Enough Already

SO, WHAT’S NEXT?

I allow that some of you may read the title of this piece and apply it to my running commentary on the 2020 election. Very few readers have said as much, but we all feel exhausted by the political, emotional and, for some, financial toll of Trump’s presidency. The almost daily onslaught of affronts – to democracy, security, integrity and human decency – make many of us want to curl up with a warm blanket and a good book and shut the world out, at least for a little while.

But, for most of us, there’s simply too much at stake to indulge “tuning out.” I think about my great grands and the world they may inherit. I cannot, try as I might, bring myself to believe that things will get straightened out on their own, so it is incumbent on all of us to do our part.

What, then, is next?

Next is what happens if Trump gets reelected. You already know what that means from a policy perspective (or can find out on Fox News). The real danger is a vengeful Trump, unloosed from any political norms in a second term, giving free rein to his authoritarian instincts, aided and abetted by a loose-knit but impassioned army of loyalist followers. Trump is already engaged in a purge against the non-existent “deep state,” exacting revenge on those in his government seen as insufficiently loyal or obsequious.

What might we expect in a second term?

  • Prepare to keep your mouth shut – tight. You never know who will hear your views and complaints. Worse, you don’t know who among them might even send bad guys to torch your house, smash your car, or spread malicious lies about you.

  • Be ready to escape somewhere out of U.S. reach, if things get too uncomfortable here. Make sure to get adequate assets out of the U.S. to survive elsewhere if that becomes necessary.
  • If you are of working age, investigate how you can continue to work remotely, or qualify for work in other countries.

Some will find this list alarmist, or even ridiculous. For others, particularly those of Jewish heritage, it will sound familiar, because it is based on experiences I have heard first hand from many people who left Europe in the 1930s.

Those people were often laughed at as exaggerators or cowards. Many people, nagged by the same fears, often chose to stay, or waited too late to leave. Others dismissed the warnings as partisan hyperbole.

As bad as he is, some might say, Trump is no Hitler.  But ‘Hitlers’ come in many sizes, shapes and forms. What they have in common is megalomania, greed, anger and need for absolute power. The only difference between Adolph Hitler and the wannabe dictators that have come since is scale.

Even if the future I envision may be something of an exaggeration, my question and answer is WHY TAKE A CHANCE?

If more people had seen what was coming in the 1930s, the world would have been a very different – and better — place today.

We owe it to ourselves and our descendants to think carefully and deeply about what lies ahead.

It has been almost 100 years since Hitler came to power.

PEOPLE FORGET!

Now is the time to remember one of the darkest lessons of our history, lest we repeat it.

Fear and Hate vs. Confidence and Love

ARE THESE STATES OF MIND COMPATIBLE?

Our political system appears more and more to be drifting apart into two camps, marked most prominently, perhaps, by each camp’s view of ‘others.’

The FEAR and HATE camp are grounded in anger, jealousy, misunderstanding and a mistaken misbelief that bad people are ‘out to get them’.

Their CONFIDENCE and LOVE counterparts are grounded in trust, self-confidence and appreciation.

Obviously, there are lots of reasons that different people slip into the two camps noted above, and it’s important to note that neither is better than the other.

Once a person slips into one camp or the other, a self-fulfilling prophecy begins to take effect, so that both camps become stronger and the bristles and sparks between the two begin to be more aggressive and hostile.

Feeding on itself, the phenomenon grows and spreads, the schism grows wider and more virulent.

That America is slipping into this quagmire is unquestionable. The divide has been aided and abetted by the Internet and social media, some organic but some the work of malicious actors and nations (Russia).

Our First Amendment makes us understandably leery of government regulation of social media. But this problem is very different. The First Amendment protects the free speech of U.S. residents. In Russia there are no such rights AND has Russia has proven itself capable of and willing to circumvent our rules to its advantage.

In the face of such threats, stronger protections and tighter regulation of the social media giants is nothing less than a matter of national security.

The Russians seem to have ‘captured’ Trump, if to no other effect than to leave them alone to continue their festering of dissent and division in American politics. Trump, too, benefits from that, of course, and has shown no inclination to favor national over his personal interests.

So, this black tunnel into which are descending is being further extended to suck us all the way in. No one can know for certain how this all might end — perhaps with Putin seeking our Presidency in 2024?

Great to Be Alive

IN CHALLENGING TIMES?

Would I prefer to have been alive in some other period?

A resounding NO!             

How can that be possible when you are gripping so much in your blogs regularly?

Gripping is a sign of being aroused by something.

And, it is better to be focused on something that provokes you than to sit dreamingly by and watch a boring world float aimlessly by.

Indeed, I am deeply focused on problems today.

Yet, though I feel depressed about things quite a lot, my mind is working overtime looking for ways to influence the flow of events that I worry are engulfing our world.

Despite my concerns the world is in a very interesting state.

The concerns about the planet are real as rain. My Dad was from Savanah Georgia. He said he was asked a lot when he come North what people did in Savanah when it rained. The answer was ‘let it rain’!

That seemed to work OK until the 21st Century when scientists began to discover/realize that ‘man’ was screwing up earth to the point that by the end of the 21st Century the process that ‘man’ had created would inevitably begin to unwind.

Change is not easy in our complex world. Big, rich interests like the fossil fuel industry fight like tigers simply to maintain their power and profits –choosing to ignore that they will be swept away too in time. Their response is that it will be on someone else’s watch. In the meanwhile, they will get rich. To what avail if the world really begins to unwind?

So far many of ‘man’ has been able to stay ahead of the curve which is sweeping the globe.

Perhaps one of the underlying forces pushing/pulling us in despotic directions is that it may take despots to imagine and apply the forces to ultimately rescue earth from its demise.

Populations at large have never been very good at recognizing problems and dealing with them without Pearl Harbor like provocations.

As with 1940 which led up to December 7th with comfy isolationist mentality across America, 2020 might just be lulling the country at large into a status quo mentality.

So –if that is the case, why are you beating yourself to death with concerns about politics and elections, when you really know better?

Knowing better is not an answer to not doing something. Being frustrated by knowing better inevitably should lead at least to trying harder.

Perhaps stirring the pot hard might lead in an unpredictable way to ‘the’ Pearl Harbor like event which could change the course of history.

It has been hinted in the press that the Chinese might have been inventing the current corona virus as a weapon against the West, though that seems most unlikely to me.

Still it might trigger a lot of Pearl Harbor like defenses which might bring all populations into focusing on the realities of today.

Hopefully it is not too late for an awakened America to pull up its bootstraps and take on the future in a constructive and effective way??

2020 Presidential Election

Main Goal?

If your main goal is either Trump again OR simply Medicare for all, save your time and aggravation and put this blog aside.

If your main goal is to replace Trump and/or move forward away from today’s 9/11 type crisis, you may find this piece interesting and even helpful.

The Nevada caucuses AT THIS VERY MOMENT have nailed down the belief that Sanders is the early most likely Democratic nominee. He clearly arouses a lot of younger and working-class voters with his messages and enthusiasms.

That said, a lot of more centrist Democratic voters worry that his embrace of the word ‘socialism’ is likely to hurt him seriously in the general election against Trump. That concern is virtually inescapable and thus the question of Sanders’ electability becomes, by itself, a very debatable question.

In the meanwhile, Bloomberg still looms large in the Super Tuesday primaries.

Prior to last week’s debate, in which Bloomberg failed to live up to the expectation of the quality of his ads, he had begun to rise in polls on the basic grounds of electability.

Let’s put that into perspective.

Those of us who are New Yorkers and who watched him as Mayor for 12 years, were NOT surprised at his stiff and awkward performance. He has never been a ‘stage performer’.

We also knew that he was vulnerable to the kind of criticisms aimed at him to his obvious discomfort.

We also know, and knew, that he was on balance for 12 years a very good and balanced Mayor. Sure, he made mistakes. But, I do not recall EVER hearing anyone question his values, motives and behavior.

We also can see a lot about the man in many of the objects of his long-term philanthropic support: gun control, climate change, education for minorities, women’s rights to name just a few.

It should be vividly clear that Bloomberg is fully qualified to be a manager of a large complex political institution such as the United States, and that his personal values and perspectives made him an exceptionally good Mayor and would similarly ‘inform’ his Presidency.

Therefore, as we head into Super Tuesday, it appears we face a choice between a politically popular and aggressive ‘democratic socialist’ [to use his own term] and an experienced political manager with a broad range of popular and moderate political policies.

We will no doubt be taking a risk either way we go.

The biggest OBVIOUS difference is that while Sanders has had plenty of financial support, Bloomberg has essentially endless money to spend to win the general election. And, while we know from painful experience that money does NOT buy elections, it does MATTER, particularly for get out the vote efforts in swing states.

This is NOT an election in which we can or should take unnecessary risks that we can avoid.

Bloomberg could have been a rich Mayor, who spent a lot of time playing golf.

In fact, Bloomberg was a rich Mayor who spent almost all his time making New York City a better place to live and work.

Let’s reduce the risk of a bad outcome this year by going with a highly qualified, experienced man who will deploy his more than adequate resources to ensure that he will win the general election!

The Future

VS the PAST

The future, by definition, has not yet happened but nonetheless constantly beckons our speculation.

The past has indeed happened, but we continue to speculate anyway, wondering what really did happen. Sometimes, it takes decades to figure that out, because there were so many versions of what seemed to be the same things.

The reason both future and past are similarly obtuse to us is that there are so many variables in both puzzles that it is nearly impossible to see the big picture sharply and clearly enough to make the tough big decisions with a high enough degree of confidence to put the last pieces in place without forcing them into where they do not belong.

We know that Earth was – in the not so distant past — a ripe target for largeish asteroids, the after effect of which radically reshaped evolution on our planet by wiping out dinosaurs and probably opening the door to man.

Very recently, we have had a possible glimpse of the future in a news piece about a pretty large new asteroid, still a light year or so away, travelling at 34,000 miles per second!!! Its trajectory was calculated to bring it near Earth.  “Near” in galactic terms is defined to be within about a million miles. That trajectory surely will be revised several times as it gets closer. Let’s hope the miss will grow wider.

What happens if it narrows? What happens, if it finally looks like it has found a new home.

Then the question begins to change – ‘which way will be Earth be facing’ when we meet — putting China or the US in the direct path? Can we negotiate with China?

The past, of course, informs the future in two ways. It can predict the probability of outcomes for different events. For example, a wisdom shared with young men years ago was to get a glimpse of your girlfriend’s naked mother in her dressing room and that is what your prospective wife is likely to look like in the future?

 And, it can suggest remedial steps before the fact. If the mother in law to be doesn’t measure up, try again!

I do not know about you, but I would like to ‘ensure’ that I and my whole family be at the epicenter of a collision with the new asteroid.

Given the span of life of humans today, it would take many hundreds of new generations before life, as we have come to know it, could possibly be resumed.

As you can see it is possible to get peeks at the future in various ways.

The riskiest ‘asteroid’ or mother in law out there today may be the 2020 election.

We know it will hit and when.

Conventional wisdom now is telling us Trump wins, because he has a solid and aroused base. And the Democrats still can not figure who they are and who they want to take on Trump.

While we all are squirming with fear, horror and uncertainty, we should keep reminding ourselves that the real historical facts favor the Democrats this year despite impressions to the contrary notwithstanding.  No President in history has been reelected with an approval rating of less than 50%.

We also know that because of the electoral college there are only five to seven States that will make the difference. Who the candidate is, of course, important.  Trump is very much a ‘love him or loathe him’ package — but the get out the vote effort may be more important, which lends itself to real money, which will be available.

So, with our peek at the future, we can see that there is something very real and affordable to do STARTING NOW!

GET OUT THE VOTE in a big way in those very States.

Whether he is the candidate or not, I believe Bloomberg will invest heavily in that process.

Perhaps, after saving our democracy from King Donald, he will turn his attention skyward and make sure the asteroid flies happily away!

But, if King Donald prevails, bring on the asteroid.

What Are We Really Worried About?

What’s Next?

When people worry about the 2020 election and four more Trump years, what do they fear the most?

The Courts; the tax system; the Middle East; overemphasis on military buildup everywhere; the waste on immigration walls of all sorts; the deteriorating quality of advisors to the President; continued conflict between haves and have nots across the country; another illegal overreach by the President and another impeachment fiasco; a new period of inflation arising from peak debts.

What good do some people see in four more years of Trump?

Some believe/hope that he will continue to deliver on economic strength -despite the fact that it is already clear that the steam in the kettle is running lower. He will be free to tilt the judicial system and Supreme Court much more to the right; he will be more aggressive in negotiating trade agreements which will cost consumers more and benefit his friends; he will assist in rearranging voting patterns to make his backers even more powerful.

Obviously, currently the Senate is his personal playground. If he loses control of the Senate, his freedom of movement in doing a lot of the above would be seriously constrained. But, that is a tall order, particularly if he successfully again gets the Electoral College to back him with its distorted numbers. 

Some people also worry that his boast that he will be President for 12 more years was also a prediction –hopefully based mostly on ignorance –and that he would defer elections and unilaterally, by Executive order, change our Constitutional system. He should be categorially asked what he meant by that statement.

Historically it has been easier to mobilize voters to vote AGAINST someone who is a clear and present danger than for someone new who inevitably remains less well understood.

Today the people of Trump’s base appear quite impervious to the words and thoughts of good, solid old-line Republicans. Romney and Alexander, both of whom have been dependable (if uninspiring) Republicans, have been helpful but the country needs more like them to awaken the Trump base to the risks he poses if he is reelected.

We all should be aware of all the risks going forward with Trump for four more years.

The Misallocation of Political Power

Population is the root of today’s malaise

Two hundred years ago, our nascent system of independent States joining into a union of States in a federal system was hammered out with plenty of difficulty.

Disputes raged among the larger and smaller States, northern vs southern States and commercial/industrial (for those days) States vs agricultural States. Each feared dominance by their counterpart in the new government.

The solution was to base representation in the lower chamber of Congress on a State’s population, but to allocate to each state, regardless of size, two seats in the Senate.

It worked reasonably well for a while. We tend to forget, though, that it led to our bloodiest war ever in the 1860s, primarily over slavery but also clearly rooted in festering north/south issues of domination.

Today, we are focused on an illegitimate and accidental President with many serious flaws. Perhaps we should be looking more broadly and deeply at the schisms in our society which gave rise to this President. Those divides will continue to plague us even when Trump is gone, until we seriously address them.  

The core concepts underlying the structure of our Constitutional system are:

  1. Checks and balances among the three branches –executive, legislative and judicial—which required and allowed oversight to discourage and prevent abuse of powers;
  2.  Two-year terms for members of the House of Representatives (those closest to the people themselves), a four-year term for President (now limited to two terms), and six years for Senators, with one-third of that body elected every two years;
  3. The House has the power of the purse and the exclusive right of appropriations;
  4. The Senate has the power to confirm or deny all Presidential appointments;
  5. The Executive branch (the President) has the power to execute all laws and manage all expenditures

Despite the brilliant design of this system, it was destined to fall short in a country and population that was growing and changing and had several very real dysfunctions, slavery foremost among them.

The founders wriggled around those problems by ignoring them, hiding them, and making what now seem shocking accommodations (like the “three-fifths” rule that counted blacks as 3/5ths of a person!!!).

The main accommodation was to give each State the same number of Senators. No one imagined today’s reality where Wyoming, with a population of less than 600,000 would have the same representation as California, whose population is 68 times larger. And, today, a majority of the 100 Senators is elected by less than 20% of the country’s whole population. 

Similarly, a large majority of the country’s most educated population live in the few big states on both coasts.

And, the relatively small population engaged in agriculture live in a few geographically large states in the middle of the country.

Normally, political ‘power’ follows peoples’ feet and votes. And, when people feel and believe their political ‘power’ is appropriate and real, they tend feel OK and go with the flow.

But, when people feel they are shut out of the system, they get unhappy and angry.

That is what has been happening in America now for several decades.

The people in the educated, most populated parts of the country feel they are being squeezed and denigrated by the people in the smaller states who feel that they are being looked down upon and not listened to by the richer, more educated people in other States.

In the simplest terms, a lot of people who do not know or often see ‘those other folks’ are assuming that they cannot like or trust them. There has been little to no communication or data to support or justify such views, but hyper-partisan modern media and the ugly side of the Internet is happy to advance this narrative in its own interests (profits, chaos).

In a somewhat similar situation in China some years ago the Chinese literally shuffled the deck and forced moves on quite a lot of people around physically so they would see the rest of their world through their own eyes.

If our present situation continues to fester for too long, it might again ripen into the kind of breakdown that 150 years ago led to our Civil War.

I leave to wiser heads the question of how we might shuffle our deck effectively.

But that is what we need today!