Isis terrorist attack in Paris,

REVERSE ROBIN-HOOD AND OTHER INSANITIES

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accords on climate change was nothing more than the demagogue tossing red meat to his most xenophobic and otherwise assorted white supremacist supporters. To these people, any agreement or treaty with foreign countries is a sacrilege that cannot be tolerated, and Trump, as he had promised during the presidential campaign, fed directly into their myopia and revulsion of foreign engagements. The entire world, except for 2 countries, had signed a treaty in Paris calling for a reduction of each country’s carbon footprint in order to combat the effects of global warming. The only 2 countries that abstained were Nicaragua and Syria. Nicaragua didn’t sign on because they believed the Paris Accord didn’t go far enough in reducing each country’s contribution to climate change, which is essentially true. But at least it was a start. Syria was a non-signor because tyrannical dictator Bashir al-Assad was too busy killing his own people to be bothered with such things as global warming. So far he’s slaughtered more than half-a-million and counting of his county men.  Now, the U.S. becomes the third country in this “illustrious group.” It’s an embarrassment, although I believe that Trump’s innate narcissism prevents him from experiencing such feelings. When one is so totally devoid of any semblance of compassion or empathy as Trump appears to be, embarrassment is not an option.

I have always felt, however, that ardent environmentalists often miss the boat when they focus too heavily on “global warming,” but not heavily enough on environmental degradation due to other pressing factors. Such as our rapidly disappearing rain forests that soak up enormous amounts of CO2 while putting forth similar huge amounts of oxygen. Scientists who have studied the matter estimate that there had been about 6 million square miles of rain forests at the dawn of civilization. We’re now down to less than 2 million with more acreage disappearing on a daily basis, due to lumber jacking and just the spread of mankind into these once pristine areas. Our oceans are also being severely degraded with huge erosions of photo-plankton that also emit huge quantities of oxygen on a daily basis. If you’re used to inhaling oxygen every day, it might become increasingly difficult once photo-plankton has basically disappeared from the scene. To say nothing of the vast amounts of garbage, mostly the plastic type, that currently floats on the surface of many oceans, especially the Pacific. Add the enormous erosion of top soil in most parts of the world that is needed to grow crops, and one has the perfect trifecta of ecological degradation that could end life on this planet as we know it. In my unscientific calculations, I figure we have about another 45-50 years before life on Planet Earth starts to become tenuous, unless, of course, radical changes are made to preserve what’s left of the environment. Anyone for a Mars expedition?

In other news, the Trump Administration has issued forth its budget plan for fiscal year 2018. It embodies the typical Republican mindset of taking from the poor to give to the rich. Call it the reverse Robin-Hood initiative. Under the Trump budget, significant slashes to poverty and health care programs would be enacted simultaneously with large reductions of of income tax rates, especially for upper levels of reported income. People receiving food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, Social Security disability payments or other similar types of government support could be in big trouble if the Trump budget is enacted. But not to worry. The top one percent of income earners will see their tax liabilities dramatically slashed. I mean, who among us is so heartless as to deny the upper one percent another chateau in Italy, or a larger private jet, or perhaps a red-colored Rolls Royce this time to go with the black one sitting in the garage. We have to get our priorities in order. Of course, in fairness to Trump, the reverse Robin-Hood scheme has been a Republican initiative since FDR’s NewDeal. Trump is just the latest in a long-line of Republicans seeking to put reverse Robin-Hood into actuality.

And finally, we have the latest in a series of horrific Islamic terrorist attacks, once again in England. As I’ve written many times in the past, the barbarians are once more at the gates of civilization, and much too little is being done to combat these religious fanatics. As the Roman Empire fell to the barbarian butchers of those ancient days, centuries ago, so could the West, in the present time, fall to the Islamic fanatics in ISIS, Al-Qaida, and other assorted terrorist groups unless it steps up its game. Rome fell because its citizenry became too bored and lazy to defend their way of life. They hired mercenaries to do the fighting for them, but these same mercenaries often turned against Rome when the barbarians outbid the Romans. As in those ancient times, there is currently little desire among western countries to undertake an all-out effort to militarily crush today’s barbarians. When Trump was campaigning, he promised to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” but so far, there’s little evidence of that happening.

So that’s the way the world is spinning these days of late Spring. I often wonder that if we discovered a planet out-there, with an Earth-like atmosphere and conditions, and it was technologically feasible to reach that planet via a space ship, how many people would sign up for a one-way voyage. Maybe, in about a thousand years such a scenario could become reality. Assuming, of course, that we haven’t already destroyed life on Earth through war or ecological degradation.

 

 

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THE FRENCH CONNECTION

No, I’m not writing about the excellent movie, a few decades ago, that dealt with drug dealers and won numerous awards. Instead, this piece is about the recently concluded presidential election in France, and its remarkable similarity to the U.S. balloting concluded last November. The only thing different about these two elections is the role reversal of the major candidates. In France the female candidate is the white supremacist, xenophobic candidate while her male challenger is the voice of reason, moderation, and sanity. The irony of these 2 electoral predicaments  couldn’t be more stark.

France has a slightly different method of voting than the U.S. In their first round of balloting held this past Sunday, 11 candidates ran for the office of the presidency. With so many choices it was predictable that no one would receive the 50% threshold level needed to avoid  a run-off. So on May 7, a second round of voting will take place pitting the 2 highest vote-getters, Marine Le Pen of the National Front far right wing party against Emmanuel Macron, an independent moderate. One could rightly view Le Pen as a female version of Donald Trump, as she is running on a platform of anti-immigration, white supremacy, withdrawal from the European Union, demonizing minorities, and cozying up to Russia while abandoning relations with other Western countries. She wants to withdraw from the euro as France’s currency and reinstate the franc. Macron, conversely could be considered a male version of Hillary Clinton as he seeks to strengthen ties to the EU, as well as strengthening France’s famous safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. He would keep the euro in French circulation. Right now, political pundits in Europe are claiming that all French citizens that are not neo-fascist will coalesce behind behind Macron and give him an easy victory in the May 7 round of balloting. Trouble is, these are the same pundits who predicted that Clinton would coast to a sure victory over Trump. London bookies were giving 5 to 2 odds on Clinton being the next president.

Marine Le Pen, aged 47 and twice divorced mother of 3, inherited the mantle of the National Front party from her well known father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who got the ball rolling on the far right of the political spectrum in France in the early 1970s. At first considered a fringe lunatic, Le Pen and his party has slowly gathered steam over the ensuing decades to the point that his daughter is now on the threshold of becoming the next French president. What held Jean Marie himself back from achieving that goal, was his openly virulent brand of anti-semitism. He would often pooh-pooh the fact that the Holocaust ever occurred in the first place, or that 6 million Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. He stated that a 500 page book on WWII would hardly devote 2 pages to the gas chambers, so inconsequential was their existence. It appears that there was still enough decency in France to not allow that type of rhetoric to occupy its presidential palace.

Marine Le Pen, learning from her father’s mistakes, has down-played the National Front’s overt Jew-hating. Instead she focused her bigotry on the surge of Muslim immigrants trying to flee to Europe from the nightmare wars and acts of terror on-going in the Mid-East, especially Syria. As Trump attempts to slam the door shut in the U.S. to any further Muslim immigration, Le Pen campaigns on enacting the same Muslim prohibitions in France. As Trump’s demagoguery against Muslims (and Mexicans) gained big-time traction in the U.S. among white voters, Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has found favor among a large chunk of the French voting populace. (At least she hasn’t expressed any anti- Mexican sentiments thus far.) While it’s true that France and Germany as well as other European countries are being swamped with immigrants from the Mid-East, it must be remembered that these people are fleeing for their and their family’s very lives; and to deny them safe refuge exhibits a special type of heartless disregard.

Some years ago, a movie called “Ship of Fools” was produced based on a real life occurrence that took place shortly before the out break of WWII. It told the story of a group of German Jews attempting to escape Nazi persecution, and hiring a cruise ship to transport them to a safe harbor in some foreign country where their lives would not be in jeopardy. They literally sailed around the world looking for a safe port of debarkation but every country refused them entry. Including the U.S., which then had Franklin Roosevelt as president, supposedly a great friend of the Jews. In the end, they were forced to return to Germany where they were then slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust. Such was the mindset of their fellow human beings around the world.

So, it will be interesting to see if Marine Le Pen, like her fellow demagogue, Donald Trump, can parlay French fears of being overrun by Moslem foreigners, into the presidency of her country. If she does, it will have huge adverse consequences not only for Europe, and the EU, but for the U.S. as well. But perhaps this time around, the French will exercise better common sense and sanity than Americans did last November, and elect the candidate of decency and humanity to their highest office.

 

 

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A MASSACRE IN SYRIA

The recent chemical warfare attack that brutal tyrant Bashar al-Assad recently launched against his own people, that killed 89 and wounded hundreds more, is not the worst of the war crimes against humanity that Assad is responsible for. The Syrian civil war that started in 2011, almost exactly 6 years ago, to depose the tyrant from his throne, has led to horrific casualties on a massive scale. Over half a million Syrians have been slaughtered during this time, and millions more have been displaced. Some have been able to emigrate to the safety of Europe where they have been, by and large, accepted by various European countries, most notably, Germany, France and Sweden. A few thousand Syrian refugees have even made it to this country; but if Trump gets his way, that door will soon be slammed shut. The vacuum created by this civil war has also  allowed barbarian terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaida to flourish and perpetrate their own set of killing fields. There are hardly words to describe the on-going evil, and tragedies of events continuing to unfold in Syria. But suffice to say, it’s easily the worst holocaust of the 21st century.

Assad took over the reigns of power in 2000, when his father, who was the same type of tyrannical, despotic ruler, died. By 2011, most Syrians could no longer tolerate the brutality and lack of freedom, and an armed rebellion began to take shape. During the period of his dictatorship, however, Assad had accumulated a huge arsenal of chemical warfare agents. His total ruthlessness and lack of conscience showed that he would not hesitate to use that arsenal against his own people, and before long, he did just that. It should be noted that chemical warfare weapons were first developed during WWI and used against the Allies by Germany. But it was soon discovered that these chemical agents inflicted such anguished pain and suffering upon its victims before finally killing them, that it became unbearable for both sides of the war to tolerate. This led to an oath by all antagonists to ban the use of chemical agents as a weapon of war. Even Hitler didn’t use chemical agents during WWII. But obviously, Assad had no such compunctions when it came to combatting opponents of his regime.

The first time Assad used these horrific chemicals on his fellow Syrians, the Obama Administration supposedly strongly protested and threatened a military response. But Assad used them again, consigning more Syrians to a torturous death. To avoid military retaliation, a deal was worked out between the U.S, Russia and Syria. Assad would ship his entire arsenal of chemical warfare agents to Russia, so that he could never again use them again against Syrian rebel contingents. At the same time, President Obama warned that he was drawing a red line in the sand that forbade any further use of chemical warfare in Syria. Such use would surely invoke an American military response against the Assad regime. But guess what. Assad realizing that under Obama, the U.S. was really just a paper tiger, once again consigned more of the opposition to an agonizing death through the use of chemical warfare. Apparently all of Assad’s stockpile had not been shipped to Russia. And to make matters worse, the Obama Administration failed to invoke its promised military retaliation, even though Obama’s red line in the sand had been so recklessly crossed.

Interestingly, Trump, who at that time was obviously eyeing a run for the White House 3 years later, went on Twitter to warn Obama not to take any military action regarding Assad’s brutality against the rebels. Even then, his “America First” and the hell with the rest of the world philosophy was on display. During his presidency, Obama often stated that Assad must go before there could be any semblance of peace in Syria. But since Obama failed to hire any grown-ups to advise him on foreign policy, Obama’s weak indecisiveness led to a refusal to employ U.S. military forces when a world situation called for such a military intervention. Interestingly, it was the most extreme right-wing members of Congress such as Ted Cruz,  that applauded Obama’s failure to act. Assad had guessed right-the U.S. was a paper tiger.

Now that he’s been elevated into the presidency, Assad’s latest chemical warfare adventurism has shocked even Trump’s conscience, and that’s saying a lot. So last Friday Trump order his Navy to launch a cruise missile attack against the Syrian airbase that carried out the latest chemical attack. Unquestionably, it was better than any action Obama had undertaken during his 8 years in office. But it was still more of a token response since minimal damage was inflicted. No further U.S. military action is anticipated. What is needed is around-the-clock bombing of all of Assad’s air bases until his entire air force has been destroyed. It would send a powerful message not only to Assad, but to his Russian and Iranian sponsors and co-contributors to his despicable tyranny. Very unlikely to occur, however.

President Obama offered one very simple truth while he was in office. He stated that America “was the one indispensable country” on Earth. It’s time, however, for us to start acting that way. We, unfortunately, co-exist with an entire cabal of bloodthirsty tyrants that occupy much of the planet’s surface. There’s Vladimir Putin who rules Russia mafia-style and is responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Ukraine; the Islamic fanatics that control Iran and have murdered tens of thousands of Iranian dissidents; the nut case that reigns over North Korea and has also killed tens of thousands while turning that country into a giant concentration camp. The rulers of China are also not prizes and have blood on their hands. If the U.S. doesn’t stand strong against these forces of evil, the freedoms we take for granted in the West could rapidly begin to disappear. The world would then begin to resemble George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984.”

I’m an old guy, so I’ve had a life. But for all you young people out there, I don’ think “1984” is a world you would look forward to living in. What do you think?

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, Israeli-Palestinan Relations, politics | Leave a comment

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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AMATEUR HOUR AT DEMOCRATIC HEADQUARTERS

One must first recognize that all of politics is basically a sales job. The better the salesman (or woman), the more likely that he or she will prevail in the general election. In 2016 there’s no question that through the use of demagoguery, bombast and bullying, Trump is far more effective at salesmanship than Clinton. The fact that unlike husband Bill, Hillary’s natural political skills are sorely lacking, especially when campaigning before large audiences,  is obvious to even the most casual observer. While, for Trump, his abilities in exciting large crowds to buy into his demagogic and delusional promises is virtually unmatched in modern times. One has to go back to Hitler and Mussolini, almost a century ago, to find comparative skills in unbridled demagoguery. Thus, the only thing holding Trump back from enjoying a commanding lead in this race is Trump himself. His vile, vulgar, disgusting, and pathologically narcissist personality, shines through loud and clear, and tends to offset his natural salesmanship talents. His lewd and pornographic remarks about women, his inherent racism toward Hispanics, Chinese and others, his serial lies about the current administration and the state of world affairs, plus other nasty characteristics do tend to be rather off-putting. His unhinged and delusional mind-set might also give pause to those imagining his fingers on the nuclear trigger.

All that would tend to create a plausible explanation as to why Hillary had, until recently, a rather commanding lead in most polls. With this latest kerfuffle, however, initiated by FBI chief James Comey, concerning her entire email debacle, that lead seems to be shrinking rapidly. But let’s start at the beginning. When she was Secretary of State, Hillary decided to set up a private server in the basement of her residence in New York, to correspond by email. Which would have been fine if only private emails were conducted through those servers. (There were more than one server.) If the only thing being sent or received were recipes for chicken pot pie, or arrangements for daughter Chelsea’s upcoming wedding, etc., no scandal would have emerged. But Hillary, in reckless disregard for the reality of American politics, allowed emails concerning official State Department business to also be processed through those unprotected servers. Some of those emails supposedly contained highly classified information. Not only was this a clear violation of State Department protocols, but it created a situation whereby foreign enemies could have easily hacked into her servers and obtained that info.

It would have been one thing if Hillary was planning to retire from politics when she stepped down as Secretary of State. No one would have given this a second thought. But knowing that she had presidential aspirations, it was beyond recklessness to establish such an email arrangement. The first rule of politics is to never knowingly hand your opponents a weapon they can use against you in upcoming elections; and she deliberately handed the Republicans a beauty. As I’ve said, this is reckless in the extreme. Thus, when the GOP started a nonstop drum beat about Clinton’s unprotected private servers, the FBI was more or less forced to investigate. After a lengthy study, FBI Director Comey made a public announcement that while Clinton had been extremely careless and irresponsible, the FBI believed there were no grounds for criminal prosecution. This, of course didn’t stop GOP stalwarts from denouncing the FBI conclusion, or from wearing tee shirts with a “Hillary For Prison” pronouncement on them. Comey was routinely denounced as an Administration lackey by Republicans, while being lauded by Democrats for his honesty and objectivity. A collective sigh of relief was breathed at Democratic headquarters.

However, just 11 days before the nightmare election of 2016 would come to an end, Comey reversed course. He had obviously been taking too much heat from the Republican Congress and others on the right, to make living bearable. He, thus, announced that the FBI would re-open the Clinton email investigation based on new evidence that came to light. To make matters worse, this evidence, he stated,  consisted of thousands of newly discovered Clinton emails found on the computer of one Anthony Wiener, who is the spouse of one of Hillary’s closest associates.  The same former ex-congressman who is under investigation by the FBI for child pornography. Fresh emails, a disgraced ex-congressman, kiddie porn- all mixed together in the same narrative. It’s like one Republican congressman stated- “Christmas has arrived in October.”  Of course, at Democratic headquarters, there was nothing but panic and dismay as they watched Hillary’s lead in the polls begin to evaporate like the morning mist.

Being the pathetic rank amateurs that Democratic operatives usually are, they could come up with no better response to this sudden turn of events than denouncing Comey (who they had previously praised) and calling for a more detailed explanation of this new FBI initiative. No ringing protestation from Hillary that while she may have erred in judgement regarding her private servers, no laws were broken. No U.S. interests or security had been compromised, etc. That she was, by far, the better candidate. Of course Trump, who had denounced Comey’s previous decision to end the investigation, was now singing his praises to the roof. Thus is the day-to-day nature of politics. And people wonder why only half the eligible population shows up to cast a ballot for president on election day. Even less in an off year contest.

The reason that Republicans win  so many elections is not because they have a superior agenda. If anything, their platform appeals to the most narrow-minded of the U.S. populace. They reason they win, however, is that their campaigns are organized and run by political pros who actually know what they’re doing when playing the game of politics. While the Democrats have rank amateurs orchestrating their so-called political operations. It’s like a major league baseball team playing against a minor, bush league class AA team. So unless the Democrats can come up with another tape of Trump bellowing additional profanities, the election seems to be headed toward a GOP victory. With all its ensuing horrors.

 

 

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FROM CALIGULA TO TRUMP: A TALE OF NARCISSISM

Eugene O’Neill, the famous American playwright, said that: “There is no present or future-only the past happening over and over again.” Never has the validity of this wisdom been better demonstrated than in the 2016 American political campaign unfolding before our eyes. One has to go deep into the past, back to the days shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, to find another prominent figure whose narcissism matches that of today’s probable winner in the U.S. presidential race. I’m talking, of course, about Caligula, the emperor/tyrant that ruled the ancient Roman Empire for a brief period  before he met an untimely death.

Caligula’s bloodline was that of the Caesars that so despotically governed Rome when it was at its acme of power, around the time that Jesus was preaching his sermon on the Mount. He thus inherited the throne in 37 A.D. but only ruled for 4 years. For the first few months of his reign, Caligula was considered almost a breath of fresh air by the Roman populace because they had been treated so cruelly by previous despots. But there was one problem. Caligula was a total narcissist who could not by abide having his ego bruised. He lashed out at those that offended him. After those first few months of goodwill, he became known for his focus on cruelty, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversity, and as a person who would kill his perceived opponents, often on a whim. He unconstitutionally further concentrated the political power of the emperor to the point where his proclamations became absolute law. He was described by scribes of that era as an insane, power hungry emperor, constantly angry and self-absorbed, who treated any criticism as treasonous that subjected the critic to execution. His despotic reign became so poisonous that even his inner circle could no longer tolerate his erratic behavior. He was finally murdered in 41 A.D. by his own guards, after 4 years of tyrannical rule.

But, if, as Eugene O’Neill said, the past keeps repeating itself, we see it happening in the U.S. 2000 years later when another total narcissist is just weeks away from becoming the most powerful figure on the planet. That Trump’s narcissism was established early on during this presidential campaign is beyond dispute. That he lashed out at Megyn Kelly, Ted Cruz, the parents of a dead soldier who died in Iraq fighting for the U.S., a sitting judge  because of his Hispanic heritage, and many, many others, is beyond dispute. That, once in office, he intends to concentrate all political power in the office of the presidency, the way Caligula did as emperor, is also quite evident. How do I know this? Just look at the people Trump has surrounded himself with.

His new campaign manager is a man named Steve Bannon who has a history of spousal abuse and anti-semitism. He was hired from an extreme right-wing fringe group known as Breitbart News. Years ago when his wife, (now his ex-wife) wanted to send their children to a certain private school, he refused saying the school had “too many fucking Jews.” She also claims he was physically abusive toward her. Trump’s second in command is a fellow named David Bossie who made his extreme right-wing chops by singularly pursuing and publicizing the extra-marital affairs that Bill Clinton supposedly had over the years. Some were true, some were pure fiction. Previously, Trump’s campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, whose ties with Trump goes back to the 2012 campaign, when he advised Trump to seek the White House by becoming a “birther,” i.e. someone who believed that Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than in the U.S. When that effort fizzled, Lewandowski was back in 2015 urging Trump that his path to the presidency lay in demonizing undocumented Mexicans as “rapists and murderers.” In that, he appears to have hit the nail squarely on the head. Taking the lowest possible mud-slinging road finally paid off for Trump. Although Lewandowski was ostensibly released from the Trump campaign after the primaries were over, he is said to still provide input and advice.

You think that men such as those, once they’ve acquired the taste of power inherent in the Oval Office, would ever agree to relinquish such power? Look for 2016 to be the last ostensibly democratic election to occur in the U.S. Once Trump plops his body down on the bed in the Lincoln bedroom, even the faux democracy we live under now in the U.S. will come to an end. Rather Trump will emulate his buddy, Vladimir Putin, that I’ve written about earlier in a piece called “A Fine Bromance.” As I’ve stated before, Putin rules Russia Mafia-style, where he’s the godfather or boss of bosses. He runs a system of crony capitalism, where his cronies get all the capital and the rest of the populace is left to drown their sorrows in Russian vodka. He’s responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Ukraine, and outright took the Crimea from that hapless country through military adventurism. Just last week, Putin also threw into jail a blogger that was critical of his actions. Yet, Trump, on several occasions has expressed his admiration of Putin’s leadership style. To reciprocate, Putin has also expressed his fondness for Trump.

Russia does have presidential elections, but they are so fixed that it’s a forgone conclusion that Putin will be re-elected each time. Look for that same system of phony, rigged elections to be incorporated into the American electoral process once Trump becomes president. After all, he has to reserve access to the “throne” for sons Eric and Donnie Jr. when he decides to finally retire. Hence the Trump dynasty will begin.

Of course, the Democrats are making easy for Trump’s ascendency, as they seem to be coming apart at the seams. Hillary Clinton is probably the worst political campaigner of all time. Mired in a bundle of political scandals and health issues, which she has failed to properly address, she also is lackluster on the campaign trail. She totally lacks husband Bill’s easy-going facility in connecting with masses of people at political rallies. That she’s even remotely in the game thus far is a minor miracle in itself. But in the end, the total narcissist will probably win. And remember, like Caligula, he really, really hates to allow his ego to be bruised.

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FOREIGN POLICY DISARRAY

George Washington, the first president of the United States, was also the last president to preside over a fairly unified country. Washington ruled for two complete terms during an era of general goodwill, but when he left office fierce bickering and character assassinations began occurring among the rest of our founding fathers, such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and others. The attacks on John Adams, our second president, became so virulent that Adams pushed through Congress a series of anti-sedition laws that were in direct violation of the freedom of speech and press provisions of the Bill of Rights. These laws made criticism of the presidency an act of treason with severe penalties attached. Thomas Jefferson, our third president,  who co-wrote the Declaration of Independence with Adams, became a fierce critic of Adams and his anti-sedition laws, and to Jefferson’s credit, he managed to have them repealed during his term in the White house. He accomplished little else after that, however. But amid all the back-biting going on among our leaders in those early days of the Republic, there was one concept that they apparently all agreed upon. And that was George Washington’s admonition that the U.S. should not become entangled in the affairs of foreign nations. In other words the U.S. should follow a policy of isolationism.

Protected by huge oceans to our east and west, and mostly friendly countries to our north and south, the U.S. with a few exceptions during the 19th and early 20th centuries adhered fairly strictly to to the Washingtonian concept of non-interference with other nations internal affairs. After all, it wasn’t as if foreign countries could launch bomber or missile attacks on U.S. soil. This policy of isolationism received a severe setback however, as the U.S. became militarily involved in WWI shortly after the election of 1916. With U.S. allies including Britain, France and Russia bogged down in a trench warfare stalemate with Germany that neither side seemed capable of breaking, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson deemed that it was necessary for U.S. intervention to break that stand-off. As a side note, more soldiers on both sides died from disease caused by the filthy, disgusting conditions of the trenches they occupied, than from the opposing side’s bullets. In any event, U.S. involvement quickly broke the stalemate, and, of course, the Allies went on to defeat Germany and end the war. To help change the American mindset from isolationism to intervention, composers such as George M. Cohan wrote patriotic songs in support of the war effort. You can still hear theses tunes, such as “Over There” on YouTube.

With WWI, “the war to end all wars” concluded, the U.S. populace believed it was safe, once again, to retreat back into a comfy, cozy state of isolationism. But the 20 year respite between the conclusion of WWI and the outbreak of WWII showed otherwise. The U.S. was so militarily unprepared for war in 1941 because of isolationist policies, that if Japan could had invaded our West Coast right after bombing Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt Administration was prepared to cede all U.S. land west of Chicago before attempting to take a military stand. With the unbelievable horrors, atrocities and just pure evil emanating from WWII, and with new threats to world peace on the horizon from Communist Russia and China, a policy of non-intervention in world affairs seemed unthinkable to the American public. Isolationism appeared to be dead as a doornail, (as Ebenezer Scrooge might have put it.) Of course, a subsequent policy of global interventionism has not turned out to be all that terrific either.

It led to the Korean War in which we only able to save half of the Korean peninsula from tyrannical despotism, and then to that fiasco known as Viet-Nam where nearly 60 thousand American lives perished as well as hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, in a jungle war we eventually lost anyhow. And then on to the first Gulf War which let tyrant dictator Saddam Hussein remain in power, and then to the second gulf war which removed him from power at considerable cost in lives and treasure, and which also left chaos in its place. Also along the way during the 50 years after WWII, an anti-communist, “better dead than red” mentality sprung up in the U.S which cost us needless trillions of dollars that were spent beefing up our military-industrial complex in preparation for war against the old USSR which then collapsed under the weight of its own despotism.

Hence when Barack Obama moved into the Oval office in January 2009, people were generally fed up with globalism and ready to return back to a more isolationist policy. Obama appeared to comply with these sentiments by proclaiming that “America will lead from behind” when it came to military initiatives on the world stage. In other words, the U.S. would considerably lower its profile in world events. But there were serious consequences to that position. The U.S. is apparently the one indispensable nation in world affairs, and when it retreats, evil despotism seems to move into the vacuum. And so it has, as Islamic-Jihadist barbarianism has taken hold in the Mid-East countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, as well as launching terror attacks in Europe, and even in the U.S. The token bombing raids that we’ve launched against these terrorists have hardly seemed to make a dent in their operations. And let us not forget the despotic tyrant of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who has launched unprovoked military action against the Ukraine, which has led to the deaths of thousands, while we’ve stood by and again did nothing. As far as foreign policy goes, “leading from behind” seems to be pretty much failure.

To top it all off, neither of our two presidential candidates, one of which will be in the Oval Office next January, seems to be offering up any new initiatives to offset Obama’s mostly failed foreign policy. Maybe the U.S. is just too worn out, too burdened by debt and fatigue, to launch any new meaningful action on the world stage. As I’ve written many times before, perhaps it’s the inevitable destiny of powerful empires like Rome before us, to reach the zenith of its strength, and then watch that strength slowly dissipate  into dust.

 

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WHITE PRIVILEGE

When Richard Nixon ran for presidency for the second time, 1968 had already become one of the most turbulent periods in American history. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had brutally inflamed both white and minority citizens across the country. Although the walls of Jim Crow segregation had finally began to crumble, blacks and other minorities, for the most part, still found themselves confined to the rat infested ghettoes of the inner cities that were riddled with crime, drugs prostitution and other horrors. During protests over the MLK killing, these slums in most cities were set afire in protest over the horrible living conditions that blacks still had to endure after 250 years of slavery in America, followed by another 100 years of of Jim Crow semi-slavery. There were also massive marches and protests over the growing unpopularity of the Viet-Nam war which had already claimed tens of thousands of American lives in addition to the hundreds of thousands Viet-Nam dead. To say that for most Americans, the world had been turned upside down would be an understatement. But for Richard Nixon, a golden opportunity had presented itself.

During the election that year, Nixon developed two strategies that would propel him to the White House. The first was his Southern Strategy. Ever since Republican Abe Lincoln had set the slaves free during the Civil War, the South had voted solidly Democratic in election after election. Even though Southern Democrats were usually highly conservative and generally racist, especially compared to their more liberal Northern counterparts, Southerners kept pulling the levers for for the Democratic Party through Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and into the 1940s. That began to change in 1948 when a young Democratic Senator named Hubert Humphrey induced his party to begin championing the civil rights of blacks and other minorities. (Humphrey would eventually become his Party’s nominee in 1968 and lose to Nixon.) While the black population in most southern states was significant, and would generally vote Democratic, they were no match for the white majority in these states that began to vote as a bloc for Republicans. This would give Nixon and his party an assured 200 or so electoral college votes in all future presidential elections, in a system where it takes 270 to win. Today, in the 2016 election, Nixon’s Southern Strategy is still in full blossom.

Nixon’s second strategy was to appeal to the nation’s “Silent Majority” which was primarily comprised of older white people that had become fed-up with massive anti-war demonstrations and the arson being committed in most inner city slums. Sound familiar? Today at almost all the GOP rallies, you’ll see people holding signs saying “The Silent Majority Stands With Trump.” As the song goes- “everything old is new again.” And, of course, this so-called silent majority is almost exclusively white. And why shouldn’t the majority of whites favor the GOP. It’s not whites, for the most part, that have to inhabit inner-city ghettoes. It isn’t whites that still face residual racism and discrimination in housing, employment, wages, social mobility and other areas. Hence, it’s primarily older whites that are propelling the Trump candidacy and placing a highly deranged, vulgar, obnoxious snake oil salesman peddling a neo-fascist and xenophobic elixir, within hailing distance of the Oval Office. The GOP is betting that the white majority in this country is still large enough to get The Donald the 270 electoral college votes he needs to be the next president. Even with hardly any support from minorities or younger white people. And since the Democrats have such a damaged candidate in Hillary Clinton, the Republicans are probably right.

As for Richard Nixon, he won 2 landslide elections and had many accomplishments; but his volatile and narcissistic personality, similar to Trumps, eventually did him in. He did end the Viet-Nam war to a great sigh of relief from the American public. He initiated diplomatic relations with China, which was a huge foreign policy initiative. Probably one of the top five foreign policy achievements of the 20th century. He significantly raised spending levels for health, education, and welfare. He even tried to legislate for universal health care; but, ironically, it was the Democrats that foiled him in that attempt. It didn’t go far enough, they said. But like Trump, Nixon had a fragile personality disorder. He kept an “enemies list” of people he thought were out to get him or do him in. If you were on Nixon’s enemies list, you were likely to receive a visit from an IRS agent seeking to audit your tax returns. He got involved and sought to cover up a break-in by some GOP low-level thugs of of Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in D.C. Nixon was re-elected in 1972 in a massive landslide, winning 49 out of 50 states. However, the Watergate scandal, as it came to be known, seemed to mushroom from petty larceny by some Republican hacks to presidential felony cover-up.

Two reporters from the Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein, gained huge reputations for themselves by uncovering the sleazy details of the Watergate cover-up, and Nixon’s involvement. The air was steadily seeping out of the Nixon presidential balloon until, one day, Congressional members of his own party came to the White House and told him he had to resign the presidency or face impeachment. Nixon thus became the first president to resign from the Oval Office and lived out the remainder of his days in disgrace and humiliation.

Today, thanks to a majority of white voters, we’re on the verge of putting into the White House, a man that has an almost exact replica of Nixon’s personality disorder. As Yogi Berra might have put it, it’s like deja vu all over again.

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THE SUMMER OF OUR DISCONTENT

When Shakespeare wrote the “Winter of Our Discontent” in 1594, he was talking about the travails of Richard III, and the royal family’s various crises at that time. Pretty small potatoes compared to to the world’s summer of discontent here in 2016 because of recent events.  Events that have shook the planet to its very foundation, and have made it appear that civilization as we know it is unraveling at a rapid rate. The latest episode being the killing of three Louisiana cops by a deranged former Marine seeking revenge for the police shooting of a non-threatening black man at a traffic stop in Baton Rouge for no good apparent reason. Preceded by the assassination of five Dallas cops and the wounding of six more, by another unhinged lone wolf. This time, in apparent retribution for another cop killing of another apparently non-threatening black man at another traffic stop, this time in Minnesota. All this while an Islamic Jihadist went berserk on the French Riviera and murdered at least 84 people and injured dozens more that were watching a fireworks display in Nice celebrating Bastille Day. Further preceded by another Jihadist nut-job that killed 50 patrons of a gay bar in Florida, all in praise of Allah. Another tragedy flying just below the radar further took place this past weekend when the military tried to overthrow Turkey’s dictator, Recep Erdogan, who is slowly turning Turkey into a fundamentalist Islamic state, not unlike the way the Ayatollahs transformed Iran after the Shah was overthrown. The coup attempt failed because Erdogan pleaded for an outpouring of religious fundamentalists into the streets of Istanbul, in protest. It worked and now there is wholesale retribution against those that attempted this coup. Just what the world needed. And all this before the hottest month of summer, August, has yet too begin.

Lets start with the police killings of what appear to be innocent black men. I wrote previously that these, apparently unjustified cop shootings of black men, are more likely the result of poor training at police academies rather than racist bigotry on the part of individual police officers. A mindset of shoot first and ask questions afterward. Knowing what a tinder box race relations are in this country at the present, I think its incumbent that a re-training program for all police be instituted across the land. Training that would focus on alternative solutions when dealing with non-leathal situations, other than blowing an individuals brains out. While police shootings of any individual, black or white, is indeed an unspeakable tragedy, especially when the situation that involves the police is non-life threatening, the fact remains that far more black men die at the hands of black criminals, rather than from any police action. If black lives truly matter, then a full court press against black gangs, drug dealers and other assorted low-life criminals should be a top priority. As well as establishing “enterprise zones” in black ghettos, that would offer decent paying jobs to unemployed young black people, affording them an opportunity to escape rat-infested slums once and for all. A concept originally put forth in the 1980s by Jack Kemp, a Republican who was also known as a “bleeding heart conservative.”

The fight against Islamic Jihadism also needs an all-court press to once and for all destroy all remnants of this terrorism wherever it may exist. A fight that unfortunately neither the United States nor Western Europe seems prepared to engage in. Whether it’s ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko-Haram, the Taliban, or any other cut-throat terrorist organization, the ultimate goal of the Western world should be their total annihilation. But as I’ve pointed out before, just as the mighty Roman Empire, when at the zenith of their power, grew fat and lazy, and no longer had the will to fight the barbarians at their gates, so has the western world today become complacent regarding today’s barbarians. The Roman Empire over a period of centuries, eventually fell to the terrorists of those days, and Europe entered a long era known as the dark ages. Today’s barbarians, the Islamic Jihadists, know that if they stay the course, the same fate awaits western civilization. Just as the barbarians in the Roman’s time, today’s Jihadists play the long game. They’ve got all the time in the world to establish their “caliphate.” They know that the West won’t be brought to its knees overnight; it may, in fact, take hundreds of years. No problem, as long as they keep chipping away at Western resolve through prolific murder and sabotage.

When the evil of Nazism threatened the civilized world the the 20th century, the U.S. and Briton went into full war mode. Enormous sacrifices war made in blood and treasure. The U.S. sustained a great loss of lives on European battlefields and in the Pacific. On the home front, there were basic rationing and chronic shortages of food staples such as bread, flour, sugar, and dairy products. Fruits and vegetables were virtually non-existent in American food stores. Consumer products such as kitchen appliances or car tires were off the market as every factory was retooled for the war effort. (This at a time when tires barely lasted for 5000 miles.) While the American public was not happy about this state of affairs, they understood it was necessary to totally defeat the twin evils of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Think today’s westerners would be willing to endure similar sacrifices to totally destroy Islamic-Jihadists all over the globe. What a laugh. They wouldn’t even be willing to sacrifice acquiring the latest version of the I-Phone when it hits the markets. Meanwhile the terrorists keep playing the long game.

If you find all this troubling, plenty of diversion for your entertainment is coming this week in the form of the freak show known as the Republican Convention. Featuring maestro Donald Trump and his merry band of clowns. Soon to be followed by the Democratic Convention circus featuring Snow White, or, as she’s better known, Hillary Clinton, and her band of sycophants.

 

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UNIVERSAL IMPERATIVES

Toward the end of 1963, more than 50 years ago, I was a civilian working for the U.S.Army and assigned to perform an audit of the U.S.Army Material Command located at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. I had just returned from a 3 year stint working overseas in Europe, also with the Army, (which I’ve previously written about) so coming to Huntsville, after I had lived in Paris for three years, was quite a shock. But Huntsville was considered quite progressive for the Deep South at the time. Besides the Army having a major presence, NASA’s Marshall Space Center was also located at Redstone Arsenal, which seemed like a small city unto itself. At least a couple of thousand personal worked at the Arsenal, many of whom were engineers or other technicians that were employed by both NASA and the Army. Many of these people had relocated from the North, which supposedly gave Huntsville its more progressive tinge.

Nevertheless,  Jim Crow segregation and racist laws were strictly enforced throughout Huntsville, which, after all, was still part of Alabama. I remember having what seemed endless arguments and discussions with local people employed by the Army in the same offices that I performed my work duties. I tried, repeatedly, to point out the sheer folly and stupidity of racism and segregation but it seemed as if I could never make a dent in their way of thinking. Their argument always came down to the same point of view. They didn’t need some Northern Yankee coming into their state and telling them how they should live their lives. It was all a matter of “states rights.” The moral injustice of Jim Crow seemed to never enter their psyches. At the time, Huntsville had one movie theater with an orchestra and balcony sections conveniently segregated. The orchestra was for whites only while blacks were confined to the balcony. I remember going to the movies one night, and to my surprise, two daring young black men came in and sat down in the orchestra, in the row in front of me. Next to them were seated two elderly white women who became shocked and chatted endlessly about this effrontery to Southern customs. Finally they quieted down and we all watched the movie in silence. This may have been the first act of willful desegregation throughout Alabama, if not the entire South.

It wasn’t long after that race riots erupted throughout most major U.S. cities, with entire city sections being set on fire and burnt to the ground. The huge turmoil and protest movements of the 1960s did have the effect of causing the Jim Crow walls of segregation to come tumbling to the ground, as well as enfranchising may blacks with the right to vote for the first time. But after all the protests, all the marches, and all the burnings, blacks for the most part, still remained confined to inner-city ghettos, where many still live today. Ghettos that are infested with crime, drugs, prostitution and gangs that are in a perpetual war with rival gangs. Not the most hospitable environment for promoting peace and tranquility. The 1960s were also a time of universal tragedy with the loss to America of  three of its most promising leaders. I remember discussing with friends about how the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were a blow that no civilized society could hope to recover from. Given the nature of the leadership the U.S. has endured since then, I believe I was right on the money.

So here we are 50 years later with a large potion of the black population, along with the growing Latino populace, still confined to those same inner-city slums. With an almost steady procession of white police shootings of what appears to be unarmed and non-threatening young black men for no good reason. While race is undoubtably a factor in these shootings, I believe poor police training is the primary cause. Too many cops are too trigger happy, with an attitude of shoot first and ask questions later. This comes from a lack of decent training from when these shooters were learning to become cops in their police academies. It certainly seems to be at play in the deaths of two non-threatening black men these past weeks. Which was culminated by an attack by a black assassin that gunned down 11 Dallas policemen, 5 of whom died, that were protecting peaceful protests of the previous shootings of black men. Followed by more protests by the Black Lives Matter group, of white police gunning down black men. But if black lives matter, as they do, how about addressing black on black crime in the inner cities that takes many more black lives than cops do. Does it appear that life in the U.S. at this juncture, seems to be coming apart at the seams, at least regarding race relations.

But perhaps I’ve been looking at this all wrong. Perhaps it’s a universal imperative that civilizations are meant to rise and then fall, in order to keep the universe in a certain balance. Scientists postulate that there was an abundance of water on Mars some 3.6 billion years ago. They further postulate that where there was water, there also had to be life. So perhaps Mars, at some point, some hundreds of millions or billions of years ago, had a thriving civilization, and eventually did themselves in through their own folly. Now, all that is left is dust. Perhaps the killings of the Kennedy brothers and MLK in the 1960’s was the universe’s way of telling us that civilization on Planet Earth is also on the way out.

As I’ve repeated many times before, Pogo may have been the greatest philosopher of all time when he said-“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

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