A malfunctioning psche

HOLIER-THAN-THOU

In October 1994, 23 years ago, a woman in South Carolina became infamous due to inflicting one of the more significant atrocities of  that decade on the American landscape. Her name was Susan Smith and the heinous act she committed was driving her car into a nearby lake until it was submerged. Oh, did I fail to mention that her two baby sons, aged three and one, were strapped into the back seat of the car and obviously drowned in very short order. Susan, however, escaped the sinking car, uninjured. Imagine the devastated father coming home from work only to be confronted with this horror. It was a living nightmare that he could never escape from. This criminal atrocity made headlines across the country as the enormity of such a tragedy caught the public’s deep fascination for weeks, during which Susan was brought to trial, convicted of first degree murder, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. As of today, she’s still a guest of the South Carolina penal system.

But what was most interesting was Susan Smith’s motive for committing such an inhumane act. That she was deranged went without saying. It took awhile, but the source of this derangement was finally brought out into the open. It seems that her father, a pillar of the community, had raped her when she was a child. Her father, who was a church deacon, and who was prominent in Republican politics in S.C., turned out to be a rapist of the worst kind. Short of murder, a man couldn’t commit a more evil act than to rape one’s daughter, especially when she was a defenseless child. To make matters worse, the statute of limitations had long since expired on those heinous acts, and the rapist pillar of the community got off scot free. Hence, the ramifications of of what Susan Smith’s father did to her as a child, played out a decade or two later with the murder of two innocent babies. During which time, of course, her father maintained his religious virtuosity to its fullest extent.

Which brings us to the current political fiasco on-going in the state of Alabama. As I wrote last time, Roy Moore, who is the epitome of a right-wing, holier-than-thou, bible thumper, won the Republican primary for the open Senate seat in that state. Since it’s virtually automatic that the Republican nominee always wins the general election, (given the dismal state of the Democratic Party throughout the South), Moore was already buying his plane ticket for his swearing-in ceremony in Washington. Now, however, a glitch has suddenly arose. Two women have come forward to contend that Moore sexually molested them when they were teenagers, almost 20 years ago. Moore, it seems, who is still debating within himself whether homosexuals should be hung for their affront to God, got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Of course, Moore and his wife adamantly deny the accusations, as do virtually every prominent right-wing whacko throughout the country. From Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Jerry Falwell Jr., they’re all unanimous that such a fine specimen of “conservatism” could never have indulged himself in the manner that he’s being accused of. But one religious nut case put forth the best spin I’ve heard yet, regarding these accusations. He stated that that if Moore did have sex with those young women, it would be the same as when the “Holy Ghost” had sex with a teen-aged Mary in order to produce Jesus. Who knew that the “Holy Ghost,” one-third of the “Trinity,” could be put on trial for sex crimes. Although, since it happened 2000 years ago, I guess the statute of limitations has run out on that act too.

In any event it will be fascinating to see whether the wholesome bible-thumpers of Alabama will still elect Moore to the U.S. Senate. Even Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Majority Leader and not exactly a paragon of virtue, has come out in defense of the women that Moore molested, stating that he believes their accusations are true. But while some sexual preditors such as Harvey Weinstein are ruined when the truth sees the light of day, others such as our illustrious president seem to thrive on accusations of sexual depravity. The best example of all is, of course, Donald Trump bragging on an open mic about grabbing women’s pussies, and his sense of entitlement when it comes to having his way with women. All that episode did was improve his poll numbers, and smoothen his road to the White House, especially with the evangelical, bible-thumping crowd. Hypocrisy is apparently limitless.

Many years ago, their was an off-Broadway musical farce called “Nunsense.” It featured a group of “Nuns” singing and dancing about their lives within the church. The closing number was called-“Holier-Than-Thou”- whereby each Nun, in song and dance, would explain certain acts she performed that made her more holy than her counterparts. Very amusing when it comes as part of a Broadway musical. Not so amusing when it’s ingrained into the very fabric of life in our society by our political and social leaders.

And by the way, if Roy Moore is elected, will we have a national debate about whether to hang gays? Stay tuned.

 

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EXTREMELY EXTREME EXTREMISTS

When the horrors of WWII finally ended 72 years ago, Americans looked forward, hopefully, for an ensuing era of peace on the world stage and prosperity at home. Those dreams were to be short-lived, however. By the late 1940s the world was again in virulent turmoil. Russia, our ally during WWII, started gobbling up countries in Eastern Europe and turning them into Communist dictatorships, much to the consternation of the U.S. and its allies. In Asia, Communist forces overthrew the established government in China and turned that country into another dictatorship. Communist China then abetted the establishment of a Communist revolt in northern Korea which then led to the infamous Korean War and the division of the Korean peninsula into democratic rule in the South, and dictatorship in the North. The same dictatorship that now threatens us with a nuclear holocaust in today’s world. The icing on the cake, however, occurred when Russia developed a hydrogen bomb in 1949 to match our own nuclear weaponry.

Communist forces seemed to be relentless in advancing their cause on the world stage. Of course, this led to enormous fear and dismay among the American populace that the U.S. and its European allies would be next in line to fall under the spell of Communism. Where there is fear, there is, of course, great opportunity for fear-mongers to use that world situation to further their own interests as far as acquiring power and dominance. The cry went up-“better dead than red”-among other such brainless cliches. One of the earliest scare mongers was a Senator from Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy who sought to become an “anti-communist dictator” through exploitation of the fear of a Communist takeover in the U.S. I’ve previously written extensively about the rise and fall of Tailgunner Joe, (his nickname from WWII.) He was finally exposed for the fraud he was in 1956, through that new-fangled contraption called television, and eventually drank himself to death. But there were others on the scene in those tumultuous times who also sought to exploit the Communist hysteria for their own personal gain.

One of them was a man named Robert Welch who founded a fear-mongering organization called the John Birch Society. Not that it mattered, but John Birch was a Christian missionary in China that was killed in 1945 by Communist forces in the process of taking over that country. To Welch, he was the first casualty of the coming of WWIII that would pit the U.S. against Russia and China. The John Birch Society, under Welch’s leadership, would become the epitome a conspiracy-mongering, anti-communist, anti-United Nations, anti-civil rights, and anti-anything resembling decency and progressivism, type organization. Welch himself denounced WWII hero and then president Dwight Eisenhower as a “dedicated conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.” There was no limit to his fanaticism. Thanks to people like Welch, and other rabid extremists on the right, the U.S. and Russia entered into what was called the “Cold War” that lasted from about 1948 to around 1990. Trillions were spent as each side tried out-arm and out-militarize the other.

Which brings to our current gaggle of right-wing extremists that have taken over the U.S. government. As in days of yore when Communism was the designated enemy, with today’s fanatics it’s the Muslim world, with perhaps Mexicans and, indeed, all Latinos thrown into the mix. Not just Muslim terror organizations like Al Qaida and ISIS, but virtually any believer in the Muslim religion. And, as previously, in today’s world of right-wing fanaticism, all government expenditures are bad and should be abolished, except those spent on the military and to procure armaments. And, of course, as previously, white supremacy must dominate our culture, while anything resembling civil rights is moved to to the trash heap. Just ask white supremacist Steve Bannon who used to be Trump’s campaign manager and then his chief strategist in the White House. He was eventually bounced from his White House job but still advises Trump from his cozy nest as head of far right Breitbart News.

While no longer on the government payroll, Bannon’s white supremacist philosophy still inflicts great damage on U.S. society and culture. A prime example is a Republican Senate primary election that was recently held in Alabama. One of the candidates was a twice disgraced former judge named Roy Moore. Among Moore’s more quaint beliefs is that 9/11 was divine retribution from God for the sin of allowing homosexuality to flourish in this country. He’s a proud anti-Muslim bigot and wouldn’t rule out advocating the death penalty gay people. Even Trump, as far right as he is, made a visit to Alabama to campaign for Moore’s opponent. But Alabamians, in their devotion to far-right extremism gave Moore the victory, which is tantamount to putting him in the U.S. Senate since Democrats are too inept and pathetic to win elections in the South. Oh, I should also mention that Steve Bannon campaigned heavily in Alabama for Roy Moore, and was justly rewarded for his efforts.

So there you have it. The rise once again extremely extreme right-wing politics as it casts its dark shadows over the American landscape. The first time around, during the Cold War, the damage done was held to destroying the reputations of some innocent Americans, and the needless expenditure of a few trillion dollars. This time, with the extremists now in control of all the levers of government operations, the damage will likely be considerably worse.

 

 

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DIRTY AIR AND OTHER OBSCENITIES

It’s been the hallmark of the Trump Administration that those he appointed to head up major cabinet departments or other bureaus have governed in direct opposition to the missions of these offices. For example, Betsy De Vos, who Trump appointed as Secretary of Education, is an ardent foe of America’s public school systems which the vast majority of young students attend. Instead she’s a huge supporter of private or religious schools, or even home schooling, and is working tirelessly to effect such a major shift away from what she considers “government schooling.” Jeff Sessions, our Attorney-General, whose management responsibilities include overseeing the Office of Civil Rights enforcement, is the very antithesis of a civil rights leader. As a former senator from Alabama, Sessions was known rather for his hostility toward enforcing equal-rights for blacks being discriminated against, especially throughout the South. I guess in Trump’s world, this what’s meant by “draining the swamp.”

But nowhere is this opposition to properly carrying out the missions of various agencies of the federal government better illustrated than with the Environmental Protection Agency. As we all know, the essential mission of EPA is to provide clean air and water by  removing as many pollutants from the environment as feasible. But in Trump’s upside down world of appointing opposites, he made someone named Scott Pruitt to head up the EPA. Most Americans had never heard the name before, but it’s quite essential that anyone still breathing air or drinking water know who this person is. Pruitt used to be the Attorney-General of the state of Oklahoma, where he spent most of his career suing the EPA over regulations issued to provide a cleaner, healthier environment. For example, when EPA issued rules to prevent chemical companies from dumping toxic waste into local rivers and streams, Pruitt was there to legally challenge such regulations throughout the various court systems. True, it was more costly for these companies to properly dispose of waste rather than use local waterways as a dumping ground, and apparently that’s all that mattered to foes of EPA such as Pruitt.

So, among his first acts as agency chief, Pruitt has mandated that EPA eliminate rules issued under the Obama Administration that restricted the burning of coal because of coal’s high level of toxicity to the atmosphere. Trump himself has bragged that as a result of his administration’s actions, tens of thousands of new jobs in the coal industry have been established, and that coal is much more widely used these days, especially in the utilities industry. All this is true. However one needs to be aware of coal’s high toxic level. True, coal pours a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but after all, CO2, while a factor in the global warming debate, is still a benign element. What isn’t benign, however, are the large volumes of sulfur dioxide that also emanate from burning coal, and sulfur dioxide is most assuredly not benign. Entire forests in the northeast and Canada have been denuded because air currents have carried sulfur dioxide emanating from coal burning Midwestern utilities to the Northeast. If it strips trees of their foliage imagine what sulfur dioxide does to ones lungs. Only, of course, if you’re used to inhaling oxygen on a daily basis. Someone ought to notify Trump that while his children and grandchildren may live in mansions or penthouses, they still have to breathe the same air the rest of us commoners breathe. And that air now more befouled due to enhanced coal usage.

Another factor to consider is that working as a coal miner is a hell of a way to have to make a living. I realize that for many people, no other viable options exist. But coal miners often develop black lung disease, which is akin to lung cancer, and have shortened life spans. The trend in the U.S. for at least two decades, had been toward moving away from coal usage in favor of natural gas or alternative energy development, which would have meant a cleaner environment for everyone. Now with the Trump Administration in power, we’re back to dirtier air and water. Something you might want to think about over your Cheerios tomorrow morning.

But not to worry. At least Trump is concentrating and putting all his efforts and energy on the most crucial events of the day. So while North Korea threatens us with nuclear armageddon, and the Mid-East is still in flames, it’s good to know that Trump is focusing all his efforts on the nation’s highest priorities. Such as whether pro-football players are taking a knee during playing of the national anthem, to protest ingrained bigotry toward the nation’s black population. Or by his kissing up to religious evangelicals so as to maintain their 80% support levels that will be crucial toward winning his 2020 re-election effort. After all, why shouldn’t the evangelical community support someone who’s such a devout and serious biblical scholar as Donald Trump. Someone who gave the green light to the U.S. populace that it was okay to say “Merry Christmas” again.  Like people were never uttering that any longer.

In the end, it’s as they say, people do it to themselves. By electing Trump, even by the narrowest of margins, we get to experience a steady degradation of not only the U.S. ecology, but of life itself. Look for white supremacists (neo-fascists) such as Steve Bannon to be in the ascendency while it’s all papered over with the demagoguery emanating from Trump’s constant Twitter tantrums.  It is rather fascinating, however, to watch these continual circus shows, while the parade marches on.

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THE FLOWER CHILDREN

The start of the flower child movement is often pegged to the year of 1967 when tens of thousands of young people gathered in San Francisco during the summer to begin a new era in American culture. Actually its beginnings go back to the 1950s with Jack Kerouac and his roving band of beatniks that began a sub-culture opposed to the corporate, statist, capitalist mindset that dominated the cultural mindset of American life. The flower children of the 1960s inherited the beatnik objectives and fine-tuned them. They got their label because many of them, especially the women, often wore floral wreaths, and would hand out flowers to strangers as a symbol of their kindness. Their objective was to create a new society based on peace, love, gentleness, and empathy, in contrast to the hardbitten, and often mean-spirited corporate and Wall Street life style that prevailed in those years.

The thrust of the flower children movement was to create and thrive on communes that would be self-providing. There would be no bosses or underlings in these communes. Instead each individual would put in the necessary effort to grow and harvest the crops, weave the clothes, and build the shelter that was necessary for their existences and that would make the communes self-sufficient. They would live on peace, on love, on pot or LSD, and on rock&roll or folk music. Mind altering drugs such as LSD were a big part of the scene. They were seen as a means to escape the ugliness of life in America at that time. In unison with the flower child movement of those days was a book written by Charles Reich called “The Greening of America” that sold millions of copies. The thrust of that best seller was that a new wave was being established in America that would replace the economic and social mores of those times. Instead of the prevailing ethic of a capitalistic meritocracy, which was based almost totally on a survival of the fittest mentality, a new society was being formed where everyone contributed to the best of their abilities and were then equally rewarded. There would be peace, love and harmony and wars would be a think of the past.

Lifestyles and customs changed in those days as a result of the flower child movement. People wore their hair much longer and clothing fashions were much more radical. Even yours truly had longer hair, a leisure suit with bell bottom trousers, and a belt with a large peace symbol as the buckle. For it was the anti-war thrust of the 1960s that actually created the flower child movement. As the U.S. became more and more involved during the 1960s in fighting the Viet-Cong in the hellhole jungles of Viet-Nam, the anti-war and the related flower child movements began gathering strength and numbers. In those days young men, 20 and older, were routinely subject to the military draft. A young man might be in school or working productively at job he enjoyed, when a draft notice could suddenly wind up in his mail. Report to Fort Dix for 6 months of basic training, and after that we’re going to ship your ass to Viet-Nam where you’ll probably step on a land mine in the jungle and be killed or maimed for life.

Not a very appetizing scenario. Some young men went AWOL to Canada, who was not at war with Viet-Nam, and they were branded as draft-dodgers. Most, however, complied with the draft, with the result that about 58,500 Americans died in those Viet-Namese jungles with thousands more being maimed for life. To say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese deaths we caused. Today we are at peace with Viet-Nam with substantial economic trade between the two countries. But back in the late 1960s as more and more troops were being shipped to Viet-Nam, the anti-war and resultant flower child imperatives gained millions of followers. Massive anti-war protests were being held every weekend in Washington, where signs abounded saying “Make Love, Not War.” Ironically, it would take the election of Richard Nixon as president to end that nightmarish war, but also to suck the life out of flower child movement.

Nixon quickly realized that sending more American troops to Viet-Nam was fools gold. Instead he listened to the anti-war protesters and began drawing down the American presence there. It took four long years but Nixon was finally able to extricate the totality of U.S. forces. Of course, this led to a Viet-Cong victory and an American loss, but nobody really cared anymore. The entire country was just grateful that the U.S. was no longer involved. And, in a politically brilliant strategic move, Nixon ended the military draft. Young men (or women) would no longer have to worry that their lives would be enormously disrupted by being drafted into the Army. The U.S. would, henceforth, have an all-volunteer military. But with no war to protest, the anti-war/flower child movement began to wither on the vine. While their communes appeared to be productive for awhile, the entire concept began to seem naive and childish.

Young men and women began moving back into the corporate, dog-eat-dog world that America had known since the industrial revolution. People began cutting their hair back to what was considered normal length, bell-bottom trousers went out of style as did brilliantly colored clothing. The gray-flannel suit of corporate America was back in fashion. By 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, it was like the flower children and the greening of America had never existed.

As for Richard Nixon, despite his huge accomplishments of ending the Viet-Nam war, and opening diplomatic relations with Communist China where none had previously existed, he would have to resign the presidency in disgrace, because of a minor burglary by some Republican thugs, in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington D.C. Strange how history can so vehemently and carelessly smite someone with total disregard for what they’ve accomplished for mankind.

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THE COMFY STATE OF DELUSIONAL PARANOIA

It’s a well recognized truism of the human condition that an individual’s sense of self-worth is almost entirely dependent on what goes on within the perimeter of that person’s skull.  A person’s view of the world, and of his or her well-being in that universe, is totally a product of brain functioning. You might say that while this is true, such thought processes are a usually a direct result of external events affecting peoples’s lives. The loss of a loved one, for example, will normally drive an individual into a deep state of sadness or depression; while winning a giant lottery might create a huge sense of euphoria. But this is not always true, and such deep feelings of depression or happiness are often transitory rather then long-term. Most people eventually survive and move on even from a deep personal loss; while there have been cases of lottery winners eventually going broke and ending up in even worse circumstances than previously. Again, it’s people’s internal sense of self-worth that’s the driving force.

To further illustrate, consider that four of America’s biggest entertainment and pop culture figures since the end of WWII, who would outwardly appear to have everything to live for, nonetheless, did themselves in. They had tens or hundreds of millions of adoring fans world-wide, fabulous wealth, and universal idolization; but somehow that wasn’t enough  motive to sustain their existences. I’m talking, of course, about Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston; all of whom took their lives at an early age. In short, the inward perceptions they had of themselves were not congruent with their actual outward successes. Compare those tragedies the plight of the poor Bolivian wheat farmer, who back-breakingly works his fields from dawn to dusk just to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of his family. He tumbles into bed when darkness descends, and falls into a deep sleep from the day’s exhaustion. No sleeping pills required there. He’s up at first light to start the process all over again. The poor farmer has no energy left to consider how depressing his plight might be. In his mind, he’s meeting life’s requirements, and there’s no room for other delusional considerations such as suicide or abandoning his obligations. And he’s fine with that.

For many people, however, getting through the day means clothing themselves in a warm, furry blanket of life’s delusions. It smooths out the rough and jagged edges of reality, and sustains their existences. Life would be too unbearable if they had to constantly remain in a state of this reality. We saw this especially among the white supremacist element in this country during the U.S. election campaign of 2016. When Trump said he would bar Mexico from sending us their “rapists and murderers,” they perked up their ears. When he said he would “build a big beautiful wall” to keep illegal Mexicans and other Hispanics from entering the country they swallowed the bait. And when he said that he would bar any additional Moslems from entering the U.S. the deal was sealed. From then on he had a solid base of white supremacist voters that would never abandon him. The one true statement that Trump made during the campaign was that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, and still, none of his loyal followers would desert him or his cause. And why is that? Call it delusional paranoia.

For people living in a state of unreality, imagined events never have to actually occur. All one has to do is say they will happen, and the delusional mindset will do the rest. As far as the Trump base is concerned, Trump never has to actually build a wall; it’s enough that he said he would. He also said he would make Mexico pick up the tab for this wall, which is beyond laughable. But not to worry. It was enough for Trump to say he would make this happen, even if it doesn’t actually occur. To worry about whether such promises are kept would mean leaving the warm comfort of delusion and entering the harsh state of reality. Ugh. After all, can’t the essence of life be boiled down to a hackneyed phrase on a baseball cap, first used by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election campaign. Trump was going to make America great again. What else does one have to consider.

The world saw this once before. When Adolf Hitler rose to power in the 1930s he was going to make Germany great again. The Nazis would hold grand parades as they marched through German cities with thousands lining the streets to show their adoration for the man that was restoring Germany’s grandeur. Indeed, Hitler did build a mighty military machine that came within inches of conquering all of Europe. But when the tide of war began turning in the 1940s, and German cities where being bombed into a heap of rubble, the masks of delusion began disintegrating, and the German people were forced to face the havoc being wrecked upon them because of their faith in delusional paranoia.

Today, 9 months into his presidency, the Trump base of white supremacists which comprise about 35%-40% of the voting public is still standing by their guy. His only real accomplishment was putting an anti-abortion Justice on the Supreme Court, which gets the bible-thumpers one step closer to overturning Roe V. Wade and making abortion illegal again. But that’s okay, since Trump keeps promising to do all the other stuff. Reminds me of the lyrics to a Joni Mitchell song in the 1970s- “It’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all.”

 

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THE COST OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH

The American Civil Liberties Union has been taking a lot of heat recently for defending the free speech rights of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other low-life scum in places and events such as the recently concluded uproar and demonstrations in Charlottesville VA. As far as the ACLU is concerned, the principle of every American having the right to freedom of speech, as embodied in the first amendment to the Constitution, is sacred and never to be “abridged” as the Constitution states, no matter how vile, vulgar or bigoted that speech may be. Of course, free speech rights are “abridged” virtually every day in common sense ways that the framers of the Constitution never envisioned. For example, try verbally threatening someones life, and see how fast you wind up in the clink should the cops overhear that threat. Or try crying out “fire” in a crowded theater when there isn’t one, and you will also accrue that same jail house experience. To say nothing of all the civil libel actions that could brought against you should you wrongfully defame someone’s character. Because of all the backlash received from the Charlottesville experience, even the ACLU may now be reconsidering its long-standing position regarding the sacredness of the first amendment. So let’s go back a century and see the consequences, end results and havoc that unbridled freedom of speech can lead to.

The year is 1919, and WWI has recently ended with Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1918. The Allies have inflicted harsh punishment on Germany, through the Treaty of Versailles, for instigating the war in the first place. One of the provisions of that treaty was that Germany would not be allowed to militarily re-arm without permission of the Allied countries. The German economy is a disaster as a result of that war, with a combination of rampant inflation and high unemployment. The Allies refuse to provide any economic aid to help Germany recover. A young German corporeal, (originally from Austria) who was wounded toward the end of the war, finds himself with little money and no job prospects upon being released from the hospital. Although he fought for four years, he could only achieve the rank of Corporeal whereas almost all other recruits in similar circumstances rose to at least the rank of Sergeant. In his younger days he fancied himself as an artist; but his paintings were mediocre at best and certainly not salable.

With no particular job skills, and virtually out of money, the ex-Corporeal, in desperation, visits an office of the German government’s bureaucracy in Berlin and practically begs for some type of work whereby he could earn a paycheck. At first he’s denied, but finally the head bureaucrat agrees to give him some work. He tells the ex-Corporeal that a fringe element of rabble-rousing morons, calling themselves the German Workers Party, is trying stir up unrest against the government because of the existing deplorable economic conditions. While the bureaucrat believes the movement is really too small for the government to be concerned, just to make sure, he would pay the ex-Corporeal to attend one of their meetings and report back his findings.

So ex-Corporeal Adolf Hitler agrees to sit in on the next gathering of the German Workers Party. There are less than 20 people in attendance. Various attendees give speeches about Germany’s dismal current state of affairs, but they all revolve around the same themes. Germany’s predicament was due to two major factors-the harsh treatment at the hands of the Allies through the Treaty of Versailles, and, of course, because of the Jews. The same Jews that constituted about 3% of the German population, and were almost all peaceful shopkeepers or teachers. The demonization of Jews throughout, not only Germany, but virtually all of Europe, had been a universal imperative almost since the crucifixion of Jesus, or for nearly 2000 years. While the speech-givers at that get-together were amateurs, Hitler liked what he heard. They jibed almost exactly with his own prejudices and deep-seated hatred of all Jews.

Hitler never did report his findings back to the bureaucrat that hired him. Instead he continued to attend meetings of the German Workers Party, and began making impassioned speeches of his own, castigating both the Allies and the Jews. Hitler found that he had a natural talent for speechifying and demagoguery. Soon, as word spread, hundreds of people and then thousands, began attending these meetings, to hear Hitler demonize the Jews and Allied powers. Hitler quickly rose to top party leadership, and renamed the German Workers Party as the National Socialist, or Nazi Party. And in a particularly brilliant public relations move, he found an ancient tribal symbol, and adopted as the insignia of his newly formed Nazi Party. It came to be known as the Swastika, and it began popping up everywhere-on armbands, flags, shirts, etc. Since Germany had a rich cultural history, especially in music, philosophy, literature, and education, most Germans considered Hitler a fringe crackpot during the 1920s. But as Swastika armbands and flags began showing up more and more in the public square, greater numbers of Germans began paying more attention to Hitler’s impassioned vitriol and demagoguery, and Nazi power and popularity exploded throughout German cities. For those that were unbelievers, Hitler had formed gangs of Nazi goon squads, called the brownshirts, that roamed throughout Germany beating up or other wise terrorizing any and all opponents.

By 1933, due to unbridled German political machinations, the former ex-Corporeal from WWI, ascended to the German Chancellory and within months used his power to become absolute dictator. And as the saying goes, the rest is history. Hitler broke every provision of the Treaty of Versailles, especially when it came to vastly re-arming Germany. The Allies, by comparison, stood by and did nothing. By 1939, Hitler felt he was powerful enough to initiate WWII which eventually would kill 60 million people on the European continent alone. About 6 million Jews died in German concentration camps during the Hitler-initiated Holocaust. Millions of American and other Allied forces were slaughtered on European battlefields. And it all began with the demagogic power of freedom of speech.

So the next time you hear someone defend the unbridled and unconstrained ideal of free speech, you might want to point out how that ideal led to the greatest slaughter, tragedy and misery in the history mankind. Germany, today, 70 years after the end of WWII, is a thriving democracy; but its constitution forbids the advocacy of Nazism in any way, shape or form. And yet, it seems to perform quite well, even with this constitutional prohibition.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Economics, human affairs, Israeli-Palestinan Relations, politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

DISSOLUTION OF THE MIDDLE

When the middle cannot hold, extremism leading to violence and anarchy invariably ensues. Pragmatism is really the only mechanism that actually works when the people choose the method by which they will be governed. But it’s one of the great ironies of the human condition that large numbers of the existing populace often become too impatient or too agitated when governments follow such a path of moderation.  Or a consensus, if  you will, whereby different factions on the major political issues of the day settle for compromises that give each side at least partial achievement of their goals but not the entire loaf. Instead of this tacit moderation, passions often become  inflamed, and an “all or nothing” attitude becomes the ruling imperative. Then, instead of a large middle ground of consensus on key issues, extremist factions begin to form, each one diametrically opposed to the other, and ready for battle. A prime example was the outbreak of violence in Charlottesville last week, where, as I wrote last time, our president chose to draw a moral equivalence between the “haters” and those opposed to their hate-mongering.

In the U.S., the last time the center of political pragmatism began to dissolve into hardened extremist positions was over 150 years ago, and the issue was slavery. While our Declaration of Independence proudly proclaimed that “all men are created equal” our Constitution made no mention of such equality. Although most members of those writing the Constitution were opposed to slavery, and, indeed, most northern states had banished the enslavement of their black citizens, the South adamantly refused to to cooperate nor form a union, unless the Southern states were allowed to maintain the institution of slavery. It was all about economics. The South’s economy was almost entirely based on farming and its predominant crop was cotton. Since there was virtually no farm machinery at the time, cotton fields had to be harvested almost entirely by manual labor. The way to lower the labor costs of such of such harvests was, of course, to employ black slaves imported from Africa. Besides, the thinking went, Africans would be used to the sweltering summer heat and humidity while picking cotton in the South.

It seemed, at least to Southern plantation owners, the perfect solution. For the cost of providing minimal food and board, usually under the most dismal of conditions, the Southern cotton crop could be harvested and sold at prices that under-cut virtually any competition from any other country on the planet. Also, the slave traders, those that sent their ships to Africa to round up black people and transport them back to the U.S., usually under the most abhorrent of conditions, generally made a handsome profit in this human trafficking operation. Thus, Southern representatives to the constitutional convention were not about to abide by any prohibition against slavery and threatened to walk out and form their own confederacy if their demands were not met. The North finally acceded to the Southerners stipulations, the union was formed, and the Constitution remained silent on the issue of slavery. It would take another 70 years or so, when the middle could no longer hold, and the mandate to abolish slavery in this country would result in massive death, destruction and misery throughout the U.S.

When Abe Lincoln was elected president in 1860, his immediate imperative was to preserve the union at all costs. He stated that Southern states could keep their slaves if they agreed not to secede. Indeed, his Vice-President, Andrew Johnson from Tennessee, was an ardent believer in the institution of slavery, but also openly stated that the South should remain in the union. Despite these assurances, the middle could not hold, as Southern extremists opened fire on a union fort in South Carolina and the Civil War commenced. It would take over four long, bloody years of massive body counts, and bone-chilling atrocities committed by both sides, before the fighting was brought to a conclusion. Over six hundred thousand battlefield deaths were tallied during the fighting, the equivalent of over six million deaths with today’s population. Massive destruction existed everywhere, but especially in the South. Lincoln did live long enough, however, to see the enactment of the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution which abolished the abominable institution of slavery, and gave full citizenship to blacks that were previously treated as possessions of white plantation owners, instead of as human beings.

After Lincoln’s death, however, the South quickly enacted a series of Jim Crow segregation laws that forced Southern blacks into a state of semi-slavery, which lasted another hundred years, before the walls of segregation finally began to crumble in the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. During those hundred years of Jim Crow, life for the average black man or women in the South barely changed from the days of formal slavery. One reason was that among many whites, a firm belief in white supremacy had been formed in the minds, and had taken hold as a concept among large numbers of the U.S. citizenry. Thus, the Ku Klux Klan, among other white supremacist organizations, found fertile ground in both the North as well as the South. Which brings us to today’s landscape, and the events in Charlottesville last week.

As I wrote last time, Trump’s breathtakingly lame moral equivalence between the haters, and those opposing the various hate groups, was virtually unprecedented. But I think the calculus formed in Trump’s mind is as follows. While Trump himself might not be a white supremacist, he believes that a large chunk of the white Republican base is thus bigoted, and voted for him because he gave lip service to their cause. It was the white bigots in his base that put him over the top and he goes to great pains not to antagonize them. Thus all the Neo-Nazis, KKKers, and other various hate groups continue to believe they have a friend and ally in the White House. But those opposed to all forms of this bigotry are also hardening their stances leaving less people to occupy the middle.

From this vantage point, the center is slowly dissolving into hardened left wing/right wing extremist politics that will not bode well for this country. Unless Trump mends his political ways, which is highly unlikely, look for greater and greater polarization among the American public. And we all saw how well such polarization turned out for this country about 150 years ago.

 

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Economics, human affairs, politics | Leave a comment

TRUMP’S MORAL EQUIVALENCE

Picture the following scenario, if you will. It’s 1940, and Hitler’s Nazi troops have just overrun France. There’s been a formal declaration of surrender by the French government. The Nazi’s begin rounding up Jews and other perceived opponents of the regime and shipping them off to concentration camps. In response, young Frenchmen, at great risk to their lives, form an underground of partisans designed to attack and kill as many Germans as the opportunity presents itself. Suddenly, President Roosevelt goes on the airwaves and states that he deplores the ongoing violence in France that’s being perpetrated by “many sides.” He calls for the killing and general mayhem to cease, and for all parties to come together and unite in peace and brotherly love. “Ludicrous,” might be your response. Well, it’s not all that different than the initial reaction of our current president regarding the violence and deaths occurring in Charlottesville, VA this past Friday.

Friday in Charlottesville saw a planned demonstration called “Unite the Right”by the far right-wing lunatic-fringe of assorted Neo-Nazis, skinheads, the KKK, and other white supremacist looney-tuners become violent when counter-demonstraters got into the act.    Fights broke out between the two factions, and as the violence increased, one demonstrator took matters into his own hands. He got in his car and deliberately ran down the crowd of opposition protestors, killing one woman and injuring about 20 others. The police fortunately apprehended the killer and have him in custody. But what was the initial reaction of our current president who’s vacationing at his golf club while they renovate the White House? Nothing but pure moral equivalency. He deplored the violence emanating from “many sides” and said we must all come together and love one-another, with perhaps everyone singing Kum-Ba-Yah. Okay, that last part I threw in gratuitously. But that was the general tenor of his remarks.

There was an immediate outcry, even from several Republican senators, that Trump hadn’t specifically identified and condemned the assorted fascists, racists and overall bigots as being the primary instigators of the violence that ensued from the events in Charlottesville. When far right-wing Senator Ted Cruz criticizes you for a lack of moral clarity, you know you’re in hot water. So, with criticism coming from all directions,  Trump was essentially forced to go on the air today and specifically denounce the KKK, and all the other fascist groups that that took part in the Charlottesville mayhem, but, who, nonetheless, still form the basic core of his support. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Trump’s “Chief Strategist” Steve Bannon, former head of the Alt-Right news outlet known as Brietbart News, to watch Trump trash the base core of his true believers. It was as if the few adults inside the Trump Administration had finally prevailed in the common sense department.

But I’m sure that Trump’s solid base of white supremacists will give Trump a pass on today’s pronouncements. One should remember that during the presidential campaign last year, David Duke, former “Grand Dragon” of the KKK formally endorsed Trump for president, saying that The Donald was his kind of guy. That the KKK would finally have someone in sync with their beliefs sitting in the White House. Duke, by the way, ran for the Senate in in the state of Louisiana on the Republican ticket about a decade ago, and lost by only an eyelash. The “Bikers of America,” another white supremacist organization, also formally endorsed Trump for president and sent its members to Cleveland during the Republican Convention, to assure that Trump was not, in any sense, put in harm’s way by political opponents. In other words, they were spoiling for a fight with anyone protesting Trump’s ascendency to the throne.

During the campaign, Trump said many times that he was sick and tired of “political correctness.” That line usually drew a standing ovation from the mob-filled arenas where he gave his speeches. Trouble is, that phrase was code for being able to use the N-word out in public without being vilified. Another reason why a Neo-Nazi, Alt-Right individual like Richard Spencer, who publishes a daily paper in Montana that viciously attacks Jews, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, still claims to be among Trump’s strongest supporters.

Trump won the election because his strategy of appealing to white supremacists narrowly paid off. He lost big among minorities and college-educated women. But not enough of them turned out to vote. If they had had turned out in the same numbers they did twice for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton would have been the one sitting in the Oval Office today. But it was basically the vote of the blue-collar, non-college educated white male that put Trump over the top. These voters believed they had been marginalized during the eight Obama years. That too much emphasis had been placed on minority benefits and assistance, to white people’s detriment. They believed that Trump was the guy that would rectify this situation and restore white people back to the front of the line-where they should be. A classic belief in white supremacy.

Meanwhile, the neo-fascists in our society are becoming more bold as they come out into the open. They feel that with Trump in the White House, they can emerge from the shadows out into the glaring sun light. Look for more openly fascist events and riots like the one in Charlottesville to take place in the ensuing months.

 

 

 

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

EVOLUTION OR DEVOLUTION

One of my less guilty pleasures in life is occasionally watching old movies run in their entirety on the Turner Movie Channel. No commercials or interruptions; it’s almost like having HBO without the user fee. So the other night I watched a film produced in 1960 called “Inherit The Wind” about an actual trial in Tennessee in 1925 concerning the teaching of “evolution” in the Tennessee public school system. At that time it was actually illegal to to teach such heresy as Darwin’s theory of evolution to impressionable, young school children. Why they might have actually learn something that wasn’t sanctioned by the “New Testament.” They might even question where all those people on the outside came from when Adam, Eve and Cain were evicted from the Garden of Eden because their mortgage went under water. But I digress.

The movie, shot in black and white, contained big name Hollywood stars, such as Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, and Gene Kelly, all of whom acquired word-wide acting fame during the 1930s, often considered the golden age of Hollywood. Movies were ultra popular during that period because people could lose themselves in a darkened theater and forget their heartache and pain caused by the Great Depression for maybe 5-6 hours. For the price of a nickel or dime, one received two feature films, a cartoon, a serial, newsreels, coming attractions, and more. What’s not to like. I remember spending hours in air-conditioned local movie theaters in my misspent youth during the 1940s in order to escape the ugly poverty of my surroundings and the smothering heat in an un-airconditioned apartment during humid New York summers. Of course, by the late 1940s the price of all this entertainment had risen to the shocking level of a quarter.

But back to “Inherit the Wind.” As I said, it was actually against the law in Tennessee in the 1920s to teach evolution in the public school system, and breaking that law was punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. One brave teacher in a small town decided to challenge that law and openly taught Darwinism in his classes. Predictably, he was was arrested and put on trial. The whole affair might have been ignored by the press or what was considered the media back then, had it not been for the fame of the attorney’s who became involved in the case. Representing the defendant free of charge was world renowned  lawyer Clarence Darrow, who in his later years, often fought for unpopular causes. And representing the prosecution was famed politician William Jennings Bryan, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the presidency on the Democratic ticket, of course. Although Bryan considered himself a populist and champion of the “little guy,” he was also a dyed-in-the-wool religious fundamentalist who believed in the literal interpretation of the New Testament. So it became a clash of these huge legal titans and was thus heavily covered by the press and radio commentators.

Since this was small town Tennessee in the 1920s, the vast majority of its people were also religious fundamentalists, and as depicted by the movie, paraded about town during the trial chanting: “Give me that old time religion, it’s good enough for me.” It became known as the “monkey trial” and the notion that man evolved from apes was considered beyond absurdity by the townspeople. During the trial, Darrow called Bryan to the witness stand to question his dis-belief in evolution. No matter what the question, Bryan stubbornly stuck to his religious fundamentalism. When Darrow held a rock in his hand and stated that scientists believed that rock was millions of years old, Bryan made the now famous exclamation that he “was not interested in the age of rocks, but only in the Rock of Ages.” It was a given that the hapless school teacher would be convicted of the crime of teaching Darwinism, but a reasonably smart judge handed down the mildest of sentences to finally bring that fiasco of a trial to its conclusion.

But the movie got me to thinking whether humankind has evolved to any significant degree in the century since that infamous trial, or wether there has actually been a process of on-going devolution. Fourteen years after the end of the “monkey trial” the world became involved in the most horrific war that had ever been witnessed until that point. Nazi and Imperial Japanese death camps exterminated tens of millions of innocent victims during WWII. In a world history replete with most heinous acts throughout the centuries, the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews and millions of others were gassed to death, will probably stand out as the crown jewel of absolute, unadulterated, pure evil. Nuclear bombs developed by scientists and were used on two Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands. Today, nuclear bomb technology has come into the hands of at least two rogue, tyrannical states, North Korea and Iran, who threaten their use against western democracies. Islamic Jihadist terrorism has sprung up out of the desert heat of the Mid-East, and like the barbarism of old, threatens virtually all of civilized societies. Several on-going wars in the cauldron of all that Mid-East turmoil that the United States has become involved in, show no signs of being brought to a successful conclusion. Is this progress? Is man evolving to a higher state, or actually devolving to a state of death, destruction and misery?

And speaking of evolution, a recent poll in the U.S. still shows that a majority of Americans still do not believe in Darwinism. Despite the fact that a visit to any museum of natural history in any major city will show incontrovertible evidence otherwise. But I guess non-believers in evolution are not big on going to museums. Nor on wisdom or advanced thinking that would normally be signs of the evolutionary process. That was undisputedly proven by the results of the 2016 election held in the U.S. and the Brexit vote held in England, also last year. So instead, perhaps we should welcome one and all to the the age of devolution.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, human affairs, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE BIBLE-THUMPER’S CHOICE

According to exit polls taken after the 2016 election, the overwhelming favorite for president among those people describing themselves as Christian “born-again” or “evangelical” or just plain fanatically religious believers, was Donald Trump. According to pollsters, Trump garnered nearly 80% of the evangelical vote. Now one might ask why people who are supposedly so heavily invested in the teachings of Christ, would choose a man who was caught on tape bragging about grabbing a woman’s “pussy,” who bragged about having numerous affairs, who has been married 3 times, and who had made the comment that TV news anchor Megyn Kelly “had blood coming out of her whatever” when she made him upset during a TV presidential debate. At first blush it would appear counter-intuitive that Trump should be such a huge favorite among these religious extremists, if you will. But on second thought, it was perfectly rational that the bible-thumpers supported such a candidate.

The first point to understand is that organized religions have nothing to do with God. They are totally man-made inventions for the acquisition of power by those supposedly assuming the mantle of God’s spokespersons. Whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other current ism, they all have the same tenets in common. The leaders of those religions pretend to speak for God, and thereby issue proclamations as to what is acceptable or unacceptable human behavior in the eyes of “the invisible man” as comedian George Carlin once expressed it. Unacceptable behavior according to one’s religious leaders can lead to big trouble since these clergy often hold the power of life or death over virtually all individuals in the populace. In the Muslim religion, not obeying Allah as Imams dictate, can lead to to hands or arms being chopped off, or whippings, or finally, beheadings. And its not just Islamic terrorist organizations performing such atrocities. Ruling governments in many Moslem countries also sanction such penalties to those considered as being non-believers. Such is the power of organized religion.

In Europe, once Roman Emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, A.D., the Christian religious hierarchy assumed the same powers and control over peoples lives as had the secular royalty that ruled most countries. Unbelievers were considered heretics to be burned at the stake. Jews that had been driven out of their homeland by Roman legions, and who had thus fled to Europe, were called “Christ killers” by Catholic popes in the Vatican, and subject to enormous persecution throughout the centuries. The Spanish Inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries burned Jews at the stake for not believing that Jesus was God. But Inquisition leaders claimed it was for their own good. After being thus murdered, these unfortunates could then enter heaven with their disbelief purified from their souls. And it wasn’t just Catholic Jew-hating. Martin Luther, who was the founder of Protestantism, was notoriously anti-semitic, and printed tract after tract that hung on church portals,  denouncing Jews as Christ killers. Thus, through the centuries, virtually all of Europe was infected with the virus of Christian anti-semitism. One could even make a cogent argument that the Holocaust could never have taken place if the disease of anti-semitism was not allowed to spread so virulently throughout all of Europe, century after century. Even today in Europe, it’s emerging from the shadows it retreated to 70 years ago, back into the sunlight.

It’s with that background that it’s understandable as to why the bible thumpers in this country supported Trump so vigorously in 2016. The see him as a man who could bring their long-held dream to fruition of turing the United States into a Christian theocracy. The way many Mid-East countries are Moslem theocracies. The holy grail of the bible thumpers would be the abolition of legalized abortion and gay rights in the U.S. The election of Trump is already paying them dividends since he has put the overturning of Roe V. Wade almost within their grasp. Trump’s nomination of antiabortion Justice Neal Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was approved by the Senate, and, thus, Trump needs to replace only one more Justice before a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy becomes history in most states. It shouldn’t take very much longer since Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in her 80s and obviously can’t hang on forever. Along the way the bible thumpers also fervently pray that a Trump remodeled Supreme Court will overturn previous edicts allowing the existence of gay marriage and other gay rights, thereby effectively shoving homosexuals back into the closet. Way back in the closet. If those two scenarios transpire, the U.S. is more that half there toward establishing a Christian theocracy. Fun times ahead for all you no-goodnik non-believers.

So, as you can see, it really didn’t matter to the bible thumpers that Trump has led an unholy, lewd, and profane private life. As long as he could deliver them their long held dream of an American Christian theocracy, he was jake with them. When Trump made a campaign stop at Liberty University, which is a fundamentalist Baptist college in Virginia, and pretended to be a religious extremist like them, the bible thumpers knew they had their man. And, so far, life in the U.S. appears to be unfolding in that context.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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