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THE FLOWER CHILDREN

The start of the flower child movement is often pegged to the year of 1967 when tens of thousands of young people gathered in San Francisco during the summer to begin a new era in American culture. Actually its beginnings go back to the 1950s with Jack Kerouac and his roving band of beatniks that began a sub-culture opposed to the corporate, statist, capitalist mindset that dominated the cultural mindset of American life. The flower children of the 1960s inherited the beatnik objectives and fine-tuned them. They got their label because many of them, especially the women, often wore floral wreaths, and would hand out flowers to strangers as a symbol of their kindness. Their objective was to create a new society based on peace, love, gentleness, and empathy, in contrast to the hardbitten, and often mean-spirited corporate and Wall Street life style that prevailed in those years.

The thrust of the flower children movement was to create and thrive on communes that would be self-providing. There would be no bosses or underlings in these communes. Instead each individual would put in the necessary effort to grow and harvest the crops, weave the clothes, and build the shelter that was necessary for their existences and that would make the communes self-sufficient. They would live on peace, on love, on pot or LSD, and on rock&roll or folk music. Mind altering drugs such as LSD were a big part of the scene. They were seen as a means to escape the ugliness of life in America at that time. In unison with the flower child movement of those days was a book written by Charles Reich called “The Greening of America” that sold millions of copies. The thrust of that best seller was that a new wave was being established in America that would replace the economic and social mores of those times. Instead of the prevailing ethic of a capitalistic meritocracy, which was based almost totally on a survival of the fittest mentality, a new society was being formed where everyone contributed to the best of their abilities and were then equally rewarded. There would be peace, love and harmony and wars would be a think of the past.

Lifestyles and customs changed in those days as a result of the flower child movement. People wore their hair much longer and clothing fashions were much more radical. Even yours truly had longer hair, a leisure suit with bell bottom trousers, and a belt with a large peace symbol as the buckle. For it was the anti-war thrust of the 1960s that actually created the flower child movement. As the U.S. became more and more involved during the 1960s in fighting the Viet-Cong in the hellhole jungles of Viet-Nam, the anti-war and the related flower child movements began gathering strength and numbers. In those days young men, 20 and older, were routinely subject to the military draft. A young man might be in school or working productively at job he enjoyed, when a draft notice could suddenly wind up in his mail. Report to Fort Dix for 6 months of basic training, and after that we’re going to ship your ass to Viet-Nam where you’ll probably step on a land mine in the jungle and be killed or maimed for life.

Not a very appetizing scenario. Some young men went AWOL to Canada, who was not at war with Viet-Nam, and they were branded as draft-dodgers. Most, however, complied with the draft, with the result that about 58,500 Americans died in those Viet-Namese jungles with thousands more being maimed for life. To say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese deaths we caused. Today we are at peace with Viet-Nam with substantial economic trade between the two countries. But back in the late 1960s as more and more troops were being shipped to Viet-Nam, the anti-war and resultant flower child imperatives gained millions of followers. Massive anti-war protests were being held every weekend in Washington, where signs abounded saying “Make Love, Not War.” Ironically, it would take the election of Richard Nixon as president to end that nightmarish war, but also to suck the life out of flower child movement.

Nixon quickly realized that sending more American troops to Viet-Nam was fools gold. Instead he listened to the anti-war protesters and began drawing down the American presence there. It took four long years but Nixon was finally able to extricate the totality of U.S. forces. Of course, this led to a Viet-Cong victory and an American loss, but nobody really cared anymore. The entire country was just grateful that the U.S. was no longer involved. And, in a politically brilliant strategic move, Nixon ended the military draft. Young men (or women) would no longer have to worry that their lives would be enormously disrupted by being drafted into the Army. The U.S. would, henceforth, have an all-volunteer military. But with no war to protest, the anti-war/flower child movement began to wither on the vine. While their communes appeared to be productive for awhile, the entire concept began to seem naive and childish.

Young men and women began moving back into the corporate, dog-eat-dog world that America had known since the industrial revolution. People began cutting their hair back to what was considered normal length, bell-bottom trousers went out of style as did brilliantly colored clothing. The gray-flannel suit of corporate America was back in fashion. By 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, it was like the flower children and the greening of America had never existed.

As for Richard Nixon, despite his huge accomplishments of ending the Viet-Nam war, and opening diplomatic relations with Communist China where none had previously existed, he would have to resign the presidency in disgrace, because of a minor burglary by some Republican thugs, in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington D.C. Strange how history can so vehemently and carelessly smite someone with total disregard for what they’ve accomplished for mankind.

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Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, John Kennedy, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE COST OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH

The American Civil Liberties Union has been taking a lot of heat recently for defending the free speech rights of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other low-life scum in places and events such as the recently concluded uproar and demonstrations in Charlottesville VA. As far as the ACLU is concerned, the principle of every American having the right to freedom of speech, as embodied in the first amendment to the Constitution, is sacred and never to be “abridged” as the Constitution states, no matter how vile, vulgar or bigoted that speech may be. Of course, free speech rights are “abridged” virtually every day in common sense ways that the framers of the Constitution never envisioned. For example, try verbally threatening someones life, and see how fast you wind up in the clink should the cops overhear that threat. Or try crying out “fire” in a crowded theater when there isn’t one, and you will also accrue that same jail house experience. To say nothing of all the civil libel actions that could brought against you should you wrongfully defame someone’s character. Because of all the backlash received from the Charlottesville experience, even the ACLU may now be reconsidering its long-standing position regarding the sacredness of the first amendment. So let’s go back a century and see the consequences, end results and havoc that unbridled freedom of speech can lead to.

The year is 1919, and WWI has recently ended with Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1918. The Allies have inflicted harsh punishment on Germany, through the Treaty of Versailles, for instigating the war in the first place. One of the provisions of that treaty was that Germany would not be allowed to militarily re-arm without permission of the Allied countries. The German economy is a disaster as a result of that war, with a combination of rampant inflation and high unemployment. The Allies refuse to provide any economic aid to help Germany recover. A young German corporeal, (originally from Austria) who was wounded toward the end of the war, finds himself with little money and no job prospects upon being released from the hospital. Although he fought for four years, he could only achieve the rank of Corporeal whereas almost all other recruits in similar circumstances rose to at least the rank of Sergeant. In his younger days he fancied himself as an artist; but his paintings were mediocre at best and certainly not salable.

With no particular job skills, and virtually out of money, the ex-Corporeal, in desperation, visits an office of the German government’s bureaucracy in Berlin and practically begs for some type of work whereby he could earn a paycheck. At first he’s denied, but finally the head bureaucrat agrees to give him some work. He tells the ex-Corporeal that a fringe element of rabble-rousing morons, calling themselves the German Workers Party, is trying stir up unrest against the government because of the existing deplorable economic conditions. While the bureaucrat believes the movement is really too small for the government to be concerned, just to make sure, he would pay the ex-Corporeal to attend one of their meetings and report back his findings.

So ex-Corporeal Adolf Hitler agrees to sit in on the next gathering of the German Workers Party. There are less than 20 people in attendance. Various attendees give speeches about Germany’s dismal current state of affairs, but they all revolve around the same themes. Germany’s predicament was due to two major factors-the harsh treatment at the hands of the Allies through the Treaty of Versailles, and, of course, because of the Jews. The same Jews that constituted about 3% of the German population, and were almost all peaceful shopkeepers or teachers. The demonization of Jews throughout, not only Germany, but virtually all of Europe, had been a universal imperative almost since the crucifixion of Jesus, or for nearly 2000 years. While the speech-givers at that get-together were amateurs, Hitler liked what he heard. They jibed almost exactly with his own prejudices and deep-seated hatred of all Jews.

Hitler never did report his findings back to the bureaucrat that hired him. Instead he continued to attend meetings of the German Workers Party, and began making impassioned speeches of his own, castigating both the Allies and the Jews. Hitler found that he had a natural talent for speechifying and demagoguery. Soon, as word spread, hundreds of people and then thousands, began attending these meetings, to hear Hitler demonize the Jews and Allied powers. Hitler quickly rose to top party leadership, and renamed the German Workers Party as the National Socialist, or Nazi Party. And in a particularly brilliant public relations move, he found an ancient tribal symbol, and adopted as the insignia of his newly formed Nazi Party. It came to be known as the Swastika, and it began popping up everywhere-on armbands, flags, shirts, etc. Since Germany had a rich cultural history, especially in music, philosophy, literature, and education, most Germans considered Hitler a fringe crackpot during the 1920s. But as Swastika armbands and flags began showing up more and more in the public square, greater numbers of Germans began paying more attention to Hitler’s impassioned vitriol and demagoguery, and Nazi power and popularity exploded throughout German cities. For those that were unbelievers, Hitler had formed gangs of Nazi goon squads, called the brownshirts, that roamed throughout Germany beating up or other wise terrorizing any and all opponents.

By 1933, due to unbridled German political machinations, the former ex-Corporeal from WWI, ascended to the German Chancellory and within months used his power to become absolute dictator. And as the saying goes, the rest is history. Hitler broke every provision of the Treaty of Versailles, especially when it came to vastly re-arming Germany. The Allies, by comparison, stood by and did nothing. By 1939, Hitler felt he was powerful enough to initiate WWII which eventually would kill 60 million people on the European continent alone. About 6 million Jews died in German concentration camps during the Hitler-initiated Holocaust. Millions of American and other Allied forces were slaughtered on European battlefields. And it all began with the demagogic power of freedom of speech.

So the next time you hear someone defend the unbridled and unconstrained ideal of free speech, you might want to point out how that ideal led to the greatest slaughter, tragedy and misery in the history mankind. Germany, today, 70 years after the end of WWII, is a thriving democracy; but its constitution forbids the advocacy of Nazism in any way, shape or form. And yet, it seems to perform quite well, even with this constitutional prohibition.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Ben Franklin, The Constitution, Monarchies, Economics, human affairs, Israeli-Palestinan Relations, politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

TRUMP’S MORAL EQUIVALENCE

Picture the following scenario, if you will. It’s 1940, and Hitler’s Nazi troops have just overrun France. There’s been a formal declaration of surrender by the French government. The Nazi’s begin rounding up Jews and other perceived opponents of the regime and shipping them off to concentration camps. In response, young Frenchmen, at great risk to their lives, form an underground of partisans designed to attack and kill as many Germans as the opportunity presents itself. Suddenly, President Roosevelt goes on the airwaves and states that he deplores the ongoing violence in France that’s being perpetrated by “many sides.” He calls for the killing and general mayhem to cease, and for all parties to come together and unite in peace and brotherly love. “Ludicrous,” might be your response. Well, it’s not all that different than the initial reaction of our current president regarding the violence and deaths occurring in Charlottesville, VA this past Friday.

Friday in Charlottesville saw a planned demonstration called “Unite the Right”by the far right-wing lunatic-fringe of assorted Neo-Nazis, skinheads, the KKK, and other white supremacist looney-tuners become violent when counter-demonstraters got into the act.    Fights broke out between the two factions, and as the violence increased, one demonstrator took matters into his own hands. He got in his car and deliberately ran down the crowd of opposition protestors, killing one woman and injuring about 20 others. The police fortunately apprehended the killer and have him in custody. But what was the initial reaction of our current president who’s vacationing at his golf club while they renovate the White House? Nothing but pure moral equivalency. He deplored the violence emanating from “many sides” and said we must all come together and love one-another, with perhaps everyone singing Kum-Ba-Yah. Okay, that last part I threw in gratuitously. But that was the general tenor of his remarks.

There was an immediate outcry, even from several Republican senators, that Trump hadn’t specifically identified and condemned the assorted fascists, racists and overall bigots as being the primary instigators of the violence that ensued from the events in Charlottesville. When far right-wing Senator Ted Cruz criticizes you for a lack of moral clarity, you know you’re in hot water. So, with criticism coming from all directions,  Trump was essentially forced to go on the air today and specifically denounce the KKK, and all the other fascist groups that that took part in the Charlottesville mayhem, but, who, nonetheless, still form the basic core of his support. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Trump’s “Chief Strategist” Steve Bannon, former head of the Alt-Right news outlet known as Brietbart News, to watch Trump trash the base core of his true believers. It was as if the few adults inside the Trump Administration had finally prevailed in the common sense department.

But I’m sure that Trump’s solid base of white supremacists will give Trump a pass on today’s pronouncements. One should remember that during the presidential campaign last year, David Duke, former “Grand Dragon” of the KKK formally endorsed Trump for president, saying that The Donald was his kind of guy. That the KKK would finally have someone in sync with their beliefs sitting in the White House. Duke, by the way, ran for the Senate in in the state of Louisiana on the Republican ticket about a decade ago, and lost by only an eyelash. The “Bikers of America,” another white supremacist organization, also formally endorsed Trump for president and sent its members to Cleveland during the Republican Convention, to assure that Trump was not, in any sense, put in harm’s way by political opponents. In other words, they were spoiling for a fight with anyone protesting Trump’s ascendency to the throne.

During the campaign, Trump said many times that he was sick and tired of “political correctness.” That line usually drew a standing ovation from the mob-filled arenas where he gave his speeches. Trouble is, that phrase was code for being able to use the N-word out in public without being vilified. Another reason why a Neo-Nazi, Alt-Right individual like Richard Spencer, who publishes a daily paper in Montana that viciously attacks Jews, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, still claims to be among Trump’s strongest supporters.

Trump won the election because his strategy of appealing to white supremacists narrowly paid off. He lost big among minorities and college-educated women. But not enough of them turned out to vote. If they had had turned out in the same numbers they did twice for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton would have been the one sitting in the Oval Office today. But it was basically the vote of the blue-collar, non-college educated white male that put Trump over the top. These voters believed they had been marginalized during the eight Obama years. That too much emphasis had been placed on minority benefits and assistance, to white people’s detriment. They believed that Trump was the guy that would rectify this situation and restore white people back to the front of the line-where they should be. A classic belief in white supremacy.

Meanwhile, the neo-fascists in our society are becoming more bold as they come out into the open. They feel that with Trump in the White House, they can emerge from the shadows out into the glaring sun light. Look for more openly fascist events and riots like the one in Charlottesville to take place in the ensuing months.

 

 

 

 

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

EVOLUTION OR DEVOLUTION

One of my less guilty pleasures in life is occasionally watching old movies run in their entirety on the Turner Movie Channel. No commercials or interruptions; it’s almost like having HBO without the user fee. So the other night I watched a film produced in 1960 called “Inherit The Wind” about an actual trial in Tennessee in 1925 concerning the teaching of “evolution” in the Tennessee public school system. At that time it was actually illegal to to teach such heresy as Darwin’s theory of evolution to impressionable, young school children. Why they might have actually learn something that wasn’t sanctioned by the “New Testament.” They might even question where all those people on the outside came from when Adam, Eve and Cain were evicted from the Garden of Eden because their mortgage went under water. But I digress.

The movie, shot in black and white, contained big name Hollywood stars, such as Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, and Gene Kelly, all of whom acquired word-wide acting fame during the 1930s, often considered the golden age of Hollywood. Movies were ultra popular during that period because people could lose themselves in a darkened theater and forget their heartache and pain caused by the Great Depression for maybe 5-6 hours. For the price of a nickel or dime, one received two feature films, a cartoon, a serial, newsreels, coming attractions, and more. What’s not to like. I remember spending hours in air-conditioned local movie theaters in my misspent youth during the 1940s in order to escape the ugly poverty of my surroundings and the smothering heat in an un-airconditioned apartment during humid New York summers. Of course, by the late 1940s the price of all this entertainment had risen to the shocking level of a quarter.

But back to “Inherit the Wind.” As I said, it was actually against the law in Tennessee in the 1920s to teach evolution in the public school system, and breaking that law was punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. One brave teacher in a small town decided to challenge that law and openly taught Darwinism in his classes. Predictably, he was was arrested and put on trial. The whole affair might have been ignored by the press or what was considered the media back then, had it not been for the fame of the attorney’s who became involved in the case. Representing the defendant free of charge was world renowned  lawyer Clarence Darrow, who in his later years, often fought for unpopular causes. And representing the prosecution was famed politician William Jennings Bryan, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the presidency on the Democratic ticket, of course. Although Bryan considered himself a populist and champion of the “little guy,” he was also a dyed-in-the-wool religious fundamentalist who believed in the literal interpretation of the New Testament. So it became a clash of these huge legal titans and was thus heavily covered by the press and radio commentators.

Since this was small town Tennessee in the 1920s, the vast majority of its people were also religious fundamentalists, and as depicted by the movie, paraded about town during the trial chanting: “Give me that old time religion, it’s good enough for me.” It became known as the “monkey trial” and the notion that man evolved from apes was considered beyond absurdity by the townspeople. During the trial, Darrow called Bryan to the witness stand to question his dis-belief in evolution. No matter what the question, Bryan stubbornly stuck to his religious fundamentalism. When Darrow held a rock in his hand and stated that scientists believed that rock was millions of years old, Bryan made the now famous exclamation that he “was not interested in the age of rocks, but only in the Rock of Ages.” It was a given that the hapless school teacher would be convicted of the crime of teaching Darwinism, but a reasonably smart judge handed down the mildest of sentences to finally bring that fiasco of a trial to its conclusion.

But the movie got me to thinking whether humankind has evolved to any significant degree in the century since that infamous trial, or wether there has actually been a process of on-going devolution. Fourteen years after the end of the “monkey trial” the world became involved in the most horrific war that had ever been witnessed until that point. Nazi and Imperial Japanese death camps exterminated tens of millions of innocent victims during WWII. In a world history replete with most heinous acts throughout the centuries, the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews and millions of others were gassed to death, will probably stand out as the crown jewel of absolute, unadulterated, pure evil. Nuclear bombs developed by scientists and were used on two Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands. Today, nuclear bomb technology has come into the hands of at least two rogue, tyrannical states, North Korea and Iran, who threaten their use against western democracies. Islamic Jihadist terrorism has sprung up out of the desert heat of the Mid-East, and like the barbarism of old, threatens virtually all of civilized societies. Several on-going wars in the cauldron of all that Mid-East turmoil that the United States has become involved in, show no signs of being brought to a successful conclusion. Is this progress? Is man evolving to a higher state, or actually devolving to a state of death, destruction and misery?

And speaking of evolution, a recent poll in the U.S. still shows that a majority of Americans still do not believe in Darwinism. Despite the fact that a visit to any museum of natural history in any major city will show incontrovertible evidence otherwise. But I guess non-believers in evolution are not big on going to museums. Nor on wisdom or advanced thinking that would normally be signs of the evolutionary process. That was undisputedly proven by the results of the 2016 election held in the U.S. and the Brexit vote held in England, also last year. So instead, perhaps we should welcome one and all to the the age of devolution.

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

THE BIBLE-THUMPER’S CHOICE

According to exit polls taken after the 2016 election, the overwhelming favorite for president among those people describing themselves as Christian “born-again” or “evangelical” or just plain fanatically religious believers, was Donald Trump. According to pollsters, Trump garnered nearly 80% of the evangelical vote. Now one might ask why people who are supposedly so heavily invested in the teachings of Christ, would choose a man who was caught on tape bragging about grabbing a woman’s “pussy,” who bragged about having numerous affairs, who has been married 3 times, and who had made the comment that TV news anchor Megyn Kelly “had blood coming out of her whatever” when she made him upset during a TV presidential debate. At first blush it would appear counter-intuitive that Trump should be such a huge favorite among these religious extremists, if you will. But on second thought, it was perfectly rational that the bible-thumpers supported such a candidate.

The first point to understand is that organized religions have nothing to do with God. They are totally man-made inventions for the acquisition of power by those supposedly assuming the mantle of God’s spokespersons. Whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other current ism, they all have the same tenets in common. The leaders of those religions pretend to speak for God, and thereby issue proclamations as to what is acceptable or unacceptable human behavior in the eyes of “the invisible man” as comedian George Carlin once expressed it. Unacceptable behavior according to one’s religious leaders can lead to big trouble since these clergy often hold the power of life or death over virtually all individuals in the populace. In the Muslim religion, not obeying Allah as Imams dictate, can lead to to hands or arms being chopped off, or whippings, or finally, beheadings. And its not just Islamic terrorist organizations performing such atrocities. Ruling governments in many Moslem countries also sanction such penalties to those considered as being non-believers. Such is the power of organized religion.

In Europe, once Roman Emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, A.D., the Christian religious hierarchy assumed the same powers and control over peoples lives as had the secular royalty that ruled most countries. Unbelievers were considered heretics to be burned at the stake. Jews that had been driven out of their homeland by Roman legions, and who had thus fled to Europe, were called “Christ killers” by Catholic popes in the Vatican, and subject to enormous persecution throughout the centuries. The Spanish Inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries burned Jews at the stake for not believing that Jesus was God. But Inquisition leaders claimed it was for their own good. After being thus murdered, these unfortunates could then enter heaven with their disbelief purified from their souls. And it wasn’t just Catholic Jew-hating. Martin Luther, who was the founder of Protestantism, was notoriously anti-semitic, and printed tract after tract that hung on church portals,  denouncing Jews as Christ killers. Thus, through the centuries, virtually all of Europe was infected with the virus of Christian anti-semitism. One could even make a cogent argument that the Holocaust could never have taken place if the disease of anti-semitism was not allowed to spread so virulently throughout all of Europe, century after century. Even today in Europe, it’s emerging from the shadows it retreated to 70 years ago, back into the sunlight.

It’s with that background that it’s understandable as to why the bible thumpers in this country supported Trump so vigorously in 2016. The see him as a man who could bring their long-held dream to fruition of turing the United States into a Christian theocracy. The way many Mid-East countries are Moslem theocracies. The holy grail of the bible thumpers would be the abolition of legalized abortion and gay rights in the U.S. The election of Trump is already paying them dividends since he has put the overturning of Roe V. Wade almost within their grasp. Trump’s nomination of antiabortion Justice Neal Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was approved by the Senate, and, thus, Trump needs to replace only one more Justice before a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy becomes history in most states. It shouldn’t take very much longer since Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in her 80s and obviously can’t hang on forever. Along the way the bible thumpers also fervently pray that a Trump remodeled Supreme Court will overturn previous edicts allowing the existence of gay marriage and other gay rights, thereby effectively shoving homosexuals back into the closet. Way back in the closet. If those two scenarios transpire, the U.S. is more that half there toward establishing a Christian theocracy. Fun times ahead for all you no-goodnik non-believers.

So, as you can see, it really didn’t matter to the bible thumpers that Trump has led an unholy, lewd, and profane private life. As long as he could deliver them their long held dream of an American Christian theocracy, he was jake with them. When Trump made a campaign stop at Liberty University, which is a fundamentalist Baptist college in Virginia, and pretended to be a religious extremist like them, the bible thumpers knew they had their man. And, so far, life in the U.S. appears to be unfolding in that context.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, human affairs, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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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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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