the Depression

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.

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McCARTHY, TRUMP AND THE ART OF FEAR-MONGERING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO THE ALT-RIGHT: A NATION’S MORAL DECLINE

It took less than 60 years, 56 to be precise, for the United States to go from electing a president that would champion the cause of civil rights for blacks and other minorities, to electing a president that intends to further the cause of white supremacy and privilege. In 1960, a young John F. Kennedy would squeak out a narrow win for the presidency over Richard Nixon. With brother Bobby as attorney-general, JFK set out to tear down the walls of Jim Crow segregation that had permeated throughout the entire South. A system whereby blacks had to attend separate schools from whites, drink from separate water fountains, sit at separate lunch counters, sit in segregated sections when attending sports events or movies, and on and on. Of course, blacks were strictly forbidden from living or buying property in white neighborhoods. And black people usually found it all but impossible to vote in public elections in virtually every district throughout the South. But the early 1960s were also a time when a young black minister named Martin Luther King Jr., with the backing of the president and the attorney-general, began organizing huge protest marches and civil-disobedience throughout the South to attack this system of second-class citizenry. A system of semi-slavery that had lasted 100 years after Lincoln had ended the existing system of formal slavery.

The peaceful protests and civil-rights marches of those days eventually achieved their desired results as the walls of Jim Crow semi-slavery began to crumble into dust. But not before a slew of both black and white civil-rights workers were murdered along the way by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. And tragically, by 1968, both Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were all dead at the hands of different assassins. And to be clear, racial hatred and discrimination didn’t exist only in the South. There was plenty of that in the North as well, minus a formalized legal system of Jim Crow segregation. But when Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency after JFK’s murder, and signed the civil rights act of 1964, black people were at least free to participate in U.S. elections without fear of reprisal. The tumultuous 1960s were also a time of massive protests and civil disobedience against America’s ill-fated entry into the Viet-Nam war. When that debacle ended in the early 1970s, and with the successes of the civil-rights movement, it seemed as if America’s worst days were behind it. Sadly, this was not to be.

Now fast-forward to 2016 where the winning presidential candidate, also by the narrowest of margins, is definitely not a civil-rights proponent. Instead he is praised by the KKK and other white-supremist groups as being their kind of guy. One of these hate groups is oddly referred to as the Alt-Right, presumably meaning alternative right wing. A rather benign sounding term to cover up its underlying racist intentions. A former leader of the Alt-Right, a man named Stephen Bannon, eventually became Donald Trump’s campaign manager, and will now sit in the White House on a daily basis as Trump’s co-chief of staff. A rather comforting vision to start off the new year of 2017, wouldn’t you say? So who, or what is the Alt-Right. Well, according to one of its current leaders named Jeff Schoep, their decision to dispense with using the swastika as its symbol was “an attempt to become more integrated and more mainstream.” An attempt to make racial hatred seem more like the norm. Their central belief is that white identity has become endangered by what they deride as this era of dangerous diversity and political correctness. But though they may no longer use the Nazi swastika as their symbol, the name of their game is still white supremacy over blacks and virulent anti-semitism.

When Trump, early in the campaign, promised to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, whom he described as murderers and rapists, the Alt-Right raised its collective head to listen. One movement leader, a retired school teacher from Dallas, who grew up in a family opposed to desegregation, stated: “I’ve been waiting to hear those words from a mainstream political leader all my life. We don’t have any power, – but now we’re suddenly close enough to smell it.” After Trump’s victory, the Alt-Right held a conference in Washington under the leadership of its president, a 38 year-old man named Richard Spencer, who fashions himself as the coming American Il Duce. He wears his hair in an undercut style called a “fashy” as in fascist. “Race is real” he said “Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.” Of course, this Alt-Right movement is supposedly distinct from old-line white supremacist fascists, bigots, race-haters and Jew-haters such as the KKK. But early in the election campaign, when David Duke, former grand dragon of the KKK enthusiastically endorsed the Trump candidacy, it took The Donald two days to eventually choke out an-“okay, I disavow the endorsement,” after repeated grilling by the media.

So, welcome to the world, circa 2017. The year 1961 stared off with a new president in the White House committed to achieving racial equality for minorities that were afflicted by Jim Crow prejudice, bigotry and segregation. The new president in 2017, about to enter the Oval Office, is a man seemingly adored by those very same bigots and haters. But that’s not even the most disturbing part about all of this.  Even more upsetting is the fact that candidate Trump figured out that there there was all this bigotry still in existence among the white population. Enough so that he could win by achieving such an overwhelming portion of the white vote, that it was more than sufficient enough to offset the minority voters opposition to him. And he was right. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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,, human affairs, Israeli-Palestinan Relations, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, John Kennedy, John Kennedy, foreign policy,terrorism, lack of U.S. response to terrorism,, politics, the Depression, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BREXIT AND OTHER HUMAN FOLLIES

The British vote to exit the European Union this past week, only goes to show that the United States has yet to corner the market on sheer, unadulterated stupidity. By a narrow vote, the normally staid and rational British decision to leave an organization designed to enhance free trade, facilitate easier travel throughout Europe, create a single currency, and grow the economies of all member states had deep-seated ramifications for the entire planet. Alan Greenspan who was Chairman of the Federal Reserve in this country for about 20 years called the Brexit vote the greatest financial disaster in his lifetime. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter authorship fame stated that it was a victory for all the racists and bigots in the U.K. Indeed, the backlash among many Europeans to the migration of tens of thousands of Moslems into their midst because of all the horrors of war, terrorism and killings in the Mid-East, did provide  a strong motivation among the British against continued membership in the EU.

On Friday, financial markets around the globe took a nose dive because of the Brexit vote and lost $2 trillion. Over $2 trillion of the world’s wealth evaporated like the morning mist.The Dow-Jones in this country dropped over 600 points and the bloodletting seems to be continuing as the Dow is down another 300 points today even as I write this piece. British Prime Minister David Cameron, as decent a politician and leader as exists in today’s world, was forced to submit his resignation (effective in October) because he strongly opposed the United Kingdom’s exiting the EU. Scotland, on of the 4 member states comprising the UK, (along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland) voted in favor of remaining in the EU and is now talking about leaving the UK so it can stay in the EU. Scotland had previously voted on whether to free itself from British rule, and that measure lost by a narrow margin. Now it wants another such vote which would likely succeed this time around. The British themselves are now having buyer’s remorse with over 2 million signing a petition to have a do-over vote. They’re asking for a mulligan, if you will.

As with the Trump fantasy in this country, education and economic status played a huge role in the vote’s outcome. Over 70% of those with a college education or higher voted to remain in the EU, while a similar number with only a high-school or lower education desired an exit. Similar percentages existed with those in higher income brackets favoring remain, versus lower income classes voting for exit. In the U.S., Trump’s demagogic and xenophobic candidacy and following also has its primary support  from the lower economic and poorly educated masses. So what accounts for this type of division that now seems to becoming a world-wide phenomena. The answer may lie in the opening lines of Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” written in the 19th century, which goes-“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Dickens was describing conditions in London and Paris during that period, but a similar description can be written of the economic landscape in the U.S and Europe in today’s world.

Those British favoring exit kept dwelling on the EU’s fault-lines. Yes, the EU had a cumbersome bureaucracy which added unnecessarily to the cost of membership. Yes, it appeared that the cost burden to the UK of being a member exceeded the financial benefits being derived. Yes, there were a lot of seemingly unnecessary rules and regulations emanating from EU headquarters that people became fed up with. But those on the exit side failed to acknowledge that a ton of trade and tariff barriers among the EU states had been removed and that goods and services throughout Europe now flowed more freely, to everyone’s economic benefit. Now, Britain will have to renegotiate dozens if not hundreds of new trade agreements with its European counterparts, which could take many years. For those British that were doing well financially, it has indeed, been the best of times. But those struggling in the lower income brackets, who are also generally poorly educated, seem trapped financially with nothing but poverty to look forward to. For them it appears to be the worst of times. Or an opportunity for opportunistic politicians to move in and blame all their economic ills on that bumbling bureaucracy known as the  EU.

And so it goes in the U.S. as well. America has, by far, the most advanced economy the world has ever seen. For many Americans it’s the best of times with new innovations, new markets, new electronic gadgetry, and better living conditions seemingly advancing on a daily basis. But those on the lower end of the economic totem pole, usually lacking meaningful job skills, feel trapped by their lack of economic opportunity. Seeing how so many of their fellow citizens are living so well, while they’re engulfed in a financial quagmire, makes it, painfully, seem like the worst of times. Another opportunity for a power hungry demagogue such as Donald Trump to fill the vacuum. It’s not their fault that they’re living so poorly he tells the masses. Blame the Mexicans, the Chinese, our NATO partners in Europe, all Moslems, etc. for your economic difficulties. Peddled as skillfully as snake oil salesmen of the 19th century peddled their worthless elixirs, Trump’s neo-fascist demagogic skills now put him within hailing distance of becoming the most powerful man in the world.

So the 2 most prosperous English speaking nations in the world, have put themselves on a path toward economic and political ruin through mind-numbing irrationality. Kind of seems to me like, potentially, the worst of times.

Categories: Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IN MY LIFETIME….

Although this planet is billions of years old, and life on this planet is measured in at least hundreds of millions of years, what is considered the beginnings of civilized society goes back a mere 10-12 thousand years. Barely a thimble of water in oceans of time. Therefore, the way I figure it, we’re still pretty far down on the evolutionary totem pole. Which explains why those 12 thousand years of of recorded society have been replete with bad behavior, mass killings, barbaric practices, evil despots and tyrants ruling over kingdoms built by using slavery, and, of course, ever-ongoing brutal, savage war-mongering. Although there were undoubtedly armed conflicts during the entire history of man on this planet, the first recorded war occurred just under 5000 years ago. It took place in Mesopotamia, (today’s Iraq, Syria and Kuwait), and the carnage has being going strong ever since.

So, just to pass the time of day, I was thinking about all that has transpired just in my lifetime. I was just a tot when a supremely gifted demagogue used his immense powers of preaching hatred to the populace to rise to power in Germany and eventually launch what came to be known as World War II. Which was really just a continuation of WWI with a couple of decades of respite. Before that confrontation was over, 60 million people would lose their lives throughout Europe, including millions of Americans. Several million more would die in the Pacific at the hands of Imperial Japan, Germany’s ally. Also, for the first time, the mass extermination of an entire ethnic group was just about successfully accomplished through the use of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps. About 6 million Jews, and other opponents of Hitler’s Nazi empire, lost their lives in what came to be known as the Holocaust. In a history replete with evil savagery and barbarity, the Holocaust was probably the single most evil act of all time. And it wasn’t just Hitler and the Nazi’s that made the Holocaust work. It took hundreds of thousands of European bureaucrats  to establish the network of railroads bringing prisoners to the death camps, and to provide the immense amount of logistics it took to make the camps functional. Hitler’s willing accomplices as one writer called it.

Toward the end of WWII, the Nazis had supposedly developed rockets that were capable of hitting the U.S. East Coast. As a child growing up in New York, I remember being subject to air raid alarms and warnings which required everyone to turn off all lighting. During these air raid drills my parents would bring chairs into my bedroom as we sat there silently in the dark until the all clear sign was given. Most people aren’t aware that Hitler was just days or weeks away at the most before he fell, from developing atomic bomb capabilities that could be employed on rockets that could reach U.S. soil. Or that if Japan had invaded our West Coast immediately after Pearl Harbor, it could have gobbled up at least two-thirds of the U.S. before the Roosevelt Administration was prepared to take a military stand around Chicago. Such was the precarious nature of the freedoms we take for granted today.

After the war, the U.S. quickly demobilized as it appeared that peace would be on the horizon for decades. In the meantime, the most advanced electronics in everyone’s home was a radio and a land-line telephone. When television started coming on the market shortly after the war, it was like the 8th wonder of the world. Our first black-and-white TV had an immense 13 inch screen, and only 3 stations which broadcast only during certain parts of the day and night. But to actually view what one could only hear on the radio, was considered beyond the pale. Also some kind of contraptions they started calling “computers” entered the American vocabulary. But as people learned, they were about as big as a Sherman tank and could be used only for business purposes. The thought of having this contraption in one’s home was considered ridiculous. Until suddenly, something called the “internet” became a hot topic of conversation and they figured out how to downsize computers so they fit comfortably in people’s residences. But telephones always had to be hooked up to a cord, didn’t they? Until they further figured out a way to get rid of the cord and turn the phone into a mini-computer. And thus, on-and -on marches the electronics revolution. All in my lifetime.

In the meantime, the peace-in-our-lifetime dreams that Americans had with the conclusion of WWII evaporated as quickly as the morning mist. With the rise of Communist Russia and China, Americans became highly fearful of the “Red Menace.” When both countries acquired nuclear bomb capabilities deep fears and anxieties spread throughout the land. After a mere 5 or 6 years since the end of WWII, the U.S. was back on war-footing; this time fighting Communists on the Korean peninsula. More death and destruction. Meanwhile a Senator from Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy saw a huge opportunity to demagogue the “soft-on-communism” issue. He was sort of like the Donald Trump of his day. He claimed that the U.S. government, as well as Hollywood and other institutions were riddled with Communist spies working for Russia. To be labeled a Communist by the McCarthy committee was equivalent to seeing ones life turned to ashes. McCarthy eventually went down in flames but not before he had destroyed countless lives.

The Communist scare, known as the better-dead-than-red mentality, eventually led from the stalemate in Korea to the huge loss of life in the Viet-Nam fiasco. Almost 60,000 Americans died in the hell-hole jungles of Viet-Nam before we lost the war and called it quits. To say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese that died during that fracas. And it wasn’t all that much later, that a new barbarism had come upon the landscape in the form of Islamic-Jihadism. Which has us militarily bogged down once more, this time in the Mid-East. It seems as if evil is like wild-fires. You douse one, and two more crop up somewhere else. In the meantime, in mid-2016, it’s as if the re-incarnation of Joe McCarthy has rose to power and he is now one step away from the White House. All of this, in my lifetime.

To say that I’ve lived through a fascinating panorama of events during my life would be a considerable understatement. But I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, human affairs, Isis terrorist attack in Paris,, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, John Kennedy, John Kennedy, foreign policy,terrorism, lack of U.S. response to terrorism,, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

TRICKLE-DOWN HATRED

The latest massacre in Orlando, with about 50 dead and the same number wounded, is just the latest in what has become an ever-growing list of atrocities being committed with greater frequency in the United States. It follows the recent slaughter of innocents in San Bernardino by lone-wolf Islamic Jihadists; the butchering of 20 innocent children in Connecticut by a young man who just couldn’t cope with life; the killing of black church-goers in South Carolina by another deranged individual seeking vengeance for the South’s loss of the Civil War 150 years ago; the murder of about 30 people at Fort Hood, Louisiana by another Jihadist lunatic; the murder of movie-goers in Colorado by another mentally-ill delusionist; and ultimately back to 9/11/01 where almost 3000 lives were lost thanks to fanatical Jihadism; and finally all the way back to Columbine where modern day mass murder in the U.S. seemed to originate. Whether committed by religious fanatics or loners seemingly rejected by society, all these events had the same thing in common. Namely, a deep-seated hatred by the perpetrators toward their victims.

Lets start with the Islamic-Jihad brand of murder, as seems to be the case now in the Orlando slayings. There are about 1.3 billion Moslems currently living on this planet. The vast, overwhelming majority are peaceful human beings, going about their business every day of trying to earn a living, raising a family, taking care of the bills, etc. The problem is, however, that a small minority of Islamic fanatics would like to turn the clock back to the seventh century, when, (in their minds) Islam was untarnished by Western values and modern culture. Fanatical Imams preach a violent interpretation of the Quran which translates into a non-stop hatred toward anything Western, and urge young Moslems to martyr themselves by killing infidels and blowing-up Western society. While most Moslems reject this spewing hatred, there are always those lost souls looking for meaning in their worthless lives, and hence, only to eager to follow the dictates of Islamic-Jihadism. There are no easy answers toward resolving this condition, since there seems to be an endless supply of down-and-out, usually poverty-stricken, mostly young men who feel that sacrificing their lives for a cause, no matter how deranged, is preferable to the way they currently live. It would take world leadership in the Moslem community, as well as high-ranking Imams to denounce this spewing hatred of anything Western. This might, perhaps begin to turn the tide of Islamic-Jihadist vitriol. Thus far, however, this type of moderate leadership is not showing up on the horizon.

Of course, speaking of spewing hatred, the U.S. has its own long, rich history of violent hate-mongering. From its earliest days as a series of colonies in the 1600s, Americans believed what a neat idea it would be to enslave an entire race of people based on their skin color. Slavery lasted in the U.S. for about 250 years before it took a costly and deadly Civil War to end this barbaric practice. When the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution gave black people the same rights as everyone else-it proved to be a bridge too far for most whites in this country, especially in the South. A series of Jim Crow segregation laws were quickly enacted through the entire South which forced black people back into a state of semi-slavery. To make matters worse, whites in the South, after the Civil War, formed an organization that came to be known as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, to deal with those blacks they felt had become “uppity.” Those that had actually sought to exercise their full rights as a U.S. citizen. The Klan dressed themselves in white hoods and costumes and rode through and intimidated black communities. They engaged in cross-burnings, whippings or lynching of blacks based on the perceived severity of their transgressions. Even as late as the 1920s, the KKK had a huge following in the tens or hundreds of thousands, throughout the entire country. The murderous lynchings of blacks in the South continued as late as the 1970s.

Today, despite the belief by many Americans that the Klan has just about disappeared, the KKK is indeed still active throughout most of the U.S. They may not wear white hoods anymore, but they still spew forth a message of deep hatred for blacks and Jews, or for that matter, anyone whose skin-color isn’t pinkish beige. The former Grand Dragon of the KKK, a fellow named David Duke, has come out and publicly stated that any white person that doesn’t support Donald Trump for president is a traitor to his race. The current KKK leadership has formally endorsed Trump’s candidacy, stating that the Donald is their kind of guy. And, as for David Duke, he currently has a radio program based in Louisiana, where he gets to spew his racial, religious, and ethnic hatreds to a large audience, 5 days a week.

When Trump was recently attacking by racial bias, the judge who had the temerity to release the papers involved in the law-suit against that crooked, sham enterprise known as Trump University, he was finally called out by many that had previously stood on the political sidelines throughout Trump’s prior bigoted tirades. Even the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, stated that Trump’s attack against the judge because of his Mexican heritage, was “a classic case of trickle-down racial bigotry.” Nevertheless, Speaker Ryan stated that he would continue to support Trump for president because they were of the same party. Sort of like selling one’s soul to the company store. Aren’t politics wonderful? Meanwhile, because of all this hatred, more atrocities will likely be coming our way and at a faster pace.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, 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, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

VICTIMOLOGY

There appears to be a near universal psychology that impels most people to play the role of victimhood. The desire to be a victim is like bathing in a shower of self-absolution. As I’ve written before, when events take a wrong turn in a person’s life, it can’t possibly be their fault. External forces or other people are to blame for the misfortunes of their personal existences. Living a crappy lifestyle, stuck in a dead end job that pays very little, having nothing but grief in your relationships with the opposite sex or even with so-called friends? It can all be blamed on other people, on devious, selfish individuals, on dishonest commercial enterprises, on the universe, or best of all on foreigners. The theme of foreign exploitation as the cause of personal victimhood has been propelled with great success by many tyrants seeking dictatorial power throughout the 20th century, and is now in full throttle in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

To say that Donald Trump’s entire campaign has been based on a narrative of victimology would be a considerable understatement. According to Trump, the U.S. has become a victim of unscrupulous entrepreneurs that have moved their businesses to Mexico or China in order to take advantage of cheaper labor rates and hence, reduced manufacturing costs. It has nothing to do with the fact that these businesses are merely following the rules of basic capitalism, which, by the way, has made Trump a billionaire. The U.S. has become a victim of our neighbor to the south, because those dastardly Mexicans have not only deceitfully lured U.S. businesses to its country, but they have also dumped about 11 million illegal aliens into the U.S., many of whom are”rapists and murderers.” It’s a miracle that we’ve been able to survive, thus far, from this onslaught of illegals, who comprise a terrifying 3% of the U.S. population. And we’re a victim of China’s currency manipulations which results in significantly more imports that we receive from China, than we export to that country. Imports, I might add, that considerably benefit lower income citizens through cheaper prices on clothing and other consumer goods.

Even our supposed allies are causing us to be victims. It’s NATO countries such as Britain, France and Germany that are failing to contribute their fair share of military forces to this joint enterprise, causing the U.S. to make up the difference in additional military expenditures. Left unsaid, of course, is the fact that European countries are allowing U.S. military bases to occupy their lands, thus making it far easier for the U.S. to engage in military forays in the many Mid-East countries that we’re currently involved with. It’s a lot easier and less expensive to carry out bombing raids against ISIS and other Jihadists using planes stationed in Europe, than if our planes had to take off from bases in the U.S. So, is there any country left in the world that isn’t causing us to be victims within our own borders? Perhaps Belize or Trinidad, although even that’s questionable.

This narrative of the U.S. being a victim of dishonest foreigners took a curious turn last week when Trump stated that it was time to “put America first.” Whether he realized it or not, the term “America First” has an unsavory fascist history. It was used by supposedly isolationist politicians to advocate that the U.S not become involved in WWII. Stay neutral and don’t become entangled, was their imperative. However behind this veneer of isolationism, many of those advocating “America First” were actually Nazi sympathizers rooting for Hitler and his fascism to win the war. Charles Lindberg, the famous aviator, was one of the most prominent America Firsters. Their main argument was that because the U.S. was surrounded by 2 large bodies of water to the East and West, and by 2 friendly countries to the North and South, there was no need to join a fracas that involved nothing but foreigners killing each other. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, of course, proved how absurd that line of reasoning was. It was later discovered that Lindberg and other prominent America Firsters were actually Nazi sympathizers.

Trump, with his message of American victimhood, is now just one step away from the presidency. He has the Republican nomination all but locked up, and just has to get by a weak and damaged Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Thus far, Trump’s victimhood snake oil elixir seems to be selling with great success among the American populace. He has talk radio and Fox News shilling for him to a greater extent than they have for any previous GOP candidate. Clinton, with about 30 years of previous scandals, to say nothing of her current e-mail fiasco, has a very difficult road to travel in her quest for the White House. While current polls show her in the lead, Trump is unquestionably the better snake-oil salesman.

To get an idea of what a Trump presidency would mean for America, and for the rest of the world, go back and read some of my more recent entries. Add to them the fact that a President Trump will get to put at least two, and probably more, justices on the Supreme Court, that will be strongly anti-abortion.  Roe V. Wade will become history, as will legalized abortion throughout almost all of the U.S. Then, many women in America, seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, will be able to legitimately claim that they ARE being made victims of our political system.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Economics, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics, the Depression, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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