Monday, December 24, 2018

Unelected and Unhinged

“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
William Shakespeare 

Think about it.   Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump.  Many Americans saw the handwriting on the wall before the election. An election hacked by the Russians, and aided by an inept, quiescent, uninspired campaign by the Democratic candidate, and the general antipathy toward Mrs. Clinton artfully employed by Mr. Trump, a master flim-flam man.  A man who still knows how to appeal to the baser instincts of a dispossessed minority.  A minority vulnerable to a cynical promise that they would get their coal mining and auto assembly jobs back, 80% of which are forever lost to technological displacement.  When Trump made those mendacious promises, he probably knew they were wickedly disposed to fool misguided souls who supported him and still mostly do.

We have a president who does not have the confidence of close to 70% of the American public.  If a vote of no confidence were held today, the president would not get more than 38% of the vote. And in a system that were fair he would never have been elected in the first place.  We have an unelected president.  And what is worse, an unelected president whose fealty is to himself alone and less able to accept responsibility than a raging Pinocchio.

The sorry fact remains that if the House of Representatives were decided by non-gerrymandered districts, it would have been Democratic all along, the midterm results starkly emphasizing gross abandonment by white, suburban, former (mostly educated white women) supporters.  And if the electoral college had been abolished, there would have been no war in Iraq, climate change would have been addressed earlier, and the nation would not now be in the throes of being sold out to our adversaries by a corrupt criminal enterprise

All of this generated by the anachronistic electoral college and a system engineered over a compromise in 1789 Philadelphia where the framers were obliged to pacify landowners in Southern states more concerned with their sovereignty and perpetuating slavery than equal representation.  The Constitution provided our nation the stability needed in the crucible of creation.  Those present at the genesis that sizzling summer in Philadelphia knew that without it lay disunity and disunion.  That did happen 80 years later anyway.

At the founding, the delegates to the constitutional convention feared the evils of centralized power and in that fear created a system for the thirteen colonies that distributed the power in the senate among states that were populated with only 3 million people.  And now that system perpetuates representation that allows people in North Dakota with 500,000 people the same representation in the Senate as California with 40,000,000 people in a nation of over 300,000,000.  (The system also provided that slaves were 3/5ths of a person in determining apportionment of the members of the House of Representatives with the members of the electoral college calculated on a similar basis.)

The advantages of this system of government no longer work.   The rationale of a geographically balanced (power to vacant land) system has given us a minority president five times in our nation’s history, the most recent of whom were George W. Bush who lost the popular vote by 500,000 voters and now Donald Trump, no fitter for office than an errant school boy and loser of the popular vote by the largest number in the nation’s history.

But wait. It gets worse. There is much talk of impeachment, of "high crimes and misdemeanors," which are basically a political rationale for long vote of no confidence.    Impeachment is a political, not a legal process.  And it was designed by those same framers to excise unfit presidents; Impeachment starts in the House of Representatives, however, not one president has been convicted in the Senate and removed from office.   Arguably, Richard Nixon (at least an intelligent crook) would have been removed but resigned having been told by a bipartisan group of Senators that he did not have the votes to remain.

Unlike George Washington whose humility manifested itself in his temperate and self-effacing behavior and who assembled a stellar cabinet of statesmen and turned down a crown, Trump has surrounded himself with sycophants, admires dictators and tyrants, would like a crown, and carving away at our institutions. 

Those voicing policy differences with him are humiliated, fired or demeaned in tweets which could be better written by an angry seven-year-old.  Many other presidents sought the best talent they could for their cabinet and not fearing but instead seeking diversity of opinion.  Lincoln had a team of impressive rivals whose initial respect for him was slim, until he chose them to work together to save the union.  His own team members called him an ignorant baboon before his election but by appealing to the better angels of their nature and of the nation he did save the union. Many presidents, good and bad, had different personalities, but none were so obviously unhinged as Trump.  Perhaps that is a product of today’s unbridled media, or some other dark psychological processes, but still, the trauma imposed upon the nation is breathtaking.

The concept of humility and measured thought of what is occurring in the world, does not even register with a man who does not read, who does not think of others and thinks narcissistically how to bask in faux adulation. Tax cuts for corporations that buy back their own stock and enhance their bottom line, one robot displacing four workers in “value added zones,” as recent economic analysis shows, money distorting the electoral process, climate change denial, a plunging stock market, immigrant scapegoating, racist pandering, rampant corruption, abandonment of allies, criminality and just plain demagoguery.  The two years left in the term (hopefully not) has produced a tranquilizer popping public riddled with anxiety.

Finally, what does this say about Republican members of congress who have enabled and even encouraged such behavior?  I speak of Mitch McConnell, a reptilian paradigm of a power hungry zombie whose utterances debase us all.  Let us not forget the departing Paul Ryan, a fraudulent unprincipled puppet whose master is party over country.  What does it say about those who voted for this band of knaves? They are angry, mostly rural people who, having been ignored by the elites on the left and on the right vented their frustration and gave us Frankenstein instead.  All this speaks volumes about FOX news propagandists who have enabled and encouraged the Trump metastases by giving a platform to pundits not worthy of the appellation.

What we really should be talking about are the three greatest threats to the world, hardly mentioned:  climate change, technological displacement, and nuclear war as well as a need in the not too distant future for a Universal Basic Income and a renewed infrastructure.  But the Trump conversation sucks all the air out of the room because it all seems like a horrid and surreal nightmare.  People actually cannot believe what is happening.  We are watching  a grand guignol cinema verite horror show.

 What will be the judgment of history about how a frenzy of anger over technological displacement amid those whom Theodore Roosevelt called the “malefactors of great wealth?”

Of such complacency and indifference of the political elite to a displaced, shrinking middle class, are revolutions born.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Wagging the Dog

            Another year vanishes, its allegations of witness tampering, obstruction of justice, a resurgence of anti-Semitism, polarization of a restive public, promises of a new year to come of subpoenas, congressional hearings, a special prosecutor’s report cataloging misfeasance, mischief, sending echoes of  “high crimes and misdemeanors “ rumbling through the capitol.  Scoundrels never rest.

            Ah, for years gone by when Democrats and Republicans came together, Watergate dominating the airwaves, the nation glued to its televisions on the three broadcast networks.  Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley, trusted newsmen, just like Sean Hannity, telling us the facts, or in Hannity's case, alternative facts.

            The president's acolytes and knaves face an ever increasingly frowning statue of Justice, the scales of which are growing more lopsided every day, weighted with each new incriminating tweet, revelation, indictment and guilty plea.

            The president, increasingly frenetic, tweets tropes dedicated arguably to obstructing justice.  Even Richard Nixon, although he had no twitter feed, was too smart (he never expected that his secret tapes would be revealed) to confirm allegations in public. But this president does not seem to understand about the ones to come, charges that will emanate from Bob Mueller's crew of tight lipped, eagle-eyed, OCD prosecutors zeroing in on them.    Trump scurries about, tweeting and bloviating, like a steroid-injected chipmunk, now viewed as a meal for the eagle's newly hatched chicks. Mueller's reports, exponentially more incriminating, arrive  just in time for a Merry Christmas.  It is like watching "Love Actually" in reverse.

            President Trump, seeking cover, attended the G20, formerly the G7, or 12 or whatever, suspends the Chinese tariffs that should not have been imposed in the first place citing a victory.  Sending the army to the border to "protect" the nation from dispossessed, shirtless, starving migrants who were set to conduct an "invasion" across the Rio Grande and reclaim Texas for Mexico, or Honduras, take your scapegoat pick, did not reap the benefits he supposed.   Those mothers whose children, armed to the teeth with AR15s supplied by Wayne La Pierre are ready to take on the 7th cavalry.  "Play the Gary Owen,” shouts shout Trump’s minions,

            Trump, our latter day Father Coughlin/ Hughey Long, apologizes for MBS whose bone sawing team brazenly tortures, murders, and dismembers a journalist in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.  For Allah's sake, cries the despotic president of Turkey, Recip Tayip Erdogan, you are on my turf.  Michael Corleone versus the Tatagglias. Erdogan spills the beans to the CIA, the director of which flies to Istanbul to listen to the rasping sounds of saw on bone and the screeches of a man who had gone into the consulate to get his marriage documents. Trump's CIA director, Gina Haspel reluctantly testifies before congress that the CIA has confirmed the responsibility of MBS, and Trump says. "Maybe he did and maybe he didn't."    No smoking gun.  No collusion.  Witch-hunt.

Trump, despondent, because he cannot string up the entire staffs of the Washington Post, The New York Times, plus George Soros and Jeff Bezos.  Even more despondent because now he will have to face an angry swarm of Democratic subpoenas, hearings and even articles of impeachment.   Republicans, fearing the loss of their seats in 2020 will soon be jumping off the ship. One could argue that the tipping point is near, although many do not believe it.  After all, two years have passed since Trump raged about "American carnage, " his dark vision of America, provided by the conspiracist Steve Bannon, now relegated to internet malevolence.  

Those of us old enough to remember know that Watergate took a long time.  But there was, finally, a tipping point when Republican senatorial supporters told Nixon finally he must go.

"I'm a business man, why shouldn't I offer a $50 million penthouse to Vladimir?  After all he strongly denied any interference in our election and that tower I never built in Moscow with my name on it is coming soon.  "I just dream about all those oligarchs and plutocrats paying millions of dollars for a gold plated view of the Kremlin.  Can you imagine the money I will make on the extras?  Gold plumbing fixtures, Italian marble counters, high end appliances and toilets that wash your bottom before arising from the gold-plated toilet seat?
Of course, I place the interests of the United States first.  After all, I want payment in dollars, not rubles."

Will the money trail finally be revealed?  Will those tax returns be made public?
Will Trump’s felons need a new prison wing?

Come on Bobby three sticks,
I hope they are in time for Christmas.


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.