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REVERSE ROBIN-HOOD AND OTHER INSANITIES

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT

It’s late 2015 and Donald Trump is having a small gathering at his penthouse at Trump Towers in Manhattan. His family is there including his children and grandchildren, as well as some friends and associates his known over the years. The conversation invariably begins to dwell on politics and how the upcoming 2016 primaries are starting earlier and earlier. Suddenly, Donnie Jr. loudly comments that- “You know, Dad, you could take another run at it. It’s not too late to get your name on the ballot for the Iowa caucuses.” “Right,” replies Trump. “Because it worked out so well for me in 2012.” But Donnie Jr. is persistent. “The only reason that went bust was because you let Corey talk into running as a “birther.” (He’s referring to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager in 2012, and the first half of the 2016 campaign.) “That was a losing issue from the beginning. There just wasn’t enough true believers in the Republican base to convince that Obama was secretly born in Kenya. Besides this time, you would be running against Hillary, a much weaker candidate than Obama ever was.”

“This time you can focus on the stuff that has the Republican base all in tizzy,” continues  Donnie Jr. “Like all the Mexican illegals pouring over the border. Most Republicans really hate that. And ISIS terrorism and the flood of Moslems coming into this country as well as Europe are certainly issues to rile people up. Look at the recent attacks in Europe and California. Both of these areas could give you plenty of traction in the primaries.” “I don’t know Dad,” injects Ivanka, speaking for the first time. “Aren’t there like 20 guys running for the nomination. How are you going to stand out from the rest.” “By being different than rest, and politically incorrrect” declares Steve Bannon,” a close associate of Trump over the years, and head of the Alt-Right propaganda outlet called Breitbart News.  “I mean, look who he would be running against. Jeb Bush? Give me a break. Not only has his time come and gone maybe a dozen years ago, but I don’t believe the country is ready for still another Bush in the White House. Ted Cruz? Outside of Texas, his drawing power is diddly-squat. Rubio? Too young and inexperienced. The rest are just political pigmies.”

Trump turned to Melania seated next to him, and said- “You know, the kids pretty much run the business on a day-to-day basis as it is. It’s not like I don’t have the time.” “But you would be out campaigning for about the next year,” she protested. “I’d still make time to come home to you, every now and then,” Trump replied. Melania did not look pleased, but said nothing. Turning to everyone else Trump declared that- “If I did do this, I’m not going to spend a lot of my own money, I’ll tell you that. It will be a like a take it or leave proposition. This is who I am, take it or leave it.” And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Trump entered the Republican primaries with 16 other potential candidates. His ratings alongside the others stood at about 5%. That’s when he decided to be as politically incorrect as possible, as Steve Bannon had advised. He denigrated Senator John McCain’s service to his country when he was captured and held prisoner by the Viet-Cong in the hellish “Hanoi Hilton” for 6 long years. Trump stated that he- “liked people that weren’t captured.” (I’m still trying to figure out in what universe that’s a coherent statement.) When Megyn Kelly, Fox News host, was critical of him during a debate, Trump stated that “she had blood coming out of her whatever.” He said that Mexico was deliberately sending us “their rapists and murderers,” and promised to build a 2000 mile long wall to keep them out. He said he would bar Moslems from entering the country, and would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” (I’m still waiting on some action concerning that last promise.) But the more outlandish the Trump remarks were, the more his poll numbers shot up. From 5% to about the 35-40% range.

Because Trump’s comments were considered so utterly vile, NBC fired him from their “Celebrity Apprentice” show. Macy’s fired him from being one of their spokespersons. But a large chunk of the Republican base really liked what they heard. Every white supremacist organization from the KKK on down considered Trump “their kind of guy.” The “Bikers of America” flocked to the Cleveland Convention Center to provide the necessary protection and muscle to assure that for the first time in their lives, they would have a kindred spirit occupying the White House. To this day, the large and growing white supremacy movement in the U.S. maintains nothing but adoration for Trump and his cohorts.

Despite his demagogic appeal to white racists and bigots, Trump still would have lost the election had his campaign not suppressed the voter turnout amongst blacks, Latinos and other minorities that normally vote Democratic. As I’ve said many times, elections are often decided more by the people who stay home and fail to vote, then by the numbers that do cast a ballot. The Trump campaign cast Hillary in such a derogatory light, that many voters that would have normally turned out for her were too discouraged to make the effort. Also, of course, if we didn’t have this unfathomable electoral college system, Hillary would be occupying the Oval Office today.

I wrote last time about the upcoming French presidential election (this Sunday), where the female version of Donald Trump is trying to use the same tactics of voter suppression on her opponents base. Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right, who hopes to become the new French president, is telling her opponent’s base voters that it’s not worth their effort to come out and cast a ballot on Sunday.  It would be much more pleasant for them to take a liesurly stroll in the park. Interesting to see if that tactic will work a second time.

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A TEST OF PURITY

Back in the day, there used to be a commercial that proclaimed that Ivory soap was about 99 and a half percent “pure.” (The other half of one percent was presumably alien DNA.) That commercial rang a bell in my mind as I watched the fiasco of the proposed Republican legislation in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare go down in flames last week. It seems that for a hardcore of about 30 looney-tunes GOP right wing representatives in the House that call themselves the “Freedom Caucus,” the replace part of the proposed bill was still far too generous. Why some poor soul, somewhere in the country, who was desperately sick and couldn’t afford health insurance, might actually receive a bit of medical treatment on the government’s dime under the Republican plan. Can’t have that. How does that kind of scenario benefit the rich? So, despite extensive lobbying by Trump and his consiglieri’s, this hardcore band of 30 right-wing whackos would not budge in their opposition to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposed bill because it still contained some minimal benefits to assist the unfortunate. Only total repeal would meet their objections. In the end, Ryan had to pull the bill  off the House floor in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat. Obamacare, as muddled as it is, still remains in place.

First a few rather obvious observations. Trump, who, essentially believes in nothing but the enhancement of his own ego, couldn’t care less about the details of the proposed legislation. During the recently concluded campaign, at one point he promised “health care for everyone.” That promise quickly dissolved with the morning mist as Republican insiders and contributors to his campaign reminded him that such action sounded an awful lot like universal health care, which has been a Democrat initiative over many decades. So Trump, in the end, was willing to settle for repealing Obamacare, which he had described as “absolutely horrible,” and perhaps replacing it with some inexpensive token gesture. Ryan and his Republican cohorts would have gone along with that, but the problem was, that there is also about 30 so-called “moderate” Republicans from competitive districts who would have faced daunting re-election prospects in 2018 if the Republican plan didn’t contain at least some substance in the replace part of “repeal and replace.” In the end, the two Republican factions could not reconcile their differences, and legislative disaster loomed ahead like the massive iceberg appearing before the Titanic.

Make no mistake- the Ryan plan was still all about removing the poor from government health care subsidies. About 20 million previously uninsured poor have been allowed to sign up for Medicaid in 31 states since Obamacare took hold. (The other 19 states, all hardcore Republican in the South and Mid-West, essentially gave the middle-finger to those unable to afford health insurance. Their philosophy is that if you’re too poor to afford to be covered, and you become seriously ill, just quietly curl up in a ball somewhere and die. But please don’t bother us good, God-fearing folk that can afford insurance.) In any event, the Ryan plan would have put the kibosh on any further expansion of Medicaid, even in states willing to do so, and slowly begin whittling down the number of newer enrollments. There would have been a total reduction in government health care subsidies to the poor, along with a reduction of taxes on the rich. Hey, one needs to get his or her priorities in proper sequence. But even these cut backs were not enough for the so-called “Freedom Caucus” who still feared that someone somewhere would be receiving a government handout.

As I discussed in a recent piece, the only legislation that would provide universal health care to all would be a single payer system run by the government. Every civilized country in the world provides its citizens with such blanket coverage. Even tyrannical, despotic governments such as Cuba or N.Korea provide universal health care. In France, its system is so extensive that a nurse comes to a woman’s house for up to five days after she’s given birth to a newborn child. Yet, somehow, we can’t afford that level of coverage for all Americans. Many years ago, I personally knew a man that moved to Canada so as to take advantage of its state provided  medical system. Although he was only middle-aged, he had a number of serious life-threatening, health-related issues, and could not afford insurance or related doctor’s bills. In Canada, at that time, one had to be a resident for 18 months before they qualified for the state-sponsered system. He sweated it out for 18 months, receiving barely minimal medical treatments for his conditions, that he could hardly pay for; but he did survive and was finally able to receive the necessary care for his ailments, free of charge. Under whose moral value code is it necessary for an American to move to Canada in order to attempt to save his life.

I lay the blame for opposition to something as sane and rational as universal health care in this country, to the poison that’s been pouring out of electronic media for the last 30 years, by crypto-fascists such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and a host of other, similar, far right, looney-tooners. Americans have been sold a bill of goods over the last 30 years that everything that’s governmentally sponsored is inherently evil. It wasn’t always thus. In the 1970s, Republican president Richard Nixon proposed a form of universal health care to Congress, and that time it was the Democrats that fucked it all up because they felt it wasn’t extensive enough. So much for politics in this country.

In any event, a band of Republican far right-wingers in the House was enough to sink a very bad piece of legislation to begin with, and deprive Trump of the victory his ego so voraciously craved. The bill just wasn’t pure enough for the “Freedom Caucus” to support. It certainly wasn’t as pure as Ivory soap.

 

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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.

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THE POWER OF NEGATIVE THINKING

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

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

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

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

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

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, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

G-MEN IN YOUR BEDROOM

Ever wonder why so many evangelicals voted for President-Elect Trump. It’s estimated that as many as 80% of those considered bible thumpers voted for Donald Trump. For a self-professed serial philanderer; for someone who was openly sleeping with his mistress while still-married to his first wife; for a person who over the years has made the most vulgar, disparaging and lewd remarks concerning women and then chalked it up to “locker-room talk;” for someone who has never displayed the slightest sign of compassion or empathy toward anyone or anything besides his own ego; and on and on. Yet those supposedly immersed in religiousness, by huge margins, chose him to be leader of the country. I believe the reason lies in 2 primarily contentious issues- abortion and gay marriage.

In the 45 years since Roe V. Wade become the law of the land thanks to a ruling by the Supreme Court, and women were allowed to legally terminate unwanted pregnancies in safe medical facilities, there have been an estimated 60 million abortions performed in those facilities. But holier-than-thou bible thumpers, primarily throughout the South and most of the Mid-West have never relented in their opposition to abortion on demand. They have managed to have state legislatures slowly but surely chip away at these freedoms to the point that in some states, such as Texas, women seeking a legal abortion are having increasingly difficult time. Almost to the point of impossibility. But that’s still not enough. The holy grail of the bible-thumpers would be to have the Supreme Court overturn Roe V. Wade so that these states could flat-out criminalize the option of any woman to abort her fetus. Supposedly, a woman that elects to have an abortion, and any doctor that performs this procedure, plus the nurse assisting that doctor, could all be sent to jail for felony murder. Think of almost 60 million women over the last 45 years that could be charged. They couldn’t build jails fast enough to house this growing felonious population.

Now with Trump some 40 odd days away from entering the Oval Office, this evangelical dream-of-dreams is about to become reality. Trump has already posted a list of potential anti-abortion judges, one of whom he will appoint to the currently open seat on the Supreme Court. After that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is in her mid-eighties, and a pancreatic cancer survivor, will likely retire from the Court giving Trump the ability to appoint another judge that would be willing to overturn the Court’s historic abortion ruling. The anti-abortion forces on the Court will then have sufficient numbers to reverse the evangelical despised Roe V. Wade decision. The dark forces of the middle ages will then be able to descend upon the land to snuff out any glimmer of enlightenment.

Of course, overturning RoeV.Wade won’t, in itself, criminalize a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. It will be left up to state legislatures to enact laws in their states that result in such action. It’s a virtual certainty, however, that such anti-abortion laws will quickly be legislated throughout the entire South and most of the Mid-West. You might think that this is not that big a deal since a woman in say Kansas, which has just outlawed abortion, can always fly to New York or California  to have the procedure performed. And this is true for a woman of means. But for a poor woman, who can’t afford the air fare and other travel expenses, this is not an option. And most abortions are performed on women too poor or too broken to be able to raise a child. Welcome to post-Trump America; better known as the new dark ages.

After abortion, the item most on evangelical minds is gay rights and especially gay marriage. If the bible-thumpers had their way, homosexuals would forced to return way back into the closet. There is still a lingering hope among “God’s people” that overtly gay behavior will no longer be tolerated in American society; and that, especially, gay marriage will be banned outright. And who knows? If Trump gets to appoint enough judges to the Supreme Court, that scenario could also materialize. You could then have the anti-abortion and anti-gay rights Feds and local police entering everyone’s bedrooms to assure that no disapproved social behavior or discussion is taking place. It would go hand-in-glove with the generally white supremacist thrust of the entire Trump campaign. The “alt-right” movement as it’s so benignly called, in lieu of fascism American-style. But I think that’s a whole other topic for another blog.

Some time during the recently concluded election contest, Trump made a campaign visit to Liberty University, the evangelical college run by Jerry Falwell Jr. During his speech to students and faculty, Trump, the great biblical scholar, referred to a section of the New Testament, as “Two Corinthians.” The proper heading for that sub-section, however, is “Second Corinthians.” Soon after, social media, and especially Twitter, lit up like a Christmas tree. One person wrote-“Two Corinthians go into a bar….” To me, that short post perfectly summed up the complete mendacity and phoniness of the entire Trump campaign. And remember, you better not be discussing with your mate the possibility of having an abortion, while lying in bed at night. Or engaging in any type of homosexual behavior. Because chances are, the Feds will be peeking in, once the age of Trump pervades over the land.

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SIFTING THROUGH THE RUBBLE

By 2011, Hosni Mubarak had been ruling Egypt for almost 30 years, by the imposition of a type of benevolent dictatorship. While he undertook certain economic reforms and initiatives that benefitted the Egyptian people, there was no question that he ruled with an iron fist. He was finally overthrown in 2011 by the Army, and then prosecuted and convicted on charges of corruption and other misdeeds, and sent to jail. The Army ruled Egypt for awhile after Mubarak’s fall, and then paved the way for that country to have its first democratically held election in ages. That election, held in 2013, pitted 2 candidates against each other. One was the Army general who had led the coup against the Mubarak regime, while the other represented the Muslim Brotherhood. It should have been a no-brainer as to which candidate was better for the Egyptian people, but it didn’t turn out that way.

For those unfamiliar with Mid-Eastern politics, the Muslim Brotherhood is an organization founded in the 1920s to promote the most fundamentalist and radical brand of Islam within Egypt. While Egypt is one of the more secular Arab states, the Brotherhood’s stated objective was to reverse this course, and create a system whereby Muslim Imams would have final rule over the everyday workings of Egyptian life. Every aspect of that life would require an Islamic litmus test. Sort of like the way those crazy kids, the Ayatollahs in Iran, despotically govern that country. Anyone not adhering to their vision of fundamental Islamic tenets is usually properly disposed of, one way or another. So this was the goal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, a fellow named Morsi. And it wasn’t as if the Brotherhood attempted to disguise or in any way alter that organization’s objectives. They were out in plain view for all to observe.

Nevertheless, when election time came, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Morsi, received 53% of the popular vote, in what appeared to be an open and reasonably honest election process. Morsi became President of Egypt, and surprise, surprise, began to actually implement the Brotherhood’s agenda. When the populace viewed what was happening they entered a state of shock. How could this be, they cried, as if the facts were not well known ahead of time. In desperation the people cried out for the Army to save them from becoming a fundamentalist Islamic state like Iran. Finally the Army did intervene, and overthrew and jailed Morsi and his cohorts, and Egypt returned to its mostly secular underpinnings. But this was yet another example of how the people do it to themselves; of how “we have met the enemy and he is us” reality, as Pogo said decades ago.

I bring this up because unlike Egypt, the Army cannot save the U.S. from the folly of the just concluded election results that puts a pathological narcissist without an ounce of empathy into the White House. Nor should it. In this country we have a solid tradition of civilian control over the military, and above all else, it should just remain so. Besides, even though she conducted one of the worse campaigns ever run for the presidency, Hillary did win the election, or at least the popular vote. It was that system from the dark ages known as the electoral college that gives Trump possession of the Oval Office. The second time in 16 years that Republicans have  benefitted from this archaic relic. No wonder they fight off every attempt to abolish this undemocratic and ludicrous  system. So, although the missteps of the Clinton camp are almost too numerous to list, I thought I would mention just a few of the more obvious ones.

Start with the Clinton campaign TV ads. They all seemed to portray Trump in his more unhinged and deranged campaign moments. That’s okay for awhile but you need a lot more diversity. No mention was ever made of the four Trump casino fiascos in Atlantic City, each of which went belly-up in short order. Trump campaigned on a platform of being a shrewd businessman that would be creating jobs, but how many thousands lost their jobs when each of Trump’s casino ventures went bankrupt. I fully expected some TV ads featuring those that lost their jobs during that period of time, but none came. There was also no mention of the Trump University scam for which he’s being sued, and which may go to trial before inauguration. In addition, Clinton never forthrightly addressed her reckless email debacles. She could have bought some TV time, and explained that while it was a mistake to set-up servers in her home, no U.S. interests were harmed or compromised by this process. Her email fiasco was probably the prime reason a chunk of the population refused to vote for her.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Trump was making 5 or more campaign stops before crowds of thousands, while Clinton made barely one or two. Clinton lost 3 states that normally vote Democratic by a combined total of less than 120 thousand votes. Had she carried those three states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, she would have won the election. The reason she lost those three was that the black vote did not turn out in near the numbers that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. In the end, it was basically a lack of hustle and energy that cost Hillary the presidency. Perhaps her campaign became way over-confident based on faulty poll projections. I could go on but you get the picture of how the Democrats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

So now we’re left with the rubble of watching the Republicans not only taking over the White House, but also controlling both houses of Congress. Watch for an agenda of tax cuts for the rich while slashing governmental assistance to the poor, the sick and the elderly. As well as anti-abortion (Roe V. Wade will become history once Ruth Ginsberg retires from the Supreme Court), anti-gay rights, and anti-immigration. And lets not forget that “beautiful wall” to be built on the Mexican border. As well as the deportation of millions of Hispanics from the U.S. Fun times- they are a-coming.

 

 

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THE LAST STAND OF THE WHITE VOTER

Political conventional wisdom dictates that when individuals decide to run for president, they swing far right ( for the GOP nomination), or far left (for the Democratic nomination), in order to appeal to the base voters in their respective parties. Then, once securing the nomination, they move back toward the middle, to seek the votes of moderates, independents, and undecided voters that don’t adhere to any particular ideology. But in 2016, Donald Trump has defied this supposed political theory. He did swing very far right in order to become the Republican presidential nominee. But once the GOP convention was over, he has gone even further right during the general campaign. He has doubled down on building that hideous monstrosity on the Mexican border that will become known as the Trump Wall. ( Although he has backed away from the ludicrous notion that Mexico would pay for such a wall.) He’s still asserting the policy of throwing all undocumented individuals out of the country, and refusing to allow Muslim refugees into the country. Reversing his previous positions, he has become anti-abortion, anti-immigration, and anti-free trade. He strongly advocates for trickle-down economics, as well as tax -cuts for the rich, while slashing government assistance to the poor, the sick, and the elderly. As well as for using “nukes” when he feels it’s necessary.

This calculated decision to go as far right as humanly possible is based on the assumption that he, Trump, can garner such a heavy white vote, especially among older white males, that it would more than offset black, Latino, Asian, Moslem, and other minority voters that will undoubtably vote heavily against him in the general election. An interesting theory, as white voters still comprise a major, although shrinking share of the electorate. Consider this election to be the last stand of white voters who fell the special privileges of being Caucasian in the U.S. is slipping away from them. And they’re very unhappy about that. There’s even a new book on the market, written by an extreme right-winger, called “The Angry White Male” that espouses and solidifies this political phenomena. As I’ve written previously, this “Whites Only” political thrust became reality when Trump decided that his overall campaign chief would be a guy named Steve Bannon. Who was previously affiliated with a neo-fascist group known as Breitbart News. It’s Bannon who’s directing this white majority campaign thrust; but it was Trump who hired him and decided on this direction in the first place. Trump, who used to be pro-choice, “but now has become anti-abortion for all of 15 minutes.” That last quote was from a column written by George Will, a conservative Republican newspaper pundit.

The last time a “whites only” reality existed in the U.S. was in the early 1970s, in the Jim Crow segregated South. There were “whites only” schools, lunch counters, bathrooms, water fountains, and every other public institution and facility that existed. When the federal government tried to intervene to break down these segregated barriers, Southern states began to howl that it was a question of “states rights” and the Feds had no business interfering in such matters. Eventually, sanity and human decency did prevail, as the walls of Jim Crow segregation finally started to crumble. But not before the lives of many black people and civil rights workers were lost along the way. And keep in mind that the Ku Klux Klan, the chief advocate for the segregated South and its practices, the murderer of many civil rights members, still exists to this day. And guess which candidate the KKK  is supporting, the one it says is their kind of guy.

But, to me, the most worrisome aspect of the 2016 campaign is who will have his or her fingers on the nuclear trigger. While our founding fathers wrote numerous “checks and balances” into the U.S. Constitution, it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t foresee a nuclear armed world. Hence there is no check on a U.S. president that wants to launch a nuclear attack against some perceived enemy. It is solely at his or her discretion. Bobby Knight, a former Indiana basketball coach, and an avid Trump supporter, has stated that with the election of Trump, “at least we’ll have someone in the White House that won’t be afraid to to drop a few nukes.” Trump, himself, has indicated he wouldn’t hesitate to launch nuclear missiles when called for. The world would never be the same. His election would put the nuclear trigger in the hands of an unhinged, deranged, pathological narcissist. Abuse his ego, and bammo.

Current polls show Clinton in the lead, with 2 weeks to go. But at this same time in the 2012 election, polls showed Mitt Romney headed for the winners circle, and we all know how well those predictions turned out. I prefer to check what odds the bookies are giving, because unlike the pollsters, the bookies have to put their money where their mouths are. The bookies are giving more favorable odds on Trump victory, meaning they expect Clinton to win. (One can actually bet the election on-line with bookies in England.) But there’s an unfortunate sense of over-confidence in the Clinton camp, which could prove disastrous. As it did to Mitt Romney in the last go-round.

Since I’m an old guy, there’s not much a Trump presidency can do to me these days. Even if the worst scenario occurs, at least I’ve had a life. (Some may view it as a so-called life.) But for you younger people out there, I would imagine that there would be oceans of worry, should the narcissist wind up sitting in the Oval Office on January 20, 2017.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, John Kennedy, foreign policy,terrorism, lack of U.S. response to terrorism,, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS AS THEATER OF THE ABSURD

In “Macbeth” Shakespeare wrote that: “Life is a tale told by an idiot…full of sound and  fury, signifying nothing.” Now, centuries later, the 2016 political campaign for the presidency of the U.S. is unfolding with the same absurdity as Shakespeare had described in his theater production of “Macbeth.” It has degenerated into a low art form of theater with various characters, besides the two main actors, playing out their various and highly predictable roles  on center stage. For example, you have characters such as Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, who heretofore had fairly decent political reputations, but are now forced to pick up Trump’s dry-cleaning by twisting themselves into pretzels in trying to explain away each of Trumps incredibly moronic statements, uttered every time his ego becomes abused. Other players include the political pundits on the various TV news stations who analyze to death, every meaningless piece of drivel uttered by the theater production’s two main actors.

Of course, the highlight of this theater of the absurd is the debate performances between the two staring candidates. The first presidential debates go back to to the campaign of 1860 between Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephan Douglass. The primary topic of the day at that time was slavery. Presidential debates then fell out of favor for a century, until the advent of a television set being common in almost everyone’s home resurrected them in 1960. Now, everyone could watch the candidates perform from the comfort of their living rooms, and theater of the absurd was thus born. In 1960 the contest was between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. Interestingly, those that watched the debate on TV felt that Kennedy had given the stronger performance; while those that listened on the radio believed that Nixon had prevailed. The reason- Kennedy’s handsome, charismatic persona had won out over Nixon’s rather drab looking appearance, while on the radio Nixon’s delivery appeared so much more reasonable than Kennedy’s. Since more people watched the debate on TV than listened to it on the radio, Kennedy won the election by the narrowest of margins. After he  was sworn in Kennedy stated that if he accomplished nothing else, he had saved the country from a Richard Nixon. As it turned out, however, he had merely delayed it.

So last week we had the first of three presidential debates, with a mind-boggling 84 million people tuning in to watch this theater performance. As if they would learn anything new that hadn’t been repeated hundreds of previous times. But it was showtime, and the show must go on. Trump started off predictably strong, hurling every malady the Universe has ever known as being caused by the Obama Administration, and Hillary Clinton in particular. But somewhere during Clinton’s other wise drab performance, she managed to toss a few good zingers where it hurt Trump the most- in his ego. Being the supreme narcissist that I’ve previously written about, Trump could not let this effrontery go unanswered, and thus went off script and began to lose it. The debate then degenerated into such pressing issues as to whether Trump had called a former Miss Universe who had gotten fat, Miss Piggy. Certainly one of the most immediate and urgent problems of the day on the minds of most of the American populace. It went downhill for Trump from that point on, and Clinton was generally declared the debate winner in contest where the bar is set exceedingly low. If there is such a thing as a winner when watching the theater of the absurd.

The next day, of course, all the political pundits sallied forth to verbalize their views of what was said that shouldn’t have, and what wasn’t said that should have. There was a general consensus on the Trump side that he should have brought up Bill Clinton’s sexual proclivities, and Trump has promised to do just that for the second debate. Why bother watching when you know in advance what the main characters will pontificate on. And, as if the fact that Bill Clinton couldn’t keep his zipper shut is, in any way, germane to the world we live in in 2016. Nevertheless, the name of the game is how much mud one candidate can sling at the other, and how much of it will stick. By all means, never discuss in the theater of the absurd, the actual problems and issues affecting large numbers of people on a daily basis.

The current polls show that the election is extremely close, almost a dead heat. As I’ve written before, in such cases the outcome is usually decided by the people that don’t bother to vote versus those that do. For example, in 2008 and 2012, large numbers of Democrats were motivated to turn out to elect Barack Obama as president. But in the 2010 and 2014 congressional elections, many Democrats stayed home on election day, and Republicans overwhelmingly swept those contests. So, in the end it all comes down to who will show up at the ballot box. There is one other factor that should also be considered.

Current polls also show that about 5% of eligible voters are still undecided. Hard to believe after all the shenanigans that have already taken place. My theory is that these are the same people that wait until about 11:pm on April 15 to go rushing down to the post office to file their income tax returns. In other words, these are people who, by their very nature,  hate making decisions or taking required actions until the bitter end. In the 1980 race between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, the polls also showed a virtual tie, until the final week when the undecideds for some inexplicable reason, broke for Reagan and he won in a landslide. A dismal viewer of the current landscape might believe the Universe has the same perverse fate in store, not only for the U.S., but the entire planet, by having the undecideds break for Trump.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Economics, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, human affairs, John Kennedy, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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