Thursday, January 30, 2020

How Did I Get Here??

Here I am, growing up in the 1940’s in Manhattan’s Second Avenue between 70th and 71st Streets on the East side.

Cute kid, huh? Yeah, we had a crappy home life, with an idiot father who drank too much and couldn’t hold a decent job. Or maybe he drank too much because he was expected to hold down a decent job so he could support a wife and three kids. Whatever. He couldn’t/didn’t want to do it. Luckily, mom believed in supporting her three kids, so she worked and brought home the bacon.
So, my bro and I were classic latch-key kids who played on the streets after school. We had fun, despite our deficient family life.

And then I turned into this creature.
Who the hell is he and how did he come into being? See, I look into the mirror each day and wonder who it is I am looking at. See, I’m now 85, but I can’t figure out how that happened. My grannies were always 85, until they were no more.  I am supposed to be 30 . . . well maybe 40, but that’s it. Yeah, yeah, I know about all those years spent working, or traveling to exotic locations—what, now you’re going to tell me that Lincoln, Nebraska is not an exotic location??  Ok, I get it.

So, somehow I got here, but now that I’m here, I don’t know what to do with it all. How do I deal with this ending thing? See, all my Grans left by around the time they hit this 85 thing. Yeah, none made it into their 90s.  So, theoretically, I’m poised to be leaving. But I am not yet ready to be “leaving”. And mainly because you don’t really “leave” do you? I mean there is no journey that you begin after you croak. You simply cease “being”. So, I’m not quite ready for that non-status.

But what to do instead? One daughter thinks I need something to do, and maybe I should become a home delivery man for delivering food to the house-bound.  But I don’t feel like delivering meals.  Part of my problem, I suppose, is that I have never actually done anything worthy of note. Oh, I earned money, working as an engineer in an aerospace company, and then as a management consultant here and abroad. But I never really created anything worthy of the name, nothing to mark my presence on Earth—see Michelangelo, or maybe Albert Einstein.

I have been mostly an Observer. I grew up and into this ancient cretin by observing life. They say that “Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans”. And that’s partly true. But I also Observe.  Now that’s ok, I guess. I even turned my “observing” into a pseudo-art form by taking pictures of everything and then pretending it was “art”.  But observing and doing really are different ways to occupy your life. And I think that’s what we all do—Occupy Our Lives for some finite period.  

And so, to fill the time, I write a bit, I take a lot of pictures, and I read about things. And so I continue this “aging in Place” thing.  Meanwhile, I begin to look differently each day. And I begin to think about this world and my place in it differently each day.

Lately, I cannot stop thinking about this creature we call Donald Trump. It’s hard because he tends to suck all the air out of the room each day. We can almost literally not think or focus on anything else. And having grown up under such creatures in the same place as Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower, this creature called Trump seems totally foreign. He would be more believable as the head of some organized crime gang . . . surely not the head of any country, unless it was Tasmania, or Uzbekistan (well, technically, Tasmania is not a state, but an island state of Australia, but . . .) Apologies to those places.

But I didn’t used to think about the creatures who ran our nation.  No, growing up, mostly the head dudes just ran things without being stupid about it. So, I was able to be myself, have a bit of fun, do some “work” and admire my family. You know—LIVE.

But now that I am nearing the end of this creative space we call LIFE, I am having trouble thinking about anything other than the White House Cretin, Donald Trump. He insists we all think only of him.  And all my 80+ years on this planet earth amount to nothing. I am reduced to a pair of eyes and a limited brain observing the creature Donald doing stupid things.

Now mainly these days, I think about the people who seem actually to like him. I walk into the Y mornings to work out, so as to keep this aging piece of flesh firm for the next day. And I look around, and I see a 60ish woman wearing a “Trump—2020—Keep America Great” sign on her shirt.  And I see a fat white guy wearing a Firefighters for Trump shirt, and I think (hmmm, racist). But is the old lady a racist, and that’s her excuse? Does she understand that he likes to “grab women by the pussy, just cuz he can?” How is it possible that she supports him? And so I laugh at her. Oh she doesn’t know that, but I do.

I can’t watch any of the impeachment things on TV. It’s too disturbing to think that we have actual republican politicians who have so few ethical principles that they will lie to preserve his status as our Lord and Master. And then I think, I may leave (cease to exist) while he is still here as Master of our universe.  And I will not learn how this black comedy all turns out. Will our kids and grandkids all disappear in a puff of smoke because he does yet another terminally stupid thing and a war begins without an ending? I can’t bear that thought.

And so I continue for another day, hoping that some miracle occurs to save our little piece of this sad universe. Where is Greta Thunberg when we need her? Oh, she really is busy trying to save our actual globe from destruction. She doesn’t have time for the cretin Donald.

I guess I will have to continue observing day by day, even pretending to some artsy thing occasionally. And meanwhile, I will continue to hope. Maybe this is what my grans did when they observed Hitler during WW II. We never talked about that, cuz I was too young for such talk.  But maybe they simply observed. Oh and I guess they voted too. That’s how we got such amazing people like FDR, and Ike, and Kennedy.

And so I will have to just carry on, and pretend that I matter on this planet.  I will end this little diatribe with something I wrote a while ago, something about existence and perception.

I stood outside on our porch one morning, just the other day. I often come out early, as the sun is rising, just to look. As I stood there, I began thinking; someday this will all be gone. I will no longer stand here looking out at the sky and the trees, and the houses with their residents just beginning to awaken. It will all be gone.

Then I corrected myself.
No, one day, it will remain, and only the image in my brain will be gone. But if there is no image in my brain, does it actually exist, this thing I now see? It’s the old, “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does the tree actually fall? Perhaps, if I am no longer here, then nothing exists.

So then, what are we all doing here? Are we all simply sitting around, waiting for Godot?
I think of the expression about people who, “are simply taking up space.” That is, they aren’t doing anything useful, but what is useful anyway? Is useful getting up in the morning, strapping on a vest filled with dynamite, driving to some crowded marketplace, and then detonating the vest?

Is useful deciding to feed a hungry child?
Is useful, then, a relative term, meaning, in the final analysis, exactly nothing?
In a million years, would being useful matter?

We fuss about such terminally stupid things, like whether two people of the same gender should be allowed to marry, while ignoring the fact that half of the “correctly married” will eventually divorce one another, some after great stress, and even violence. But of what consequence are such things anyway? Will the earth cease to rotate if we do one thing and not another?

Did it matter that Adolph Hitler decided to kill six million people simply because they were Jews, or Gypsies, or some other condition he deemed un-Germanic?
Well, it turns out that it did matter, but only briefly, and only to the people he killed, and the people who loved the people he killed. In a million years, Hitler will be as though he never existed. He’s the tree that fell in the forest while no one was around to see it or hear it fall. And the people he killed will also be as though they never existed.

What matters then is the moment . . . now. And the only moment that matters is that which I perceive. And if I act, always act, so as to create beauty, then for those brief moments that I exist, I may fulfill the only possible purpose for which I exist. And if I understand that beauty exists in many forms—a work of art surely, but also the smile of a child, the caress of a loved one, the rising of the sun, or its setting, the low whirring of a hummingbird’s wings as it caresses your path.

These matter, even if only for the briefest moments.
For those moments, I truly exist . . .

Bye for now.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Power Corrupts

I know that Trump has been impeached forever. He will always be one of a few sitting presidents impeached.  Still, we desperately need to have him removed from office, along with his VP Pence. The more I read about what he is doing to our government and to the system of laws and regulations that protect ordinary Americans, the more concerned I become about his continuation in office.  Two areas, Education and the Environment are but the latest examples of how he is eliminating policies and programs that literally make America Great.  He personally has no clue what that catchphrase means, nor do his supporters.

In education, the public education system—public schools—are a main reason we have a literate middle class in this country, and the middle class is what made America great.  Trump and his know-nothing appointee Betsy Devos are trying hard to reduce that system to a shell of its former self, replaced by publicly funded private schools that operate with no standards.

In environmental issues, we have a global crisis facing us in the not too distant future, a crisis that Trump refuses to address, because he is too stupid and too selfish to understand its nature and the level of threat it represents. Instead, his appointees are eliminating the few regulatory protections we have to safeguard our water supplies and our natural geologic heritage.

What he is doing seems beyond dispute. But the fact that he is getting away with it, thanks to a do-nothing Senate is perhaps the more troublesome.  He is getting away with all his transgressions, as his current trial in the Senate is demonstrating. Yes, he will always have been impeached. But if the Senate refuses to accept the facts staring them in the face, and votes to acquit him, we may be finished as a civilized society.

And as clear as that seems to me, it apparently has escaped the attention of our republican friends. That truth has also evidently escaped the attention of millions of Americans who continue to support this poor benighted president.

It is interesting, listening to the opposing lawyers Trump has hired (and what a cast it is). The term pettifoggery popped out of nowhere in one of the TV shows we watch. And while I knew the word, sort of, I didn’t understand its actual definition:

Pettifogger – a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded or disreputable; shyster; one given to quibbling over trifles.
Hmmm, sounds like any/all of Trump’s lawyers.

But, and this is a big BUT, his republican Senate comrades-in-arms are still with him, giving him their full support.  This, to me, is the most troubling aspect of this entire trial charade.  What does this action tell us about our government and its political parties?  It says, I believe, that our government is now dysfunctional. That is, republicans in general are so captive to our president that they now refuse any longer to act in the public interest.  They are now actors within their own little sphere of influence, which does not admit of facts, or truth, or public interest, or even, any ethical or moral principles.

They apparently have cashed in their principles for power. The more cynical amongst us might conclude, “well, they never had any ethical or moral principles to begin with, so there really is no great surprise here”.  But I would submit that, at least some of them seemed to have some principles at various points in their political careers. But whether that is true, or not, it matters not at this point in time. Right now, the principles have all vanished from the stage of republicanism.

I have been asserting for some time now, partly with tongue in cheek, that the Republican Party is dead. That the likes of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and even Shrub would not recognize this party as the one to which they belonged.  Indeed, this party seems all about, and exclusively so, acquiring power.  We know, because he has told us, that Trump is all about acquiring total power. He believes he can and should continue to serve as president, even after his 8-year term is completed. Perhaps he actually sees himself as King Donald I of the Americas.  And that apparently fails to scare the bejesus out of them.  They seem not to care that Trump corrupts the Office of the Presidency every day he is in office.  The impeachment simply indicted him for a couple of known/verifiable offenses. He commits offenses on a daily basis (for example, the Emoluments clause), but, again, they seem not to care.

They seem to be focused on keeping Trump in power, because he will allow them to act without consequence for their own actions. In short, we seem headed for this soliciting of Absolute Power thing. They all seem to believe that he will give them absolute power, if only he can be kept in office. So, now, they must do anything, corrupt anything and everything in order to keep him in power, so that they will also remain in power. And so, we seem headed for this complete train wreck of a democracy. Our Nation’s very existence as a functioning democracy is now at risk. Partly the outcome is in the hands of republicans. After that, it lies within the hands of our voting public, always assuming the public is allowed to vote, and that Trump’s gunners (his KKK-NeoNazi gunners) allow people to actually vote.

We will see what happens, but I, in my 85 years of life here, have never seen a threat level even close to this, and that includes all of our wars combined since 1934.  I continue to hope, but that hope diminishes daily as I listen to the republicans drone on corruptly.

Remember folks,


Friday, January 17, 2020

And So It Begins

So, Trump has been impeached, and, as Nancy Pelosi argues, the Senate trial does nothing to alter that fact. There are two issues: 1) the Impeachment, and 2) the Trial in the Senate. Only if he is convicted by 2/3 of the sitting senators will he be removed from office. But he will always be known as the fourth sitting president to be impeached. That stain can never be removed.

Now, does that matter in any real way? My sense is, No, it does not matter. Why? Well, Donald Trump does not now and will not ever in the future acknowledge the legitimacy of the House Impeachment hearing and outcome. He is treating it as he did the Mueller inquiry, in his words, as a “witch Hunt”.  In the unlikely event the Senate actually voted to convict him, I imagine he might treat such an event as momentous.  But, we think that will never happen. And that is the core of our problem as a nation.

It seems to me fairly clear that Trump violates the very concept of the Office of the Presidency, every time he opens his mouth. He lies about almost everything. The Ukraine affair seems now beyond question—he did in fact hold military aid funds hostage, illegally, to get the head of the Ukraine government to carry out a public investigation of the Biden family’s Ukraine activities.  It is really a form of blackmail. This all to further his political campaign in 2020.

He has also forbidden his administration to cooperate with Congress in any aspect of these investigations.  Rather than portraying his innocence by actively cooperating, he has done the opposite—obstruct Congress in its work.

He acts almost daily more like a member of an organized crime mob boss than the President of the United States. But then, this is the way he has conducted himself throughout his entire career.  His refusal to release his tax returns seems heavy evidence that he has much to hide in that regard. His Trump University scam, and his Trump Foundation scam both provide evidence that Donald Trump does not believe any rules or laws apply to him.

The most recent issue that we are still learning about seems potentially more disturbing. That issue involved the US Ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. A recent article by Dahlia Lithwick describes the potential threat posed by Trump’s thuggish behavior:

“In a previous deposition, Yovanovitch described how Ukrainian officials had warned her that the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had been in touch with a former Ukrainian prosecutor general, “and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me.” At the time of that October deposition, she understood “things” to mean her eventual ouster. She couldn’t have known, as was revealed in new documents turned over to the Intelligence Committee by indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, that the “things” the president’s men had in mind might have been darker. According to Parnas’ WhatsApp exchanges, someone appears to have had the ambassador under physical and electronic surveillance last March, as Giuliani was making his moves against her position in Ukraine. Most ominously, the exchanges include cryptic messages that more could be done toward the ambassador for “a price.” It’s now an open question if the president’s goons had hired other goons to stalk a U.S. ambassador.

Whether Trump had openly suggested an eventual “hit” on his ambassador we may never know.  But that it seems within the realm of possibility for this president is the most disturbing aspect.  Even the “assassination” of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, of Iran seems to have crossed a line drawn on two definitions of the term — one legal, one colloquial (see article by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub in the New York Times January 7,2020). Whether in fact the murder crossed the line into “assassination” or remains within the realm of discretionary presidential authority to deter attacks on the US is the central debate issue. But at the least, the Sueimani killing raises troubling issues regarding Trump’s view of his war powers authority, and whether he can be trusted with such inherent authority.

It would seem that on an almost daily basis Trump treats us to yet another instance of his total disdain for the notion of formal checks on his authority. The only people Trump seems to admire are the autocratic dictators around the world—Putin, Kim Jung Un, Saudi's MBS, et al. He has been busily trashing our relations with our actual allies around the world, to the point that I begin to wonder whether we have any actual allies left.

And so now this record of discord and likely illegal doings by Trump is on trial within the Senate.  And in large part, this trial within the Senate is also playing out throughout the sorry landscape of our nation.  That I fail to understand what I view almost daily in this country is to state the obvious. However awful are people like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, I at least understand that they are dealing from positions of perceived power and are acting so as to protect or even amplify their power. What I do not understand is the ordinary people I observe almost daily, wearing shirts that pronounce their support for Trump in the 2020 election.  They largely have no power to protect. They are simply ordinary folks, like me. Our only real power lies in our ability and willingness to use the power of the ballot box to pronounce publically our support for one candidate or another.  But these folks are openly advertising support for Trump, in the face of his daily predations. 

Trump seems to me to represent the face of EVIL in America.  He is not benign. However stupid and uninformed he is about worldly affairs, he goes way beyond by moving always in the direction of EVIL.  In a recent article in the New York Times, Timothy Egan advises, “On any given day, Trump is vindictive, ignorant, narcissistic, a fraud — well, his pathologies are well known. But it’s time to apply the same word to him as the brave Navy man did to the renegade in his unit. Under Trump, the United States is a confederacy of corruption, driven by a thousand points of evil. And that evil is contagious.” And that is the greatest worry regarding Trump; that he has unleashed actual evil, and that his actions continue to be normalized, such that we are daily changing the nature of what we expect from the highest official in our land.  

So, how can ordinary folks openly advertise their support for the Face of Evil in America? Apparently, they are able to rationalize their support by focusing on perhaps one thing they like about Trump—his openly racist commentaries, his fake support for anti-abortion, his now equally fake support for Evangelical issues, including prayer in the schools, his willingness to blow off any adverse commentary in what he calls the Fake News media (by which he means anyone but Fox).  His supporters are not frequent readers of the NY Times. They do not watch CNN, or MSNBC. They in fact seem utterly powerless and act on that premise to oppose any organizations that wish to tell them what to do (the wonder to me is that they choose to even obey traffic laws, but perhaps they don’t).  This behavior towards Trump seems to me a form of anarchy that trump has seized on to forge a sort of cult—the MAGAHead Cult.

And that cult may not disappear should America succeed in ridding itself of Donald Trump. He has empowered this cult and they will remain a force to be reckoned with. They are even a force that could yet destroy America as a global force for Peace and Good. I remain uncertain how this cult can be transformed into a force for good. That requires intelligence far beyond my own limited capacity. I hope our upcoming election moves us in that direction. I fear that the upcoming Senate trial may well exacerbate the issues now being fought within our nation. 

But let us hope.  I am sorry that the Senate has declared itself immune to our laws, and our system of government. And I am especially distressed that one of our two political parties, that GOP, has declared itself dead. What will arise in its wake should be an interesting tale.

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Bush Lite

Ok, here we go again. Remember those good old days, when we were told that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, thereby justifying Bush’s decision to invade Iraq? When actually, he was just trying to look more manly than Daddy had in the Middle East. So, now we are given some explanation about how this Iranian General was planning on carrying out a large strike against the US and Trumpie got to him just in time.  Now, once more, how do you know Trump is lying?? Well, when his mouth opens and words come tumbling out, he is lying.  See if it weren’t for the 30,000+ lies he has uttered since entering the White House, we might at least give him a shot. But with Trumpie, we can be sure he is lying. He tells lies when he wishes to deflect attention, or when he wants attention, or when he wants to cut some competitor. Which is this one? Well, take your pick . . .

He wishes to deflect attention from his Impeachment;
He wants people to think he is strong;
He was not getting enough attention from his adoring public, or maybe;
He has begun to carry out his most cherished idea, i.e., becoming a wartime president.  See he thinks FDR, and Ike, and even Shrub looked really manly when they ran a war, and, since everyone thinks he’s a coward because of the bonespurs thing, he wants to claim a new image.

Also, see, the rightwingnut clerics have been declaring him God’s choice to oversee the “End Times”. 

Now the End Times thing is beginning to look prescient. I mean, Oz is actually burning down. Bolsanaro is overseeing the destruction by fire of the Amazon Rain Forest, The glaciers everywhere are melting.  Boris Johnson is poised to orchestrate the complete destruction of that tight little island--our former owners--known technically as England, or in the past, Great Britain.  And Donald Trump is President.  Actually the last is probably all you need to know to stroke your beard and declare, “Yep, it’s over. The world is closing down”.

And were I in the middle of Oz, with fires burning on all sides, and the prime minister deciding to go to Hawaii on vacation, or were I in the middle of the Amazon, observing the rain forest burning to the ground, I might declare it over.  But I’m not in either of those places. 

And it is drizzling here in North Carolina, milder than it should be for January, but I can chalk that up to simply weather, rather than Global Climate Change.  But we do have to look/listen to our idiot-in-Chief Trump declare one falsehood after another, while his crowd of adoring supporters cheer him on. If we ever decide to re-elect him, then I would doubtless feel like the folks in Oz, and say, “Ok, it’s now really over”.

But then I see something by Greta, that little 16 year old girl, who has been making the world’s leaders all look like dwarf idiot malenfants. And I think, well, maybe when we all die off, the Greta’s of this world will move into power, and kick all the financial and industrial wizards in the balls, and begin to regain some authority over this global climate thing.  So, maybe there is hope yet, perhaps not in 2020, but, then there is that election thing coming up. Maybe that will be a sign.

So, I will begin looking for signs. A changing political current. Some recognition on the part of the body politic that climate change is happening. Perhaps a republican or two declaring that Donald Trump really is an idiot, and we dare not follow his lead—I know, silly, right??

But we will have to watch carefully. Count your blessings in this New Year folks. Because our global leaders may just bring them all to an end, unless we begin acting like adults.  So, let’s say it all together.
We Are Thinking Adults.
And We Are Damned Mad, and
We Are not Going to Take It Any Longer.
You Idiots are All Done Destroying Our World.
Now, Once More,
With Feeling . . .
We Are Thinking Adults.
And We Are Damned Mad, and
We Are not Going to Take It Any Longer.
You Idiots are All Done Destroying Our World.