Thoughts on Veteran’s Day 2018

It’s Veterans Day, 2018 when we remember the real people, men and women, who had to put their lives on hold to defend our nation, our values, and our way of life. There was pride in this and love of America that gave our soldiers and our citizens a sense of community and common purpose. While wars were killing men and tearing them away from everything they loved about being alive, they were also forging bonds between soldiers that seemed unbreakable. Until the Vietnam War the nation bonded also to offer a united front of love and gratitude to our fighting forces. Even in the Vietnam War someone could protest the complicated and questionable reasons for the war and still love family members who went so far away to fight in a war that was tearing Americans apart at home.

My Dad did not go to war. He had an eighth grade education. He had very flat feet. An army “runs on its feet”. He also was the sole support of his parents and of his brand-new wife, my mother. And he was employed in a war industry. My sister and I were born while most men were still in Europe or fighting in the Pacific. My father’s personality was never complicated by having to live so close to death as many others had done. But his life was complicated by the guilt he felt about the rather mundane roots of his good fortune and he was always sidelined by not belonging to the fraternal orders created by and for veterans. Vets did not talk much to their wives and children about the war, but they did seek the comfort of the company of other soldiers.

We lived in a city when I was born, and we learned the story of why my parents, already older than most couples in those days, did not have children for almost three years after they married. They married in 1941 and my sister was born in 1944. My father worked nights. My mother worked days. The busses they were on passed each other in the morning and they would wave and get on with their next piece of business, either sleeping or working. They were very poor as they both gave money to their parents. Once they began having babies they did not stop. Two of us were the same age for 5 days with not even a whole year between our births. Soon we had seven people living in a two-bedroom city apartment. By then everyone was home from the war. Housing boomed, but my Dad was not a vet.

Finally, Dad found a house for us in a small town that was almost rural but destined to become a suburb. We had fresh air and frog ponds and empty lots to roam. We had bikes and skates and although we never had enough bedrooms, we did not feel cramped in these early years. The babies kept coming though. When I was around eight I began to see the effect war had had on those who fought it.

Next door to us, a tiny house sat so far back from the road that it was right next to our back yard. In this house lived Mrs. Crabtree.  Mrs. Crabtree scared us children to death and I’m sure that our boisterous play outside her windows annoyed her no end. Occasionally she would experience some kind of psychotic break; she would open her front door and stand in the doorway in her slip and tell off the neighborhood. She would rant and rave, and we came to believe that she was a sort of witch, a person to fear and tiptoe around, except that a “clowder” of children have a hard time remembering to keep it down for long. Later, as a teen, I learned that Mary Crabtree was a soldier in WWII (actually a nurse) and that she had a metal plate in her head covering the hole in her skull from when she had been hit with mortar. She drank to deaden memory and pain. My dad was kind to her and we felt guilty that we had been so clueless.

Across the road was another house of strife, a mom and dad who drank and fought their way through the days of their silent children’s lives until one child fought back and exhibited signs of rebellion, which never died out and caused her to choose things that were harmful, and led to her early demise. The father in this family was a vet. We all met these parents many times and we did not find them unfriendly. The mom and other moms came to visit around our dining room table because my mom was tied down by children. But the men never came to visit my father, although they did not shun him. Dad just did not fit in. My Dad did not drink. This across-the-road dad was a drinker. When the fighting at home reached a crescendo that was intolerable, he left for the VFW and the comradery of fellow soldiers.

So two examples of what war can do to those who fight it, lived their lives before my eyes, and finally, after the Vietnam War we as a nation began to talk about treating the problems of physical and mental adjustments that men (and women) had to deal with after wars. Those vets I knew fought in a war that we were proud to fight in, a war against a monster who could not be allowed to spread his hate any further than he already had done. The problems vets faced became even greater when soldiers had to come home to a country that did not support the war in which they had just fought.

Just this past week a vet used his skills with a gun to kill young people enjoying themselves dancing in a country bar in Thousand Oaks, California. We are not good at helping vets who are mentally twisted by the things they are asked to do in a war.

And yet we go to war time after time. There are always seemingly valid reasons to subdue a leader or a nation that thinks taking on the world will allow this leader or nation to dominate a larger chunk of the world. People will continue to go off to war unless we begin an era of all robot wars, or all drone wars. (It is quite different to be the nation that sends a drone than it is to be the nation that receives a drone however, and as drones become more common our own nation may become a target for drones.) Even in the case of robotic war or drone wars, soldiers will still be necessary I am guessing. In fact, soldiers who send drones to kill distant bad guys sometimes also kill innocents, and we are finding that this has mental repercussions despite the fact that the soldier is not in physical jeopardy.

Well this is a weekend to remember all of this. It is a time to remember how wars make it possible for family members who are at some distance from a war to live in relative safety. It is a time to remember what soldiers sacrifice to fight for us in wars. It is a time of gratitude. It should also be a time to teach ourselves better ways to help warriors heal when they return home from wars. Short of wiping memory it may be impossible to be totally unaffected by fighting other humans in a killing war. Perhaps all we can hope for is to ameliorate the problems of those who seem to be affected the most by being sent into situations that require you to kill or be killed.

Veterans Day is also a perfect time to remember to do all in our power to keep our world at peace.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, CNY Vets Parada and Expo

Year One by Nora Roberts – Book

 

Nora Roberts, author of Year One usually writes romance novels. I do enjoy a good romance novel. It doesn’t necessarily give your brain a workout but it sends you on an emotional journey that often ends in a happy sigh and a temporary uplift in your spirts. Lately I forgo the brief jolt of endorphins offered by fake joy for books with a more mental punch. But I will say that I think even fake joy can make your day. This time Nora Roberts goes off the chart and gives us an apocalypse. Even if it still encompasses a good deal of romance, there is also suspense and grief and magic and black magic, and this is only the first book of a trilogy, The Chronicles of the One. One of my sisters passed this book on to me.

The story begins in Scotland where Ross MacLeod, who now resides in NYC, visits the family farm in Dumfries, Scotland which has been in the family for over two hundred years. Ross goes for a walk on his land and changes the world when he shoots a pheasant that lands in a magic circle and activates an old blood sacrifice he accidentally contributed to fifty years earlier, simply by tripping and scraping a hand on a stone that sits in that ancient stone circle on the property. Ross is a bit freaked by the circling of crows above the site but he is no believer in magic. When he gets very ill he thinks it is a flu virus. Then he dies. Soon this untreatable and incurable disease, named the Doom, begins to spread as rapidly as people move around the globe these days.

The grief people feel is enormous. Max and Lana, newly in love and experimenting with some talents they seem to possess which indicate they might be witches, do not sense the enormity of the escalating depopulation right away. For a moment they are a spot of joy in a city that is being devastated by disease and looting and violence. Lana is a chef, Max a writer. Arlys, a newscaster on a popular NYC stations has been promoted to the main news desk by default. She offers daily news to anyone who is still listening. Fred is an intern who works with Arlys and who has a secret which might help explain her effervescent personality. One day Arlys is given reasons to tell her listeners the real news, which is far more frightening than what she is used to offering. Rachel is a doctor, Jonah an EMT. They are trying to run a hospital with fewer and fewer staff, and patients they are unable to save.

When these New Yorkers finally accept that they must leave their beloved city and travel to more rural areas we see them depart in pairs to look for more people who have survived the Doom. Why some people survive while others do not is something that has no satisfactory answer. Some survivors have found that they now have magical talents. Fred’s secret is that she is a faerie with wings and a sprightly spirit that makes her quite lovable. Max and Lana find that they have become more talented witches than they ever were before. Some people find they are elves. And yet some people like Rachel and Arlys have no discernible magical talents and yet they survive.

Getting out of New York is not an easy thing for anyone. It turns out that magical people, like normal people can use their talents for good or for evil. Many survivors have turned to evil and can harm magical people who strive to be good if they catch them off guard or if their talents are unequal. There are also the usual gangs that thrive on chaos. Traveling is scary and dangerous and there is more safety in numbers. Eventually all these New Yorkers meet, not quite by accident in a new community that is taking shape in New Hope, Virginia.

There is social commentary here. The Uncanny, as the magical humans are named, become “the other” and are feared by intolerant humans who cannot accept people with magical talents as neighbors. They taunt them and troll them and make sharing a community uncomfortable and sometimes worse things happen when the intolerants do more than use their words.

As soon as the internet is partially restored this message is posted:  “If you are reading this, you are one of the chosen. No doubt you have lost those dear to you and have felt, many still know, despair. No doubt you have witnessed firsthand the abominations that have desecrated the world Our Lord created. You may believe the End Times are upon us. But take heart! You are not alone! Have faith! Have courage! We who survived this demonic plague wrought by Satan’s Children face a Great Test. Only we can defend our world, our lives our very souls. Arm yourselves and join The Holy Crusade.” The Purity Warriors

The Purity Warriors pretend to save the world in the name of religion but they actually spread terror and violent rape and death, especially targeting the Uncanny. But Lana is carrying The One. Will she bear the child in safety to grow to her full powers? How will she change the sad equation in a ruined world? Good stuff for real, even if it seems to have a bit too much sugar on top.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Parade

Find me on goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

Why Do We Think Republicans are Good for the Economy

Why do we think Republicans are good for the economy? Republican talking points were hammered into our heads for just about the entire eight years of the Obama administration. One such talking point said that we need to shrink government (code for we need to do away with social programs: Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, Food Stamps, CHIP, WIC, Medicare, and now the ACA). These things are not the business of the federal government GOPers would declare.

Then they would argue that programs like these perpetuate poverty by institutionalizing dependence. They would argue that these programs have done nothing to end poverty. Look at the data. How many people have actually been lifted out of poverty they pontificate? Perhaps these people who claim to be devoutly religious forgot that Jesus said there will always be poor people.

There is also data to suggest that if you were able to leave a poor neighborhood, or get a good education or both, it is possible that your fortunes did improve. And we know that this is not quite as true for black and brown people who were often not welcome in white neighborhoods or suburban schools with larger budgets that provided better educational experiences.

Recent studies tell us that housing discrimination played a greater role in placing limitations on minorities even when other inequalities were legislated away. Realtors found ways to keep minorities out of more upscale white neighborhoods. Look for an article with the title The Architecture of Poverty. Read Eviction by Matt Desmond. Subscribe to the Daily Beast which is doing a series of articles about this.

We have seen the underlying racism and white nationalism lurking in the Republican Party since the parties switched platforms during the Civil Rights movement of the late 50’s and early 60’s. We thought that this was a line of prejudice that did not run through everyone in the party. We can no longer say that here in 2018 with Donald Trump at the head of the GOP.

But aside from this abiding hate and bigotry and long-nursed resentment, aside from a firm belief, against all scientific evidence that people with darker skin are inferior to people with white skin; the key policies of the Republican Party all center around money, economics, business, Capitalism (and military power). Prominent Republicans have even said that they know God favors them because he has blessed them with great wealth. So now the wealthy are more beloved by God than the poor. But if my Sunday school religious education is correct, I believe Jesus said that it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The litany of the Republican talking points included all the things they would do if/when they took over in Washington; all the things they are doing right now. Deregulation was near the top of the GOP wish list. If businesses were allowed free rein the economy would fly, they promised, all the factories would return, and the American economy would be fixed forever and ever. Climate change considerations were declared bad science and the GOP has been overturning safety rules left and right. Mercury no longer a controlled substance; asbestos perfectly fine. Now the Republicans were able to allow drilling everywhere and fossil fuels would flow like water and reset the health of wealth around the planet, melting ice caps be damned. Keystone, yes; drilling in the Arctic, AOK, fracking, the more the merrier. The GOP said they would trade coal mining jobs for votes and they have.

Free trade was an ask that big business did not get. Trump got his tariffs by decree. Those tariffs are still a bone contention, but the GOP has taken a wait and see attitude. All can be forgiven because of that glorious corporate tax cut. Trickle down, supply side, voodoo economics in action. The Republicans are in GOP economic nirvana and many Americans still believe that Republicans are great at boosting the American economy, even if the whole ship of state may prove to be less seaworthy than they have been led to expect.

An enormous deficit is looming. If the economy doesn’t meet standards of progress that are considered totally unrealistic by almost every numbers-man-and-woman in America, drastic cuts will have to be made. Those social program cuts were part of the GOP talking points all along. The whole apparatus may have been designed to make Americans so frightened about the American economy that they will make little fuss when they lose their benefits, which Mitch McConnell is salivating to cut as I write. Then the GOP will have achieved every one of the points on their “small government” list and Social Security will be gone, the government will not be involved in health care and there will be no safety net for people who cannot work. How does this hold any appeal for Americans who are not wealthy?

 

The really big question is why are we pursuing a Republican economic agenda which has never worked and how on earth did Republicans get a reputation for being good with economics. The data does not support this assertion nor does it back up the faith Americans have in the Conservative Way. Wealthy people do get richer but, in a Republican administration we actually get further and further from a balanced budget (which is also on the GOP wish list, hypothetically) and the middle class loses ground it cannot afford to lose. The Republican Party is not a champion of workers.

Republicans have been no pikers when it comes to making debts. https://ritholtz.com/2011/10/us-debt-accumulation-by-president/

 

The deficit numbers are even bigger and were often dependent on historical events during any given Presidential term/s. For example, there are bigger deficits in times of war.

 

“Republicans point to the Reagan Administration as an example of how their policies worked. Reaganomics ended the 1980 recession. It suffered from stagflation, which is both double-digit unemployment and inflation.

Reagan cut income taxes from 70 percent to 28 percent for those earning $108,000 or more. He cut tax rates on middle-class incomes to 15 percent. He cut the corporate tax rate from 46 percent to 40 percent.

But Reagan also used non-Republican policies to end the recession. He increased government spending by 2.5 percent a year. He almost tripled the Federal debt. It grew from $997 billion in 1981 to $2.85 trillion in 1989. Most of the new spending went to defense. But trickle-down economics, in its pure form, was never tested. It’s more likely that massive government spending ended the recession. (Source: William A. Niskanen, “Reaganomics,” Library of Economics and Liberty.)”

https://www.thebalance.com/do-republican-economic-policies-work-4129139

 

“The Bush Administration also used Republican policies to end the 2001 recession. It cut income taxes with EGTRRA. That ended the recession in November, despite the attacks on 9/11. But unemployment continued rising to 6 percent. In 2003, Bush cut business taxes with JGTRRA. It appeared that the tax cuts worked. But the Federal Reserve lowered the Fed funds rate from 6 percent to 1 percent during this same period. It’s unclear whether tax cuts or another stimulus were what worked.

Another problem with the Reagan and Bush tax cuts is that they worsened income inequality. Between 1979 and 2005, after-tax income rose 6 percent for the bottom fifth of households. It rose 80 percent for the top fifth. Incomes tripled for the top 1 percent. It appears that prosperity didn’t trickle down, it trickled up. (Source: Steven Greenhouse, The Big Squeeze, pp.6-9.)

Both trickle-down and supply-side economists use the Laffer Curve to prove their theories. Arthur Laffer showed how tax cuts provide a powerful multiplication effect. Over time, they create enough growth to replace any lost government revenue. That’s because the expanded, prosperous economy provides a larger tax base. But Laffer warned that this effect works best when taxes are in the “Prohibitive Range.” Otherwise, tax cuts will only lower government revenue without stimulating economic growth.

Republicans who say tax cuts always create growth ignore this aspect of supply-side economics.”

https://www.thebalance.com/do-republican-economic-policies-work-4129139

Obama also added a fair amount to the debt, although not as much as George Bush, and he had to clean up a mess with mortgage foreclosures, bad banking practices, and a Great Recession all inherited from George Bush and the Republicans. Obama did get to pass a number of regulations to protect consumers from bad business practices but they have pretty much all been overturned by the Trump administration. After the first two Obama years a red wave swept away his majority in Congress and he was constrained on economic policy (and every other policy also). Because of some nasty obstructionism I find Republicans responsible for the debts of the Obama administration.

 

And I give you the Voodoo graphic.

http://zfacts.com/p/318.html

 

And now we have Donald Trump – a newly-minted Republican who never ran a government or a national economy even with help from colleagues in Congress, who has declared bankruptcy 6 times, and who does things just because he concluded perhaps in the 1980’s (based on strictly his own opinion) that he could fix the American economy and MAGA. He had his father’s wealth to back him up when he failed. America doesn’t. I have no faith at all in Republican economics and the historical facts do not favor those who do. But all the political ads make it sound like Trump and the Republicans are a bunch of economic geniuses.

Bret Stephens was on MSNBC this morning (he writes on the opinion page of the NYT). Stephens is a Republican who has joined the resistance against his own party because he is not a Trump fan. Stephens credits the current rise in job numbers and even a small jump in wages to momentum built up in the Obama years. Many economists are nervous about what will happen when the huge deficits begin to pile up from Trump’s tax plan and his tariffs and his belligerence with friendly nations on trade.

It is probably too late for a reality check on Republicans economics to have any effect on this midterm election, especially since half of the nation has already voted early (in New York we can’t). I think even the Democratic Party sometimes (sort of) accepts the myth that Republicans are good with money. Perhaps that is because they are really good at lining their own pockets. But they are not really good with the economics of our nation and more needs to be made of this point. Actually our economy probably benefits most when Democrats spend and Republicans admonish them about their spending. In other words, partisan economics is really not so likely to produce a consistently booming America.

The last time Republicans had a majority this huge was in 1928. Just before the Great Depression.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/1928-congress-last-time-republicans-had-a-majority-this-huge-112913

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches, The Economist, The New Republic, Politico

This is a view from the cheap seats.

Michael Tomasky also wrote about this subject in the NYT today.

 

An American Dirge

An American Dirge

 

Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice

Philando Castile, Michael Brown

And on and on and on and on

Hero cops, and racist cops

Museums that recall genocide

Museums so we don’t forget lynchings

Two towers leveled, thousands lose their lives

Guantanamo

We mourn, tears flow, and on we go.

 

Don’t kill my buzz

Say some.

We’re trying to have a good time here.

Life is beautiful

American is beautiful.

 

Dylan Roof shoots

An African American Bible study group.

Survivors forgive him.

Adam Lanza, blighted boy,

Kills 20 six and seven year olds.

A troubled shooter ends his life

And leaves a nation drenched in tears.

Stoneman Douglas, Columbine

Captive targets, grief abides

More troubled shooters

Express their ire.

Children grow up before our eyes.

 

San Bernardino, Orlando,

Fort Hood, Aurora, Santa Fe,

Boston Strong, and Las Vegas

A marathon, some country songs

Homegrown terrorists

America mourns and mourns.

 

Don’t kill my buzz

Say some

We’re still trying to have a good time here

We’re trying to pretend

(And maybe pretending

Will someday make it so)

That America is still beautiful.

 

Charlottesville, torches

In the night,

A President allows

Displays of spite.

Democrats are demons.

Republicans will save you

(If you are rich and white

And Christian).

A leader says, “I don’t sow hate”

But 14 Democrats get bombed,

And worshippers in Temple

Are slain in prayer.

2 more troubled shooters bound for jail.

 

Freedom made America shine

Now we wallow in mourning and tears,

Again and again, they seem our fate.

Can we save our father’s dreams

And stretch them to our modern needs?

 

Americans still say don’t kill our buzz.

We’re trying to enjoy our lives out here,

And pretending that American is still the home

Of “spacious skies” and “waving grain”

“From sea to shining sea”.

 

[One dirge is not enough. We may need more. It would be great if this was our last dirge, our last moment of national mourning caused by a neighbor’s loneliness, hate, or radical thoughts. People are having a harder time pretending that life in America is basically normal because the blips on their radar are starting to burst their happiness bubble. As for those of us who can’t seem to turn away, we want to understand how to find ways to cure it. If we don’t will this ever end? Isn’t America tired of reanimating itself after each tragedy? Isn’t America tired of tears yet?]

 

 

 

 

 

If Democrats Lose – A Trumpian Fantasy

If Democrats lose the fight to take back the majority in at least one house of Congress then what, a Trumpian fantasy? Trump would like us to stop resisting, to praise every little thing about him, to smile while he does what he does. He wants the media to reflect his glory, and it might also be mandatory for Americans to attend weekly praise sessions where 45 can bask in adoration and acclaim as we attest to his genius and thank him for MAGA. He has to refill his ego regularly as his I’m-the-best tanks get empty quickly and often. When resisting gets exhausting it is almost tempting to sink back into an unquestioning limbo with a sickly smile plastered across our faces. Perhaps all will be well if we all just bow before the golden one. Small g, small o.

After all we can probably make it without coverage for preexisting conditions for 6 years and we can probably live with watching Putin preen on the world stage for a while longer. We need customers but we don’t need friends. We can probably live without any friends for 6 years. We can deal with being an exploited work force employed at the whims of the marketplace and paid as little as our employers can get away with. We can deal with a stagnant or dying economy as we lose business from abroad and become an economy that sells to and buys from only each other. That should be a really booming economy (not). Isolationism has consequences. Withdrawing from global affairs definitely has consequences. (Didn’t we already try this?) (Yes.)

I’m not so sure how we will deal with training guns on troubled migrants who arrive at our southern (and perhaps our northern) border. That might cause the smiles plastered to our faces to quiver a bit. We probably will not hear much about it anyway because a Trump-centric media will not speak of it. We will only hear rumors passed along in garbled fashion from person to person. Easy to ignore as we try to keep our heads above water in a deepening economic depression. We will only wish that abortion was legal if someone we know has to deal with an unwanted pregnancy or a dangerous pregnancy. But there will be no more demonstrations in front of Planned Parenthood buildings because there will be no Planned Parenthood buildings.

How will we whitewash a colorful America? It could be as simple as forcing brown and black folks onto “reservations” which we would only know about as these Americans disappeared from our communities. Is that smile still in place? Better not let it slip. Our leader needs ever more positive reinforcement. Have babies, have lots of babies. If they are sexually different, not safely male or female Trump will have a plan to whisk them off to another country perhaps. Our lives will be trouble free as long as we give in to whatever the leader wants and keep grinning. Unless someone decides that we are weakened enough that this would be a good time to attack. We could end up at war with almost any nation on the face of the earth. Could it be a nuclear war? Smile, a giant national security apparatus, loyal to the President is watching. Do something patriotic. Sell your beach property if you can and go camp out on public land with a long gun until you are called upon to fight. What if 45 decides that 6 more years in power is not enough?

Will our “peerless” leader be happy with idolatry? He is a restless one. He does not enjoy peace and quiet. He does not crave time to contemplate the universe or even to play with his grandchildren. He is a mover and shaker. Having nothing more to move and shake will not work for him. Adulation will simply offer new scope for his creative talent for inciting chaos. It will be harder to rile everyone up. He will probably have to go ballistic, get a designer to invent a uniform just for him, go out across America in one of those military style vehicles to poke his nose into every corner of the nation to be sure of what is going on now that the media no longer does more than offer endless approval. Trump will not be able to enjoy a Trumpy America one bit because he thrives on opposition and paradox.

Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

Photo credits: From Google Image Searches, NYT, Institute for Policy Studies

This is a view from the cheap seats.

 

 

Mind Games

What I really hate about lies is what they assume about our minds. Republicans are playing mind games. They are trying to tell us they did the opposite of what they actually have done. They insist that we all have some kind of collective amnesia and we don’t recall how they voted or how they have treated many of their constituents. Trump insists that Democrats are responsible for things Republicans did or would like to do. We are the ones inciting violence, we are the ones paying immigrants to walk, 7,000 strong, to the border between Mexico and the US. Democrats are the ones who want to get rid of insurance that covers preexisting conditions and Medicare. Democrats are responsible for the deficit. Democrats are to blame for violent riots in California because of sanctuary cities. Wow, we are really terrible people. Except none of this is true. It is just people using Trumpian double speak to make us crazy.

Which anti-fact do we combat first? Which misdirection will hurt us the worst in the midterms? Will any of this psychobabble change any outcomes in the midterms? How many Americans believe this mumbo-jumbo? Why do I constantly feel like gnats are buzzing around my head? Isn’t it already too late to change anyone’s mind about their vote in the midterms, unless you have a bully pulpit as big as the one Trump has?

I know that there are records about this stuff, news stories, videos, interviews, panel discussions, but it has been made clear that records can be changed, edited, photoshopped, like those photos of Trump’s election crowds. This president uses mind games against his own citizens. Two more years of this sounds endless, six sounds impossible. When we look back on this 4 years or this 8 years, if we survive this Trump administration as the intact American Republic, I think that these years will seem like a big old black hole in space.

So I will reiterate one more time the reasons that we need to vote for Democrats besides the ones where we save our sanity and save Democracy at the same time. I found this meme on Facebook. It is not mine but it sums up policy differences between Democrats and Republicans in a very concise way. I tried to trace it back to where it originated because I suspect it was captured and pasted to Facebook, but I could not find the correct attribution.

Photo Credit: Odyssey from a Google Image Search

Sinclair Broadcasting Helps Trump in Midterms

I caught my local news on a channel owned by Sinclair Broadcasting the other night and the very thing I feared would happen is happening. Giving Trump/Trump supporters a voice on local news, allowing them to air national news that sounds fair and balanced but that skews towards Trump, and skews right, is particularly dangerous when we are in an election cycle. Local people who insist that Fox is the best source for political news are the targets of Sinclair. They are already primed to believe this stuff. They are unaware of who Sinclair Broadcasting is and of the ways they are interfering in local news broadcasts. They find the skewed news to be perfectly acceptable because they have already been brainwashed to agree with it.

7,000 refugees walking from Honduras to the border between Mexico and the US two weeks before the midterms offers plenty of video footage to instill fear and anger in middle-class Trump supporters. These Trumpers are a percentage of Americans who already suspect, and riled by Trump, are now convinced, that immigrants steal our jobs, use benefits paid for and intended for use by citizens only, and are violent criminals who endanger American lives.

What I saw on my local news, pushed out in a must-run story from Sinclair Broadcasting was a graphic video about the MS-13 gang, resplendent in gang tattoos, ready to commit mayhem in a neighborhood near us. Such obvious fear-mongering two weeks before an election that could change the majority in the House of Representatives from Republican to Democratic could very well motivate more Republicans to go to the polls to prevent that from happening. That would be very bad for America. We have no checks on this President. We need some. A House of Representatives that skews left could give us at least  minimal checks on an out-of-control President.

Local TV news used to try to give fairly balanced coverage of both candidates for a political office but Sinclair has put an end to that. This coverage does not look like it is even about the election but it is. It is wrong that Sinclair is allowed to own local stations when it is nothing but a one-sided political operative. It turns our news into propaganda. The wrongness of Sinclair is especially apparent during an election cycle. If we want news that is actual news we definitely need a blue wave. Trump is no fan of free speech unless the speech favors him.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches, Living Room Trends 2018, NPR

 

Election Woes

Confusing Voters

We are 18 days out from the 2018 midterm election with Democrats and Republicans locked in a desperate struggle to control the Legislative branch of our Federal government. Things start to get very confusing for voters right about now. The Democrats might be turning into Socialists. The Republicans are now claiming that they are the protectors of health care in America, although they voted at least 60 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). We are apparently thick as thieves with Saudi Arabia right now and may be inclined to ignore the assassination of journalists by other dictatorships or “illiberal democracies” if we have advantageous economic arrangements with these nations. Apparently sword dances are also very helpful in this regard. Voter suppression is rampant because Democrats encourage voter fraud (what?). Democrats are a violent mob paid to resist by a Jewish billionaire (George Soros). And thousands of immigrants are on the way to violate our southern border and create mayhem. If all of this is true I say how could 45 allow our nation to get in such bad shape?

Health Care

Ask yourself, who is likely to offer Americans the best health care for the least amount of money, the Democrats or the Republicans? Well, first there is the evidence available for all voters to see in the various health plans that have been offered during the Obama administration and the Trump administration. Obama’s plan was demonized by Republicans for allowing “death panels” to decide who lives and who die (which never came to pass), and was declared unconstitutional by courts that skew to the right because of the individual mandate (you cannot force Americans to buy something or pay a penalty for not buying it even if it would accomplish a larger goal of bringing down the cost of health care for everyone). The Republicans ripped all the teeth out of the ACA and backed the private health insurers (so unfair to billionaires, who are considered sacred even if they are making enormous profits from people’s pain, because they provide jobs and have generous lobbyists). Red states proved their bona fides to the party by refusing the Medicaid expansion, making their poorest citizens do without to keep a greedy party in power. And yet the ACA still worked pretty well and it has provided health care for millions of Americans who never had it.

We also saw what was on offer from Republicans in the Better Care plan which was in no way better than the ACA, and would cause millions to lose coverage. The “skinny repeal” was not their finest hour either. Republicans know insurance companies do not want to cover preexisting condition without being paid big bucks (and who will pay those big bucks, government or individuals). Since all Republicans really care about is the bottom line and backing corporations/businesses, they are trying to help out the insurance companies, not the American people. We have also been learning that almost anything can be classified as a preexisting condition. And yet I hear Republicans telling voters in commercial after commercial that it is Democrats who plan to take away coverage of preexisting conditions and, incidentally, also end Medicare.

Democrats Will End Medicare (what?)

Their claim is based on a cynical argument about linguistics, I guess. They argue that if everyone has “single-payer” health insurance then seniors will lose their Medicare and coverage for preexisting conditions will prove either skimpy or outrageously expensive. Of course if we call “single-payer” Medicare-for-all their argument falls apart. Republicans think that Americans will accept a “catastrophic coverage fund” that people contribute to separately from their health care plan. That will mean that health care only covers people who are healthy. People who are sick will be covered by the catastrophic plan if there is enough money in it. I am guessing that limits will be set on how much help people can expect from this catastrophic plan and then they will be on the hook for the balance, which still may be enough to wipe out their personal finances.

Why Democrats Should Have the Con in 2018 (and beyond)

Does your head hurt? Mine does. But I am not fooled by Republican obfuscation ( in plain language; lies, truth twisting). I know that in the matter of health care the Democrats need to have the con. I don’t care if Republicans keep referring to the idea of single-payer health care as socialism. A label will not kill you; inadequate health care, or health care that excludes because it is too expensive will put many people’s lives or lifestyles at risk. Republicans do not like the government to contribute to any programs that benefit citizens. They truly believe this is not the province of government. However, as world populations increase and climate change (which is real) affects things like food supplies and clean water and rising rates of disease, the government (our taxes) may need to contribute more to our comfort and protection rather than less.

Republicans are Bipartisan (what?)

As for the nonsense in some ads that claims our Republican representatives in Congress are bipartisan it is all I can do not to throw something weighty at my TV. There are many people in America and in my community who believe that these claims are accurate. If you followed the votes on Countable or listened to any news channel other than Fox or the local channels now owned by Sinclair then you know the facts. Once in a while, when Republicans had enough votes to pass legislation without requiring everyone to vote yes they excused some congress people in contested districts to allow them to vote no so they could later claim to be bipartisan. But voting with Trump 90% of the time is hardly a valid claim to bipartisanship. In this case this is just lying. Aren’t we sick of such blatant lying? Is bald-faced lying more honest than less-obvious lying? Can lying come out of a President’s mouth and be classified as “just a game”?

Which Party Actually Serves We the People?

Democrats may not be able to deliver on their promise of “single-payer” health care right away, or family leave, or guaranteed employment programs that cover people when jobs are scarce, but they will govern in such a way as to begin to move our federal government in directions that offer more to we the people and that stop pandering to the wealthiest among us. I really have nothing against wealth but I have a real problem with stacking the deck, with the rich legislating in favor of the rich, and with hoarding. Do people not hear the vastly overconfident Mitch McConnell daring to talk about cutting Medicare and Social Security right before an important midterm election? Doesn’t it get you riled up enough to vote this old man right out of his position at the head of the majority in the Senate. Vote in a new majority, get a new majority leader and end the drumbeat against programs we pay for.

Don’t let these ads confuse you. Vote anyway. Vote wisely.

Graphic: From a Google Image Search, Phys.org

Limited Government – A Terrible Idea

Limited Government: The “nanny state” and Political Correctness

Republicans love to talk about limited government. It is always at the top of their wish list. But limited government is code for many different things. To some who feel that the government has become too invasive in our private lives, the old “nanny state” meme blames bleeding heart liberals for trying to wrap people in a protective bunting of rules and regulation. Perhaps it began with seat belts or car seats or work safety oversight (OSHA) but, according to some, it turned into one of those rubber band balls that stay small for a while and then grow more rapidly in size and complexity. Doesn’t really matter how it began, there were Americans who felt that these rules made them feel like they were living in a “petty” dictatorship, Authoritarianism Lite. This all seems a bit hyperbolic now given the real authoritarianism which is a constant risk in the administration of 45.

Lumped in with these safety laws were the increasing admonitions to use language that is “politically correct” or inoffensive to all of the diverse groups that make up America. Independent-minded Americans have lost it. They do not want to “knuckle under” to the free speech police. They don’t care if it serves the interests of civility and kindness and the humane treatment of others. They already agreed to call Indians “Native Americans”, but now they were supposed to say “indigenous people”. It was a bridge too far for some. These linguistic battles have not served to unite us, that’s for certain.

Now we are in a battle, fomented by GOP propaganda, of “real Americans” versus other ethnic groups, which could easily end with various “tribes” retreating to separate corners, leaving Americans with a prolonged culture war. Our electoral college gave us a President who flaunts his right to be politically incorrect, but it is taking the word civil out of civilization.

Federalism, Constitutional Purity and States Rights

However these things are not what other, often more powerful, Republicans are saying when they talk about limited government. And there are two sides to how limited government would look if Republicans actually got their wish. Idealistically Republicans say that this is about restoring Constitutional “purity”. They believe we have wandered too far from the intentions of our forefathers. The Constitution gives the federal government the right to write laws, pass laws, and pass judgment on the constitutionality of those laws. But purists (fundamentalists) say that the Constitution gives the federal government the right to rule the nation only in a few areas, mainly military concerns and foreign relations, and that all rights not designated to the federal government belong to the states.

They know the Federalists (state’s rights) faction lost their original argument to make America a loose affiliation of strong states under a weak national government back in the 18th century. Although our forefathers did decide to go with a stronger federal government today’s Republicans are reviving the old Federalist arguments, and they would like to ditch the conclusion our forefathers reached and become strict Federalists. Of course this means throwing out about two centuries of law and tradition and basically starting from scratch. It also means that states would begin to look more like independent nations. You might need a visa one day to travel to another state. It seems like a pretty extreme way to avoid public health care (and a few other things Republicans don’t like).

The first order of business of modern Federalists was to get Republicans in control of the United States government so they could dismantle it. They were aided in this by having some very rich industrialists on their side who stood to benefit from all the deregulation which would accompany this reorganization. These industrialists either formed a web of think tanks and Conservative groups or found ways to connect groups that already existed and were like-minded. Right wing groups met at yearly gatherings and eventually formulated an ideology and a plan of action to implement that ideology. Their machinations have been amazingly successful. The Republicans now own all three branches of our government.

Trump has been surprisingly helpful in this endeavor to tame the sprawl of the federal government. He has done this inadvertently because he wants to save America all by himself. He needs to be a hero. Even if he is perceived by many as incompetent or as a villain, if he just concentrates on his own followers he is the hero he aspires to be. He must have to delegate tasks within his businesses, but he does not want to delegate tasks in government. He doesn’t trust civil servants. Out of tradition and law they pursue objectives set by previous presidents. He likes to lead through placing his henchmen, who have pledged their loyalty to him and him alone, in offices that have the names of real American agencies but which no longer function as the original entities did. These agencies and offices are now are part of the Trump spiderweb and do Trump’s business. As a result he does not need to fill positions in these agencies or offices. Staff numbers are going down. It is becoming impossible to rely on civil servants completing routine tasks to keep government as we have known it functioning. Fewer government employees equals limited government. Et voila. Winning.

More About State’s Rights

State’s Rights was a battle cry of Democrats when the Democrats consisted of the people who are now Republicans, and is still the oft-repeated refrain of the Republicans since the Civil War and Reconstruction. Americans who cry the loudest about restoring the rights of states seem concentrated in the Southern and the Western states. People claim to love the rights of the poor usurped states whenever they want something that is opposed to what the majority of the nation wants.

Southerners were beaten in the Civil War but, in a sense they felt a terrible anger about it and their spirits refused to accept it. They loved their general, General Lee, they loved their Southern plantation culture; they loved their wealth and their lifestyle. They knew that the end of slavery would be the end of the plantation system. There were plenty of examples in the nearby islands in the Caribbean. That pride was so strong that it has been kept alive to this day and even romanticized by many Americans.

Justice was done but it has always been an uneasy and contentious justice and we have still made no real peace with it for many, many reasons most of which fall under the heading of racism. But when Southerners lost the Civil War and lost “their property” they went crazy and lost all humanity in a lust for vengeance and punishment. Whenever freed slaves tried to use the freedoms they had recently won, especially to vote or hold public office or own land, they were terrorized, viciously attacked and often slaughtered. Freedom has been won piece by tiny piece with spilled blood and dashed hopes.

Posse Comitatus

The Southerners balked under Federal attempts to control Reconstruction in the South. They argued that state and local government should have control over what was happening in the South. The federal government, experiencing some scandal and turmoil of its own, capitulated and gave local sheriffs power to rule their own domains. The rest of the nation then turned their backs on the mayhem that ensued.

Once that battle for power was won it has used precedent to justify some fairly rebellious behaviors. Most recently it reared its ugly head in the Cliven Bundy matter. Westerners resent that so much land has been designated as federal land, although there has not been any big rush to develop most of the land the government protects, or hoards (depending on your point of view). When the government decided to clamp down on Mr. Bundy, a rancher who grazed his cattle for free on government land that others paid a fee to graze their cattle on, Mr. Bundy refused to accept the power of the federal government and appealed to the superior power of the local sheriff that hails back to those very post-Reconstruction days that we have been talking about.

During Cliven Bundy’s confounding stand Rachel Maddow went over the historical basis for this claim written in the Posse Comitatus Law. The militia movement, which has similar roots, and which has been growing in America along with the stubborn power of the NRA, revealed itself when people showed up with long guns, lying prone on US highways pointing those rifles through concrete road barriers at federal officers. It was a shocking stand-off and the federal government backed down to avoid escalating the matter with killings. That’s some of the ideological background on limited government. Behind the bizarre ideological rationale is an ersatz economic argument for limited government

The Ayn Rand Justification/Rationalization for Limited Government

With the advent of the Tea Party we began to hear new arguments for limited government. These arguments were based in money, economics, finance. America was changing. The factories which gave people good salaries without a college education had flown the coop, gone on a World Tour. People were not feeling quite so flush. Then they lost their houses in what was a scandal of bad risks by banks and the stock market, a bid for short-term profit over long-term fiscal health. The victims got spanked but the big dogs, for the most part, got off with a hand slap. They are already at their scams again.

People decided that they were unhappy with the way their taxes were being used. They had a little help from Republicans who supposedly backed the Tea Party folks, Republicans like Paul Ryan who read a seminal book by Ayn Rand in college or high school and decided that spreading Rand’s gospel suited the dilemma of those in the Tea Party and, incidentally, the goals of the Republican Party re limited government. A marriage made in one man’s mind.

I don’t like or respect Paul Ryan but even I must admit that his message caught on like a wildfire and is, even now, changing America beyond recognition. What he said that appealed to so many, was this – social government programs do not help people who are down and out, they actually hurt them. These programs keep people down and turn them into permanent dependents. We need to stop funding social programs (which would, in theory, cut taxes) – no welfare, no food stamps, no Medicaid, no Medicare, no Social Security, no federal control over or funding of education.

Socialism

I always say that you can’t have socialism in a democracy because we the people pay our taxes and we say how the money will be used and that makes social programs democratic, not socialist. But the new truth is that we the people don’t contribute enough taxes to pay for the enormous military that “patriots” clamor for and for the social programs that serve as safety nets for we the people in times of trouble or need.

Without the 1% Americans are basically poor. If these miserly folks no longer want to pay taxes that will be used for people who don’t work (or can’t work) then we the people are screwed. Why we have given all these wealthy people all our money is now a moot point. The deed is done and they will use any reasoning necessary to claim that they are entitled to it. They do not mind turning America into a third world country because they plan to live above it all. All of America has now become colonized by these rich few. The right has managed to push the left to the far left and when they express fears of socialism now it is because socialism may be our only way out of  all this planned inequality.

Conclusions

We are clearly on a path to limited government in all its manifestations. I am guessing that we will not like it one little bit if it comes to pass. That dangerous mob, the vociferous left, created as backlash to an extreme right wing, may someday save us from the chaos of running each state as an independent entity and each local government as a fiefdom. Pick the Dems (the Dims) to save us from having to take a sad detour into “limited government”.  (I’m confused, how can you be dim and a dangerous mob at one and the same time.) “Limited government” is an outdated concept and it belongs in the oubliette of history.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – Medium, twenty48.net

Fear by Bob Woodward – Book

Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) recently published his exposé of the chaos in the early days of the Trump White House called simply, Fear: Trump in the White House.If you have been paying attention to the news (not Fox) then what you are reading in this book is hardly surprising. You see Steve Bannon come and go. The James Comey drama is in there. You see the contributions of people who played a role in those early days but are now gone, like Hope Hicks and Rob Porter. Tillerson and Trump disagree about foreign policy and Tillerson is replaced by Pompeo. Some of Trump’s fears about the Mueller investigation are covered.

There was a recent article in the NYT’s written by an anonymous source who told us that Trump’s West Wing staff are so worried about Trump’s orders telling them to design documents that will solidify bad policies, orders to place those documents on his desk to be signed, that they delay producing the papers and even remove the documents if they appear on Trump’s desk. They know that Trump’s mind jumps around from one idea to the next and that if the policy document is not placed in front of him he will forget about it (for a while). This is all covered in Woodward’s book. Woodward was there so it helps us feel like we are actually in the Oval Office, flies on the wall, experiencing staff fears in real time.

One of the greatest of all the fears is the one that shows us that someone who formed his policy ideas in some earlier decade, someone as inflexible as Trump, someone unwilling to learn about in-depth intelligence and to apply it to his fondly-held theories, someone unwilling to evolve, to revise old dogma, to encompass new data controls the nuclear codes. People in former administrations did not lightly make nuclear threats in hopes that going nuclear will turn enemies into friends. We don’t usually brag that our nuclear capabilities are greater than those of our enemies although we believe that it is basically understood. Nuclear boasting might backfire and the consequences could be devastating. Sometimes threatening documents, once produced, were removed from presidential proximity before he could sign them, but the fear that surrounds any casual treatment of nuclear weapons is always there.

Bob Woodward is not just making us aware that Trump’s staff lives in fear of Trump inadequacies and belligerent nature; he is telling us that we need to be fearful of a man who is filling a position he does not understand. We need to know that he is running America on ego, calcified opinions, and praise elicited by implied threats (fear). We need to follow Bob Woodward into those rooms in our nation’s White House and watch the slapdash way that business is now conducted daily in America. His account is very readable and the actual meat of the book ends well before the pages do. What follows is a section of photos, some pretty useful end notes, and a detailed index. If you have been paying attention to an in-depth news station like MSNBC it will all be very familiar. What will be different is that this time you are “in the room where it happens”.

The children in this Rainbow Room video offer revealing and very brief reviews of Bob Woodward’s book, reviews that sum things up very well.

https://mashable.com/video/stephen-colbert-reading-rainbow-woodward-trump/#FGlobArRcZqb

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Times