THE HEALTH CARE BAMBOOZLE

Much of the friction and divisiveness among the U.S. electorate is often the result of most Americans choosing to be either uncaring, uninformed, or uninvolved. For example, in the 2016 presidential election only about 135 million Americans bothered to vote out of an adult population well in excess of 200 million. It’s now estimated that for the upcoming 2018 Congressional elections there will be a 40% drop-off from the already weak numbers of 2016. In the computer age when a wealth of information is literally at ones finger tips, most people can’t be bothered to access such data that’s often critical to their lives and well-being. Instead they prefer to make crucial decisions based on trite slogans written on a baseball cap or a hand-made sign sticking out from a crowd. Back in the day, when I was actually young, one had to literally trudge to the library and search out hard-copy (if it existed) in order to become informed. Now that the process has become so much easier, most people are too busy with other stuff to really care. Yet, even though political and social ignorance and uncaring is so prevalent, the actions of our elected officials often have profound consequences for all too many people.

You want proof. In the presidential election of 2000, George W. Bush supposedly carried the state of Florida ( a fact still being disputed) by a few hundred votes out of millions cast, thus giving him the presidency. His opponent, Democrat Al Gore, won the popular vote nation-wide only to lose access to the White House because of the idiocies of our Electoral College system, and a disputed vote count in Florida. (Sound familiar regarding our 2016 election?) The primary difference between the two men? In 2003 Bush decide to invade Iraq in order to depose Saddam Hussein, admittedly, a really bad tyrant and despot. That war continues in one form another to this day 14 years later. Al Gore, had he become president, would have never initiated such an invasion. During the Iraqi war 6000 U.S. military and civilian contractors lost their lives, and about another 25,000 Americans were so severely wounded that their lives were effectively over. Brain damage, blindness, loss of limbs, that sort of thing. Ask a veteran of that war  who’s blind or a quad-palegic whether elections have consequences.

The relevancy of an uninformed and generally uncaring public will once again rear it’s ugly head when Congressional Republicans, for the umpteenth time, try, once again, to repeal and supposedly replace Obamacare, as the nation’s health care system. It’s once again time for the Republican health care bamboozle. In the Senate, the Republican effort is primarily based on lopping off over 20 million poor from Medicaid, in order to provide tax cuts for the rich. It’s Reverse Robin Hood time, as I wrote in a previous piece. And, of course, the proposed legislation has the solid backing of Donald Trump, who really doesn’t care what’s in the details, as long as he can claim that his administration did away with the supposedly despised and socialistic Obamacare. Good for the ego and that sort of rot. Especially for a pathological narcissist like Trump. So, since Republicans are so adamant in their opposition to socialized medicine, I thought it would be useful to cite some relevant facts in that regard, that dispute the fact our medicine is un-socialistic.

The reality is that we already have a large degree of socialized medicine in this country. Here are the facts. TRICARE, a comprehensive medical plan that’s available to active and retired military and their families for a nominal fee, already has 9.5 million participants. The Veterans Affairs system, also for the military, is free, for those that don’t participate in TRICARE, and counts another 9 million members. Medicare, a type of socialized medicine with nominal premiums for seniors, has about 55.5  million members, while Medicaid, which is free health care for the poor, adds another 76 million to its membership rolls. Throw in CHIP, which is Medicaid for poor children, and you have another 4 million participants on the governments dime. Call me crazy, but my math is saying that about 154 million Americans are already receiving subsidized or socialized health care support from the government. It’s true that for Medicaid participants, the quality of the health care they receive is often poor or low-grade, but that’s because of government stinginess in reimbursing doctors for health care services provided to poor people.

It also should be considered that another 156 million Americans receive their health care coverage from their employers. This is also subsidized by the government since those same employers are then allowed to deduct the costs of providing that benefit  from the income taxes they owe the government. So, although the various health care arrangements in the U.S. may be convoluted, there’s little doubt that the government participates in providing socialistic type coverage to about 310 million Americans. That leaves about 15 million people in the U.S. that are left dangling in the wind when it comes to protecting their most valuable asset, namely their health.

The sane solution to all of this would be to scrap all these various arrangements, and institute a universal, single payer health care system that’s prevalent through the rest of the world, especially those with advanced economies like ours. But, of course, that’s way too sensible and would not allow our Republican President and Congress to demagogue the issue as they plan to do this week. It will probably take another couple of centuries of evolution before the sanity of universal health care will be allowed to prevail.

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

LOSING GROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Great Depression, The Kingfish,Donald Trump, 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, the Depression, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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.

 

 

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

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS: PART II

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE UN-TRUMP

As the Trump Administration lurches from one pending disaster to the next, the latest being the ill-conceived firing of FBI Director James Comey, one would think that the Democrats would have at least several young, ambitious, potential candidates to challenge The Donald in the next scheduled mud-wrestling challenge. Sadly, the Democrats appear to be too demoralized and apathetic to even enter the arena. They’re truly in a state of shambles. There seems to be no Young Lochinvar to ride in from the west on his trusty steed to save the country from the machinations of a demagogic president and his henchmen. But if there were such a bold, brazen Democratic senator for example, he or she might want to pursue the following path to a likely victory come the next election. He or she could start out by visiting college campuses and deliver the following speech.

“Good evening fellow students of LSU. I say fellow students because I am an alumni of this fine institution, being an under-graduate not that many years ago. Let me start off by saying that I am the Un-Trump. I live in a state of reality and sanity, rather than in a parallel universe of delusional paranoia. I don’t indulge in pathological narcissism, and I don’t try to cover-up wrong-doings that might of occurred on my watch with serial mendacity. I don’t indulge, every other day, in Twitter tirades against perceived critics or enemies, with all the fervor of an adolescent teen-ager whose ego has been absurdly bruised. I would not continue on the campaign trail long after the election is over, in a pathetic attempt to boost my sagging poll numbers. I would not enlist the help of Russia or any other country to hack my opponents computers or otherwise spread false news to assist my election effort. I would not attempt to bar peaceful citizens of any country, or nationality or religion from entering the U.S. for legitimate reasons. And if I am elected your president, I would not have members of the Alt-Right white supremacist movement as my closest advisors in the White House. To the contrary, I would employ the strongest of civil rights advocates. As I’ve said, I am The Un-Trump.

“And one other matter above all else. I surely would never build that hideous 2000 mile monstrosity on the Mexican border that will become known as the Trump Wall, if it does become a reality. Erecting such a barrier would not only be the biggest boondoggle in U.S. history, costing tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, its effectiveness in keeping out criminals or terrorists would range between negligible to non-existent. And that’s one of the reasons I’m appearing before you tonight. I need your help in assuring that the Trump Wall never becomes a reality. If, in fact, it appears that construction is about to begin on this fiasco, who among you will join me at the Mexican border to stand in the way of the tractors and earth-movers. In civil protest and disobedience, Ghandi-style. If a few thousand of us come down to the border and stand in the way of construction crews, this wall will not be built. Perhaps, if as many as 10 or 20 or 50 or even 100 thousand people show up to block construction, this hideous wall will never see the light of day. They couldn’t possibly lock up that many protesters. But remember, this would be an act of civil disobedience, with emphasis on “civil.” There can be absolutely no violence on our part, which would only serve to discredit such a protest. It must be 100% civil, the way Ghandi employed such tactics to free India from British colonial rule.

“In coming weeks I plan to visit more college campuses and other venues to elicit as much support as I can to block this impending insanity. So I ask, one more time, who will join with me in this act of conscience. Let me see a show of hands. Ahh, good. I see most of you are willing to support me in this crusade. It bodes well for the resistance. If it keeps growing, we can end all this craziness within a few short years. Remember, above all else- I am the Un-Trump.”

Alas, it appears, however, that there is no such young Democrat on the horizon that has that kind of energy and inventiveness. You might say Bernie Sanders; but he would be about 78 come next election, which really is too old. Elizabeth Warren is a possibility, but she’s not exactly a spring chicken herself. Lacking a Young Lochinvar, all you young people are faced with the bleak likelihood of enduring the Trump insanity for 8 long years.

One other thing. The crude vulgarity that Trump employed to fire James Comey was beyond comprehension, even for Trump. Comey had to learn about being dumped from a third party source as he was about to give a speech. It was obviously in retribution for the ongoing FBI investigation into the Trump team’s collusion with Russia to alter the final election results. The unceremonious firing was ironic also, since it was Comey that handed Trump the election victory on a silver platter. It was Comey, who 12 days before the election, stated that the FBI was re-opening it’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails processed on a private server in Clinton’s basement. If Comey had kept his mouth shut, Hillary would now be sitting in the Oval Office. And for that, the thanks that Comey received from the president this past week was to be sacked as if he was the janitor in the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington D.C.

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FRANCE CHOOSES SANITY

How come the French were able to act so rationally when it came to their run-off presidential election held yesterday, while the United States behaved so badly in its presidential balloting held last November. How come France, by a two-thirds vote margin, was able to elect the candidate of moderation and common sense instead of the one pushing an agenda of white supremacy, economic supra-nationalism, and favoritism toward Russia’s tyrant Vladimir Putin, while we in the U.S. did just the opposite. Perhaps it’s something in the drinking water; or the outstanding quality of French wines.

In yesterday’s presidential run-off election in France, independent moderate Emmanuel Macron easily defeated National Front far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to win a 5 year term. At age 39 Macron is the youngest president in French history. His campaign rested on reviving France’s sclerotic economy which has been virtually on life-support since almost the end of WWII. France’s unemployment rate is more than double that of the U.S., and its economic productivity and growth rates are less than half of that in this country. Marine Le Pen’s demagoguery regarding those issues, however, never caught fire during the French campaign the way Donald Trump’s demonizing of those matters in the U.S. gave him an unexpected victory. Le Pen promised, if elected, to pull France out of the European Union, renounce the euro in favor of the franc, deny entry to Muslim immigrants fleeing into Europe from the Mid-East, and cozy up to thuggish Vladimir Putin in Russia while dis-engaging from NATO and the EU. Almost an exact female replica of Donald Trump. She called herself a “nationalist” as Trump’s key advisor, Steve Bannon, has described himself. In both cases, the term “nationalist” was code for white supremacist.

Of course, Le Pen was fighting a huge uphill battle to begin with. Her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who had founded the National Front party in the 1970s, was notoriously bigoted, especially toward Jews. He was a Holocaust denier exhibiting a distinctly fascist profile. Marine tried to scrub off her party’s bigotry, but her whitewash job didn’t work as well with the French electorate as it did here in the U.S. with Trump’s demagoguery. Perhaps the fact that France suffered for five years under the heel of a fascist tyranny until liberated by the Allies a mere 72 years ago might have been a factor. A five year span when virtually every French Jew was rounded up by French quislings and sent to Nazi death camps. In any event, Macron won handily as Hillary Clinton should have done in the U.S. election, except for monumental Democratic incompetence and blunders.

So now, instead of living with a Clinton Administration of moderation and rationality, Americans are forced to cope with the right-wing agenda and hysterics of the Trump follies. Jeff Sessions, the arch-typical white southern bigot from Alabama that Trump made his Attorney-General, wants to deny the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana, the right to do so. He would still have the Feds go after and prosecute marijuana sellers as well as buyers. (Whatever happened to the GOP’s insistence on “states rights.”) And forget about anything resembling civil rights enforcement coming out of the Justice Department. Meanwhile the top priority of the moment for Trump and his Republican Congress is to repeal and replace Obamacare. They shoved such a bill through the House, which is long on repeal and minutely short on replace. So what if the poor that can’t afford health insurance become gravely ill. I guess they should just curl up in a ball and die somewhere, so as not to bother us righteous folk that do have health insurance. Some 20 million people that were able to sign up for Medicaid under Obamacare, as minimal as that is, are now in jeopardy of losing that coverage under the Republican proposed legislation. Supposedly, the GOP plan will be drastically overhauled when the Senate takes it up.

And the beat goes on. Next up on the Trump agenda is income tax overhaul. The proposed legislation is once again distinctly Republican. Heavy tax cuts for the rich, with a few crumbs tossed to the middle and lower classes. Trump in this instance is following Ronald Reagan’s formula of large tax cuts for the upper classes while substantially increasing our military and defense spending. The same formula that started us on the road to the $20 trillion budget deficit this country now so sublimely endures. How does that line go- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Trump, always the comfortable occupant in his parallel universe of delusional paranoia, recently said words to the effect that a government shut down is needed in this country, and is long overdue. Current appropriations to keep the government running expire on September 30 of this year. Congress must appropriate and the president must sign new legislation to keep the government operating for the new fiscal year starting October 1st. Trump has threatened to veto any new appropriations that don’t contain funds to build his myopically insane border wall with Mexico, or don’t slash funding for agencies that he considers useless such as the National Institutes for Health, or the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of others.

These and many, many other examples are the consequences of a Trump versus a Clinton regime in the White House. The consequences of less than a hundred thousand votes going the wrong way in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Anyway, congratulations to the French for finally doing the right thing. After the Brexit vote in England, and the Trump victory in the U.S., it seemed like the end of Western civilization as we know it; but France has shown that it doesn’t have to be so. Perhaps we should all move to France.

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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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THE FRENCH CONNECTION

No, I’m not writing about the excellent movie, a few decades ago, that dealt with drug dealers and won numerous awards. Instead, this piece is about the recently concluded presidential election in France, and its remarkable similarity to the U.S. balloting concluded last November. The only thing different about these two elections is the role reversal of the major candidates. In France the female candidate is the white supremacist, xenophobic candidate while her male challenger is the voice of reason, moderation, and sanity. The irony of these 2 electoral predicaments  couldn’t be more stark.

France has a slightly different method of voting than the U.S. In their first round of balloting held this past Sunday, 11 candidates ran for the office of the presidency. With so many choices it was predictable that no one would receive the 50% threshold level needed to avoid  a run-off. So on May 7, a second round of voting will take place pitting the 2 highest vote-getters, Marine Le Pen of the National Front far right wing party against Emmanuel Macron, an independent moderate. One could rightly view Le Pen as a female version of Donald Trump, as she is running on a platform of anti-immigration, white supremacy, withdrawal from the European Union, demonizing minorities, and cozying up to Russia while abandoning relations with other Western countries. She wants to withdraw from the euro as France’s currency and reinstate the franc. Macron, conversely could be considered a male version of Hillary Clinton as he seeks to strengthen ties to the EU, as well as strengthening France’s famous safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. He would keep the euro in French circulation. Right now, political pundits in Europe are claiming that all French citizens that are not neo-fascist will coalesce behind behind Macron and give him an easy victory in the May 7 round of balloting. Trouble is, these are the same pundits who predicted that Clinton would coast to a sure victory over Trump. London bookies were giving 5 to 2 odds on Clinton being the next president.

Marine Le Pen, aged 47 and twice divorced mother of 3, inherited the mantle of the National Front party from her well known father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who got the ball rolling on the far right of the political spectrum in France in the early 1970s. At first considered a fringe lunatic, Le Pen and his party has slowly gathered steam over the ensuing decades to the point that his daughter is now on the threshold of becoming the next French president. What held Jean Marie himself back from achieving that goal, was his openly virulent brand of anti-semitism. He would often pooh-pooh the fact that the Holocaust ever occurred in the first place, or that 6 million Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. He stated that a 500 page book on WWII would hardly devote 2 pages to the gas chambers, so inconsequential was their existence. It appears that there was still enough decency in France to not allow that type of rhetoric to occupy its presidential palace.

Marine Le Pen, learning from her father’s mistakes, has down-played the National Front’s overt Jew-hating. Instead she focused her bigotry on the surge of Muslim immigrants trying to flee to Europe from the nightmare wars and acts of terror on-going in the Mid-East, especially Syria. As Trump attempts to slam the door shut in the U.S. to any further Muslim immigration, Le Pen campaigns on enacting the same Muslim prohibitions in France. As Trump’s demagoguery against Muslims (and Mexicans) gained big-time traction in the U.S. among white voters, Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has found favor among a large chunk of the French voting populace. (At least she hasn’t expressed any anti- Mexican sentiments thus far.) While it’s true that France and Germany as well as other European countries are being swamped with immigrants from the Mid-East, it must be remembered that these people are fleeing for their and their family’s very lives; and to deny them safe refuge exhibits a special type of heartless disregard.

Some years ago, a movie called “Ship of Fools” was produced based on a real life occurrence that took place shortly before the out break of WWII. It told the story of a group of German Jews attempting to escape Nazi persecution, and hiring a cruise ship to transport them to a safe harbor in some foreign country where their lives would not be in jeopardy. They literally sailed around the world looking for a safe port of debarkation but every country refused them entry. Including the U.S., which then had Franklin Roosevelt as president, supposedly a great friend of the Jews. In the end, they were forced to return to Germany where they were then slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust. Such was the mindset of their fellow human beings around the world.

So, it will be interesting to see if Marine Le Pen, like her fellow demagogue, Donald Trump, can parlay French fears of being overrun by Moslem foreigners, into the presidency of her country. If she does, it will have huge adverse consequences not only for Europe, and the EU, but for the U.S. as well. But perhaps this time around, the French will exercise better common sense and sanity than Americans did last November, and elect the candidate of decency and humanity to their highest office.

 

 

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“WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE….”

I’m one of those people that faithfully reads the obituaries every day in the morning newspaper. Perhaps it’s because, as the old joke goes, I’m checking to see wether my name is listed there or not. Well, this morning’s obits had a bit of surprise for me. Listed as one of life’s casualties was a person that I had gone to college with named Reuben Goldstein, so many decades ago. He too was my age and born and raised in Brooklyn, but unbeknownst to me, was living in Las Vegas well before we had moved out here. I guess we were like two ships passing in the night. How unfortunate.

In those days of yesteryear (as the Lone Ranger might have said) I went to City College in Manhattan. It’s now called City University of New York or CUNY. Living in Brooklyn, I had to walk 12 blocks to the nearest subway station and take the train for about a 45 minute ride into Manhattan. A total joy in freezing cold, or rainy or snowy winter days. This station was elevated (above ground) and Reuben was often already there for the morning commute before I had arrived. When he saw me approaching, he would call out my name and shout that he would wait for me even if a train was pulling into the station to pick up passengers. And so he waited until I arrived and we then took the next train so that we could commute together and avoid the loneliness and monotony of those daily subway rides.

Reuben was not a great student as I came to realize when we sometimes did homework together after class. It turned out to be mainly a case of me helping him cope with subject matter that seemed to baffle him. In the end I wound up doing most of his homework in addition to mine. It wasn’t long after I graduated, that I latched onto a cushy assignment in Europe for three years (which I’ve written about in previous pieces) and lost complete contact with Rueben. That is, until now, when his entire life’s journey is summed up in a very brief paragraph in the daily obits. How sad. In those days, tuition at City College amounted to a $10 registration fee per semester for New York residents. When I had to spend $50 each term for school books, (used, of course) I considered it an outlandish rip-off. A subway ride initially cost a nickel then, and when it was raised to a dime, New Yorkers howled in protest, as if they were being slaughtered by Jack the Ripper. I don’t even want to know what obscene amount is being charged today. Garbage was picked up 6 days a week, even in poor neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. Now you’re lucky if they come around once a week. Is this what they call progress?

The title of this piece is taken from a song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary. It’s an anti-war song about loss and death, which Reuben’s passing made me think of. Speaking of P,P,&M, the wife and I saw them perform here in Las Vegas when they were well into their sixties, or perhaps older. I’ve often written that Las Vegas is where dead performers can come back to life. For a fraction of the price that it would cost to see a headliner like, say, Celine Dion, perform at a strip hotel, one can see a has-been  perform at an off-strip hotel. Think Frankie Valli, and the Four Seasons. And so it was with Peter, Paul and Mary, who were well past their prime when we saw them go on stage at one of the local hotel/casinos. Peter and Paul were in reasonably decent shape but Mary had aged considerably. I remember in her youth, with her long blonde hair and bangs tossing about as she performed on-stage with huge vibrance and vitality.  Now she had gotten fat with multiple ailments and had to walk on-stage using two canes and sit while performing. Their voices were a whisper of past glories. The audience sat there respectfully, knowing it was likely to be the last time they would come together on-stage. Mary, sadly, would die not that long after, at the premature age 72. And so goes the cycle of life and death.

Today I also learned that a man my age, who lived in my community, and who we used to socialize and play cards with, also just died, this time from cancer. Add one more to the obits list. Indeed, where have all the flowers gone. Turned to dust, every one.

 

 

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