ELVIS PRESLY, MARILYN MONROE, MICHAEL JACKSON, WHITNEY HOUSTON, THE STATE OF HAPPINESS VS. UNHAPPINESS

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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Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, ELVIS PRESLY, MARILYN MONROE, MICHAEL JACKSON, WHITNEY HOUSTON, THE STATE OF HAPPINESS VS. UNHAPPINESS, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, John Kennedy, politics, Ronald Reagan | Leave a comment

THE HEALTH CARE DEBACLE

So, a professional sky-diver is in the plane, thousands of feet in the air, and is told by the crew that it’s time for his jump. Wait a minute, he replies, where is my parachute. Oh, we’ll design that for you after you exit the plane, says the crewman. Think he would be inclined to  make that jump? But that’s been pretty much the GOP position on getting rid of the despised Obamacare health insurance plan and replacing it with a Republican brand on the label. For 7 years, since passage of the Affordable Health Care legislation in Congress in 2010, Republicans have been desperately trying to repeal and supposedly “replace” it with something better. Except that for these past 7 years the GOP hasn’t been able to put forth a feasible and rational plan for replacement. Until this week, when House Speaker Paul Ryan issued something resembling replacement in his proposed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, that no one is happy with, including a large segment of his own Republican Party.

Just to be clear, I was never a big fan of Obamacare. The legislation was way too long, detailed and cumbersome. It consumed over 2000 pages in written length from the start, which can never be a good thing.While the intent of the Affordable Care Act was admirable, i.e., to provide universal health care so that even the poor could receive quality medical treatment when sick, the methods devised under Obamacare were just too bureaucratic and crushing to function smoothly. Too many hoops had to be jumped through to make it work. The most rational method of providing medical treatment to all Americans regardless of their financial circumstances, would have been to establish what’s called a single payer system, run by the government. A system that every first world country on the planet already employs. Except us, of course.

Under single-payer, if you get sick, you visit the doctor or hospital of your choice. Same thing if you need a medical check-up. If you have a toothache or need a cleaning you make an appointment with your dentist. No insurance to buy, no forms to fill out. The hospital, doctor or dentist would then submit the bill to the government for services rendered. The government would then turn those bills over to designated insurance organizations who would reimburse the health professionals performing the services in question. No fuss, no muss. A system, as I’ve said, used in Canada, and throughout almost all of Europe and Asia. But how would we pay for all of this without levying harsh new tax burdens, you might ask. Again, not a problem.

The way its done in those countries embracing universal health care is to establish about a 5-10% value-added tax, which is like a sales tax on manufactured goods, usually at each step of the manufacturing process. Won’t this add significantly to the cost of purchasing such products? No, not really. While the actual cost of manufacture may increase, these costs would be more than off-set by U.S. companies not being required to offer health insurance for their employees. The savings to companies in no longer providing health coverage for their workers would be dramatic and probably exceed the increased costs of manufacture. That’s why, for example, Japanese auto companies such as Toyota and Nissan can often out-compete their American counterparts such as G.M., Ford and Chrysler. They incur no health insurance costs.Today about 190 million Americans receive their health insurance from the companies they work for. That huge burden on U.S. commerce would be lifted under a single-payer system.

But, of course, legislating such a simple health care system would be far too rational for the U.S. political arena to cope with. Instead, the Ryan plan’s replace part of “repeal and replace” mumbles something about providing “tax credits” to those too poor to afford health insurance premiums. Never mind that nearly half the country pays no income tax. I suppose that some sort of negative tax system would have to be established, similar to the Earned Income Tax benefits that now go to low income wage earners. And even these would phase out in about 2 or 3 years. The very heart of Obamacare that has had the Republican establishment so upset all these years, is that it provides the poor with cash subsidies that enable them to purchase health insurance. As flawed as the law is, about 20 million people who previously had no health plan,  have signed on to Obamacare since its enactment, many through Medicaid. But a large part of the GOP establishment is dead set against health care subsidies and enhanced Medicaid enrollments. A group of about 50 GOP hardcore right-wingers in the House are calling the Ryan plan “Obamacare Lite” and  are refusing to support it, because it provides some minimal subsidies. Some Republicans in the Senate are also unhappy. After all, they reason, the poor are used to getting the short end of the stick anyhow. What harm would there be with another poke in the eye. The fun just never ends.

One other thing. Our esteemed President Trump, (that phrase still claws at the very fabric of the universe) made some comment the other day that he didn’t know that health care could be so complicated. Who knew? Who knew that water insists on running downhill instead of uphill? Who knew that the sky was blue instead of orange. Who knew that standing in the rain without an umbrella will get you wet? Who could know such things?

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WATERGATE REDUX

Over this past weekend, Trump went on Twitter and accused the the Obama Administration of wire-tapping his phones during the 2016 election campaign. Of course, Trump didn’t offer a scintilla of fact or evidence to support this ludicrous accusation. It was obviously a ploy to deflect from the serious actuality of Russia interfering in the U.S. election on behalf of getting Trump elected to the Oval Office. Nevertheless, I’m sure that all the loyal Trumpenistas out there will take his Twitter comments at face value despite the lack of any proof. As Trump himself said during the recent campaign-he could shoot someone dead in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and there would still be no loss of support among his following. As part of his Twitter rant, Trump also likened Obama’s supposed wire-tapping to the infamous Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, and to Richard Nixon’s discredited behavior during those tumultuous times. So, since there are so many similarities between Nixon and the current White House occupant, I thought it relevant to review those dark times in American history.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon was running for re-election, and would go on to win in a massive landslide, carrying 49 states. Nevertheless, in June 1972, some criminal hacks, hired by the Committee to Re-Elect the President, (which would sardonically be referred to as CREEP) broke into Democratic Headquarters to obtain info on Democratic plans and strategy concerning the on-going presidential campaign. These Headquarters were located in the newly built and very posh Watergate Hotel and Apartment complex located on the banks of the Potomac in Washington D.C. The clumsiness of the burglars became evident as they were caught in the process of breaking and entering, and arrested by a very alert security guard for the complex. If not for this guard, the Watergate Scandal would likely never have materialized. Afterward, if Nixon had merely come forth and announced that he had no knowledge of the break-in, and that if anyone in his administration or re-election committee did sanction those criminal tactics, they would be immediately fired, there would also not have been a scandal. But Nixon suffered from a large degree of paranoia and a mis-guided sense of loyalty, which eventually led to his downfall.

Investigations into the Watergate events began to gather steam when 2 reporters for the “Washington Post” named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, began digging deeper into what seemed like no more than a two-bit burglary gone bad. They cultivated an informant from CREEP whom they called “Deep Throat” (after a famous porno star of that era.) Political investigations of Watergate also began in February 1973, when a special committee was formed and chaired by a Democratic Senator. At that time, Democratic majorities prevailed in both houses of Congress. Today, with both houses controlled by Republican majorities, a similar investigation would likely not transpire. Between the Washington Post, and Congressional investigations, new facts related to Watergate began to dribble out on an almost daily basis. The nation collectively held its breath as each day seemingly brought forth more evidence concerning the Nixon Administration’s complicity in the break-in and the resulting cover-up.

It was the cover-up that, in the end, did the most damage. The on-going investigations revealed that Nixon’s closest aides, Bob Halderman, John Ehrilchman, and John Dean were all implicated in trying to cover-up the fact that the Committee to Re-Elect had hired these ham-fisted burglars in the first place. Nixon, much to his chagrin, was then forced to fire these men from his staff. Then it came to light that Nixon had secretly taped virtually all discussions held in the Oval Office, including conversations concerning the Watergate cover-up. On one of those tapes, where Watergate was explicitly being discussed, there existed an 18 minute gap in the conversation. It was theorized that this infamous 18 minute gap had contained conversation that would directly link Nixon to the cover-up, and that portion of the tape had, therefore, been deliberately erased. The 18 minute gap became known as the “smoking gun” that eventually would doom the Nixon presidency. The country continued to hold its breath, as if transfixed by each day’s new disclosures.

Based on this”smoking gun,” the House, in 1974, began to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president. While there were enough Republicans in the Senate to block conviction if they voted in unity, it soon became apparent that unity would not be the case. It became Sen. Barry Goldwater’s hapless task to trudge over to the White House and inform Nixon that very few Republicans in the Senate would support him if they had to vote on impeachment. Nixon no longer had a chance. His choices came down to either resignation or impeachment. On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first individual to resign the presidency. Vice-President Gerald Ford then ascended to the Oval Office, and one of his  first actions was to pardon Nixon from any criminal prosecutions. It probably cost Ford the election when he ran against Jimmy Carter in 1976.

So now we have our current president accusing our just departed president of illegal wire-tapping, based on nothing but the current president’s delusional paranoia and to deflect away from a growing scandal concerning Russia’s unauthorized interference in our recently concluded election. Another Watergate in the making, perhaps? To say nothing of Trump’s increasing similarity to Nixon’s behavior. During the campaign, Trump used the phrase-“the silent majority” when referring to his supporters. Nothing new here. Nixon’s the one who came up with that slogan when he ran for president in 1968. Trump’s other famous cliche-“Make America Great Again” also lacks any originality. Ronald Reagan was the one espousing that gem of triteness when he ran in 1980.

So, will Russian involvement in 2016 result in another Watergate. It could, if we had some young reporters out there with the diligence and feistiness of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Stay tuned.

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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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WHEN CHARACTER NO LONGER COUNTS

One may agree or totally disagree with Barack Obama’s policies or overall politics, but one would have to admit that while he occupied the office of the presidency, he always conducted himself as a perfect gentleman. He was always cool under fire; he never went on Twitter rants against perceived opponents; he never engaged in long, on-running battles or feuds against those whom he felt were out to “get him;” and he certainly never engaged in vile, crude or lewd language when verbalizing in public media. He always displayed the proper decorum befitting someone that occupies the highest office in the land. One, of course, cannot say that of the current occupant of the White House, who just moved into the Oval Office a few days ago. Donald Trump’s politics are not only the polar opposite of Obama’s, but so  is his persona. Because of his deep-seated narcissism, Trump feels compelled to rather viscously strike back at those that bruise his ego. For example, Meryl Streep, perhaps the finest Hollywood actress since the end of WWII, becomes a second-rate loser via a Trump tweet, because she dared to criticize him at the academy awards.

We have thus entered an era of right-wing politics where character, obviously, no longer counts. Where statements such as, “she had blood coming out of her whatever,” or expressing a fondness on tape for “grabbing women by the pussy” becomes the new norm. Where even an innocuous statement by the media that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was smaller than the one at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 has to be attacked with what a Trump spokesperson described as “alternative facts.” A fascinating concept in itself.  If existing reality is too harsh to tolerate, just create your own parallel universe of delusion and “alternative facts.” Some turn to drugs or alcohol to drown out the reality of how miserable their lives have become. But why bother? Heavy drug or alcohol dependency will only lead to early death. Instead, just create a parallel universe of alternate facts where you can live as a king, or queen, as the case may be. Problem solved. Fascinating that in a country that has become the most prosperous and economically viable in the history of this planet, so many people felt it necessary  to choose a candidate that could only offer trite platitudes to soothe their concerns. Just print “Make America Great Again” on a baseball cap and all of the issues facing this nation will dissolve like an ice cube left outside in the hot sun.

Thus the Trump presidency has begun in predictable fashion. Among Trump’s appointees are an Attorney-General who couldn’t be less interested in civil rights issues, an Environmental Protection Agency administrator that has spent his career battling EPA initiatives in the courts with one suit after another, and a Department of Education secretary who has made a career out of attempting to destroy the public education system in this country, in favor of private schooling. The same public schools attended by at least 90% of the nation’s school children. And yet, the Trumpanistas are puzzled by and taking umbrage at the massive protest demonstrations occurring not only in Washington D.C., but in cities throughout not only the nation, but throughout the world as well. It seems that a trite cliche written on a baseball cap might not sell all that well after all , at least not in some quarters. Trump enters office with the lowest approval ratings of any president in the modern era. Something below 40 percent. In comparison, Obama’s approval when he first entered office in 2009 was up near 70 percent. And the roller-coaster ride is just beginning.

Of course, a decent opposition party might put the brakes on some of the current administration’s more radical initiatives. The trouble is, the Democrats are in a state of shambles. Hillary Clinton ran about the worst campaign in the history of politics. She lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined total of 100 thousand votes. States that any Democrat would normally win with just minimal effort, and that would have given her the presidency. She never even visited Wisconsin, made relatively few campaign appearances in general, and ran boring and mundane campaign ads on TV. For example, she didn’t run a single ad highlighting Trump’s business failures such as his 4 casino ventures in Atlantic City that went belly-up. Or the “Trump University” sham that also had to shutter down. Or the Trump line of vodka that also went out of business. I mean, how hard is it to sell vodka once the business is up and running. Instead her ads seemed to focus solely on some unhinged comments Trump made while on the campaign trail. Such ads were minimally okay for openers, but they were run incessantly, to the point that they eventually became boring. Bad television ads, a lack of campaign appearances, minimal effort to get Democratic voters to the polls-a sure recipe for defeat.

The Democrats need a young Lochinvar to come riding in on his magnificent steed and save the Party, but none appear to be in sight. A Bernie Sanders type but much younger. Without such a hero, Trump is almost guaranteed a full eight years in the Oval Office. Assuming, of course, that he wises up and learns to stay off Twitter, and otherwise not respond to every perceived slight or offensive comment. If he can keep his narcissism under control, he could have rather smooth sailing during his administration. If not, the U.S. is in for a very rocky and tumultuous four years.

After all, we do live in an age when character doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t we?

 

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THE POWER OF NEGATIVE THINKING

Two shopkeepers, each across the street from the other, are discussing how poorly the sales markets have been recently and how their stores have been suffering accordingly. After the first store owner goes through a whole litany of his problems and financial losses, he asks the second store owner: “And how’s your business doing?” “The worst its been in the last 30 years” replies the second man. “Its been that good?” exclaims the first store owner in startled disbelief. Welcome to the world of how negative thinking powers a sense of peacefulness and adds serenity if not huge accomplishments to people’s lives. We’ve all been indoctrinated, or brain-washed if you will, to focus on positive thinking  as the ultimate method of achieving success and happiness. But positive thinking can be the ultimate betrayer of one’s hopes and dreams, should they fail to be achieved. Its far more positive to focus on all the negatives that lay in one’s path as a means of anticipating, preparing for, and coping with all the obstacles one will almost certainly face during a lifetime.

The power of negative thinking begins with the belief that the worst possible out-come will occur in any of life’s situations. Your boss will hate your output and you’ll likely get fired; your teen-age daughter who just got her driver’s license and is out driving her car at night for the first time will almost certainly smash into a telephone poll and get herself killed; all your investments will ultimately turn to shit and you’ll be financially ruined, etc. When in almost all cases the worst fails to materialize, the ensuing feelings of relief will be absolutely euphoric. And in those very few cases where the worst does actually occur, at least you will be mentally prepared for the outcome. Which, of course, will likely be of small comfort. As I’m writing this, I’m remembering an event that occurred in my development many years ago. A senior-aged couple had emigrated from South Africa and bought a house in our community. The husband had all their money tied up in investments back in his old country. For some unfortunate political reason, everyone of these investments went belly-up at the same time, and the couple was left virtually penniless. The husband was at home when the bad news came. He called his wife who was out shopping to tell her what had happened, and that he could not live with the shame and grief of losing everything, and was going to kill himself. His wife pleaded and begged him not to do this…. until she heard the gun shot go off. Sometimes no type of thinking can fix an ugly situation.

The contrast between the benefits derived from the power of negative versus positive thinking is no better illustrated than in the just concluded presidential election. Trump employed negative thinking in his march to the White House versus Clinton’s positive thinking in her march to defeat.  First, almost all pollsters and political pundits predicted that Clinton would coast to an easy victory while Trump was certain to lose. This led the Clinton camp to run a lackadaisical campaign, believing success was a foregone  conclusion. She would barely make one campaign stop a day, if that, and made no stops in  some states such as Wisconsin which she lost by a whisker. Positive thinking would lead to over-confidence and ultimately to defeat. Trump, on the other hand, was in a panic of negative thinking since everyone was saying how he would lose. This drove him into a frenzy of campaigning making at least 5 or 6 stops day-in and day-out. The potential shame of coming all this way only to lose at the end was more than his ego could bear. On the Monday night before the election, he made an appearance at one A.M. in Michigan to an estimated crowd of 20 thousand people, while Clinton was home safely in bed. The power of his negative thinking eventually turned the tide of the election in his favor.

A recent movie out, which is sure to be an Academy Award nominee, if not winner, called “Manchester By The Sea” points to an excellent illustration of the tragedy that can occur when the worst scenario is not anticipated. It’s a deeply sad movie about the loss that can result from even the smallest of unanticipated careless acts. A loss from which there is no recovery. A man who is happily married with 2 small children that he lovingly adores, is sitting in front of his fireplace one Saturday night drinking beer, while his wife and children are upstairs asleep. He runs out of beer and decides to walk to a nearby convince store to buy more. Half-way there he can’t remember if he put the fireplace screen back in front of the open fire. He plows on anyhow, but when he returns he finds his house being consumed by a blazing fire. His wife has escaped, but his 2 children are trapped inside and burnt to death. Apparently he had not put the screen back in its place and a flaming log had rolled out onto the floor and caused the fire. It’s a tragic sequence of events that he can never forgive himself for. When his now ex-wife meets him one day, and tearfully tells him she’s willing to forgive and take him back, he runs away saying “there’s nothing left” inside of him. He goes through the rest of his life doing odd-jobs as a handyman, in a zombie-like state. All from the simple failure to foresee the worst possible out-come.

One can hope for the best but should always anticipate the worst. At least that’s my take on what the universe has to offer as as we plow through our time on this planet. Steve Jobs once proclaimed that all our worries can be minimized when we know that death awaits us in the end. That’s generally true-except when the event is the loss of one’s child.

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THE RABBLE AND THE RIFF-RAFF

July 4th will mark 240 years since 1776 when the United States declared its independence from England. The way the election of 2016 is going, however, perhaps we should re-apply to join the British Commonwealth. Our founding fathers fears that the rabble in our citizenry would eventually come to dominate the election process, and put someone wholly unfit into a position of power, is on the cusp of becoming a reality. When the Constitutional Convention of 1787 finished its work, a woman asked Ben Franklin, one of the key players in formulating the Constitution, whether the Convention had given us a monarchy or a republic. “A republic, if you can keep it,” replied Franklin. Now, after more than 200 years, we may very well find that the American people can no longer keep it together as a republic.

Our f0unding fathers were highly skeptical about giving the “common man” the right to directly elect those that would govern them. Founders such as John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton (currently of Broadway musical fame), and others,believed that those they considered the riff-raff  of society could not be trusted to vote intelligently, i.e. to not be beguiled into electing a demagogue that would appeal to their basest instincts. Hence, instead of the people directly electing our president, the founders concocted a system called the electoral college which has the sole power of putting a candidate into the Oval Office. To this day, that Constitutional provision has never been amended. It reared its ugly head in the 2000 presidential election, when Democrat Al Gore received a majority of the popular vote, but Republican George W. Bush won a plurality of the electoral college, and hence, the presidency.

A lot of really bad stuff ensued from that nasty 2000 election. Bush decided to invade Iraq on the pretense that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which he did not. Al Gore would have never made that decision. As a result of that invasion, over the years, Iraq has degenerated into a multi-split territory, with barbaric Islamic Jihadists such as ISIS, unfortunately controlling a significant portion of this territory. Yes, Saddam Hussein was pure evil, and the world is a lot better off without him sucking in oxygen. But he held his country together and prevented the Jihadist terrorists from gaining a foothold. I guess the lesson to be learned is that when faced with nothing but bad choices, the least worst choice is your best option. In any event, the electoral college continues to exist, ever ready to inflict further damage.

Another example of our founders distrust of the average citizen’s wisdom during the election process, was the method of electing someone to the Senate. Many founders believed that only those citizens that owned property, or were otherwise well financially endowed, should be allowed to vote. Other founders were in favor of allowing everyone to cast a ballot. (Everyone, of course, that wasn’t a woman or a Negro.) So a compromise was reached whereby the House of Representatives would be directly elected by popular vote, but it would be only state legislatures that could put Senators into office. It took until 1913 for a constitutional amendment to pass that allowed the people to directly elect its Senators. Women were finally allowed at the ballot box in 1920, after another amendment gave them the right to vote.

The point to all of this is that many of our founding fathers had a deep mistrust of allowing the average citizen to participate in the balloting process. They believed that those that were basically penniless with nothing to lose, the riff-raff as they were called, would put any smooth-talking con artist or snake-oil salesmen into positions of power, if sold the right bill of goods. Whereas land-owners or people of wealth had too much to lose to be so beguiled. Where they right? We’ll find out in a few months when the republic that Ben Franklin and the other founders labored so hard to give us might no longer be keepable. When the rabble of today, although usually not penniless, nevertheless, seem to be mostly ignorant of relevant issues, and susceptible to being sold the elixir of a smooth-talking snake-oil salesman. Ironic, isn’t it, when there’s a wealth of information at everyones finger tips to be obtained on each candidate, in this computer age.

That the general election in November will come down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is now a foregone conclusion. That Trump has a huge, enthusiastic fan base is also a given. This base is built on Trump’s snake oil salesmanship of a neo-fascist, xenophobic vision of America that basically demonizes all foreigners, and throws all undocumented Hispanics out of the country. And builds a near 2000 mile long wall to keep them out. Also, not to allow any of the 1.6 billion Moslems that populate this planet into the country. So fierce is the rabble’s enthusiasm to demonize all things foreign, that Trump is correct about one thing he said. He could stand on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and shoot someone dead, and there would, nevertheless, be no diminishment of his followers. Which is tragically true.

Of course, Clinton and the Democrats are not exactly great prizes either. The Democrats have become so pathetic that their only hope to retain the White House rests on the shoulders of an aging woman who has been involved in a multitude of scandals over the past 30 years or so. Like the recklessness of using a personal server in her home to send and receive classified government e-mails. An unprotected server that could have been easily hacked by any foreign power. To say nothing of Bill’s sexual proclivities from the 1990s that the GOP will blame Hillary for.

So there you have it folks. The choice comes down to highly unpopular candidates from each party. The difference is, however, that if Clinton wins, the the Constitution, and the republic that the founders strove to give us, will likely stand. But if Trump wins, we can kiss our Constitutional freedoms goodbye, and devolve into a tyrannical dictatorship. And you can thank the rabble and the riff-raff amongst us for that delightful end result.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, ELVIS PRESLY, MARILYN MONROE, MICHAEL JACKSON, WHITNEY HOUSTON, THE STATE OF HAPPINESS VS. UNHAPPINESS, 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 | Leave a comment

A MALFUNCTIONING PSYCHE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

MAKING AMERICA HATE AGAIN

The title is taken from some of the signs held up at various Trump campaign rallies. There has recently been outbreaks of violence at these rallies between protesters and Trump supporters. Of course, such violence plays right into Trump’s strategy of appearing to be the injured party, or the victim. Even thought Trump has openly espoused the use of violence against those protesting his neo-fascist proclamations, and has often applauded those of his adherents for committing violent acts. This includes his own campaign manager who threw a female reporter to the ground. It also includes Trump’s threat of instigating riots throughout the U.S. should the GOP have the temerity of denying him the Republican presidential nomination. But it also begs the question of why there are apparently millions of Americans that are so in sync with with his fascist agenda and so eager for violent retribution against those that are opposed. I know that I have written about this several times before, but one has to go back to the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany in the 1920s to understand the mechanics of the groundswell for a fascist candidate in 21st century America.

Benito Mussolini began the fascist imperative in Italy before 1920 through a nativist, xenophobic campaign against all foreigners. Originally a socialist, he soon rejected socialism and founded the first fascist party in Europe. The attainment of power became an all-consuming quest as Mussolini employed organized thugs known as the “black shirts” to quell and silence all those in opposition to his ambitions. He was appointed Prime Minister of Italy in 1923, through what constituted  the democratic process, but soon destroyed all vestiges of democracy, and declared himself dictator for life. He became an ally of Hitler, and it wasn’t until near the end of WWII that he was removed from office and executed by Italian partisans. It should be noted, however, that Mussolini’s popularity among Italians remained high until Italy’s fortunes began to plummet as WWII dragged on, and the Axis powers began losing their conquests.

In Germany, a down-and-out former WWI corporeal named Adolph Hitler became a keen observer of Mussolini’s exploits in Italy. He was desperate to obtain a government job as a means of supporting himself. Finally a German bureaucrat hired Hitler to sit in on a small troublesome outfit known as the German Workers Party and report back if this group constituted any kind of threat to the government. When Hitler came to the first meeting there were maybe 20 people in attendance, and their speeches were dull as dishwater.  Hitler then finally spoke at this gathering, with fiery, demagogic rhetoric, as he blamed the Allied powers and a small minority of Jews for all of Germany’s many problems. More and more people began listening to Hitler’s thunderous demagoguery as the crowds at his speeches quickly swelled. Along the way, Hitler found an ancient tribal symbol, and fashioned it in what became known as the swastika, or a new symbol embroidered into flags and armbands for his growing movement. A truly brilliant stroke for any budding demagogue. He changed the name of his party to the German National Socialist, or Nazi party. Like Mussolini, he organized his own band of goon squads known as the “brown shirts” that roamed through German cities and beat-up or otherwise terrorized any and all opposition. And like Mussolini, he rose to become Chancellor largely through the democratic process, but then destroyed all remnants of democracy once in office. The rest as they say, is history.

So, the interesting question is not the reason for Trump’s ascendency on the national scene, but, rather, why people in such large numbers are drawn to this fascist imperative. After all, Trump merely saw an opening and exploited it like Hitler and Mussolini before him. But why is such a large chunk of the so-called Republican base buying his snake-oil, or drinking his Kool-aid, or any other metaphor one can use. One reason, as I previously pointed out, is the hate-based vitriol that’s been leeched into the American mainstream over the past 25-30 years by talk radio stars such as Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. The poisonous seeds that have been planted into the American psyche by these xenophobic, nativist, hate-preaching polluters are finally taking root and are beginning to grow. Their efforts have not been in vain.

Another primary reason is that a good portion of the American populace really isn’t paying much attention to the political scene. Trump is a TV celebrity businessman with a lot of name recognition who gets tons of free publicity. People tend to gravitate toward a known brand such as Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The other candidates are lesser known and too many people are too focused on the next American Idol, and can’t be bothered by researching out what the other candidates stand for. After all, what’s more important- keeping up with the Kardashians, or who the next president will be. The irony is that Americans were generally better informed about the political scene in the 19th and early 20th centuries when all they had were newspapers,  than they are today when a wealth of information is right at their finger tips through Google. Thus, a lying huckster like Trump who speaks out of both sides of his mouth, can make all kinds outrageous claims and falsehoods to an uninformed electorate and get away with it. Until the day will come, as it did in Italy and Germany, when it will be too late to do anything about it, without fear of horrific retribution.

Well, I promised myself I wouldn’t write about Trump again; but when I saw that sign about making America hate again, I guess it got political my juices flowing.

Categories: Economics, ELVIS PRESLY, MARILYN MONROE, MICHAEL JACKSON, WHITNEY HOUSTON, THE STATE OF HAPPINESS VS. UNHAPPINESS, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MIND GAMES

The degree to which one is either happy or discontent with life usually depends upon that person’s level of expectations. If one expects to achieve lofty goals but falls noticeably short, he or she will likely be quite miserable throughout their existence on this planet.  Conversely, contentment and peace of mind is often achieved when one lowers his or her expectations to a level that’s within their power to attain. If you doubt me on this, consider the following.  Since the end of WWII, four of the greatest American celebrity pop-culture icons self-imploded at a fairly young age. Each individual had achieved vast wealth and fame, with millions upon millions of adoring world-wide fans. Stuff that most ordinary people wouldn’t even allow themselves to dream of. And yet all of that was not enough, as each of the four self-destructed. 

I’m talking, of course, about Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston. Elvis, often called the King of Rock&Roll, just could not cope with all his world-wide successes. He began overeating and became fat, and finally did himself in with pills, (either uppers or downers) in 1977, at the ripe old-age of 42. Marilyn Monroe, blonde bombshell, sex-goddess, adored by millions, went from one failed marriage to another, and finally became unhireable by the movie studios because of her temper tantrums and erratic behavior. The fact that she had slept with a sitting President and his brother, the Attorney-General, apparently didn’t seem to impress her. She made it all the way to age 36, before overdosing on barbiturates. Michael Jackson, often called the greatest pop entertainer of all time, nevertheless, could not get to sleep at night without the infusion of powerful drugs. One night, those drugs did him in at age 51. And Whitney Houston allowed her immense talent to dribble away because of  bad relationships and drug abuse. She bit the dust in 2012 at age 49.

These upper-tier celebrity self-implosions were, by no means the end of it. Other recent famous suicides include Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, two men who also seemed to have it all. So why would these famous stars, who appeared to have everything this world could possibly offer, kill themselves while the rest of us plow on through the daily grind and chaos of living. I would submit it’s because of the mismatch of expectations versus reality. When life’s expectations become so stratospherically unattainable no matter what one may have achieved, suicide often becomes the logical end-game. Consider, in contrast, the poor sugar-cane farmer in Brazil, who ekes out a barely sustainable living from selling the crops he harvests on his small farm acreage. He does back-breaking work in the fields for little pay; but it’s enough to put a roof over his family’s heads, and food on the table. At the end of the day he cherishes the small amount of leisure time afforded him, and sleeps soundly without the need for drugs. He has no expectations of vast wealth or glamour or fame, but is happy to be able to provide the bare essentials for himself his family. I guarantee that you will never read about him committing suicide. 

I bring all this up because of the supposed unhappiness of the American electorate at this point in history. Poll after poll shows a large majority of Americans as being unhappy with the course of events materializing in the U.S. these days. And not just unhappy; but often angry or furious. According to these polls, most Americans believe that the country’s best days are behind us, and that the U.S. is on a downward spiral in both its economy and in foreign affairs. According to them, the economy is flat or stagnant and the average citizen is being screwed over by bankers, hedge fund managers and other Wall Street sharpies. In foreign affairs, Islamic-Jihadist terrorists are the new barbarians at the gates chipping away at Western society, the way that the Huns and Vandals chipped away at the Roman Empire and eventually brought it to its knees. Young people supposedly believe that their lives will never be as good as what their parents achieved. To some extent these feelings are valid, but are being considerably overplayed unscrupulous politicians. 

As proof we only have to go back seven short years to early 2009. The economy had just tanked, and the unemployment rate had skyrocketed to well over 10 percent. Today it stands at just under 5 percent. Everyone that owned their home seemed to have a mortgage that was “under water,” i.e. the value of their houses were less than the mortgage amount. Even if they were able to sell their houses, the proceeds would not be enough to pay off the bank loan. People were just walking away from their homes leaving the banks to hold worthless mortgage paper, as if such paper was a rotting fish. Today, one never hears the term “mortgages under water” anymore as both the economy and real estate values have stabilized. Yes, wages have been stagnant, but so is inflation. And the sharp reduction in gasoline prices we’ve been experiencing recently is equivalent to huge tax reduction for people that drive, which is most everyone. The more one drives, the bigger the savings. On an inflation adjusted basis, gas is now cheaper than it was in the late 1950s, when I first received my license.

On the foreign front, the Islamic Jihadists do have the ability to make international headlines through random acts of barbaric terror. While these acts can be alarming or terrifying, there is virtually no threat or scenario under which Western civilization, as we know it, will be destroyed by the Jihadists. Rather, once the West increases its military operations and pressure, it will likely be the terrorist organizations that will face demise. So I guess the moral of the story is that don’t let unscrupulous and demagogic politicians running for office play mind games with your head. I won’t mention names in this piece, but you know who they are. 

The U.S. and Western civilization is not falling apart, but is actually, to a large degree, thriving. The U.S. economy is not great, but it’s definitely on the upswing. Civilized forces will eventually destroy the terrorist barbarians. Keep your expectations level-headed, and eventually the forces of good will come out on top.

 

 

Categories: Economics, ELVIS PRESLY, MARILYN MONROE, MICHAEL JACKSON, WHITNEY HOUSTON, THE STATE OF HAPPINESS VS. UNHAPPINESS, human affairs | Leave a comment

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