Sheldon and Donald

In many ways Sheldon Cooper may have prepared us for Donald Trump, given us stamina to make it through the daily displays of Donald’s character eccentricities. Just think about Sheldon’s many quirks. He is set in his ways and is making obsessive compulsive disorder more mainstream. He is convinced of his own superiority to everyone around him, and arrogant with it. He is certain that he is a genius, the new Einstein, although he often makes simple mistakes in his research which prove to be fatal blows to his achieving the Nobel Prize he covets. He is very jealous when someone is more successful than him. He uses his “idiosyncratic” (spoiled) behavior to exert absolute authority over his little world. He manipulates everyone with his stubbornness and inflexibility. Sound familiar?

We can’t discuss this comparison of Sheldon and Donald without remembering some of Sheldon’s most overbearing behaviors, humorous in drama, but possibly not so much if Sheldon were a real person.

Sheldon’s first meal at the Cheesecake Factory

Sheldon’s Spot

The Roommate Agreement

The Relationship Agreement

Sheldon as a Mobile VR Presence Device

However, Sheldon has some vulnerabilities that make him occasionally human and endearing. Sheldon’s friends also do not take his terrorism too seriously. They defuse it with sarcasm, humor, and affection. Sheldon’s friends make up a second family for him. Because he went away to college at such a young age and his social skills were therefore neglected, Sheldon’s friends almost reparent him and it is not an easy task. Penny is especially good, as a non-genius, at forging a close and somewhat sweet relationship with Sheldon who can be robotic, imperious, and lacking in a social IQ to match his intellectual IQ.

Maybe that’s what Donald missed, why he never achieved an adult balance to tone down his authoritarian streak with empathy and compassion. He never found a group of friends who felt unintimidated by his egotism, narcissism, and his absolute belief in his own genius. He never had people who affectionately modified his selfish and misguided self-sufficiency, who mocked him and teased him and grounded him. Trump’s seemingly ebullient extroversion allows him to live in his own isolated space where he can only be reached by people who constantly admire him and say yes to all his “brilliant” ideas. It is doubtful that Donald could be reparented at this late date.

Lots of experiences have unintended consequences, so let’s not ruin our enjoyment of this very popular diversion because of the ways in which Sheldon’s oddball personal traits might be helping Donald seem more socially acceptable. Sheldon of course is not real, he only seems real because The Big Bang has such great writers and really creative dialogue. It is entirely possible that these TV nerds have much improved the currency value of actual nerds. Sadly, though, there is a lot more humor to be had from Sheldon’s peculiarities than we will ever see from Donald’s. We may enjoy watching Big Bang reruns for decades. I have a feeling though, that Donald’s reruns may be very unpopular and will have to eventually be remixed. Of course he is already trying to rewrite it all but I doubt his writing skills equal the skills of The Big Bang crew. I doubt it can ever be rewritten to seem like Presidential behavior.

Thanks to the fans who recorded these bits. If you watch the video you will see the credits.

Elections, not Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg seems no better and no worse than any other business owner/billionaire these days. His company makes huge profits and he still needs ever more to satisfy himself and his stockholders. This is our brand of capitalism and Zuckerberg is certainly not any more greedy than anyone else. I am not going back into the now-distant past to talk about whether he became sole owner of Facebook by trickery and theft of intellectual property. That has already been adjudicated and now is a matter for Zuckerberg’s conscience.

There are at least two different points being argued at the same time and they do connect, but they are not the same issue. One argument says here is a company that is owned by one man. It has a huge presence on the internet which gives Mark Zuckerberg a disproportionate influence over internet users. So the argument here is that Zuckerberg’s company needs some regulation.

But that depends on whether we are talking about consumerism or elections. Unlike Cambridge Analytica Mark Zuckerberg, I’m thinking, did not intend to influence a US election any more than he intended to make identity theft a more common type of crime. He did intend to use what all websites use and what Bruce Schneier, writing at cnn.com yesterday morning (March 26, 2018) called “surveillance capitalism.”

Facebook users are not that naïve. We know that, although Facebook has gotten quite picky about what privacy level we want for things we post, they still allow all kinds of other apps and sites to collect our data and that of our friends. How many times have you given up your contacts to gain quick access to a site? The problem is that this allows someone like Cambridge Analytica, an organization that has only a fiduciary relationship with Facebook to mine data that Facebook supposedly protects but actually makes accessible to all who pay to advertise on the platform.

Since our entire culture centers around making money, having money, making more money and stockpiling as much money as you can and since every company has the same goals – profit- it is hard to fault Zuckerberg for being a successful businessman. If no one ever used this data to spy, to meddle in an election(/s), then we would not be having this discussion right now.

We are at a time when meddling in American elections seems to be the project of the moment for way too many people and at least one nation. I am not talking about voter fraud. I do not think we the people are even on the list of election tinkerers. Are both the GOP and the Dems using the internet to feed false information to people who use social media? I don’t think so. Were those who stole data under false pretenses and used it to fix (or try to fix) an election only trying to stop Hillary, or did they only wish to elect Trump – or would they have tried to throw the election to any candidate on the right. It seems that the election of 2016 was very important to an awful lot of people, and that they were are all working for the right.

Regardless of who Cambridge Analytica was working for, or whether or not Putin had people trying to fix the election, or even if Hillary and the Dems were trying to fix the election against Bernie Sanders, clearly we must protect our elections from any kind of meddling. Free and fair elections are the basis of our democracy/republic. Given what we can see about the lack of any reliable privacy on the internet and the modern tendency to push media into our communities that offers partisan propaganda, but likes to pretend that it is offering unbiased facts, obviously, some real effort and study needs to be dedicated to protecting our “free and fair” elections. Since some people feel that all is fair in politics and elections this effort cannot be delayed. We have another election coming up. We have elections all the time.

It is disingenuous to try to make Mark Zuckerberg the scapegoat for what is happening with our elections. Perhaps this is more Conservative razzle-dazzle to distract everyone from noticing that most of the election meddling was done on behalf of the GOP and Donald Trump. Zuckerberg just uses the same “surveillance capitalism” that all sites use on the web (although it is possible he pioneered some of the methodologies currently in use). These tactics are invasive and annoying and they make hacking the web a gamble with a big payoff.

We do need some oversight on the internet or the internet will become so crime-ridden that it will be shunned by people who cannot take risks with their data or their money. And this very model of “surveillance capitalism” is used on all social media but Facebook has the biggest treasure trove of personal information. Can Facebook be fixed? Will we like it to death?

It also feels as if some people are feeling personally vindictive towards Mark Zuckerberg and some professional jealousy may be increasing their desires to force him to answer to Congress and take him down a peg or two. We need to keep our eye on the main focus here and that is to guarantee that our elections are free and fair. If we have to rein in capitalism on the internet, are we willing to do that at a time when our government is busily overturning all the regulations that are now in place? What we need most of all is a new government.

Sinclair We Heart Free Speech

Our free press is one of America’s greatest strengths. This is one of the “campaigns” of Mr. Trump that I find most disgraceful; his attacks on the media. He assaults the very best of our media and venerates all of the worst of it. He calls the media that tries to honestly report the events of the day “fake news” and he relies on all of the media which the rest of think of as “fake news”. Since our print media is already struggling to stay alive in these days of the internet, I am worried that Donald’s constant barrage of insults against the free press will leave us with only news that leans to the right, and made-up news.

Much of our pride in America is tied up in our free speech. We feel a bit superior to a nation like Russia or China with only state-sponsored news. Even so, we have lost some of our freedom because money is now speech and we don’t have enough money to buy as much “speech” as some Americans are able to these days. Even worse, now we have a “strong man” in charge who is trying to kill off sources of free speech. The best sources of news refuse to print unearned praise of the current occupant of the White House, so 45 is trying to suppress all our nation’s leading news sources.

Other powerful and wealthy men like the Koch brothers are trying to subvert media sources from within by buying them and then forcing them to print news stories they like or even ones they invent. I am very worried that the Conservative push to control America is going to take away the freedom of speech we have always enjoyed in our media.

History has taught us one way dictators destroy the free press is to make us begin to question which stories are factual and which stories are not. There used to be a fairly clear divide between commentary and news. Those lines are now being blurred. Before the 2016 election we all saw stories on Facebook that seemed extremely biased and some which struck us as too ridiculous to even bother to read. There were stories we had to hide so we wouldn’t ever have to see them again. Perhaps we attributed these stories to devotees of Fox News and never guessed that powerful people were deliberately planting “fake news”, or propaganda, on Facebook. But there were plenty of people on Facebook who would bury you in troll-speak if you dared express an opinion, in a comment, opposite to the “fake news”

I don’t like the Conservative agenda of today’s Republican Party and I make no secret of this. I do not believe that anything these folks want will be good for America, except perhaps training programs for workers and infrastructure investments (not pipelines). But Conservatives have been very effective at bamboozling, lying to, propagandizing, and convincing many Americas to believe that they have good ideas and that the Democrats don’t. If we are not careful the right – the GOP – will not just control the government and 30+ state governments, they might just become the only political power in America. What will we hear on our media then?

Well, I know where you can get a foretaste. Recently John Oliver outed the business plans of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a Conservative media group that owns local TV news stations in 81 local markets and that is trying to double the number of stations under its influence through a merger. In my mid-size city Sinclair bought three TV local news programs on different networks and two of those stations are the most popular stations for local news, the news broadcasts people listen to every day and every night. Syracuse, NY was cited by name by John Oliver on this national network (HBO) and this is a rare thing indeed unless the news is about snowstorms.

So far the most noticeable feature of the “takeover” is that these stations are obligated to air commentary a number of times each week by a Trump supporter named Boris Epshteyn, “Bottom Line with Boris”. Katy Waldman at Slate.com in her article with the title “News. Traffic. Weather. Trump” begins her article like this: “the face of Boris Epshteyn, chief political analyst for the behemoth Sinclair Broadcast Group, is glowing like an oversized egg about to hatch the world’s most affable chicken. ‘Let’s take a look at the White House press briefing,” he suggests genially, the corners of his mouth lifting. ‘What it is, what it represents, and how it serves the American people.”

Here’s a little sample of Boris in action.

I’m unsure that there is any path right now that would put news in Syracuse back with an owner who wants to offer segments that fairly present both sides of an issue or that take a brave stand when called for. But the word about Sinclair Broadcasting Group invading my local news is a depressing development and another sad step away from free speech. When will our politics, which has moved so far to the right, make a move back towards the center or to the left? That is difficult to predict. It could take many years to change US policy now that we have let Conservatives take over our politics, and have allowed them to be so invasive in our media dialogue and government. Will we lose our free speech rights? Will we become afraid to speak out if we disagree with laws or approaches to future crises that are sure to arise? Government-approved media could happen here. There is, as they say, “a slippery slope.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/07/how_boris_epshteyn_and_sinclair_bring_trump_propaganda_to_local_news.html

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2017/07/john_oliver_sinclair_broadcast_group_cny_central_syracuse.html

http://www.syracuse.com/business-news/index.ssf/2017/05/sinclair_broadcast_group_tribune_media_fox.html

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2013/11/syracuse_tv_stations_sold_ownership_sinclair_broadcast_group.html

Walking a Line at the Edge of Disaster

“I could shoot someone in the middle of Park Avenue and I would not lose votes.” I just can’t let that statement go. It haunts me. I have never heard anyone say something like this in a political campaign in the first place. In the second place I thought that might be a bridge too far and that it would be the beginning of the end for the Trump campaign. But Trump was right. This bald statement of random violence, issued for its shock effect, made barely a ripple in the election and possibly improved his election results. He enjoys walking a line at the edge of disaster.

I keep asking myself, why? What kind of person would offer up such a test of his follower’s loyalty or their lack of critical faculties? Perhaps his people thought he was just being dramatic, but why didn’t they question that he went there, to that particular dark and very public place?

I had never fallen under the spell of this shyster. I am not sure why many of us seem to see right through him and are shocked that such a man could run for and win the highest office in our Democracy.

We knew that our government was hardly pure. We knew that it was being tweaked out of its proper philosophical state by a few Americans with big money who were buying laws that would coincide with their ideas and their plans for the future of our nation. We knew that, because these folks were so wealthy and self-righteous that they felt it was their duty to transform the American democracy to match their goals, even if it meant that this nation would no longer be a democracy/republic.

(Our nation is defined as a democracy, but it is also a republic because we have a constitution. It is interesting and a sign of our partisan divide that Democrats call our government a Democracy and that Republicans are always correcting them and insisting that our government is a Republic. They do this because Republic matches the name of their party. They will no longer even say the Democratic Party, even though that is the correct adjective form of the word, because it makes the party sound too much like the name of our ideal of governance. They insist on calling it the Democrat Party. Even linguistics has been made to serve partisanship.)

But I did not think that our government had sunk so low that it would elect this polecat and place him in our Oval Office with all his oddball  and potentially dangerous cronies.

I did not think that he would be placed there in the hopes that he would dismantle government and somehow be so bad at being President that it would escape everyone’s notice that the Republicans may have wanted him to provide cover or distraction so they would not be blamed.  (How is that working for you?)

It is not as if I knew all the particulars of how a Trump Presidency would play out and I still don’t. But I knew it would be bad, and it is. If murder wouldn’t be a problem for his followers, how can we expect them to care about a subtle matter like treason? Even the press cannot decide if our huckster has sold us out to our enemies or obstructed an investigation or two. People almost seem to enjoy having a madman in the White House because each day gives us new audacities to gape at and to analyze ad infinitum.

I think we may be learning that we have given Presidents too much discretion. There are rules and traditions but they have no force. Recent Presidents have given us their taxes to look over, but apparently they don’t have to. A President is not supposed to run his own businesses when he is in office because he is in a position to profit individually from insider information. A President is not supposed to accept payments (income) from foreign sources because it could give the impression of confused loyalties or could lead to actual blackmail and subsequent treason.

None of these rules or traditions seem to carry any force with them. The President may comply or not comply, although every past leader of our nation has, however reluctantly, complied. And our current shyster-in-chief offers a cheeky grin (not at all a pleasant one) and refuses to accept any policy that will not result in his arrest, conviction, and incarceration and implies that there is nothing he can do that will have such a result.

With the Republicans in charge of all three branches of government, with little in the way of checks and balances available to stop a runaway President, Trump is quite comfortable changing his story until he hits one that shuts people up. Does he make tapes of his visitors in the Oval Office? He thinks he is so funny. “You can’t make me say.” Did he ask Comey to swear an oath of loyalty to him? “It’s my word against his and he has been publicly embarrassed and has lost “face” – he’s been fired just like one of so many apprentices on TV. Did he ask Comey to lay off Flynn? No unofficial piece of paper will back up that statement so, as far as Trump is concerned, that never happened. We know it goes on and on. The jerk invites two Russians into his office with no American press people to substantiate what goes on while his people stand uncomfortably watching the locker room camaraderie with fixed smiles on their faces.

By the end of all this, just in the space of one week, we feel as if we might be the crazy ones. Whether Donald Trump is crazy or not, whether he is all of the psychological terms we think he is or not, he should not be the President of the United States. I hate the way he treats the office, the American people, the Constitution, and even the world. If he won’t leave of his own volition he should leave in a strait jacket.

I know the Republicans have their own agenda. I have described what I think it is just recently in my article “It’s About Democracy”.

https://www.tremr.com/nancy-l-brisson-new-website-thearmchairobserver-/its-about-democracy

But why are they supporting the ridicule this person is heaping on the United States of America with his mind games and taunting and his incomprehensible belief that because he thinks he is smarter than us he can toy with us, hold us over a cliff by the back of our shirts and dangle us for a while. “Will he drop us to our death or won’t he?” Oh I don’t like this one bit and I don’t understand why anyone else likes it either.

Donald if you go your own way right now there will be not harm, no foul; no charges, no punishment, and you can go back to the life you enjoyed so much and be as nutty as you like. If you don’t I think the way you like to walk the lines at the edges of disaster will eventually catch up with you (and, sadly, perhaps with America.)

Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Even if Donald Trump is not my President, this is still my country and he has been in the people’s White House in Washington, DC for 100 days. I’m sure that everyone has an opinion about this; I know that I do. I am quite happy that DT has been unable to accomplish some of his major objectives so far like overturning the Affordable Care Act or cutting off funds for sanctuary cities. There are some immigration horror stories but there would have been more damage if his executive orders had not been opposed by the courts. He has so far been unable to start work on the wall on the Mexican border. Congress has been able to pass some economic deregulation measures and is working full speed ahead to undo environmental protections. Trump has announced a plan for tax cuts that will put more money in the pockets of those who are already wealthy, so I hope his tax plan also goes down in flames. But after the blunders of his first 100 days people are hopeful, but not convinced, that the entire first term will be equally unproductive.

Mr. Trump has made his greatest strides in dismantling our federal government and this is not a good thing for the citizens of America. He has placed billionaires in his cabinet who have little or no experience in governance. Not only are they billionaires but each appointee has professed an interest in destroying the department s/he has been assigned to lead. Many agencies have almost no employees, especially the State Department which has apparently been practically emptied out. What is the rationale for this? Is it incompetence? Is it the implementation of a plan to make federal government small as Republicans have wished to do for the past eight years? Is it the first stage of what we can expect to be an increasingly authoritarian rule which sees employees who have been in Washington during the Obama administration as resisters who wish to undermine a leader whose philosophy differs from the previous President and from the entire American Constitutional democratic way? It makes little sense to fire people from good civil service jobs when, actually, you are supposed to be trying to increase the number of jobs available for Americans. It seems, to many, that running a large enterprise like our government without the people who pay attention to the details will be messy and eventually the whole machinery will grind to a halt. Again this could be wishful thinking.

Can a pseudo “Board of Directors” hand-picked by a corporate CEO-style President run America without a clerical staff of experienced government employees who understand the rules and the laws and who each have their particular sphere of activity which keeps that little corner of the government running smoothly. They can if they intend to ignore the rules and laws. Our unpopular leader shows a pattern of a top-down governing style that is quite at odds with the illusion of a more bottom-up governance that is the purpose of having a Congress with elected representatives. He is beginning to see that there is a Congress and that with Congressional approval he might get his way more often, but he is not used to sharing any of his power. All his employees, even when they are family, are perceived to have only advisory roles. He does have a Congress that is on his side and they are trying to help him grow into his role but he has never been malleable. He is sort of like a large hyperactive child and in the White House as the President that makes him a “bull in the china shop”.

I was hoping that the President would have already been ousted from office. He has broken so many traditions. I guess we are finding that these traditions do not have the power of laws and that the American President has been given immunity from many of the rules of ethics and just accepted practice, even though most modern Presidents have held to these standards. But not 45. He has turned our government into the family business. He gives the appearance that he has complied with an absolute separation between his business interests and his powers as the head of the US government but we all can see that this is not so. Nepotism even worried our forefathers but Mr. T has no problems with it and, apparently, neither does anyone else in the Republican-controlled Congress. At the end of the first 100 days we find his daughter and son-in-law ensconced in the White House and doing business with world leaders around the world. We suspect they do a little of the nation’s business and a lot of the Trump business everywhere they go.

Donald should either have to comply with these protocols which protect the American people from dictatorship or kleptocracy or he should be forced to leave the Presidency and return to the private sphere. However frustrating we find his casual approach to protections that have been important features of our government these things are apparently not deal breakers. Even the many connections between his Presidential campaign staff and Vladimir Putin’s Russia and possible charges of treason have not made a dent in Donald’s tone deaf occupation of the American Presidency or in the confidence of those who elected him. He manages to blithely tweet his way through all of it and head off on the weekend for some golf.

As to the actions of the incomprehensible leader of the free world in regard to our relations with foreign nations the first 100 days have been, well, incomprehensible. He seems to have alienated all our allies and made nice with all the nations that concern us, except Syria and North Korea. Is he ready to go to war or is he just rattling sabers? He has left us teetering between amusement and horror. We can’t decide if he is dancing on the edge of disaster taking us along for the ride, or if he is the astute gamer that he claims to be. We can see similarities between Trump and Kim Jong un, at least in their shared paranoia syndrome, but Trump does not seem to have the imperialistic or hostile motives Kim Jong un seems to telegraph. Is Trump taunting North Korea to get them to either back down or do that final incendiary thing that initiates trading bomb strikes with all the attendant damages? What will happen in Syria? We just saw DT threaten to cancel the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada (NAFTA) and these nations seem to have backed down and agreed to negotiate new terms. Will threats and bluster work? All I can think is that watching Trump deconstruct America is putting the fear in them. I liked America’s role as a diplomatic power, trying to keep hate from escalating and talking with other nations and not to them. It appears that this is not the Trump way.

Whatever each one of us sees as we reach the 100-day milestone (however arbitrary the time frame) it is clear that there is discontent in the realm, and as far as our “king” is concerned there are only bad polls, partisan courts, fake news and paid demonstrators. How incompetent, treasonous, uninformed, unethical and nepotistic does a person in the US Presidency have to be before s/he is given the boot? Obviously 100 days is not enough time for this disaster to reach critical mass.

 

If This Isn’t Treason, What Is?

The news that comes out of this White House is so unlike anything that I might have ever imagined that it seems as if America will just fall apart, disintegrate, and cease to exist as a democracy and as a nation. I have said this same thing at least once a year for the past seven years and it has always been true. The events of post 9/11 America have been contentious, shocking, unsettling, and indicative of a sort of spiral of chaos, held in check for a while by the charm and grace of the Obama administration and perhaps an unspoken anathema to going down in history as the person/s who impeached, discredited, or assassinated America’s first American President of African Descent, a man who was voted into office almost by acclamation.

Grace and charm are now gone. The GOP, which flirted with insurrection, (and still will, given half a chance) is overshadowed for the moment. What we seem to have moved on to at this moment in time is a President who has flirted (or is still flirting) with treason. And it seems that there is nothing we can do about it but stand gape-mouthed in our kitchens staring at our TV’s.

The people have not heard any actual proof that DT himself spoke with the Russians but we know he telegraphed his invitation to collusion because he did it right out loud in numerous rallies. The statement I heard on the news last night is that “Trump campaign aides were in constant touch with Russian intelligence.” The people who surround DT do not seem to be people who act on their own. He seems to require absolute loyalty and he hands down assignments to his underlings which they will then complete. They have been with DT for some time and they know how to complete tasks to his satisfaction. He seems to use a mainly top-down management style.

The media is trying to make it clear that if anyone knows of a way to actually connect DT with Russia they should come sit by them. I don’t blame them. This would be an amazing scoop. But it sounds as if even a direct connection between DT and Putin to dump propaganda and private conversations into the media before an election will not be enough to prove either election tampering or treason. DT seems completely unconcerned and his only reaction so far is to try to make folks feel guilty for doubting Flynn, to repeat his electoral college vote like an incantation, and to try to get us to prosecute the leakers rather than the perpetrators.

We appear to be back to the question of whether leakers are traitors or whistle blowers. Leakers in this case are giving the press and the people information they need to know so we like them. When we like what is happening that seems to qualify as whistle blowing. The decision about leak v blow of whistle cannot be resolved at this time, but in this case, I hope the leaks keep coming.

The Republicans have their majority in Congress but it has not proven to be productive for them yet because DT does not seem to have the least inclination to go through Congress to pass laws. In fact the whole of Congress appears to be just an aside or an afterthought in this administration. Mr. T seems to have the hang of the executive decision apparatus which includes consulting with all his loyal cronies and family, a sort of rule by committee, and is sticking to that for now.

Republicans wanted to be in power so badly and are so ecstatic to have succeeded that they seem to have no desire to rein in the overweening ego and authoritarian bent of our fearless leader. It is practically impossible to believe that the Republicans will act on even this stunning information. Collusion with Russia, the exact nation we have spent years trying to avoid sharing information with, seems so close to treason that it cannot be ignored. We blacklisted Hollywood actors and politicians for joining the American Communist Party which had no connection with the USSR. Apparently we may have reached a point in American governance where a President actually cannot be unseated.

This is where the people come in. I had almost forgotten the people. They were so silent most of the time while Obama was president unless they were parroting Fox News. They did not get riled up during the election about anything but Bernie Sanders. They did not shout down the demeaning of Hillary Clinton. There were no demonstrations, or objections that were loud enough to outshout the true loudmouth in the campaign.

But the people are the fourth branch of government that is addressed in the Preamble of our Constitution when our forefathers say “WE the People”.
We are powerful because we have numbers on our side. We outnumber those folks we send to Congress to represent us. We conduct their business for them even in the halls of government. We are the referees. We police the game. When the game goes foul we call it, we point it out and hopefully the press backs us up, because the people in the press are also “we the people”. If the people do not make government straighten out when it is going off the rails then we are doomed to be just another democracy that used to be great but now simply proves the point of famous thinkers who said democracies can’t last for very long.

Susan Sarandon was on the Chris Hayes news hour on MSNBC last night while I was washing dishes and I got so angry listening to her that I almost threw a dish. She seemed to be arguing that demolishing our government and starting over is the only pathway that will get us out of the hole of corruption that we are in. Is that the only way open to us, to trash it all and start over? Isn’t history and continuity worth anything? She and her friend were still upset about Bernie Sanders losing the election, but did he ever really have a chance to win?

The only issue that holds any importance for them is the damage that has been done to the environment during the Obama administration and which will escalate under DT. Many of us worry about whether we can keep putting off doing the things that need to be done to take care of the planet. Even so she would not say that she regretted deserting the Democrats and that she was sorry about DT now that she could see the chaos. I was actually shouting at my TV when all she would say is that the chaos would be good in the end. But I wish we had done all we needed to do before the election so we did not have to go such a long way out of our way and we would never have to wonder if we could find our way back. And treason would still be a reason to kick someone off the team, even a President.

Donald Trump and the Republicans

harry-truman-about-republicans-big

I haven’t said much about Donald Trump winning the 2016 election because I don’t know what to say. During his primary rallies, I did discuss what a Trump Presidency might be like. I was really hoping people would not go “there”, but when I saw lawn after lawn and truck bumper after truck bumper with Trump/Pence signs and no signs for Hillary Clinton I began to realize that Hillary fans were laying low.

I wrote many articles in favor of Hillary, but unfortunately no one reads my blog. I did not get a lawn sign, though, until the last month before the election. I felt intimidated by Donald Trump’s casual approach to violence and the way he loved to incite his followers to express their passion for him. I felt very alone with most of my family deciding that Trump would be fine and most of my friends feeling that Bernie got gypped.

I really do not have the slightest idea what Donald Trump will be like as a President. He may be the President of America, but he is not my President. I think he is ruled by adulation. If he feels his audience slipping away he will do what he must to win it back. He does behave predictably in that his reactions to all things are personal and emotional, but he is not ideological. He makes a policy statement one day and reverses it the next.

When I read the Elena Ferrante quartet of books about Naples, Italy I was strongly affected by her descriptions of how Fascism remained a factor throughout Italy long after World War II. I guess I thought, beat Mussolini, beat Fascism. But that was not true. There were many tough guys still around who got their way through intimidation, bullying, and baseball bats. That’s how I recognized Donald Trump immediately as soon as he spoke at his first public rally. That’s when I began to worry about his ability to sell himself and his willingness to use any means necessary to get his way.

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I had studied what the Republicans were up to for the past 6 years. They were the enemy I knew. I didn’t like what they were up to. They were planning to pare back the Constitution to 1787, get rid of 200+ years of law and tradition (except the parts that matched their ideology). They have broad plans to benefit the rich and make the poor get off their duffs, but they offer no specifics.

I did not want the Republicans to get control of all three branches of government. They were too radical, they had too many nuts running around shooting off their mouths. They stopped our government until they could win a national election. They cheated and used unfair and perhaps unconstitutional practices to try to make it likely that they would win.

I can’t imagine that Donald Trump was part of their plan, but he did win them the coveted office of the President and he won them the right to appoint at least one Conservative to the Supreme Court. And I wouldn’t be surprised if pressure was brought to get some Liberals to leave the court. But they may have more than they bargained for in Donald Trump. He has to win and if Congress tries to corner him into doing anything he doesn’t want to do or makes him feel that he is not winning, he will find a way to exert his rather frightening authority to get his way. Is he the kind of bully who incites violence but also fears it? Maybe. Another thing we don’t know.

My friends and family are smug and thrilled and they believe that the right person won which is difficult for me to live with. My best course of action is to wait and see what happens. The cast of characters is already making me very nervous, but Donald Trump will not take over completely until after the holidays. Will the Republicans find the strength to resist him if he gets too extreme? Will the people rise up in the depths of winter and cry out against things that our democracy should consider unjust? I think the Donald will probably have his way with us. Our best bet is to become what a Facebook group member suggested – Dumbledore’s Army. Find a hidden Room of Requirement and train up new Democrats. Hash out great policies and reforms and get ourselves a deep bench. Then, if there is any American democracy left when everyone is done with what Donald and the Republicans have in store for them, perhaps we can try some of the real reforms our government needs.

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/donald-trump-deranged/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/donald-trump-deranged-details/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/the-bully-vs-the-wonk-debates/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/donald-trumps-way-back-foreign-policy/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/i-blame-donald-trump/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/trump-demographics/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/will-we-duke-it-out-in-streets/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/stopping-donald-trump/

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/why-we-cant-elect-donald-trump-or-any/

 

Erasing the Sixties

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The “military-industrial complex” is finally poised to wipe out the Sixties. Almost half of America stayed “straight” while the rest of the world grooved to a new beat in the sixties. Change was in the air.

We wanted peace, not war. Our guys were in Vietnam, fighting a war that was not our business although it was sold as a war against the spread of Communism. Since an all-out war on Russia was too risky we fought them in Vietnam, a tiny nation. It was an awful war, as all wars are, but even more difficult because of the terrain and the temperatures and a style of guerilla, hit-and-run warfare we were not prepared for. We responded with Agent Orange and napalm and learned that chemical warfare should be considered unacceptable forever after.

America, for once, found a voice of dissent. We wanted out of this war. But we were divided. Some Americans were hawks even in the Sixties who felt that America, when provoked must respond with military force. There were probably even cynics who believed that war always helped boost the American economy. For some people everything is about money. Many Americans supported the war because they are Americans, they are patriotic, and they had sons, daughters, husbands, fathers in Vietnam fighting this bizarre and deadly war.

We were experiencing a fairly new hostility to the very institutions at the foundations of the American economy. It was just hitting home that our democracy was not quite as democratic as we would like nor were our opportunities quite as equal as we would like. Some Americans began to suspect that the powerful people were stacking the deck in their favor and that our money was going to people who were already powerful and rich. The rich and powerful wanted a national government that was in the control of those who believed that we needed a strong military (possibly putting us in line to be permanently at war), and those who felt that if our laws favored industry the American economy would also be the strongest economy in the world. These folks believed that a strong military-industrial complex would keep America dominant on the world stage.

The other half of America railed against the “establishment” and wrote about change, talked about change, and demonstrated for change. This half of America even tried to live in the changed America they hoped was emerging. The straighter half of America grew long sideburns, wore bell bottoms and went off the work every day. They did not even understand what the “change” chants were all about. They felt that the counterculture was unreal, nonsensical, and possibly treasonous.

These were the days when pressure from people both black and white led to the Civil Rights Act signed in 1965. Passing a law never cures a society’s ills like magic. You can make people act in certain ways, but you cannot make them feel certain things. But this law represented the kind of humanitarian changes that resulted from the idealistic and, some believed, airy-fairy view that was currency in the counterculture. Learning to accept the diverse nature of America’s people was very much a part of “hippie” philosophy. In cities we saw more racial mixing than occurred in earlier decades. Concern about poorer Americans became an issue that should not only be addressed by churches, but also by the American government.

And we had the pill, the birth control pill which gave women the freedom to control their own futures. They could enjoy physical intimacy without having to accept that this would almost inevitably produce an offspring, either planned or unplanned. Women were already a fixture in the workplace, but now you could choose to pursue a serious career, like a man could. Women talked and talked in consciousness raising groups all over America. It gave women a heady sense that they were not just appendages of men. They were half of the human race and they were not feeling at all submissive. Why were they given brains that worked so well if they were not intended to share in their culture and contribute to their culture?

There were always establishment forces who hated these movements that began in the Sixties. Richard Nixon embodied that snide, entrenched opposition to all things “new age”. The side wars between John Lennon and Richard Nixon are perfect representations of how ridiculous and petty his resistance and his fear often seemed. Although John Lennon lived the “revolution” he had too many personal problems to be a real threat. He was essentially an artist, someone who could inspire a counterculture war, but not lead it.

The “establishment” hated the counterculture. Many of the laws, policies, and programs that Republicans hate most have roots in the Sixties. The Great Society may not have arisen fully formed in the Sixties but you can see counterculture concerns all over it. The Great Society gave rise to “big government”. Even environmentalism tended to split along the lines established in the Sixties.

The same decade also gave America a culture split between the Hawks and the Doves. Imperialism, colonialism, American interference in foreign government, regime change were all “old” philosophies of arrogant nations according to the members of the counterculture. These strategies for control of others were now considered wrong and unsuited to the ideals of a democratic nation. But not by everyone. The Republicans did not soften their foreign policy stances. They felt that if America did not remain number one in every arena then America would no longer exist as a nation. We would give up dreams of empire and become just another less-than-spectacular nation among many.

Conservatives have always been wary of social programs. No social program could be passed without ways to make it onerous built in. People who needed help must always be punished for their failure to compete and survive. We do not even know how social programs would have fared if they were offered without blame and without layers and layers of bureaucracy. Can you have both accountability and simplicity or is that something that will always be a paradox?

Many of the people who fell for the things that were broadcast incessantly on Talk Radio and Fox News are the same people who never joined the counterculture. They considered it a passing fancy. They had families to support and they had to work hard to do that but they also had a carrot in front of them. It was the carrot of prosperity, of a legacy for their families, of their own little dynasty that lived and worked nearby, of a retirement of leisure and time to pursue all of the pleasures they had deferred, the carrot of safety and peace. Then the dream began to collapse, one factory at a time, one child leaving home at a time, one pension at a time, one housing bubble at a time.

Is the counterculture to blame for their loss? Is this those damn hippies again? No matter. They look to the very same establishment that shafted them to lift them back up. And we all get President Trump. These “straight shooters” think they have elected a new Ronald Reagan. I believe that a President Trump will more closely resemble a Richard Nixon.

Will the Sixties really die, or will the movement just go underground training new young people in the use of the “force” so we can clean up the mean mess when the fever finally burns out? We might have to bide our time for a bit and see what shakes out but we will stay in touch.

The Deplorables, the Republicans, and the Media

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The Deplorables, The Republicans and the Media

I will eventually get to the “deplorables” but you must be patient while I make all the connections I need to make in order to make my points believable. Bear with me while I fill in the backstory. Even though it sounds overly familiar, follow along with it one more time. Recent events have their roots in the past, as is usually true with all human endeavors.

Strange Bedfellow Reprise

I once painted a word picture of a bed full of strange bedfellows with the hardworking average Americans on one side of the bed with their corporate bosses who either still employ them or who have abandoned them on the other side and as the pillow that separates these two normally adversarial groups is the Republican Party.

Nestled in with those hardworking average Americans are some right wing fringe groups of Americans, the militia folks who turned out to start a war over Cliven Bundy, and yes the haters, the misogynists, the xenophobes, the homophobes, the anti-Semitics, the racists, those who never accepted that the Confederacy lost the Civil War, and even perhaps downright fascists and neo-Nazis. I made it seem to be mystifying that these folks were in the same bed but it really isn’t all that surprising.

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Republican Media and the Strange Bedfellows

The ideological glue that holds these people so unnaturally together is what the GOP has been sending out over the radio waves (the radio!) in those Talk Radio shows of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and others for more than a decade. Republicans certainly knew their audience. They did not aim for Big Business, they colluded with Big Business. Their party was dwindling in influence and size. They needed voters. So the GOP through their media began saying the things that they knew would resonate with truckers on long distance trips, displaced workers tuning-in in garages or in their cars.

They began to say that America was being ruined, that America was being downgraded to a second-rate nation; that our leaders were knuckling under to China and at the mercy of Islamic terrorists. They took little or no responsibility for our factories relocating to the East. They took no responsibility for helping to pass laws that took away penalties, or at least did not levy penalties on companies who took their factories elsewhere where there was cheaper labor and lot of fresh consumers.

They blamed the Democrats for trade deals and high taxes and too many regulations, for being in cahoots with demanding labor unions, and for environmental regulations, although many of these measures had appealed to our officials on both sides of the aisle. They seduced their listeners by speaking back to them the things that they said when they gathered together. For the most part this was guy stuff, although now husbands have brought their wives along with them and many single women who lost employment have also joined the movement.

Once Fox News went on TV and said in living color, in a format that looked exactly like news (but wasn’t) what the Talk Radio people had been whispering in American ears in black and white, the GOP realized that they had hit on a formula that could well put them back in the White House. When they added in the Patriot talk, the veneration of the flag, and took to the airwaves as the sole protectors of our veterans American was theirs, at least the white, immigrated in the 19th century, bunch.

I watched them grow their influence and it did look like the waves of grain that symbolize the American heartland (another word they latched onto with everyone sending each other little hearts on Facebook.) They hypnotized America, they brainwashed America and they turned workers who had no work into pod people. They occupied their brains and promised them exactly what they wanted. They said they would get their jobs back and they made sure that everyone could own a gun just in case they could no longer trust their government.

That is how people who did not wear suits ended up in that bed with all the suits.

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How Republican Media called out to the Deplorables

The Republican Party has been using their own media to demonize Democrats. Media once tried to go for a balanced approach that sort of gave credence to the policies advocated by either side. The Republicans created a deliberately partisan media that spouted anti-Democrat messaging 24 hours a day. It is probably why the new idiom “24/7” was invented.

The GOP made the Democratic Party the party of immigrants so they could blame job loss on immigrants, especially immigrants who did not enter America through legal channels. They told workers who had to take jobs that paid far less than their old jobs that their tax dollars were being given to these illegal immigrants. Their tax dollars were being given to people who had never held a job or never would, and they painted those people’s skins as black. That is how they fed into and strengthened an image of the freeloading “other” that already existed.

Too bad the intelligence we have about terrorists is not as good as the intelligence the Republicans have about the American middle class. Of course the Republicans are the party that created the NSA with the Patriot Acts. When a black man became our President that was truly serendipity. Implying that he was not a true American, that he was not a Christian, that he belonged to a church that spewed hate about white folks in America – bonanza!

Are all of the white Americans who have been wooed and won by nonstop propaganda deplorable? I don’t think so. Are there deplorable individuals who climbed aboard the GOP train because the rhetoric resonated with their own narrow-minded beliefs? Absolutely. Are there quite of few of them? Sadly it seems that there might be. Do people who are not deplorable hold to some deplorable ideas? I would have to say that that is true.

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Is the tribalism that defines the American social landscape deplorable? Will it lead us to anything positive if we are at each other’s throats? Can you make a better future when people are so invested in their own mindset that they want to lash out at anyone who thinks differently? Will dividing America into tribes who defend their territory, separating us all with hate and bile, eventually produce an America that links arms and unites to produce a more peaceful world in which we all can live? How can dividing into separate camps ever lead to unity, tolerance, and the creative spirit we need to meet the challenges of our tiny planet hurtling through space.

The Republicans have exploited our differences and exaggerated our differences in order to gin up votes because they want, they desire, they must control all three branches of our government. They must truly believe that they can restore America to a former glory that has never really been lost. Although we may be in a down cycle right now and recent developments abroad have given us more competition we are still a great nation and a world leader.

The Republicans profess their policies in almost biblical tones. They are trained to repeat talking points, to talk over their opponents, to obliterate foes with data even if the data is made up. They must think that “trickle-down economics” and cutting taxes and getting rid of regulations on business and investment, privatizing everything and building our military while cutting the size of federal government, that all of these strategies are the Holy Grail to reproducing the America that used to be so powerful and so productive.

But the GOP did not trust the American people to understand how successful their policies might be because so many of us do not agree that these policies will improve America. They still had to use propaganda to win. If you have right on your side why would you create this whole matrix of mesmerizing mind games?

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Will Donald Trump and his band of Deplorables Make America Great Again?

Now the GOP is the party of Donald Trump who is the pied piper of the “deplorables”, regardless of how shocked the Republicans act about what Hillary said. In the future qualities like xenophobia, racism, and misogyny will not help us create the global society, which is evolving whether we like it or not. These feelings are backward and really don’t belong in a nation that espouses equality. They will only produce a more primitive American, not a futuristic America. The fact that these people have found a home in the Republican Party with Donald Trump at its helm is the best reason of all to elect Democrats in 2016. We need to fight these feelings in ourselves not give them free rein.

 

Kill Hillary?..the Fight for Women’s Rights

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The battles women have fought for their rights have been many and fierce. There is a museum exhibit that has a table set with 39 plates for women who got a seat at the table through stubborn will and tenacious intelligence. There are 999 names on the white tile floor below the table of women who contributed much but did not quite win a coveted seat.

There is a Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY to commemorate the first Women’s Rights Convention held there in July, 1848 and to honor the women who courted cultural disdain and ostracism to fight the surprisingly long battle to get men to accept women as equals.

There is no part of our original Constitution or our Bill of Rights that acknowledged females as people and there is no language that denies that women are people. It was not unprecedented in Europe to have Queens, but it was usually treated as sort of an aberration and Queens were almost forced to marry, except in the famous case of Elizabeth II in England. Men in early America did not even consider giving women the right to vote and women did not think to petition for it. Culturally men ruled the roost when the Constitution was written.

Women Suffragettes won the vote in a sort of a mash up with the Prohibition ladies in 1919 and the Constitution was amended to include the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in 1920. Now it is the 21st century and we have still never elected a woman to our highest office and women are sadly underrepresented in Congress. Wouldn’t it be fine to have a woman President when this amendment celebrated its one hundredth anniversary?

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As I watch the media pile hypothetical sin after hypothetical sin onto Hillary Clinton who is running to be our President in 2016 I can’t help but think that this is the last gasp of men grasping to hang on to power, which men are not even losing, only sharing.

MSNBC has some of the worst Hillary bashers, although these men could not actually want Trump to be President. Joe Scarborough, Mark Halperin who has even joined Scarborough on Morning Joe lately, Chuck Todd, and their many male guests go on and on about Hillary’s “unfavorable” like members of a gossipy 50’s coffee klatch full of mean girls.

Even when Donald Trump (who knows very well that Hillary has no plans to change the 2nd Amendment in any way) dog whistles (loudly) to the NRA and the 2nd Amendment people – people whose first thought in a fight is perhaps to vote with a gun – and uses a deliberately veiled reference that could be construed as an invitation to assassination, the equivocation begins almost immediately. Never mind that these could be the same militia people who were prepared to start a war on behalf of a rancher who was cheating by grazing his cows on government land without paying the rather reasonable fees. Donald Trump knows that there are mentally ill people out there who would delight in killing Hillary, or, in fact, anyone Trump fingered; so do the news people who have now turned on Hillary Clinton (to escape the wrath of the Donald?).

Hillary has been smeared with so much mud by all these men that we may never know if any of it is real. These men spent the entire day after Donald Trump threw out his off the cuff threat arguing that he did not know what he was saying and that he was trying to be funny. Well I have a hypothetical for all Trump’s defenders. He did not phrase his remarks the way he did by accident; they were in fact carefully crafted to walk the legal line and be deniable in future conversations. They were designed to make his followers swoon once again at Donald’s audacity and to elicit the twisted admiration that he loves to bask in.

Yesterday the top story shifted so quickly to the unproven scandal of the supposed pay for play activities of the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State that I got whiplash. Today we are deep into Hillary bashing and repeating Donald’s excuses which somehow always allows him to repeat the jabs he has recently been most proud of pulling off. No matter what Hillary has or hasn’t done it can’t be as poisonous as what these folks are doing. Mayor Giuliani, shame on you.

So men are obviously not ready for a female President and women are back in this place where we have another fight on our hands and we have been fighting this particular battle for the past eight years in one way or another. The war on women in which Republicans tried to fight against women’s freedom to control their own bodies and their own reproductive rights was often a fight about the beliefs of some men that the world was a better place when women were submissive and when they stayed at home. Women’s pursuit of satisfying careers ruined the nuclear family, or so these men believe, and all manner of cultural evils have ensued, so if we put women back in the kitchen these disruptive cultural trends will go away and there will be peace in the land forever and ever. There are men who fervently believe this stuff and they do not want Hillary Clinton, or indeed, any woman to be the President of the United States.

While women would like to win something without a pitched battle and tons of mental and social angst that is not what is going to happen in the 2016 election. It is as fraught a moment as any instance of cultural change and rather than dancing and toasting with champagne we will obviously be slogging through mud right to the bitter end.