The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Book

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Book

For me, it’s official, Mr. Coates can write. In The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates proves he can write fiction that is just as deep and accessible as his nonfiction. In The Water Dancer he writes about slavery (which he calls the Task) and abolitionists and the Underground, a subject that has had some good authorial attention in recent years. But, although the movement is present in the story, for Coates it is the people affected by slavery, the families torn apart, the histories lost, that matter. It is the inspirational struggles to create new family ties and to hold on to traditions, even if they had to be formed anew in a strange and terrible land.

Virginia is the state where the Lockless plantation tries to maintain an idle lifestyle, maintain a genteel veneer which rests on the shoulders of those who are tasked to do anything that might even vaguely be considered work. Every white person even has a personal maid or valet, a slave, who bathes them, grooms them, and dresses them.

These white plantation owners were supposed to be farmers but they were so greedy and so tied to the payouts from their tobacco crops that they refused to believe that the crops they depended on were depleting the land they were planted in. Some of those who “tasked” on the land understood what was happening but either no one listened or, as the land produced less income, those who understood the land and the crops were sold away south and west – to Natchez and beyond. Slaves really were sold away to Natchez but Coates also uses Natchez as a symbol for family separation, for sorrow, for harsher conditions, for loss.

Plantation owners, slave owners, sold off the most valuable “taskers” first so the family members who remained were left without the strongest among them, perhaps the most characterful, and the older slaves who kept the stories of celebrations and family ties alive. Sorrow that is never given time to abate collects and turns “the task” into a sadder, even more burdensome duty to preserve a failing white lifestyle even as the “taskers” see the community of their own, that they have been able to create in their captivity, disintegrate daily into grief and tearful good-byes.

Hiram Walker is a mixed-race son of Howell Walker, who also has a son by his white wife. Hiram who finds a home on the Street where the “tasked” live, a home with Thena, a women he is not related to, is a child with an excellent memory. He remembers every detail of what he sees and hears. But he cannot remember his mama. He knows her name is Rose. He knows she was a water dancer. He has seen her dancing in a vision on a bridge. A water dancer can dance joyfully and gracefully with an earthenware jar full of water on her head and not spill a drop. He knows his mother was a beauty, and he knows she had a sister, Emma – also a water dancer – because his “adopted” people have told him so. But where his own memories of his mother should be there is a hole.

Hiram also has a special talent. He can conduct himself across distances without being seen. In a land where no slave can walk off the land of his/her “master” without a pass, and where running away can be punished by near death (slaves are valuable property and so are rarely killed outright), someone who can “conduct” himself unseen has a very great gift indeed. But Hiram cannot control his talent and this is somehow related to what he does not remember about his mother. His love for another Lockless slave, Sophia, has grown over the years and it allows him to also accept and love her mixed-race child. Hiram needs to learn how to control his talent so that he can take the two women he loves and the child to freedom in the North.

Whether or not Hiram learns to control “conduction” and how he uses it is at the heart of this story but for me toil and survival, family and heritage; anger and sorrow and the mistaken idea that one person can “own” another – these things are the true heart and soul of this story. Conduction is part of an almost-lost origin story which never died even though the people the story belonged to were kidnapped, abused and held without freedom (in a land that supposedly treasured freedom).

I happen to be reading the Frederick Douglass biography by David Blight at the same time as I am reading Coates’ novel. These two book pair very well and one book seems to riff on the other. If white folks ever hope to understand not just why slavery was wrong but how the repercussions of this aberrant human behavior will echo forever in the souls and families of our fellow Americans of African Descent then The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates should add depth to your quest for understanding. I cannot speak to how black and brown people experience Coates’ novel but I hope to get exposure to some of their reactions.

Catching Up with Trump

Call me…

Catching up with Trump

In order to catch up with Trump we first have to talk about Ukraine. Wow! Ukraine. Who knew that Ukraine was the center of all intrigue. Well I guess many people knew this. I could see that Russia was being very aggressive towards Ukraine, that Ukraine is actually a divided nation and that its future as an independent state is not at all certain. Russia has troops in Ukraine, it has allies among some of the Ukrainian people. Reporting on Radio Free Europe classifies the Russian presence in Eastern Ukraine as an occupation. “The U.S. special envoy on Ukraine has called Russian activity in eastern Ukraine an “occupation” and has called on Moscow to start implementing its obligations under the 2015 Minsk accords — the international agreement aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists.” https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-occupation-volker-zelenskiy/29969431.html

Ukraine’s government has long been seen as corrupt; operating on a system of cronyism and favors, threats and blackmail against any who sought to expose the corruption, and with a series of prosecutor generals who prosecuted only the enemies of the corrupt. An article from the Washington Post sums up some of what is known about corruption in Ukraine and if you follow the link to the article you can get more of the juicy details.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/10/10/trump-administration-wasnt-rooting-out-corruption-ukraine-it-was-encouraging-it/

“Ukrainian presidents have used their prosecutor generals to prosecute their rivals for corruption since the country was founded in 1991. If there was one constant in Ukrainian politics before the election of Zelensky, it was the use of graft to enrich the top elite — and the threat of selective prosecution to keep that elite in line.”

“…behind the facade of Ukraine’s formal institutions, there have always been elements of a “blackmail state.” Thus, in seeking the criminal investigation of a rival, Trump administration officials weren’t fighting corruption in Ukraine — they appeared to be reactivating corrupt networks for their own political gain.”

“The real problem lies with the informal rule of Ukraine’s presidents

Scholars have shown that informal institutions such as those in Ukraine can be very sticky. Two Ukrainian revolutions — in 2004 and 2014 — didn’t end the widespread corruption of Ukraine’s elite, or the role of the Ukrainian prosecutor general in protecting that elite from prosecution.”

“The Trump administration, in its push to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Burisma Holdings, the firm whose board Hunter Biden served on, was not rooting out corruption in Ukraine. With the help of people such as U.S. envoy Kurt Volker, who knew how to navigate Ukraine’s shadows, the Trump administration was trying to reactivate that old corrupt system for its own ends.”

For President Trump to add to the problems already faced by Zelensky, the new President of Ukraine, to set this leader who promised to reform Ukraine and end corruption back on the old corrupt pathways, is a kind of politics that should never be practiced by a President of the United States of America. Ukraine obviously has quite enough problems with a Russian leader plotting to restore the old boundaries of the Soviet Union sitting in the nation’s eastern provinces and threatening war. Add in the president of our still powerful nation pushing from the west and we wonder how a state so beleaguered is supposed to have any room to solve its pressing domestic problems and end the cycle of corruption in which it has been trapped.

This is fascist Trump, back in election mode, Trump the thug, who demonizes his political opponents by repeating or inventing any political blunders these politician might have made as they came up through the ranks, or as they pursued their private careers. These blunders, whether real or made-up, are then blown up into fatal flaws and repeated by Trump and Republicans as slurs until the opponent is so tarnished that s/he no longer is any threat to candidate Trump, who already holds the added advantage of incumbency. In this manner you beat up on your opponents without using any actual violence.

Trump apparently tried to work through his usual method of sending his henchmen to do his bidding so that he could claim his innocence and no one could offer any proof of his guilt. So he sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine and perhaps Rudy enlisted the help of two busy and previously light-hearted Trump donors with ties to Russia. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were part of a conspiracy to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections and are now found to be interested in the fortunes to be made in legal marijuana.

Trump seems to have made a big mistake this time and lost his deniability because he thought he was being subtle enough in a phone conversation with Zelensky, that his coded words would protect him from discovery even though he knew many were listening in on the conversation (because they were supposed to listen in). For backup he knew that transcripts of the conversation would be filed away in an unusually secure place. His code was a bit too transparent on this particular occasion and there was a whistleblower who called attention to what transpired on the call. That’s how we arrived at the impeachment inquiry.

Trump also backs a complex conspiracy theory that assigns blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton and the DNC, the FBI and the CIA. He has the people’s Justice department and State department heads, who are his toadies dashing off to Europe and China to find or invent documentation to prove his nutty nonsense, which has already been discredited. Trump simply keeps attacking the credibility of any government agency that denies the truth of Trump’s ridiculous theory. He does the usual; he blames someone else for his own criminal or un-American activities.

At this point, even if Trump finds “proof” that the “deep state” (any enemy of Trump) got Russia involved in the election, who will believe his so-called proof except his base. He uses all these people who sworn oaths to work for the American people because he thinks doing so either protects his part in the scheme, or gives his “investigations” legitimacy. But, in the process, he has to destroy every institution of our democracy/republic that we have always relied on to be nonpartisan. He turns the very people appointed to run our American government into lackies. He turns what was a swamp when he entered the Oval Office into a sewer. Well, America happens to possess a sewer drain. It is called Impeachment.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Al-Monitor, NPR, Drain Cleaners

 

 

 

 

 

October 2019 Book List

Here’s my October 2019 Book List compiled from the Amazon front page for books, NYT Books, and Publisher’s Weekly Tip Sheet. Fiction and political nonfiction are probably the winning categories on this list with the most contenders for our attention. If you like crime books NYT always gives good crime. And there are plenty of thrillers. I imagine myself sitting in a chair surrounded by stacks of books. As soon as I am done with one the next one is close at hand. Of course the needs of the human body must still be met but I do so reluctantly and wish for a robot to at least bring me foodstuffs to graze on. Hint: Don’t give in to a fantasy like this. Our bodies deteriorate if we sit all the time. You still need fresh air and walks in the park. This is what books read aloud for our listening pleasure are for.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg *

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy *

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson *

The Topeka School: A Novel by Ben Lerner *

Cilka’s Journey: A Novel by Heather Moss *

Sarah Jane by James Sallis *

Olive Again: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout

Metropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson *

Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyer *

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Guardians: A Novel by John Grisham

Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury

The Deserter: A Novel by Nelson DeMille

The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

The Butterfly Girl: A Novel by Rene Denfeld

Agent Running in the Field: A Novel by John le Carré

Ninth  House by Leigh Burdugo

Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

Sarah Jane by James Sallis

Nonfiction

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West by H. W. Brands

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, from Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses by Dan Carlin

Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress by Christopher Ryan *

On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey by Paul Theroux

Movies and Other Things by Shea Serrano, Arturo Torres

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero by Christopher McDougall

Biographies and Memoirs

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones

Face It by Debbie Harry

Horror Stories: A Memoir by Liz Mair

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur *

Homework: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

Me: Elton John: Official Autobiography by Elton John

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox

I Will Never See the World Again: The Memoir of an Imprisoned Writer by Ahmet Altan

Edison by Edmund Morris

Beautiful on the Outside: A Memoir by Adam Rippon

Things We Didn’t Talk About When I was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper *

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Supernova Era by Cixin Liu, Joel Martinsen

The Girl With No Face: The Daoshi Chronicles by M. H. Boroson

Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Salvaged by Madeline Roux

The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Steel Craw Saga by Paul Keueger

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse – Book One of the Thorne Chronicles by K. Eason

New York Times Book

Sept. 6

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie F – see my review on goodreads.com

Overthrow by Caleb Crain F

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa F

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais F

The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan F

Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller Memoir

The Optimist’s Telescope by Bina Venkataraman NF

Audience of One by Gene Shteyngart NF

Learning from the Germans by Susan Neiman NF

Floating Coast by Bathsheba Demuth NF

Silver, Sword, and Stone by Marie Arana NF

First You Write a Sentence by Joe Moran NF

Karl Marx: Prophet of the Present by Shlomo Avineri Biography

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith Memoir

4 Books about CIA

Black Site: The CIA in Post-9/ll World by Philip Mudd NF

The Targeter: My Life in the CIA, Hunting Terrorists and Challenging the White House by Nada Bakos with David Coburn NF

The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics that Helped America Win the Cold War by Antonio J. Mendez and Jonna Mendez with Matt Baglio NF

Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary, Armies, Operators, and Assassins by Annie Jacobsen NF

All the Powers of Earth: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. 3 by Sidney Blumenthal NF

The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire Autobiography

Our Dog: Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond by Alexandra Horowitz NF

Defending Israel: The Story of My Relationship with My Most Challenging Client by Alan M Dershowitz NF

Editor’s Choice

Human Relationships and Other Difficulties: Essays by Mary-Kay Wilmers Essays

Faber and Faber: The Untold Story by Tony Faber NF

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine F

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk F

Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe F

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing and Coming Out by William Dameron NF

And How Are You. Dr. Sacks? A Biographical Memoir of Oliver Sacks by Lawrence Weschler Biographical Memoir

Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects by Ann Sverchup-Thygerson, trans. by Lucy Moffatt NF

Sept. 13

The Institute by Stephen King

Crime (4)

Heaven My Home by Attica Locke F

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr F

Missing Person by Sarah Lotz F

Three Hours by Anders Roslund and Gorge Hellstrom, trans. by Elizabeth Clark Wessel F

We the Survivors by Tash Aw F

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman F

The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina NF

Inconspicuous Consumption by Tatiana Schlossberg NF

The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg by Eleanor Randolph NF

Savage Appetites by Rachel Monroe NF

Love Falls on Us by Robbie Cory-Boulet NF

A Good Provider is One Who Leaves by Jason De Parle NF

Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell NF *

New Dystopian Novels

The Diver’s Game by Jesse Ball F *

The Warehouse by Rob Hart F *

The Nobody People by Bob Proehl *

Sept. 20

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood F *

Dominicana by Angie Cruz F *

A Door in the Earth by Alice Waldman F

Hard Mouth by Amanda Goldblatt F

Coventry by Rachel Cusk Essays

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey NF

The Education of Brett Kavanaugh by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly NF

Gender and Our Brains by Gina Rippon NF

See Jane Win by Caitlin Moscatello NF

Nobody’s Victim by Carrie Goldberg NF

Consent by Donna Freitas NF

YA Crossover

Who Put This Song On? By Morgan Parker

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

American Royals by Katharine McGee

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

Sept. 27

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett F

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson F

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller F

Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry F

Cold Storage by David Koepp F

Bottle Grove by Daniel Handler F

How to Be An Antiracist by Ibhram X Kendi NF

The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power NF

How the Other Half Learns by Robert Rondiscio NF

The Years that Matter Most by Paul Tough NF

The Geography of Risk by Gilbert Gaul NF

How to Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss NF

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein NF

The Green New Deal: Why Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life On Earth by Jeremy Rifkin NF *

Oct. 4

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner F

How to Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss NF

Crime (4)

Sarah Jane by James Sallis

Bloody Genius by John Sanford

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards

The Bird Boys by Lisa Sandlin

Cantoras by Carolina DeRobertis F

Akin by Emma Donoghue F *

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell NF

A State at Any Cost: The Life David Ben-Gurion by Tom Seger NF

What was Liberalism? The Past, Present and Promise of a Noble Idea by James Traub NF *

The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy by Robert Kuttner NF *

The Accusation by Edward Berenson NF

Scarred by Sarah Edmondson NF

Super Pumped by Mike Isaac NF

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple NF

Publisher’s Weekly

Sept. 6

Clear My Name by Paula Daly – Thriller

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, trans. from French by Frank Wynne – F

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman “challenging but undoubtably brilliant”, 750 Pages, Short-listed for Man Booker Prize F *

The Institute by Stephen King F *

Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream by Nicholas Lemann NF *

Don’t Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane – rom com

Guest House for Young Widows: The Women of ISIS by Asadeh Moaveni NF *

Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton (horror) F *

A Season on Earth by Gerald Mumane F *

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker F *

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power NF

Ruby and Roland by Faith Sullivan F *

Sept. 13

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie – Thriller

Gamechanger by C. X. Beckett – Science Fiction

The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer – Memoir

Opioid Indiana by Brian Allen Carr F

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards – Mystery

Think Black: A Memoir by Clyde W. Ford – NF *

The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester (based on a real story) F *

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke (Aryan Brotherhood storyline) – Mystery

Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals by Barbara Natterson Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prscott (Women in the CIA) – F *

Pittsburgh by Frank Santoro – Memoir

Snowflake, AZ by Marcus Sedgwick – YA 14+

Imagined Life: A Speculative Journey Among the Exoplanets in Search of Intelligent Aliens, Ice Creatures, and Super Gravity Animals by James Trefil and Michael Summers NF

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson “this is a wise, powerful, and compassionate novel” F *

Sept. 20

Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse F

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (currently reading) F *

Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming by Lászió Krasznahorkai, trans. from Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet F *

The Shadow King by Manza Mengiste (“a slice of Ethiopian history”) F

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz Science Fiction

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett F

The Fool and Other Moral Tales by Ann Serre, trans. from French by Mark Hutchinson – Short stories

Exile from Eden by Andrew Smith – Dystopian F – YA

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith – Memoir

Rusty Brown, Part 1 by Chris Ware – Graphic Novel

Sept. 30

I Will Never See the World Again: The Memoir of an Imprisoned Writer by Ahamet Altan, trans. from Turkish by Yasemin Congar NF

A Tall History of Sugar by Curdella Forbes (Jamaica) F

The Shape of Night by Tees Gerritsen – Thriller

The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith – Fantasy

Qualifications: A Graphic Memoir in Twelve Steps by David Heatley (addicted to rehab) Memoir

Dry Country by Jake Hinkson F

Whisper of Shadow and Flame by L. Penelope – Fantasy

Sarah Jane by James Sallis F

Frankissstein by Jeanetter Winterson F *

Oct. 6

Salt Slow by Julia Armfield – Short stories

Ninth House by Leigh Burdugo – Fantasy

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes – Memoir in verse

Older Brother by Mahir Guven, trans. from French by Tina Kover F

American Radicals: How Nineteenth Century Protest Shaped the Nation by Holly Jackson NF *

Fake Bingo by Jac Jemc – Short Stories

How We Fight For Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones – Memoir

Passing: A Memoir of Love and Death by Michael Korda (wife with brain cancer) NF *

Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation by Andrew Marantz NF *

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia F *

Grand Union by Zadie Smith – Short stories

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams – Memoir

 

 

 

Xi and Hong Kong – and Communism

Communism – Xi and Hong Kong

Communism sounds so good in theory but, so far, it is a system that never works. There is no such thing as a nice little (or big) communist country. The people own the means of production the theory goes. What exactly does that mean? You would think that it means that each person has a share of ownership of their workplace whether it is an office, a factory, a shop, or a farm, and they share in the profits.

But communism has turned out to be something much grimmer than that. In order to share the booty of trade, production, etc. you must belong to the communist party. The communist party has an inner circle of ideologues who end up being more powerful than other members of the party. After a power struggle at the top one person usually emerges as the Dear Leader. Party members are constantly tested for the purity of their beliefs and must answer questions with the ‘right’ answers according to an ever-shifting doctrine. If wrong answers are given punishment can result. In the case of the USSR, people who were not loyal enough were executed, sent to prison or to serve a long grueling sentence in a gulag until considered sufficiently subdued to offer no further trouble to the regime.

The inner circle, if they manage to toe the party line can make out like bandits, stealing or skimming from the projects or operations they are supposed to oversee on behalf of the people. Since no one is allowed to spread failures or corrupt practices as news, news sources and journalists are carefully controlled and all media is state-operated. Poets and authors who try to write exposés of the flaws in the system, or the brutal acts against any who are even thought to be dissenters, are fair game for imprisonment and even execution. Sometimes though the books or poems are smuggled out for the world to see. Perhaps a writer gets punished less if the outside world is watching.

Why would a system the people love need an ‘Iron Curtain’ or a Berlin Wall? It wouldn’t. Why is North Korea so secretive? China? Is it because they are basically slave states and they don’t want anyone to know the lengths they must resort to in order to keep the people under control? It is most likely also because if people could see the freedoms others around the world enjoy they would be in despair or revolution. In every communist country I have seen in the news or read about in books, the people are virtually captives. Trying to leave and move to another country is called a defection and is a crime. Imagine if it was a crime to leave America. Not as hard to imagine today as it once was, but we are not there yet.

Now imagine that you have lived in Hong Kong, once a protectorate, not part of China, where you lived a basically free existence. China (Beijing) recently decided to send people who break a law in Hong Kong to the mainland to be tried and punished if found guilty. The once-free people of Hong Kong see this as a major step to a total loss of autonomy, the end of their special status as a part of China, but a relatively free part of China. Now Tiananmen Square could happen in Hong Kong. Now their purity as communists and subjects of Xi can be tested and they can find themselves losing all their freedom for the slightest infraction. They can be removed from their home city, an island far from Xi, and can find themselves in trouble, with totally arbitrary punishments since no code dictates what punishments will be used, no impartial court exists to hear the details of their case.

I could be wrong about this but from all I have read and heard, from Solzhenitsyn to The Three Swans of China to the Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, communism involves anything but the people owning the means of production or owning anything else. There is always a capricious leader who uses fear and harsh punishment to keep people in line, as if without making people fear you there would be chaos all the time. Fear is used, more likely, to keep people from banding together and revolting and from noticing how deeply they are being ripped off.

So when I see the people of Hong Kong out protesting in the streets of their island city, when I see the city streets packed with thousands of bodies all at risk, I admire the bravery of the people of Hong Kong even as I am already mourning their eventual failure. Who can they turn to for help to keep their freedoms? Well not us that’s for sure and actually not anyone. No one wants to or can take on Xi’s China which is perhaps not powerful enough yet for world conquest, but is certainly powerful enough to defend its boundaries.

To take freedom away from people who have tasted its heady rewards, its unfettered mind, is a very tough task indeed. The people of Hong Kong deserve our praise, and once we might have gone to war to help them win their fight, but not now. Perhaps they will just be our shining example so that we don’t give up our own freedoms, any more of our own freedoms, without a fight. I wish that for once the underdog would win and Xi would decide to back off, find a way to do it without ‘losing face’, if that is still a thing, and let the people of Hong Kong go back to living with the freedoms they are used to having. -Just because Xi is President for Life and he can do that.

 

 

Take Down Trump, Then Tackle Republicans

Take Down Trump, Then Tackle Republicans

We are all adults here. We know that good and evil are never completely separate from each other. We also know that we have the potential for both good and evil within us. We also are aware that for whatever reasons (nature or nurture) there are people who do not seem able to tell good and evil apart, people who cannot suppress harmful impulses, people who make bad choices, and people who go down bad pathways.

We don’t expect that people will wear white hats or black hats so we can tell who might harm us. We know there may be a side that heeds the “light” and a “dark side,” but most of us have access to both kinds of impulses. We try to cut people some slack if we find that they are starting to act out of character, or when an aspect of their character seems to turn more dark than light. (I’m using this tired Star Wars analogy because it is a shared cultural meme.)

In politics this knowledge that we all contain both good and evil is the philosophy behind both-sides-ism. This is the basis of the statement that, “The Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans.” Well when it comes to corruption and money this might be true. There are just as many Democrats who seem to come away from Washington rich as there are Republicans. At least conventional wisdom says this is so.

But when it comes to governance, and the agenda each side has for the America people, it has become clear that Democrats are moving to the “light” side and Republicans have chosen to champion the “dark side”. Democrats have passed a number of bills addressing issues the American people care about: gun control legislation, drug price controls,  LGBTQ rights, paycheck fairness guarantees, a bill to secure elections and make it easier for people to vote, a bill to protect immigrant children born in America (dreamers), a Climate Action Now bill, a bill to restore the Violence Against Women Act, and a Save the Internet Act.

All these bills are sitting in the Senate because Mitch McConnell will not bring them to the floor for a vote and if he did bring them to the floor they would be voted down. But why? Each one of these bills secures a right for some or all American people. There is not one thing contained in these bills that should be considered injurious or that would have a negative effect on America or the American people. Even the most controversial bills protect rights for a segment of America.

Why is it that Republicans can get away with acting as if being born as an LGBTQ individual is a sin that will rub off on anyone of faith who gets near a same-sex couple or doesn’t try conversion therapy on a perhaps already-gobsmacked teen. In fact why should it be traumatic at all to find out about your sexual preferences? Why would a person of faith assume that it is fine, in fact required by God, to treat any person in this group as unacceptable, or even criminal?

For over two centuries people who were stolen from their homes and sold in America as slaves have been considered by “religious” Americans as less-than-human even as they fathered children by indiscriminately forcing enslaved women to lie with them and they could see that procreation was possible (thus proving the humanity of dark-skinned folks).

Haven’t we already been through this with people who claim that they believe these things because they are conservative when the rest of us can see that they are really just intolerant or bigoted patterns of behavior. People who identify as right-wingers want us to believe that immigrants are also subhuman. While there might be valid reasons that a nation cannot allow itself to be overrun with too many migrant people at one time, and while it may be true that some migrant people could be nursing hate for the land they want to enter, pretending that people are not human enough to live among us takes the fear just a bit too far. It takes it into the “dark side”. It appears that migrations will increase worldwide so it would seem better for the world’s nations to make a plan to make the upheaval of settled populations less unsettling.

It gets tiresome to keep tolerating hate and fear. It prevents a nation from looking to the future and coming up with reasonable ways to solve problems that are trending in the world at a particular time (such as migration due to climate change). These supposedly conservative, republican people are letting themselves be taken over by the “dark side” and there is no rational purpose for sympathizing with them except that they tend to get scary when challenged. They are wrong-headed and we know that they are holding us all back.

For some reason the entire Republican Party has gone over to the “dark side.” They insist that they are saving a nation that they are actually killing. Even before Trump was elected in 2016, Republicans wanted things that helped the Party and the wealthy far more than the people they promised to serve. Elite Republicans in the Senate could never have inspired the Tea Party. Talk Radio and Fox News did that. And they were the warm-up act for Trump.

Why would ordinary Americans, either urban or rural, care about tax cuts that only benefited the wealthiest Americans and corporations. These folks were sold a bill of goods; the trickle-down bill of goods. The Republicans at the base of the party were promised their factories back, which the Republican Party had to know was a lie. Republicans have experts to advise them on economics. The Republicans stick to trickle-down because the money trickles into their own bank accounts and stock portfolios.

Why would average Americans care about state’s rights? I doubt if many people who work every day have spent a lot of time thinking about what the US would be like if the state’s individually had more power than the federal government. Chaos is not conducive to peaceful productive lives, nor does it make America a great place to raise your children. If every individual state made its own laws things would begin to feel complicated.

Why would people who live in states that are destroyed time and again by ever fiercer storms like to see rules passed to stop protecting people from toxic environmental anomalies? We see the tracks of people’s grief, homes turned to splinters. The only reason I can think of is that these folks have been convinced by media that our factories left because those awful Democrats forced them to follow environmental rules. That may have been part of why factories left but cheap labor and new markets were the real temptations to stray.

Why would people fight against the Medicaid expansion that Obama offered and cheer on their red state when it turned the federal money down? These were people without jobs at the time. They needed health care. Why did they vote against their own interests? Tradition? Brainwashing? The fear of creeping socialism planted in their brains by the instruments of propaganda.

It is called budgeting when the American people decide how they want to spend their tax dollars. If they want to spend on programs that help parents who work, help people afford good health care and meds, help turn out productive young people by subsidizing the cost of good post-high school training or education, on updating infrastructure, that is the people’s business. It is not socialism.

Republicans were already going about the business of dismantling bipartisan government and remaking it in the image that was hammered out in meetings between Conservatives, corporate heavies like the Koch’s and Evangelicals. How many people cared about whether Creationism should be taught in schools before these right-wing believers convinced them that this is not a nation that guarantees religious freedom to all; this is a Christian nation they say, and Christians believe in creationism, not evolution. It is so hard to argue that Christians have gone over to the “dark side” but they have. It is no longer easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Now if you are wealthy you are chosen by God and he proved it by making you rich. That’s not in the Bible I read, however.

If the Republican Party has gone to the “dark side” then Trump is their perfect minion, although now transformed into their “anything-can-happen” boss. He is not even Darth Vader, because Vader still had some light in him. He is Supreme Leader Snoke, that man so evil that he did not realize how ugly he had become. Take heart. Although Snoke did have power, he was not quite as invincible as he believed himself to be .

Trump also has a very weird effect on people. He can turn them into absolute loyalists who scurry to do his bidding even though this corruption could destroy our American dream. Toadyism turns our government representatives, who pledged an oath to uphold  the documents that make our country a republic, into something too terrible to contemplate, something we have spent 240 years trying to stave off.

Even if we get rid of Trump as we need to do, we are left with the shameless and lawless Republican Party. I cannot believe that people still interview Republicans and pretend that Democrats are deliberately refusing to be bipartisan when it is totally the other way around. Republicans no longer have a bipartisan bone in their bodies. The only reason I can see for them to behave as they do is because of their ‘Grand Plan’ to take over our government and remake it according to reactionary right-wing visions; to keep our country tied to fossil fuels even if it kills our economy and our planet; and to never again have to listen to a “liberal” idea.

Unless the Republican Party gives up its not-so-shadowy takeover agenda and turns back into a party that helps steer us and keep us somewhat fiscally cautious as we move forward, either the Republican Party will die or the Grand American experiment will. Under the ‘Republican Plan’ we will all become ‘sad’ little subjects of some leader’s capricious whims for many, many ‘sad’ years.

No amount of power, no amount of stockpiled money will suffice to assure that you can keep the future at bay through stubborn will. Despite many flaws recounted in the news every day (we all have flaws) we need to let Democrats lead for enough years to guide us smoothly into what promises to be an increasingly global future as leaders of a nation involved in determining what that future will look like.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – DIY Website Tools, Hulen Street Church

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie – Book

Quichotte, Salman Rushdie’s most recent book is chock full of India-Indian Americans who seem as at home and doomed, with lives as empty as any American whose family has lived here for decades, or even centuries. Why are we here, not in America, but on this planet? Why are we intent on destroying the planet that is our home? What do we want? What does it all mean? We seem, in Rushdie’s tale as aimless as five dice in a Yahtzee cup.

Thematically Rushdie covers a lot of territory. Immigration or at least transplantation is in there, as are journeys, tilting at windmills, nostalgia, despair, guilt, hate, love, forgiveness, human failings, cultural failings, Planet B, apocalypse, dystopia and more, sort of an I Ching of modern pathologies.

This is a story loosely based on the Don Quixote story and Quichotte (Key-shot) is on a journey from Motel 6’s to Red Roof Inns across America peddling meds for his distant relation, Dr. Smile. Our Quichotte is a man with a big hole in his memory, a retrieval problem. He follows meteor showers from one magical western rock formation to another as he distributes his samples. Dr. Smile and his wife Happy Smile don’t think of themselves as drug dealers, but they are – so is Quichotte although he can barely be considered as capable of peddling anything.

Dr. Smile has created a new form of fentanyl to help cancer patients with breakthrough pain. It is sprayed under the tongue killing pain instantly. But it is very seductive and dangerous, the perfect pairing to make it beloved by those who abuse drugs. It is opioids on mega-steroids. Of course the drug escapes the medical boundaries of its designers and gets prescribed to just about anyone who wants it.

Quichotte does not know he is a drug dealer. He is just working for his relative and fortunately he gets fired before his job becomes an issue, fortunate because he has many other issues, one of them being that he is in love. Dr. Smile and Quichotte cross paths again though.

If you have seen a mirror that reflects the same scene back to a vanishing point, mirror after mirror, then you have some idea of Rushdie’s story structure. Or perhaps it’s like a set on nesting dolls. We have brothers, sons, fathers, sisters, all over the place, all estranged, all seeking to reconcile. Everyone is questing to bind wounds from the past. Everyone is looking for love, mostly of the sibling variety, except for Quichotte who has fallen in love inappropriately with a young TV star, and has created a son (Sancho) from a fervent wish on a meteor shower. Also, the world is starting to flicker around the edges like an old film that is fading in spots or dying from overexposure to light or heat in others.

I always say that India and America are soul mates but it is perhaps more likely that the people of our two nations are the actual soul mates. Thanks for the trip Salman Rushdie. I hope this story, Quichotte, which seemed to say farewell, will be followed by more Salman Rushdie productions in the future. Maybe despair is our present and our future, but maybe not. Perhaps we can turn our own planet into Planet B and soon, before we destroy each other along with the planet.

Impeachment – A Tool Meant to Be Used

These have been trying times with Trump in the presidency and a Senate that is staging some kind of Republican rebellion. The GOP is deep in the middle of a one-sided battle without rules to unseat the entire Democratic Party and impose a Conservative, Evangelical, Corporatist agenda in American politics for as long as we all shall live.

Trump is certainly an unlikely person to lead such a campaign, Mr. Richie Rich Bone Spurs avoids things like duty, and he is crude, far too crude for normal conservative sensibilities (oops, sorry George Will). Trump’s tactics are a bit fascist and bear a too-close similarity to those used by the mafia figures encountered by Trump in his NYC career as a ruthless real estate developer sans talent. Several recent articles have also painted a detailed picture of the role the very corrupt Roy Cohn played in Trump’s upbringing.

But with a group like The Family (did you watch the series on Netflix, very compelling and more than a bit frightening) laying hands on Trump and with their strategy of buddying up with the powerful, no matter how corrupt, and referencing Jesus, almost any lout can be declared off limits as they are in the process of being purified.

As I have watched Trump’s election campaign and these three years of his presidency he seems to me to have given us reasons to impeach him many times over. I believe our approach to impeachment is to turn it into almost a sacrament. We expect our presidents to exhibit a high caliber of ethical and chauvinistic behavior. Our forefathers gave us a tool, one tool to evict a man of low character from the highest office in our nation or to at least censure him, and that tool is impeachment. What good is a tool if you can’t use it?

A number of people have warned us that our democracy/republic is in danger because lip service to Constitutional guidelines is not the same as actual adherence to the Constitutional rules of governance that guide our republic. Yes impeachment is a tool that should be used cautiously and with great respect and introspection, but it should be used, any time it is really needed, and I think it is needed right now, right this very minute.

There is an article by David Brooks in this morning’s New York Times in which Mr. Brooks lays out all the reasons this impeachment is a very bad move for Democrats. He says it is too close to an election (when aren’t we close to an election), he says it looks elitist, as if the Democrats don’t trust the people to make the correct decision (well it didn’t look like that until he put this spin on it, I think Democrats will show solidarity on this front now that the decision has been made to move forward). He makes a number of other complaints that are too late and too beside the point now that proof of calumny is at hand. Here’s a bit of what Brooks has to say:

“Remember, impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. There is no obligation to prosecute. Congress is supposed to do what is in the best interest of the country. And this process could be very bad for America:

This will probably achieve nothing. To actually remove Trump from office, at least 20 Republican senators would have to vote to convict him. If you think that will happen because of this incident, you haven’t been paying attention to the Senate Republicans over the past two and a half years.

Usually when a leader takes a big risk, it’s because there’s a big upside. But Nancy Pelosi is taking a giant risk and there is little upside. At the end of this process Trump will probably be acquitted by the Senate. He will declare himself vindicated and victorious in his battle against The Swamp. An ugly backlash could ensue — in both parties.”

(The upside is that this decision is principled, it is politically correct, and it is brave especially given all the opposition Democrats face. No one, Democrats included, expects that the Republicans have any principles left or will take a stand against this very flawed individual who happens to be presenting a warped America to a stunned world.)

“People will conclude that Democrats are going ahead with impeachment in an election year because they don’t trust the democratic process to yield the right outcome. Democratic elites to voters: We don’t trust you. Too many of you are racists!”

 (Democrats are not making this move because they do not trust the American people; they are making this move to impeachment because perhaps this time the deniability Trump has learned to wield as a cloak has been pierced by the very safeguards we have built into our system, and a whistleblower and good record-keeping has exposed Trump’s lawless tactics in the open where they can be challenged by law or at least Congressional process.)

“An election can save the country. An inside-the-Beltway political brawl will not.”

(Impeachment should never be considered an ‘inside-the-Beltway brawl’ when it is the right tool used at the necessary moment. We the people may be diametrically opposed on the issue of impeachment but we have all considered it in these particular political times, either for or against. If we don’t call out Trump’s behavior now, if we keep excusing him while we wait for an election then he continues to appear blameless, or at least untouchable. I don’t think Mr. Brooks gives ‘we the people’ enough credit for the intelligence we actually possess out here in not-DC America.)

The decision to pursue impeachment has been made. This is not the time to second guess that decision. This is when we must all watch the proceedings closely to make sure that the process is allowed to unfold appropriately and reaches a reasoned conclusion based on the evidence that our leader is possibly in the wrong office, that he does not meet the high standards of our nation or match the imperatives of our history.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Vox

 

 

Mark Zuckerberg and Big Brother

Mark Zuckerberg and Big Brother

Facebook allowed bots from Russia, and fake accounts that originated in Russia to post fake ads to Facebook to try to sway the 2016 election. Zuckerberg, et al were into a head space where free means free and anyone gets to speak on Facebook. And I suppose it is actually possible that he was unaware of just who was speaking and what they were speaking about. Is propaganda-speech from unidentified sources protected by America’s First Amendment? Is free speech absolute or is it really only possible to have relatively-free speech?

Hard to say because now our Supreme Court has ruled that money can be speech and that corporations are people and can weigh in at elections with as much money and influence as they please. Perhaps our government shares some guilt in this Russian interference because they allowed money to flood elections while the sources of the money are protected and do not have to be revealed.

But in this case, the government has Facebook in hot water because the bots and fake accounts did not originate in America but were posted from Russia by Russians to meddle in an American election. Social media, unless posters are carefully vetted, allows elections to be influenced globally, and not just in America, but in any nation. I’m not sure why Mark Zuckerberg is taking all the blame for foreign interference, but his business model, which charges no fees to users relies completely on selling data from users to companies who will pay for the data. I suppose we all knew he was doing this, but if we stopped to think about it, when it was called to our attention, it became clear that it is an invasion of our privacy and it was being done without asking for our stated permissions. Who has our data? We have no idea. Does Mr. Zuckerberg know? Does Russia have our data? China? Everyone?

Zuckerberg’s business model now relies on earnings from selling space on Facebook, selling ads. But because the internet is still basically the Wild West he cannot actually be sure who is buying these ads. The US government is not happy. They threaten him with anti-trust laws.

So now Zuckerberg must find ways to vet Facebook users in order to eliminate anonymous foreign interference and vet US users to make sure they are real citizens. He has had to put himself under the thumb of the government (the Trump government). Given the way social media works he has been given a Herculean task. Almost anyone it seems can hack the internet and steal information (data), block the data of schools and governments for ransom, generate fake accounts. So now the government wants names and addresses. Do you see the Big Brother connection?

I have a website, a blog, where I post opinion articles about politics. Facebook offered to push out an ad to connect readers to my articles. It was useful to help find readers, although finding trolls was far more likely, and  it is inexpensive. It did get my posts out to more readers, but the readers did not tend to stay or come back on their own. However, since it was helpful and cheap I continued to use Facebook’s ad services.

I had to prove that I was a real person and not a bot by going through a process of four factor authentication. The last step involved sending a code to my house that I then had to enter on Facebook. But that 4 factor vetting is not enough, apparently. Now if you write about politics you have to register with the government. I do not trust our current government. I think of Trump’s government as constantly trying to create lists of American citizens who might become Trump ‘enemies’. I will simply stop buying ads on Facebook and write in the dark. Big Brother is watching!

This is the text of the note I got on Facebook from Mark Zuckerberg:

Hello

In August we announced several updates to ensure greater authenticity and transparency for social issue, electoral, and political ads in the United States. Advertisers can now begin the process of providing more information about their organization and give people insight into who is responsible for the ad before getting their “Paid for by” disclaimer approved. We encourage you to start this process as soon as possible. Beginning mid-October advertisers who have not provided the new required information will have their ads paused until they complete the new disclaimer process.

Advertisers targeting the US with ads about social issues, elections, or politics, now have five options for confirming their organization including three options that prove they are registered with the US government.

  1. Tax-registered organization
  2. Federal Election Commission ID number (FEC)
  3. Government based email and website with similar domains (ending in .gov or .mil)

If they complete one of these options they will receive a ‘Confirmed Organization’ icon that will appear on all their issues, electoral and political ads. We also want to ensure advertisers who do not have those credentials, such as smaller businesses or local politicians, are empowered to run issue, electoral or political ads. These advertisers will have two options and their ads will have an ‘About this ad’ icon in lieu of the ‘Confirmed Organization’ icon:

  1. Submit a different organization name, along with a US street address, phone number, email and website that matches the email
  2. Use the Page admin’s name as it appears on their valid government-issued ID. For this option, the advertiser will not be able to use an organization name in disclaimers.

These new indicators, which shows if an ad is run by a ‘Confirmed Organization’ or not, aims to bring transparency directly to people by helping them understand who is paying for the ad. With this layer of transparency, people will be able to see the information Facebook confirmed with one tap on the ‘Confirmed Organization’ or ‘About this Ad’ icons. The information Facebook confirmed will be publicly accessible in the Ad Library for seven years.

Join the Facebook team for a live webinar on Sept. 24 or Oct. 7 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET to walk through the new disclaimer process with Q&A

End of note-

Let the hacking and government surveillance begin…

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, youtube.com

His Contempt, Our Shame: Beef Up the Constitution

From a Google image Search – Washington Monthly

Congress holds the purse strings. Can the president go outside of Congress to fund his projects? Can a president take money from items already budgeted to other government departments or agencies. What if Congress says no it will not give him money to build a wall even when he claims it is a national emergency, because Congress knows it is not an actual national emergency? Does a president have absolute power regardless of the issue to decide that Congress is wrong, that Congress will put the nation in jeopardy, that the president must step in and save America from what he perceives as a crisis, although others do not? Or is the real plan just to grab power and render Congress inert?

Can a president disrespect the Constitution by ignoring its stated directions? In the case of the emoluments clauses, both foreign and domestic can a president decide that s/he can ignore that part of the Constitution and just line his own pockets with money that the Constitution interdicts because of matters of outside influence. Can a president direct the military of our nation to lay over at a private hotel or property or country club/golf course he owns and accept tax dollars as payment for the rooms, food, drinks, etc.? Can he also accept profit from foreign leaders who stay at his properties? The Constitution clearly says no, but a lawless president does this openly and defies the people when they complain.

Congress asks for documents to prove the president’s acceptance of emoluments, the president denies access to the documents, orders pertinent agencies to deny access to documents, and then turns to the media and says, “where is the proof?” Yes, other presidents have done this but have been eventually forced to back down by loud opposition. This president denies Congress access to anything that touches the executive and since he governs alone this means Congress is denied access to everything. Without the Senate to back up the House, opposition is very silent indeed.

Can a president declare every word he utters so private that the people he utters those words to are not allowed to testify to the appropriate investigative committees in Congress? Can he also protect the speech of people who were never hired to work in government? Apparently he can do that.

Watch the Democrats in the House try to see the president’s tax documents, which every modern president has delivered to Congress. Watch the committees in the House of Representatives try to talk to any of the people who testified before the Mueller Investigation and you will see something like the travesty of the hearing with Corey Lewandowski who basically sneered at our representatives and hid behind a president who controls people with veiled threats. Bear witness to the two empty seats at the table representing Trump/government employees who refused to testify because Trump told them not to.

Clearly you can do any old thing you want as president if you surround yourself with cult members and threaten mayhem. But is this democracy? Is this our republic as described in our Constitution? If you deny the power of the Constitution which makes our government a republic and you deny the Congress which makes our government a democracy, haven’t we already tipped over into authoritarianism?

I swear all these actions are unprecedented in quantity and in the flagrancy with which they are conducted. I once thought our Constitution could protect our freedoms, protect us from the authoritarian whims that might arise through power and executive privilege. But as revered as it is, a Constitution is just a piece of paper and without people in Congress to enforce it we might as well burn it. Without enforcement it is useless. And it should first be enforced by Congress, second by our Department of Justice, third by our courts, and fourth by we the people. We are failing on every level.

We are letting an unqualified person run this great nation all by himself because everyone around him just enables him for what are probably a variety of reasons. We hate the way he is running our nation but every day we let him pretend that his is actually governing when he is really just flying by the seat of his pants, and grinning. When and if we get rid of this usurper, this authoritarian dictator wrapped in our flag, we must beef up our laws so that we can deal effectively with any others with delusions of grandeur, who take office by taking an oath on a document which they fully intend to ignore.

Our president is actually an “anti-president. Although he supposedly represents conservative Americans who believe in state’s rights he went to California to boss the state around. Perhaps you remember the smoggy air that used to hang over California cities and highways before there were emissions standards for cars. The president supposedly believes that auto manufacturers will stay in America if he strips away these emission standards. That is not the reason our manufacturing left our shores, or at least not the only reason. The president decided this simplistic approach sometime in the 80’s and has waited to impress us with his brilliance all this time.

Our cars are designed and built using the tougher emissions standards and it has almost wiped out smog and the acid rain which used to fall over the Adirondacks with devastating effect. Manufacturers will have to retool and redesign to go back to older standards. They don’t care to do it. But Donald wants it, he demands it, he declares it and all must comply, even California. And while he’s there he might as well solve that homeless problem California has too. As if you can do that by mandate or mythic powers.

Here is a man who lets disaster hit Puerto Rico and the Bahamas and he is barely moved by the plight of these people who live so near America or who actually have a partnership with America, and who then contemplates going to the aid of Saudi Arabia when two of the nation’s oil wells are hit by drones and missiles. He gives the power to the Saudi’s to tell us what they would like us to do. Unprecedented. We begin to sense that our president’s relationship with the Saudi’s might be a bit too close. It may have started out being about Trump’s money, but it could end up being about American lives. Even Trump seems a bit taken aback by the prospect of war with Iran, although he considers them bad actors who must eventually be dealt with.

It almost seems like real America. But it’s not. The president’s assaults are so unending and constant, so shocking that we have become numb (shell shock?) and we just decide to listen to Nancy Pelosi and get rid of the president and all his henchmen at once the only way we can, in an election. I do believe that Pelosi is a consummate political strategist, but I still find myself wishing we were acting more like activists and less like this is all a normal ho hum election. This election may very well be the only thing that stands between the return of a robust democracy and a dreary, chaotic state  – a state that jerks from oddball policies to the same old diplomatic strategy of “psyching out” the totalitarian leadership of nations that feel so beleaguered that they choose aggression over politics.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The National Review

When Winning Means Losing Blame Republicans

The Republican Party sold itself lock, stock, and barrel to the corporations and to the Americans who used the corporate system to become the small class of billionaires who now hoard the largest share of American wealth. Perhaps the GOP got nervous when they saw the factories leaving and sheltering profits elsewhere. It was certainly enough to make us all nervous. They decided to go all-in on deregulation and to reverse environmental rules, things they felt would tempt businesses to return. They focused on robbing unions of their power, and of making people who need government help to live a decent life fearful that the government would no longer be able to pay for a safety net.

Conservatives and Evangelicals worked together, a bizarre wedding of convenience, once considered unthinkable until Evangelicals rewrote the Bible. The new Evangelical Bible pronounces that the wealthy are rich because they are chosen, because God loves them better than he loves the middle class or the poor. God wants them to live in mansions and own jets and yachts, all the better to convince people who worship other gods that ours is the most powerful. Based on what we all learned in Sunday school this is the exact opposite of what Jesus would do?

Once the people at the base of the party, hoi polloi for sure, but in a democracy numbers are important, formed the Tea Party to parrot the sentiments of the Republican talking points the battle became far more lop-sided. The Republicans, through the careful planning with their wealthy allies now had the tools in place to unseat the Democratic Party, or at least make them powerless. In order to do the biding of their corporate overlords and their newly zombie-ized base they had a list of priorities to take care of. They had to rig the vote so Republicans could hold on to a power they were in danger of losing. They had to deregulate. They had to deny climate change so they could reverse climate laws. They had to constantly remind their base that minorities were about to dominate America and that immigrants were cashing in at the expense of taxpayers. They had to pass that obscene tax cut which made America more top-heavy then ever. They had to demonize the other party. They had to isolate America from our allies and trash the media, make it impossible to tell who was right and who was wrong. They had to pillage the countryside (privatize public lands) and rape the women (get them under their thumbs).

It has been a masterful plan and with the Democrats subpoenaing documents and witnesses every day and being flatly denied rights that our Constitution clearly assigns to them as the majority in the House of Representatives, with one fell swoop an opposing Party seems to be side-lined and even a little ridiculous, and the American Constitution is violated and rendered obsolete. Even today as Corey Lewandowski finally appears before the House committee, he is under orders from the president to not testify to anything substantive. But Corey Lewandowski never worked in the Trump administration, only the Trump campaign, so the only power Trump has over Lewandowski is that of a mafia godfather. Even with a thug running America the Republicans stick to their master plan and smile the annoying smile of men who consider themselves powerful.

But the Republican Party is living in a fantasy world of their own making. Those factories are perfectly happy where they are. They have no intention of repatriating their dollars unless someone finds a way to make America once again the center of prosperity. You cannot isolate a nation our size in a world full of ships and jets. When the Ebola virus looked like it would cause a pandemic we should have learned this lesson. You can end immigration, you can end tourism, you can end trade (no you can’t, these guys are capitalists) but you cannot guarantee that nothing bad (like 9/11) will ever again happen in America. Even something as tiny as a mosquito could undermine your plan. You can have your righteous snit and pledge that the world will not turn us into a poor nation because we will stop helping poorer nations around the world. If they don’t like us we will take our toys and go home. We will no longer invest dollars in foreign aid to people who apparently hate us. But isolationism and white supremacy and pretending to turn America into a Capitalist Fantasy Park will not work.

What will work is to invest in America and the American people, to offer training and opportunity, to open the doors once again to immigrants whose striving could energize us all. If we subsidize the American people for a while, if we spend money to make money, we can be an engine of innovation and usher in a new age of prosperity. I think this new prosperity comes through both innovation to save the planet and innovation to leave the planet. If the Republicans succeed, if they “win”, America will lose.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – National Review