Posts Tagged With: environment

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.

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, Israeli-Palestinan Relations, Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, World War II, Viet-Nam, Anti-Communist Witch Hunts, Army-McCarthy hearings, Islamic Jihadist terrorism, Soviet Union, Red China, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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, politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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MORE SUMMER FOLLIES

I’ve written before about this being the summer of our discontent, with some very real problems, and some that are totally fabricated. On the real side, there’s a very severe drought gripping at least two-thirds of the country causing some serious pain to many of the nation’s farmers. Crops are withering on the vine, and a huge shortage of corn and other grains needed to feed animal livestock has developed. Prices are sure to surge dramatically in the ensuing months because of fruit and vegetable shortages, and the increasing costs to import food for farm animals. A real problem with no end in sight as the severe drought appears to be locking itself in with increasing intensity. Then there are the manufactured problems that a lot of people love to indulge in because they’re so much easier to attack as well as feed into people’s delusions.

Recently there has been a big kerfuffle over the fact that the president of a fast food chain has said on the radio words to the effect that we are incurring God’s wrath if we allow gay marriage in this country. The food chain is called Chick-fil-A and it’s major distinction is that it’s closed on Sundays in deference to God’s wishes. (I had never heard of them until this latest tizzy.) Now I wonder if the president of Chick-fil-A gets regular e-mails from God (or the invisible man, as George Carlin used to say) specifying exactly what God’s wishes are, and if he does, how come I never get these e-mails. Or maybe he gets a steady stream of tweets directly from God. Maybe my problem is that I don’t belong to Twitter, so I never get these proclamations. That must be it, since God never let me in on what His definition of marriage is, or why people of the same gender should be forbidden from such unions. My view is that homosexuals should be allowed to indulge in the same marriage sufferings as heterosexuals.

Of course what’s really in play here, is the fear among religious fanatics they if we don’t adhere to what their perceived notions are about how God wants us to behave, He will crush us like a bug. Also if we allow gay marriage, it’s tantamount to accepting homosexual behavior as a legitimate life-style. The bible-thumpers and those that are holier-than -thou can never accept that because in their minds, such behavior will always be sinful. It must be all laid out in those tweets I’m not getting on Twitter. So playing deftly to those fears, delusions and prejudices, a guy on Fox News (where else?) named Mike Huckabee, who used to be the governor of Arkansas when he had a real life,  declared that all right-minded thinking folks like him ought to show their support for Chick-fil-A by buying their greasy fried chicken, en masse, on August first. Sure enough, on August 1, thousands of people lined up at fast-food joints throughout the country in the summer heat to chow down some of Chick-fil-A’s artery-clogging offerings. There were reports of lines that were hours long to dine on fried chicken and other greasy, fast-food venues. But, a small price to pay to show their disapproval of what they considered a sinful life-style, and support someone willing to oppose such sin.

After all, gays are the perfect minority to scapegoat and demonize since they are supposedly less than 5 percent of the population. If they were, say, a quarter to a third of the population, I can assure you that politicians and corporate execs, including all the “family values” nut-cases would be falling all over themselves trying to curry favor with the gay community. Interestingly, in ancient Greece, historians estimate that nearly half the population was homosexual, which was considered on the same level as heterosexual behavior. The Chick-fil-A types would have undoubtably had a lot tougher time in that period.

In other fascinating summer news from looney-tunesville, the state of Texas just had a primary to fill the Senate seat of out-going Senator Kay Baily Hutchinson, a moderate conservative. The winner in the Republican primary normally has a lock on winning the general election, since the Democrats in that state are apparently too inept to be competitive. So the winner of the Republican primary was a far, far right-wing tea party favorite, who as one of his first actions after being sworn-in, has promised to do everything in his power to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA.) And why not. For example, those of you that have seen aerial photos of Pittsburgh in the 1950s, can remember seeing huge billows of toxic smoke belching forth from the steel mills that were dominant in that area during that period. It added such ambience to the scene. Now that EPA has come into existence, all those billows of smoke and particles are gone. If you take an aerial shot of Pittsburg today, all you see is plain ole blue sky. How disappointing. And have you noticed how bland the water tastes these days, since chemical companies have been prevented from spewing some of their toxic waste into local streams and rivers. Nothing like just the right amount of arsenic to spruce up the taste of the local water system.

But never fear, we will all be well protected. In Idaho, which along with Montana and Utah, is the paranoia capital of the country, a new militia has formed and they are armed to the hilt. They have weaponry that the Army is envious of, and they claim sovereignty from every form of existing government, especially from the Feds. With just the right-mixture of uber-nationalism, hate and defiance, they recognize no governmental jurisdiction over any of their activities. With Americans like these, marching through the western countryside, who needs enemies. And so the summer continues on, as all the nut-cases and haters have seemingly been given the green light to come slithering out from under their rocks, and display their craziness and delusions in the bright sunlight.

 

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THE SUMMER OF OUR DISCONTENT

The opening line of Shakespeare”s play “Richard III” states that “It was the winter of our discontent.” That was back in the 16th century, and the following lines were meant to convey that the people’s long winter of suffering was coming to an end because of new leadership. But if that was a period of England’s discontent, the year 2012 appears to be engulfed in our summer of discontent. And there seems to be no end in sight.

It started with mind numbing heat clawing its way into a stranglehold throughout most of the mid-west, south and east coast. Temperatures in excess of 100 degrees took hold in much of the country including areas that are known for their sweltering humidity levels. Heat records were broken in most of the major cities throughout the affected areas. Combine more than 100 degree heat and high humidity levels and you  get a picture of what the 9th circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno feels like. Then gigantic storms with near hurricane-like winds and rain come pouring down on these beleaguered sections of the the country, knocking down trees and limbs, which in turn knocked down power lines, which in turn meant no electricity for stuff we all take for granted like refrigeration and air-conditioning. More than 100 degree heat, high humidity, and no air-conditioning. And with proclamations being issued by the power companies that it would be days or even weeks before electricity was restored. Young people who had never known a life without air-conditioning were threatening to kill themselves if they had to go on living without their a/c. Is air-conditioning the greatest invention of all time? Or perhaps Skype is. I’m not sure.

Also, many areas affected by the record heat, but not hit with huge storms, are now, instead, afflicted by severe droughts. Shrubbery is turning brown, and leaves are falling off trees as if it were autumn and crunching under pedestrians footsteps. Prices of many fruits and vegetables grown in the afflicted areas will soon begin to soar. What’s particularly interesting, however, is that right-wing looney-tunesville seems to be unaffected by the extreme weather. Listen to Rush Limbaugh, or all the Rush wannabes on “talk-radio” (really hate radio), or watch Fox News, and there is complete denial that anything like climate change or global warming even exists. Or if it does exist, it certainly can’t be anything that man is causing. The immense tonnage of carbon dioxide that we spew into the Earth’s atmosphere on a daily basis from burning fossil fuels such as coal an oil, can’t possibly be responsible for weather severity or rising ocean levels according to the mantra among  the right-wing whacko set. Instead the call has gone forth to drill for more oil and for us to become even more dependent on fossil fuels. Mitt, The Dishonorable has already promised this when he becomes President next January.

Speaking of Romney, are we having fun yet, when we turn on the TV, only to be confronted with those obnoxious and mendacious political commercials. You know, the kind that wallows in mud- slinging, mean-spirited, vicious attacks on the other guy, with the truth be-damned. And this is only July. Wait until September and October when TV- land will be nothing but these gutter commercials. So since 2012 is an election year we can add one more reason for our summer of discontent. Of course, one always has the option of keeping the TV shut until after the election. Or at least recording everything in advance so you can fast-forward through the commercials. But that just seems like too much rational common sense to be a course of action. One other thing to keep in mind regarding those political commercials. A lot of them are being funded by the Koch brothers who are far right-wing industrial billionaires. They tend to be a little bit on the religious fanatical side, often providing financial support for right-wing dream causes, such as anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc. As I’ve mentioned before, his Mittness is the best candidate these billionaires could buy, and they expect to be richly rewarded for their investment when Romney takes his seat in the Oval Office.

The third leg of misery in this perfect trifecta of our summer of discontent, at least for those of us living in Las Vegas, is our own unique version of severe summer weather. Of course it’s well-known that temperatures exceeding 100 degrees are par for the course here from about mid-June thru mid-September. But up to about 105, the heat is reasonably tolerable, because after-all, it’s a “dry heat,” which means that when you go out-doors in that heat, you feel like an ant under a magnifying glass in the broiling sun. But now the temperatures are forecast to hit 110 and beyond, which puts additional severe strain on everything and everyone. People become noticeably short-tempered, especially if stuck in traffic with the sun beating down. Go to the store, or anywhere else where you have to leave your car parked in the sun, and you’ll be making a return trip to Dante’s Inferno mentioned earlier when you get back in. Air-conditioners are strained to the breaking point, and if they do break down, you will want to join those teenagers back east contemplating suicide for lack of a/c. Of course the casinos are nice and cool, with thermostats set at sub-artic levels, so residents join tourists in flocking to these hotels. It may be rather costly as one inevitably plays the slots once inside the casinos, but, I guess, a small price to pay for avoiding the unpleasantness of our summer climate.

Such are the rhythms of life in the year 2012. Perhaps the summer of our discontent will be followed by a winter of joy and plenty. Most likely not, however.

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ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND

On Sunday mornings, as is my practice, I like to take about a one-hour stroll through the seniors neighborhood that I live in here in Las Vegas. Yesterday morning it was an especially pleasant walk because the sky was a brilliant azure blue without a single cloud, the bright sun cast a golden hue on the landscape, and the weather was extremely warm for this time of year. In fact, it set a record for April 22, as the temperature climbed to near 100 degrees. My wife had been Easterners all our lives before we moved West in the 1990s, to where”the deer and the antelope play.” Actually I’ve never seen a deer or antelope in Las Vegas, but we do have coyotes and bobcats, and lots of bunnies running around. I guess the rabbits along with fresh water from the golf course, make it an ideal habitat for the coyotes and bobcats to thrive on. Anyway it’s a very pastoral setting, with all homeowners required by the condo commandoes (some refer to them as Nazis) to maintain full and well manicured landscapes, thick with shrubs and trees. It’s also a very quiet setting, as I seldom run into anyone else along these streets. The only break in the quietude is the occasional blaring of sirens from ambulances coming to take another senior to his or her final resting place, where there is always 100% quietude.

Anyway it got me to thinking about how different this pastoral community was from the impoverished neighborhood I grew up in Brooklyn. There, the streets always seemed so grimy and soiled, and the people, ground down by poverty and the stress of having to eke out a living as best they could, rarely had a pleasant word. We lived on the top floor of an apartment building that had a flat roof covered in black tar. In the summers, our apartment absorbed all the heat from that black roof, making it impossible to think about going to sleep before 12-1 in the morning when temperatures would cool down a little. We would sit out on the stoop with our neighbors waiting for a few cool nightly breezes. Air-conditioning was something only the rich were privileged to have. We didn’t have a car, and I commuted into Manhattan to go to college and then later to work, by subway, which was a good 12 block hike from where we lived. Subway trains were always packed and hot, even in the winter, and the walk to the station, through those grimy streets was always a sheer delight, especially in the pouring rain or bitter cold. Heat in the winter was provided by a coal-fired furnace in the basement, but went off from 10 at night until 6 in the morning, while the landlord, who shoveled the coal into the furnace, got his full night’s sleep.

In those days I used to think that people weren’t supposed to live like that. I would retreat into books written by Shakespeare, or Charles Dickens, or Nathaniel Hawthorne, where people were always portrayed with so much more nobility and purpose of life, than existed on those hard-scrabble streets in Brooklyn, and I became envious of not being able to live in those fictitious settings. I came to believe that it was real-life man, as compared to the fictitious nobility I had read about, that polluted the neighborhood I lived in, with dirty air, grimy, embedded filthy streets, foul language, and mean tempers and spirits. Today I live in a cleaner neighborhood, without air and water pollution, and with people usually in a better frame of mind, but I still think about how real-life man continues to pollute our planet and degrade our environment. While there is no air or water pollution in Las vegas, generally because there is no industry here (other than throwing your money away in the casinos), there has been a general ecological degradation throughout the planet.

Global warming has gotten most of the headlines in the last two decades as an environmental spoiler. But global warming is just a small component. It’s caused by change in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere whereby carbon dioxide is becoming more dominant, which in turn, lessens the amount of oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements that have been part of this planet for billions of years. Do global warming deniers think that you can arbitrarily change the Earth’s atmosphere without any adverse consequences. More serious than global warming, however, is the steady degradation of the planet’s oceans and rain forests, which are absolutely essential to sustaining life on this planet. Rain forests are shrinking at a fairly rapid rate as local tribes keep encroaching on rain forest lands, as they clear trees to make room for farming. Native wildlife is more and more in retreat as the lands they’re used to roaming in, slowly disappear. Rain forests absorb a huge amount of CO2, while at the same time putting out a huge amount of oxygen, so, as I’ve said, life just isn’t sustainable without them. Ocean life is also steadily being degraded, with a steady shrinkage of marine life. Today, in the Pacific alone, there are thousands of miles of plastic refuse which is unsinkable and floating on the ocean’s surface. Marine and bird life are often casualties when they mistake this refuse for food, nibble on it, and die. Oceans also absorb huge amounts of CO2, while providing food for much of the world’s population. You can picture what happens to the planet’s welfare when the health of our oceans go down the tubes.

Many other environmental disasters are also on the horizon. I could go on and on. But before man made his appearance on this planet some hundreds of thousands of years ago, (yes there was evolution despite the majority of people in this country that don’t believe in it) the planet’s ecology was in pristine shape. Animals roamed the planet in harmony with their environment. True, if you were an animal, you wouldn’t want to get too close to, say, a dinosaur’s habitat without becoming their lunch, but ecologically the planet was in great shape. Now its been despoiled by real-life man. Fictional man that I used to read about, would never have done such misdeeds.

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A RATIONAL PLANET

One of the great disappointments I will have endured, is that in my lifetime we will not have made contact with beings from another planet. Space is so vast that the development of technology to enable us to travel to another inhabited planet probably won’t occur for at least a thousand years. But it would have been so cool to be able to examine life on an alien planet and see whether they were able to get it right, or whether they fucked it all up the way we have on planet Earth. Even some basic stuff would be fascinating. Do they have sex with the same organs used to remove bodily waste? What kind of foods do they eat if any? Do they require sleep like we do? But the most fascinating thing of all is whether they were able to develop a civilization that lived in peace and harmony, or did they have a history of constant war, strife and bloodshed as we have had. In other words, did they live lives of rational common sense, or in constant fear, paranoia, and irrationality as we have done.

So it got me thinking that if we ditched our usual fears and the delusional thinking that goes with those fears, how much better life on this planet would become. For example, when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, there was virtually an unprecedented rush to buy guns and ammo that occurred almost over night. Gun stores couldn’t up with the demand, especially for bullets, as the surge to buy weaponry cleaned off their shelves within days after the election. Apparently, a good segment of the population went into a full fledged state of paranoia, believing that the election of a liberal Democrat would result in the Government stripping every citizen of  his or her weapons, and hauling protesters off to concentration camps. This, despite the fact that the subject of gun ownership was rarely, if ever, discussed during the campaign. Today we have millions of citizens armed to the hilt with multiple guns and storage sheds filled with nothing but bullets, still waiting for Government tanks to come rolling down their streets and haul them off.

Anyway here are some of the things we can do to achieve a more rational planet.Lets start with drugs. Every year we spend tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to outlaw marijuana, heroin and cocaine, while allowing drugs that kill far more people like tobacco and alcohol to remain legal. Every year we incarcerate tens of thousands of drug dealers and users at enormous expense, while tens of thousands of  of suppliers in this country and throughout Latin America are murdered, usually by drug cartels that make billions off the illegal drug trade. First of all, is it the government’s role to tell someone they’re prohibited from engaging in self-destructive behavior if such is their desire. If that is the government’s role, then the government should prohibit tobacco which kills about 400,000 Americans a year, alcohol which is highly detrimental to over users, as well as cheeseburgers, fries and pepperoni pizza which do nothing but clog people’s arteries leading to heart disease and other ills. Sound ridiculous? No more so than the so-called war on drugs which has been a monumental and extremely costly failure. Legalizing at least marijuana would reduce prison populations, reduce a major source of revenue from the drug cartels, and lead to an increased flow of government revenues as it could be taxed the way tobacco is.

Another rational move would be for all the world’s governments to eliminate tariffs on imported goods. Tariff is just a $10 word for taxes. When the government puts a “tariff” on say a pair of imported shoes made in China, you, the consumer are paying a higher price than you need to for those shoes. Tariffs are put in place ostensibly to allow domestic producers to compete with countries where it’s cheaper to make similar  products, but all it does is result in consumers having to pay higher prices than they should. Tariffs result in protectionism, which is highly destructive to most economies,and is blamed as one of the main causes of the 1930s Depression. It has been estimated by some of the world’s leading economists that if tariffs were totally eliminated, all world economies would significantly improve almost overnight, especially the economies in the poorest third-word countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Interestingly, both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump before him (they make a good pair) have been bashing China and threatening them with higher tariffs, if China doesn’t raise the prices on the stuff we import from them. I know that will gladden the hearts of all consumers.

Another exercise in sanity would have the government be the employer of last resort for the unemployed. In 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt took office at the height of the Depression, and the unemployment rate was triple what it is today, he quickly established what came to be known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed men were hired by the Corps to go into every community in the country and plant trees and shrubs and undertake other environmentally-friendly actions. By 1936 the unemployment rate was cut in half, and Roosevelt swept to a landslide re-election. Today, instead of just shoveling out unemployment checks to those that can’t find work, the government could use that money to also hire hundreds of thousands of people to do a myriad of badly needed infrastructure projects. They could repair our decaying water and sewer pipelines, repave roads and restore crumbling bridges, work on outdated aspects of the nations’s electrical grid, and also perform environmental projects. The unemployment rate would be dramatically lowered and as spending increased the economy as a whole would gather steam.

In any event these are just a few of the steps we could take on the road to rationality. I could go on and list hundreds more but you get the picture. I deliberately left unsaid some of the more contentious political irrationalities that ideologues like to indulge in,  like trying to ban a woman they don’t know from terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Ideologue, by the way, is just another 10 dollar word for fanatic. Will this planet start to come around and begin exhibiting more common sense and rational behavior? I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I’ll have to console myself with old Star-Trek reruns.

 

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