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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Answer the Door

It should be clear by now that the "Republican" party in the U.S. is nothing more - or less - than a criminal gang, bought by wealthy donors and obsessed with power, money and fame. If it were not clear before last week's vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it surely is now. The ongoing attempts at repeal have nothing to do with "ideology" or concern for the "American" people. They have been about spite, cruelty and dispossession of the less-wealthy in favor of the rich.

Among the crimes "Republicans" have been perpetrating in recent years are the various voter suppression activities they have engaged in, including closed polling places, purging voter registrations, blocking people from voting (Florida, 2000, likely turned the "election," elsewhere, repeatedly), and, of course, voter ID laws. In today's The Nation there is a story about how Wisconsin's voter ID law suppressed 200,000 votes in 2016, giving Trump a 22,748 margin of victory in the state.

The litany of "Republican" crimes is endless. Or so it seems. It will take a mammoth effort to unseat them, to say nothing of bringing them to justice. Chauncey DeVega wrote in Salon last weekend that the Republican party is sociopathic, something I have contended for years. He does a great job of explaining how the characteristics of sociopaths match the "Republicans" perfectly. In yesterday's column he said they are political terrorists.

Which raises a question. If the "Republicans" are such blatant criminals, what about the "Democrats?" What have they been doing for the past several decades? Are they pillars of virtue and decency who have been bravely fighting the "Republican" criminals?

The answer is of course no. At best they have been practicing Republican-lite, hoping to appear as "moderate" versions of the "Republicans" to the ever-elusive "center." The center, that is, of the mythical "spectrum" of "left" to "right" that is axiomatic in the conventional wisdom of political know-it-alls, which includes just about everyone who talks about politics.

Former Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz wrote a column in a local paper in February, titled Lost in Wisconsin, where he raised the question of what the "Democrats" can do to return to prominence. He interviewed some local political "players" to get their views. What they tended to say was that the "Democrats" need to listen to voters.

Duh. This is a meme generated by pundits since the defeat of Hillary Clinton. When former U.S. senator Russ Feingold tried to win his seat back last year, he held voter listening sessions in every county in the state. He lost. He basically ran as himself - Russ Feingold, good guy, son of a Wisconsin shop-keeper, man of the people. He didn't say much about what he was going to do in office, except for a couple of gimmicks to ease student debt and create jobs, calling them the Badger this-or-that. He let his paid consultants control his campaign, repeating the tried-and-failed technique of triangulating - playing reliable constituencies for chumps while wooing the elusive "Center" with nothingness.

I offered my own thoughts on what the "Democrats" could to to displace the "Republican" criminals:

One thing "Democrats" might find useful is to stop saying progressive, progressive, progressive all the time without ever saying what progressive means. In other words, stop talking to yourselves and start communicating with voters. I volunteered in 2010, 2011, 2012 and, sadly, last year. Each time it was ALL about getting out the vote ("GOTV"). No attempt was made to actually communicate with people.

One of the reasons there was no attempt to communicate with voters is that there was nothing to communicate. None of the recent "Democratic" candidates for governor stood for anything except themselves. Even Russ Feingold last year fell for the consultant-driven approach of running for himself, just a nice guy who listens. And a new-found negative campaigning. He deserved to lose, and did. Now he is through. He would have been a decent senator, but his various "Badger" gimmicks and inept self-promotion doomed him to defeat. It wasn't his seat - it was OUR seat - and he lost it.

Next time maybe "Democrats" can run as if they believe in something. Instead of saying progressive, progressive, progressive to each other, they could actually push for progressive taxation. The first step would be to EXPLAIN what progressive taxation IS. It is not the same meaning as progressive, progressive, progressive. Progressive taxation means the rate of tax PROGRESSES as income (or wealth in the case of property tax) increases. Simply put, it means TAX THE RICH. When explaining it you only need to say progressive once.

The same goes for other issues. If you are going to advocate for abortion rights you need to say that abortion is not killing, and that supposed "Christians" are wrong in their posturing "beliefs" that the "Bible" forbids abortion (and a myriad of other things). Pregnancy is part of the process of creating life, not the nurturing of a life that already exists. It is a voluntary activity throughout the process, and only when completed is there a human life in existence. To say this means to stand for something. Otherwise, as "Democrats" have done in the past, it's all about hustling a constituency, getting them out to vote (GOTV).

None of this will happen, sadly, and the more likely prospect is that "Democrats" are licking their chops, counting on the meltdown of Donald Trump to have spread effects all the way to "downballots" in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, "Republicans" will continue to fake standing for something, fooling the voters, then laughing all the way to the bank. Some people never learn.

I added some things I forgot to mention a couple of days later:

I forgot to mention that "Democrats" need to consistently explain that we have a mixed economic system, which combines private enterprise working in concert with government operations. Government is necessary in a mass industrial system to provide goods and services that the private sector cannot or will not provide. Roads, bridges, public transportation, emergency services, regulation of industry, defense, the three branches of government, and more recently retirement and disability insurance, and some guarantees of health care. These government functions are paid for through taxation, which is not a burden but an obligation for citizens in a functioning civilization. As economist Jeffrey Sachs put it, no taxes, no civilization.

We haven't heard any "Democrats" say any of these things in recent decades - except Bernie Sanders - and even he didn't say enough. Again, the main reason that they haven't said these things is that they, like the "Republicans," don't have any real beliefs, and thus have no clue of what to stand for - other than what polling data, focus groups and paid consultants tell them to believe.

The advantage "Republicans" have is that they are genuine sociopaths, and know that they can disguise their true agenda of crony capitalism in emotion-triggering propaganda and scapegoating. Their ongoing scheme of skewing power and wealth to the already powerful and wealthy will continue as long as the opposition tries to play it "safe" by playing reliable constituencies for chumps while wooing the mythical "center" with nothingness.

The only way out of this is for the citizenry to rise up and "drain the swamp," so to speak, of these nothing "Democrats," replacing them with people who believe in and stand for something. Or start a new party, but that doesn't seem to be much of an option.

And so it goes. Trump fired FBI director James Comey today. The Russian hacking investigation is getting too close to home. Nixon déjà vu. To me it is a sign of Trump's desperation. It will only make things worse for him. Opportunity knocketh. We need to answer the door.

When I was volunteering with the "Democrats" to unseat Scott Walker in 2012 I tried to get the "Democratic" candidate to stand for something by writing a letter to the local daily newspaper. I tried again in 2014 with a new candidate. I failed both times.

Here's a song for Trump, but it can apply to our entire corporate-political elite.

Here's a song for us.

I sent Trump this tweet today.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Drugstore Truck Drivin' Man

Today's Salon has a story about a history professor at Yale who is predicting that Donald Trump will attempt a coup d'état within the next year. It certainly is plausible. Trump has an authoritarian manner, is a narcissist, paranoid, vengeful, a grandstanding blowhard, and has little respect for the law. As his presidency continues to fail he may do something desperate to stay in power.

He will likely fail in his efforts, as I suggested in a comment to the article:

There are some countervailing circumstances. Trump very likely is suffering from early stage dementia, and as it progresses he will not only become more erratic, but will arouse public scorn and demands for his removal from office. He also has other mental problems - paranoia, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder (sociopathy). He is showing himself to be a near-total incompetent in the job of president, and as such he will be under increasing pressure and ridicule as a time variable. 

Mr. Drumpf is 70 years old, weighs 250 pounds*, doesn't get enough sleep, and is often in a state of rage. These circumstances militate against his health. As president of the United States he is in a highly stressful job, indeed one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. He is not a strongman or a strong man. As his weakness is revealed he will paint himself further into the corner that he has been painting himself into his entire life. His various mental, physical and ethical deficiencies will act in a synergistic manner, each exacerbating the others.

Then there is growing planetary horror and outrage over Trump's behavior and policies. Mounting opposition will spell defeat wherever he turns.

And, of course, there is Trump's repulsive nature. He and his various minions, themselves not very appealing creatures, are not the types of people that could generate enough support for a successful coup d'état. Though Trump has surrounded himself with generals, they likely are about as loyal to him as they are to their mistresses. His generals are not the cream of the crop, and a successful coup would depend on how much leadership control they have over the upper echelons of the military, as well as the officer corps in general.

Then there is the corporate power infrastructure. Trump is a scam artist, and as such he is a threat to all legitimate enterprise. If he were to stage a coup d'état our economic system would become a total crony capitalist system, and would fail in fairly short order. The business community knows this, and would likely not support a Trump dictatorship. Then there are other countervailing factors, mainly climate change and the unsustainability of our infinite-growth economic system. A Trump dictatorship in an era of climate disruption and economic collapse would be of short duration, should he be able to overcome his mental and physical limitations, and his other challenges. We have much more to be concerned about than a dictatorship of Donald J. Drumpf.

Still, we should prepare. Increase the pressure. Spread the word. Build opposition. Sow discord among his supporters. Boycott his businesses, and the businesses of anyone who supports him. If he does stage a coup, have a general strike. He doesn't have the strength to last.

I could be wrong. I'm wrong a lot. I predicted Trump's downfall last year. I thought Bernie Sanders would win the "Democratic" nomination. This time is different. Momentum is building, not just against Trump, but against the entire direction this country is going. Trump is the best catalyst for change we have had for a long time.

*He may weigh more than 250 pounds, as the linked article from Mother Jones suggests.

From the New Yorker, How Trump Could Get Fired. To hear an interview with the author of the article, click here. From the Washington Post, When is it okay to say the president might be nuts? From the Independent, Trump impeachment a real and growing possibility.

Here's a song. Alternate versionHere's another. And another. Alternate versionCommander Cody. Here's another Commander Cody song, with Nicolette LarsonStevie Wonder. Otis Redding.

Joan Baez was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of fame in April. Here's her acceptance speech.
A fun video.

For those unfamiliar with "American" colloquial expressions, the term drugstore truck drivin' man derives from the expression drugstore cowboy, which refers to boys and young men in the early-to-mid 20th Century who would hang out at the soda fountains and lunch counters that were common in pharmacies and department stores.

Cowboy singer at Texas barbecue, Cibolo Ranch, Texas, May, 2002The original meaning was that a drugstore cowboy would dress in the rugged clothing of a Western cowboy - a ranch hand who would herd cattle while riding a horse, brand them, protect them from predators and rustlers, and even sing to them to keep them calm.

A drugstore cowboy is a phony, a faker who pretends to be a cowboy to impress young women. Similarly, a drugstore truck drivin' man would be someone who pretends to be a truck driver, but who in reality knows nothing about how to drive one. Such as Donald J. Drumpf, president of the United States. It can also be said of him that he's a drugstore president.