Ronald Reagan

THE COMFY STATE OF DELUSIONAL PARANOIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

LOSING GROUND

It has often been stated that the United States is the world’s one indispensable nation. While this statement can have a plethora of meanings, it usually refers to the concept of the U.S., in conjunction with its western allies, being  willing to challenge tyrannies and dictatorships across the globe, whenever these evil-doers seek to destroy western values of freedom and liberty. And so it was throughout the 20th century. When U.S. allies Briton and France were mired in stalemated trench warfare against Germany during WWI, it was the U.S. that sent its troops abroad to break the stalemate and win the war for western values. When Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, who were the embodiment of the purest evil this planet had ever witnessed, launched a second world war, once again it was the U.S. that came to the rescue of its European allies. Of course, when the U.S. finally did enter WWII (after the bombing of Pearl Harbor), it was almost too late. Hitler had overrun virtually all of Europe, and Imperial Japan had gobbled up most of the Pacific. If Japan had followed up the Pearl Harbor assault with an invasion of our west coast, it likely would have been all over for the good guys.

But U.S. do-goodism didn’t end with defeating the axis powers of WWII. When Communists in the Korean peninsula sought to overrun Korea with the support of Mao Zedong’s Communist China in 1950, the U.S. once again militarily intervened. That was an instance where the U.S. could only fight to a draw, however. The northern half of the Korean peninsula fell under China’s dictatorship, while the southern half remained free and allied to the U.S. Next came the the U.S. mis-adventure of becoming involved in jungle warfare in Viet-Nam. France had initially, in the 1950s, tried to save South-Viet-Nam from North -Vietnam’s communist dictatorship, but had failed. Not paying attention to the obvious, we then took over from France with the zeal of a mis-guided do-gooder, only to also fail as all Viet-Nam fell under Communist control. Along the way almost 60 thousand U.S. lives were lost, along with hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese that were also killed.

We followed up the Viet-Nam fiasco by liberating Kuwait from the evil of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in Iraq, to close out the 20th century. But a new evil menace virtually opened up the 21st century, namely Islamic Jihadist terrorism and the horrors of 9/11. Thus, the U.S. once again became militarily involved in trying to keep the West safe for democracy. We invaded Afghanistan in retaliation for Al Qaida’s attack on the World Trade Center in New York, but are still bogged down there 16 years later, in a seemingly endless and futile operation against Taliban Islamic fanatics thriving in that country.  We followed that up by invading Iraq, and yes, we did remove the tyranny of Saddam Hussein from the world stage. But in his place, the even more evil Islamic jihadist organization known as ISIS has filled the void. The one overriding mission of all the Islamic jihadist organizations is to destroy Israel, Western Europe, and, of course, the U.S. Anywhere that democracy seems to be firmly entrenched.

As the Islamic terror entities continue to thrive, so does  their primary sponsor, the country of Iran, which is one of the bitterest enemies of the U.S. Iran’s military power and influence continues to expand around the globe. They are first down on the one yard line with goal to go, as far as acquiring nuclear weapons. The overriding goal of the Ayatollahs that run that country is to wipe Israel off the map on their way to destroying western civilization and democracy. On the other side of the planet, our failure to liberate the northern half of the Korean peninsula in the 1950s has come back to bite us in the you know what. Under the insane dictatorship Kim Jong Un and his predecessors, North Korea has become a giant concentration camp, but one with nuclear weapons and missiles that will soon be able to reach the continental U.S. As N.Korea’s nuclear arsenal grows each year, the U.S. has run out of options for containment. The current administration has pleaded with China to rein in N.Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but with virtually no success. After all, China and N.Korea are communist pals, and good buddies don’t turn on each other. The only other option appears to be military action which is really unthinkable at this point in time.

The enemies list of western civilization doesn’t stop with the gaggle of Islamic Jihadists, Iran and N.Korea. Despite assurances from the current U.S. administration, Russia’s tyrannical despot, Vladimir Putin, has nothing but contempt an ill-will toward the U.S. and its allies. Putin, who simply murders political opponents Mafia-style, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to assure that Hillary Clinton would not become president. Her opponent, he figured, would be a softer touch in opposing his goals of Russian expansion throughout Eastern Europe, as well as the Mid-East where he continues to support Syria’s blood-soaked dictator Bashar al-Assad who has slaughtered his countrymen by the hundreds of thousands.

So there you have it. The enemies of the U.S. and western democracy grow stronger by the day, while we standby, virtually impotent to counter their advancements. War would be unthinkable. First of all we couldn’t monetarily fund it. The U.S. budget deficit is 20 trillion dollars in the hole and growing rapidly. Any significant military action would cost an additional hundreds of billions of dollars that we can no longer afford. The armed forces of our European allies are uniformly weak and under-funded.  Even as our enemies on this planet continue to grow stronger and more powerful.

Maybe the moral of this story is that the good guys don’t always win. Sometimes evil does triumph. Western democracy won decisively in WWII, but it’s been pretty much of a downhill slide in the ensuing decades since then.

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, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Leave a comment

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS: PART II

When I was young, (yes, electricity had already been discovered and was in general use) there was term often used by newspapers and other media to disparage or otherwise shame certain members of society. That term was “being on the dole” and it came to signify those unfortunates that were having a tough time financially and required governmental assistance to get thru the transactions of day-to-day living. That phrase originated in England in 1917 and was in reference to benefits being “doled” out by the government to generally poor souls that couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. Since the U.S. at the time, had a hard-core, laissez-faire, capitalistic type of thinking ingrained into most people’s psyches, having to receive government assistance was considered especially shameful. The mark of a slacker, one too lazy or otherwise too indolent to provide for themselves. Indeed, according to newspapers that were published in those days, no criminal’s deeds were as heinous as that of someone “being on the dole.”

With the advent of FDR’s New Deal, however, the use of that term began to lose it’s luster. It turned out that with the creation of Social Security and Medicare legislation, virtually all seniors were eventually “on the dole,” so to speak. More social programs regarding veterans benefits, student loans, housing and other government assistance came into being, so it seemed almost everyone “was on the dole” at some point in their lives, and that inglorious phrase was eventually tossed into the dustbin of history. It was to some degree revived in a new form during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s. The term “welfare queens” suddenly came into existence as racist code to denote single black mothers who were supposedly having babies out of wedlock in order to receive larger government welfare checks. When it was pointed out that the preponderance of welfare payments were being made to white people, that derogatory phrase also faded from the public forum. But the on-going efforts of the fortunate to stigmatize the unfortunate in some shape or manner continues on unabated.

This is kind of a long way around to come to the main point of how genetics is often the determining factor in the way our lives will unfold and the destinies in store for all of us. Some time back I wrote a piece called “Genetic Predispositions” which still receives “views” years later, and I thought I would update the original with additional insights. In the original, I cited some extreme examples of how one’s genes are often the determining factor of the life being led. How, due to genetic malfunction, some fetus brains are bathed in an overdose of serotonin while in the womb. Hence, when these individuals grow into adulthood, they cannot derive pleasure or comfort from those activities that normally satisfy most of us, and thus, are often likely to turn out to be brutish rapists or serial killers to satisfy their lusts. Even when the brain develops normally, genetic make-up is usually the name of the game.

Those whose DNA is formed with a talent for fiscal matters often do the best in our capitalistic society. Bankers, Wall Street brokers, hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs etc. often accomplish the most financially, and are able to lead the most luxurious materialistic lives. Not that such bountiful materialism necessarily translates into lifelong happiness and serenity. Just ask those who knew Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston for starters. All four of whom had not only acquired immense riches, but, also millions of adoring fans and worldwide fame; but still managed to kill themselves at a fairly young age. On the the other hand, those whose DNA thrusts them into the artistic side of human performance usually receive the short end of the stick from a capitalistic oriented society. Very few writers, artists, musicians, etc. receive just compensation for their efforts and often live in poverty throughout their lives. This could also result in early demise. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe, neither of whom caught a break as far as public recognition of their talents while they were still alive, and who also died at an early age

Most of the rest of us are somewhere in the middle, living anywhere from relatively lower middle class, to reasonably comfortable lifestyles, depending on the talent programmed into our DNA. But what I didn’t mention last time are the environmental factors that one grows up with, that also have a huge influence on our future lives, and must be considered along with genes as one of life’s determining forces. An Irish poet put it best when he wrote that “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad; they fuck you up real good.” Those coming from abusive or dysfunctional homes where parents might be alcoholics, druggies, or child molesters, hardly have a chance in life, no matter how strong their genes may be. Some hearty, brave souls do manage to escape an horrendous upbringing, however, and go on to thrive in life.

It the end it virtually all comes down to a matter of genetic inheritance and environmental upbringing. I think, though, that genes are more of the determinant factor. As for me, at this stage of my life, I’m quite content to be “on the dole” and receive my government benefits.

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WATERGATE REDUX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE NEVER-ENDING CAMPAIGN TRAIL

So, did you hear the one about how Sweden suffered this violent terrorist attack this past Friday. No? Well that could possibly be because such an attack never took place, despite our president’s proclamation to the contrary. Not only did a bloody terrorist assault occur, according to Trump, but it was Sweden’s own fault for acting humanely, by allowing so many refugees fleeing for their lives, to enter Sweden in the first place. It’s alternative facts, baby, as Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway would have put it. I’ve said in the past that politics usually comes down to a matter of salesmanship, which is the one thing that Trump excels in. It’s a matter of telling people what they want to believe in, whether the described events exist in reality or not. And so with the president’s approval ratings headed in a downward spiral, Trump figured it was time to return to the campaign trail, and offer his loyal base of primarily white-supremist followers, the red-meat they hungered for. And sure enough, a crowd of supposedly 20 thousand die-hard Trumpanistas gathered in Florida to hear the latest in Trump demagoguery.

At this early stage of the game, previous presidents from Reagan thru Obama, enjoyed approval numbers from the electorate that ranged from the high 50-60 percentiles, according to polls taken during their administrations. But according to the latest Gallop poll, Trump’s approval rating is currently only about 40 percent. Could the reason be that all the blustering, bullying, belligerent, and angry Twitter offerings issued on virtually a daily basis really don’t sell all that well outside of Trump’s hardcore base.  Or the fact that, despite all the threats, promises, and grand designs offered up by the president and his Republican Congress, very little has been accomplished in actuality thus far. Trump did roll back some of Obama’s executive orders, including one that barred coal companies from dumping mining refuse and waste into local rivers and streams. I’m sure that the residents that receive their drinking water from such canals will be more than delighted.

The one notable action the Trump administration did proclaim was an executive order barring people from seven Muslim countries from entering the U.S. on the pretext that this would make America safer. But the rollout might as well have been orchestrated by the Marx Brothers (Groucho and Harpo, not Karl.) With no advanced warning, it caught people who were already in flight, in its ridiculous net. When their planes landed in the U.S. people from these seven countries were informed that they couldn’t leave the airport; but instead had to book a flight that returned them to their countries of origin. One victim of this badly managed edict was a three-year-old Iranian girl that had a serious heart defect and was booked for a life-saving operation that could only be performed in the U.S. The parents of this “highly dangerous potential terrorist” were told that the operation would now have to be called off because Iran was one of the seven banned countries. Fortunately, the courts intervened and blocked this ill-advised executive order from being enforced, and the little Iranian girl was permitted to have her operation. But the Administration is threatening to roll-out a new edict that does essentially the same thing as the old, but is worded differently. And the beat goes on.

We now have a better understanding of how the Trump calculous works. During the campaign, the appeal was to white xenophobic, or out-right bigoted voters, primarily throughout the South and Mid-West. Yes, while the black, Hispanic, Asian, and other minority voting blocs were increasing in the U.S., there was still enough of a white majority to nudge Trump and his angry, anti-foreigner message over the finish line. Just barely, but a win nonetheless. His strategy was and currently is formulated by Steve Bannon, who if he were any further right-wing, would be wearing a Swastika arm-band. Bannon headed up the white-supremist Breitbart  News site before he became Trump’s campaign manager, and now is in the White House daily as a top presidential advisor. And Trump continues to draw heavy support from all the far right fringe hate groups, that include an entire range of bigots from the KKK  to the Bikers of America. He’s their kind of guy. And the message of banning Muslims from entering the U.S. to building a hideous wall to keep the Mexicans out, still resonates powerfully  in those circles.

Thus, to counter media and political opposition criticism of his white supremacist agenda, Trump has devised the strategy of the perpetual campaign. When his daily Twitter thrusts that rant against perceived enemies don’t seem to be accomplishing the job, go back out on the campaign trail where he can attract thousands, or tens of thousands of hardcore followers, so as to give the appearance of massive voter support. As well as giving his ego and morale a major boost. And with the Democratic party virtually in ruins, there really is no serious political opposition to his daily shenanigans.

The moral of all this is how curious the human mind functions at our current state of evolution. A leader, or would be dictator, doesn’t actually have to accomplish anything. All  he has to do is sell people on the notion that major events are moving in their direction. Create a parallel universe of delusion that satisfies and soothes the electorate’s fears, anxieties and bigotry, and all is well with the world once again. After-all, reality is often such an ugly thing, isn’t it? While delusion can cover one like a warm comforter on a cold winter’s night.

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PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IN THE TRUMP ERA, BIG BROTHER MAY BE WATCHING YOU

It comes as no surprise that George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, “1984,” first published in 1949, is once again rising to the top of the New York Times best seller list. Apparently,  large numbers of people out there want a heads up on what to expect when the Trump Administration begins rolling into high gear. Will the already apparent similarities between “1984” the novel, and 2017 the actuality, grow even stronger as the months and years unfold, and the Trump regime assumes more and more dictatorial power, and Big Brother becomes ever more watchful and tyrannical. Time will tell.

In Orwell’s novel, by the year 1984, there are only 3 major political entities left in the world, and he focuses on the one that’s headquartered in London. It’s run by a despot known as Big Brother, with signs everywhere announcing that “Big Brother Is Watching You.” No one knows for sure if Big Brother even exists, but that’s unimportant. What is important is that the regime is so tyrannical in its thirst for power, that Big Brother watches you everywhere. In your home, your workplace, in the streets or stores, through electronic devices, Big Brother is always watching to assure that one’s behavior is totally in sync with the motives of the regime.  And it’s not enough to be docile and compliant with that regime. One must also have nothing but the purest benevolence toward Big Brother, or one would likely be accused of harboring “thoughtcrime.” Which would inevitably lead to he or she becoming an “unperson.” I don’t believe I have to spell out what that means. One other thing too. The 3 despotically run super powers left in the world are always at war with one another; but alliances are constantly shifting so that one’s enemy today could quickly become one’s ally the following week in it’s war against the third  tyrannical entity.

So, as I’ve mentioned, hordes of people are currently reading or re-reading “1984” to see if the same nightmare world that Orwell described fictionally, will come to pass under the Trump regime in actuality. The opening salvos seem unfortunately to be headed that way. From the time he sat down in the Oval Office about two weeks ago, Trump has issued a non-ending stream of “executive orders” on everything from the environment, to foreign travelers entering the U.S., to healthcare, to financial regulations and much more. As if they were edicts posted by the monarchy. Who needs that pain-in-the-ass, hyper-polarized Congress to actually pass legislation, anyway, when his royal majesty can just rule by edict. And since Congress is fully in Republican control, it seems to quite willingly abide by this arrangement. Of course Trump’s edict barring all visitors from 7 Moslem nations from entering the U.S. had something of a “Keystone Kop” aura about it. It was amateur at the White House at best. So much so, that a courageous judge in Seattle put a hold on its enforcement, much to the wrath and Twitter tirade of King Donald himself.

It’s important to note that Trump’s immigration executive order had nothing to do with keeping the U.S. safe from potential terrorist assaults. That could have been done by even more carefully vetting incoming visitors. Instead, this now infamous decree was all about throwing red meat to  the large section of his white base of voters that are xenophobic, nativist or outright bigots. This is what he promised them, and he was merely rewarding those people that put him in the White House to begin with. It’s also important to note that the finger prints of two of Trump’s closest aides are all over that decree. I’m, of course, referring to the two Stephens-Bannon and Miller, who are also leaders in the quasi-fascist Alt-Right movement. Steve Bannon, especially, who was Trump’s campaign manager, and is now one of his closest confidants in the Oval Office, used to be head of the white supremacist Breitbart News organization that was known for its conspiracy theories and for demonizing minorities. Now he’s in the Oval Office on a daily basis. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, if you don’t think that the real events in 2017 are not starting to resemble “1984.”

Trump, of course, predictably responded to the judge’s stop order, by publicly denouncing  him, similar to the way he denounced a judge in Indiana for being Hispanic, during the recently concluded campaign. He vowed that the stop order decision would be overturned by a higher court. And if not, will he just ignore the court’s rulings and do as he pleases? He already fired the Acting Attorney General the previous weekend, because she refused to enforce his anti-Moslem decree declaring she felt it was unconstitutional. The Constitution-what a quaint relic of bygone years. Who needs it when we can have Big Brother rule by edict. Edicts brought to him by Steve Bannon and Steve Miller.

As I’ve said many times in the past, in the end we do it to ourselves. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Trump’s low poll numbers would seem to indicate that at least some of his voters may be having buyers remorse. But does it really matter anymore. My take is that once this crowd has seized power, as it has, it will never relinquish that power under any circumstances. George Orwell might have hit the nail squarely on the head. He just might have been a little premature in selecting the year it would happen. And remember, above all else, Big Brother is Watching You.

Categories: Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, John Kennedy, John Kennedy, foreign policy,terrorism, lack of U.S. response to terrorism,, Ronald Reagan | 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?

 

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, ELVIS PRESLY, MARILYN MONROE, MICHAEL JACKSON, WHITNEY HOUSTON, THE STATE OF HAPPINESS VS. UNHAPPINESS, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, John Kennedy, foreign policy,terrorism, lack of U.S. response to terrorism,, politics, Ronald Reagan | 1 Comment

AMERICA’S LONG-LASTING NIGHTMARE

When David Letterman retired not long ago from almost 30 years of late night television, I thought the opening scene on his final show was especially unique. It featured ex-presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and current president Barack Obama all repeating the same statement-“America’s long-lasting national nightmare is finally over”. It was obviously made in reference to the fact that Letterman was retiring from television broadcasting. Letterman then looked at Obama, the last president to make this pronouncement and said-“Come on, you guys are just kidding, right?” Obama then stared back at him with a harsh, stern look on his face, as if to indicate that this was no laughing matter. Letterman then had a look of shock and dismay on his face, as if he’s suddenly wondering if he was, indeed, America’s long national nightmare. It was a subtle but funny bit, well played by all participants. And while David Letterman was not, of course, America’s long, national nightmare, the election of 2016, which ends tomorrow, would certainly qualify for that title.

The election from Hell, as it has been defined in many circles, wound up being a contest between the two most despised figures on the current election scene. The invective and quality of meanness hurled at each other by the two participants, was virtually unprecedented. Today, finally, is the last day that we, the public, will have to endure such mean-spirited TV ad mudslinging, as well as serial mendacity. But the worst possible scenario for tomorrow’s balloting would be if the election results were not conclusive. With the polls showing that the contest is tightening, a clear winner might not be determined by tomorrow night. If there are narrow margins in key states, recounts will be demanded and charges of a “rigged election” will almost certainly emanate from the Trump camp. Court fights will ensue and threats of violence will almost certainly be heard. It could be a replay of the 2000 presidential election, which Al Gore actually won, but which victory was handed to George W. Bush by the Supreme Court, who decided in December, that Bush had won the state of Florida’s 29 electoral college votes. This decision was based on a vote tally by Florida’s Republican Secretary of State, who claimed that Bush was ahead in that state by a couple of hundred votes out of millions cast. The Supreme Court, by a vote of 5 to 4 backed her decision not to allow a state-wide recount. Bush was then declared president even though Al Gore had won the popular vote by several millions.

The current election polls have been narrowing since James Comey, FBI director, announced on day 11 before the election, that the FBI was reopening what was thought to be a closed case regarding Clinton’s email debacle. It seemed to be the last straw against voting for Clinton by the undecideds. (Still hard to believe that people could remain undecided, after all that has ensued since more than a year ago.) Then, yesterday Comey once again reversed course, and stated that no new evidence was found that would warrant a criminal indictment of Hillary. But this latter statement may have come too late to save Clinton’s candidacy. If anything, Clinton should have been taken to task for felony stupidity. Knowing that she had presidential aspirations, she recklessly established servers in her home to send and receive emails, including work related email, some of which contained classified government information. A clear violation of State Department protocols. But worse still, it gave her Republican opposition a club to batter her over the head with. This is why Democrats lose elections-breathtakingly gross political incompetence.

So tomorrow may finally end America’s long-suffering nightmare, or it might just get worse. If Hillary wins, as damaged as she is, the country and its democratic processes will nevertheless survive. But if Trump edges out a victory, the republic that Ben Franklin gave us 240 years ago, with the proviso that “if we can keep it,” will likely be extinguished. Trump will rule the U.S. as his buddy, Vladimir Putin rules Russia. Which is Mafia-style, with Putin being the boss of bosses, or the godfather, reigning over a system of crony capitalism, whereby his cronies get all the capital and the rest of the Russian populace is left to drown their sorrows in cheap Russian vodka. Russia does go through the motions of having national elections, but the outcomes are always predetermined in Putin’s favor. Talk about “rigged” voting. There is a congress, but it acts as a rubber stamp for Putin’s initiatives. Court decisions, also, always go in Putin’s favor. To take the Russian populace’s mind off how bad their economy and standard of living are, Putin initiates wars in the Crimea, in the Ukraine, (which have now cost thousands of lives), and more recently in Syria where the death toll at Russian hands is also in the thousands. I might add that, like Trump, Putin is also a pathological narcissist, that doesn’t take too kindly to criticism or opposition.

If Trump is allowed to enter the White House come January, look for him to rule, initially, through a series of “executive orders.” Congressional or court opposition will grow more and more meaningless and remote as time passes on. Eventually those executive orders will turn to edicts, and, as in Russia, both congress and the courts will become rubber stamps to the will of the dictator. If a sham presidential election is allowed in 2020, it will just become a reaffirmation of how wonderful of our “dear leader” is. Eventually, the task of ruling the U.S. with an iron fist will be handed over to sons Eric and Donald Jr., when the old man decides to retire. And remember, above all else, that pathological narcissists never like to get their egos bruised, and never take kindly to those that would dare such foolish behavior.

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

THE BUDGET DEFICIT TIME-BOMB

When the subject of budgeting and government financial deficits comes to the forefront, most people suddenly develop a condition known as MEGO- my eyes glaze over. Yet it’s a subject well worth exploring because the growth and size of the U.S. budget deficit is such that it has become a ticking time-bomb in our midst that could explode within a few years. And when it does most people will be severely burned where it hurts the most, right in their pocketbooks.  It will especially affect younger people just starting out in new jobs and careers. A tidal wave of overwhelming deficits could sink the stock market and most American’s savings and investment accounts, leading to a severe economic crises. It could make the 2008-2010 financial downturn look like a romp in the park on a Sunday afternoon. So lets try to figure out how we’ve arrived at this unenviable point in our history.

First a little perspective. The accumulated U.S. budget deficit in the nearly 200 years from the beginning of George Washington’s presidency to the end of Jimmy Carter’s reign in January 1981, stood at just under one trillion dollars. This despite the U.S. fighting in two world wars as well as the Korean and Viet-Nam wars which were extremely costly. In the ensuing 35 years, however, from Ronald Reagan to the end of Barack Obama’s term, the deficit will have mushroomed to just under $20 trillion, with annual deficits  running at about half-a-trillion a pop. It was the the supposedly ultra-conservative Ronald Reagan that started us on the path toward major budget-busting. Under the 12 years of the Reagan and George Bush the Elder presidencies, the budget deficit grew from one to four trillion dollars, a 300% increase. Reagan accomplished this stupendous feat by hugely increasing military spending while significantly cutting income taxes, especially for the rich. Hmmnn. I wonder if it ever dawned on people within the Reagan Administration that if make large increases in expenditures while sharply cutting revenues, bad things were likely to ensue, budget-wise. Reagan believed he could make up the difference by curtailing social spending, but that turned out to be a total non-accomlishment.

The following 8 years under Bill Clinton’s presidency saw the budget-deficit monster actually being tamed. In 2 of those years, the Government surprisingly ran a budget surplus, a rarity never again seen. The period that Clinton was president, from 1992-2000, were probably the best years of peace and prosperity that the U.S. has experienced since at least the end of WWII, and perhaps in its entire history. Starting in 2001, however, when George Bush the Younger ascended to the White House, (even though Al Gore had actually won the election) we once again began to travel on the yellow brick road of financial irresponsibility. Bush began piling up large deficits the old-fashioned way, again by tax cuts for the rich and large increases in government spending. This time it was by enacting a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. The Bush presidency was further marred by an over-heated economy, especially in the housing market, which finally led to the collapse of the behemoth Wall Street investment firm known as Lehman Brothers, which further led to the collapse of the U.S. economy as a whole, and ensured the election of a rookie senator named Barack Obama to the Oval Office.

Contrary to popular belief, the large budget deficits that have accumulated under the Obama Administration have not been due to sharply increased spending; but instead were caused by a large drop in revenues due to the financial crises that lasted from 2008-20012.  All those people that were out of work were certainly not paying any income or FICA taxes. Now that we’re back to near full employment, however, we’re still running half-a-trillion in the red, annually. All the while U.S. infrastructure  is slowly but surely crumbling into disrepair. Roads are becoming alarmingly over-used with bumper-to-bumper traffic everywhere; bridges are virtually disintegrating before our eyes; water and sewer piping, some of which was built at the end of the 19th century, is rusting away to nothingness; the electrical grid is over-taxed, outdated, and highly susceptible to a terrorist attack; the list goes on and on. Just think what a joy your life would be if electricity ceased to exist. But where will we get the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to repair our aging infrastructure. Well, one solution might be to increase the revenue side of the equation.

But, you might say, we’re already being taxed nearly to death.Besides income and FICA taxes, there’s property taxes (even if you rent it’s in your monthly payment), taxes on all the utilities used, taxes at the gas pump, taxes on your cell phones and land lines, taxes in your internet provider’s fee; death taxes; the list is endless. Sort of reminds me of a song by the Beetles in the 1960s, called the “Taxman.” Some of the lyrics go as follows: “If you drive a car I’ll tax the street; If you try to sit I’ll tax your seat; If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat; If you take a walk I’ll tax your feet.” That pretty well sums up where we are on the revenue side of the balance sheet.

Over 80% of our annual 3.5 trillion dollar budget consists of only 5 items. Namely, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense and Homeland Security, and interest on the debt. You can’t screw with interest on the debt or no one would ever lend to us again. The likely next president of the U.S. says he want’s to sharply increase spending on defense and homeland security, not decrease it. As well as increase infrastructure spending. Both candidates regard tampering with SS or Medicare to be the third rail of politics which invites instant execution. And so the budget deficit time bomb keeps ticking away.

I used to think that the only benefit of growing old was that I didn’t have to have colonoscopies anymore. But I’ve now discovered another benefit. I likely won’t have to be around when the financial roof of this country eventually  collapses on our heads due to uncontrollable deficit spending.

Categories: Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Ronald Reagan | Leave a comment

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