Time to Hit the Streets

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On the Congressionally Mandated US Climate Report, 23 November 2018

There is a disturbing parallel between the blindness of Congress to the facts about Vietnam in the 1970’s and the facts about climate change today. After Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, which detailed the “saturation bombing” of Cambodia and Laos without the knowledge of our Senators and Representatives, there remained in the public mind the delusion that we could somehow win the war in Vietnam and save all of Southeast Asia from the greedy clutches of Communism. The “domino effect,” as Senators called it. We went on to elect Richard Nixon, who had a “secret plan” to win the war, and we continued in a tragic, losing effort for three more years until the fall of Saigon in 1975.

During those three years, an enormous groundswell of public protest brought hundreds of thousands of citizens, mostly young people, into the streets, chanting, screaming, and demanding an end to the hopeless cause that was the Vietnam War. Priests threw blood on Selective Service files. Buddhist monks set themselves on fire. Protestors blocked highways to stop military convoys. Young people mailed their draft cards back to their Selective Service offices. Statisticians tell us that what finally created a majority was that by 1973, about 75% of the country had direct or indirect connections with fallen soldiers in Vietnam.

The protests worked. Congressmen desperately railed against the persistent harassment to shore up their income streams from the military-industrial lobbies, but eventually realized that they couldn’t get the votes regardless of the money spent, and they finally knuckled under and supported the vast majority of the populace. Rather than a “domino effect,” the Soviet Union eventually fell, and we can visit Laos and Vietnam any time we want. The U.S. lost the war, but won the peace.

Yesterday the congressionally mandated U. S. Climate Change Report was issued, and I felt the same outrage that I felt in 1972, when Nixon won the election and promised further bloodshed in a losing cause. The jury is in, the facts on the ground are clear, the effects are already seen in many places worldwide, and there are clear alternatives to our current lifestyles that could be helpful. All that is missing today is the enormous groundswell of commitment to the solution by the young people of America.

This should be the start of the protests. We can sit by and allow our deeply compromised President to blunder along, denying the obvious effects of climate change, or we can hit the streets, call Congressional representatives, and demand a serious, coordinated effort to identify and support alternative energy sources and less wasteful lifestyles. The current administration’s ignorance and defiance of scientific information will ensure that the U.S. will bring up the tail in the world’s effort to address climate change. But sensible action now can blunt the worst effects of this mess. It’s time to demand the attention of Congress. Time to shout, chant, and get on the phone.

One last thought. When I call my Senator (Cory Gardner) I rarely leave a message. I call and call and call until I get an aide. Then I make a calm, sensible case and possibly change the thinking of one small potato at a time. We didn’t have to convince the generals in Vietnam. We just had to help the average GI to see reality.


The Trump Presidency: Hard Guys in Charge

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 1.07.41 PMWay back in the 60’s, if your high school was like mine, you had to deal with quite a few jocks and bullies. Hard guys. Bitter, angry, entitled rich kids who generally got their way or made the world around them suffer in some way. Cut donuts on the old lady’s yard. Rip off a few small businesses. Soak a cat in kerosene and set it afire. Insult girls with small breasts and shove smaller, prepubescent boys aside just for the rush of cruelty. They called out “homos,” and sang the ditty, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, chinks and niggers, spicks, and wops, Jesus thinks that they’re all tops, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” They never had any training in empathy because they didn’t need it. It slowed them down.

Dealing with these individuals was a futile challenge in most cases, one best avoided. But the saving grace was twofold: they were a minority, and society at large blunted their efforts to punish the “lesser beings” around them by outlawing outrageous behaviors. I lived with these poorly socialized people through high school and college and into my working life, always thankful that America knew how to keep them under control. The authorities always seemed kind and tolerant, just what these bullies hated.

What I didn’t realize as I grew older was that America was changing, slowly but inexorably, toward producing a majority of these hostile folks. When they elected Richard Nixon, Congress found a way to respond effectively. But when they elected Ronald Reagan, the balance was lost. The push was on to reward my childhood bullies and give them free rein. Even leading Democrats, like Bill Clinton, seemed blind to the direction in which the country was drifting. The Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore, cementing the course toward rule by the entitled rich. Barak Obama’s presidency, a pendulum swing back from Bush, allowed the disparate wings of the hard guy minorities to coalesce around conspiracy theories as they fought with great zeal to overcome his sense of decency and compassion for the working class.

These libertarians believed that they had the right to do anything they wanted, any time, and in any way. The strong federal government stood in the path of progress. Every nod to a minority must have felt like a personal slight, unacceptable and enraging. Imagine allowing poor minorities to vote! Imagine regulating toxic emissions by nearby industries to make housing developments safe for children! What an outrage!

And then came Trump, raised to believe that if you pushed hard enough and talked loud enough, the world would make way for you. Here was the model for which my old embittered classmates had waited. Finally, a man as mean spirited and brutish as they were, now in a position to change the course of the country, to pave the road for a vicious, motley subculture of intolerant bullies, using the same ugly language they grew up with, but with authority and raw power. The greatest charlatan in American history, spouting lies and hatred, hostile to everyone except his base, finally free now to run the country in favor of the rich, outlawing minorities and immigrants of all stripes, and herding into to his circle the religious leaders who once had shaken their fingers at the sneering senior boys.

I should have seen it coming. Aggressive, weakly educated, and poorly socialized people won’t sit back and peacefully watch generosity of spirit among their leaders. When this happened in Germany, the Nazi majority was helpless to stop the rush to catastrophe. The Jews, conveniently set up as social pariahs, were a perfect projection of the Nazis’ own dark spirit. The Nazis ended up personifying the very evil they thought they saw in the Jews. The resulting disaster had to be addressed by other governments.

And here we are in America, past the tipping point, firmly in the clutches of my childhood bullies, finally in a position to pull the levers of government to outlaw decency, tolerance, and generosity. They have attained majority status at last. Our country has officially become a brooding, bitter, selfish, fearful and hostile force in the world, a tool for the vastly wealthy to further their greedy ambitions.

A variation of this happened once before. When the North drifted toward eliminating slavery, the South revolted at this outrage. How could the central government dare to declare people free? How could wealthy landowners in the South flourish without slaves? Why should they have to? And there was no recourse but war. The question now is, can the present rift in American society ever be healed without war?

We are told that opposition to this wave cannot include intolerance, but must seek common ground. If any Democrat approaches Trump supporters as if they are all idiots, they say, it won’t work. But it seems to me that anyone who supports the move away from American Democracy to a lawless Oligarchy that supports world dictators as “great leaders,” and that dreams of an America without minorities is truly an idiot. The crowds who chanted their support for Hitler were absolutely idiots, selling their country into a losing bloodbath and condemnation by the whole world. Must we repeat this outrage?

Road Kill and Civil War

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Road Kill at the White House

Reflecting on Scaramucci’s telephone tirade to a reporter (!) I was surprised to note that Steve Bannon’s “deconstruction of the administrative state” includes the White House itself. Even the Executive can’t function under this self-generated mandate.

Bannon’s deconstruction was supposed to eliminate government programs that give people rights and freedoms. Repeal the health care mandate. Kick transgenders out of the military. Rescind antidiscrimination laws for gays. Defund Planned Parenthood. Deport immigrants. In short, do offensive things to as many social groups as possible in an effort to remove government from business peoples’ business.

But, stunningly, the Trump administration has not reckoned with the fact that those groups fought hard for decades, in huge numbers, to gain protections. The enemy list is expanding even as we watch the deconstruction reach its tentacles into the White House. At the same time, Congress has been deconstructed to the degree that the majority party can’t even pass a “skinny” repeal of Obamacare.

Civil War?

As the Trump administration fails, turning its fight inward upon its own White House and Congress, the disenfranchised white male population, already armed and dangerous, may find itself without hope. The whole point of the election will be lost, and at that point violence will be the only option. The irony is that when the gunfire starts, Trump will have to call out the National Guard to fight his own supporters. But, almost before the sun sets, Scaramucci’s out.

Syria, Nicaragua, and the US: the Mighty Threesome

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Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser, said of Trump at the G-7 Meeting, “He came here to learn. He came here to get smarter… His views are evolving, which is exactly as they should be.” But because Trump is not capable of learning or getting smarter, he came away only more sure of his campaign promise–the only promise he is able to keep without courts or Congress to balance his incompetence.

Clearly, Trump didn’t want to commit to withdrawal at the G-7 meeting in Sicily because he would have had to justify it, to answer questions. He was unable to do that. Here, he can withdraw from a distance and not have to stand up to direct criticism in the room. His case is  simple in every respect. It was a campaign promise, and the only one, so far, that he can effect without having to satisfy other governmental agencies.

The upshot? We join only Nicaragua and Syria in declining to pledge to reduce carbon emissions. Who’d a thought? Syria, Nicaragua, and the US, a mindless threesome. At least Syria and Nicaragua had an excuse.