Monday, November 19, 2018

What Do We Need?
The Mid-Term elections are now over and we begin the next Presidential election cycle. And you are asking, “What??? Can we not have a break from the endless campaigning?” Well, however much we need/want such a break, I do not expect one. I think the jousting for nominations has already begun. Beto anyone? Cory?? Kirsten?? Joe?? Elizabeth? Oh, and the list goes on and on. The real question to me, is will the GOP allow The Donald to run again, or will they conjure up some reason that he might consider just retiring to MaraLago. I know, I know, they never actually challenge President Stupidhead. But they really, really want to retain power. Having lost a lot in the mid-terms, they may well wish to reconsider that strategy.  Of course, they have no actual candidates, but when did that ever stop them?
But the even larger question than who will run is, what do we need as a Nation from and after the next presidential election? And are there preparations that need to be completed, or at least initiated before that event?

We have been heading slowly and now a bit faster towards a serious revolution in our Nation. And I don’t mean that everyone will get their guns and begin shooting their neighbors (although that always remains a possibility in the minds of the MAGAHeads and their NRA terrorist gangs).  Instead, I am thinking of a serious redefinition of the kind of society in which we live and wish to continue living.  I think the 2008 crash should have triggered such a redefinition, but those in charge (mainly the Obama Administration and their GOP allies) decided not to punish the bankers, but instead allowed them to escape back into their golden chambers so they might begin planning anew the next chamber of horror show for the lesser classes (me and you) throughout the Land.  Bankers generally seem never actually to learn anything from their disasters.  Sometimes, it just takes them longer to revisit them.

Just how many such disasters the Nation will tolerate is a serious question.  It always reminds me of Ms. Marie Antoinette and her last fling.

Surely we can commit to something more thoughtful, however painful for the empowered.
Our nation seems headed towards bankruptcy, that favored state for Donald J. Trump endeavors. Mainly, he seems not to understand global finance, or any finance for that matter. So, when he gets a tax bill for the wealthy passed by his compliant Congress, he has no clue what the effects will be downstream on our global financial status.  At some point, I imagine the world may well stop buying our debt and then we are screwed.

But, maybe with the next serious election stage, when we replace the Drumpf with anybody else, we will need to address some serious issues, like global finance. Here’s a beginning list of the stuff we will need to begin changing/resolving: 

1. Finance: We really do need to begin paying for what we buy. I realize that credit cards are a wonderful invention, but even my family has limits. At some stage, the bankers look at our debt and our incoming money, and would/will decide that we need to pay down on the debts. Understandably, the bankers of the world would frown if we wished to charge, say, ten million dollars to buy a nice new yacht.  But they might actually stand a better chance (however fleeting) of getting repaid such a preposterous loan from us than they are the many trillions of debt currently owed by the US Treasury. So, when I suggest that we need to begin re-examining our global financial picture, I would begin with our tax structure that seems to expect way more from the middle classes than from the mega-wealthy. I know that Reagan made believe that the “Laffer Curve” was a real thing and that it would produce huge tax revenues (it didn’t, it was a joke), we now know that the world simply doesn’t operate that way. When you cut tax rates, especially on folks with serious money, it doesn’t produce more tax revenues by folks investing those savings in our economy. Instead, it seems to flow into offshore accounts and other hideaways that the wealthy use to avoid future taxes. In other words, the rich get richer. That’s the only serious effect, well aside from that bigger deficit thing. So, we need to re-examine our basic principles of taxation, revenue and expenditures. Maybe, it would be a nice change to attract some of our smarter economists into the next administration to begin designing a new and smarter tax system. And if the mega-wealthy hate that new, more productive system, then they would be free to emigrate to, say, Saudi Arabia.

2. Infrastructure: Ok, it really is past time to reinvest in our infrastructure. That takes money, but more, it takes a serious interest in the subject of America as a place to live and a place for kids and grandkids to live. Remember President Eisenhower? Ike was actually a republican, of the old school republicans. He believed in America and wanted it to be a place in which we all would wish to live and prosper. So, he invested in creating the interstate highway system. Why was that a good idea? Well, interstate highways are a way of integrating the nation’s communities. It serves commerce, and it serves the ability and willingness of folks getting to know our country. If you have lived in your village, or county, or state your entire lives, you will be amazed by getting your car onto the Interstate highway system and driving to another state. You really cannot understand our country, or our world by visiting Disneyworld. You really need to get off your asses, and actually travel to other parts of our amazing countryside. I am fortunate. I have now at least visited all 50 states, many by car. We live in a wonderful country, and folks who live in different geographic regions may well be different from the folks who live in your home village.  But they have much the same fondness for our country as we do. Try it, you’ll like it.  But, more. Our entire national system of roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, and, yes, subways, are desperately in need of money to recharge those systems. We have bridges falling down (London bridges aside). Our systems of transport, water purification and distribution, power generation, all the systems by which we can claim 21st century national credentials are desperate for investment. We need investments now. 

3. Education: We are at risk of becoming a nation of seriously stupid people. Our public education system used to be an engine of prosperity. It educated the masses, many of whom became the Great Middle Class, and that middle class produced America, with all its wonders.  That system has never been a perfect system. But it used to work a lot better than it does now. One of its problems is that it functions heavily on the “follow the money” principle. Because it is heavily reliant on local/county taxes for its funding, the system produces unequal school systems. The richer counties have more money, so they tend to have better-funded school systems.  So, we need to address that issue. But other problems have been growing over time, problems that we have largely ignored. And then, someone thought of the charter school solution. We think the public schools have problems, but, rather than figuring out the causes of the problems and then devising appropriate solutions, we said, “Oh, I know, let’s send our public tax dollars to private schools. We know they are better by definition” It’s called, kicking the problem downfield.  A solution only stupid people would love.  We know now, from actual evidence that charter schools do not solve the public school problems, mainly because they were not actually designed to resolve those problems. Students do not perform better at charter schools, sometimes worse. We need to stop tossing good money after bad, and instead commission studies of our public schooling system to uncover the sources of their problems. Only then can we begin to devise real solutions to the problems. 

4. Health Care: The United States is the only nation in the industrialized world that does not have a universal health care system. The reason seems obvious, however deplorable. I am uncertain whether this principle adheres on both sides of the political aisle. But, it goes something like this. If one side of the aisle devises and gets passed into law a program that later becomes wildly successful and popular, the other side of the aisle must oppose it, and spend much of its time and political capital trying to kill or reduce it.   For example, Social Security.  For example, Medicare and Medicaid. And of course, of more recent origin, the Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare.  These programs are beloved, and they cover most of the population. ObamaCare is, of course, of more recent origin and has been fought every step of the way. President Stupidhead has joined forces with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in an attempt to kill it.  One might ask, why would any responsible legislator oppose providing quality health care to everyone in the country?  Well, because, if it is labeled or perceived to be a Democratic program, republicans must by definition, oppose it. It has nothing to do with health care, per se.  It is all, 100%, a political decision. The opposition creates mostly false arguments as to why they oppose it. But oppose it they must.  Somehow, perhaps in our next life, we must figure out a way for Congress to act in the best interests of the American people, so as to devise a proper universal health care system, in which everyone in the country will receive health care of the same quality. The only reason for denying such a system is that those opposed do not believe that all Americans should receive health care and that, perhaps, health care is a privilege reserved to the upper income classes in the country.  

5.       Climate Change: We need to remove all stupid people from all discussions that involve science.  It is by now abundantly clear that climate change is not only occurring, but that we are rapidly approaching a catastrophic point of no return.  If our Congress cannot agree on both the nature and extent of the problem, and then on potential solutions to this problem, then not only our nation, but the entire globe is doomed and we face extinction as a species.  Think dinosaurs folks.  At least in theory, we are more intelligent than were the dinosaurs. We actually already have the beginnings of a solution, and, arguably, additional solutions can be devised. But first, we have to stop denying that there is a problem.  I realize that most solutions to climate change require that we change the way we generate power, and that some current solutions need to be shunted aside in favor of more enlightened methods. I also realize that many people, perhaps millions might be affected by such dramatic changes to the power superstructure. So, we may well need to devise economic solutions for the problem created by many folks (millions??) out of work. But devise we must, unless we are content to destroy the globe. That really is the only Plan B.

6. Population Migration: Why do people migrate to other lands?  By migrating in the numbers seen in recent decades, the migrating folks create a backlash of anger and fear, mostly fear among the receiving populations. But, we all know that it is not simply economics that drives the migrants to uproot themselves and move to other, possibly hostile lands.  My grandparents migrated for largely economic reasons. But those were simpler times. Now, folks move for economics, yes, but often to avoid being murdered by gangs, thuggish religious enterprises, and just downright murderous despotic regimes (think Saudi Arabia, and virtually all of the Middle East).  There seem to be two kinds of solutions: 1) allow the populations to flow hither and yon, as dictated by the whims of the folks being murdered; or 2) attempt to fix the problems that cause folks to want/need to migrate.  We seem increasingly to hate solution #1, and are seemingly incompetent at #2. If we cannot all join forces internationally (at least among the theoretically civilized nations) to advance one solution or another, preferably #2, then we face permanent War as a natural state for our world. Now, it is true that many people actually like states of war. They allow planes to bomb places, and create splendid vistas of pure firepower. But eventually, we will also destroy the world by accident. Maybe it is true that we really are just dinosaurs in disguise. 

There are other problems to be resolved by the next administration, unless we re-elect Donald Trump. In that case, I assume we have opted to continue destroying the world, so nothing else matters. 

Maybe we are smarter than that??? Fond hope springs eternal.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Lying in America

I continue to wonder about the continued support for Trump and his minions.  How, after two years of very public demonstrations of his complete incompetence, and psychological imbalances, could any thinking adult decide to vote for someone who is on the side of the Trumpies?  To be fair, he wasn’t on the ballot literally, but he has kept on announcing that a vote for some republican is in fact a vote for him, so he literally placed himself on the ballot psychologically.  If you vote for Bryan Kemp, or Ted Cruz, you are voting FOR Donald Trump.  I wonder whether he inserted himself in the race to elect the dead pimp –see Nevada?

Now, it simply is not the case that people just do not know/understand who Donald Trump is, and what his strengths and weaknesses are. We have been bombarded by him. By one count, he has told ten lies per day since being inaugurated. And the lies are not subtle things that one needs to uncover through research. They practically scream (LIE) at you, every time he opens his mouth. So, people know, and, apparently do not care.  But how can that be?? The latest outrage was the altered video of the Acosta interaction with the White House intern. That it was altered is beyond any doubt. Whether Trump set up the encounter in advance so as to get rid of Acosta is at least a reasonable supposition.  But here again, everyone saw the original encounter, with the White House intern being the intruder on the space of Acosta, not the reverse. It is clear that she was the intruder, not him. And everyone saw that. So, how/why he would concoct such a preposterous story, which everyone knows is a lie, is beyond belief. He and his White House thugs seem no longer to care whether everyone knows they are lying.  It is as though lying is now the acceptable form of communication. It no longer matters whether he and his thugs are lying. People no longer expect the truth. 

I am reminded of the Brexit process, during which Nigel Farage proclaimed on his buses/ trucks/billboards, that the National Health Service would receive hundreds of millions of pounds after Brexit. Then, almost immediately following the Bexit vote, he came out and said, “well yes, but we didn’t really mean that”. So, he conned the voters, now they know he conned them, but there is no recourse. He pays no penalty.

But then what kind of universe have we just entered? Apparently, now, it is ok for anyone to lie at any time, and it does not matter. And, also, it apparently doesn’t matter whether the matter being lied about is important, or trivial.  So, now, it is ok for anyone to lie about anything and there are no consequences. That now is our world. And, because I observe that Trump supporters, the many millions of MAGA-Heads, do not care whether Trump is lying to them, that they similarly will not care if anyone else lies to them. Suppose, for example, that the Bank of America decides that, to get people to invest with them, they tell people, “well, if you place your funds with us, we will pay you 2% above anyone else.” And then, when you place your funds with them, they can say, well, sorry, but we really didn’t mean that.  And we would be ok with that, right??  Or, if your local highway patrolman stops your car and says, “ well I decided you were going 20 MPH above the speed limit, so I’m ticketing you for that amount (helps his work performance record, don’t you know). And you scream, “Hell no, I wasn’t going 20 MPH above the speed limit”. And he’s lying, but you have no way of proving that he’s lying, so you’re now ok with that, correct??
And if President Stupidhead decides to declare War on, say, Mexico, and he concocts a lie, then you’re ok with us going to WAR with Mexico, right??

So, that is the world in which we now find ourselves. Anyone can lie about anything, and it’s ok. Why we may even laugh about it all. And you’re all ok with such a world, right????

Monday, November 5, 2018

Awfulness in America

So what are we to think or do, aside from actually voting to rid our nation of the nationalists/fascists/Nazis among us, including the ones sitting in Congress—see Steve King?   The awful events keep escalating, seemingly following Trump’s awful rhetoric. His speeches seem to be getting increasingly violent, and the violence that follows seems increasingly worse—horrific even.  The synagogue shootings are so despicable it is hard to put it into simple words.  And the acts all seem to be acts of domestic terrorism. But when our president declares himself to be a Nationalist, should we expect less? The central issue in his proclamation, of course, is what does Trump mean when he says he is a “nationalist”? His detractors, myself included, tend to be drawn to one of the extreme meanings—that related to Nazism and Nazi Germany, circa 1930s and 1940s. Nationalism can, of course, be simpler, implying an identity with our Nation, as distinct from other nations.  But Trump has chosen again and again to employ racial dog whistles about “horseshit nations”, Mexican rapists and murderers, and now the caravan strolling its way through Central America, and headed in our direction. The fact that Trump has promised to deploy thousands (how many seems in doubt) of troops to prevent their entry, and is suggesting that they shoot to kill should anyone throw rocks, all seems way beyond a simple preference for one’s nation. It speaks instead to the type of Nationalism displayed during the 1930s and 1940s in Nazi Germany. That interpretation is amply supported by actual Nazi and KKK groups that come out in support of Trump, and which he seems to enjoy urging them to act out their fantasies.

So, when someone sends out pipe bombs, or enters a Jewish synagogue to shoot people, or enters a Kroeger’s grocery to shoot black folks, one can reasonably tie such acts to the Trump MAGA band wagon.

Trump has always promoted violent approaches (see “Lock her up”) as opposed to rational argumentation.  Mainly I think his rhetoric is drawn to violence because, a) his hordes of thuggish followers seem delighted to engage in violent fantasies and acts, and b) his rhetorical skills seem lacking in the extreme. We know that Trump is a few brain cells under the idiot level. But we don’t really know about all of his followers/supporters. We know, of course, that the ones carrying torches and wearing KKK hats, or sporting the Nazi swastika, are likely beyond any hope of returning to the American dream. For whatever reasons, they seem lost in their own devilish universe, where most of America is viewed as “the enemy”.  

But surely there are other supporters who are not of the extremist perspective, and who might return to America and the ideals of our Great Nation.  I am told that, if we continue to simply brand them as evildoers, or idiots, then by insulting them, we lose them forever.

But, how I keep wondering, might they return to what I view as sanity? Because, supporting Trump is supporting a potentially terrorist regime, one that seems aimed at destroying the comity that characterized our nation pre-Trump.  Maybe I am stretching it to speak of pre-Trump “comity”.  But, having lived through the 1930s and into the 21st century so far, it occurs to me that, whatever the rhetoric employed by Trump, we are not yet in the 1850-1860 America period of self-destruction. Yes, we have racism. Yes, we have Antisemitism. And yes, we definitely have anti-immigrant sentiments.  Americans seem vaguely oblivious to our own heritage. 

In my case, my grandparents on both sides came over from Europe during the 1890s, one side from Scotland, and the other from Austria and Latvia.  Neither set had any serious money. In fact, that is why they came here, to improve their lives economically.  In neither case, did they possess serious academic qualifications.  One grandpa decorated china by hand painting. The other grandpa was a serious carpenter, who began building houses after his arrival.  Neither made a fortune after their arrival. They made enough money to maintain a middle class lifestyle. Now, to be sure, they were all white Europeans. So, perhaps they were “acceptable” immigrants, as distinct from the rapists and murderers who come from "shithole" countries, or invade our space from the South.  Still, when they came, we were largely a welcoming society. As our Statuesque Lady in the harbor suggests (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) we at one time actually welcomed immigrants.  Now, apparently, according to our president, unless you are coming from Norway, or Sweden, you would not be white enough to be welcomed.

It now seems clear that Trump simply derives his power from his rhetoric of fear. If he can make his hordes fearful enough, they will stay by his side. Evidently, if you don’t scare your followers, they might continue to think, and Trump doesn’t want any of that thinking stuff.  Since he is incapable of anything resembling rational thought, he certainly doesn’t want any of his followers engaging in thinking.  Thinking tends to promote scenarios of alternate universes, and he wants only one universe—the one he inhabits and, for the moment, rules.

But, how might we even attempt to engage folks who have been infected with the MAGA virus?  I would exclude, of course, the torch bearers, and Swastikadets.  For the others, and however difficult, I suggest that there are likely issues on which we might agree with the folks who voted with Trump.  For example, not everyone who voted for Trump wants our public tax money given to private charter schools, thereby depriving public schools of needed tax dollars.  And not everyone wants our air to return to the days of 1950 Los Angeles.  And, likely not everyone really wants off shore drilling just off the coast of Nags Head.

The hot button issues such as abortion, gays, and immigrants might be considered issues too tender to address, but that still leaves dozens of just ordinary policy discussions one might have with people of MAGA-color.  It is on those cool-button issues that one could reach agreements, or at the least agree to disagree civilly. Then, because we are treating each other in a sane fashion—no yelling, curse words, or nasty labels—we might begin to build the bridges needed to allow folks to return to a civilized society, and maybe even to vote in their own best interests.

The current rhetoric being used by the president continues to be worrisome, since he keeps suggesting that he could not possibly lose influence (read, lose GOP Congressional seats) unless evil-doers were perpetrating illegal acts of election fraud.  I do worry what might happen if the GOPers actually lose influence in both houses. Are we on the brink of a Civil War? Well, maybe not, but the thought has at least crossed my mind. All those torch bearers are heavily armed one assumes.  Hopefully, our military actually is neutral politically and will not cross the barriers into civil conflict.  I would like to think that the 101st Airborne is on the side of rationality and would oppose any armed torch bearers.

So, aside from simply voting, we might all begin to think of civic engagement with our neighbors, at least the ones who still appear to be rational.  It couldn’t hurt. But do vote. Please????