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

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

Hardhearted Us (US)

We watch. We witness. And what we see is an endless stream of behaviors which offend the senses, that certainly change America’s role in the world. We have hardly forgotten Trump’s treatment of Puerto Ricans when their nation was leveled by  Hurricane Maria. He fought very publicly with the mayor of San Juan, he sneered at her and brought up Puerto Rico’s debts. His disdain for both women who refuse to be submissive and the people of Puerto Rico was on full display. He did not seem to know, or acknowledge once he did know, the close relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. He most likely has old evidence of Puerto Ricans he hired to work for him years ago stored in his moldy brain. So he threw paper towels to Puerto Ricans while he stroked his own ego. It was embarrassing, and if I had been one of the people who needed empathy and aide, disheartening.

President Donald Trump throws rolls of paper towels to a crowd affected by Hurricane Maria as he visits a disaster relief distribution center at Calgary Chapel in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. Trump is visiting Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Parts of Bermuda were recently leveled by Hurricane Dorian and I don’t recall any official statement of grief issuing forth from the US President at the terrible losses suffered there. Public conversation on American media instead revolved around a guy – our 45 – who hates to be wrong and so entered into a weeklong back-and-forth about his mistaken (oops, Trump is never mistaken) statement that Alabama was going to be in the path of the hurricane. Trump is shameless – he apparently added to the hurricane’s path with a “Sharpie”, extrapolating an extended path, and then excoriated a NOAA employee for disagreeing with the president’s bona fides as a meteorologist. NOAA admin then backed the president rather than their own employee because there is (frighteningly) only one expert in our government on every subject and that is the barely sane Donald Trump. I guess the weather was “fake” news.

To add insult to injury, Trump’s new immigration stance, requiring that only folks with money and credentials (and white skin) need apply, made it difficult for those made homeless in Bahama, whose documents were destroyed by Dorian, to enter the US. Well Trump may not ever feel shame, but I did and I do. Do you recognize this incarnation of America? I don’t. Does the world recognize this as American behavior? They may cut America some slack for a while but probably not forever, because there are signs that protectionist, selfish behaviors are becoming the new normal, and many recognize that it never bodes well when the world goes there.

Photo Credit: From Google Image Searches – MarketWatch, People.com, Daily Mail

Trumping China

About China and Trump

Trump’s idea, apparently, is to weaken the Chinese economy until China adopts fairer business practices or until the Chinese economy fails. He believes his tariffs will force China into a less aggressive stance on the world stage.

Despite Trump’s failures he still thinks he is a great negotiator. He also thinks he can use Patriotism as a lure to order manufacturers back to the US. Economic experts don’t like tariffs, both those on the left and those on the right. Tariffs, they say are like taxes on goods and they rebound on the nation that levied them. However, President Xi of China must not mind taxing his own people who may not even be his main consumers, because he is a dictator whose citizens know better than to complain.

Trump and his henchman Mnuchin say that a bit of suffering for the greater good is our patriotic duty and humbling China (if the China of 2019 can be humbled) will pay off for all of us in the long run. And it is true that if the American economy is strong, the people benefit. But Trump is making an awful lot of assumptions without getting any input or advice from American capitalists and farmers who will have to weather the economic storms when they are already being battered by actual atmospheric storms.

Trump’s first assumption is that a trade war will work. It will even the economic playing field between the two nations without saber rattling or threats of a real war. I don’t hear anyone who expresses comfort or confidence in this strategy except Trump and his toadies. A tiny part of each of us almost believes Trump’s hype. After all China has gotten pretty far out over their skis. However it is possible that they may have the chops to back up their bravado, while our guy doesn’t We only hear Lindsay Graham telling us to take one for our country. Take less for a while (how long?) to win big in the end. But it seems like a real long-shot gamble.

Which brings us to the second assumption. If Trump orders it, our factories will come back ‘home’ and he has, as of now, ordered it. But is this actually a viable assumption. If it is the patriotic duty of manufacturers to pay American workers rather than Chinese workers then how much are they willing to pay; minimum wage? These same manufacturers are paying Chinese workers far less. Given the popularity of the ‘free market’ stance and the greedy profiteering of modern capitalists it doesn’t seem as if even a threat of loss of citizenship will suffice to bring factories back to the US.

If anything Capitalists are trying to cool off the desires of American workers and cool down our economy so that Americans will have to accept much lower salaries before manufacturers will even consider coming back. It is doubtful that they are very afraid of Trump or will be persuaded by something as non-concrete (non-green and ‘unbankable’) as Patriotism.

China seems quite ready to just walk off and do business elsewhere. The reason for some of the fires in the Amazon basin is to clear land to grow soy beans for China that US farmers used to grow. Actions have unexpected consequences as we are all interconnected. Perhaps our president has no peripheral vision. He only sees straight ahead so he misses a lot, like a Chinese lateral move to find a new source for soy beans in South America. The American people are far more likely to cry chicken first than the Chinese are because they live in an authoritarian state. It is likely that they are used to far more hardship than we are.

Except for our millionaires and billionaires most of us are not feeling very flush and we cannot afford to be patriotic for very long if it means getting even poorer, especially when we have no faith in our ‘great negotiator’ and when we know that the outcomes he predicts are unlikely to result from his ‘Grand China Plan’. We also realize that doing these things, going down these roads, will probably deepen our isolation. We will produce and consume but it will be a small-time domestic operation. The world will move on without us. Trump has diminished our already diminished power in the world and yet he wants to act as if our bargaining position is undiminished.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Live TradeRoom

Stephen Miller’s OCD/White Nationalist World View

Stephen Miller, who I’m sorry to say made my brain scream ‘brown shirt’ when I first set eyes on him, ended up proving soon enough that I was not so far off the mark. On Sunday 8.18.2019 Miller spoke on at least one talk show. It is Stephen Miller’s stated theory that people are happier with their own kind and the world runs more smoothly when cultures don’t mix.

When Stephen Miller was a child perhaps he did not mix up the colors of his Legos, but built monochromatic structures, which if you know Legos is pretty hard to do. Perhaps he never allows his plates to mix with his cups and each room in his house uses one color palette only. Maybe he is one of those very organized people who sort their buttons by color and size and who never mix their bolts with their nuts. Maybe we should have some sympathy because he could have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But this also looks a lot like white nationalism, which looks a lot like racism.

Stephen Miller’s mania for categorizing and isolating by similarity of traits runs into huge difficulties when you try to apply it to humans and human societies. Do we separate by color? What nation or continent do Americans of African Descent claim as their home given that many of their ancestors were brought here against their will 400 years ago. (Do you suppose that Miller has talked Trump into buying Greenland so America has somewhere to offload nonwhites who have no place to go? Of course it could just be about oil because drilling in pristine wilderness areas is also something Trump loves to do.)

Will we just have separate zones (states) in America organized by skin color? Will language be a point of distinction? Perhaps people will be sorted out by religion. What if your skin is dark and you are not a Christian? Will there be a separate category? Perhaps it will require lists of traits to assign people to the appropriate corner of the planet (they could start with the fictional color classifications from Underground Airlinesby Ben H Winter). Will miscegenation be punished? Will there be spots to tuck people away in who will never fit any approved category? A gay country? A trans country?

Stephen Miller is scary enough when he looks affectless – which is most of the time. But after he explained all this on Sunday he smiled – and that was far more frightening. Life is not orderly. It gets less orderly if you look at individual traits that divide us. No one stays put. They keep moving around. This would be unacceptable in Stephen Miller world.

Would Miller wipe out all migration, make it a crime. You get assigned a culture and there you must remain because all the chaos in the world will end if people only live in close proximity to others who are like them. American is probably to blame for climate change although 45 likes to blame China. But if your climate changes, too bad. You are not going anywhere. Famine, lack of water, war – supposedly will all be ended by homogeneity. Did we ever know a time when the world worked this way?

Stephen Miller claims that he is not a racist or a white supremacist. Then what is he? Why does he have such a segregated view of the world? I suppose there was a time when Europe was peopled by white folks but people still found many reasons to war with each other. They warred about property, about money, about government, about religion, just because they took a dislike to each other. Stephen Miller’s theory is ridiculous; it is unprovable; it is not backed up by history, or science, or religion or by anything. It is a figment of Stephen Miller’s imagination which is hardly to be considered very original.

Of course Hitler put 6 million people to death because they, according to him, did not belong in Europe, or in fact anywhere on Earth. Check everyone’s DNA. I doubt if anyone is pure enough to know which group s/he belongs to. Stephen Miller’s racist logic is not logical. He should not be in America’s White House advising an American president. We will never have a sensible approach to immigration as long as he is there.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches: Washington Post, The Daily Beast

Brainwashing America: What to Do with our Beloved Pod People

For years the brainwashing that produced Trump’s followers has issued forth from radios in the dead of the night as lonely truckers and other drivers travelled the highways across America. For at least one decade, probably closer to two decades impassioned talkers have whispered in the ears of lower middle class men and women, husbands and fathers the news that white people in America were about to be replaced by minorities; that soon the minority population of America would be larger than the white population. These smooth talkers did not bother to tell listeners that this did not mean any one group would outnumber white folks, that this number was an aggregate number. Pretty soon all over America people were shaking their heads in agreement, suddenly aware that these midnight voices were speaking a truth they could feel in their own guts. Yes, yes Rush Limbaugh is a righteous dude. You should listen. Marc Levine, f-ing A, that’s my man. You gotta’ hear this.

Immigrants, some of them Muslims, some of them gang members, people who can’t even speak English, who are not Christians, are taking your tax dollars, they expound to the rhythm of big tires on American highways and in garages all over the country. These immigrants get the same benefits you get like welfare, health care, even social security or social security disability. They get free housing, some are given cars, these disembodied voices exclaim each night in the hours when drivers are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel without some kind of stimulation. These radio talkers offer major stimulation; they offer anger and ‘enlightenment’ and approval of what others call inappropriate thoughts and opinions. You may need guns they say.

These immigrants are taking American jobs because they will work for nothing. Many of them are here illegally, they should not be here and yet they are given jobs and benefits just like real Americans. You are being replaced in your own nation by foreigners. These topics are popular. They come up over and over again. People can call in and these guys will sympathize with the anger their listeners express, they can prop up that anger and expand on it. The hours melt away.

They tell their listeners that they can blame it all on the Democrats. The talkers’ views are so popular that a whole TV network is cobbled together to bring these views into American homes, in order to discuss American gripes twenty-four/seven. These issues that arouse the anger of their listeners do not have to be true; they just have to call forth that righteous anger that fuels an entirely new political view, the politics of white injustice, the piling up of the abuses being heaped on real Americans, of the losses real Americans have suffered when their good jobs, their factory jobs were given to foreigners. Brains are being ‘snatched’; a generation of ‘pod’ people is being created.

Americans who worked hard all their lives were paying for deadbeats who did not have to work. Now the drumbeat of injustice played out all day and all night in living color. Democrats defend deadbeats, therefore Democrats are bad. Republicans are informing you of how you are being ripped off so Republicans are good. Glenn Beck, your old dashboard friend Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly – these guys sound smart, they write books, they are patriots, they even rewrite history for their listeners. The internet gives us The Daily Caller, and The Thinker, pseudo-Conservative (actually extreme right wing and Tea Party) sites offering “intellectual” cachet to a movement that is basically anti-intellectual.

You are paying too many taxes. (Yes we are, these people are so right.) Your tax dollars are being used to support illegal immigrants. (That’s true, listeners say, and it makes me really angry.) Our government is too big. (Also true, you guys are speaking our language.) All this nonsense about what it is politically correct to say and what it’s not OK to say. We have free speech. We get to tell it like it is. (Husbands and wives listen and watch together and they bond in righteous anger.)

This is brainwashing and it has been very effective. These are Trump’s peeps. They heard the gospel according to Talk Radio and Fox ‘News’. They are pumped, they are not going to take it anymore. They are the new Republicans who the old school Republicans are aghast to find in their party. But these people are white and they are a whole different kind of ‘woke’ and the party of racism and guns, facing decline, needs them. We’ll talk them into believing the Democrats are going to steal their guns and allow their daughters to abort their grandchildren, that strangers will slaughter them in their beds, they say. There is so much scope in this whole strategy of stoking the feelings that folks are victims of a great big plot against real Americans that those who run the GOP can make themselves wealthier and these particular Americans will think it is all part of a plan that will benefit the middle class. The politicians and pundits will laugh all the way to the bank (but not out loud please).

Our forefathers may have said that all men are created equal and that we all deserve the same things but half of them kept slaves so they didn’t really mean all people; they meant white people, people of European descent. So even when Republicans ignore or reinterpret portions of our Constitution and our laws and rules, these Americans, primed by propaganda delivered in their most vulnerable moments, feel convinced that ending our democracy/republic will turn out in their favor; isolationism will turn out in their favor; and somehow, by deportation or death, we will become an all-white English speaking nation. It won’t be pretty and our souls may not get through the entire process unscathed and we might not even still be alive when the ‘cleansed’ version of America becomes reality, but our children’s children will be all set. (Especially since climate change is not real, they are told.)

It is becoming increasingly obvious that we cannot undo these decades of brainwashing, of filling people’s minds with lies that suggest that merit is sorted out by skin color, what language you speak, and even what God you worship or how you worship God. Terrorism is scary and has given fear-mongering tactics added power to persuade Americans that they will only be safe in a homogeneous nation, while those who say they will guarantee that safety rob the middle-class of assets and place those assets in their own bloated bank accounts.

Democrats have been so successfully demonized that they realize that they will be unable to get through to at least 30% of Americans, possibly even 40% of Americans and that, given four more years in power, the damage to American values and the foundations of our nation could be devastating. What can a party do when it believes that mass propaganda is wrong? They can’t use the tactics they abhor. All they can do is speak the truth and hope it eventually gets through the fog of brainwashing many percolate in. But global chaos waits in the wings if minds remain programmed as the ‘pod’ peoples’ are.

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels