Monday, July 29, 2019

We Are Idiots

So, more than half of the republican folks who responded to a survey agreed with the idea of postponing the 2020 election? Really? Why? Well, President Stupidhead continues to lie on and on that the 2016 election was damaged by voter fraud and that he actually won the popular vote.  Mind you, he has no data, plausible or otherwise to substantiate his claim, but he never does and lies are just fine with him.

But how can it be even remotely possible that more than half of people who identify as republican actually agree? Something really bad has happened to America. I keep thinking of his absurd claim that he could go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, and his poll numbers would go up.  We all laughed when he said that. It was so absurd, we didn’t even think of it as a lie. It was just a joke and everyone laughed.

But now? Everything he says practically is a lie, but his lies aren’t funny any longer. And he isn’t joking.  He’s the President of the United States, with all the power of that exalted Office, and he is talking like some crap, thuggish dictator. And it is obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that he is talking trash, but now folks nod their heads and agree with him.

Now, in any halfway serious country, at least the thinking members of our society would be up in arms. And even his own party would be yelling at the rafters to stop him.  Because he is making them look like members of a thuggish political party from some fourth world dictatorship.  Yes, Mitch and his BFFs all look like idiots, racist, thoughtless, and entirely beholden to this idiot.

But, I keep asking, how can this be?  How did this buffoon so completely capture the republican party that there exists no one left in the party to challenge his absurd pronouncements?  I read Andy Borowitz routinely, and he used to be funny. Now, I have to check to make sure he isn’t just reporting the facts of the day.  Comedians find it increasingly difficult to make jokes about him. He just isn’t funny any longer.  And now, he has made it seem that America is the actual joke, and the rest of the world is laughing at us. Not “with us” but at us. We are now the butt of all jokes around the globe. All of Trump’s “shithole” countries that he has been decrying, are now laughing at us, because look who’s the shithole now?

We are now at the bottom of the barrel. I’ll bet even Vlad the Impaler sits around drinking vodka and laughing at us. Because Vlad won the day. Against all odds, he installed a total idiot in the White House, and now the American people are standing around clapping.

Aren’t we proud?

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Imperial Presidency

So is he or isn’t he? A racist that is. And do we the American people care?  The dictionary defines racism as a belief that one race is inherently superior to all other races. The belief is manifestly dangerous when it enters the sphere of public policy, and begins to affect the rules by which citizens lead their lives.  During the period when slavery existed worldwide, Caucasian peoples, generally of European origin saw fit to treat other humans of different races as property, as distinct from humans. As such, they felt able to treat the human property as they saw fit, including elimination of those property-humans.

In other cases, e.g., the British Empire, the Caucasians from Britain traveled to other places on our globe and claimed ownership over everything therein, including the peoples who occupied those foreign climes. So, while the peoples of the Indian Subcontinent may not have been slaves per se, they could not operate independently from the new owners of their land.  Racism continued to operate in such places fostered by the illusion (belief) that the British (White) race was inherently superior to the local (non-white) and therefore deserved to control the land and all its occupants.  Thus, in 1857, the revolt by Indians against their British masters became known among Indians as the First War of Independence, whereas the British overlords referred to that same war as the Great Indian Mutiny.  Perspective is all.

In this country, slavery was the defining context for American racism. One was either European or a slave (largely from Africa). At the time, there were no competing races to interfere with the purity of the racist concept.  And then came the Great War—the “Civil War” of the 1860s. One side, largely the Northern states within that new United States decided that slavery should no longer exist. The Southern states then rebelled and began shooting at the North. The ending we all now know resulted in considerable bloodshed—it is estimated that 620,000 died in that conflict, perhaps the largest in the history of American warfare, although there is some dispute about whether the losses in Vietnam equal or exceed that number.

But the problem is that the war may have settled the argument about whether slavery was legal or illegal, but it never really resolved the underlying issue of racism. Even if you agreed that it was now illegal to own slaves, it did not mean you would agree that, therefore, all races were equal in all respects. Quite the contrary. Within the southern region of the US, racism continued unabated. And, racism existed in all states and regions—see all areas formerly claimed by Native Americans, and subsequently claimed by Caucasians of European descent.

Growing up in midtown Manhattan during the 1930s and 1940s, I virtually never encountered a person of color. African Americans all lived north of 125th Street in Harlem.  Then I moved to New City Park in Rockland County, NY. Again, no people of color. I think in my elementary school, we had not one single person of color. Then I went to high school in Spring Valley, NY. Again, few, very few people of color.  And all this whiteness was not because slaves were still maintained in the North. No, it is because northern whites did not wish to live next to northern people of color. Racism? You betcha.

Oddly (odd to me) we had army units during every war we fought, consisting mainly of segregated units. During WWII alone we had 125,000 African American soldiers in distinguished fighting units. For a brief history, see
Despite the fact that these units were segregated by race, the soldiers died in combat, regardless of their race. But we should be clear, it was racism that kept these units apart from their white counterparts. 

Now, that Donald Trump issue.  It seems fairly clear that the Donald’s entire family has always operated from a base of racism.  Nicholas Kristof recently wrote a useful article in the New York Times about the Trump family racism.  It can be viewed at: Also, The Atlantic published a piece on the Trump family racism, which describes the same issues as Kristof identified. It can be viewed at:

As these and other articles make clear Trump’s racism is born and bred. His family was racist and he simply adopted these family traits, and carried them over into his businesses. Note that housing has traditionally been the touchstone of racism.  Entire housing units, or housing developments have been denied to people of color. In the case of Trump, housing units developed and operated by Trump were racist by design and operated as such.

And Trump’s problem in denying the racism, (“I don’t have a racist bone in my body”--see the Kristof article specifically) is that he lies almost every time he opens his mouth. The truth-watchers (PolitiFact and others) stopped counting after he passed his 10,000th lie while in office. So, for Trump to decry the calls of racism is somewhere between laughable and outrageous.

But the more important question, beyond whether Trump is a racist (he is), is the same question about the American people.  There seem to be several types of people in America:

Hard-Core Racists (KKK lovers) – the folks who think the wrong side won the Civil War, and that folks of a different color, but especially African-Americans, should not be living here, and maybe should “go home”, despite the fact that Georgia might well be “home”.  You know them. They refuse to live within any community that houses people of color, hate the fact that schools are even vaguely integrated, and refuse to have anything to do with such folks.

Ordinary Racists – many Americans do not practice their racism openly and would be offended were the term applied to them.  But they still prefer living in communities that are largely devoid of people of color, and seek out schools for their kids that are predominantly, if not completely white. Charter schools are largely a direct response to such people.  They are polite when encountering people of color, but prefer not mixing socially or even in business settings. They will not create scenes when encountering black folks, but they prefer not encountering them.

Largely non-Racist—many (percentages would be handy, but . . .) Americans who are largely free of racism. While they might not seek out communities of color within which to house themselves, they do not shy away from housing communities that have a black component. They will send their kids to integrated schools, and will mix easily both socially and in business with people of mixed race.  These are the folks who voted for Barack Obama, and who continue to think that Obama was a successful president.

I assume there is some component of our population that simply has no racial bias at all. They treat everyone equally, regardless of skin color.  Percentages would be nice, but I assume this group is fairly small.

Now, growing up in this country, I have also observed a concept that may not be racist, but operates in similar ways. Many folks who migrated to the US from many different countries have often tended to seek out others of the same characteristics, be they color, language, or ethnic background. Thus, within many cities, German villages emerged, or Chinatowns, or Irish neighborhoods, or Hispanic neighborhoods. People feel more comfortable with other folks who seem to be like them. I once spoke with a Hispanic man who functioned as a translator. He attended a large meeting of sales people in Los Angeles, and came away with the conviction that these people never needed to speak/learn English, because they lived their lives entirely within Hispanic communities.

Similarly, African Americans have learned to be cautious in all aspects of their lives. They know they are at greater risk than white Americans. Over time, they may well seem themselves to be racist. Mainly, it is a defensive style of living, borne of many years/decades of life experiences in which their communities suffer different fates than their white community counterparts.  Thus, “driving while black”, “dining while black”, and other similar tropes have arisen in our language to describe the plight of African Americans in encounters with our various police forces.

At any one time, these differing racist views coalesce and produce different political environments. Groups such as the KKK and white supremacists, like Neo-Nazi’s have arisen and taken on a political identity. In most previous Administrations, these groups were marginalized and considered “undesirables”.  Now, with our current Trump Administration, these groups seem to form the core of the supporters. Others, the “not-quite full racists”, or the MAGAHeads, join in to forge a new hard core Trump support group, one that hopes to re-elect him in 2020.  They are the ones now chanting “Send her back”, thus replacing the “Lock her up” chants of his 2016 campaigns.  But it is the same campaign strategy—define his opposition as evil, Anti-Americans, who should be either in prison, or kicked out of the country. “This country is for whites only” seems to be their campaign slogan, or motto.

And now that Fox News has given up all pretense at being a neutral news organization, they can now turn up their own amplifiers and broadcast his message as though it was coming directly from Trump’s mouth.  He has a full-time political PR firm at his disposal 24-7, and it doesn’t even cost him any campaign money.

So, it seems clear that not only is Trump a racist, but his entire campaign is a racist trope.

Now that is a damning thought, assuming I am accurate. But it may not be the worst we can deduce from the Trump campaign. We need to remember that Trump is the compleat narcissist. By that I mean that all of his actions and reactions are derived from his immense sense of self. In his world, he is the only human that matters. Nobody else is of even the slightest concern.  If, in the course of pursuing some end in which he is interested, someone or some set of somebodies, gets hurt, he does not care. He is the only thing that matters. In his eyes, he can do no wrong.  And, his desires are what matters. Nothing else.

Now, what does that mean with a US President? I think it means that he views himself as somehow above the US Presidency. That he views as simply a high level job. What he may want is to be a king-emperor, in fact if not in title.  He may see himself, now that he has been elevated to the Presidency, as an historic figure, who will forever be remembered reverently.  And I think he may do anything to so elevate himself into that historic picture. He may in some fashion declare a war—think Iran. He may act so as to corrupt our election process to yield his desired objective—him elevated for another four years.  And then he may begin acting to remain longer than four years in that high office.
His entire campaign is built on creating in the minds of his supporters a fear and a hatred of the other, and “the other” is anyone who fails to fully support Donald Trump. He casts them as traitors to the country—anyone who does not support his every whim is, therefore a Traitor.

This folks, is the stuff of radical dictators everywhere in history. It is the stuff of absolute monarchs. It is the stuff of fascist dictators, such as Hitler and Mussolini.  It is the stuff of the Iranian Ayatollah. It is the stuff of Kim in North Korea, of MBS in Saudi Arabia.  It has no relationship to any of our past presidents—NONE.  He has placed himself in a class, the likes of whom we have never seen in this country.

He is an existential threat to the security of our very democracy.  He is not simply the “worst president in our history”.  He is in a different class, a class that degrades to the point of elimination the very concept of our Presidency.

The fact that his republican allies in Congress support him is a sign that our entire system is now at risk. This is not simply a political disagreement over policy. It is a battle for survival of our nation.

We dare not lose this battle.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sexual Predators of the World Beware

I find myself wondering why we are all surprised, even perhaps shocked at the idea of sexual predation amongst the rich and famous.  Well, at the least, I guess, we are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any longer.  Until the next incident that is.

I’m thinking maybe we should reconsider how we treat certain types of crimes. For example, suppose all the girls who were raped or otherwise abused carried guns (NRA pay attention).  And suppose they had been taught to use them. And suppose further, we decided as a society that shooting/killing a sexual predator/rapist was not treated as a crime, but instead a simpler, perhaps more efficient form of justice.

Think of the number of priests who might have been offed, and consider how that might have changed the sexual predation habits of priests—a centuries old habit we think. And then fast forward to Jeffrey Epstein. Suppose, the first, or at least one of the first of the girls he abused had been armed. And suppose, she simply shot him, and he died as a result. His predation days would then have been over, and then consider how that might have changed Donald Trump, or any of his friends who liked to get it on with “very young girls”. Maybe young girls might now be a bit safer.

So, instead, we ship the errant priests off to yet another parish. And for the Epstein’s of the world, we circumvent the real criminal justice system, and give the bad boys a slap on the wrist and a warning to behave better in the future.  But they never do behave better do they? And actually, we know they won’t, because they understand that they will get away with their behavior.

Part of the problem of course, is that we at least pretend to believe in the rule of law. And the current rules allow sexual predators to deny all charges and claim the girls are lying. Perhaps short of catching them in the act, our rules of this game often allow easy escapes, especially if the predators are sufficiently rich, or if the institutions housing/protecting them (the Catholic Church comes to mind) are sufficiently influential that our system ignores them.

So, shooting the predators seems a nice, tidy solution. It introduces a few little problems obviously. Arming a bunch of 12 year old girls could arguably result in other problems. For example, instead of yelling, “nyah, nyah, nyah nyah” at each other in the lunch room, one could imagine a frustrated girl just pulling out her Glock and offing her abusive friends.  Seems unlikely perhaps, but bullying does have consequences.  So, we would need to deal with such incidents. Maybe the shooter could get suspended from school for a week. Bet that would stop the bad behavior, huh?

And if a girl gets raped and then shoots her assailant, I suppose we would need to consider even tougher measures. I don’t know, maybe a week’s suspension and a whole month of counseling.  See, we would be treating the shootings with the same seriousness we now treat the rapes, and sexual trafficking.

So, I suggest that our criminal justice system take a good long look at how we protect youngsters and how we are willing to deal with the results of predation, should the girls finally tire of being raped by the idiots of the world. So, Jeffrey Epstein, beware. You may be the next target practice.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Reimagining Humanity

We just watched an episode of John Oliver the other day, and Oliver took on Amazon and others of that ilk. We buy stuff from Amazon Prime and we were appalled at the way workers are treated.  Apparently Bezos raised their salaries to at least the $15 minimum wage standard, but they otherwise are treated like robots, rather than humans.

And speaking of robots, it turns out that robots do a lot of the work at Amazon. The humans basically work to serve the robots.  But beyond feeling overwhelmed at the terrible working conditions, I began wondering about workers more broadly.  It seems clear to me that most of the remaining Amazon workers, the ones who serve the robots, will soon be replaced by more robots.  Just watching the robotic movement of goods destined for shoppers all over the country (world?) it seemed inevitable that those robots will soon be carrying out most of the work of the humans who currently work there.  The robots mainly now seem to move the goods through the retrieval and packaging stages, with humans intervening at various points.  So, what is all this work about?

Well, Amazon gets an order online from a customer who wants a book. Someone retrieves the order, and then places an order from the Amazon book depository—yes, Amazon already owns the book and it is stored in a warehouse somewhere.  The person who places the order within Amazon has to tell the system that person X wants a copy of The Half Has Never Been Told, and has ordered it on Amazon Prime. That defines the products and the terms—it must be mailed by a certain date/time.  So, someone in the warehouse gets that order and walks to collect the book, stuffs the book into a box with some stuffing, and places the box onto a conveyor headed to a computer station that seals the box, and prints the address and postage. The box then rolls away to its delivery point, where it is placed by a human into some end stage delivery service, enroute to the truck that will carry it via USPS or UPS to its ultimate destination, all within the allotted time.

So, humans intervene whenever it is convenient and Amazon doesn’t yet have a robot to carry out the needed procedure. But soon, I imagine, most of those procedures will be fully automated, and the warehouses, now filled with humans, will become relatively empty of humanity. I can easily imagine warehouses devoid of humans, aside from some oversight technicians and some maintenance technicians. Even robotic systems will require maintenance.

But thousands of manual workers will soon become hundreds of more highly skilled tekkies who exist to keep the robots moving swiftly through their appointed tasks. And then I begin thinking, extrapolating really, to other industries, perhaps to the source of the goods that now move through the Amazon warehouse systems.  Maybe to the printers who now produce the final copies of The Half Has Never Been Told.  And I can envision a system by which a digital file is sent via the Internet to a fully automated printing shop, and the file arrives with a digital order for 500 copies of the book and some instruction as to the type of printing—hard or soft bound, color of cover, etc. And that order enters the computer, which then sends a digital instruction to the printing presses and the bindery, which then literally prints the books, binds them and then separates the final copy into sets of books to be delivered to various end stage customers, like Amazon. Again, no humans intervene, except perhaps to keep the automated wheels turning.

No, no, you object, surely humans will still be required at many stages of this process. And I say, No, humans will not be required.  Over time, we have seen whole industries basically destroyed in this country by cost considerations. The mills of New England first moving to the South—think Kannapolis—because labor costs were cheaper in the South. Then the owners decided that labor costs were actually less expensive in Mexico, then China, until there were no mills left in America, or Mexico. But if cost is really the determinant, then surely robots will eventually win out, and those same mills will soon be moving out of China. Well, they may move from one town in China to another town in China, or they may move back to America. Where will the robots be located—anywhere and everywhere.

Now if this forecast proves true, what then is the future of the labor force—the actual humans on this planet who exist partly to create things for other humans? I am thinking that we may well need to rethink our entire system of education in this country and beyond.

Partly, we have built a system of education that seeks to inform our humans and to help them to become thinking humans—people with some sense of the past and a path to the future.  Partly, though, this educational system is an employment preparatory system, and I do not mean just the trade schools. All of education, including the “higher” system of education exists to equip humans to carry out various kinds of work.  I include here doctors, lawyers, accountants, physicists, teachers, “management” executives.  We already have robotic surgery, where surgical procedures are carried out by robots under the watchful eye of a human surgeon. I cannot but imagine every field being subjected to robotic intervention. Your friendly neighborhood accountant?  Sure, automation would be simple there. All it takes is a set of rules for operating, and then transferring those rules to a computer.

So, although I am sure that we can find various jobs that would be difficult to transfer to robots, the number may well not be very high.  And so what does this mean for humans, and, more specifically, what does this mean for our system of education?  I think we need to reimagine education, and the entire system of what we like to call “WORK”.

Now, I cannot imagine any inquiry being initiated under the Trump Administration, which wants to see coal mining jobs come back into existence, with folks still equipped with picks and shovels, dragging coal out of underground caverns. But surely, later, perhaps after Trump is dead, and new thinking humans have taken over the government, that inquiries will be initiated throughout the land. The inquiries will be needed, first into the more obvious robotic-friendly industries. But then we will need in-depth examinations of one field of study after another, until we have examined our entire system of education and employment-based training.  

Where will this lead? We cannot know at this stage, since our minds remain firmly embedded in the manual labor mode of thinking. But the inquiries may well free us from the stone age of work and open up a new view of why humans exist and what we should be doing while we are here. I see this as an uplifting atmosphere in which all humans everywhere become re-engaged in the subject of why humans exist, and I do not mean a rebirth of organized religion. We need to think beyond religion and fairy tales. 

We need to re-imagine humanity.