Monthly Archives: April 2016

A MALFUNCTIONING PSYCHE

It is often a reality of human nature, that when things are going badly in ones life, that person finds it too painful to accept personal responsibility. If a person’s life has degenerated into a day-to-day crawl thru chaos, or even worse, into a total disaster area, they frequently cannot accept that the fault is theirs. Surely, some one else is to blame. Surely, it’s the Wall Street bankers or hedge fund managers that have robbed them out of their ability to earn a decent salary. Surely, it’s the illegal Mexicans that have taken all the good jobs away and have thereby made it virtually impossible for them to earn enough to afford a quality standard of living. Surely, it’s the government that has placed too harsh rules and regulations on them, and thus, they cannot live the life that was really meant to be. It never has anything to to with the fact that they didn’t, for example, make the effort to study electronics, or medicine, or engineering, or chemistry, etc. which would have given them the necessary tools to earn enough to afford at least an upper middle class lifestyle. It would have been too exhausting to pursue such endeavors. Their psychic reality is that some other party is always the one to blame.

The poet, Edward Arlington Robinson, summed it up best in his poem called “Miniver Cheevy.” “Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn, grew lean while he assailed the seasons” is the opening line of this poem which describes how Miniver blamed the whole world for his failures and his alcoholism, and ends with -“Miniver coughed and called it fate, and kept on drinking.” The problem for society is, however,  that when large numbers of people are psychologically invested in blaming others for their shortcomings and failures, it provides fertile ground for the demagogue to move in and seize power. I’ve written many times before about how Hitler demonized the Jews and others in 1920s Germany  on his path toward total dictatorship. Hitler would practice in front of mirrors, with crony consultants advising him on how to fire up the German populace to believe that the many economic problems facing Germany at the time were not their fault. They didn’t have to take responsibility for existing conditions. He would strive for the most inflammatory speech patterns, inflections and hand gestures while demonizing a small, peaceful segment of the German population, who were primarily tailors and shopkeepers. Germans were suffering  because of the Jews, was the message of the day. At first most Germans disregarded Hitler’s ravings. After all, they were well educated and had a rich culture of philosophy, art, literature, and music. But in the end demagoguery prevailed over common sense and personal responsibility, and 60 million people lost their lives.

Someone once said that all of life is politics. If this is true that it must be pointed out that all of politics is a game of salesmanship, and this has never been more evident than in 2016 America. Whoever can deliver the best sales job in describing  his or her vision for the future of the U.S. will invariably win the majority vote and the election to become the most powerful person in the world. One path in this game of salesmanship is to take the demagogic route the way Hitler and Mussolini and others did so successfully. After all, isn’t it the Hispanic illegals that are destroying this country, (the way the the Jews were destroying 1920s Germany.) So what if undocumented Hispanics comprise less than 3.5% of the U.S. population and that their numbers are actually decreasing. They’re still the ones at fault for everything that’s gone wrong in my life. It couldn’t possibly be me. To say nothing of those shysters on Wall Street that have literally taken the bread out of my mouth.

The more one thinks about it,  the more one must  conclude that winning an election is not unlike selling cars. A car is basically a vehicle to get you from here to there. Yes, the more expensive cars may look prettier and give a smoother ride and have more bells and whistles on it. But its purpose is still to get you from here to there. If you never left your house, you would likely never buy a car. Yet, from the salesmanship that goes into advertising cars, especially on TV, one would think they are anything but a means of transportation. Recently, there was an ad on TV for Cadillac, that featured a very sophisticated, and pretty young woman behind the wheel of one of their models, stating: “The question you have to ask yourself is this. When you turn your car on….does it do the same for you?” So now Cadillac products are not there to provide a mode of transportation, but rather should be used as a means of sexual stimulation. Perhaps even sexual climax. Who knew?

So in the end, winning at the ballot box depends on who has the best salesmanship. Not unlike selling new or used cars on TV. For some candidates, their sales pitch  is to take the demagogic route, i.e. assure the populace that all their personal failures in life are the fault of others, usually a small defenseless minority. It has worked well in the past, and is likely to succeed this time around too.

Well, at least I’ve written an entire piece without mentioning  Donald Trump’s name, even once. Oops.

 

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, ELVIS PRESLY, MARILYN MONROE, MICHAEL JACKSON, WHITNEY HOUSTON, THE STATE OF HAPPINESS VS. UNHAPPINESS, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, John Kennedy, John Kennedy, foreign policy,terrorism, lack of U.S. response to terrorism,, politics, the Depression, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A CRUEL TWIST OF FATE

The other day, for no particular reason, I was thinking about “The Monkey’s Paw, a short story by British author W.W.Jacobs, first published in 1902. I had read this when I was in college, perhaps 60 years ago, but it seems so relevant to the human condition as it exists in today’s world. It tells the story of an elderly couple, the Whites, living in England with their grown son who works in a factory. Through a friend, Mr. White comes into possession of a shriveled up monkey’s paw that supposedly grants its possessor 3 wishes. The friend warns, however, that use of the monkey’s paw will likely end with disastrous results. Mr. White takes it home and shows his wife the object and relates the story behind it. But what shall we wish for asks Mrs. White since they are already leading a comfortable life in a reasonably comfortable residence. I know says Mr. White-we have one more mortgage payment of 200 pounds to make and then the house is ours.

So Mr. White grabs the monkey’s paw and wishes for 200 pounds. He can feel the paw suddenly move unnaturally in his hand. At first nothing happens and the couple believes that it’s all a big hoax. But later that afternoon, they spot an unfamiliar man coming up the walkway to their front door and ringing their doorbell. He identifies himself as a representative of the factory where their son works, and tells them that a tragic accident has occurred. It seems their son was butchered in a horrible machinery accident at the plant, and has died as a result of his wounds. He further informs them that, while the factory is under no legal obligation to make a monetary restitution, factory management does feel it has a moral duty to provide some modest benefits as a result of their son’s death. He then hands the Whites a check for 200 pounds.

The couple, and especially the wife, are totally grief stricken. The son’s funeral is held 3 days later, but the grieving goes on, unabated. About a week after the funeral, with the Whites still deep in mourning, it suddenly dawns on Mrs. White that perhaps the damage can be undone. We still have two more wishes on the monkey’s paw, she exclaims to her husband. Wish him back to life she insists. The husband is at first highly dubious and reluctant to do so. But he finally gives in to his wife’s insistence and makes that second wish. A short time later, he sees his son approaching the house, but totally mangled from the factory accident, and from lying 10 days in the grave. The doorbell rings and Mrs. White goes running gleefully to open the front door. Mr.White, in a panic, grabs the monkey’s paw and makes the third wish. The son is restored to his grave as the wife opens the door and to nothingness. Nothing but a cruel twist of fate. Sort of the way I feel about trying to tamper with the will of the universe. For example, I always felt that if I won a giant jackpot such as Powerball, the doctor would inform me the next day that I had an inoperable brain tumor.

Think this is just pessimistic fiction? Then consider the following. All statewide casinos in Nevada have slot machines called Megabucks. The jackpot starts at $10 million, and goes up from there depending on the amount of play and usage these machines get. The bet is $3 a pull if you’re aiming to win it all, and it could be years before the jackpot is hit. Most of the time the winning machines are in Las Vegas, but other locations can be winners too. One time the jackpot was won on a machine in the Reno airport. In any event, some years ago the jackpot had climbed to over $35 million, the highest it ever reached. As the dollar amount climbed, there was a frenzy of betting on these machines, and even great difficulty finding Megabucks slots that weren’t occupied. People were shoveling hundred dollar bills into these slot machines with the same abandon as if they were buying a pack of gum. Of course the $35 million is the amount paid out over 25 years. If you opted for the lump sum payment option, the amount one would receive (after taxes) would be a paltry $15 million or so. Not too shabby. Most of us could probably muddle thru life on that amount.

Finally a local Las Vegas woman won this giant jackpot at one of the Las Vegas casinos. Of course, there were great celebrations, photo-ops, news coverage, TV interviews, etc. as this woman, who had virtually no money, suddenly became a multi-millionaire. But here’s where the tempting fate part kicked in. About 3 weeks after winning this giant Megabucks jackpot, the woman and her sister sitting next to her were driving along the local streets and stopped at a traffic light when they were violently rear-ended by the car behind them. The driver causing the accident claimed that his brakes just gave out. The sister was killed immediately (probably because she wasn’t using her seat belt) and the jackpot winner had her spine broken.  Her fate was to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. All the millions she had won would now be used to pay for her upkeep as a paraplegic. I’m sure that given the choice, she would have rather been penniless, but with use of her legs and her sister alive.

During the 1980s, there used to be a TV commercial about a margarine that tasted so good that even Mother Nature was fooled into thinking that it was her delicious butter. When informed that it was margarine, Mother Nature would get this wild look in her eyes hurl down thunderbolts upon the planet. “It’s not nice to fool Mother nature”she would exclaim. Kind of like what might be in store for you, should you go against the universe’s implicit intentions regarding the nature of your life.

 

 

 

 

as if they were buying a pack of gum.

 

Categories: The Monkey's Paw, Fate, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson,Megabucks,, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HOW LOW CAN WE GO?

According to the latest polls, a large chunk of the American populace thinks that the five candidates left in the in the 2016 presidential contest just plain suck. Three of the five have higher disapproval than approval ratings, while the other two are in positive territory, but just barely. A clear case of where the American public is sticking it to themselves. (We have met the enemy, and he is us, as Pogo famously said.) Let’s go over the numbers. Leading the way is, of course, Donald Trump with a 65% unfavorable score and only a 30% favorable rating. Maybe his bombastic, bloviating, bullying demeanor is not sitting too well with the general public. Nevertheless, Trump is the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination since he’s way ahead in the delegate count, and the big states such as New York, Pennsylvania, and California with upcoming primaries seem to be decisively falling into his column. His probable opposing candidate in November will be a badly damaged Hillary Clinton, who could be under Federal indictment for her e-mail fiasco. If she is, the presidency will almost certainly fall into Trump’s lap.

Next up on the unfavorable chart is Hillary, herself, with 55% in the minus column to only 40% on the plus side. A little better than Trump’s numbers, but not by much. Besides over 25 years of scandals involving both Hillary and Bill Clinton, and the Benghazi tragedy when she was Secretary of State, there is the mind-numbing fiasco of sending classified government e-mails over her unsecured private server. For someone supposedly as smart as Hillary, that act alone would constitute felony stupidity. She knew when she went to the State Department that she had presidential ambitions, yet acted with complete recklessness. In any event, it gives the Republicans a ship-load of ammo to fire away during the entire campaign season.

Next up in the presidential sweepstakes hall-of-shame is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, with only a 33% approval versus 55% disapproval score. Cruz is the only viable candidate with a long-shot possibility of overtaking Trump for the Republican nomination, but he too has multiple problems. He has strong and sincere beliefs on all major issues, versus Trump who licks his finger, and holds it up in the air to see which way the political winds are blowing, and that becomes his position-du-jour. (Such as as calling for “punishing” women who’ve had abortions on one day, and then calling them “victims” the next day.) The trouble is, Cruz’s positions are so extreme right-wing, that they turn off even a lot of Republicans living out-side the South. Cruz made the rookie mistake, when campaigning earlier in the South, of telling Southerners not to vote for Trump because he possessed “New York values.” While that may have helped him in some Southern states, he’s now paying the price with disastrous poll number projections, not only in the upcoming primary in New York, but in California and Pennsylvania as well. So he has to be considered a long-shot at best.

There’s a third candidate still in the GOP race-John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, who’s actually on the plus side in popularity rankings-41% versus 39%. (Just barely on the plus side.) While he’s a decent enough guy, he has never won a primary or caucus ballot. I’d say that his probability of obtaining the Republican nomination are about the same as my chance of having a chest of rare gold coins fall out of the sky and land at my feet. I keep looking upward but it doesn’t appear to be happening. That leaves us with with the one remaining candidate still in the race, Bernie Sanders, who has a remote possibility of overtaking Hillary for the Democratic nomination. Bernie also has a positive approval rating of 49%-42%, which is not great, but better than the others.

Bernie has the distinct advantage of not being burdened with all of Clinton’s scandals, but he has problems of his own. First of all, he would be age 75 when being sworn into the Oval office, which is pretty late in the game for such a demanding, high-stress job. Then he insists on calling himself a Socialist which, shall we say, does not have pleasant connotations throughout most of America. Of course, his benchmark is Socialist type governments that exist throughout most Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. I’ve often stated that that these countries have, perhaps, the most decent and rational societies on Planet Earth. Such as providing free health-care, free higher education, and other amenities to all its citizens. If you can put up with their brutal winters. Perhaps it’s the cold weather that forces them to act with greater decency and rationality than most other places in this world. In any event, even though Bernie keeps winning various primaries, the fix seems to be in for Clinton securing the Democratic nomination. So the strong likelihood is that the general election will come down to a choice of Trump vs. Clinton, the two candidates with the highest disapproval ratings. Ugh.

If Clinton wins, in all probability, our Constitutional form of democracy will survive and remain intact. But if Trump wins, you can kiss our democratic form of government sayonara. Even if the U.S. has a faux democracy, (as I’ve written about before) where the rich and powerful buy and sell politicians like beads in a bazar, it’s still better than the tyranny that would come into existence during a Trump administration. Trump would rule the way Vladimir Putin rules Russia, with the iron fist of a dictatorial despot. Trump has already expressed great admiration for Putin’s leadership style. (Read my previous posting called-“A Fine Bromance.”) If you like what Putin has done to Russia, you’re going to love what Trump will do to America.

 

 

Categories: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FOREIGN POLICY FAILURES

In his Presidential inaugural address on January 20, 1961, John Kennedy implored the nation “to bear any burden and pay any price” in defense of liberty. The existential threat that existed back then was the spread of world communism through tyrannical dictatorships. How quaint those words seem today. Now the only burden most Americans are willing to bear is to stand in line for hours in front of the Apple store when a new I-Phone comes on the market. As well as pay the most outrageous prices for this electronic gadgetry. In that same speech Kennedy also implored the nation to “ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask instead, what you can do for your country.” More quaintness, as that type of thinking has long come and gone. Now the attitude amongst the U.S. populace, as shown by the current election campaigns of both parties, is almost totally, “what’s in it for me.”

I bring this up now because of this country’s tepid responses to the latest Islamic-Jihadist terror attacks in Brussels, and shortly before that in Paris, and before that in California, which have claimed so many innocent lives. We’re supposed to be fighting “a war on terror,” but outside of an occasional drone strike and some ineffectual bombing raids in Syria and Iraq, it’s not much of a war. I get it that Americans are sick and tired of armed conflict and are therefore willing to fight the Jihadists on the cheap. But the problem with that attitude is that it enables the rapid spread of terrorism on a global basis, as well as more audacious terrorist strikes. Right now, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and other assorted Jihadist lunatics are on the march, not only in Mid-Eastern countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and others, but are spreading their wings throughout the entire continent of Africa, and have now move on to Europe with impressive numbers. And as shown by the San Bernardino atrocity, have now also begun infiltrating into the United States. Thus, as shown by over ten thousand years of recorded civilization-when confronted by consummate evil-responding forcefully to that evil becomes a matter of life or death.

America’s withdrawal  from center-stage in fighting unspeakable evil can most noticeably be traced back to August 2o13. Hafaz Assad, tyrant dictator of Syria, had already killed tens of thousands of his countrymen in an ongoing civil war being fought to dislodge him from office. But most atrocious of all, he had used chemical warfare against the rebels. That was supposedly a bridge too far for even the laid-back Obama Administration, which has primarily sought to disengage from messy foreign entanglements. President Obama had sternly warned Assad that any further use of chemical warfare would be crossing a “red line in the sand” and would not be tolerated by the U.S. But Assad merely yawned and proceeded to kill more thousands of Syrians through the use of brutal chemicals. I won’t elaborate about how heinous chemical warfare is to the human body; but if you have any doubts, Google it.

Secretary of State John Kerry, and indeed the entire U.S national security and foreign policy apparatus, believed that at that point President Obama would give the green light for launching military strikes against the Assad regime. Instead Obama hemmed and hawed, and then decided to kick the decision about using military force over to Congress. A total recipe for disaster. Congress, as all Americans know, is far too dysfunctional to decide even where to hold their annual softball game, let alone whether to go to war. So, of course, nothing was approved, which was likely Obama’s default position to begin with. As a result of inaction by the U.S. in confronting Assad’s mind-numbing evil, a vacuum was created, into which stepped even more bottomless-pit evil in the form of the ISIS Jihadists. Terrorists all over the globe have been breathing huge sighs of relief ever since, as they’ve watched the U.S. withdraw from center-stage in foreign affairs.

As I’ve written before, it’s all very reminiscent of the way the Roman Empire began its decline and fall when it was at the very peak of its power. Romans became bored and lazy about their luxury living conditions. They would have to attend the Roman Colosseum and watch gladiators being torn to shreds by lions to snap them out of their “ennui” as the French would put it. They, too, were sick of war and hired mercenaries to do the fighting for them. The trouble was that these mercenaries would turn against their Roman benefactors when some other party paid them higher wages. The Roman Army was clearly superior in troop strength and weaponry to the terrorist barbarians of the day such as the Huns, Vandals and Goths. But as I’ve said, the populace no longer had any stomach for armed conflict, and the barbarians kept chipping away at the outer extremes of the Roman Empire. Over a period of a couple of centuries, the strength of the Romans kept being depleted, the barbarians finally broke through the gates, the Roman Empire ceased to exist, and Europe entered the wasteland known as the dark ages. This time when Western civilization falls to the Jihadist barbarians, it will take far less time than it did for Rome to disintegrate.

Interestingly, none of the viable candidates running for President this year are advocating a full frontal military assault against Islamic Jihadism. How unfortunate. Yes, it would require boots on the ground and likely result in American and Western casualties. But the price to be paid would still far less today than say a year from now or longer. Either we confront this existential threat to our western civilization head on, or watch it crumble into a new wasteland of dark ages, from which enlightenment and decency may never recover.

 

Categories: Economics, John Kennedy, John Kennedy, foreign policy,terrorism, lack of U.S. response to terrorism,, politics, Ronald Reagan, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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