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

Trump’s Authoritarian Bent – Unexpected Consequences

Trump’s attacks on our democracy might just save it. Please, do not be mistaken about any of the arguments I am about to make. I’m sure any positive consequences of this administration are unintentional consequences. Donald Trump is a terrible President, and apparently a fairly twisted person with a bank account for a soul. He is probably the worst businessman on the planet, reportedly wealthy only because he extorted money from a father who must have loved him.

However, it seems that Trump’s meanness, his policies that will hurt the people who worship him most, his racism, his authoritarian disregard for our Constitution and our laws, his love affairs with dictators, his nods at brutality as a strategy to solve problems that should be solved intelligently may be pleasing his peeps who have been turned into “pod people” by tuning in to Fox News to be hammered with propaganda. But his cruelty and dictatorial bent are also having the opposite effect on many Americans and on people in other nations around the world.

American Health Care

People who once squealed about the way the Affordable Care Act became law, and who wanted nothing to do with that health plan will fight to keep it when they are able to understand that Trump and the Republicans want to take it away and replace it with nothing.

American Safety Net Programs

In fact the Republican Party has worked very hard to convince the American people that there are deadbeats all over this nation living well off their tax dollars because of benefits designed to help less fortunate Americans or Americans temporarily experiencing setbacks. But the real endgame here is to end Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, housing subsidies, and welfare (which is almost gone already). Voters who understand this will not reelect Trump.

Smaller Federal Government – State’s Rights

What will the GOP use the freed-up budget dollars from benefit cuts for? That is left somewhat unclear but what this administration says is that they will make the federal government smaller and state governments will be more powerful. If you think that Trump will save benefits for seniors, the disabled, and the poor you are wrong. Trump’s original budget included fairly large cuts to safety net programs and even though all of these cuts did not ‘make the cut’, we recently have learned about the 3 million dollars to be subtracted from the food stamp program. Our benefits are being chipped away. And, having powerful states may sound appealing, but services and even laws will vary from state to state and what seems unfair now will seem punitive for some states if Republicans and Trump have their way. The Democrats do not have enough power right now to defeat an all-out attack on our safety net and many states cannot afford to offer such benefits.

Immigration and Asylum

We see how the Trump administration treats our neighbors who are leaving their home nations because of threatening gangs and intermittent famine. We understand  that they are seeking asylum and a better future in an America that once welcomed immigrants who came here legally. Watching what happens at our Southern border is already creating a backlash against policies that make us cringe. We have never been a nation that ignored need or inhumane conditions. We have never been a nation that put too many people in one cage with no soap and no toothbrushes, no showers and bad food and then baited people who could not keep themselves clean under such conditions.

This behavior is disgusting and America can never claim this moment as a proud moment in our history. We are an enormous country with only 350 million people. We do not lack the space to show kindness for neighbors under cultural stress. Immigration and asylum could be handled in ways that did not incite shame in one half of America, and hate in the other half (less than half).

Hong Kong

Recently we have watched the people of Hong Kong pour from their homes and businesses in protest against a leader who wanted to send people who reside in Hong Kong who are accused of crimes to mainland China for judgment and punishment under the harsher rules of President Xi, ruler for life, a dictator by another name. They won. The people, for now, successfully pushed back in a show of democratic spirit we do not seem to have found yet in our democracy. Perhaps seeing what Trump was doing in America helped to radicalize them. They have now taken over the airport. Perhaps what they are doing will inspire us.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans poured into the streets to protest the behavior of their governor after pages and pages of racist emails were made public and to demand that he leave office. It took days and days but eventually the governor caved and resigned. Perhaps Puerto Ricans realized that America was in no condition to step in and help them at this time and our dilemmas emboldened them to activism. The anger Trump has engendered in the hearts of our Puerto Rican neighbors, who are Americans without a real vote in Congress, by his unfair attacks on their nature, helped them perceive of one more string of insults as just too close to home and too over-the-top. Trump’s racism and authoritarianism radicalized them. Right now there are  Americans who are being radicalized in support of Trump, but many, quieter, Americans have been radicalized against Trump.

Moscow

https://youtu.be/5HGA76MEZcw

Hundreds demonstrated in Moscow for free elections. This has happened before but it could be more important now that American freedoms are being challenged by the Trump administration who is backed by the Republicans in Congress. Freedom seems to gain ground when there is a push to take it away.

America and the Liberal World Order

Ever since the end of World War II our planet has been involved in a tug of war between democracy/capitalism on the one hand as exemplified by America, communism on the other hand as exemplified by first the USSR and now Russia. America fought with funds for modern development, American products, American weapons and tanks and planes, American music and fashion, American technology to persuade the world’s nations to choose democracy over communism. Communists, who could not persuade with glitzy things or money offered things like gas and oil, of which they had plenty, and Russian weapons of war. America began to push a bit too hard and did a few too many regime changes and nations became leery of American “help” and suspicious of American capitalism. The world was beginning to turn a cold shoulder to America and that might help explain the rise of dictatorships around the planet.

Trump, friend of dictators everywhere, seems to be inspiring others around the world to fight harder for freedom and to fight at the grassroots level, a bottom-up movement as opposed to the old top-down approaches. Perhaps people around the world now see America as having more in common with their own situations and the hubris with which we once set out into our international endeavors is now tempered by the humility of being under the tiny thumb of a very unbalanced president with authoritarian and blatantly racist tendencies. Suggesting that anything good will come of having someone like 45 in the Oval Office goes against the grain of my soul and I am not alone in this, but we also know that even the worst ordeals can have some positive outcomes. Keep up the good work people of earth. We will not give into anything or anyone that stands in the way of global prosperity, peace, and tolerance. Trying to end democracy just might save it.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

 

July 4th 2019 – Celebrate or Mourn?

July 4, 2019 – Celebrate or Mourn

Some of us want to celebrate July 4th this year as we do every year because it marks the birth of this nation we love. But we can’t. We think we may have to mourn the demise of the government our forefathers bequeathed us. We’re too sad to celebrate (although we do love fireworks). I feel sadder today than I did during the Vietnam War. The opposition to the war split America much as it is split now. In fact, this divide may date all the way back to the days of that unjustifiable war – which we lost. However the opposition was so energetic then and the war was only one issue, not a complex Gordian Knot of conflicting ideas and behaviors as we are faced with this Independence Day.

Republicans wanted to take us backwards, but they just wanted to take us to a past before contraception, before the end of the peak of the Industrial Age, to a time when Americans went to church, to a time when we could burn all the coal, gas, and oil we pleased, to a nation where the South won the Civil War (it sounds more sinister as the list progresses, doesn’t it).

Well, we are going backwards, but to a time we never had to experience in America, not the way Europe did. We have a lawless authoritarian President and so this July 4th, because of him, we have “camps” at our Southern border and a President who ignores a ruling of the Supreme Court so he can suppress the vote of Democrats, who he sees as enemies. These awful facts (and many more) make this July 4th feel more like any of the years when Europe fell under the thrall or the tanks of a mad, racist dictator – and he almost won.

Now there is opposition to our own leader who we are reluctant to see in quite such desperate terms, but Americans seem too sad, too dispirited and exhausted to call forth any of that old sixties energy. On this Independence Day we have tanks on the mall in Washington. Is this display of power just for our President’s ego, is it supposed to impress other nations, or is it perhaps seen as a bonus that it might serve to intimidate Americans who oppose this president?

We can celebrate and ignore Trump’s rally because, for now, we still have our democracy/republic, but it is in greater danger every day. So, many of us will prepare to mourn the end of our legacy of freedom until we see the white supremacist, the man who tramples on our Constitution, that person who currently occupies our White House, led away in handcuffs.

Cheers to the home of the brave and the land of the free, for now.

 

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Getty Image (News and Guts), NPR, The Washington Standard, The Verge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans and Trump Question Validity of the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party

Republicans and Trump Question Validity of the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party (or in GOP speak, the Democrat Party)

The Democrats won enough seats in the House of Representatives in 2016 to become the majority party in that legislative branch of Congress. The GOP still has a majority in the Senate. The Democrats, when they won the House, won the right to conduct investigations of the executive branch. Congress has a vital role to use checks and balances to keep the executive branch from adventures in authoritarianism, such as the ones occurring in the administration of Donald Trump.

Clearly we have in the White House (where the executive branch is housed) a leader who is in serious need of some checks and balances. Just this week that leader, our president said, “No one disobeys me.”

This same president refuses to provide the investigations of well-respected committees in the House with his tax and other financial documents which our laws state “shall be turned over upon request”. This president swore an oath to protect and defend the very laws that he is defying. He apparently uses the Constitution as a pack of napkins to mop up from his “happy meal”. He also refuses to let his staff, present or former, testify before any of the House investigative committees. You would think that he might be worried about the optics of such an imperial dictate, but this president doesn’t respect the American people enough to worry about what they think. For him, it is enough that his own followers and his own news outlet will find his exercise of authority strong, rather than dismissive of our laws.

To most of us it appears that Trump ignores the very basis of our republic, that he verbally rewrites the entire power structure that has guided our nation for approximately 240 years by making the executive the branch around which all other branches revolve. However, that is the place in which our forefathers put the Congress. Trump is turning the presidency into an absolutist office served by the rest of the executive branch (including the Justice Department), by the Congress and by the courts. Trump is the “sun” around which the “planets” revolve.

This could be an insurrection of sorts, it could be a coup, it could be treason. America will cross the line from a democratic republic to an autocracy if Trump is able to ignore the Constitution and our laws with impunity, if he is able to ignore the sections of our documents which require him to respect both houses of Congress and all Americans, not just his own party.

Presidents being investigated often try to make such an investigation impossible with a number of squirmy strategies. This is not the first Congress to have to corral the powerful. But we have a president who seems to be able to use verbal abuse and victimhood to wiggle out of any negative judgment. How can this man who is so obviously a threat to our democracy/republic have people so loyal they will risk our freedom by their willingness to suspend the rules?

Democrats in the House will fight back, will get subpoenas to take Trump to court, but not if the Senate and Republicans will not honor the powers of the House when Democrats make up the majority. Republicans heckle Democrats, distract by blaming Obama or Hillary or demonizing the Democrats, bringing up old business, sometimes in statements that are blatantly ridiculous, sometimes in ways that send everyone scrambling to fact checkers to recheck claims that have already been proven false many times. If there is a public committee hearing, Republicans act like the boys who used to sit in the back row of the classroom in high school. I think their behavior goes beyond normal antagonism into derision and reflects more poorly on them than on their opponents.

Trump has placed himself in a position where he can stand alone as the “chief obstructer”, because he has sidelined any opposition with his contempt and stubbornness, and has surrounded himself with those who are finally faithful only to him. Has he won control of America? Has he already taken over, or do Democrats still have a chance to turn things around, to make our documents matter again? If Trump can keep saying no and delaying Dem investigations all the way until the 2020 election that will put him in a very powerful position, even though it should have exactly the opposite effect.

Trump could never obstruct and delay if the Republican Party had not already bowed down to Trump. They believe that Trump helps their Party, but the relationship works the other way around. The GOP enables and defends Trump as he takes over America right in front of their eyes. He does not do this for the Republican Party. He does this for himself. Trump does not share power. We should never forget the role of the Republican Party in all this. Their actions are seditious.

Our documents do not say that once you go through a special investigation you are not required to cooperate in any Congressional investigation. Trump insists that the special investigation makes all other investigation unnecessary, despite the fact that Mueller never looked at Trump’s finances, or the emoluments issues raised by that hotel in Washington, or the nepotism of placing family members in important government positions. And although Republicans and the DOJ say that Trump was totally exonerated by the Mueller Report, the Mueller Report itself, and the Democrats do not agree.

However, because Trump is willing to trample on the Constitution, to basically ignore it as if it does not exist, he thereby makes our most central government document worthless. Because he is willing to deny power to a party even once it has won a majority further destroys the credibility of our system of government. That means that as long as Trump is in office there is no Constitutional government in the United States of America.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search: ACLU

You can also find me at Tremr

Sinclair Broadcasting Helps Trump in Midterms

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

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

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

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

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

 

Limited Government – A Terrible Idea

Limited Government: The “nanny state” and Political Correctness

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

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

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

Federalism, Constitutional Purity and States Rights

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

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

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

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

More About State’s Rights

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

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

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

Posse Comitatus

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

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

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

The Ayn Rand Justification/Rationalization for Limited Government

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

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

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

Socialism

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

Trump, Putin and Us

Trump, Putin and Us

What a week! We can now see the connections between Trump, the GOP, the NRA, and religious fundamentalists and Putin in Russia that have been building for decades. And yet we still find a Trump/GOP base in America that cannot be swayed.

https://www.salon.com/2018/07/21/how-low-can-trump-go/

“As the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in tighter and tighter on Trump’s inner circle and Trump himself, tending to his base is the key to Trump staying in office. A recent Washington Post poll showed that close to 50 percent of Republicans believe that Trump won the popular vote in 2016. He didn’t; Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Trump. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump’s lie that millions of illegal immigrants voted in 2016, and nearly 75 percent believe that voter fraud occurs “somewhat or very often.” It doesn’t; numerous studies have found voter fraud to be close to nonexistent.

But it’s this statistic that’s most shocking in the Post poll of Republicans. “52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election, and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress proposed this,” according to the Post.”

In case you didn’t read that quote, it said, in a Washington Post survey 52% of Republicans polled would support postponing the 2020 election.

We also learned of the close connection between Maria Butina, a Russian operative, and the NRA. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/opinion/republican-party-national-rifle-association-trump-russia.html

And we learned that Russians attended the National Prayer Breakfast, a Conservative fundamentalist religious function. https://www.salon.com/2018/07/21/putins-close-ties-to-national-prayer-breakfast-revealed_partner/

If America and Russia become besties, and if Trump is able to postpone the 2020 election, what can we expect America to be like. Hard to tell. This morning in the New York Times there was an article by a man who knew Sakharov, a Russian physicist and dissident who spent long periods imprisoned and in a Russian gulag. He warns us that life without freedom is a double life. You steal private moments of freedom at your risk and in public you comply to whatever the government asks. Within the article is a reprint of Sakharov’s essay, distributed in Russia as a secret document passed from hand to hand.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/opinion/andrei-sakharov-essay-soviet-union.html

“Sakharov’s decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country’s domestic behavior — and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,” he often explained…

Mr. Trump has taken America’s human-rights-free foreign policy to absurd new heights. His assertion that North Koreans support Kim Jong-un with “great fervor” undermined America’s moral standing, sabotaged North Korean dissidents and legitimized an evil dictator. His shocking refusal to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia over his country’s blatant interference in the 2016 United States presidential election highlights his unwillingness to protect Americans’ democratic rights, let alone Russians’ human rights.”

Trump’s Base

But I don’t think this is what is on the minds of Trump’s base. Their interests are perhaps more varied and more parochial. Some are passionate about killing Roe v Wade. Some are simply nostalgic for what they consider better times for the middle class in America and they insist on having that back. Some are concerned that America will no longer be a white and Christian nation, and they will allow children to be placed in cages if that will make their wishes reality. Some are protecting an almost frontier vision of America, with absolute rights guaranteed by local law enforcement and by the federal government, think Duck Dynasty and the passionate defense of guns in America.

But what Trump supporters will get in the end probably will be quite different from what they are asking. They may get an end to Roe v Wade but they will also lose good health coverage, especially for those with preexisting conditions, which will be practically everyone. They may be able to stop all immigration and thereby end illegal immigration and they may no longer see their benefits spent on “those people” but they may also lose their own benefits. Medicare and Social Security use money from the budget that Trump and the GOP would like to earmark for other things, or steal. Without Medicare and Social Security seniors will die and they will die earlier and in greater numbers than is natural. If Trump and the GOP see seniors as burdens because they are no longer able to labor physically and perhaps, even mentally, then a man with so little compassion would be happy to let go of unproductive members of American society with barely a twitch of emotion. Poor people have already been written off. Trump says there are no more poor people in America.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/donald-trumps-poverty-problem/563960/

I think we can easily predict the demise of the social safety net. No poor, then no food stamps, no welfare, no Medicaid. We the people are the ones that will be cut out of America’s budget.

Who will do the work the immigrants have been doing, America’s dishes, weeding, planting and picking. Who will clean America’s public restrooms and serve as teacher’s aides in our schools? Who will complete American renos and put in American floors? Trump’s base could very well find itself doing all of these jobs or living in a nation where the niceties are no longer observed and filth and hunger and disease are what we inherit. We will have a government that keeps passing the dollars up the chain and we will be paid lower wages and have fewer ways out of the poverty that doesn’t exist.

We are the people who did not know how to turn a nickel into a million dollars, or who did not have a daddy who gave us a million dollar stake. We are the people who never learned to be ruthless in business but only ruthless to each other.

Who will our friends be? Well, Putin, and President Xi and Kim Jong Un and Duterte and Erdogan. We will have a whole new cohort of meanness and no one to appeal to for aid and assistant. Perhaps we will start picking off American drug dealers and drug users like Duterte.

The Rich, the 1%

What will the wealthy be doing? I saw an article about that this week also. They will be looking for guards they can trust to protect them in their walled estates. Sound familiar. It should, it is feudalism without knights, only paranoia.

https://www.cnn.com/style/article/doomsday-luxury-bunkers/index.html

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

In a world that promises to be crowded with 9 billion people, how expendable will most of us be? Trump’s little cult is helping him and others separate the wealthy from the poor in whole other dimensions besides our bank accounts and our possessions. Trump’s base may be dooming themselves and us to obsolescence. Unless we show genius or the willingness to perform menial tasks, how will we be necessary to people who do not value the rights of ordinary people. Why should they share the wealth with us? I doubt that they intend to.

Whenever you get into this realm of extrapolating the future from the present you lose any real basis in fact and you lose your credibility. The future could unfold in many different ways. However I do not see a role for Donald Trump in the future of America. Now that we have him in the oval office though there does not seem to be a way to rid ourselves of him that is consistent with our morality. And that is a dilemma because we are dealing with someone without morality, only some kind of code of personal loyalty. We know he is a bad President, possibly a traitorous President but we have given power to the Conservative literal interpretation of our Constitution and we therefore have no way, within the rules of our system, to unseat him. We are waiting for absolute proof  which we may never have. This is a man who knows how to cover his tracks and see his troops indicted for his own deniability.

Our squeamishness may land us in Trump/Putin land. We can practice when Putin comes to oversee our election in November. I bet he will be here for Trump’s military parade. Donald will be so proud, except for the lack of the tanks. How will it feel? Like a betrayal of every little thing we treasured about the USA.

I am, as always, sitting in the cheap seats.

 

 

 

The Big Conspiracy Theory That Explains Everything

QAnon has finally made it into the mainstream

I have been keeping an eye on this extremely complex conspiracy theory since before the 2016 election because I began following a rather mysterious blog called Kauilapele’s Blog which kept referring rather obliquely and in coded language about this theory which is often referred to as Q. The whole elaborate intellectual structure could be just the twisted nonsense it sounds like, created by ordinary people to see an order, however nefarious, imposed from above by economic elites. It could also, I suppose, have some elements of truth behind it.

Here’s some of what was discussed today (Sunday, July 7, 2018) in the Daily Beast.

“Plotters in the deep state tried to shoot down Air Force One and foil President Trump’s North Korea summit. A cabal of global elites, including top figures in Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and the intelligence agencies, are responsible for nearly all the evil in the world. And now Trump is going to fix it all with thousands of sealed indictments, sending the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama straight to Guantanamo Bay.

Or at least that’s how the world is going for the believers of QAnon, the complex pro-Trump conspiracy theory that’s starting to having unpredictable effects in real life. The real  news can be bad for Trump, but in QAnon-world, the president and his supporters really are getting sick of winning.”

QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, “conspiracy theories are for losers,” Uscinski said,

“Normally you don’t expect the winning party to use them, except when they’re in trouble,” Uscinski said.

“But the general story, outlined in a pro-QAnon video endorsed by Schilling, is that every president before Trump was a “criminal president” in league with all the nefarious groups of conspiracy theories past: the global banking elite, death squads operating on orders from Hillary Clinton, deep-state intelligence operatives, and Pizzagate-style pedohpile rings. In an effort to break this cabal’s grip, according to Q, the military convinced Trump to run for president.”

(This article also shows tweets connecting Roseann Barr to the Q group.)

Related Conspiracy Theory

This seems to be an extension of the theories about the New World Order and the Illuminati that I was hearing about just prior to the 2016 election which linked Hillary Clinton to the 13 Families who control all the events in our world. She does not belong to the these families according to the people sharing their prescience with us, but she partakes of some of the rituals practiced by these sick folks which include pedophilia and child trafficking (the roots of Pizzagate, a piece of conspiracy theory I never saw mentioned before the attack on Cosmic Pizza in Washington DC). It is impossible to exactly pin down the details of this breathtaking cabal (and it is breathtaking even as fiction). But here are some articles that foreshadow the Q movement.

https://www.ranker.com/list/main-families-of-illuminati/mike-rothschild

http://www.thewatcherfiles.com/bloodlines/

http://humansarefree.com/2014/10/exposing-shadow-forces-behind-nwo.html

https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/who-we-are/these-are-the-13-families-in-the-world-that-apparently-control-everything-from-politics-to-terrorism-257642.html

“Some say, in an attempt to restore “balance” in the world, a New World Order was formed. Formed by America and Europe’s most elite (both in terms of wealth and power) with historical roots that date back centuries. This power-house formed by 13 families is known to be controlling practically everything around the globe. From political parties around the world, courthouses, educational institutions, natural resources, foreign policies, food, national economies, media houses, even terrorist organisations. They are the ones who decide where and when the next terror attack is going to happen, they decide when the markets will fall, they decide when a new government needs to take over, they decide what happens at the UN, they decide practically everything.”

https://www.veteranstoday.com/2013/09/02/35-things-the-ruling-cabal-does-not-want-you-to-know/

(In case you don’t like to read url’s, in this article you can learn 35 things that the ruling cabal does not want you to know.)

Thoughts

Not everyone who writes about this conspiracy theory agrees about the details, not everyone names the same 13 families as holding the reins of the New World Order and some writers give power to lesser mortals who hold wealth and power. The QAnon people believe that Trump is the man who will overturn the old order that is pulling the strings of fate but if one of the goals of the Council or the Cabal is to get the world population below 1 billion by any means possible it seems more likely that Trump is trying to join the Cabal.

Who is screwed in this world view is you and me, we the people, mere pawns in the ploys of the human members of the New Mount Olympus. They are quite as capricious, according to myth, as the Greek and Roman gods of old and ordinary people who get caught in their plots have no power over the outcome which could be either great or terrible. How much truth there is in this conspiracy theory we may never know. The culling of the herd could look very much like the Rapture. Does what you believe determine what you will get?

Perhaps this particular conspiracy theory flares up before elections for some pretty mundane reasons, like a desire to win. Picturing Trump as some superhero who will rescue us from the elites is beyond any mental gymnastics my brain is capable of performing.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – You Tube

 

 

Women, Trump, Religion, Money

 

EB Evangelicals filmstr

You may wonder why Evangelicals don’t oppose 45, whose “sins” are coming home to roost and lowering the tone of our national discourse. But you don’t have to travel too far in your thinking to understand that Trump’s misogyny is tailor-made for furthering the policies of fundamentalist Christians. Iowa just passed a law that makes it a crime to have an abortion after 6 weeks. So far no one has overturned this law which violates the intent of Roe v Wade, a law with Supreme Court clout behind it. Perhaps this is true because Trump is packing Federal courts with conservatives as quickly as Congress can confirm them.

Evangelicals and Trump seem to agree that women are the root of much of the evil in American society. When women went to work families fell apart, they claim. Many conservatives feel that the demise of the nuclear family changed the entire tenor of American society and not for the better. They blame the disruptions to the nuclear family on educating women for careers that take their focus away from preserving close families. They also blame this statistical piece of data about fewer nuclear families on women’s liberation and feminism, birth control and legal abortion. But the true roots of this story, at least for these originalists, are in the Garden of Eden. Women led men into the original sin.

Some Evangelicals tend to also be white supremacists (these days) who bemoan the lack of large white families, the dearth of women who are baby factories turning out white infants to keep America white. I don’t know if you have been reading David Brooks in the NYT’s. While I would never identify Brooks as a white supremacist, he does feel that American values and our whole national psyche suffered as families lost strength. He places a lot of the blame on technology but behind his Luddite arguments are the missing elements that supposedly gave America, once upon a time, it’s sense of community. Those missing elements are moms and religion (the role of the church in community life). When women went to work, white women stopped having babies, that is the crux of the matter for Evangelicals, for white supremacists, and perhaps, in a different way, even for David Brooks.

Beyond that there is, of course, a religious belief that abortion is wrong, that God doesn’t like it and that it is probably a mortal sin, even though mortal sin is more a Catholic thing than an evangelical thing. Many believe that if they let women abort babies they are dooming their immortal soul and will never be accepted in Paradise when they leave this life. So they dictate what others can do because they feel they must for both reasons of faith and to insure their passage into heaven.

Lately Evangelicals have decided that life is so sacred that it is wrong to use birth control. Just as some schools are moving back to preaching abstinence; women are being burdened with a message that links abortion and birth control. Evangelicals seem to be saying to women, if you don’t want babies don’t be promiscuous; if you get pregnant, regardless of the circumstances, have the baby. Most of this enormous burden of judgmental religiosity is coming from men, who are responsible for every baby ever born and for the circumstances under which they are conceived (at least most of the time). Allowing this message to have power over women’s lives sends them spiraling backwards to pre-contraception days.

Donald Trump lives deep in the old Madonna-whore complex. Wives are placed on a pedestal and treated like queens (for a while at least) and other women who like their sexuality, or who exploit their sexuality, or who are exploited for their sexuality are Donald’s whores. He may also treat them well for a while, but they are not supposed to have children by him and they are definitely not squired about for public consumption. If they did get pregnant, which could happen because his pleasure comes without protection, I assume an abortion would suddenly gain favor.

And so, not totally by surprise we find this article at salon.com

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/17/is-donald-trump-literally-selling-off-womens-human-rights-for-personal-profit/

“The slow drip-drip of revelations about exactly how deep Donald Trump was in with the Russians comes out on top of a veritable sea of corruption stories flooding out of the White House. But one scandal that’s getting less attention might end up having more dramatic impacts in the long run. It could end up drastically undermining women’s rights to get abortions, to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and even to protect themselves from cancer. New evidence suggests that Trump is, in effect, selling off women’s rights to religious fundamentalists, and personally profiting from doing so.”

It is certainly true that women’s rights have moved far down on the list of media priorities. There are so many attacks on various aspects of American traditions, laws, and practices that we mostly feel like victims of whiplash. Sleaze sells better than outrage. With hush money changing hands and Stormy Daniels piquing interest or moral judgment, and lawyers dominating our news cycles women’s issues, never of great interest to anyone other than women, have fallen by the wayside. (Although, of course, the treatment of Stormy Daniels, et al, is a women’s issue.)

“It’s not unusual, especially in the era of dark money, for special interests to buy off candidates by spending lavishly on campaigns. But with the SBA List’s hotel choice and questions about the Trump-inauguration money’s final destination, there’s strong reason to worry that Trump is simply profiting directly from influence-peddling. What anti-choice activists appear to be getting in exchange is terrifying: An all-out assault on legal abortion and affordable contraception that could roll back decades of progress for women’s autonomy and reproductive health,” says Amanda Marcotte, the author of the article.

Not all women enjoy child-rearing, at least not if it is all they are allowed to do. Women tend to be born with brains as functional as those of men. When women’s brains are solely concerned with healthy baby meals and children’s literature, songs and play activities it can make a grown human woman feel brain dead. I am not saying women don’t love their children. It would be great if all of the women who thrive on child-rearing could concentrate on that pleasure. I am saying that there are women who do not find fulfillment in raising children as their sole profession. In fact there are women who become depressed if they do not have a job to do out in the world away from their family for at least part of the day. There are women who go mad if they cannot create and study and read and exercise their minds just as they exercise their bodies. Much of Freud’s oeuvrewas based on the mental states of women who were suppressed in one way or another. Limiting human endeavors can have profound effects on anyone. There is scientific data about this if only these people valued science.

What will women’s lives be like when 45 is finished with us all? Will we be under the supervision of fundamentalist religious leaders as we see in other parts of the world? We can certainly see the relevance of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and why it has returned as a popular mini-series on TV. The battle was already lost for at least 4 years when Trump was elected. We resist but we worry. Will that be enough? And 45 is being handsomely paid to help take rights away from women? That just adds insult to injury.

See new developments 5/18/2018:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/17/us/politics/trump-funding-abortion-restrictions.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust and Peace in Korea

Moon jae in and Kim Jong un big vox

After the stories we get, all too infrequently, out of North Korea – after the prison camps, the cult of “Dear Leader” that citizens are initiated into at birth – after the famine and the fear that the slightest misstep could bring imprisonment with torture and hard labor or even death – after all that and more, if you were a citizen of South Korea how would you feel about the possibility of ending Korea’s decades-long separation? Do you trust your new President with his goofy, light-hearted smile to stand up to a man who learned how to rule from his father Kim Jung-il a man who ruled by emotional whim, sometimes acting beneficent and sometimes vicious, paranoid and cruel. Kim Jong-un seems to govern in that same bipolar style. Would you want to cozy up to a guy who just threatened to bomb half the known world out of existence?

Do we hope that the spirit of Dennis Rodman is motivating Kim Jong-un to find his “Hangover” happy place as an adopted American frat boy? Does he hope to share Western pleasures with his people? Does he want sanctions lifted and an economy that can flourish as a serious leader of dependent people might? Will North Korea become more like South Korea or vice versa? Did the welcome his delegation received at the Olympics warm the cockles of his previously impervious heart? Does he wish to rebrand his nation from the “Hermit Kingdom” to something new? Perhaps seeing how far out ahead South Korea has managed to go in terms of modernity, technology, and prosperity he either wants to haul South Korea back to a harsher, simpler lifestyle or get some of that prosperity for his own nation. North Korea has always seemed to eschew modernity and critique the depravity of developed nations, America in particular, as being soft, self-indulgent and greedy. Perhaps this has just been a way to rationalize the advantages of starvation and strife.

No – if I were a South Korean citizen I would be quite leery of any abrupt attempt to reconcile North and South Korea. I would want to know exactly how such a relationship would function. Would a certain degree of détente still apply? Would Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in form some kind of coalition government? Would it just be a matter of loosening control along the DMZ? Both leaders seem to want the American military presence in South Korea to go away but if I were a South Korean I think I would say, “not so fast.” What is bringing on this new impulse to reunite the Korean people given the danger inherent in such move? What does South Korea have to gain from this reunion beyond squishy nostalgia for a past that would, perhaps, be difficult to recapture.

Was the collapse at the North Korean nuclear test site worse than we thought, making some move towards reconciliation a distraction to appease Kim Jong-un’s own people? What happened when the “Dear Leader” went to China on that slow train? Was he ordered to go hat in hand? Or did he go on his own to discuss his next moves with President Xi Jinping? The problem with secrecy is that it makes people wonder why such secrecy is necessary. What is being hidden? In this case we have had glimpses that what is being hidden is so terrible that it would raise outcries around the world if the truth of it were known. It gives me shivers to think that the South Koreans would want anything at all to do with this young man who knows how to smile so beguilingly while ordering death for dissenters or imagined dissenters.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea is a liberal, he leans to the left. He even was imprisoned once in South Korea for activism. He wants to stimulate the South Korean economy and generate jobs. Corporate families like Samsung have disproportionate privilege and influence in South Korea. He would like to spread this power out, allow more businesses to share the wealth. And he would like to see a reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. He would like, as we would, to end the threat of nuclear war, which would certainly have negative effects on South Korea which might be subject to nuclear fallout or find itself in the margin of error of foreign retaliation. Kim Jong-un could be playing South Korea and Trump by meaning what he says but not telling everything. Nations that keep secrets can do that. Could he agree to not use nukes but never bring up bio-weapons if negotiations did not go there. Does he have a sincere desire to rejoin the world or is this all a power ploy? Hard to be a “player” and then expect public opinion to turn around on a dime and accept you when you suddenly act all sincere; hard not to suspect this could be a trick. Is President Moon Jae-in seeing what he wants to see? Is he correct to open his country up to a man who could still be a monster? I would not want to be the President of South Korea who has to make this decision. But if he is right he will be remembered fondly forever.

https://nyti.ms/2vOfbp8

And then we put Trump into this mix which already has so much potential for duplicity. Trump wants a Nobel Peace prize. He has his people chanting “Nobel, Nobel” at his rallies. Peace is a good thing. None of us is happy when a possibly unstable leader of a secretive nation is threatening to nuke us all. We can sympathize with the people in a divided nation who wish to make their country whole again. Perhaps two unstable men can produce a stable and peaceful outcome much as two negatives can make a positive. It shouldn’t matter who brings peace as long as the peace is real. I am having difficulty accepting that such a flawed President as ours could leave us any legacy that will not have to be overturned as soon as we come to our senses. Part of me loves peace so much it will even accept 45 as the prince of peace, but part of me wishes that this was happening in any other administration. I will get over myself. Peace is peace and each little bit of it that is negotiated in this contentious world of ours is valuable. But can we expect one cruel leader, one hopeful liberal, and one old-reprobate-white- supremacist-con man to produce a truly trustworthy and lasting peace. It is a tough stew to swallow.

This is a view from the cheap seats.