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.

 

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.

 

Crisis

Trump is not mentally well, and is not fit to be president. This does not address conservative philosophy or policies. This is not political, but is about his mental state. This should be obvious to any objective viewer for the following reasons.

1) His inability to discriminate between fact and fiction. This is a pathology completely unacceptable in a public servant in charge of national security and defense. He is so driven by his ego needs that he can’t distinguish real from imaginary phenomena. He drives his press secretary and spokesmen to repeat his lies when he feels offended.

2) Related to this, his naïve acceptance of conspiracy theories. He does not know how to vet information or its sources, and is prone to believe anything that feels good. He does not accept objective scientific information unless it serves to stroke his ego.

3) His breathless rush to sign executive orders. He has both houses of congress, which will happily pass any rational legislation that fits within the conservative philosophy. But his gag orders on government agencies indicate fear of working with people. All of his life he has sent out mandates. He has no experience in cooperative efforts, and so cannot risk debate and discussion in congress. Thus, in his rush to self aggrandizement, he ignores the legislative branch of government and shuns established alliances such as NATO.

4) He has angry outbursts and meltdowns, typical of narcissistic personalities, usually driven by events that don’t support his agenda. Meltdowns could be catastrophic in times of crisis.

5) He has to keep his family (mainly his sons and daughter) close by to help him govern, much like an Alzheimer’s victim. He needs help remembering what he’s doing, what he’s already done, and what he must do next. These functions fall to relatives rather than to advisors and outside collaborators. Ronald Reagan similarly used his wife to manage his affairs and even press conferences. This is an embarrassment that puts the US in a position of weakness.

6) His thoughtless treatment of his wife, and his infatuation with his daughter are other indicators of serious personality disorders.

7) His obsession with criticism and his need to get revenge. Personal slights reverberate for days, weeks, or in some cases, years. This is a distraction from important business, and in international cases, is a weakness that could cause injury to the nation’s diplomatic status.

We have dealt with many twists and turns in our history, but this is a crisis we’ve not faced before. How long will Pence and the Cabinet allow him to continue like this?

 

 

Why Trump?

A recent Facebook post by Brendan O’Neill addressed the question: “TRUMP?! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??” He posted a list of eighteen reasons that people (he, in particular, I think) voted for Trump. Here is the list, just as he posted it.screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-10-12-02-am

On religious questions, reason is subordinate to belief. In fact, in many religions, rational argument is held as an enemy of the Truth. Jesus apparently said that unless we become as children, with blind, unquestioning faith, we can’t see the Kingdom of Heaven. The person who is convinced that Jesus physically rose into the clouds, for example, defying gravity, cannot entertain the possibility that a metaphor is in play. The metaphor, contrary to its purpose, directly contradicts the accepted fact: Jesus was not bound by the laws of physics. Once this “fact” is established in the mind, no amount of discussion can alter it. A thousand demonstrations that everything known in the universe follows gravitational equations will not matter. Reason and analysis will not penetrate the fortress.

Similarly, once a person has accepted as fact that Donald Trump is the answer to their personal offenses, however trivial or desperate, no display of flagrant narcissism, in-your-face examples of deviate behaviors, lawsuits settled at costs of tens of millions of dollars, or vicious diatribes directed at most groups within society will have any effect on the belief. Any analysis of the vehicle—that he has no regard whatever for facts, that he changes his spots with each audience, that he denies saying what he just said, that he has been married three times, that global climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, that his products are made in China, that he’s been bankrupt four times, that he denies ever declaring bankruptcy, that he has business deals in twenty-plus countries around the world, that he refuses absolutely to release his tax returns, blah, blah, blah—any discussion at all that involves Trump’s personal failures is held as an attack on him, while we should be locking up Hillary Clinton. It just won’t play.

So I suggest that a better approach, for both sides, is to take point by point the offenses taken by the Trump voters, find examples and explanations, and identify the real culprits. Who is actually behind these offensive policies? And how might they be successfully addressed?

Brendan’s Facebook page gives us absolutely nothing about his history, his education, his place of residence, or his interests. Nevertheless, because it is a raw, angry list of grievances, I am using it as a springboard to address the honest concerns of voters and how they motivated Brendan to vote as he did. Some of Brendan’s issues are very real and merit consideration. Others are trivial, but are indicators of offense taken regardless of actual effects on him or other individuals. The first point is such a trivial one. But other points should provoke deeper thought.

  1. “Trump won because you banned super-sized sodas.”

The problem here is three-fold, at least. First, who? Who banned super-sized sodas? Well, as far as I can tell, New York city was the only place in which this happened, and it was struck down by their court system as unconstitutional after a two-year battle. So, ill-advised and unconstitutional, this law barely made it into the books before it was eliminated from the books. Second, why did they ban them? The law was passed as an effort to address the epidemic of obesity. Not to punish the citizenry in general, but to help kids stay in shape a little better. And three, how do we address Brendan’s personal injury from this law? Well, if he lives in New York, we can apologize for those two years during which he had to buy two sodas to make up for the reduction in size. We can also remind him of the court decision to strike down the law. Upshot: Brendan won that battle! So a Trump vote is a non sequitur. I’m going to have as big a Dr. Pepper as I can find. Continue reading “Why Trump?”