Monday, January 8, 2018

Trump is not a new Phenomenon


"He who promises more than he is able to perform, is false to himself; and he who does not perform what he has promised is a traitor to his friend."

George Shelley


Each day, a new revelation emerges from this wretched, insufferable White House, a mélange of snake infested rooms, a weak Indiana Jones vignette of frightful serpents emerging from every crevice.  Reporters, staffers, secretaries, aides, assistants, interns, junior and senior officials, all attempting to navigate the labyrinthine halls of influence, deception and vainglorious sycophancy.

Motivated by a wish not to be indicted, prosecuted, or called as a witness, they muddle about, the specter of the Mueller investigation hanging in the fetid air, wondering what the special counsel will do next.  Bobby three sticks, a sphinx, keeps counsel only with the tight lipped, professional white collar prosecutors, whom he has engaged to follow his lead and perhaps chase Caligula from his cave.    The man who would be king writhes, stews, and fulminates in a hopeless situation of his own creation, transfixed by large screen TVs.    Never wanting really to be President, and ill equipped for the purpose did not realize that his brand building expedition would get him where he is: Under microscopic public scrutiny, a ravenous, blood-thirsty retinue of reporters, each seeking to break the next story and which, to now, have not had much travail in discerning. 

The stories, falling into their laps like so much manna from the feckless President, who says he is "really a genius, very smart, who went to the best schools," helps them along their path to potential Pulitzer prizes, much like a reincarnation of Richard Nixon, only with half the brain of the latter.  His Joseph Goebbels, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, re-channels all the delusional tweets, into semi-retractions.  Her countenance resonates with the evasive, half truth, and "I'll get back to you," (which she never does) when she does not have the answer to a question that clearly does not fall into the easy spin category.  After Trump leaves, I do not imagine she will be replacing Lesley Stahl on 60 minutes.

This gruesome episode of an unfit President reminds us of the unfit Andrew Johnson, who succeeded to the Presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.   In those days, Vice Presidents, not necessarily of the same party as the President, allowed Johnson, a southern Democrat, the antithesis of Lincoln, to assume office.  Congressional Radical Republicans wished to guarantee the rights of freed slaves and blacks by passage of the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution to guarantee black suffrage, and Johnson, although loyal to the Union, was an unabashed racist, sympathized with those who wished to keep blacks in involuntary or indentured servitude. Post war, Federal military districts created by Congress, deployed federal troops under the command of Phil Sheridan to ensure that local white supremacists could not endanger the black vote.  Congress passed a law called the Tenure of Office act providing that the President could not fire cabinet members without the consent of congress.  This law was intended partially to protect Edwin Stanton, Lincoln's gruff, but highly capable Secretary of War, who was fervidly enforcing the reconstruction acts passed by Congress.  The acts, lumped together, meant to bring order to a disjointed South, still infested with violent racial hatred.   A threat of a new rebellion loomed.  Although loyal to the Union, Johnson exemplified a callous indifference for blacks and for those who would protect them.  He supported the infamous "Black Codes," enacted by southern states to deprive African-Americans of their suffrage and wished prematurely to reinstate local state governments antithetical to blacks.  Johnson lied and misstated his positions repeatedly to different audiences, including on a country wide speaking tour.

At the time all this was happening Ulysses S. Grant, the great hero of the Union, reacting to Johnson's vituperation and vitriol, stated, "I would impeach Johnson because he is such an infernal liar."   Johnson had had a falling out with Grant, over reconstruction policies.  Grant, a fourteenth amendment advocate, wished that the former Confederacy be under military supervision for some time to ensure that blacks be protected from hateful former confederates, and that there be no renewal of the insurrection.  Johnson was his own worst enemy, but at least had consistent beliefs on how to reconstruct the South.  Johnson attempted to manipulate those around him, both in the cabinet and especially those who disagreed with his ideas of returning the Southern states to the Union and disagreed with the fourteenth amendment, guaranteeing black suffrage and full citizenship.  He employed deceit and vitriol toward this end.  He created havoc in his cabinet and uncertainty in the nation over the result of a horrifying war, which had cost 755,000 American dead and delayed reconciliation between the South and the North. This, the radical Republicans in congress, could not bear.  (For those readers not familiar with the Republican party of the time should understand that it was the polar opposite of today's Republicans.)
With the benefit of 150 years of historical analysis, the bet is that had Lincoln lived to promote "malice toward none and charity for all,” civil rights may have been an easier battle and emerged into broad sunlight sooner.

Congress impeached Johnson but he was not convicted in the Senate, saved by one vote, after he had disingenuously promised to adhere to the rules set down by the Senate that he would pursue with vigor the reconstruction acts, and the military districts set up in the South.  With only nine months left in his term, and his torpidity toward equal rights, opposition to the 14th Amendment, was not nominated by his own party, leaving office in 1869, and died in 1875.   Johnson, regarded by historians as one of the worst presidents in American History exhibited many of the characteristics and temperament of Donald Trump, and although he was known to have been perverse in his racism but, at least, had been literate.

Johnson was the first President to be impeached, and if being an "infernal liar" is the criterion for impeachment, the present occupant of Oval Office, certainly qualifies.



Monday, December 18, 2017

The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost-- Random thoughts on 2017.




The Mueller investigation is closing in on the detritus of the Presidency, the ship of state piloted by a mad Ahab, who, instead of pursuing the great white whale, pursues personal narcissisms at the expense of his countrymen.  Having achieved high office through an enormous con of the working people to whom he represented himself as their champion, the duplicity, mendacity and lack of a scintilla of integrity are finally being revealed by a dogged, intelligent, incorruptible and highly competent prosecutor and his team of first rate lawyers, all devoted to exposing the truth.

There are many Russia questions to be answered.  And they will be, despite the naysayers  the Trump apologists in  Congress, and  the White House sycophants, including Mike Pence, who thinks the world is 5000 years old, and will not dine with a woman unless his wife. whom he calls "mother" is present.


The truth is not something that the present incumbent has ever worn.  In his real estate dealings, his competitors, dupes and stiffed debtors are legion.   And the women he has harassed are now speaking up.  A trial will soon occur when the President might be subpoenaed to testify, to the delight of political theatergoers.

After the faith in our institutions has been shaken to its core, light appears at the end of the dark tunnel.    Trump will go, either through resignation or impeachment.   I do not believe he will last until 2020.  But then again, I did not think he would be elected.  But wait, would he start a war with Little Rocket man to escape impeachment and possible conviction?  Or indictment?

Now, we are faced with what will come next.   Will the country continue to be riven with cultural divisions?  The answer is probably yes.    But hopeful signs emerge from the deepest of red Alabama, which has elected of all things, a progressive Democrat instead of a troglodyte "Judge Moore," who believes that the ten commandments belong on the courthouse door, that homosexuals should be in jail, gays should be prosecuted, that abortion is a mortal sin, and last but not least, that slavery was a better time for America.
He has still not conceded the election, won by Doug Jones, a moderate Democrat, who most likely will be a decent senator.  Mitch McConnell, that paradigm of compassion for the working class, should be thankful that the Republican senators will not be placed in the unwelcome position of attempting to expel Moore on ethics issues.

On a broader front the economy is humming along, but the threat to unskilled labor grows with each passing day.   Automation, robotics, and industrial efficiency fueled by those two horsemen continue apace.  Each day exponentially increases the body of knowledge and information.   Parents agonize over the screen time spent by their children, who are mostly now ignorant of literature, language and rely instead on computers to do the calculations children did in former generations.  The idea that a tax cut for corporations will allow them to pay more to workers is delusional.   Workers, displaced by automation will not even be hired and the reason corporations are so profitable are because they mostly have reduced their workforces because of automation.  Robots do not need wage increases, get sick, or sexually harass anyone (unless in a Arnold Schwarzenegger household).

Sexual harassment allegations are now as common as men and women.   What used to be acceptable or to be more artful, was tolerable as was segregation in Birmingham, Alabama or slavery in the antebellum south, has now become outrageously unacceptable.  Cultural shifts that came slowly  now  arrive with lightening speed on social media and on the Internet.  Crowds of friends on facebook roil about how our President is as culpable as any of the prominent men who have patted a butt or advanced their libidos at women's expense.   But were not women at one time ambiguously agreeable to such behavior?  Did not men interpret a "no" to really mean a "yes?"   Some men grouse that "you can't even flirt with a woman any more," or "you can't even shake a woman's hand."   Evolutionary biology has been eschewed by the new cultural ethos.  But so has polygamy, and the rule of the old white walrus, beating off his rivals for command of the harem.

I liked the Charlie Rose show, but Charlie needed to go.  He had informative and stimulating conversations with authors, statesmen, foreign policy analysts, composers, directors, professors, scientists and politicians.  His guest list read like a catalog of important people with important things to contribute to the national discussion on almost every important subject.   Seems like Christianne Amanpour, not a bad choice, will replace his show.   Terry Gross would have been an excellent choice also.

James Levine is a brilliant conductor, Richard Wagner was an anti Semite, Ty Cobb (the baseball genius not the President's mustachioed lawyer) was an incorrigible, mean spirited jerk, Harvey Weinstein brought us brilliant film, Einstein had many mistresses, U.S. Grant was a drunkard, Lincoln was a depressive, Roosevelt and Kennedy dallied with many women; the list could traverse all of history, including the Founding Fathers.   Thomas Jefferson had children with an enslaved Sally Hemmings.  How about that for a hostile workplace environment? They all contributed to the advancement of society. 

I am afraid I cannot include the present occupant of the White House among these notables.  He is beyond redemption.

But, as I said, soon he will be gone.

Abba Eban, the Israeli statesman and legatee of Churchillean oratory said, "The American people will eventually get it right, after they have done everything else first."










Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Divisiveness of Donald J. Trump



"A House divided against itself cannot stand."

Abraham Lincoln,  June 16, 1858



How in the world can a US President feud with the widow of a fallen soldier and then send out his chief of staff to defend him?   Trump continues to demean and sully the reputations of those who surround him, even a four star Marine General, whose courage and service to his country eclipses the draft evader in chief, showing his grit by trying to keep this lying, evil, narcissistic scoundrel the straight and narrow?

What does it say about the country that elected him?   Are we all naifs? Do we have no moral compass?  Are we dupes of a demagogic fraud?  Are we the perennial P.T. Barnum suckers who are born every minute?  We consume the distractions he feeds us like hungry seals waiting for fish at SeaWorld.

The Electoral college has served us up the apotheosis of what James Madison envisioned it protecting us from, a unfit, egomaniacal, incompetent President who slathers us with conflict and infects the entire world stage with derisiveness and vitriol, ripping up global agreements, climate change accords, chaotically promulgating his vision of dystopia.

Our institutions, as strong as they are, have so far survived the onslaught, but other nation states with strong institutions did not.  Weimar Germany, for example.  We are being tested.

Our boy-king is playing chicken with "Little Rocket Man," a dangerous and insane undertaking, feuding with allies risking millions of lives and flouting all normal conventions of diplomacy. 

Tony Benn, the British diplomat said, "War is the failure of diplomacy."

But Trump understands why people are so angry, having seen their jobs disappear, a snake oil salesman who offers an easy bromide to cure the global and cultural changes that test the country and the entire world.  These are the greatest changes since the early 20th century and the industrial revolution.  But Trump uses these changes to incite divisiveness, the seeds of the destruction of our republic.

Years before Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech, stating that a "House divided against itself cannot stand," the great orator and senator Daniel Webster arose in the US Senate and looked upon the issues that he knew would tear the Union asunder and said, in his most stirring oratorical feat on a cold January 27, 1830 (and recounted in John Meacham's brilliant biography of Andrew Jackson.)

Read these elegant words carefully:

I have not allowed myself, sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not coolly weighed the chances of preserving liberty, when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counselor in the affairs of this Government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union should be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the People when it shall be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that, in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise. God grant that on my vision never may be opened what lies behind. When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for the last time, the sun in Heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance, rather behold the gorgeous Ensign of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original luster, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured— bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as, what is all this worth? Nor those other words of delusion and folly, Liberty first, and Union after- every where, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole Heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart— Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!

 


The greatest statesmen of our past understood that division would tear the Union asunder.  And it did, costing 700,000 American lives in a bloody, tumultuous civil war.  Now our Union is torn asunder in a great cultural war between the classes and not the states.  A war that can only be won by compromise, integrity, and understanding.  A war that needs to be fought at home, providing security to those who are undereducated, and deprived of gainful employment by the unalterable economic forces now happening throughout the globe, not only here at home.  A war that will not be won by dismantling the increasingly necessary safety net by those who take wing on taxpayer money, and removing the protections that have evolved from the early days of the twentieth century.  A war that will not be won by inciting racism and hatred in order to distract the public from the crucial issues of our time.

Learning the lessons of History instruct us that the divisions roiling our nation today need a leader who understands not only history but the healing aspects of providing hope, not "American carnage".  Whether it is slavery or economic displacement that have divided our nation, leaders must unite, not divide, and in this case, Donald Trump has failed every test.




Monday, July 24, 2017

THE SECRET MEETING BETWEEN EL PRESIDENTE AND COMRADE PUTIN.




Vlady, did you try to hack our elections?

Nyet, Comrade Trumpski, I would never do that.

Are you sure Mr. President?   All my intelligence agencies have told me that you have done so. The head of national intelligence, Mr. Clapper said that you did. and so did James Brennen, the head of the CIA.

Are you sure you did not?

Nyet, Comrade President Trump.  I would never betray you.   Besides if I did show the kompromat,
it would not be good for Russia.   After all the democratskis in your house and senate want to pass more sanctions over our activities in the Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.  And they would impeach you.  You must put a stop to this Mueller investigation.  I have some left over radium tea to serve him and James Comey, those traitors to your cause. No one needs to know how I bailed you out on your bankrupt casinos, and the new Trump tower in Gorky Park, planned for your second term.  Do not worry about not having enough roubles to complete the construction; I have many friends who will use my $200 billion stashed around the world under secret names to pay for the construction.  You as an experienced builder will be able to supervise the progress, and there might even be a little left over for building the solar wall to keep out the Mexican rapists from Texas and New Mexico.

I have looked into your eyes and seen your soul, Comrade Putin.  This will be the start of a beautiful friendship.
But what about the pee videos? I am afraid that the failing NY Times and the Amazon Washington Post will find out about me and the Russian whores who peed on me. 

Do not worry Mr. Presidentski, these troublesome individuals have already been sent to the bottom of the Volga.  We have used the antique equipment used to eliminate Rasputin, so no one will ever know.

Comrade President Trump, you need to dissolve your Duma.  Imagine the Democrats and the Republicans wanting to increase sanctions on Russia, just when we are about to approach the GDP of California?  This is impossible.  We need economic help so that we can increase our hegemony in Syria and in Iraq.  And your impeachment will not help us.



Do not worry Comrade Putin; I can veto any such silly legislation even that has bipartisan support of both houses of congress, so that I can seem tough on Russia.

But Comrade President, they will override your veto and if that happens, there is no telling what information can be leaked to the world press.  As I have been trying to instruct you, freedom of the press is not a good thing for strong leaders such as us.   You are taking a step in the right direction in calling it fake news, but it is not enough.  You need to throw a few bodies in the Potomac, to discourage such impudence.

And your son-in-law being called before congress?   At least the Republican leader Grassley has called for closed-door hearing so that the idiot is not on national television.  I am sure you prevailed upon him for this step.  Once he opens his mouth, we are possibly in great trouble.  But of course you can pardon him with your complete pardon power.

By the way, I particularly enjoyed Mr. Comrade President, you walking around the table at the G-20 to come over to me to suggest we have a private strategy meeting.   Just like Don Barzini and Don Corleone. Making me feel more important than your NATO allies is a step in the right direction.
But bear in mind that your daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Kushner are dangerous to your image.  Neither of them knows anything about world affairs, and you must send them to be ambassadors to Japan and to Israel so that they cannot make more trouble for you.  You need to listen to my advice on how to do this.  Kushner does not even speak in public thank Lenin. And your daughter sitting in uninvited to a world leader conference?  Not smart. Not good optics.   Even I do not appoint relatives to the soon to be reconstructed Supreme Soviet.

Mr. Comrade Presidenski, we have a lot of work to do.  And you have a lot more money to make.



Monday, July 17, 2017

POLARIZATION, AMERICA AND THE WORLD.




Everyone seems so convinced that they are correct.  A nation of true believers.  Trump supporters, seemingly convinced that he is doing "wonderful" things for the country.   Progressives obsessed with the notion that the country is going off the rails, led by a mad engineer guiding the great locomotive of American world leadership into a dark morass of perverted nationalism, who think that the misguided fools in fly-over country are conned into voting against their own interests.  And conservatives who believe that Trump has betrayed the principles of true conservatism.

How did we come this far?   How did we surrender our sanity to this mad irrationality?  Do the disaffected masses actually believe that this will happen?  That their jobs in the mines will be restored, that the great factories and steel mills of the Midwest will again employ low skilled labor, when the economics plainly point in the other direction, a direction where robotics and automation have already replaced more and more of these jobs? Even radiologists wonder when they will be replaced with x-ray reading computers.

The problem is that things are now moving so fast, exponentially, not linearly, and people are struggling mightily to keep up.  It could be a losing battle.  The breakneck speed of innovation is changing societal structure so rapidly; humans may need computers to help them figure out what to do.  Ergo, A.I.  There is early talk of a guaranteed annual income for all, paid for by taxes on increasingly productive corporations, making more  money than ever, but needing less human employees who need sick days, family leave and maternity benefits, not to mention health insurance.  Writ large is a possible dystopian future.

The left points out that the top 1% controls 90% of the wealth, drawing parallels to the gilded age, and the right thinks that Health insurance is not a right.  That rich people paying more taxes stifle economic growth, causing job creators not to create jobs.  Leftist economists think that has not worked, that when the rich have more money, they do not spend it, but the poor do, stimulating economic growth.  Both sides have statistics to back up their different points of view.   History has its lessons, but a Dickensian view of the world has lasted since Homo sapiens left Africa thousands of years ago.  And such philosophies have endured for ages.

Is it that the attention span of the average American is now as short as its President?  Do people read economics, or history, or civics?   Is it not taught in the schools?  Do the late-night comedians who go out in the street asking the average person who their senators are or who the Secretary of State is and getting an "I have no idea” really an interview of a representative group of Americans?  Or do they just cherry-pick the ignorant for a cheap laugh?   I hope so.  It is funny when people do not know when the Declaration of Independence was signed or that George Washington was the first President, but that he gave the Gettysburg address.

What is the matter with America?

Seems like people either do not care or are so uninformed or fed up, that Trumpian lies are becoming the norm.   Such a danger to our polity has many philosophical and psychological answers.  People deny, then become inured to the things they see on the 24-hour news cycle.  They would rather watch entertainment than what is happening in the real world.   Or football, where gladiators get their brains scrambled so that after their footballing days are over, they are consigned to a mental health facility, commit suicide or become a burden to their families, their loved ones enraged by the concealment for years of the dangers of the sport, so that billions can be generated for the coffers of the NFL, a business that dismissed and, worse, covered up the allegations of harm caused for years to unwitting participants seeking a way out of their underprivileged lives.

Politics these days seems no different; it has become a blood sport, fed by rival networks both progressive and liberal that cannot accommodate another point of view because it might damage their revenues.

The cable news networks have never had higher ratings, fed by the scandal-ridden Trump administration.  But even under the virtually scandal-free Obama administration, the accusations of birtherism and of Hillary Clinton's emails distorted the real issues facing America because these distractive issues generated a larger audience, their salaciousness and tabloid appeal undeniable.
No one really cares about the mundane issues of governance.   Its boring to most and Trump knew that all along.    But he may have gone too far, as did a number of con men and demagogues--Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Elmer Gantry, PT Barnum to name a few.

Health care as a right, women's reproductive issues, foreign policy, the danger of North Korea and of Russia and last but not least to Planet Earth, the home we cannot in the foreseeable future escape.  Is the tax more spend more Democratic model or the Republican tax less spend less the proper course?  These are complex economic issues not given to politicians who do not understand the implications of economic policy.   Nor do they understand deep divisions on social issues, including abortion, which if one wishes to be fair, has moral support for both positions.   That is precisely why it is so controversial. 

The real problem is that Americans do not wish to sit down and discuss these issues in a rational, discursive manner.  Such didacticism requires articulation and language that has seemed to disappear from our vocabulary.   Language is the tool, and many have lost the ability to converse.   People shouting at each other never solve anything.

When national discourse becomes strictly ideological, an ossified religion, then a demagogue can step in and fill the space easily with shop worn but unworkable solutions that incites a climate of violence, hatred and national despair.  Politics has unfortunately devolved into a semi-religion, a divine knowledge based upon ignorance, a divine pseudo-knowledge of only Manichean opinion.


It has become possible that the barbarians are no longer at the gate, they are inside and the Republic is in grave danger of dying from within, as did the Roman Empire.   Historians do understand one thing:  that nation states, or empires throughout history do not last in perpetuity.  The ones that do are based upon tolerance and understanding.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

THE MADNESS OF KING DONALD





Increasing evidence of insanity continue to emanate from the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, causing numerous psychiatric sources to opine about the NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) president, who having accomplished nothing but installing a retrograde Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, struts and prances around the living quarters in his bathrobe and pajamas, tweeting crude insults to members of the media, especially women, and ranting at his staff while going from TV to TV.   Sallying forth with embarrassing lies and pronouncements, preparing for his 2020 campaign by conducting rallies among his unenlightened followers, instead of governing, having failed to appoint mid level bureaucrats, leaves the government to flounder about, like a grouper just fished out of the water lying on a deck waiting to be disemboweled and served for dinner.

And now the mad king goes to the G 20 summit, unprepared, because he does not read briefing papers, or meet with staff.   Be prepared, Donald, to have your lunch eaten.

Enter Vladimir Putin, an evil kleptocratic KGB murderer, who denies all interference in our elections, and prepares to meet Donald Trump.   What will they discuss?   How to fire Robert Mueller or dump him in the Potomac?  Perhaps feed him some polonium-laden tea?   How to keep the Russian investments in Trump bankruptcies secret, saving the Donald's financial empire?  Oh, of course, for public consumption, they might discuss the US having shot down a Syrian warplane about to drop barrel bombs on children and how the US is to handle the North Koreans, etc.   But that story is for "losers," or "neudachniks," if you prefer the Russian transliteration.   Nothing will come of it, save some public blather.

Putin really knows how to deal and steal.   Rosneft, the Russian oil company/money laundry is a creation of Russian kleptocrats of whom Putin is the capo de tutti capi, ostensibly richer than Bill Gates, Carlos Slim and Warren Buffet combined.  The difference, of course, is that Putin's money has been made by stealing from others and murdering his critics, including journalists, financiers, and business adversaries, either sending them to watery graves in the Volga or serving them the aforementioned tea.  Oh, I forgot, having some of them riddled with bullets near the Kremlin wall.  

Trump will be attending Putin University at any meeting with a man who has an 80% approval rating in his own country, unlike the feckless Donald who is sinking fast, around 38%.  Imagine that, Russia with a failing one trick (oil and gas) economy having such a soaring approval rating?

Could it be the control of the state television, the newspapers, the Internet that might be helping with this?    Are Russian muziks dumber than Trump voters?  Less informed?  Hard to believe, since only 20% of American voters follow politics at all.  They actually believe that Trump is going to send them back to the coalmines, making America great again.   And after all, this notion, this appeal to nostalgia is a powerful seductive slogan for an empty headed, pandering con man.  He knows how to run a reality show, after all.   Donald is all about America in the 50s and 60s, and judging by his cabinet members, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry and Betsy De Voss, a segregated, white revanchist America is on their distorted agenda.   The 50s were peaceful under Eisenhower, but social progress was limited to the white middle industrial class, now being replaced by a mélange of color and immigrant diversity and robotics rendering America a new frontier of technology.   Immigration policies that wish to stifle this aspiration to greatness is doomed, an illusory fantasy cloud crafted by a mad hatter immersed in the wonderland of his own narcissism.

And the loss of healthcare for millions of Americans as a right not an earned benefit, is a non-starter except for retrograde luddites like Mitch McConnell, a politician that makes Machiavelli wiggle with delight in his 15th century grave.  Paul Ryan, the other power broker of the GOP sees only lower taxes, caring nothing about the American experience.  Whichever way the wind blows is fine with him.  Unprincipled cowards, both.

Oh America.  It is the fourth of July.  The founding fathers are recoiling from the 18th century compromises that founded the country.  Thomas Jefferson is wondering how science, one of his main passions, aside from impregnating slaves, is being thwarted by the likes of Rick Perry, and Scott Pruitt, who is forcing forward his climate denialist agenda, rolling back rules diminishing pollution and lead in the water.  

Theodore Roosevelt called these hombres malefactors of great wealth.  Well folks, they are in control of our government, and it will be years before we can get back to where we need to be.

The Madness of King Donald is on full display, with the help of the GOP and its pusillanimous leadership.  At least when America was great there were great leaders in the Congress, who thought beyond blind partisanship.



Thursday, June 22, 2017

OF LAWYERS, PHARMACEUTICALS, AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT





I am a trial lawyer and have been for 45 years. I have tried many cases, some of which I would dearly like to forget, some bearing fond memories, because of the lives I have touched and, in manyrespects, made a difference in.

When the vigor of my youth was in service and as a young member of what I thought to be a noble profession, state bar associations forbade lawyer advertising.  The playing field did not belong to leviathan firms devoting enormous amounts of resources to luring potential injury clients through their oak or glassed doors by marketing devices that have become so sophisticated a net, even clients with some modicum of intelligence could not resist their allure.  A list of large verdicts on their websites and circulars imply great success, and how much money will eventually wind up in the client’s pocket. Of course, this is a fiction and the bar does not allow ads that guarantee results, but still, the implication is there, perhaps a bit more nuanced.

This type of advertising is, according to court decisions, permissible in the United States because of the first amendment.  But clearly something is amiss.

“Mesothelioma patients have many questions,” endlessly droning on CNN and the other daytime broadcasts, “call us at 800 …...”   “If you were injured by a medical device,” call us,    “If you took drug X and suffered serious side effects, call us.”  “If you suffered poor medical care, call us….”   "Top Lawyers" magazines, supported by lawyers who seek esteem and more importantly, increased revenues pay to be listed as a "Top Lawyer"  Ambiguous requirements for listing in such publications betray their pecuniary motivations for listing a lawyer.  And if one does not have a sophisticated website, one exists only to loved ones, presumably if he makes it home for dinner.

You get the picture.   Millions of dollars lavished to corner the market, marginalizing lawyers who do not devote their resources to advertising.    Bear in mind that lawyers who prolifically advertise, are not necessarily more competent than lawyers who do not.  Very often lawyers who do not advertise are better at what they do, devoting time to their clients, not to market share, and relying on word of mouth of satisfied clients over years of building a reputation.  Of course, the consumer should make educated choices on who will represent them.  But often they are hoodwinked into believing that the bigger the ad the better the lawyer.   This notion misguided.

Many lawyers who run huge marketing operations have never seen the inside of a courtroom, operating their firms as referral mills, obtaining associate fees on cases they do not even work on.  Ok, some lawyers do perform a valuable service in a case and deserve a referral fee, but many do not.  The bar makes no distinction, the rationale being that the referring lawyer provides value to the hapless client in search of good representation.  Or he had done work on the file and needed a team to help with the complexities of the case and an army of defense lawyers against him, if he or she is a sole practitioner.


Much worse, pharmaceutical companies advertise prescription drugs on television, in print media and now in social media.  “Ask your doctor about Viagra.” A beautiful woman glides down the porch on her way to the bedroom, a come hither look on her face.  A couple sit in adjoining bathtubs, holding hands, “when the time is right, why wait?”  Cialis for daily use.   And by the way, if you see yellow or go blind or die of low blood pressure because you take some other medication that interacts badly, stop taking it immediately and call your doctor (or 911).  I am not making this up. Ask your doctor about almost every newly minted drug.  “If you have cancer and have low platelets, ask your doctor, ask your doctor, ask your doctor….”   Following a rustic scene about a poor soul staring out a window suffering from heart failure, an ethereal smile on his face, the ad promises a brighter tomorrow accompanied by “The Sun Will Come up Tomorrow,” for someone who is soon to die or get on the transplant list.  Then the ad proceeds to list a litany of hastily announced side effects (small print) that would frighten Superman.  The old dad or mom, in the nursing home, a happy smile on their face, could have their dementia slowed, but the drug might kill them or cause them to commit suicide? Or not stop the progression of the disease.  No help at all.  Who would take that medicine after hearing that?  Consumers circumventing medical advice because they have been brainwashed because of marketing?   Some of us are old enough to remember “More doctors smoke Camels than other brands, because it is better for your “T Zone.” We do not see those ads any more.

Meanwhile the courts allow this commercial speech as though it were a preciously guarded first amendment right.  The same as a right to political speech.  This type of pharmaceutical advertising is banned in the European Union and in most other countries and for good reason.  Consumers are not qualified to evaluate medical prescriptions.  If they were we could all stroll down to Walgreen’s or CVS and write our own.

Doctors go to medical school presumably to learn about which drugs to prescribe, not to be bombarded by brainwashed patients asking questions over some obviously hyped up medication, fueled by advertising dollars, often in the billions.  Clearly this has a chilling effect on what doctors actually prescribe, because even they are very often not sure and must read studies and do research, following strict protocols.   These ads are dangerous and people should be made aware by the FDA or a compulsory fund paid by the drug companies, which could run ads warning people not to believe drug advertisements or take them at face value.  But no such counter advertising exists, because the funding is not there.

Very often studies show that the new medication, costing more, is no more effective than an older medication sold over the counter, costing far less.   Health care costs rising?  Ask your pharmaceutical company.  Or ask your congressman who could draft some new laws were they not lunching with drug company lobbyists.
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