politics

A SHOOTING IN MANHATTAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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TRUMP DERANGEMENT FAILS TO DISSUADE TRUMP SUPPORTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A ZERO-SUM GAME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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THE PSYCHOLOGICAL UNDERPINNINGS OF TRUMPISM

Madeleine Albright was the first and only U.S. female Secretary of State, being appointed by Bill Clinton in the 1990s. At 80 years old, and still teaching  at Georgetown University in Washington, Albright has published a new book called “Fascism: A Warning.” If anyone is capable of foreseeing the rise of fascism it would certainly be Albright, who as a child fled Nazi Germany during Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s. In her book she points out that it was Italy’s Benito Mussolini that started the fascist ball rolling in Europe a century ago. Hitler merely replicated what he viewed as Mussolini’s game-changing fascist demagoguery, and added an anti-semitic spin that led to perhaps the most evil act in all of history-the Holocaust. Now, in her new book, Albright is seeing the same dark forces that unfolded through Europe in the 20th century begin to spread its wings in both the U.S. and Europe during this early part of the 21st century.

Albright points out that Donald Trump’s campaign cliche of “draining the swamp” was first used by Mussolini a century ago. Reminds me of the statement that famed playwright Eugene O’Neill made, also a century ago- “There is no present or future. There is only the past that keeps reoccurring over and over.” It should also be noted that Trump’s primary cliche- “Make America Great Again” was first used by Ronald Reagan in his presidential run in 1980. So much for originality. In any event, Albright finds a common denominator among the populations of first Italy, then Germany and now the U.S. that gives power to the fascist imperative. That denominator being the desire among a large chunk of the electorate for strong, authoritarian leadership. Namely dictatorial leadership. And Trump, with his white supremacist agenda is fulfilling that desire as far as about 35% to 40% of the U.S. electorate is concerned.

After all, democracy can be so messy. Having to rely on Congress to accomplish anything meaningful can be like languishing in the Wasteland. (The one that T.S. Eliot wrote about in his poetic masterpiece.) Wouldn’t it be better just to have a strong figure at the top issue proclamations that become law, unrestrained by the legislature or the courts. Didn’t a magnificent leader such as Winston Churchill even decry democracy as “the worst form of government; except for every other that’s ever been tried.” And it’s not as if the U.S. didn’t already have its fling with a would-be fascist dictatorship. As I’ve written before, and as Albright points out in her book, Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican in the 1950s, was a showman who had the “mentality of a fascist bully and the instincts of a Mussolini” but lacked the intellect to achieve his tyrannical dreams. He used the primary tactic of a would-be dictator’s thrust by “repeating a lie often enough until it begins to sound like the truth.” McCarthy was riding high on his way to tyrannical despotism until that new-fangled entertainment contraption called television exposed him for the fraud he really was. After that, he drank himself to death.

Albright writes that regarding the onset of fascism in the U.S., we are not there yet but the signposts are ominous. The elephant in the room is, of course Donald Trump.” He won the presidency in a squeaker by convincing just enough voters in the right states that he was a teller of blunt truths, a fantastic negotiator, and effective champion of American interests.  The fact that he is none of these should disturb the sleep of the American public, as well as the fact that “Trump is the first antidemocratic president in modern U.S. history.” But psychologically, Trump supporters will never admit nor acknowledge such obvious truths since holding on to their prejudices is more important than coming to grips with reality.

To recognize the impact of one’s psychological prejudices, think back to how the 2016 campaign for president started off. There were 17 candidates vying for the Republican nomination to be president- 16 men and one woman. At the beginning, most of these candidates had higher poll numbers than Trump. Then Trump gave his initial speech where he castigated Mexico “for sending us their rapists and murderers.” He also castigated John McCain’s 5 years of hellish captivity in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” during the Viet-Nam war. And he further vowed to bar all Muslims  from entering the U.S. even for legitimate business purposes. As a result of these brutish and disgusting utterances, Macy’s fired Trump as being on of their spokespersons. NBC fired him from their TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” One would expect that in a sane society, the public would be repulsed by such comments. But instead, Trump’s poll numbers shot up from single digits to about 35%. Suddenly he was the leader of the pack, and none of the other candidates could catch him. They were just too rational for the public’s taste.

In the general election Hillary Clinton was favored to sweep to victory in a landslide. But she turned out to be about the worst candidate in the history of mankind. Her general lack of campaign energy, her e-mail fiascos, and her dismal, unaspiring TV ads dragged her down. While Trump was making at least 5 or 6 campaign appearances each day, Clinton could only manage perhaps one or two if she was feeling up to it. Still she might have won if FBI director James Comey hadn’t reopened the FBI’s investigation into her e-mail shenanigans a mere 12 days before the election.

So there you have it. According to Madeleine Albright the signposts are plentiful and pointing to a Trump dictatorship. After all, now that Trump has tasted the ultimate power, does one think he would easily relinquish such power should he lose the next election. The results of the 2018 Congressional elections will indicate which direction the country is headed, especially regarding the potential loss of basic American freedoms. Stay tuned.

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GUN FETISH RESULTS IN GUN VIOLENCE

A wise man once said that no one ever committed mass murder with a knife. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a “wise man.” In fact might have been me. In any event, the latest gun massacre that occurred in Parkland, Florida, where 17 high school students were slaughtered by a deranged 19 year-old using firearms proves this point. Welcome to the new norm, where mass murder is committed on a periodic basis in the United States. The only remaining question is where and when the next one will occur. Prior to the Florida shooting, here in Las Vegas we had a real doozy back last October. Another mentally unbalanced crackpot, this one was age 64 , using a semi-automatic rifle, shot into a crowd attending an outdoor music festival, killing 58 people while wounding more than 500. Prior to that, there was the shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando that left 49 dead. And let us not forget the individual that went on a shooting spree in a school in Connecticut that killed 26 students and staff just before Christmas of that year. The list goes on, but the one common denominator in all these mass slaughters was that guns had to be used to achieve the murderer’s vile intentions.

Despite all these slaughters, any mention of increased gun control in the U.S. sends about half the country into a frenzy of fear-induced paranoia. With the National Rifle Association leading the way, gun owners loudly proclaim that any mention of increased gun-control means that the “big, bad government” is coming in to seize everyone’s firearms; after which unarmed people will surely be rounded up and marched off to concentration camps. It’s called a gun fetish and no amount of reasoning or sanity can prevail against this mindset. Fetishes are almost impossible to rid oneself of, since they act as an irrational hammerlock on one’s brain that precludes clear thinking. Add to this the fact that the NRA, supported by million of members, dispenses tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to favored members of Congress, while threatening to campaign against those members that may be inclined to support some form of gun control, and you have the perfect storm of non-action in reducing the availability of firearms across the U.S.

Don’t think there’s a gun fetish in the U.S? Then consider the following. The U.S. with a population of about 325 million people, or about 5% of all humans currently alive on Planet Earth; nevertheless possesses an estimated 48% of the civilian guns currently in existence. That’s right- of the estimated 650 million guns currently owned by civilians world-wide, about 310 million reside in the U.S. In comparison, the country with the second largest civilian gun ownership is India where 46 million firearms are dispersed among a populace of well over a billion people. Yet even the most feeble effort to enact  some form of legislative restrictions on the acquisition or ownership is met with the fiercest of opposition from gun owners. Compare that to the events that transpired in one of our Pacific allies, namely Australia. Some years ago, also traumatized by a mass killing using firearms, the Australian government asked its citizens to turn their guns into the government which would then reimburse them for each confiscated firearm. Today Australia is almost civilian gun free, and amazingly, seems to have thrived quite well. At least they haven’t had to suffer through any further gun-related massacres.

Of course, our illustrious president couldn’t resist weighing in on the recent school shooting in Florida. Commenting on the police failure to confront the murderer until after the massacre was over, Trump said that if he was in the vicinity, he would have gone into the school and charged the shooter even if he was “unarmed.” Right. Trump who managed to dodge the draft in his younger days and thus avoid serving in the military, would have gone into the school unarmed, and confronted the shooter barehanded. Overweight and out-of-shape as he is at age 71. The disturbing thing about that kind of comment is not that he made it so boldly. After all it was a typical Trumpism. The most disturbing thing is how many Trumpinistas will actually believe he’s telling the truth. Sadly, probably most of his base will probably take him at his word.

Speaking of the Trump follies, the latest one is his intention to slap hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Tariffs is just a polite word for taxes. In this case, it will be U.S. consumers that will pay these increased taxes when buying imported cars or any other product using these metals. Most of our steel imports come from Canada, our neighbor, friend, and supposedly our most trusted ally. Until now, that is, when Trump decided what great fun it would be to piss them off. Increased tariffs on imports also invite retaliation from other countries that buy our exports. In the end, tariffs economically batter all nations involved. Increased tariffs, also known as protectionism, is given by historians as the leading cause of creating the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Back to gun control, my own view is that no one needs guns except for the military, the police, and those civilians employed in security operations. Hunters need guns, why? To kill innocent and defenseless animals generally minding their own business or foraging for food? But good luck separating gun owners from their weapons in the U.S. It will probably take another few hundred years of human evolution for that scenario to play out. Despite the fact that the Aussies were able to achieve that distinction within this lifetime.

 

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THE REAL MEANING OF LIFE

Throughout the ages people have struggled to find if there is deeper meaning to life other than just merely existing. Is there, or not, a higher purpose for being alive on Planet Earth for a few decades before we disintegrate into dust? The short answer is probably not. After all, it’s none other than a personage such as Shakespeare who declared that life-“Is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” William Faulkner, the great American novelist of the 20th century was so impressed by Shakespeare’s utterance that he called his most important work- “The Sound and The Fury.” So let us explore if there is a higher purpose to existing other than reluctantly struggling to get out of bed every morning and going through the motions of what society expects or demands from us.

The logical starting point in this examination would be with the basic elements of time and space. Scientists place the age of the universe at approximately 14 billion years, give or take. That’s when they say that matter first appeared into the total emptiness. Actually time and space are infinite with no beginning or ending- admittedly a difficult concept to wrap one’s head around. But when matter first did appear, it begs the question of how it arrived. Religionists would tell you that God created this matter and then the ensuing “big bang” that dispersed particles of this matter throughout space. But that begs the question of where did God come from, or who created God. Again, religionists would say that God always was and always will be, which always seemed like a royal copout to me. In any event, the greatest minds of all time have no cogent answer as to how matter first appeared. So I guess it’s up to me to solve this puzzle.

Okay, let’s go with the theory that the existence of matter is 14 billion years old, for convenience sake. Yet human life on planet Earth is normally only between 80-90 years before it’s bucket-kicking time. Some die well short of that time frame, while a few hearty souls might kvetch themselves on to about 100 or even older. Of course, by that time centurions are far too debilitated to participate in or enjoy any of life’s so-called pleasures. But only 80 to 90 years of life when the universe is at least 14 billion years old- give me a break. One would think that forces calling the shots could spare at least 1000 years of human living. What a parsimonious universe we live in.

First of all, for most people it takes about 40-50 years of their existences just to figure out what direction their headed for. By that time their lives are more than half over and they’re beginning to experience the aches and pains that come with advancing age. Next subtract out the approximately one-third of our existences we spend sleeping and the time left to whoop it up is further diminished. Further subtractions include the time we’re stuck in rush hour or other traffic jams, the time we spend going to doctors and dentists, the time spent cleaning the house or apartment, doing laundry, mowing the lawn or other maintenance chores, so that the span left for so-called fun and pleasure becomes miniscule. And to make matters worse, the lifetimes allotted for our favorite pets such as dogs and cats are only about 10-18 years before they’re ripped from us. Whoever decided on these allotted time frames for existence on Earth needs to be brought up on charges.

The next factor to consider is that the type of life one will likely lead has already been decided while you’re still in womb. Thats right, the genes one inherits and the environment one is raised in are usually the determining factors of the success or failure of one’s existence. When I was growing up Brooklyn as a youth, I was heavily into sports. My greatest desire in life was to play center-field for the New York Yankees like my heroes Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. But it didn’t take me very long to realize that I had neither the talent or ability to make such dreams come true. It just wasn’t there and I had to look elsewhere to make my way in the world. But it’s not only genes. Some people who are born with great abilities nevertheless find their lives are ruined at an early age because of being raised in abusive households. Even if one is naturally talented, he or she often cannot mentally overcome such abuse and usually die broken at a young age. Statistically speaking, about 10% of the population usually possess great talent that enables them to lead sumptuous life-styes, while about 80% have varying degrees of ability enabling an upper to lower middle-class life-style. The remaining 10% have such wretched genes or upbringings that they often wind up living in cardboard boxes under a bridge somewhere.

So there you have it. A ridiculously few years allotted to play out ones so-called life which is largely determined before-hand by the genes one is born with, and the environment one is raised in. One other thing. Plato famously said that the unexamined life is one that is not worth living. But it seems to me that the examined life isn’t too hotzy totzy either. Who’s ready to sign a petition to the universe asking at least for more years with better health and opportunity. Give us a break and stop being so stingy.

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THE FREE LUNCH COUNTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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HOLIER-THAN-THOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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EXTREMELY EXTREME EXTREMISTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, 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

DIRTY AIR AND OTHER OBSCENITIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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