American Farce – Raising a Dictator

It’s obvious that Trump’s campaign slogans of 2016 had a hidden message, available to all but the truly naïve: when Trump wanted to “Make American Great Again”, he clearly meant to “Make White America Great Again”, and when he said “America First” he meant “White America First”.

When Trump ran for office, he did so as an economic move, a ploy to strengthen his position with the Russians. According to his own insiders, Trump never expected to win. His election to the presidency of the United States was the last thing he wanted and I’d wager the worst day of his life.

Unqualified, untrained, inept, and intent on his own aggrandizement, Trump set about conducting his office with all of those qualities pushed to the forefront. Trump is nothing but brazen and cannot be shamed. Anyone else would blanch at his own poor performance but Trump’s self-mythos demands he cannot do wrong, he cannot fail, and he never loses.

After tasting the power of his office, he’s become intoxicated. Always admiring of autocrats like Russian Premier Putin, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump imagines himself as the dictator of a New White America. After all, his self-mythos allows no checks and balances, no curtailing of power, no agreement from Congress, no reliance on a Supreme Court. He would dissolve all of these checks to his power if he could. As it is, he removed many key Inspector Generals, stacked the Attorney General’s office in his favor, removed the competent civilian commanders in the Pentagon, and surrounded himself with sycophants.

That his followers are delusional is both true and false. Some are, some aren’t. Those that are desire a return to the Jim Crow era of White Supremacy because they are too lazy to compete with their minority neighbor and would rather bemoan their plight than do better. Those that aren’t deluded are attempting to overthrow our democracy to make the return to the Jim Crow era of White Supremacy a reality, the only way they believe that will happen.

White, internal terrorists have been with us a long time. The bombing of the Oklahoma Federal building was the single largest loss of life through terrorism on US soil before 9/11. The Unabomber had an agenda. The sieges at Ruby Ridge and Waco, whose events are disputed on both sides, were propagated by firearms infractions and charges of stockpiling illegal weapons.

Now, these terrorist extremists have found their leader. And Trump wants to lead them. He believes in many of the same things they do, but his motivation is more prosaic: their gains increase his power. They make great show or protecting their constitutional rights, then spit on our constitutional institutions and don’t seem to mind abrogating these great rights to a dictator. They worship a man who will toss them aside at his convenience, and later strip them of their power when they threaten him. The extremists believe they have a genie in a bottle, but they are unprepared for the day they liberate him.

So who is Donald Trump? What does he believe in?

I want to quote from historian Alan Bullock’s biography of another would-be dictator:

He never trusted anyone; he never committed himself to anyone, never admitted any loyalty.… He learned to lie with conviction and dissemble with candour. To the end he refused to admit defeat and still held to the belief that by the power of will alone he could transform events.

Alan Bullock, 1971

On this man’s professed use of legal means:

However much [he] underlined his insistence upon legal methods, the character of the [activists he led] was such that the idea of a [coup] was bound to come naturally to men whose politics were conducted in an atmosphere of violence and semi-legality.

Alan Bullock, 1971

This would-be autocrat developed his ideas over years while observing the people around him, watching how they reacted to his outbursts of political fury, noting who was strong and who was weak, what ethnic minorities he could hate with little backlash in order to whip up the jealous anger of his political base. He wrapped his will to dominate in nationalistic banter, promising to make his country great again. He would fulfill the promise of the republic.

It worked. Slowly, over years, this would-be autocrat stoked the embers of his national fire until appointed to high office. Then he revealed his actual program. His great achievement had been mobilizing his gangs of street thugs into a fighting force. From hundreds he formed them into hundreds of thousands. His propaganda machine never ceased and he turned out his followers at elections for gains in the parliament. With parliamentarian support, he found his legal way into the highest office. The rest is history.

That was the turning point. Now with authority over the state, he could begin his autocratic rule, first by weeding out and destroying his enemies (any who defended the republic or opposed his insane autocratic rants) until he surrounded himself with yes-men of similar delusional inclinations. Empire—from a whispered hope, it became the watchword of a nation now bent on conquest.

In the man’s own words:

“I also came to understand that physical intimidation has its significance for the mass as well as the individual … For the successes which are thus obtained are taken by the adherents as a triumphant symbol of the righteousness of their own cause; while the beaten opponent very often loses faith in the effectiveness of any further resistance.”

Alan Bullock, 1971

Echoes of this sentiment ring true today. Back and forth, lawmakers debated whether pursuing action against the president for inciting a riot at the Capitol Building was wise. Excuses fluttered like the dying embers of a fire: “…will only make it worse … will rile up his supporters more … will lead to escalation….” among other specious comments.

Like deciding to confront a bully, one might think escalation only brings more severe beatings, but inaction emboldens the bully to greater acts of terror against you and ever stronger opponents.

We’ll achieve de-escalation only through strength within the boundaries of our law and ethos. If neither side backs down, don’t blame our mostly Democratic (and some Republican) lawmakers for standing up to tyranny and terrorism—this is the extremists’ fight, but the law-abiding citizens, those respecting our great Constitution, will end it.

Alan Bullock’s biographical subject could not have succeeded in his tyranny without collaborators at the highest level of the political spectrum. Collaborators took several forms: his adherents, worshipping the cult of his personality; those deluded into thinking this man was a means to a greater good; and those he duped into believing they could trust him.

His lack of scruple later took by surprise even those who prided themselves on their unscrupulousness.

Alan Bullock, 1971

And who were these collaborators?

But the heaviest responsibility of all rests on the [the country’s] Right, who not only failed to combine with the other parties in defence of the Republic but made [him] their partner…. What the [country’s] Right wanted was to regain its old position … as the ruling class … to put the working classes ‘”in their places”…. Blinded by interest and prejudice, the Right forsook the role of a true conservatism, abandoned its own traditions and made the gross mistake of supposing that in [this leader] they had found a man who would enable them to achieve their ends.

Alan Bullock, 1971

Donald Trump cannot be trusted. He is a person who is only interested in his own acclimation, his gain, his power, and his money. We have seen favored advisors, fed up with his nonsense, step out of line. He quickly and efficiently denounces them as if they were never close to him in the first place, indeed, he hardly knew them, and had he known of their traitorous intentions he would never have talked to them. Then they are vilified in the foulest terms.

Trump requires worship. Nothing else satisfies him. He is unwavering in his own rightness. He must be. His identity is so tied up in his self-perpetuating mythos of invincibility that any crack in its foundation will cause his ego to tumble into a black abyss.

This is a picture of a man with a closed mind, reading only to confirm what he already believes, ignoring what does not fit in with his preconceived scheme.

Alan Bullock, 1971

I’m sure you’ve guessed that the subject of Mr. Bullock’s biography is Adolph Hitler. All quotations are acknowledged as Mr. Alan Bullock’s copyright from his excellent book:

Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Bullock, Alan, Perennial Library, Harper & Row, abridged edition, 1971.

I leave you with this image, chillingly applicable to both men:

When you lie, tell big lies…. Above all, never hesitate, never qualify what you say, never concede an inch to the other side, paint all your contrasts in black and white.

Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, abridged, 1971

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Shattered Utopias: The Utter Failure of Socialism

The United States is deeply divided. We all see that. Each side has its policy agenda, a truth that has not changed since our founding. What has changed is our definition of ourselves as a country and as a people.

I have believed my entire life (though I believe it’s changing) that Americans are 80% moderate, fairly equally divided between liberals and conservatives, and that 10% proclaim an extreme leftist policy and 10% proclaim an extreme rightist policy.

It’s that 80% however, no matter their disagreements, who’ve held the United States together through a national belief that our country and our democracy is more important than individual aggrandizement. We admire George Washington for many things, but most of all for his abandonment of absolute power when it was his for the taking (following the Revolutionary War) and again by walking away from power after two terms as president under the new constitution, which did not limit his terms in office. That made an exceptional general and statesman great. It set the example for almost all who followed.

No one dared break that precedent until Franklin Roosevelt in the middle of the twentieth century. I feel for him, though. After two terms in which he pulled the country out of its worst economic depression, running for a third term occurred in 1940 with the world at war and the US poised on the brink of the precipice. The people were divided then, very much so, between pro-war and anti-war sentiments. It was a dangerous time, when fascism nearly took over much of the world.

So Roosevelt won a third term and was elected to a fourth during World War II, a race he could not walk away from after D-Day (in the election year) turned the tide of war to our allies’ favor. So if we excuse Franklin for the hubris that led to the encoding by law of Washington’s precedent as a constitutional amendment, then we see a fairly unbroken string of the abrogation of power through to the modern day.

Donald Trump may or may not get to test that. This is not about that. I wish to discuss the polarization of our national pride into detrimental extremism. Hubris? Donald Trump has plenty. But he does not work alone. Seventy-one million voters think he should still be president even after a disastrous four years of lies, deceit, isolationism, tantrums, cruelty of policy (e.g., immigration) and immature vindictiveness.

I couldn’t believe the average parent would condone such behavior from a twelve year old child, much less cheer it on in their president. Remember, this man-child holds the nuclear codes, destroys alliances, ignores the pandemic, declares the death toll “it is what it is”, and so clearly resides under the thumb of Russian President Putin that our national security remains in doubt to this moment.

Many feel as I do. So I cheer on the election of President-Elect Biden and so far, his selections for high level positions seem fair and balanced.

But I still fear. I feel it in the pit of my stomach. I don’t doubt Biden will execute his office with grace, good sense, dignity, and skill. That is nearly a given (but we’ll see). I fear his political-savvy friends in the DNC will pressure him to include a great number of Socialists to high office, especially Bernie Sanders in some capacity (but not at all limited to him). I pray the Department of Labor remains with a moderate. I hope the backlash to Donald Trump isn’t more extremism, this time on the left.

I have meandered a bit to get to my point. I have just read Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies by Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs and I must say, someone who fears Socialism going in will be well convinced they are right. Niemietz argues against the Socialist’s apologia that the national socialistic economic policies of Russia, China, East Germany, Venezuela, Cuba, et al, that failed so spectacularly were not at all “true” socialism, as many say that real socialism hasn’t been tried yet.

Niemietz debunks this excuse on many fronts, but his most convincing argument addresses the concerns of Socialists who say that those countries (all two dozen examples) each chose a totalitarian regime (or the people had it thrust upon them) and that true socialism can only thrive in a democracy by definition. After all, you can’t distribute ownership and decision-making to the people without democratic process. The socialism was fine, they say, until totalitarian suppression squashed the freedom of group self-direction and therefore these nationalized “experiments” in socialism naturally failed.

A thesis Niemietz demonstrates has no teeth. In fact, he posits very convincingly that the above argument is backwards. People did not create a socialist economy, then choose (or have it thrust upon them) a totalitarian form of government, but rather totalitarianism springs from socialism as sure as belt-loosening follows Thanksgiving dinner.

Niemietz argues that the best intentions of social-democrats is thwarted by the very nature of socialist conventions, namely the abrogation of some individual freedoms for the good of the community. A tenet of a national socialist economy is that a commune (or collective, soviet, kibbutz, etc.) must serve the needs of the many at the sacrifice of the individual. Now, let’s not oversimplify—not all individualism is lost.

Let’s illustrate. In a free market economy, an individual (e.g., Sally) can sell goods (or work a farm, etc.) where she pleases. Due to market forces she may decide to move elsewhere. Suppose there was too much competition driving down the price of her goods. Let’s say two others created and sold the same goods. Sally could ally with them and price-fix their goods, but that is illegal in a free market system. If her goods do not sell, she has the right (indeed, perhaps the good sense) to travel elsewhere to find a market for her product.

In a commune, if Sally contributes her labor/manufacturing skill/know-how to a common enterprise, she is part of a community. Here, the contributions of the many provide the product which is either price-fixed by national mutual consent or by elected government representatives in the democracy. Sally gives up her right to set her own price or sell her own product. She gives this up freely for the benefit of the many.

Sally desires to leave the cooperative (say, on the east coast) to live on the west coast. What does this do to the commune? The loss of Sally’s expertise, her labor, her contribution to the good of the whole will be missed, perhaps detrimentally to the commune. They need her participation. This was her covenant with them, after all, when her local commune was formed. Well, this is bad for the many who decide by social decree that Sally cannot move away. She is called unpatriotic to the cause, not a team player, a selfish individualist. How can she hurt her neighbors with such a selfish move?

It would be defeating to the commune to allow its skilled workers to move. One of the first characteristics throughout history of socialistic communes is that they become self-protecting and some individual freedoms must be sacrificed for the good of the many. Freedom of movement is one of the first of individual rights to go. Communes need to restrict the movement of their key players (everyone in the commune, essentially) if they are to survive.

The old, now defunct oppressive emigration policies of the USSR, East Germany (including the Berlin wall), China, etc. were manifestations that developed quickly from their socialist economies. Such restrictions were not nascent, but rather were implemented years after the advent of these totalitarian regimes.

Eastern European spokesmen stress the debt an individual owes society because of benefits received. In socialist states, it is argued … society makes a large investment in each person, .. and one should therefore repay society by remaining a working member of it.

Dowty, Alan, “The Assault on Freedom of Emigration.” World Affairs, vol. 151(2), 1988

Moving on, let’s consider Venezuela. What began with many westerners proclaiming the victory of Chavez’s socialist agenda ended with governmental takeovers, oppressive policies, and failure of the economy. Again, Socialists proclaimed this socialist experiment flawed since Chavez essentially betrayed his own utopian plan through dictatorship.

The flaw is that Chavez felt he had no choice. His later oppressive policies were reactionary to the increasing failure of the communes to govern themselves for the national benefit, which was their purpose. Good intentions devolved into state oppression because the socialistic ideal of the unselfish, community-oriented “New Man” or “New Woman” is a myth. People do not always step up to their role. Venezuelan cooperatives (which became employee-owned semi-corporations) gained higher prices by selling their goods to foreign buyers instead of supporting their local markets. These additional funds were distributed to the cooperative “owners”. This hurt the local community so much Chavez stepped in and took them all over, destroying his own dream of mass cooperation for the common good.

People don’t always cooperate the way we desire them to. People do have self-interest at heart, which is not to say altruistic efforts aren’t part of the human experience, just that people are not a homogenous set of individuals that see eye to eye and want nothing more than to work hard for their neighbor while staring at rainbows.

Generally, people are not always selfish, but necessarily self-centered (but often selfish as well). It is human nature. Socialists say that any group of people can give up such individualism for the group, but I don’t see it that way.

Niemietz’s arguments go on from there, with far more concrete examples than I can provide here. I advise anyone on the fence to buy it. I did so on Amazon. It is easy to get and reads well.

Bless Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and let’s hope that America begins to come together from the fringes towards the middle road—the safer road well-traveled. Our lives, our constitution, and our very country depends upon it.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

The Decline and Fall of the American Experiment

As we plunge headlong into the winter of our discontent (Covid-wise), I reflect upon our divided nation. When is being American no longer enough for some people? Our grand heritage falls short of impressing those who scream at the loss of white homogeneity (not that we ever had it), our privileged livelihoods (much of the world gains on us), and our vaunted pride of product (not that we manufacture anything anymore).

I love my country, as many in the world love theirs. It has been an American arrogance to believe everyone else wants to be here, to be American. For many immigrants, the hope of a better life drives them to seek our shores and reinforce this belief, but one should not mistake the desire for survival with a love of our culture. And many expatriates are pleased to live in other lands without loss of love for their country. I could live abroad, at least for a few years. It is not a question of escaping the United States but rather of embracing a new experience. I have the privilege of that choice. Many leave their homeland out of necessity.

We are on the verge of a historic election. Before discussing the ramifications of this event, let us consider the following factors of recent importance to the United States:

  • Growing incompetence of its leaders
  • Rising domestic power struggles
  • Widening social divisions
  • Declining health of its citizens
  • Loss of domestic manufacturing
  • Foreign encroachment on its usual power bases
  • Perceived foreign threats leading to greater centralization of power
  • Isolationism
  • Government sanctioned cruelty and corruption
  • Climate change

I have not conjured these factors out of nothing. One can look them up. They are all contributors to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

I review such a list with trepidation. This is history repeating itself. At its height, the Roman Empire was unassailable. It was the model of civilization. From both its citizens and those impressed from occupied territories (notably Greece), great advances in science, architecture, navigation, cultivation, engineering, and animal husbandry were made. Rome fed its citizens, provided clean water, built roads to ease commerce, entertained in vast arenas, erected cities, and created the greatest military power the world had ever seen.

Sounds all rather familiar, doesn’t it? Read the list again, knowing it’s about the Romans. It’s as good a summation of our current problems as any.

Study the past if you would define the future.

Confucius

Growing incompetence of its leaders

Need I say more? But I will. Although I was a Republican for thirty years, I changed to Independent in 2009. I could see the Republican party headed for disaster with policies I no longer recognized. Mostly, I perceived the loss of honorable dealing, of conspicuous prevarications, and most importantly, the absence of decent humanity. The last four years have validated my inner prescience (though I admit many may have perceived that years before).

I’m a moderate, described by the old saying of “socially democratic but fiscally conservative”. I was a Reagan fan. Indeed, voting in 1980 was my first presidential election as an adult. I’m still a fan of Ronald Reagan, but before you judge too harshly, remember the shock and awe of the sixties and seventies. The rising tide of moderate conservatives seemed to force the long-reigning Democrats into extremism. I do not hesitate to brand many of the high ranking liberals in Congress as socialists. I rejected their extremism and believed that the moderate brand of Republicanism was the only solution to the unending wave of ultra-liberal candidates vowing to turn America into a vast workers’ paradise of strict egality and parity. Except I was reminded of George Orwell’s Animal Farm where Napoleon the Pig declares all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. That was the rich/poor socialism of some Democrats in the seventies (I’m thinking of you, Edward Kennedy, favorite of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee). [By the way, declared socialist Bernie Sanders chillingly continues this tradition].

But look at the Republicans now. The moment John McCain passed away, Lindsay Graham lost his conscience. We can only assume the moderating influence of McCain hid Graham’s true colors, but Graham today licks Trump’s ass (sorry) and asks for more. Mitch McConnell is an everlasting a-hole. Susan Collins is a lying bullshit artist. All pale before their leader, the excretable Donald Trump.

Choose your epithet. Moron? Compulsive Liar? Incompetent Buffoon? Human Joke? I can’t decide on just one. But clearly his odd arrogance (since he’s not that smart), compulsive lying, ridiculous need for approval, say-anything-on-his-mind-no-matter-how-foolish personality has moved many to follow him blindly (admitting their brainlessness), lapping up the inane comments of their Lemming Leader like cult members following their guru.

Now it’s the Republicans who have moved to extremism, leaving moderates like myself behind. Trump’s brand of leadership smacks of fascism and he seems intent on operating like a dictator even as his legal team climbs the mountain of his lawsuits.

The election is here and closely contested. We need a change to moderation and I hope the country agrees.

Rising domestic power struggles
Widening social divisions

We are divided. No one should say we’ve never been more divided, since after all, we fought a civil war. And political party power struggles began in the terms of George Washington, for God’s sake, and continue to this day. But I remember a time when partisanship was expressed during elections, but congress worked together when the spotlight was elsewhere.

Tip O’Neill was a long time Speaker of the House known for his deal-making across the aisle. I believe Nancy Pelosi could be the same kind of Speaker but for the reticence of the conservative Republicans who seem hell-bent on parroting Trump’s childish attacks. Trump has one mode: my way or the highway, and he’s emboldened Republicans to adopt that attitude.

Why else would Lindsay Graham pronounce a moratorium on Supreme Court confirmations in 2016 (because of the impending election), declaring this the bi-partisan policy of the Senate, then turn around and rush through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett? Graham showed himself to be a totally partisan, back-stabbing, lying sack of excrement. Ah, c’est la vie.

Black lives matter, except to racists, which seemed to have emerged from the wood work recently. This only means they were quietly there all along, but Trump has emboldened their proclamations as well as some trigger fingers. The peaceful demonstrations in support of BLM have been impressive even if Trump calls in our national armed forces to fight our lawful citizens.

The #MeToo Movement brought much sexism to light and I hope it’s not sidelined during the BLM push for real change. We need both movements to succeed as we build a better society. Women need a direct path through the glass ceiling so that equal pay for equal work is more than a slogan. And we must end sexual discrimination, intimidation, and assault.

Most women take care of themselves. But why should they even live with the threat when all a man has to do is grow up, seek an enlightened perspective, and act like a decent human being? It’s simple, guys.

Yeah, we’re divided. We must find common ground, folks.

Declining health of its citizens

Our obesity epidemic is no joke. Consequent health issues are rising. Diabetes claims lives. How has this happened?

Perhaps we should blame our general affluence. Perhaps it’s cheap, fast food that seems 99% fat. Perhaps it’s a general American malaise that set in post-WWII. I’m open to suggestion, but let’s be clear: our health is declining, we have one of the highest incidence of heart disease on the planet, and preventable health problems may claim more lives than anywhere on the planet (but I’m not sure about that).

Any way you look at it, we have eaten ourselves into premature death. While being an American citizen has its privileges, our neo-new-world entitlement brings easy access to food, a fear of losing our place, subsequent despair, and binge-eating as a temporary comfort substitute. When some of our poorest citizens can become obese off of food stamps, we aren’t destined to lose our sense of entitlement any time soon.

Loss of domestic manufacturing

Once domestic manufacturing declines, a country’s citizens rely more and more on imported finished goods. Look at where we are with Chinese products. I don’t fault China, nor do I fault businesses who reduce expenses by using Chinese labor.

Consider what it takes to ship thousands of tons of raw materials overseas, have it assembled, and shipped back in finished form. Why would any business do that? Clearly, American wages have so outstripped reason that when massive shipping expenses are factored into foreign labor costs, it is still cheaper to manufacture abroad.

We are a proud nation. We believe in our manifest destiny. And we want an ever higher standard of living until we’ve priced ourselves out of the market. We’re privileged. But this is endemic of our entire society. I don’t blame skilled laborers for wanting a better life. But our culture has so indoctrinated us into the stress of preserving our birthright that we’ve been blinded to the obvious consequences of our actions.

Our leaders may have seen it, but they cater to the masses. And the masses want more and more, and they want it cheaper. They don’t care about quality anymore, all the while assuming they can maintain their life style through protectionism instead of competition.

We’re not getting it back. And now we’re dependent on Chinese manufacturing which is what has Trump so upset. Also, China is a natural competitor of Russia and since the Russian leader Putin owns our president’s ass, Trump toes the line.

Foreign encroachment on its usual power bases
Perceived foreign threats leading to greater centralization of power
Isolationism

I’ve lumped these three into one discussion since they are separate but dependent issues. Many Republicans today decry the power of the European Union seeing our close allies as competitors. To be different, to be foreign threatens white America’s entitled conservatives. They might lose their jobs (can’t compete so won’t compete), they might have to share taxpayer services (the poor pay less taxes so they are less deserving), and they might have to adapt to living among those who are culturally different than themselves.

Domestic manufacturing declines so that emerging nations benefit, but that threatens our perceived world superiority. We want high paying jobs that are protected by law even if our economy can’t sustain it.

The reaction is to elect a president that will take care of them, no matter how detrimental to the country or their future. They want relief (temporary comfort) now. And they will sell out our country while waving their flags if it means their elevated standard of living is assured. Those foreign threats must be defeated, even if we destroy our alliances in the process.

So our president rules by decree. This is a trend that has been going on for decades, so I won’t pretend it’s new, but that’s the point. Our current president simply exhibits the epitome of rewriting law by executive order. Congress has to fight to keep its check-and-balance rights even as many Republican senators spit upon the constitution in the name of defending it. How did we get here?

The current regime believes to truly protect the privileged citizens, we must isolate. Nothing could be more disastrous for our country. The world has shrunk. We are part of a global economy, one now driven through multiple sources and not just the United States. Our slice of that global economy has shrunk even as its production has soared. The world is better off today than yesterday, and I hope it’s better off tomorrow. At a time we should embrace the new reality of our place in the world, we are pulling away in the misguided lie that isolating ourselves will not only protect our way of life, but ensure its continuance.

We are self-destructing before the world’s eyes.

Government sanctioned cruelty and corruption

I’ve written before of the corruption of this White House. The swamp has only risen during Trump’s tenure. And about half of all Americans seem complacent, which is silent affirmation. Have we become of a nation of criminal enablers?

This isn’t all about Trump. Following 9/11 the US sanctioned the use of torture upon detained persons. Fortunately, bad press shamed a moderation of these practices (if it truly did) but even today the level of intimidation and physical pain infliction allowed by law are higher than at any time post Geneva Convention. As we accept such practice, we lose our humanity.

Perhaps it’s that indoctrination that caused many conservatives to applaud the use of family shattering separations for potentially illegal detainees. It takes a sick mind to conjure such torture upon mothers and children, even sicker minds to enact the practice. I am left abhorred and speechless that little provision was made to fix the issue and reunite children to their mothers so that any claim that this was a threat-induced “tough love” approach is rendered specious.

So far, 14 Trump aides, donors, and advisors have been indicted or imprisoned. These are Trump’s promised “best people”. But we know the reality is that the best people resigned from the Trump administration in disgust and despair. They’ve left in droves, so that Trump has gotten what he wants—morally questionable yes-men (and women) who will lie with the same fluidity as their leader. He’s assembled a cabinet whose purpose seems to be to take advantage of the perks of office to the extent they can manage without getting caught for malfeasance and/or collusion (treason, really). Excuse me as I go throw up.

Climate change

This has been listed as a factor leading to the decline of the Roman Empire. Rome was built and prospered in an age of unprecedented climate stability that favored agriculture. As its populations grew, so, too, grew its harvests and the empire fed itself without major interruption for several hundred years.

That dependable weather came to an end. Droughts and cold spells became more commonplace. Volcanic activity increased. And if coincidentally or dependently, plagues suddenly killed huge swaths of the population.

Two of the worst pandemics were the Antonine Plague (160s AD) and the Plague of Cyprian (240s AD). It seems unknown exactly what bugs caused these pandemics, but historians have suggested smallpox or possibly bubonic plague. Both events rocked the empire to its core.

Climate change along the Eurasian steppe caused the Huns to migrate for greener pastures, displacing the Goths (and others) who overran the Roman territories.

How will climate change effect our American experiment? I can’t say unless the extremists predicting the submersion of the east and west coasts are correct. Ice is melting at an alarming rate around the poles. Will this precipitate more disease, more erratic weather, more drought or more wetland?

Grim?

If we are in a spiraling decline, can it be reversed? Our privileged culture in American has changed us and it’s not easy to change again. We don’t have to go back, only forward, but not as a nation of unhealthy, self-important citizens braying for protectionism. We must embrace our new world, reinforce our alliances, open our hearts, speak the truth as best to our knowledge, and use common sense.

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

Henry Ford

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

The Rising Swamp of Trump’s Doublespeak

Trump campaigned to “drain the swamp”. We all know what that meant—watching politicians wade waist deep into the awful muck of the stagnant bayou that is our Congress and witnessing the facile, inept, and outright foolish acts of our political leaders who scam taxpayers for profit or fear.

Shouldn’t we clean that up? Could this outsider break the good old boy system and drain the swamp for sound, commercial-style best practices and strong, tacitly untainted leadership?

Sounded good. So…?

Many candidates make suspect comments in their bid for the White House, that’s nothing new. But has a campaign promise been so malignantly touted and so egregiously claimed, yet emerged as so blatantly false?

President Carter campaigned that he’d never support a foreign dictator (paraphrasing: “…those antithetical to our principles”) then asked Congress to support Argentina, Nicaragua, Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines, all of which were under dictatorships or totalitarian regimes accused of human rights violations.

Sr. President Bush said famously, “No new taxes” then proceeded to raise taxes to prop up the failing economy.

While I strongly believe neither president served the American public well, I would grudgingly admit both made choices which, in their mind, overrode what they promised in a false hope it promoted the common good.

What is so obvious to anyone with a brain is that Mr. Trump acts as if he never made any promises, or rewrites history to make his promises belie the current facts. In his mind, he can do no wrong because no wrong was done. He knows he doesn’t mean what he says. Most of it is improvised idiotic babble anyway—and there’s the old saying that if you can’t remember what you said, it must have been a lie.

Short of draining the swamp, Trump has knowingly (even laughingly?) filled it with the worst litany of criminals since Harding’s administration (or substitute Grant’s or Nixon’s). Anyone with ethics, a decent moral code, or a conviction of choosing right over wrong is ousted and subject to such undeserved vitriol you’d find a seven-year-old’s name-calling mature by comparison. Vile, childish tantrums regularly issue from the leader of the free world.

Now trump believes mail-in voting is as allegedly fraudulent as his own business dealings, except … wait for it … when it’s in his own best interests. Then mail-in voting is like a well-oiled machine, somehow transformed from impossibly corrupt to skillfully adept.

And thank goodness for self-interest, eh? I mean, since GOP elected officials (senators, congressmen, governors, state reps) are panicking over such claims, afraid they would lose elections because Republican voters might take Trump seriously, Trump changed his tune somewhat. Now he offers that a state like Nevada’s postal service is unprepared for the crush, while claiming that Florida is completely ready. Hmm, Nevada against Trump (amazingly), Florida for Trump (quelle surprise).

But back to the swamp, now up to our chins.

Let’s talk emoluments (and who doesn’t like to?).  There exist these couple of clauses in the constitution, a document btw Trump repeatedly uses to wipe his ass (damn those patriots), whereby Trump attaches powers to himself he doesn’t have or bends faithful meanings to his will in perverse, even criminally insane ways. To wit: his near decision to send troops to police our American cities against all authority to do so; and spitting on people’s first amendment rights when he thinks he is looking bad [Ed. note to Mr. Trump: that’s more often than you even realize] by tear-gassing US citizens peacefully demonstrating so he can have a ridiculous (I mean, stupidly ridiculous) photo op at a church where he doesn’t regularly attend services. To Trump, even a steeple backdrop and the Christian bible are simply props for his Orwellian propaganda of doublespeak.

Then there are the many, many, many—a crazy number of many—hundreds, even thousands (as of this writing) lawsuits against him and his cronies (meaning, his cabinet members, advisors, and administrators—all whom we trust are running our government for us in the most efficient, decent, and correct way—LOL). Many of his associates are in jail, going to jail, or under serious threat of jail time.

Trump’s allegedly fraudulent schemes stretch so deeply in so many directions and are uncovered so quickly that state district attorneys across the nation play Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus as office background muzak and smile maniacally at their burgeoning political careers.

Draining the swamp? It’s up to our eyeballs.

Drain the swamp. Let’s examine what Orwell said:

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

–George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”, 1946

Clearly Trump worships at the Orwellian altar, but with a perverse sense of his duty to the American people. Orwell sought to shine a light upon the ridiculous doublethink and newspeak (later collectively known as doublespeak) of his novel 1984 where the populace is ruled through propaganda while believing they are freely engaged in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. His novels are meant to educate us against the use of these devices and to clean up our own act in the process. Orwell abhorred the use of doublespeak, e.g., where firebombing a village is “pacification” and genocide is “ethnic cleansing”.

Trump can say the US numbers against COVID-19 are better than the world’s, that we’re “winning” when we’re losing, that testing should be decreased because indeterminate “books” and “manuals” say so. He claims mail-in voting is fraught with fraud when there is no evidence for such a claim. He denies collusion and then colludes with foreign powers, notably the Russians (what does Putin have on Trump?).

He wants to postpone the November national election, for what? … as a means of making us “freer” perhaps?

What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.

–Edward S. Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy, 1990

Trump is stealing our liberties, instilling fear of outsiders, moreover using fear to breed hate all while claiming he is making American great. That is not a great America. That a good 30-40% of Americans agree with this is staggering and sad, for me and for them.

Anyone can make a mistake. To all the Trump supporters out there, it’s time to put right this egregious error and make peace with your fellow citizens, and those yet to be citizens, including those you may think of as non-mainstream, but are progressing as mainstream as anyone else: those that are LGBTQ+ who have already lived through too much pain and hate and only want to bring love and acceptance into our hearts.

We all have foibles, we all err. We say that is human, but to be truly human is to err and correct, to catch the mistake and make it right. That’s progress. That’s the American way—at least, should be the new American way. We can all make that happen.

Equality. Tolerance. And shitcan the Doublespeak, please. We’re way past 1984, people.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Golly Gomer Gohmert, Stupid Enough to Die For?

I’m at a loss. I have this question, you see, that no one will answer or else I receive many conflicting answers, usually along party lines. It’s simple in its clarity, yet deeply influential to the health of the country. Seems like everyone would admit the truth, then pull together for the good of humankind.

Alas, this is my question: Has the average stupidity of the American people plummeted in recent years?

I could phrase it as multiple choice:

  1. Yes, obviously
  2. Yes, but only among Republicans
  3. Yes, but only among those under thirty years of age
  4. No, the pandemic is a hoax perpetrated by the Fake News cabal whereupon 150,000 Americans sacrificed their lives for the sake of a scam (as well as 500,000 more worldwide). Yes, that’s some dedicated conspiracy.

This disease can kill you. Possibly, this disease will kill you. Sure, the weak among us are most vulnerable, but this has no age limit, no race limit, no party line. It’s insidious as it creeps from person to person, infecting rational people and turning them into incoherent nutcases.

I’m not speaking of Covid-19. This frightening disease is Stupidity-Now.

What happened to common sense? I understand irrationality from someone’s panic-induced hysterical outburst, but nowadays seemingly (that’s the key) normal people are calmly speaking to cameras or standing upon the Capital steps while professing strong beliefs that six hundred thousand to a million worldwide deaths is nothing to concern oneself with, that the CDC and experts like the brilliant Dr. Fauci are plain wrong or overwrought, that somehow the Democrats have conjured up this plague as an election year ruse, or that lots of people die from the flu every year so what’s all the fuss over a million more?

I’m at an age where I look upon our youth with forlorn hope anyway, trusting that the natural maturation process of the homo sapiens species will snap some sense into these people at some point so they can take over the reins, more or less, just as generations of forlorn hopes have done before them.

I know the average eighteen to twenty-two year old has, shall we say, a flexible concept of mortality with little fear he’d survive a zombie apocalypse, much less a flu-like pandemic. But I wonder at the total disregard he has for everyone else. Have we bred a generation of the most selfish, self-obsessed sentient minds since the Romans said, “Hey, let’s call it an empire.”

How can anyone, young or old, rationalize jeopardizing their parents’ health, or their grandparents’ or friends’ health? Lives are at stake. Get covid and you may not know it for two weeks as you spread it among everyone you love. Your mother may die simply for the sake of your thoughtless narcissism.

Many are doing the right thing. The point is everyone needs to pitch in. Some cannot protect us from the all. The evidence lies at Governor Santorum’s Retirement Home of Death where his motto is “Your golden years may be shorter than you think.” As governor, how do you sign an order opening up business knowing you are sentencing some of your constituents to death? In some misguided notion of the greater good? “You, sir, must give your life so that our young men and women may frolic at the beach. Uh, sorry for the inconvenience.”

I understand the economy is in freefall, some people are really hurting for money (I mean food on the table, keep the lights on hurting) and businesses are closing in dire financial straits. Still, we must remember that we have weathered the Great Depression and many economic downturns throughout American history. It is fraught with pain. We can get through it.

Yet Trump and his Republicans believe a healthy economy is worth the deaths of hundreds of thousands, as long as they’re old and near the end of life anyway. Once our young adults start expiring in like numbers, I’m sure that policy would change. He has a lot of voters in that demographic, after all.

So what are we to do—like, wear a mask?

Doh! Of course. It may not stop the spread, but it provides some shield against the rain storm of droplets bearing Covid-19 that are ejected from your face with every sneeze.

Covid doesn’t just wander from your body, rising from your skin like an astronaut floating from her berth as weightlessness is achieved. It wants to stay with you. It likes you. You feed it. It only leaves involuntarily when the pleasant mucous it’s wallowing in is ejected by a violent muscle spasm of your throat and chest.

Once free on the open air, Covid wants someone else. So containing much of the spray helps you prevent the disease in others. A mask’s greatest benefit is to everyone else.

Not selfish enough? Am I a deviant, thinking of others when the order of the day is act like Trump and push my own comfort and agenda no matter the consequences to the people around me?

Fortunately, most people are doing the right thing (now and, I hope, in November).

Which brings us to Representative Gomer, I mean, Louie Gohmert, R-TX. This lawmaking pinnacle of our legislature is so convinced NOT wearing a mask is the intelligent thing that he met with White House staff (notably Attorney General Barr) as he was carrying the disease. He is Covid-19 positive. Upon hearing the news, he returned to his office to spread more pestilence. He wanted to thank his loyal staff members and, possibly (who can be sure?), to bequeath them a gasping and lonely death.

As of this posting, AG Barr is being tested for coronavirus. I don’t wish this disease upon anyone, but AG Barr tries my moral compass. In fact, it’s spinning like a plane’s altimeter as it plummets to earth. Well, true north is in there somewhere.

I only wonder—think Barr visited The Donald after his close talk with Gomer? Well, here’s crossing my fingers.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.

Send Out the Clowns

The moment Donald Trump descended the escalator to announce his candidacy for president of the United States, you knew this was a joke. No one would elect this clown. Self-respecting Republicans would see through his pompous, uninformed rhetoric and sympathetically pat his combed-over head while grousing about the lack of a decent candidate. But they’d vote for one of the uninspiring but compos mentis challengers and hope for the best.

Strangely, and I still don’t understand it, conservatives elevated Trump in the primaries and rallied around him for the general election, enough for him to win against (I’ll admit) the stupidest choice under the circumstances the Democrats could have made in Hilary Clinton. I grudgingly voted for Clinton (I had voted for her husband, after all, when I was a Republican) only because I was physically repulsed by the inane blob of human skin (well, some of it is of a human-like substance) running against her.

It’s not that I don’t like his looks, that would be shallow and true and more to the point, moot. It’s not that I don’t like his policies in all their infatuated, illogical, cruelly backward, and monumentally ignorant glory. And it’s not that I don’t like his manner of speaking as uninformed, delusional, and childish as he is. It’s not any of that, for that’s my opinion and while good enough to decide my vote, there are those who agree ideologically with him and everyone’s entitled to their view.

No, my issue with The Donald, and this is where I deviate from his supporters, is his inability to articulate a decent thought, which makes me wonder if he can have a decent thought. He craps all over the constitution (how any American puts up with that I can’t understand—talk about gun control and people wave the sacred parchment more dearly than they hold their children), is imperious in his disregard for hard won human freedoms, and challenged to understand simple logic, like not ingesting household disinfectants to fight the flu.

What does it mean? I struggle to attribute his every utterance to a simpleton’s mind. Is it too easy to say he’s a perpetual seven year old who’s entrusted with nuclear codes and the good, responsible management of American lives? Paraphrasing Théoden: How did it come to this?

I search for a meaningful answer, hoping at some point Mr. Trump acknowledges his shortcomings (we all have them—well, maybe not in the same degree) and grows up a bit. To admit a flaw, to say you were wrong—these are not evidence of weakness but rather a demonstration of human decency and the willingness to find strength in fault. Alas, Mr. Trump seems incapable of such a human expression, dooming himself to uselessness and the likelihood that once he’s kicked out of office (which he’ll have to be), he’ll be considered the worst, most ineffectual, ridiculous president we’ve ever had. And that includes Millard Fillmore.

Worse, he hires sycophants in brazen shows of camaraderie, insists on their absolute loyalty to any inanity he utters, then vilifies these “friends” of his when they deign to disagree. After all of the musical chairs, we have left the most egregious yes-men willing to deconstruct American policy and the ideals we have strived to achieve over centuries.

Harassment of LGBTQ+ individuals and more to the point, removing freedoms and protections they have died for, is revolting in the least. Who are they hurting? The world needs more love, not more hate. Get over it.

And to promote a fascist, internal police state over black lives signals a moral decrepitude that should have vanished from American life long ago. But it’s always there in some, hopefully the few, but anymore, it’s hard to say. #blacklivesmatter

When Trump announced his plan to send US troops into the states for crowd control, effectively suggesting the creation of a police state, every conservative, let only every single American should have clutched their constitution and vowed: We made a mistake. Never again.

Never again.

Stay Friendly and Healthy.