Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Grand Destroyer

Getting older is not, as they say, for sissies. Well, technically, what they really mean is BEING OLD is not for sissies.  See, I still remember playing marbles out in the middle of 71st street, a little bit up from Second Avenue in Manhattan. And playing stickball on that same street. Yeah, we had a grand time, stickball, marbles, cops and robbers, all out in the street, before parents prevented kids from playing in the streets.

And then we listened to The RADIO. Yeah, remember that thing?  Well, I guess we still have radios, and some people still listen, but that was before TV.  And FDR, the first president of whom I have a memory, used to talk to us on the radio. Well, so did our mayor, Fiorella LaGuardia.  He had regular broadcasts on the radio, as of course did our president, FDR. LaGuardia also read the comics to the kids during a newspaper strike.  But the radio, during that wartime period, was a big deal for me. I listened regularly, sitting by our fourth floor front window, to shows like The Shadow—“who knows what evil lurks in the minds of man? The Shadow knows.”

And because we had a war on, we had blackouts, and wardens enforcing the blackouts.  And we had rationing, and ration stamps.  I still remember a dog we had, Cleo by name. And one time, my mom had brought food home for dinner, using those ration stamps, and our dog, managed to get the food (meat??) and ate it. That was our dinner, and the last time I remember Cleo.

And then we moved out of that city, up into “the country” of Rockland County, across the river, on “the Jersey side” of the river. That move was designed by my mom to keep us from getting killed on the streets of Manhattan (my brother had already been hit by a truck in those streets).  But moving didn’t stop the parade of Presidents.  See folks kept voting and so we had presidents replacing presidents. First FDR, who would probably still be president today had he not up and died.  But then the parade began – Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (aka St. Ronald of Reagan), George HW (Poppy) Bush, Bill Clinton, George W (Shrub) Bush, Barack Obama, and then, OMG, Donald J Trump, arguably the dumbest man in the universe.

See, they all had their flaws. Most humans do.  And, depending on which political persuasion floated your boat, you might focus on one or more of those flaws.  But, still, having at least been around to observe this cast of characters, I have formed some opinions also, simply by virtue of having been alive in America and at least vaguely mentally alert, throughout that very long period. Several of them stand out in my increasingly dim memory:

·         FDR and Truman, for having managed the nation through the successful conclusion of World War II;

·         Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson for having begun that other war in Vietnam;

·         Kennedy of course, for having been assassinated in November 1963, marking perhaps the single largest traumatic event in my still young mind;

·         Nixon, for his decision to continue that indecent war by lying to us (well the whole war was one big lie after another) and then, for the first time in my history, of thoroughly corrupting the Office of the Presidency;

·         St. Ronald of Reagan, for being, at that stage, arguably the dumbest man ever to be so elevated, from a B-Movie actor (and retrograde California Governor) to the presidency and then acting out the part of our dumbest president (remember the Laffer Curve that he endorsed, that produced the largest deficits in the history of the country?);

·         Bill Clinton for demonstrating the unusual talent of multitasking, by getting a blow job while speaking on the phone to one of his aides, and then getting impeached for that unusual skill set;

·         Shrub for continuing now a pattern by republican presidents of corrupting the office by, in his case, going to war in Iraq by constructing an entire set of lies as justification, and thereby releasing every force for evil in the Middle East, and there are so many such forces there;

·         Barack Obama, for returning decency, and some actual intelligence to that exalted office, and for being just a good person, as well as being our first Black president.

·         And then DISASTER. Donald J. Trump, a man so woefully unprepared that we all have difficulty characterizing him.  He twitters for a living apparently, because he is unequal to the task of actual human communication. See, I think of Twitter as that pseudo-communications system for people who cannot otherwise speak or write in any language, but especially English.

And see, given my rather long history of watching presidents waltz through my life, Trump is hard for me to grasp. And every day, this weird phenomenon becomes worse.  Let’s see:
·         He is a narcissist. And what does that really mean? Well, a narcissist is a human who really only thinks about himself. Everything is all about him, so he will interpret everything thing that happens as in some way being related to him.  Narcissism is a personality disorder that most apparently manifests itself in an individual's inability to listen. Narcissism is defined as "excessive interest in oneself," and this trait can make it difficult for individuals to acknowledge or pay attention to others. Instead, the role of other people in the life of a person with narcissism is to provide praise, encouragement, support, and admiration. Extreme narcissism can cross over into a mental illness called narcissistic personality disorder, where a person is driven by a need for approval, and neither understands nor cares about the feelings of others (Trump anyone??).
·         He seems to be a sociopath. Sociopaths are people with personality disorders who cause harm to others without remorse.
·         He seems to possess a limited IQ, or perhaps he has some other personality disorder that prevented him from learning. He has blocked all access to his actual education, so we do not know what grades he actually completed. But because he also is a pathological liar, he continues to lie about his educational prowess.  He acts continuously like a person who appears not to know anything about almost everything.  And his constant lying, coupled with his narcissism continue, even though everyone knows when he is lying. He seems not to care.
·         Happily for him, he was given a huge amount of money by his father, and so he continues to have a huge amount of money. But it also seems to be the case that he would have even more money had he simply invested all that money in an annuity. Instead, he played with it in the form of various real estate investments, many of which went bankrupt—he may be unique in being someone who failed to make money by opening a gambling casino. Indeed, it seems likely that his various personality disorders, coupled with his limited IQ/education has contributed to his inability to successful manage his many business enterprises. He has experienced six different bankruptcies, more than almost anyone on record.
·         He has books to his credit, but he seems not to have written them, or even actively participated in writing them. He simply hires someone to write his books.
·         He seems to be now in his third marriage disaster. The first two, of course, ended in divorces, but the third, which continues, seems to be a “marriage of convenience”, since he is currently incapable of divorcing, or of being divorced. His third wife, Melania seems to be a poor thing who came to this country under questionable circumstances (she was an “escort” who was able to stay because she “hooked up” with The Donald).  But under even remotely normal circumstances, it seems fairly obvious that they would not remain married.
I guess we could go on and on, listing his faults, but they are all known so well that it seems a bit over the top. It amazes me that he continues to act out in full public view, as though no one is watching.  The observers have now been counting his lies, since being in office, and the count now exceeds 10,000. Think of that. He lies so often, and so obviously that people are now counting them.  And again, he seems not to care, so he continues to Tweet at odd hours of the day, with his tweets representing his childish outbursts.

And he spends so much time on vacation, golfing, that one wonders whether there is really any work to be done at the White House.  Is anyone actually doing his work? Or perhaps the various staff people around him arrange for work to get done without actually consulting him, or maybe by simply working around him.  To say he “gets in the way” seems to be a gentle way of saying that folks try to work by purposefully ignoring him, and hoping that he goes golfing again, somewhere . . . anywhere.

And then we have the investigations. Why were the investigations started? Well, because it seemed obvious to intelligent observers that the Russian government purposefully interfered in the American election process, with the objective of electing Donald Trump.  And so, our investigative forces were chartered to investigate, so that we might be able to prevent another corrupt election.  And he continues denying the legitimacy of the investigations, despite the fact that many of his colleagues are now awaiting or in prison for the wrongdoing.

And why does any of this matter? Well, it matters to me precisely because I am old. Were I young, I would likely now be seriously investigating where on this poor benighted planet I might move, with my family to someplace that values normality, and maybe even honesty.  I know, I know, public honesty by politicians may be an oxymoron, but still many if not most of the presidents I have known during my many years/decades on this planet told the truth at least some of the time. Trump seems never to tell the truth. Yeah, I know, I exaggerate. But with Trump, not so much.

And it matters to me because I may see him as the last president in my ever so brief time on this planet. See, I am now at an age that is beyond all/most of my forebears. I really hate the idea of ending during a Trump presidency, because of what it says about this nation in which I have lived for lo these many years. Even St. Ronald of Reagan, or for heaven’s sake, Shrub seem, waaaayyyy preferable to the clown currently in the exalted Office of the Presidency (apologies to all real clowns).  There was at least a shred of decency in them, and they occasionally told us truths.

But something weird has happened to our Nation that we would even consider electing someone as fatally flawed a human being as The Donald.  What does it say about our people, that anyone currently alive might still approve of him . . . and there are some millions who do. 

Who is to blame, I wonder? I desperately want to blame someone (God, are you listening??? Oh you’re not real, are you, sorry).  Maybe social media??? It’s all the fault of Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and others of that ilk. Folks out there, real Americans, still plan to vote for him in 2020? And some folks, also apparently American, threaten Civil War (i.e., killing other Americans) if Trump is impeached or defeated at the polls. See, now that’s just downright weird.  I keep thinking of the people who participated in the defeat of Nazi Germany. Some of those folks, or their descendants will vote for Donald Trump? How is that possible?  I know, I know, we have often disagreed over issues of national policy, including all those war things, but generally we used to come together when it seemed both real and important.

Now? I no longer know. Are we actually coming apart internally? I keep thinking, well, let the voting polling places decide. But what if they don’t?  What happens then?  Do we simply come unraveled as a nation, and then what are we leaving to our children and our grandchildren? An ugly and thoroughly soiled thing that was once borderline holy?  A nation destroyed? Is that what we wish to leave our kids and our grandkids? Is Trump worth destroying our country??

I hope that I am grossly exaggerating the risks here, but I do actually perceive him as that kind of risk.  I hope I am wrong, but I await some evidence.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Cranky Old Man

It’s really amazing. Vladimir Putin must be some smart bastard to have conceived of placing Donald Trump in our presidency.  He’s destroying the country without firing a single shot.  Who would have thought that was even possible?  Every time I turn around, it seems he has totally destroyed yet another of our government agencies.  What a record—EPA, Education, FCC, Treasury . . . and the list goes on and on. Sometimes, he destroys them by placing in charge someone who fundamentally disagrees with the basic mission—like Betsy DeVos, or Mnuchin,  or Pompeo/Bolton, or Scott Pruitt. But almost as often he has these amazingly dumb people who are within his stable, folks like Ben Carson (who belies his brain surgeon background). I figure Ben got his brain surgeon degree at WalMart.

And now, he is acting out the role of a fascist dictator. Almost everything he has been doing over the past six months is straight out of the fascist dictator playbook:

·                     Denigrating the news media, to a point that he seems to want to destroy them;
·         Insulting his opponents, and then threatening to jail them;
·         Defying Congress, to the point that he seems to make believe they actually do not even                  exist;
·         Placing his relatives in high positions.

And the list goes on and on. He would make Hitler proud.  Oh, and although he has not yet placed any of his hated immigrants in a gas chamber, his policies continue to see folks, often little folks, die in his custody.

And his supporters just continue to back him to the hilt.  They are almost as amazing as Vlad’s move to place him in the job. I guess the MAGAHeads also approve of selling the country to the Russians. They never say anything to that end of course, but I assume they are fine with the whole idea.  It does make me wonder what they get out of the deal, though. Maybe Vlad intends to provide them all with free vacations to Siberia. I understand it is great this time of year.

But then I look at Britain, and the demise of Therese May and the consequent rise of those idiots Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage. And India—they re-elected Modi, despite his complete lack of success in bringing anything of real value to the country. I guess the Congress party is off vacationing in Scotland.  Australia seem to have swung over to the extreme right, although, happily, New Zealand seems to be resisting. Italy is flirting with its fascists, and even Germany has a rising core of fascists.

What the hell is going on?
I think the common thread seems to be immigration.  Lots and lots of migrants are fighting free of their national boundaries and are heading to what they perceive as more civil, or just less murderous grounds.  In the Middle East, the warring continues. It has never really stopped since the so-called Arab Spring. I assume that Shrub, who launched his war in Iraq armed with fake facts, contributed substantially to the ongoing warfare, but they really do seem to get off on killing one another.  Organized religion is so consistent regarding the killing thing.  The religion thing is, of course, just an umbrella that covers all the bloodshed—Religion: it’s a killer.

In our neck of the woods, the migration seems to be caused by either organized crime, big throughout Latin America, or by just murderous regimes, like Venezuela.  Latin America apparently has no interest in this democracy thing—it’s bad for business I guess.  I’m not sure I understand the mess in India with Modi and his right wing thugs. Maybe it is nothing more than 70+ years of tolerating Pakistan, which is not materially different from the Middle East. India and Pakistan seem to get off on killing one another over either territory, or each other’s religions.

In the meantime, Russia and China seem to be figuring out new ways to mess with the world.  And having someone as terminally stupid as Trump at the head of our increasingly useless government does not help to inspire anyone but his bankers.  The bankers never seem to lose, do they?

But all this ongoing mess makes me wonder why nobody ever wants to deal with the basic underlying problems. If the single dominant problem that leads to migration is fear of being murdered, why cannot the theoretically civilized world help to ameliorate the murder?

In the Middle East, the murderous ISIS-Taliban cohorts seem to be being defeated, but the region is not even close to resolving anything that might lead to stability.  In Latin America, the organized crime gangs continue unchecked, and the regimes continue to pour gasoline on the fires of rebellion and murder.  It all makes me wonder about the potential for the United Nations to begin to weigh in.  Why did we create that creature—the United Nations? Let’s look at its purposes.

1.     To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
2.     To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
3.     To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
4.     To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

So, if that is why the UN was created, why do we now abandon it when it is needed perhaps more than at any time since WW II (remember WW II??)? It would seem that the “civilized world” has forgotten why they created the UN.  We were all just emerging from four years of mass murder. Surely then, if not now, the world was getting really tired of bloodshed. Relatively civilized leaders decided that some other form of dispute resolution might be preferable to machine guns and bombs.  I think even then it was never believe seriously that one could talk one’s way out of any problem. They understood that force was often going to be necessary, but if the civilized world could act in concert, then emerging murderous regimes might be contained.

Now the problem with this UN approach is that currently the murderous regimes seem to outnumber the “civilized world nations”.  Somehow, “democratic” approaches to governance, however preferable in the long run, seem not to appeal to folks like Donald Trump, Vlad the Impaler, and the thugs of ISIS/Taliban/Qaida. Organized crime, by definition, prefers other than democracy.  In the short run, the civilized world seem to be falling apart, as people like Trump, Boris Johnson/Nigel Farage, and Modi have taken control. These folks seem not to believe in democracy either.

Now, Modi aside, I have to believe that sooner rather than later, the peoples of the civilized world nations will begin to awaken and begin again to take voting seriously.  Our thugs won’t like it of course, but voting is our literal last chance.  If voting here and in other places like Britain fails, then the world really will all sink into bedlam and murder—can actual wars be far behind with them in charge?

So, I am hoping that we can hang on until real people get to vote, assuming that voting is still legal.
Remember folks, VOTE. Your lives literally depend on it.