do not have transparent systems in either the public or private realms (thanks again Supremes).

We all need to stand up and be counted. And that means we need to vote, regardless of the efforts by the GOP to prevent folks from voting.  If you don’t vote, you will get the government you deserve.