Hallucinations

Yesterday’s piece drew a few boos, lots and lots of giggles, even more similar experiences and a piece of research I should have seen earlier.

See   https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucination

I also learned that a few people prefer to call toilets –loos [sp?]

An old wisdom was “if you do not ask questions, you do not learn nothing”.

I agree and beg your forgiveness, if I was too crude—according to one of my kids!

Thinking is Seeing

This is a summer season shorty!

A traditional expression is “seeing is believing!”

I had a kind of out of body experience last night. Sorry, this may be a bit TMI, but facts are facts.

I often wake about 1 AM to go to the toilet. A couple of times a year I unexpectedly find my wife already there or she has found me there. No problems. We are both agreeable in the middle of the night and both basically still asleep.

Last night I went to the toilet and while there I noticed the bath room door move and said –thinking she was in line—I‘ll be done in a minute. It moved again and I thought I had a glimpse of her and said ‘just a sec”.

Then I was done and pulled the door open and saw her moving towards the bed.

I spoke out loud– your turn now– and went to my side of the bed.

As I got into bed she lay there snoring gently away.

If that is not a para normal experience, what is? She swears she was not sleep walking!

This piece is not to warn you that I have gone off my rocker—because I do not think I have.

I am curious if anyone who reads this has ever had a similar experience.

I suppose it could stand to reason that since I had what I thought was evidence that she was up [the door moving], could induce my mental image of her being up? Perhaps, as well, I was still  basically asleep and I dreamt standing —not saw—what my brain expected to see? I do have those kinds of dreams often.

All comments and similar experiences will be appreciated!

Trump-Russia-Truth?

Let’s take a brief look at the big picture surrounding this murky topic.

The first point is that it is not vividly clear what the hubbub is really all about in the minds of many people.

Obviously, we all know, politics is a contact sport. The idea of digging up dirt on the opposition is as old as politics. And a lot of American citizens of all stripes still seem to see no problem with what Donald Jr. did. They think his freedom of speech gives him a lot of latitude.

The First Amendment looms large in a lot of minds—as it should—BUT there are exceptions like ‘you cannot cry fire in a crowded theater’—and dealing with a hostile power about a democratic election is surely such an exception.

So far, no sign of money has yet appeared from Russia. It would not be at all surprising, however, if money had change hands at some point. There are already indications that it did. Would that be enough to convince more Americans to forsake him? Who knows?

But even if no money ever changed hands, what Trump’s team did was dangerous and illegal.

In order to keep hostile foreign powers from corrupting our democratic process, we have laws that forbid political campaigns from soliciting or accepting money or anything of value from foreign governments and even indirect sources. Opposition research is certainly something of value (as evidenced by Donald Jr.’s reply of “I love it”), and agreeing to receive it from a foreign power would be a very serious illegal act.

These laws are vital to the continued functioning of our nation. Despite the enormous sums of money spent on our elections, the fundraising prowess of our politicians pales in comparison to the ability of a state to levy taxes and raise funds (and the researchers employed by a campaign are amateurs compared to state intelligence services). It would not be (was not?) particularly difficult for a determined country to swing the outcome of an election, which is why these laws and their effective enforcement is so important. If we do not enforce them today, we will have no idea what to make of the 2018 election results.

What is clear now is that the Trump team’s bluster and denials is evidence (though admittedly still circumstantial) that something rotten is afoot. Given that every one of Donald Jr.’s (many) denials has now been proved a lie, there is no reason to trust any denials.

There are basically only two possibilities for someone in Trump’s position.

A normal person would most likely say “I am faced with a terrible dilemma. I genuinely know nothing about these disturbing allegations, and I want to join the effort to investigate thoroughly and clear the decks of the issue, so we can get on with running the country.”

OR, if that person actually knew there had been transgressions, he or she would have/should have said “whatever may have happened was a mistake. It should not have happened, and will never again happen on my watch!”

But, at the end of the day, I believe that you will have to conclude that Trump’s behavior signals his desperate hope and belief in a cover-up and distraction that will stymie investigations long enough that in due time the system will tire of the process.

It might be possible for us to sit back and wait for a Democratic Congress to impeach Trump or for the Mueller investigation to turn up even worse dirt. But Trump will grow increasingly desperate as the net closes around him, and he still has a terrifying way out.

It is well known that war dramatically increases American support for the president (it even has a name: the “rally ‘round the flag effect”), and Trump has a ready enemy waiting in the wings. Experts worry that war with North Korea could/might start DESPITE all efforts to avoid it. It could, therefore, become too easy for Trump to ‘allow’ a war to begin in order to increase his standing at home and distract from the sins of his campaign.

That is where we stand today. It seems ever clearer to this observer that we cannot/should not wait for this scandal to run a normal course to replace him.

It is time to start a public crescendo from all corners of America through our internet echoing “ENOUGH” to save our republic and our lives.

America needs all of us NOW,  my friends!

How Did We Get Here?

Let’s begin in 1787, the year of the Constitutional Convention. There, the representatives of the 13 States gathered to create the rules for what was already envisioned as a great nation.

Fifty-five delegates came together in the blazing summer heat, bringing many different perspectives, experiences, and opinions.  They had been bound together during the war against England and were still on the high that accompanies the winners of a long and deadly war.

They had one idea in common: no King! Beyond that, the delegates had a wide range of ideas of how to organize, manage, and govern the new country. Their eventual plan, the last of many, left some questions unanswered, in particular questions about slavery, federalism, term limits, and the scope of powers of the Supreme Court.

George Washington presided over this unruly process, and intervening rarely. At the time, he was already everyone’s choice to be the first President, though he evidently made it clear he preferred retiring to Mt. Vernon. But he ultimately made it clear that he preferred himself to the alternatives.

Many of the participants came to dislike many others. But though their personalities were disparate, they had one goal—to build a government. Failure was not an option, and they did not fail.

Now let’s fast forward. Obamacare had been “rammed through” Congress by Obama in 2009, while he still had majorities in both houses. The Republicans had decided immediately after the election to deny ANY support for any significant Obama proposal in a misguided effort to limit him to one term in office, but not only did Obama and the leaders in the House and Senate reach out for Republican support, they also reached out for ideas from them.

The failure of the Republicans to provide input in good faith is likely the reason Obamacare had the flaws it does. And when Obama lost control of the Congress, all the Republicans had to say about healthcare was that Obamacare had to be repealed. They never put forward a real alternative plan.

In 2016, Trump stumbled into the Presidency promising a better healthcare plan in all respects for all. But like the Republican Congress in the last few years, he had no plan.

Though the Republicans have passed a plan in the House, the Senate appears unable to pass a plan that might acceptable to a majority of our citizens.

Over this recent 4th of July recess the whole country—some said over 2/3rd of the population—poured out their hearts to Senators and Congress people everywhere (those who actually held town halls) that they despised the two Republican plans on the table.

Finally, Mitch Mc Connell has signaled that perhaps he might just reach out to Democrats for ideas on how to fix Obamacare, which Democrats have been trying to do for years. And, now the “I said, she said” game will be about who reached out first or who refused to reach back.

There are big differences between 1787 and 2017. Political parties were invented; a civil war was fought over slavery; we became the most dominant economic and military force in the world; our population has become polarized geographically and economically; and the internet and TV has further fractionated our populace.

In 1930, about 40% of our population still lived in rural America. Today less than 2% of our population lives in rural America.

Fewer and fewer people know the names of their neighbors. People are glued to their internet devices, and their views of their world are focused on what they already believed. The echo chamber of social media does not always connect people; it often amplifies ignorance, prejudice, and misinformation.

The good old days of 1787 when it was possible for a group of different citizens to thrash out an imperfect plan to operate a great nation, have given way to a world in which there is no real conversation in Congress about how to solve today’s biggest problems.

Some years ago a woman at a country club seized some hot dogs already set aside for a woman who preceded her. When the woman who lost her hot dogs identified the hot dog thief, she asked a mutual friend why the other woman had behaved that way. The answer was: “Oh my God, if I had known that was her, I never would have done that!”

If we knew those 22 million Americans likely to lose their health care, perhaps more of us could think of them as real people. But when we think the only people who matter are those who are just like us, we have arrived at a point where Democracy as we know it needs to be rethought and perhaps rejiggered.

Rationale Behind Trump’s Tweeting

In recent weeks, Trump has carried his tweeting to extremes. In the process, he is stepping on his own agenda to his own disadvantage.

People are asking more and more—why?

The most interesting explanation came this past weekend when it was observed that Trump needs to keep reinforcing the authenticity of his “character”. His tweets are to remind people that he is not just another President but a guy they can count on to “say it like it is” and echo the way his supporters feel.

The fact that he may be lying, rude, and wrong is apparently irrelevant. His tweeting continues to reinforce and solidify his support from one third of Americans,

He continues to lash out at the press and famous people—neither of whom are  going away anytime soon—which ensures that the “noise” related to the tweets is amplified big time.

And, he adds—in a stunning non-sequitur—“After all I was elected President and who are they.”

All of this reminds me of a cousin who, as a teenager, had a thing about not being bound by convention. He refused to wear a pair of anything—socks, pajamas, etc.—or matching colors. Indeed, as he must have hoped, he was seen as an odd ball and he seemed to be amused by his being thought of as such.

His uncle, my father, asked him one day why, if he was so stuck on being unconventional, he had allowed himself to become so consistent in presenting himself as unconventional.

After all, my father said, “It is just as bad to be stuck by unconvention, as it is to be stuck by convention.”

Trump asserts that his unconventional tweeting is his new, modern Presidential style and convention.

Only time will tell. If we all live long enough?

The Genius of Visions of the Distant Future

In 1853, the New York legislature acquired a 700-acre area in the middle of Manhattan. When they bought the land, it was swampy and rough. Now, it is Central Park.

Frederick Law Olmsted was the man behind the transformation. Along with architect Calvert Vaux, Olmstead designed what is now one of the most visited parks on earth. Books have been written about how and why their phenomenal idea came to fruition, none I have read fully captured the genius of the undertaking.

When the park was planned, much of Manhattan was sparsely populated. In 1880, when the Dakota was built on West 72nd, it was considered as far away from the urban portions of Manhattan as the territory from which it took its name. And it was a common saying that well-off New Yorkers only went to the West Side if they were going to Europe.

And yet, Olmstead and Vaux included in their design the so-called “transverses”, the hidden roadways that carry traffic between the East and West Sides. They anticipated the need for cross-traffic in a time when modern New York would have been unimaginable. Just as unimaginable is the city without those transverses.

Today, we need more people like Olmstead, who can prepare us for a future we have no idea is coming.

The whole country is riven by strongly held views about the future and how to deal with it. We are still losing more jobs yearly to automation in agriculture, industry, and services than we are creating. And jobs are increasingly concentrated in the wealthy urban coasts, leaving many communities without jobs or hope.

At the same time there is a growing number of positions/jobs that can NOT be filled for lack of qualified people.

This mismatch is exacerbated by geography. That is, in part, because people in rural areas either do not want to move or are unable to afford to, because the value of their homes is so low.

So the question for today for Olmsted’s visionary successors is where and how are the jobs going to come from to keep all Americans at work with economic and psychic satisfaction.

The answer, not surprisingly, may come from the internet.

Technology exists today that allows almost everyone to work remotely. The most obvious example is call centers, which are now dispersed all over the world. But a similar technology could allow someone in Nebraska to work at Met Life’s Manhattan office doing clerical work (particularly as such work becomes fully digitized). Too much of our thinking has been devoted to ways to bring jobs to people and not enough to virtually bringing people to jobs.

I think that Mr.  Olmsted would embrace that vision of the future of jobs.

Of course, we must make sure that everyone in America can get a suitable job BEFORE we begin go abroad for foreign nationals whose sole claim to those jobs is their willingness or ability to accept much lower pay than Americans need. There will be problems transitioning to such a future, but we must make our best effort.

Airplane wings are flexible so they do not break under stress. Economic policy needs to be flexible enough to enable the United States to create enough jobs for all our citizens who need and want a decent paying job.

Tapes, No Tapes, or Tapes that Revealed Truth

Last week we saw a great deal of writing on the topic of Trump’s “tapes” tweets, but most commentators seem to have now accepted that there were never any tapes.

As Robert Hanlon famously said, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

It seems Trump is dumb enough to have threatened James Comey with no way to follow through, and such an empty threat would fit a pattern of behavior related to (as David Frum wrote) Trump’s inability to put any pressure on North Korea and apparent willingness to let Russia get increasingly belligerent in the skies over Syria.

Therefore, perhaps the most likely explanation is the relatively innocuous one: that there were no tapes; and that Trump is simply in way over his head.

But not enough attention has been paid to the only other possibility.

If there were tapes, of course, Trump would have to lie about having them, unless they showed Comey to be the liar.

He clearly has no compunctions about dissembling to the American public. And if he has tapes (and worse, if he destroyed them), Mueller can get to the truth in his interviews with White House staff.

And, when and if Mueller does that, even Trump’s most fervent supporters must begin to see him for what he is: a con man, and not even a very good con man.