Monday, October 29, 2018

Immigration: Republican Abandonment of American Ideals

On a plaque in New York Harbor, at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus

The Presidentially ginned up fear of the immigrant “caravan’” of poor, dispossessed, and wretched souls looking for better lives in America is reprehensible.  The silly border wall, keeping those in the caravan out of our country, would have to run through the middle of the Rio Grande, unless we ceded the river to Mexico, by placing the wall on the US side of the river. 

Most of Trump’s  base are  probably not motivated by white supremacist racism, but instead, by a misguided fear of the destruction of their own financial security and racial homogeneity stoked by a lying demagogue.  They are, to use plain words, suckers, gullible suckers. Purchasers of a Kool Aid dispensing lunatic.  A Brooklyn Bridge selling grifter.  A snake oil selling self-enriching crook.   A latter day Elmer Gantry.  The Pied Piper of low information Americans hoping he will improve their lives.   The only life he is improving is his own and his cast of miscreants and knaves.

The uttered shop-worn trope of “welfare moms, and anchor babies.”  This echo of Trumpian fear and mendacity, in an appeal to an enraged base fearing loss of their jobs from immigrants, does not accept that new immigrants only want to  do work that Americans will not; that they are first stage immigrants as were so many of our own parents, grandparents and great grandparents. This anxiety ridden GOP base does not understand that 80% of jobs are now lost to automation and technological change, not immigration.  They do not understand that we are in a profound cultural metamorphosis, prompted by technological change unseen since the early industrial revolution and the first gilded age.   That the greatest challenge facing our country is technological displacement.

They believe dog-whistle racism and of a Machiavellian President that America is under attack from immigration.  President Trump falsely claims that there “are middle easterners” among the poor, starving people walking across Mexico, just as he had said that Mexicans are rapists and bad people and “the blacks love me.”  There are no middle easterners in a caravan of 15,000 poor souls.   And the US admits 300,000 immigrants each year.  

Thinly veiled racism and a tribal call to demonization of others disturb me deeply.  It is a response to demagoguery, the same demagoguery that incited a homicidal Trump supporter to mail pipe bombs this week to prominent Trump opponents, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, James Clapper, George Soros, John Brennan, and CNN, the network branded by Trump as an “enemy of the people.”  The putative-alleged bomber was born in New York, not Benghazi.  The President failed to recognize any of the potential well known victims or ask for respect for those public servants who oppose him.  It is the same methodology employed by Joseph Goebbels.

And now, encouragement of anti-Semitic crazies who murder Jews in their synagogue, partially becauseof the inflammatory rhetoric of a madman.

I wistfully reminisced about long-time GOP statesman of inclusiveness from my youth, and remembered fondly the civil discourse of different policy decisions, based upon rational thinking and a desire to meet common goals on how to meet the needs of our country.   I remember divisions between the two major parties, but mostly they were simply about policy.   Race incitement did not play as important an issue, although it was there, probably wrongly swept under a musty old carpet in the rush to reach some consensus about tax cuts, higher budgets, less spending, the economy, military expenditures, the role of the United States in the world.   But it concealed the slavery-ridden origins of our nation and the bitter Civil War that followed it by 80 or so years.  It still lingers as a dark stain.

My father arrived in this country in 1923, with, he always said, 18 cents in his pocket.  Given his penchant for exaggeration, it probably was a few more dollars than that, and his father had given him, upon his departure from an anti-Semitic Hungary, looking to draft him to serve in an even more anti-Semitic military, a gold watch, which he could always use to pawn if he needed a few more dollars.
From his first days in America, he looked to learn English, and read the American Newspapers, the New York Times, the New York Post,  the Forward and lastly learn Yiddish for employment (he spoke none when he arrived. ) He ate strawberries and sour cream at HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) which also helped him to find work and is now helping others who are not even Jewish.

Driven by an insatiable work ethic and a desire to succeed in the  “Goldene Medina,” (a country where the streets were lined with gold,) he did forge a successful business career, marriage and family, dying in 1990.

He always remarked to me that he savored the famous Emma Lazarus poem when he arrived at Ellis Island to embark on a new life in America.  When the great depression struck about six years after he arrived, he embraced Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.  He became a life-long liberal Democrat, always valuing the idea of the inclusive and welcoming aspect of the American ideal.  He did not understand those who would exclude people from coming to America.

The year after he arrived, the Congress of the United States passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1924, essentially excluding immigrants from Eastern Europe, most of whom were Jews who sought to escape from oppressive anti-Semitism in the former Austro-Hungarian empire, now divided into smaller countries by the British and French imperialists, leading to another worse war and the slaughter of six million Jews and millions of others. Most painfully to him it excluded five of his brothers and sisters, whom he wanted to come to join him in New York.  The Nazis murdered all but two who spent horrific years in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

The ethos of those involved in that Congressional act of discrimination was that Americans were under threat of “others” who were not the same as the earlier immigrants.  Earlier, Fredrick Douglas Jackson’s call to the American frontier in the 19th century allowed those “others” to populate our Westward expansion (conducted at the expense of Native Americans).  Those “others” included Irish, Asian, Scottish and Italians.  Those intrepid frontiersmen went ahead to steal the states of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, and the lands of Native Americans.

Now the nativist call arises from a President who has no concept of American history, nor the imperatives of our Republic; he beckons to the basest of political instincts, tribalism, xenophobia, mendacity and misappropriated fear of potential contributors to the American dream who seek a better life for themselves and their children. 

He does this to advance his own political agenda, his own narcissistic ignorance, thinking nothing of separating families or putting children in cages.

It is incumbent on all Americans who love our country to vote to restore some of the purloined values of the country we all think should reflect the values of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the great lady sitting in New York Harbor by disempowerment of one of the biggest electoral mistakes in our nation’s history.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Equal Justice Under Law

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.


Justice John Marshall,  Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Justice Earl Warren, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Justice Felix Frankfurter, Justice Hugo Black, Justice William O. Douglas are shining stars of the judicial firmament of the Supreme Court of the Untied States.  These legal giants did more to affect the history of the United States than most politicians, and reaffirmed that the rule of law is paramount even when democracy is challenged. 

Since Marbury v. Madison the court has issued opinions affecting the fate of our republic.  Many of the cases have been wrongly decided,  especially Dred Scott, holding that African- Americans were not eligible for citizenship because at the time of the drafting of the Constitution they were not citizens of the United States. In Plessy v. Ferguson,(1896). The Court ruled on the concept of 'separate but equal' and set back civil rights in the United States for decades to come.

Plessy was considered precedent and not subject to change until being overruled by later cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, which effectively ruled that “separate but equal” was inherently unequal.  Brown overturned precedent.   Averments that Supreme Court candidates make about “settled law” therefore, in front of senate confirmation hearings mean not very much at all.  Perhaps in the lower courts, but not in the highest court in the land which makes precedent, ergo the evasively disingenuous  statement of Judge Kavenaugh about following precedent.

Throughout the 19th century, and even much of the 20th century, our nation has dealt with the ugly, demeaning results of the historically ignominious stain of racism and slavery,  the genesis of a wellspring of global antipathy toward our nation, and a deep reminder how hypocritically sanctimonious it is for  those who call America the land of the free and the home of the brave--the shining city on the hill.

Our national conscience is still obsessed with the values of “whiteness,” the detritus of our disambiguated antipathy towards those who do not meet the tribal standards of white America.
Even in times of historic dysmorphia from our Puritan Episcopalian roots, we cling to the notion that the “browning” of America is somehow an evil to be erased by white nationalism, shielded by a thin veil of economic and social fears stoked by demagoguery.

Somehow, somewhere these notions might disappear, but the inherent issue is whether it will take too long to save the Republic.  Some think we are due for a second civil war.  This war could possibly originate in the exacerbation of a meritocracy created by economic stratification of the masses through automation and educational disparities aggravated and created by governmental educational malfeasance, the malignant byproduct of a Dickensian rationale among the privileged classes that assumes racist disparities rendering huge numbers of our populace uneducable.

At Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln understood that the sacrifices made to save the Union could have been squandered, and in his second inaugural address, sought to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” with “malice toward none and with charity for all…”

Far we are from these thoughts today, the nation riven by a President who plays a cynical game of thrones.  Imagine how he would serve in the arc of history had he re-appointed Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court?  Or announced that Nazis were bad instead of commenting ignorantly that there were good people on both sides of the Charlottesville racial eruption,  creating a false moral equivalence by pandering to the worst instincts of his base?
Perhaps he would have risked alienating the worst of his base, but he would have united much of the country at the center, and even further marginalized those who are motivated by resentment, fear and misappropriated rage.

So we must analyze the divisions of our polity.  Is leadership the ability to unite disparate groups with an appeal to better angels or is it one that builds on animosities?  Animosities seems an easier building block, given the tribal tendencies of humans and the sordid history of war and hatred of people who do not resemble us.   The notion that humanity, as some scholars say, is improving apace and on an evolutionary scale, is not a long time.  But for those who have lived through many episodes of it, it seems like an eternity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Robots are Coming­­

Hal, Open the Pod Bay Doors”
“I can’t do that, Dave.”

Arthur C. Clarke, 2001, A Space Odyssey

“Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be
the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.”

Stephen Hawking

The autumn has come to Vermont.   The trees turn red and yellow, leaves floating to the ground and we are getting ready to head south.

Tonight, it will be 38° and the fireplace is blazing primaevally.

The media, consumed with the Kavanaugh confirmation potential sex scandal, fails to address the issues that are crucial to America.  No one seems to be paying attention to Artificial Intelligence, climate change, technological displacement of workers and what America will look like thirty years from now.  There is a shortage of vision in the political class or an examination how candidates feel about these overwhelming issues.

All around the world, scientific and technological advances render our current system of government increasingly challenging.  Even the abolition of the Electoral College cannot gain any traction, not to mention the quality of people making decisions affecting our daily lives and well-being.  Entire classes of workers are becoming irrelevant and even expendable. And no one in the political class speaks about these issues.  The media is distracted by whether the president of the United States will get his money to build a wall on the Rio Grande, and, in fact whether he will be impeached by a new congress.

Existential questions are asked in a new book by Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli author of the critically acclaimed Sapiens, Homo Deus, and now, 21 Lessons for the 21st century.

What will America look like 30-50 years from now?  How will we provide income to those who become irrelevant, replaced by machines?  How will those in that category make a living, fill their days, and fundamentally alter the American and international political landscape?

Increasingly evident to thinkers who look to the future are those questions as well as the fact that our government may not, as presently structured, be suitable for governance. For example, they see that the people who elect politicians cannot even reach a consensus on climate change.  Some place short term goals such as lower taxes, corporate profits and employment above what the long-term goal should be to deal with massive unemployment in an increasingly unemployable work force.  People who have already been displaced in coal mines, steel mills, farms, ranches and automobile assembly lines, and have grown enraged, blaming immigration when 80% of the jobs lost have been lost to technological changes and to automation. Companies that used to employ hundreds of thousands now can make more money with a tenth of the work force and be even more productive.

Others fail to see the implications of artificial intelligence disrupting the economy and lives of people who will never be able to find employment.  Computers may not become sentient beings, but they certainly will be more competent in using algorithms to diagnose disease, drive vehicles, and do other tasks amenable to processing large amounts of data; this list grows exponentially. 

Throughout history, societies have been riven by changes in technology. For example, our democratic institutions, crafted in the 18th century may no longer be workable in governing our society.   Will democracy give way to a more efficient form of government?   In China, an entire new infrastructure is being built without the messy decisions of a democratic process.  Will representative democracy survive the change?  If, for example, Harari argues, do passengers on a jetliner take a vote on whether the pilot should pull up on the throttle, or is better to leave the intricacies of governmental decision-making to experts in their fields?

In the 18th century, our constitution created a system allowing a government whereby white land-owning people elected representatives to represent them and stated that all people were entitled to the “pursuit of happiness.”   Does that mean that people should not have to work on boring jobs that are only done for money?  Is happiness a logical pursuit in a society that requires people to work on jobs they do not like?  It is quite possible that happiness will be achieved by a new leisure class resembling the British aristocracy, hunting pheasants, and playing polo, machines having taken over the drudgery of work and creating greater productivity than ever before, but at the same time displacing workers.  The irrelevance of workers succumbs, therefore, to a new definition of the pursuit of happiness and possibly a guaranteed annual income for those who can no longer work.

None of today’s candidates have articulated a view, Harari argues, that considers the three most important challenges to society:  Nuclear war, climate change, and technological displacement through AI.   Will intelligent robots displace 80% of the workforce, and thereby generate violent revolutionary change?

Politicians seeking office today need to answer these questions before they are elected.  Politicians of both parties look at these pressing issues as though it might be how a unicorn spends its time.   Long term issues of humanity are nowhere in the political dialog the crux of which is how does Trump keep his hair so orange, his television viewing habits or how often he golfs with his criminal contingent.

Ok, so Trump is a criminal, or an unindicted co-conspirator, or a Russian money launderer.  How is that going to help us on these large looming threats?  Nuclear War, Technological displacement, or climate change and rising seas?

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Inside the House of Horrors

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.

William Shakespeare

Authoritarian leadership includes suppression of a free press, imprisonment of dissidents,  police state tactics, and the perversion of law enforcement agencies, jailing or poisoning reporters and opposition government officials.  Our current president espouses these principles as his idea of statecraft and admires those who can actually do those malevolences.

American institutions are strong, but numerous books, including the Road to Unfreedom by the noted Yale scholar Timothy Snyder, enumerate the steps in history that lead to dystopian or autocratic governments.  George Orwell often pointed out that lies told often enough become an alternate reality to those who have no other source of information.   People stuck on Fox News, for example, hear very little about the current madness at the White House, including an anonymous high level inside editorialist reflecting upon the “Crazytown” fulminations of President Trump.  In his new book, “Fear,” Bob Woodward, the scrupulous journalist has compiled eyewitness, recorded documentation of the inherent agony of  working in a crucible of disinformation, lies and alternative reality, with a president who does not have the patience to understand policy, empathize with others, or discern anything other than his own self-interest. 

The people there are either saints or devils, struggling to inform America what may be coming next.  A 25th Amendment removal around the corner?  Is that what the NewYorkTimes op-ed was hinting?  Impeachment beginning as early as the new congress takes office, not that long away, assuming a Democratic victory?  And maybe  Republicans will wake up if there is a wave election and their constituents push them to control the hurricane.  

If the Democrats win the House of Representatives, there will be a parade of witnesses, subpoenas, hearings, bills protecting special counsel Muller, to name a few of the television treats for CNN, MSNBC, and FOX keeping their ratings stratospheric.   We will have a show far worse than Watergate.  Even Nixon respected the dignity of the Presidency and did not conduct Nurnberg type rallies to fire up his base, consisting of white people fearing brown and yellow people, stoked by Trump’s continuing divisive con.  America’s racism is on steady display and Trump’s demagoguery  is fueling the inferno.

None of us have any idea, though, what will happen.  Pundits on CNN decry the crisis,  pundits on FOX say Trump is delivering for the American people. All manner of civility has disappeared from the national dialog. Tax cuts, trade deals, military expenditures to make us strong, they argue.   But is Trump really doing that or he a stooge for Putin, or the subject of Kompromat?  Will the Republicans in congress put country above party?  Are the Democrats sensing blood? How far should partisanship be carried?  Becoming increasingly clear is that the Trump Organization has operated for many years as a gigantic money laundry for Russian oligarchs and probably Vladimir Putin.  One can be sure that Muller has all this information, including the surreptitious tax returns of the President.  It is quite possible that following the money will be far larger than any “Russian collusion.”

Trump calls the anonymous New York Times op-ed cowardly; he may be right.  The author should perhaps have the courage to identify himself and then resign.  If it is a cabal of more than one, (A Murder on the Orient Express scenario ) then they all should resign en masse to protest what they consider to be unfitness of the President to lead our country.  The notion that they are staying on to protect the Republic because there are “adults” still in the room rings hollow. Moreover, they have not been elected to a regency.  No one voted for them.  Stealing papers off the President’s desk so he will not do something impulsive or rash seems like a de facto coup d’etat.  It is almost like a three year old being fenced in to keep him away from the swimming pool or a dog put in what politically correct owners say is a crate, but is really a cage,  preventing Fido from peeing on the rug.

On the other hand, some argue that they are working in the interest of the country by putting a leash on the president.  But there are constitutional methods to remove the president.  Impeachment is an unwieldy, long vote of no confidence.  In the UK for example, if the Prime Minister were insane, his party or Parliament could remove him with a vote of no confidence.

Clearly, our electoral system is broken, the Constitution not functioning very well, the Republican Party, hijacked by a gerrymandered congress and a minority president, laying waste to what Lindsay Graham says is that if you want to appoint supreme court justices, you must win elections.  The thing is that our system has effectively disenfranchised more than 3,000,000 Americans and the prospect very dim that Trump will be ousted by his own party, were they interested in more than tax cuts and corporate profits.  And asserting as Senator Graham disingenuously  has done undermines democracy.

People do fear that the nation is in danger, however.  But still, Trump has done nothing as destructive as invading the wrong country (Iraq) or torturing enemy combatants as was done under the Bush administration.

Trump says Jeff Sessions, the attorney general of the United States has an obligation to  protect Trump, as if he were his own personal lawyer.  But he is not.  He is a member of the cabinet, the people’s lawyer.  Trump thinks that Sessions should be doing what Michael Cohen did, who now will be disbarred and don an orange jump suit.  Sessions, as deplorable as is his policies, did the only thing he could do—recuse himself from the Russia investigation. 

Democrats need a  plan to unseat him.  They need a candidate who can debate Trump and make him look like the foolish knave that he is.  Political correctness unseated Al Franken, and that is semi tragic, because he could beat Trump at his own game—by mocking him.  And even if women think he is another Harvey Weinstein, he is not.  He is a warrior for woman’s rights and the anti Trump. Franken is Trump’s Kryptonite.  He is the anti Trump.  Other Democratic candidates do not immediately come to mind, but perhaps one will emerge.

And now, we are entering a more pronounced phase of insanity, as the walls close in on an unhinged, cornered man whose paranoia is overwhelming him.

Monday, August 20, 2018

August thoughts 2018.

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults." 

Alexis de Tocqueville 

As the summer winds down,  America remains in the grip of a silo-bound public, each faction or tribe unable to converse with the other.    The cultural polarity now extant forebodes a grim future for political discourse in the land.  Democrats on the left fear that Trump will be reelected and Republicans fear that there will be a wave election and an impeachment of the man 77% of them support.

Friends who disagree with one another are suffering a  sort of paralysis, a frightening stasis that many think will never disappear.   As a child of the 40s and 50s, the worst possible scenario then was the menace  from the USSR, the other superpower left standing at the conclusion of World War II, the US providing Marshall plan dollars for the recovery of a decimated Europe and to fight the spread of communism in places like Greece, Italy and even France.   For a few years, actually, the United States was the most powerful nation in the world, indisputably the king of the hill from 1945, until the Russians exploded their first H-Bomb around 1954 with information garnered from Atom spies, including Ethel and Julius Rosenberg who were electrocuted at Sing Sing prison after a sensational trial, in which the prosecutor, the judge and defense counsel all were Jewish. The prosecutor, Irving Kaufman, sought and won the death penalty (My father said he wanted to demonstrate Jewish Loyalty). The Rosenbergs were the only spies in the history the Untied States who were executed during peacetime.

Around that time,  Joseph McCarthy and others, including the House Unamerican activities committee, probably the most Unamerican activity of all, summoned artists, writers, and political opponents of the government before it, to investigate whether they were infiltrated by Communists.  People lived in fear of being denounced to paranoid J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, which would then participate in reporting citizens to the House committee, engaged in a true witch hunt.  A blacklist of many good writers and artists soiled the careers of many good Americans, their livelihoods indiscriminately destroyed.

This, of course, was a dark stain on our country.  McCarthy ran wild, intimidating other members of congress, and even President Eisenhower remained silent while McCarthy paraded frightened witnesses in front of his Senate committee.  Eisenhower said almost nothing until McCarthy was exposed by a courageous Boston lawyer named Joseph Welch, who, at a hearing in which McCarthy had besmirched a young associate of Welch’s at the prominent old line Boston law firm of Hale and Dorr.  “Have you no decency, sir?  At long last…” cried Welch.
It was all downhill for McCarthy from then on, and journalists such as the iconic Edward R. Murrow exposed McCarthy for what he was—a demagogic fraud.  However, this persecution of Americans had gone on for a long while, until the truth emerged.

In those days, there was no social media, no Facebook, no Twitter, only Television, the force of which was moderated by responsible journalists at CBS, the doyenne of broadcast news.  CBS had in addition to Murrow, Eric Sevareid, Harry Reasoner, and Walter Cronkite, who later emerged as “the most trusted man in American journalism.”   These journalists, many of whom were print journalist veterans, checked their sources and had editors who checked them over again.   Generally, with minor mistakes, the truth shone.  The public knew that what they read had some veracity.  The New York Times was then a more conservative organ, but still retained credibility and integrity.  Today, Trumpists state it is a left wing rag.  People on the left still believe it is the newspaper of record.  The Wall Street Journal remains conservative, but now bears the imprimatur of Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, which many believe is now a propaganda outlet for the GOP and for Trump.

The point of all this is that each age has its difficulties, and many of them at the time seemed just as bad as our current administration.  The noted historian Jon Meacham argues that in 1924, the Klu Klux Klan had 400 delegates seated at the Democratic National Convention.

These days,  CNN and Fox News are competing for audience; print journalism is in jeopardy, local papers going out of business throughout America.  Large news organizations are carrying the burden of reaching the public with a similitude of fact.  

And the McCarthyesque President of the United States tells us that the press is the “enemy of the people.”

Making America great again is a relative term.  On the one hand it has shown greatness. On the other, at times, it was not so great.   A President who shows evidence of racism, who tweets hateful vituperation is not making America great again.  He is returning us to our not so great days.  I remember them well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Losing Friends and Not Influencing People

The most important of all revolutions, a revolution in sentiments, manners and moral opinions. 

Edmund Burke

Since the 2016 Presidential race, I have confronted, argued, wheedled, and passionately advocated against Donald Trump.   Among my various friends and acquaintances I have managed to shed many people, who, not because of simply my opinion of their misguided political principles, but instead, their inability to argue policy in a reasoned manner.

I maintain that people of different opinions can debate their ideas, but the risk often outweighs the reward.   If, as Edmund Burke rightly said that evil triumphs when good men say nothing, then the moral obligation to call out our friends for what one thinks are dangerous ideas that threaten our democracy, is it not a moral duty to do so? Or do we place friendship above honest intellectual intercourse?  Do we further isolate ourselves from those with disparate thoughts?    After all, the world is not Manichean.

I have one life long friend, with whom I have not spoken for a year.  I have written about him in the past, but still am pained by  the toxicity of ideas that are said either to enrage me or are simply a manifestation of a personality disorder.  Texts are unusually disturbing, so telephone conversations might be better were they not to devolve into an argument not based on facts, and perhaps made up facts.
After all, if one argues that the world is governed by a cabal of pink flamingoes, how does one argue against that?

Another friend (or close acquaintance) told me to get lost and that he did not wish ever to see me again.   I disputed his ideas, but perhaps not as delicately as I should have, because he is an intelligent yet an observer of events through a not very good understanding of humanity and if he wants to play economist he has to account for the psychological aspect of the science.  I think his motivation, as a wealthy individual is to preserve his estate in perpetuity, and that there are untermenschen and ubermenchen.  Moreover, he argues that people of different political persuasions do not understand economics.  He believes that those inhabiting the upper 1% belong there, are “job creators,” by virtue of their passive investments in companies that make money.  Maybe so, but many economists do not agree with this discredited “trickle down” philosophy.  Credible arguments say that the exponential technological revolution will create a need for a universal basic income when robots eventually replace the need for human labor.  It is already happening.  Looks like there will be no long distance truck drivers in 5 years. Algorithms already are more efficient than radiologists in reading x-rays.

Another former friend, is an unreasonable, bullying, yet ignorant know-it-all.  As far as she is concerned there is no reason and no wish even to hear any another point of that does not coincide with her world view.  Any attempt to advance an argument is rudely  interrupted .  Try to finish a sentence?
Not gonna happen.  Seems to me that people who do not wish you to speak are so insecure of their own selves that they instinctively suppress conflicting thought.

Another sends me Fox news articles with pithy sentences (indicating a short attention span), I tried a reasoned dialog with him, to no avail and have decided to call it a day.  I have known him since elementary school, we were raised in similar circumstances, but he has moved to Palm  Beach and perhaps visits Mar-A-Lago too often and listens to Fox propaganda.
He fancies himself a student of history, but his scholarship is questionable at best and ignorant at worst.   So another dialog down the drain.

I have found it harder and harder to befriend Republicans.  I do not know if that is just me, but a product of our increased tribalism, egged on by a miserable liar
in the White House, who, from my point of view, cares nothing about the country and is probably indebted to Vladimir Putin in both money and Kompromat, judging from his performance in Helsinki.  Cannot wait to see the peepee tape.

My wife, always practical, tells me to keep my mouth shut.  But I am unable to help myself, good men keeping silent and evil triumphing and all that.  But what to do?  I still believe that reasonable people, even with different opinions, but not different facts, can discuss politics.   If it were not possible to do so, how do we maintain our democracy?  Do we slide down the slippery slope as they did in Russia, where the leader controls all the media and enjoys a 90% approval rating?  Where people do not have an opinion other than that which pervades state media?

How does one navigate these perilous times?  Are the times worse than ever?  Is it the new normal?  Is our country devolving into authoritarianism?  Is the western alliance under threat?  How do we believe a leader who lies constantly, sometimes apologizes and then doubles down on the falsehood?  Are our institutions strong enough to sustain attacks on our law enforcement agencies, and will Russian meddling, the lack of Democratic leaders who can put forth a plan to appeal to voters, who are increasingly turned off by the whole process, floods of money from special interests and PACs?  Politicians who only care about perpetuating their power?

Now we are in a crisis.  The President of the United States believes that children should be separated from their parents, and now cannot find the parents.  If ICE had any brains, they could have used wrist bands with ID numbers, dates of birth, etc.  But no one thought of it or even cared.  The toxic atmosphere created by this president is one of cruelty.  The President also believes,  people from black countries—bad.  People from white countries—good.  Muslims—bad.  Christian fundamentalists—good.   Rich people—good.  Poor people—bad.  Brown people—bad.  Immigrants fleeing oppression, starvation and hunger—bad.   The FBI, CIA, NSA—bad.  NATO—bad. The murderous Vladimir Putin and other dictators—good.   Russian meddling in our elections—never happened, because there were more people at his inauguration than ever before in our history and there were “others” who meddled.

Have we reached a tipping point?  Will Republicans in congress stand up and ask this loathesome madman to leave as they told Nixon, who by the way, now seems a bit  Lincolnesque.