Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New Bolshevism

A lie told often enough becomes the truth. 
-- Vladimir Iliich Lenin 

So the Trump reality show continues.    Now that Trump has fired the FBI director, what can we expect next?   Will there be a staff shakeup with Spicey being shown the door, because he could not anticipate what the President would say next?   Even Mike Pence echoed the first impression he was given that the President followed the recommendation to sack Comey of the acting Attorney General, backed up by his boss, the inimitable, Confederate flag waving Jeff Sessions, who supposedly had been recused by his own hand from anything dealing with the Russian investigation over which the President has clearly been losing sleep.  Spicey and Sessions can be fired; Pence cannot.  Somehow that paradigm of "I am a Christian first, American second, and Republican, third,” must be going home to his equally devout wife and privately saying, "Golly gee, honey!  I may be President sooner than we thought!"

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have already revealed their unwillingness to stand up to a President who is clearly unhinged, or as David Brooks notes in his New York Times column today, is a child with the inability to control himself.  Witness the revelation of intelligence data that could compromise sources in allied countries, which the Russians can probably clearly figure out. In this case, Israel, the enemy of Russian clients, Assad, Iran, and Hizbollah. And Donald thinks that it was a "productive" meeting, especially the day after he fired Comey, investigating the administration for possible collusion with those same Russians.  And today, breaking news, Putin wants to help with release of information concerning the meeting where American journalists and photographers were excluded.

Ryan, by pushing through the House a health care bill that marginalizes the poor, the unfortunate, the sick and the elderly who have not yet reached the Medicare starting line, should be worrying about voter wrath come the next election.              Under Trumpcare, bulldozed through the House by a President whose ego needed a "win" more than caring about the angry constituents who put him in the White House to "drain the swamp," will have to look up from their far right websites and blame the elites for not recognizing that Trump is not on their side.    The cynicism of it all is unimaginable. 

A recent Netflix documentary about Roger Stone, the consummate Machivellian operator who ports a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back ( I am not making this up,) and described by Trump as a "good guy,"  is so disquieting, that the entire nature of our political process blossoms into some scary Steven King scenario about evil. The court of the Borgias, if you will.   Roy Cohen, the lawyer for Joseph McCarthy, and one of the darker stains on our Communist baiting past, appears as one of Stone's heroes.   Cohen was Trump's mentor and taught him how to defraud with impunity all the naifs who came his way; the documentary catalogs all the dirty tricks that make Frank Underwood look like a volunteer for medcins sans frontiers.  The man is totally  devoid of any moral compass, just as his boss is.  From Watergate to Trump, Stone has triumphed in lowering the bar so far, the most accomplished limboist could not emerge from the other side.

But this time it may be too much.  Even Republicans are beginning to wake up to the "Art of the Deal, the author of which was not really Trump.   In fact the author had to follow Trump around, listening to his phone calls to be able to assemble a skeleton of a manuscript.  We are not some Atlantic City stone masons, stiffed by a scoundrel who now happens to occupy the oval office.  The great legal scholar Lawrence Tribe, has already called for impeachment for obstruction of justice.  Trump's conversation with Comey, possibly taped should be subpoenaed by either the house judiciary committee or by a special prosecutor.  And the assistant Attorney General ought to appoint one immediately.  If the President is exonerated, then we can lurch to the next manufactured crisis.

On top of the daunting issue of possible collusion with the Russian government to tamper with our election, looms the greater threat to the nation:   The subversion of our separation of powers, the disbanding of the administrative state, the denigration of the judiciary and of the press, and the admiration for a Russian kleptocrat and other authoritarian leaders, including African dictators, European and Hungarian autocrats and other scalawags.    The idea that all reliable information (or misinformation) comes from the leader.  The rest is fake news.

Anyone who has studied European history knows that it part and parcel of a mindset that is totally un-American, denigrate the media, call them fake and then disseminate one's own version of the alternative facts.   

It’s all so Bolsheviki.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Electoral College is Inherently Undemocratic


"The 2016 election was the most recent when the candidate who received the greatest number of electoral votes, and thus won the presidency, didn’t win the popular vote. But this scenario has played out in our nation’s history before.

In 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected president despite not winning either the popular vote or the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson was the winner in both categories. Jackson received 38,000 more popular votes than Adams, and beat him in the electoral vote 99 to 84. Despite his victories, Jackson didn’t reach the majority 131 votes needed in the Electoral College to be declared president. In fact, neither candidate did. The decision went to the House of Representatives, which voted Adams into the White House.

In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the election (by a margin of one electoral vote), but he lost the popular vote by more than 250,000 ballots to Samuel J. Tilden.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, winning the presidency. But Harrison lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes.

In 2000, George W. Bush was declared the winner of the general election and became the 43rd president, but he didn’t win the popular vote either. Al Gore holds that distinction, garnering about 540,000 more votes than Bush. However, Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 266.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the electoral vote by 304 to 227 over Hillary Clinton, but Trump lost the popular vote. Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump, according to an analysis by the Associated Press of the certified results in all 50 states and Washington, D.C."

All of the above are examples of flaws, not qualities of the Electoral College,
 established originally to ensure the perpetuation of a balance between slave and free states,

should be relegation to the dustbin.   Many arguments have been advanced for its preservation, including federalism allowing each state the freedom to enact laws without maximizing the incentive of the number of votes cast.  This argument is specious and defeats democratic (with a small d) principles.  Other arguments include enhancement of small states based upon a geographic argument, encourages stability through a two party system and if a presidential candidate dies, then the College would be better positioned to elect a vice president.  Also, proponents argue that the system insures more stability in the event of a recount and that it manages geographic discrepancies in population centers "balancing the vote so that rural communities are fairly treated. 

All of these arguments are specious.   Why are we obliged to maintain a strictly two-party system?  Why not have candidates of various parties face the voters directly?  And then have a run-off between the two highest vote recipients?  Many Americans believe that neither party serves their interests. We are one country now, more so despite polarization of the populace by propaganda outlets like Fox News and people not willing to entertain or even listen to an opposing point of view.  We are connected by Facebook, television, the internet, social media, smart phones, text messages, and no longer rely on a letter delivered by the post, which often took weeks to reach the other side of the nation, often by pony express. The argument that the Electoral College equalizes geographic space is silly.  People are free to live where they wish, but should not be accorded three times the representation in Wyoming than in California. So, as it happens, it is not fair to urban voters.

Creative 21st century arguments in favor of the Electoral college belie the fundamental purposes of the it as originally conceived: To maintain the balance of slave and free states joining the Union, the disenfranchisement of slaves yet the tabulation of those unfortunate souls as 3/5ths of a person for the purpose of apportionment. In addition, the founders did not trust the uneducated, the ignorant, and the agrarian.   Women were not considered capable of rational thought and therefore were not entitled to the vote. 

Direct popular voting for the President of the United States may not have been altered the result in favor of a master of tweeting and of television celebrity.  Perhaps.  But in the disastrous results of the 2016 election where the votes of 3 million Americans were nullified by a 18th century relic, it is time for some serious revisions in the Constitution.  Antonin Scalia and Neil Gorsuch might not agree.  The Constitutuion should stay just as it was in 1787.

The stronger arguments rests with the interpretation of the 14th amendment, which guaranteed suffrage to all voters save women (another subject).

The 14th amendment

The second section I consider the most important in the article. It fixes the basis of representation in Congress. If any State shall exclude any of her adult male citizens from the elective franchise, or abridge that right, she shall forfeit her right to representation in the same proportion. The effect of this provision will be either to compel the States to grant universal suffrage or so shear them of their power as to keep them forever in a hopeless minority in the national Government, both legislative and executive.
Thaddeus Stevens,  in the United States Senate, May 8, 1866

One could argue that since the passage of the 14th amendment, the Electoral College has abrogated equality of vote.  The will of the people has been stifled by an inherently undemocratic system that apportions votes in the Senate giving people in Wyoming, for example three times the representation of people in California and almost the same disparity in Florida?

There have been numerous attempts to reform this thorn in the side of our civic polity.  All have failed. Now, more than ever, we each need the same voice in choosing our President. A two-month television campaign, use of social media, public financing, the overturning of Citizen's United, and a truly democratic one-person one-vote be they live in California, New Hampshire or Iowa.

Looking at the result of the most recent election, the majority of Americans, it is again confirmed, have surrendered their franchise to the minority.   Some intrepid souls should organize a march on Washington.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Longest 100 days.

One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don't go into government.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump, has been President for about 100 days.  These days have been schizophrenic exercises of surrogates and sycophants walking back his tweets, and a series of lies, misinformation and Orwellian newspeak.

Trump has told so many lies, received so many Pinocchio awards his staff has constantly battled to shut down his Twitter feed, when he often wanders the residence of the White House in his bathrobe at 3am generating them.  His television presidency starts off with Fox and Friends and ends with Sean Hannity.
But it seems, after a series of disasters, he has appointed some adults to supervise him and that is a good thing.  At Defense, State and a new non-conspiracist National Security Adviser, replacing Michael Flynn, currently under congressional investigation for his Russian patrons and their alleged connection with his campaign.   All of that will drip out of the faucet little by little as soon as the congressional Republicans learn that their constituents want to know.  But perhaps not.

Trump was going to repeal Obamacare the first day he was in office.  He was going to build a big “beautiful wall” along the Mexican border and the Mexicans were going to cough up the money to pay for it “one way or another, believe me.” He was going to do a “massive tax cut” for the rich in order that jobs were going to be created.  The newly introduced corporate tax reduction from 38% to 15% will swell the deficit if the projected growth of 2% in GDP remains as economists predict at perhaps .08%..  Trickledown economics never worked, despite the recent emergence of Arthur Laffer.  Voodoo economics remains in play.

Trump's magical thinking was going to restore coal industry jobs, never mind that there are now more jobs in solar, wind and hydroelectric that there are in an industry that is now being displaced by new 21st century technologies. Coal miners oozing gratitude could descend into the bowels of the earth, get black lung disease and earn a living.  In fact, coal companies were already replacing those jobs with digging, blasting and drilling robots Natural gas is cheaper, cleaner and more efficient. The wall costing billions, running along the Texas border is questioned by Texan Republicans who fear the loss of net income from trans-border trade.  Much of the wall area is owned by Native Americans, who already robbed of their land by a murderous Andrew Jackson whose portrait adorns the oval office as a populist Trump hero  (Jackson is soon to be replaced on the $20 bill by Harriet Tubman).  Placing the wall on our side of the Rio Grande would cede the entire river to Mexico!  Maybe the President did not think of that during the campaign.  And his move to stick the wall on the budget bill has been rethought as a non-starter in congress since the chance that Mexico will pay for the wall is about the same as the sun being replaced by a coal fired plant.

Trump, in these first 100 days, was going to slap a 35% tariff on Chinese goods, having labeled the Chinese as currency manipulators.  Now that has changed.  “Why would I want to label them manipulators when they are going to help us with North Korea," now becoming an existential threat to cities like Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles? Tariffed goods might become doubly priced at Wal Mart, where most of his gullible base shop.  By the way folks, I am not making this up. The Chinese have had to revalue their currency upward to stop its decline.    Trump originally asserted that they were keeping it artificially low so that they could sell their goods here more cheaply.

And what about the massive infrastructure spending Trump promised?   That has not happened.  Instead, the administration spends its time and capital trying again to repeal Obamacare, cut Medicaid, Education, deny climate change as a Chinese hoax, abolish the EPA, repeal the clean power act, and defend itself from congressional and FBI investigations.  Ah, for the days of going bankrupt and stiffing workers at his casino.  

He needs some wins, and another shot at repealing Obamacare will not pass the Freedom Caucus (formerly the tea party).   And if he puts items in the bill that will pass muster, it will not pass the Senate or keep faith with Republican moderates.
The Republican Party is in unprecedented disarray.  Trump faces more problems with them than the Democrats.   It will be interesting to watch over the coming months,
unless Kim Jung Un snuffs us.  A second Korean War would divert the public's attention for sure.

Trump, they say, is learning how to be President of the United States, and he has hired some adults around him to guide him in issues for which he essentially remains clueless.  That is true.  He has competent generals running the Defense department and gave the insane conspiracy theorist Michael Flynn the boot in favor of H.R. McMaster, a sophisticated West Pointer, a highly decorated and dedicated patriot and author of a prescient history of the US involvement in Vietnam.   Trump did very well in those choices, since he realized he knew less about international affairs than even George W. Bush.  Eureka!  NATO is no longer obsolete, said Trump recently. 

Our President, adroitly tapping into the anger of his base, disaffected, unemployed and undereducated voters, never realized what he was getting into, but still has not been able to say he was wrong on anything, his narcissism overruling his sense of patriotism and concern for the American Public.  He has still not released his tax returns and it is doubtful that he will, unless they are subpoenaed as part of a congressional investigation.  But it is doubtful that the Republican congress will ask for them and so the Presidency has become a shamefully self-promoting business enterprise rife with conflicts of interest, and perhaps Russian monies.   Vlady Putin thought he was getting a good deal by messing with Hillary’s election.   Maybe he is not so sure now, with a possibly demented President in the White House, who fires tomahawk cruise missiles, in this instance, impulsively, but correctly.  One wonders if he really thought it out.  Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and again.

I have Republican friends who are still drinking the Kool Aid.  One told me that I would be happy with the Trump Presidency, however, I have not yet found a pleasant sensation, a warm and fuzzy feeling that everything will be all right.   All I do feel is pain every time I turn on the news.  Some argue, “you lost the election, get over it.”  Trump now enjoys an over all approval rating of about 38%, the lowest of any President at this point in his term, in US history. Seems to me, that was what Scalia said in an interview after the Supreme Court stopped the recount in Florida, handing the election to George W. Bush.   To Bush’s credit, when he left office, he returned to Crawford Texas to paint, perhaps fancying himself another Winston Churchill, who in his essay, “Painting as a Pastime, extolled the virtues of putting oil on canvass.  At least W had an acceptable hero.   T

The Republicans voted 62 times to repeal Obamacare before the Donald was elected (or got more electoral votes) in a distorted system created in the 18th century to protect slave states from being placed in a majority as new states entered the Union.  This ossified system has allowed a person with the minority of the votes to be elected president 5 times in our history.   We need direct popular election of the President.

In France, for example, a publicly financed election is over in 6 weeks.  Spending is limited, and candidates do not have to raise billions to advertise in swing states until those of us who have the misfortune, or fortune to live in them want to stick pins in our eyeballs not to listen or watch the commercials.   The system has been distorted by Citizens United, allowing corporations and billionaires to form super PACs with no spending limits as long as they do not coordinate with the candidates and they are “transparent.”   This is almost like insider traders who illegally do not tell their friends to buy before companies beat earnings prognostications.

Trump’s new acolyte Supreme Court justice, only confirmed when the loathsome Mitch McConnell did away with the 60 vote majority needed to confirm him.   This insured that a political partisan could be seated, further eroding the independence of the court.  Trump counts this as his major accomplishment for the first 100 days.   And it is true, he accomplished the goal of life tenure of a 49 year old that can make decisions for the next generation.  His first vote was to put someone to death.  Gorsuch refused to answer any questions before the senate committee on his positions, and defended his 10th circuit court of appeals decision to vote against a fired truck driver who almost froze to death and had to move his truck, resulting in his being fired.  Gorsuch’s logic was that he applied the law. So did dictators, Nazis and other authoritarian leaders such as Erdogan who has now consolidated his power with new anti-democratic legislation.  Gorsuch’s decision was reversed unanimously by the Supreme Court.  Now he sits there himself, a young  relic, threatening to civil liberties,  the working class, and modern society, probably even to the right of the late Antonin Scalia and even Clarence Thomas.  Trump lists this as his signal achievement of the first 100 days.

Cheer up folks, the horizon does have a bright sunrise.  Bill O’Reilly, serial sexual harasser, has joined Roger Ailes in a richly deserved hinter world of opprobrium.   Not that Rupert Murdoch has had an epiphany.  He just saw 50 of his largest sponsors jump ship.  President Trump said O'Reilly was a "good person."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Trial Lawyer's and Patient's Perspective on Doctors and Health Care.

"Molière saw through the doctors, but he had to call them in just the same."

"It is not reasonable, to expect doctors in private practice to be impartial when confronted by a strong pecuniary interest."

George Bernard Shaw

As one who has had either the fortune or misfortune of being a personal injury litigator, depending on one's altruism or lack thereof for over 43 years, I have reached some inevitable conclusions concerning the individuals who could stand the sight of blood and therefore embarked upon a course of deriving a benefit from the maladies of others.

How this exalted professional status has struck social observers over the years varies with the intensity of their individual experiences.  George Bernard Shaw's outlook was somewhat malign toward the medical profession, observing that, in the "Doctor's Dilemma,"

"...when doctors as competitive tradesmen were replaced by a medical profession that had been brought under responsible and effective public control. Until this body of men and women were "trained and paid by the country to keep the country in health it will remain what it is at present: a conspiracy to exploit popular credulity and human suffering".

In other words, Shaw was looking forward to the creation of a National Health Service."  These words were written in 1903.

Not that lawyers are not calculating; however, they are constrained by the law and by their profession itself to simply presiding over the transfer of wealth from one party to another, providing the oil for the cogs of either justice or of criminality to function or not.  Many are just as greedy as anyone else, but generally, people's lives do not depend upon their behavior.  Their fortunes, yes, their freedom, often, but, except in rare criminal cases, not their lives.

Much of the angst that Doctors suffer, depending upon their conscience, individual character, or profit motive, fear of being sued, or other governmental intrusion upon their fiefdoms depends upon how motivated they are by greed. Often the ones who are greedy usually occupy large private medical groups and are judged within that group by how many patients they see, or how much revenue they generate.  Usually the ones affiliated with Universities and are academics are somewhat less motivated by such obsessions.  Some doctors are so greedy that they refuse to write prescriptions for patients who do not come in for a visit at which time they can be prescribed almost anything they want, as long as the doctor can bill either Medicare or a private insurer for an office visit.   If a patient calls and asks for a renewal, the doctor insists that they visit or get no prescription, blaming the government in most cases, of non-esistent governmental scrutiny.  Some will not even fill out a form without a fee being charged to the patient.  Patients resemble a stack of Benjamin Franklins to them.
Questions concerning such matters with the doctor often evokes an aggressive, "find another doctor" rebuke.   Such an enormous ego or insecurity does nothing for the doctor-patient relationship.  One doctor was offended by my asking for test results after waiting 10 days.  No concern for the patient's anxiety evident at all. "That's normal for this office, if we are not meeting your needs, find another doctor."

In addition, my individual experiences with doctors who testify in court enjoy more popularity if they are the most convincing witness no matter the mendacity of their testimony.  Some doctors who specialize in forensic medicine, charge highly extravagant fees, based upon the rationalization of loss of net patient visits when they are obliged to visit the courthouse or to give deposition testimony.  Every fundamental lesson of cross-examination of these doctors requires questions of how much they are paid for their testimony, what percentage of their practice is dedicated to treating patients, and how often they are in court (often more than in the office) and for which side they testify, how many patients they actually treat, etc.

 Some have robotic administrative staffs specifically geared to make sure the doctor is or will be paid before he or she even consents to treat a suffering patient.   They have insufferable office managers trusting no one, their jobs set by the culture of the office promulgated by the greedy doctor rather than the needs of the patient, affirming the 1903 Shaw philosophy that doctors should be working for a National Health Service.  Illness should not be profit driven and insurance companies whose motives to collect premiums and not pay claims remain insidious affronts to a decent society.  The same rule should apply to physicians who run their offices as though they were branches of the Bank of America.

Some argue that health care needs physicians profit motivated to make decisions concerning the patient's health and that it attracts people of quality to this profession.  Studies in European nations like Sweden debunk this notion.  Compounding this error is the health insurance industry, stories about which circumlocutions to a avoid legitimate claims are often featured by investigative reporters and on "60 Minutes."

Doctors who seek fabulous wealth should be in business, not clinicians; they deserve to earn a good living commensurate with their hard work and training.  But a profit motive for a clinician simply works to the detriment of the patient.  And a profit for a health insurance company is the same evil on steroids.

No possibility of great change in this system is possible unless the public is disabused of the notion that clinical medicine is a business.  Clinicians perform great service to society, but usually perform no research and development.  If they do, they are entitled to patents for their work.
Then they can reap the rewards of entrepreneurship.   Otherwise, let them earn a good salary, live in a nice home and stop acting like they do not belong to a noble profession, dedicated to their patients, and not to large boats and McMansions.  Leave that to the titans of industry, or as Theodore Roosevelt aptly put it, to the "Malefactors of Great Wealth."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Health Care, Hubris, and Happenstance

The trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide.
--Hannah Arendt

Today came and went and Obamacare stayed, despite draconian efforts by Paul Ryan and his puppet master, the antithesis of a human being, Donald Trump.

After seven years of symbolically voting to repeal the ACA, the Republicans in the house could not agree upon a plan that was going, according to the Donald, "be a terrific alternative to Obamacare."  It was going to be repealed on the "first day" after his inauguration.
It was going to replace a plan that, although flawed, that through its replacement, the Congressional Budget Office predicted would eventually throw 24 million Americans off health care, and decimate Medicaid in the states by scotching federal subsidies for the poor, and providing a huge tax cut for the wealthy. The audacity of it all, espoused by Paul Ryan, failed miserably because Republicans could not agree on its features and after seven years, could not come up with anything better.   Trump, of course, blamed the Democrats,(who had always been against the repeal of their president's signature legislation) failing to mention that his own party could not muster the vote of its own members.   It is an enormous defeat for the President.   Will Trump learn that he cannot order members of congress to do what he wants as he does members of the Trump organization?
With an already dismal 37% approval rating there still may be room for even more downside.

Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, wrote an opinion about a truck driver who when faced with freezing to death or moving his rig, contrary to his dispatcher's orders, detached it from its trailer and drove to a place to warm up. Fired from his job, was blackballed from ever driving a truck again,  brought an action against his employer.  Unfazed by this employee's Hobson's choice, Gorsuch voted that he followed the law in voting against the driver. Gorsuch was reversed 8-0 by the Supreme Court.  In other cases, he voted against a disabled child receiving a more than a "de minimus" education.   Behind his smooth, brilliant exterior he finessed his confirmation hearings by avoiding even a slight hint of his prospective judicial philosophy.   "I followed the law" was also an argument posed by war criminals during the Nuremberg trials.  All this business of textualist/originalist/strict constructionist loses its meaning when a judge loses his humanity or does not understand the Framer's intent that the Constitution needs to move with the times we live in. 

However, when it came to defending his writings, his phlegmatic predisposition toward corporate interests shone through.  Under intense questioning by the brilliant senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, every bit Gorsuch's intellectual equal, Gorsuch failed to opine about the presence of dark money financing his push for a seat on the highest bench in the land or that same money financing opposition to Merrick Garland.  The enraged democrats will rightfully filibuster him, regarding that Merrick Garland's seat was stolen.  Mitch McConnell, who refused to give Merrick Garland a hearing, or even to meet with him called the democrats "obstructionists," blocking an highly qualified candidate, perhaps even more qualified than Gorsuch.   McConnell obsequious hypocrisy is legend even before this fiasco.

Trump, meanwhile, is under investigation by the FBI for potential collusion with "strong leader" Putin who, it seems by coincidence, had another opponent fall out of a hotel window this week "while moving a piano."

So far, we have seen nothing accomplished by this president, except a sea of vindictive tweets, accusations, alienation of allies, and solicitude for our adversaries.  Even the Wall Street Journal excoriated him this week, fearing that he is devolving into a fake president, his paranoia debunked by the FBI director and the director of national intelligence.

The fact is that Trump will need members of his own party to vote with him, and through his mendacity is losing more and more of them every day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Los Angeles and other places 2017 part II

Sometimes, further experiences broaden one's perspective.   Although Los Angeles is all the things I said in my previous piece, there are many aspects to this metropolis that inspire.   The LACMA for example, which is showing an outstanding exhibit of Picasso and Rivera, visiting the periods of their great work and contrasting them at the same time.  Not to mention its impressive permanent collection of French impressionism, old masters and renaissance art.

The diversity of the people and the harmonious California tolerance for others does not match the gullible xenophobic environment of Middle America, victimized by the hucksterism of Trumpian averments and mendacity.   However, in all fairness, these people are being left behind because of the failure of our educational system.  But it is doubtful that Trump budget cuts will do anything for that.

The people here exude tolerance for the diversity.  Mexicans, Asians, Muslims and all manner of people congregate here to achieve the Hollywood dream, even though it is illusory.

Although the United States is going through a period of transition, a period of taking stock of what will work in the coming years, California represents the leading edge of the recognition that global engagement is the only way forward.  California, the fifth largest economy in the world, only has two senators for its 35 million people.  Wyoming with its 500,000 people has the same.   Seems like the days of the Missouri compromise should have been over a long time ago.  A Constitutional amendment should be the order of the day.

The Boulevards, jammed with traffic, the grove full of shoppers and the cinemas full of moviegoers all of whom wish to commune with the latest offerings of the 21st century art form that has transitioned from the 20th century, not missing a beat.    IMAX, enormous screens, that magnify the movie experience populate the multitudinous theatres, the lifeblood of the Hollywood film.

Artists and most people whom I have met here are progressives who care deeply about the crypto-fascist element that inhabits the corridors of power in Washington, and fear the emanations of the new administration and a regression to the 1950s--a time when our country was not so great, because the underlying racism and fear of others was well disguised under a veil of secrecy and a homogenized view of the American polity.  Not that Hollywood did not participate in a blacklist for fear that their point of view would be antipathetic to box-office revenues.    Bryan Cranston, brilliantly portraying Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer-genius had to conceal his work under nomes de plume in order to support his family.  Many other screenwriters and actors had to suffer as well.

McCarthyism, like Bannon/Trumpism used demagogic fear mongering and bullying to intimidate and get its own way, even without the benefit of Twitter.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost; the POTUS circus is being revealed for what it really is:  a circumlocution bureau of lies.  President Obama was not born in the US.  President Obama tapped the Donald's phones in his gold plated tower, a "better" replacement for Obama care that will boot 24 million Americans off their insurance plans, billions for a "beautiful wall, believe me." that will keep Mexican "rapists and criminals" out and Medicaid for the poor, an exploding deficit and don't forget, tax cuts for the richest "job creators."  And by the way, Ivanka and Jarred can pick their own fruit.  But billions more for aircraft carriers and submarines to fight ISIS in the desert.

And let's not forget the picture of Andrew Jackson, a racist murderer, now ensconced in the Oval office, together with the new gold "dictator chic" curtains.

Presently, Donald's presidency apprenticeship is not doing well either in LA, NY, Miami or even in flyover country where workers are going to lose their health insurance, coal mining jobs among all the other promises purveyed by prevaricating GOP politicians.   So far nothing has happened except virulent tweets, a health care plan, which is dead on arrival, and a budget that is nonsensical.  Thank you Paul Ryan for your cowardice and obsequious support for party unity at the expense of the middle class.

Oops.  I forgot the British intelligence tapping of Donald's phone, the source for such information a former "very talented legal mind" on Fox news (later disavowed by Fox itself).  Judge Napolitano, obviously more reliable than the chiefs of all the national intelligence agencies.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Los Angeles 2017

The last time I negotiated flyover country to get here was about 10 years ago.   The history of this California leviathan continues to mystify.   Disjointed architectural creations, rendering this place of 10 million people less humane than New York, Paris or even Miami, demonstrates how a city without a plan can spread like the proverbial serpent.  Eight heads, a freedom of creativity stultified by an overabundance of poorly planed neighborhoods, an urban sprawl that sees no possibility of rectification.

Walking on Sunset, one sees Mel's diner next to a steel and glass concoction of architectural ambiguity that eschews the context of the neighborhood.   New apartment houses, with infinity swimming pools and Jacuzzis, placed outside spectacularly outfitted gyms, sit encased in glass with views of the city below from near the Hollywood hills.   The mansions of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood hills rising above the plebeian Taco stands and hotdog emporiums as testaments to the less impressive duplicates populating the heartland and even Tijuana.

The young and beautiful congregate here to have their dreams dashed in a whirlwind of  pitches, auditions with no call back in sight.  Aspirants from Nebraska, Kansas and the heartland vie for fame and fortune with about much opportunity for success as playing for The New York Yankees or in the NBA.

Actors, dancers, singers, writers with inherent talent who do not get the break of being discovered at the lunch counter of Schwab's drug store.
People, who as Emma Stone said at her Oscar acceptance speech, that she was there through the enormous confluence of good luck and a screenplay that was just perfect for her to dance with Ryan Gosling, although neither of them danced even close to Fred and Ginger and could not sing as well either.

How many of these people who follow their dreams are chasing an illusion that will always be unrequited, as though some missing ingredient in their talent had held them back from breaking trough the barriers they were sure that would crash before their young limber feet.  Many of them succumb to the realities of life, bringing with them some form of Post traumatic stress disorder, depression as they pass through their 20s, 30s and 40s with diminishing hope each year.

Some of the fortunate, the intelligent manage to transition into some normal employment where a steady pay check does not compensate them for their ruminations of failure--the acceptance of their ordinariness.  They were not the next Streep, DiNero, Nicholson or Apetow. 
And then they, often late, realize that it will not come and that they must find something to do with their lives, searching for life choices increa
singly more difficult to come by.

How many writers spent years submitting screenplays, only to have them shelved and never made into a motion picture, the system grinding them up like some poor hamburger meat at the Whole Food Butcher shop.  These are children who have led lives of privilege, starred in high school plays, edited their high school newspaper, got accepted in elite schools, were star athletes, successful in every endeavor they ever tried suddenly realizing that the right stuff is not easy to obtain or to have recognized.   Who has not seen talented violinists and cello players on the street corner, playing for nickels, dimes and quarters who but fortune, could have made the big time?

How many parents, in a dilemma of how to be supportive to children following their dream, yet agonizing at the delusional lottery tickets to fame and fortune sought by their children, most of whom are doomed to finally accept their not hitting the lucky number?