Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump

A SHOOTING IN MANHATTAN

As I’ve said previously in past pieces, about the only truthful statement Donald Trump uttered during the 2016 campaign was that he could could shoot someone dead in the middle of Fifth Avenue and there would be no erosion of his base support. To test the validity of this hypothesis, I’m offering up a scenario that might look like the following.

It’s a hot summer day, and Trump has decided to make a campaign appearance in his native New York City. He’s packing heat for self-protection since he knows how crime-infested N.Y.C. is and that he’ll be vulnerable riding in an open-air limousine. As the motorcade wends its way up 5th Avenue,  Trump spots someone in the crowds lining the street  holding up a sign that’s highly critical of his presidency. Anger overcomes his better judgement and he pulls out his gun and pumps 3 bullets into the protester, who is immediately killed. After initial gasps, most in the crowd agree that the protester got what was coming to him.

When news of the shooting reaches Washington, the White House Press Corp immediately swings into action. Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell is quickly interviewed for his reaction. McConnell replies, “As I’ve said many times in the past, I’m not going to comment on all the President’s idiosyncrasies. Now if you want to talk about new legislation that will further cut taxes for the rich, I’ll be happy to discuss that with you.” Reached for his comments, Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, replies that, “From what I’ve learned, I think it was just a case of an unfortunate tourist being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m told that the victim’s name is Fred Waternobby, and he was from Ames, Iowa. He had come to N.Y. to see the sights; but if he had stayed back in Ames, he’d be alive today. Nevertheless, I’ll convene a House committee to further study this incident.

When reached for comment, Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated that this occurrence further proved her point that students needed to be armed with semiautomatics for their own self-protection, when entering the classroom. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flat-out said that, “this would have never happened if North Korea had de-nuclearized as they had promised.” On Fox News, the lead story for the evening was that an illegal immigrant tried to hold up a bank in Boise, Idaho; further proving how critical it was to build a wall along the Mexican border. Fox News commentators Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity did comment on the shooting, but only to say that this was just another example of how the mainstream media such as the New York Times and CNN were still trying to to bring down the Trump Administration and force Donald Trump from office even though we have a roaring economy. Why, look how low the unemployment numbers are, they both stated. Finally, later that evening Trump went on Twitter and wrote the following Tweet: “Some people are saying that the shooter looked a lot like Barack Obama. I’m not saying it was him. Believe me folks. But some people are.” A few days later, a new Gallop poll comes out that shows for the first time, Trump’s approval rating is over 50 percent.

Unfortunately, we all know that much of this scenario is probably true. We’ve arrived at a point in time in the U.S. where up is down and down is up. One notable exception to Trump’s world of make-believe, was the respect and honor paid to Senator John McCain after he died last week, just days short of his 82nd birthday. Three former presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama attended his funeral. Trump was noticeably uninvited. McCain coming from a Navy family attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He graduated fifth from the bottom of his class and expressed disappointment that 4 other mid-shipmen beat him out for last place. He would go on to fight in the Viet-Nam war as a fighter pilot, and was shot down over North Viet-Nam. He would then spend 5 hellish years in the notorious N. Viet-Nam prison known as the Hanoi Hilton.

When his captors offered to release him from prison early, McCain, with broken bones and other injuries, said he was not leaving until all American prisoners were released. He would go on to spend 4 more torturous years in the Hanoi Hilton before that finally happened. In civilian life McCain would become a senator from Arizona. In 2008 he won the Republican nomination for president and wound up running against a young rookie from Illinois who was also the first black man to secure either party’s nomination.  That rookie made several rookie mistakes during the campaign, and McCain led comfortably in all the polls going into September, and seemed well on his way to achieving the presidency. But then Lehman Brothers, a giant Wall Street brokerage firm, went bankrupt in September because of all the worthless debt paper they were holding, and the economy accordingly went into the dumpster, along with McCain’s prospects for the presidency. The young rookie, Barack Obama, would become president instead.

So there you have it-the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. I’ll let you, gentle reader, decide which category our current president belongs in. As for me, I guess you know which side of the aisle my butt is firmly planted in.

 

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TRUMP DERANGEMENT FAILS TO DISSUADE TRUMP SUPPORTERS

During the 2016 campaign for the presidency, about the only truthful statement that Donald Trump offered was that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York, and shoot someone dead, and there would still be no loss of support among his most loyal followers. That’s even more true today, especially among Trump’s evangelical base of bible-thumpers that put him over the top in the 2016 election. It was estimated that near 80% of voters considering themselves as “born again” voted for Trump. It was their votes especially in the Mid-West that gave him the presidency. Such renowned evangelical ministers as Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son), Jerry Falwell Jr., who runs a bible college in Virginia, and Robert Jeffress who operates a mega-church in Texas, are among Trump’s strongest supporters. Yes, that same thrice married Trump who had an affair with porn stripper Stormy Daniels while he was married to his third wife, and continues to lie about it.

I think the utter phoniness and hypocrisy of of the Trump persona and his legion of evangelical followers was brilliantly caught in a political cartoon I viewed a short time ago. It was when Trump, in his infinite wisdom, decided to separate children from their parents that were illegally trying to enter our southern border.   The kids were thrown in cage-like cells and told they would never see their parents again. The cartoon I’m referring to shows an angry Jesus trying to protect a group of small, frightened children clinging to him. Jesus the utters this quote from the New Testament-Matthew 25:40- “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” Standing in front of Jesus and the children he was protecting is Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his goon bodyguard. Sessions asks his goon-“Whose the weirdo in the pajamas?” The goon replies-“He says his name is Hay-Seuss. You want me to whack him Mr. Sessions?” Sheer brilliance, but still there is no loss of support among the Trump base.

Because there was something of an outcry from Trump’s cruel border shenanigans, Trump, ever the demagogue, was forced to reverse course and release these innocent victims back to their parents. Certainly not because of any humane concern. Remember that at Trump’s fundamental core is pathological narcissism, and he will always initiate any action that further feeds his monumental ego. Years ago I wrote that Trump’s ego makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the sidewalk. Nothing has changed from those days.

Trump supporters like to point to how well the economy is doing as the basis of their support. And there’s no doubt that the economy is on a strong upward trajectory and has been since the “great recession” ended in 2009. There now appears to be more job openings than there are unemployed. But the economy would have been in about the same position had Clinton been elected, and has little to do with any of Trump’s actions. The main reason for the economy’s strong tail wind is because the European economy has vastly improved as well, and there is substantially increased trade and commerce between the U.S. and the EU. Remember that the recession in 2008 occurred world wide, not just in the U.S. So unless Trump wants to also take credit  for Europe’s revival (which is not beyond him) Trump is just the beneficiary of a near ten year world-wide upward thrust. Meanwhile not content to just let the economy continue humming along, Trump has started to throw monkey wrenches into worldwide trade practices that could soon spell disaster for the U.S. economy.

Continually obsessed that the U.S. is economically being taken advantage of, (even though we’re the number one economy in the world,) Trump has instigated a number of crippling tariffs against our trading partners, who have replied, in kind, with tariffs against U.S exports. Remember that tariffs is just a 10 dollar word for taxes that are ultimately paid, in this case, by U.S. consumers. Europe and China have retaliated against the Trump tariffs by placing their own tariffs on on U.S. exports such as farm produce. Soy bean farmers in the mid-west for example are having a tough time exporting their products because of foreign retaliation. Nevertheless farmers throughout the country are still firmly lodged in the Trump camp, believing that any hardship they’re presently suffering is simply a temporary situation. Just as Trump tells them.

One last thing. Trump likes to brag about how great his tax cut enacted by the Republican Congress has been for the average American. Actually it was a giant giveaway to large corporations with a few peanuts thrown to the middle class. It also greatly exacerbated our national debt which in now running at about a cool trillion a year, with a cumulative total of about $21.5 trillion. Funny how the national debt only mattered when Obama was president but is now a non-issue among conservative Republicans. Add a few hundred billion more to this red ink explosion by building the Trump wall on the Mexican border and you will have hit the spending jackpot. But what happens when the world stops buying our bonds of indebtedness. People will go to their banks, put their ATM cards in the machine to withdraw cash, but nothing will come out. Even though it shows they have a healthy bank balance.

In the end politics really is just a game of salesmanship. Trump, with his Twitter tantrums, and his overall demented and bizarre behavior, still commands the respect and loyalty of a solid 35-40 percent of the American electorate. And it will probably remain so until the roof crashes in on our heads. Which could be any time soon.

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A ZERO-SUM GAME

In Trump’s world of unbridled derangement and pathological narcissism, he believes that he can only win if you lose. The “Art of The Deal” that he famously wrote was basically about how to stick it to the other guy before he can stick it to you. It was not about how two or more parties can enter into mutually beneficial arrangements, as  most books are that deal with business topics. As I’ve said, in his mind he can only win by you losing. It’s called a zero-sum game. If you win then he loses. That was in full evidence with the recently concluded G-7 conference held in Canada where Trump managed to insult our most important allies such as Canada, Britain France, Italy, Spain  and Germany while calling for our ostensible enemy such as Russia to be included in future G-7 economic summits. Then he hastily exited the meeting to run off to Singapore to supposedly negotiate a de-nuclearization of North Korea. Decry our allies while pretending to be nice to our enemies, or as it’s better known- Trump’s negotiating style.

It seems that any country, and especially our allies including Mexico, automatically becomes part of Trump’s shit list if they dare to to levy tariffs on U.S. exported goods. Never mind that we also institute tariffs on goods imported from those or other countries around the world. A tariff is merely a tax, most often paid by the consumer that purchases imported products or services. Yes, we run serious trade imbalances with most countries we deal with. But it can’t be hurting us too badly since the U.S. is by far the number one economic powerhouse in the world. Trump’s own private company (managed now by his grown children) import many products from China which it then sells to U.S consumers. Nevertheless, Trump deliberately, nastily, and crudely hurled vicious and derogatory comments at the host of the G-7 conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The U.S. should be so lucky as to have such a sane, rational, and decent leader as Justin Trudeau. Maybe we should turn ourselves over to Canada.

Prior to these trade negotiation shenanigans, Trump saw fit to pull out of the de-nulearzation deal that President Obama had negotiated with Iran. It’s part of Trump’s plan to rid the country of everything Obama had accomplished. Yes, it was a poorly negotiated treaty with many loopholes. But it did slow down Iran’s thrust in acquiring nuclear missile capabilities. It required Iran to shut down many of its centrifuges where uranium was being enriched- an absolute necessity for nuclear weaponry. Now, with no restrictions on the table, Iran is free to pursue nuclear weaponry with unrestricted zeal. Very shrewd deal-making with our number one enemy in the world.

So now Trump is in Singapore to supposedly negotiate with North Korea’s tyrant for an end to that country’s nuclear weapon capability. North Korea is like a giant concentration camp run by a ruthless dictator, and where mass starvation of the populace has become a common occurrence. Every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has offered and provided that country with tons of free food and other products based on the promise that North Korea’s dictator would destroy all nuclear weapons and capabilities. Every promise has been broken. To the point where N. Korea supposedly now has the capability to sling nuclear tipped missiles that can reach anywhere on the U.S. mainland. Remember, as I said in the beginning, for Trump to win the other guy has to lose, i.e. total and verifiable North Korean weapon denuclearization. So far, however, North Korea has been winning at every junction for the past 25 years, so don’t hold your breath.

Despite all the chaos in government affairs, all the wrath, all the firings of White House officials, all the derangement and prevarication, it appears that a good 40 percent of the American electorate still remain firmly in Trump’s camp. My theory on this has to do with “ennui.” Ennui is a French word that translates roughly to the English word – boredom. But not just every day, run-of-the-mill boredom. It’s boredom squared, or boredom on steroids. It was ennui that brought down the Roman Empire and now it’s doing the same to America.

At the zenith of it’s power, roughly 2000 years ago, Rome had conquered most of Europe and North Africa. The Roman Empire spread over continents. The standard of living for the average Roman was beyond anywhere else in the world. With no further mountains to climb, the average Roman became easily bored. They began to suffer from ennui. They became too unmotivated to do their own fighting and hired mercenaries instead. Eventually, these mercenaries would turn against them and lead to their downfall. To alleviate their ennui, they built the Roman Coliseum, part of which stands today. They would attend the main events of the coliseum which basically involved lions tearing gladiators to shreds. It was only that type of excitement that aroused the Roman populace from their lethargy or ennui. In the end, as I’ve said, it led to their ruin.

I believe the reason that Trump was elected in the first place, was the sense of ennui that had spread across the American populace. While, yes there were economic problems, nevertheless, the standard of living and prosperity for the average American had never been higher. The recovery from the deep recession of 2008 had been remarkable. As a result, a significant portion of the American electorate in 2016 were tired of the average politician, and suffering from ennui, were looking for something or someone different and more entertaining, They found it in a businessman turned TV entertainer, who spoke with a lewd, vile crudity not previously heard in the political arena. It turned on just enough people to get the entertainer elected president.

So the only remaining question is is whether America’s sense of ennui will over time, bring down its empire. It took a few centuries for the Roman Empire to fall, but now, in the electronic age, events are speeding up at a faster pace. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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THE FREE LUNCH COUNTER

Desperate for anything resembling a win, the Trump Administration along with Congressional Republicans, finally passed major legislation in late December in the form of supposed income tax overhaul. Except it’s not much in the way of  overhaul. Basically it gives certain components of American society “free money” in the form of income tax reductions. Well, you might say, who could be against receiving free money. Except the government is handing out funds it doesn’t possess. It would be one thing if we were running a budgetary surplus every year and rebating that surplus back to the people. But just the opposite is true. The government is accumulating about half a trillion dollars in new debt every fiscal year. The current total debt is over $21 trillion and growing each month. Funny how so-called conservatives never made a big deal when the deficit went over the $20 trillion mark after Trump became president. I guess it was only earth-shaking when Obama was running up huge deficits.

In any event, this new legislation gives rather huge tax reductions to corporations, and significant tax cuts to the top one percent and the rest of the uber wealthy. The middle and lower classes, of course, get only a few crumbs of tax relief. A typical Republican game plan of trickle-down economics. Give generous tax deductions to the rich and they’ll reward the party with generous donations during election campaigns that allow more Republicans to be elected to office. Except as I’ve said, anything that significantly increases the public deficit is totally unaffordable as far as the best interests of the people are concerned. I realize that virtually no one lies awake at night worrying about the size of the public debt. But it’s a ticking time bomb that can bring Depression-era financial ruin to large segments of the population if not brought under control.

First, one must realize that the public deficit will never be paid off. It’s far too gigantic for that. The best that we can hope to manage is to pay off bonds and notes that are coming due by issuing new debt and praying it will sell on the world’s financial markets. So far it has, since the U.S. continues to make good on interest payments and bond principals as they mature. One thing that has worked in our favor regarding those payments is the fact that interest rates on world financial markets have remained extraordinarily low for many years. But as economies around the world continue to recover from the great recession that began in 2008, interest rates are slowly starting to climb. Low inflation has been a boon to the U.S. economy, especially in servicing its public debt. But once inflation begins to creep up, as it is current showing signs of doing, servicing the public deficit will become far more costly. How will we pay for these increased costs, especially with less tax revenue coming into the government coffers. It might give future potential bond holders pause for thought.

The U.S. budget has now climbed to about $4 trillion annually. The accumulated deficit, as I’ve stated, is over $21 trillion. Mind-boggling numbers to be sure. Almost too other-worldly to get one’s head around. To put it in perspective, when Ronald Reagan entered the White House in January 1981, the accumulated deficit stood at just under $1 trillion. It had taken over 200 years between the presidencies of George Washington thru to Jimmy Carter to reach that figure. In the 37 years, however, from Reagan thru to the first year of Trump, we’ve calmly, with hardly any notice, added another $20 plus trillion to that figure. But the general public attitude has been to just party on. Lets keep spending money we don’t have. What great fun. And now, more free money to the people in the form of an unaffordable tax cut.

Five items comprise over 80% of our annual spending. They are Defense, which includes the military, weapons, intelligence, nuclear missiles, etc. and which is now gobbling up close to a trillion dollars in annual spending. And whose budget most people, especially conservatives, want to see increased rather than reduced. Then there’s interest on the debt which, as I’ve stated, must paid if we want the world to keep buy our bonds. Next come social security and medicare, which seniors especially, threaten open revolt should any mention of reduction be made. Last is Medicaid, which might be trimmed slightly, but not enough to make any real difference. The remaining whole rest of the government is funded with less than 20% of available revenue. Not a lot of places to try saving some money. Might as well just keep partying on.

In pre-television days of the 1930s and 1940s, there was a show on the radio called Duffy’s Tavern, with the by-line of-“where the elite meet to eat.” Of course, it was anything but elite. More like a hole-in-the-wall bar. In any event when the rare customer did enter the tavern, and was willing to plunk down a nickel or dime for a beer, proprietor Duffy would tell the customer that this entitled him to go over and partake of the “free lunch counter.” In actuality, many bars actually did have a free lunch counter during the Depression era, available for the price of a beer. But one could only imagine the quality of food available at this counter. Probably more like ptomaine heaven. In any event the acceptance by the U.S. public of this latest tax cut which further imperils our financial future, makes it look like we’re still willing to chow down at the free lunch counter. What a rosy picture concerning one’s health.

 

 

 

 

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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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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.

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McCARTHY, TRUMP AND THE ART OF FEAR-MONGERING

I’ve written before about how Donald Trump is doing his best to emulate the methods employed during the 1950s by Joe McCarthy to achieve fame and power. It’s almost as if McCarthy has been re-incarnated into Donald Trumps body. McCarthy, a junior senator from Wisconsin, began a calculated mission to achieve absolute U.S. political power with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia in February 1950. The method he employed was classical fear-mongering and appeals to mass hysteria. In that now infamous speech, McCarthy blended a mixture of right-wing demagoguery and outright lies as he appealed to people’s fears about the Communist menace about to take over their lives. He claimed that there were hundreds of Communists who owed their allegiance to the old Soviet Union that were burrowed deep into the U.S. government, especially into our State Department. And that Democratic President Harry Truman and his administration were refusing to weed them out.

McCarthy’s speech electrified the small crowd of about 275 people who had ostensibly turned out to hear about how the U.S., and every citizens welfare, was essentially being sold down the river by treasonous Democratic politicians. (Sound familiar?) With a deep baritone voice and an infused sense of calamity, McCarthy had essentially elevated fear-mongering into an art form. McCarthy blamed “elite” Democrats in the Truman Administration who had failed to purge “the enemy within,” that threatened America’s security and way of life. “While I cannot take the time to name all of the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, who are still working and shaping U.S. policy,” he thundered. Of course, no such list of names actually existed and the entire speech was a total scam.

Naturally, this speech was long before the internet or cell phones came into existence, so news that over 200 Communist traitors were still effectively passing on top secret information to the Soviet Union became known slowly but surely, like a massive blob spreading it’s suffocating deadly existence over the entire country. Eventually, McCarthy’s accusation that there was a hidden Communist cabal at the heart of the U.S. government triggered a wave of country-wide paranoia and fear mongering that would forever bear his name-“McCarthyism.” Some saw through the phoniness of this blatant exercise in demagoguery, but tragically, there were too many true believers as McCarthy’s fame as one who was fighting the scourge of Communism rose to breath- taking heights. He was put in charge of a Senate oversight committee committed to rooting out Communist traitors in all walks of American life- from government, to Hollywood to industry and on and on. Hundreds of innocent Americans were falsely accused of treason and saw their lives being destroyed before their very eyes. Some committed suicide. Those that saw through these charades and were willing to say so publicly, were denounced by McCarthy as commies, commie-sympathizers or outright traitors. His rise to ultimate power seemed unstoppable.

And it probably would have been, if it hadn’t been for the advent of that new-fangled electronics contraption known as television that was increasingly winding up in everyones homes. When McCarthy charged that the U.S. Army, like the State Department, was riddled with Communist traitors, the Army, instead of wimping out, decided to challenge him head-on, in front of live, televised audiences. It was the first time television would be used in that manner. When the viewing public could visually watch, for the first time, the phoniness of McCarthy’s demagoguery, his popularity, and, hence, his power, began taking a swan dive. McCarthy, always a heavy drinker, increased his alcohol consumption even further as his power slowly oozed away. He eventually drank himself to death in 1958, while he was in his late forties.

But here’s the real interesting part. When McCarthy headed up his Senate committee, his chief of staff who usually did all the witness questioning, was a fellow named Roy Cohen. By all accounts Cohen was every bit as despicable a human being as McCarthy was. But somewhere along the way, sometime in the 1970s, Roy Cohen hooked up with a young Donald Trump who was just making a name for himself by managing the real estate empire he had inherited from his father. It was Roy Cohen who infused a-new-to-the-game-of-politcs Donald Trump with the McCarthy brand of right-wing demagoguery that’s on display with this current administration. As it turned out, Roy Cohen was homosexual at a time when it was still deeply shocking for any celebrity to be outed as being gay. Cohen would eventually die of AIDS in the mid-1980s, still proclaiming he was not homosexual.

So now we have the ghosts of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohen on full display in the Trump administration. Trump first rose to political power in 2016 when he began demonizing both Mexicans and Moslems. He would build a wall so Mexico could no longer send us “their rapists and murderers.” He would ban Moslem countries  from sending us their terrorists. He would go on to appoint white supremacists as among his closest aides. His calculation during the election was that there was still enough white xenophobic voters to overcome strong opposition from minority voters, and he was right by an eyelash. Anyone, especially in the media, that tries to expose Trump for his demagogic phoniness is subject to a withering Trump Twitter tantrum and cries of fake news. Sort of like the way Joe McCarthy called his opponents commie sympathizers. The base of diehard Trump supporters still continues to hold firm, even amid all the chaos and outright lies that emanate from this White House on a daily basis.

In the1950s, television exposed Joe McCarthy for the phony demagogue that he was, and for the poisonous effects his antics were having on the U.S. citizenry and their values. However, it doesn’t seem to be working these days as far as exposing Donald Trump for the fraudster he really is. Maybe people were less gullible and a lot smarter back then.

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A TEST OF PURITY

Back in the day, there used to be a commercial that proclaimed that Ivory soap was about 99 and a half percent “pure.” (The other half of one percent was presumably alien DNA.) That commercial rang a bell in my mind as I watched the fiasco of the proposed Republican legislation in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare go down in flames last week. It seems that for a hardcore of about 30 looney-tunes GOP right wing representatives in the House that call themselves the “Freedom Caucus,” the replace part of the proposed bill was still far too generous. Why some poor soul, somewhere in the country, who was desperately sick and couldn’t afford health insurance, might actually receive a bit of medical treatment on the government’s dime under the Republican plan. Can’t have that. How does that kind of scenario benefit the rich? So, despite extensive lobbying by Trump and his consiglieri’s, this hardcore band of 30 right-wing whackos would not budge in their opposition to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposed bill because it still contained some minimal benefits to assist the unfortunate. Only total repeal would meet their objections. In the end, Ryan had to pull the bill  off the House floor in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat. Obamacare, as muddled as it is, still remains in place.

First a few rather obvious observations. Trump, who, essentially believes in nothing but the enhancement of his own ego, couldn’t care less about the details of the proposed legislation. During the recently concluded campaign, at one point he promised “health care for everyone.” That promise quickly dissolved with the morning mist as Republican insiders and contributors to his campaign reminded him that such action sounded an awful lot like universal health care, which has been a Democrat initiative over many decades. So Trump, in the end, was willing to settle for repealing Obamacare, which he had described as “absolutely horrible,” and perhaps replacing it with some inexpensive token gesture. Ryan and his Republican cohorts would have gone along with that, but the problem was, that there is also about 30 so-called “moderate” Republicans from competitive districts who would have faced daunting re-election prospects in 2018 if the Republican plan didn’t contain at least some substance in the replace part of “repeal and replace.” In the end, the two Republican factions could not reconcile their differences, and legislative disaster loomed ahead like the massive iceberg appearing before the Titanic.

Make no mistake- the Ryan plan was still all about removing the poor from government health care subsidies. About 20 million previously uninsured poor have been allowed to sign up for Medicaid in 31 states since Obamacare took hold. (The other 19 states, all hardcore Republican in the South and Mid-West, essentially gave the middle-finger to those unable to afford health insurance. Their philosophy is that if you’re too poor to afford to be covered, and you become seriously ill, just quietly curl up in a ball somewhere and die. But please don’t bother us good, God-fearing folk that can afford insurance.) In any event, the Ryan plan would have put the kibosh on any further expansion of Medicaid, even in states willing to do so, and slowly begin whittling down the number of newer enrollments. There would have been a total reduction in government health care subsidies to the poor, along with a reduction of taxes on the rich. Hey, one needs to get his or her priorities in proper sequence. But even these cut backs were not enough for the so-called “Freedom Caucus” who still feared that someone somewhere would be receiving a government handout.

As I discussed in a recent piece, the only legislation that would provide universal health care to all would be a single payer system run by the government. Every civilized country in the world provides its citizens with such blanket coverage. Even tyrannical, despotic governments such as Cuba or N.Korea provide universal health care. In France, its system is so extensive that a nurse comes to a woman’s house for up to five days after she’s given birth to a newborn child. Yet, somehow, we can’t afford that level of coverage for all Americans. Many years ago, I personally knew a man that moved to Canada so as to take advantage of its state provided  medical system. Although he was only middle-aged, he had a number of serious life-threatening, health-related issues, and could not afford insurance or related doctor’s bills. In Canada, at that time, one had to be a resident for 18 months before they qualified for the state-sponsered system. He sweated it out for 18 months, receiving barely minimal medical treatments for his conditions, that he could hardly pay for; but he did survive and was finally able to receive the necessary care for his ailments, free of charge. Under whose moral value code is it necessary for an American to move to Canada in order to attempt to save his life.

I lay the blame for opposition to something as sane and rational as universal health care in this country, to the poison that’s been pouring out of electronic media for the last 30 years, by crypto-fascists such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and a host of other, similar, far right, looney-tooners. Americans have been sold a bill of goods over the last 30 years that everything that’s governmentally sponsored is inherently evil. It wasn’t always thus. In the 1970s, Republican president Richard Nixon proposed a form of universal health care to Congress, and that time it was the Democrats that fucked it all up because they felt it wasn’t extensive enough. So much for politics in this country.

In any event, a band of Republican far right-wingers in the House was enough to sink a very bad piece of legislation to begin with, and deprive Trump of the victory his ego so voraciously craved. The bill just wasn’t pure enough for the “Freedom Caucus” to support. It certainly wasn’t as pure as Ivory soap.

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, human affairs, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES

Some time back, I wrote a piece called “Returning to The Days of Silent Cal.” It talked about the 6 years that Republican Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States, from 1922-1928, when the federal government did essentially….nothing. Outside of the State and War Departments and the Attorney-General’s office, there was little, if any, governmental expenditures. Coolidge, often known as Silent Cal for his taciturn image, who had inherited the presidency when Warren G. Harding died in office in 1922, often boasted that the federal budget was lower when he left in 1928, than when he first assumed the presidency in 1922. Coolidge was wildly popular because he served during the decade known as the “roaring twenties” when there was peace, prosperity and a booming stock market. Get-rich-quick schemes abounded everywhere, especially if they involved stock investments. Coolidge would easily have won re-election in 1928 but he decided not to run, stating that 10 years in the White House would have constituted the type of cruel and unusual punishment that’s forbidden by the U.S. Constitution.

Instead it fell to his hapless Republican vice-president, Herbert Hoover, to be the one sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office, when the roof finally caved in- big time. All the wild speculation on Wall Street, as we all know, led to the infamous stock market crash in October, 1929, and, from there, to the ensuing Great Depression of the 1930s. At the time, there was no Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) to put the reins on all the stock market manipulations and dishonest schemes that had abounded like weeds in an unkempt garden. Suddenly, as the Depression oozed across the landscape, tens of millions of Americans, who thought they would live out their lives in comfortable middle class existences, were plunged into dire poverty instead, begging for nickels and dimes on the streets, or standing in hours long unemployment lines. The Depression also resurrected a rather dormant Democratic Party, which swept Franklin Roosevelt into the presidency in a landslide in 1932. FDR then began the “New Deal” which, for the first time had the government spending large amounts of resources for “social welfare programs,” i.e., stuff that wasn’t related to fighting wars or other foreign affairs.

Under FDR’s New Deal, and in subsequent Democratic administrations, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs were enacted. The right for workers to organize into labor unions and the right for those unions to call a strike became law over 80 years ago, but has been fought every step of the way by conservative Republicans. And the Republicans seem to be winning their never ending battle against unions since membership is down to single digits in most unions still in existence. Also enacted by Democratic administrations were housing assistance programs, unemployment insurance benefits, disability benefits, healthcare insurance programs, and many other types of social welfare legislation. Of course, all these socials initiatives have helped balloon the cumulative public budget deficit to just under $20 trillion today, not exactly pocket change. Although it should be pointed out that it was conservative Republican Ronald Reagan that was the first president to spend like a drunken sailor, when he mushroomed the public deficit from $1 to $4 trillion during the 1980s. But his deficits occurred because of massive increases in military spending, which is fine and dandy in Republican mindsets.

So now we’re in 2017 with a fully Republican congress, and a Republican president promising to “drain the swamp” as well as “make America great again” among its many trite cliches. A large part of that effort will supposedly be to drastically cut back if not completely ax much of the social welfare initiatives enacted by liberal Democrats over more than 80 years. Perhaps taking us back to the days of Silent Cal, when the government essentially did nothing outside of defense and foreign affairs. And its not just about cutting expenditures. Its also about eliminating the many rules and regulations that govern much of the financial, business, banking, and Wall Street transactions that occur in our daily lives. Perhaps drastically reducing or eliminating the SEC so that would-be stock market shysters can once again flex their scheming muscles. In the end, it all comes down to philosophical differences concerning the size, scope, and involvement of government in the public square. It’s not only the amount of public expenditures, of course, but the level of taxes paid by the public as well. Republicans continually advocate for tax cuts for the rich, while Democrats are constantly trying to raise taxes on those wealthy that can well afford to pay the increases. Imagine that.

Not everything in government, however, is about spending money or creating oversight over financial transactions. There’s also the social side of the equation involving gay rights, abortion rights, and immigration. And there, strangely enough, conservatives and liberals appear to swap their philosophies concerning the extent of government involvement. Conservative Republicans demand strong government oversight to prevent gay marriage, deny a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and not only prevent illegal immigration, but sharply curtail the legal kind also. So what if there are no migrants to pick the fruit off the trees in Southern California. And no matter how much those actions may cost. Liberal Democrats, naturally, campaign for just the opposite. A woman’s right to choose, a couple’s right to choose, and for peaceful undocumented immigrants to be left alone. Philosophical differences with an unbridgeable divide, seemingly wider than the Grand Canyon.

Right now it’s the ultra-conservative Republicans that are holding vitally all the cards. The Democrats are still shell-shocked over the loss of the election. So it should be interesting to see if a Republican president and congress can roll back the size and scope of government so it more resembles the administration of Silent Cal. Except, of course, when it comes denying gay rights, abortions, and the right for illegal immigrants to live and work in peace. Then the sky’s the limit when it comes to government involvement.

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APPEALING TO THE WORST OF US

I have often wondered what it is in the human psyche that results in millions, or tens of millions, of people to enthusiastically and slavishly support some one as vile, vulgar and reprehensible as a Donald Trump. Some one who has openly put on daily display an astonishing array of non-stop mendacity, pathological narcissism, a bullying persona, a profound ignorance of world affairs, the most disgustingly lewd remarks affecting women, and a total dearth of anything resembling human compassion and empathy. The conclusion I’ve come to (which isn’t a pretty one), is that a large number of people out there cannot accept responsibility for the failings in their lives. If they’ve made some really bad choices in life it has to be the fault of others. If they can’t achieve a decent job or career, it’s because of those illegal Mexicans taking away their job opportunities. It couldn’t possibly be that they have failed to put in the time and effort necessary to attain marketable job skills. It has to be the illegals who comprise less than 3.5% of the U.S. populations and are usually employed in jobs most Americans won’t accept. Like performing gardening chores in blazingly hot 110 degree summers that we’re so familiar with in Las Vegas.

When you combine blaming others for the feelings of inadequacy one possesses, one has a bullying-type persona in the making. Nothing like searching for some one weaker to beat up on, in order to alleviate those nagging feelings of self-loathing. This creates the perfect world for the demagogue to step into and rile up the masses to his benefit. We all know how effectively and destructively demagoguery was used in the 20th century by the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Saddam Hussein, and others. Now we have our own, home-grown demagogue on the threshold of achieving absolute power. Besides all the inane, mendacious comments Trump has previously made, which I’ve chronicled in previous pieces, his latest ones show a cynical appetite for unprecedented recklessness. Send Hillary to jail because of her email fiasco, presumably without her Constitutional right to due process, is one of his more recent pronouncements.  The Trumpinistas at his rallies cry “Hillary for prison.” Blind, unthinking demagoguery. His latest rant is that the election is “rigged.” This gives Trump the best of two worlds. If he wins, he can say that he’s so magnificent that despite a rigged election system he was able to overcome. If he loses, he will say that he would have won but for the way the Democrats and the media conspired to deprive him of his earned victory. This will allow him grounds to challenge the election results well after November 8. Remember that the election really isn’t over until the Electoral College casts its vote.

One has to go back 60 years in American history, to the 1950s, to find another demagogue who built his fame by destroying others through a reckless disregard for truth and honesty. I’m talking about Joe McCarthy, affectionately called Tail-Gunner Joe, and the era of anti-communist hysteria the gripped America at that time. McCarthy’s fame and potential rise to dictatorship came from declaring that the U.S. government and many powerful institutions such as Hollywood, major corporations, and others  were riddled with Communists whose loyalty was solely to the old Soviet Union. He called hundreds of witnesses before his Senate committee, often declaring they were Communist spies or sympathizers, usually without a shred of evidence. Dozens of innocent lives were destroyed by McCarthy’s unfounded allegations in hearings before his Senate committee. Some committed suicide. McCarthy declared that if you disagreed with him you were obviously a Communist, a Commie sympathizer or a “Pinko.” He had an almost identical belligerent, bullying personality as Trump has today. But McCarthy traveled a bridge too far when he assailed the U.S.Army as being loaded with Communists. That led to the famous Army-McCarthy televised hearings, where, in response to McCarthy’s unfounded allegations, the Army’s counsel shouted out- “Have you no shame sir. Have you no shame.” Finally exposed for the fraud that he was, McCarthy began losing followers and started drinking heavily. By the late 1950s, McCarthy had drank himself to death.

So what would it take to expose today’s demagogue for the fraud he really is. Perhaps the knowledge of who’s behind the scene fueling his campaign. Trump has put this Kellyanne person with a pretty face on TV news channels as his campaign spokeswoman. But the real power behind the throne is a man named Steve Bannon, who definitely does not have a pretty face, but rather a sordid background. Bannon comes from a far right-wing fringe group known as Breitbart News that likes to dabble in extremist causes with overtones of fascism. His ex-wife has called him out for spousal abuse, and uttering anti-semitic statements. Its Bannon’s input that has led to Trump statements that “she has to go to jail.” Presumably, this would happen without a trial or due process were  Trump allowed to achieve his ultimate goal. Another power figure behind the scenes is Corey Lewandowski, who managed Trump’s 2012 campaign which based on being a “Birther,” i.e. claiming Barack Obama was really born in Kenya, and thus, was not a U.S. citizen. The fraudulence of that effort was exposed early on, and Trump had to call it quits. The fraudulence of Trump’s 2016 campaign, however, is still seeing the light of day.

The election is 3 weeks from today. Nothing less is at stake than whether the U.S. continues to function as a democratic republic, or becomes a fascist-type dictatorship. After all, appealing to the worst of society has paid off for ruthless tyrants many times in the past.

Categories: Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, 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 | Leave a comment

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