Love it or Leave it

electoral-college

 

The news that thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans are threatening to leave the country now that Donald Trump is President illustrates an important fact of life: We humans tend to seek the company of like minded people.

Most of the disgruntled American voters probably won’t actually go to Canada, of course. That’s more complicated than it sounds (although I recently read a report that Americans seeking jobs in Canada had crashed a web site with their applications).

What’s more likely is migration to a different state. A lot of Americans are relocating  because they can’t stand their neighbors.

Take, for example, this excerpt from a comment by “graywolf 48” on a recent Daily Kos article:

I lived 30-plus years in Florida. I was more than happy to leave. I found it to be a very hateful state and getting worse with every passing year.

Yes, graywolf 48, I understand how you feel. The Sunshine State seems to attract some really intolerant – and intolerable – folks, including a breed of retirees the kids call “wrinklebeasts.”

They got theirs, such as it is, and they aren’t about to share it with anyone else. Let those lazy bums starve. And their kids, too. Who told them to have kids anyway?

I get that kind of thing a lot, living in Lakeland, Florida. It seems everybody else around here voted for Trump. Why? As far as I could tell, they resent government aid to the poor and sick, and want a “businessman” to run the country in a “businesslike” way.

Sandra keeps urging me to get us to Canada. I think I still have my Canadian citizenship so that shouldn’t be too troublesome. But it’s a big decision, and I’ll have to see how things go in the era of Trump.

On a less personal note, I think interstate migration has far reaching political implications. Urban areas are getting bluer, and rural areas are getting redder.

One result is that the electoral college is becoming less democratic with each passing year. Created to strengthen the agrarian elite and give slaveholding states more clout, the electoral college system makes your vote less valuable if you live in an urban area than if you live out in the sticks.

For example, a vote in California or Florida is worth only a fraction of a vote in – say – Wyoming.

It seems inevitable to me that, unless America abandons the electoral college and elects the President by popular vote, the states will grow farther and farther apart until the union disintegrates.

The electoral college and democracy

Where Americans are going

 

In an Alternate Reality

trump

 

As the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater observed, perception is reality. Not always, of course, but often enough to make it worth remembering.

I’m sure Donald Trump remembers it.

His modus operandi seems to be based on that belief. He doesn’t seem to care about facts or the truth. He focuses only on the next news cycle.

That’s how he scored one of history’s greatest political upsets. And, apparently, that’s how he will govern.

Take the Carrier saga, for example.

Scanning the headlines and glancing at the TV news, you might conclude that President-elect Trump forcefully stepped in and stopped Carrier from moving 1,400 air conditioning factory jobs to Mexico. You might be left with the impression that he did it by warning the company he would impose a 30 percent tax on their air conditioners when they enter the US.

After all, that’s what he said he was gong to do.

But what Trump – at least the Trump team –  did was bribe Carrier to keep about 1,000 jobs in America. His vice president, Mike Pence, who happens still to be governor of Indiana, is giving Carrier a multimillion-dollar tax incentive to keep their Indianapolis plant open.

No word of threatened tariffs. No evidence that Trump/Pence even threatened Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, with the loss of the cushy government contracts they enjoy.

And Carrier’s parent company is sill moving jobs from Indiana to Mexico.  And not just from Indianapolis. United Technologies plans to close its Huntington plant, which has about 700  employees, despite the bribe from Pence.

The Carrier episode is just another sorry sellout to Big Business, the kind of thing Republicans have been doing for decades. But that’s not the way tough-talking Trump is spinning it.

In Trump’s alternate reality, he is the hands-on champion of America’s workers, ready and able to protect  them from those job stealing corporations.

And you can bet his faithful followers will be only too willing to accept his version of reality. Again.

What really happened

Meanwhile, in Huntington…

 

How Could You Believe Him?

There’s an old song that goes something like this:

How could you believe me when I said I love you when you know I’ve been a liar all my life?”

And I think that would be an appropriate tweet for Donald Trump to make as he assembles his team from Hell.

Htrump-snake-oil-salesman-toonow could working class people – white, black, Hispanic or whatever –  think for one minute that Trump would ease their economic misery? He is a millionaire’s son who became a billionaire by lying and cheating. Does that sound like someone who would give a damn about a poor clod on the breadline?

How could seniors think he would protect our Social Security and Medicare? Does he need a Social Security check? Will any of his children ever need a Social Security check? Do any members of his numerous posh golf clubs depend on Social Security to pay the mortgage or Medicare to pay the hospital bills?

No folks, this is no benign patriarch come to rescue Americans from hard times. This is a latter-day Rehoboam, come to chastise them with scorpions.

Look at the choices he is making for his administration. Stephen Bannon as chief strategist! Jeff Sessions as attorney general! Tom Price as health secretary! Mike Pompeo as CIA director!

What rock did Trump kick over to find those critters? Racists and bigots all, who can be counted on to oppress the poor, enrich the powerful and persecute the vulnerable.  And there are more creepy-crawlies waiting in the wings.

What? You thought Trump was going to “drain the swamp” and  assemble a team of enlightened folks with superior brains and kind hearts to cure the nation’s – and the world’s – ills?

Really? You believed all that? When you knew he has been a liar all his life?

Trump’s picks so far

More on Trump’s cabinet

Seniors beware!!!

 

Judging Fidel Castro

dakota

 

As I listen to the pundits on TV and read their comments on the Internet, I wonder whether they believe what they say or are just making plausible remarks to draw a paycheck.

Surely they must know how hollow they sound when they dismiss Fidel Castro as a “brutal dictator”?

Look, I know Castro goes to meet his maker with the blood of thousands on his hands. He will have to answer for the shooting squads, the repression of political opposition and the suffering of those he impoverished and imprisoned.

FILE - In this March 1985 file photo, Cuba's leader Fidel Castro exhales cigar smoke during an interview at the presidential palace in Havana, Cuba. Castro has died at age 90. President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died late Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, File)

In this March 1985 file photo, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro exhales cigar smoke during an interview at the presidential palace in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, File)

But how can we be self righteous when we pass judgment on the man? How can we ignore the two-by-fours in our own eyes while pointing so scathingly to the speck of dust in Castro’s?

Especially while Native Americans are still at this moment being brutalized in North Dakota as they protest the pollution of their water supply and invasion of their sacred burial grounds (photo above).

How can today’s Americans ignore the shameful history of genocide and plunder that gave us the plush lifestyle we enjoy?

It is a history stained with blood and befouled by injustice and rapaciousness. We live the way we do today because of atrocities committed by others long dead — not just the Trail of Tears, not just the abomination of slavery, but also the right-wing death squads in Latin America, the slaughter of innocent civilians in needless wars, the incineration of thousands at Hiroshima and Nagasaki…

And the abuses persist. Diamonds and rubies come to us from hell holes of oppression, trapped workers burn to death in criminally unsafe Asian sweatshops, millions die of starvation in Africa because of the neglect and exploitation of those who represent us. I understand that even some of the chocolate we enjoy is harvested by enslaved children.

Sadly. man’s inhumanity to man remains an underlying driving force of this world’s economic and political reality.

In such a global context, in such a historical context, Fidel Castro might be remembered not just as a brutal dictator, but also as an idealist – in my view a sometimes misguided idealist – who did what he thought he had to do for the greater good of his people.

Life and death of Fidel Castro

Fidel and Jamaica

More on the North Dakota protest

The Native Americans’ sad history

“Blood diamonds” and rubies

 

Trump’s Black Hole

trump

 

I haven’t been able to come up with a blog for days because I felt unable to contribute to an understanding of global or national events. How do you make sense of the Trump era? How do you shed light on a black hole so bottomless and impenetrable?

Trump pledged during his campaign to turn the ship of state completely around, and the voters handed him the rudder. But in modern times, the ship of state is more like a train, a long, long train. Turning it around is going to be complicated. And risky.

In global affairs, Americans have long accepted the role of a big brother ready to extend a helping hand to less prosperous nations, the champion of progress, democracy and freedom. Trump vowed to change that role, to become a predator rather than a protector, to pursue unabashed “America first” policies.

I wonder how the rest of the world will react to that switch? I wonder whether other countries might retaliate with trade restrictions and even dump the US dollar as the global reserve currency?

At home, his vision seems to be a return to white privilege, male dominance and religious bigotry, where some Americans will prosper from oppression of other Americans.  Has this society come so far only to be turned completely around now? I doubt it.

I thought there might be a chance Trump was just running one of his scams – the biggest and most audacious scam yet – that he would not dare to implement the policies he promised. But the people he is picking for his administration seem to indicate that’s a forlorn hope.

If he succeeds, even partially, in changing America as he has promised, the implications would be too far reaching to predict. And if he fails, as I am convinced he will, the mess he leaves behind will be horrific.

More on Trump’s picks

 

The Myth of the Center

elections

 

The Democratic Party lost its way trying to find the center in American politics. As Hillary’s presidential campaign wore on, she tacked to the right, presumably hoping to attract Republicans disenchanted with Donald Trump.

But when the time came to vote, the disenchanted Republicans held their noses and chose Trump after all.

Tim Kaine was one of Hillary’s most obvious concessions. Kaine is a nice man, a good man, but he is no progressive. Choosing him as her running mate conflicted with the party’s platform, which was more in line with Bernie and Elizabeth Warren.

The Republicans did not compromise. They stuck to their guns and voted for their standard bearer, no matter what.

I hope Democrats will now abandon the notion that any political party can please all the people all the time. They must decide what the party stands for and stick with that message in good times and in bad.

There is no center in politics. While your vision might seem attractive to some voters, it will surely be rejected by others. The trick is to please the most voters – and to get them excited enough to vote.

Bernie had a clear and simple message of economic reform. Trump, although confusing and contradictory, managed to convey a promise of change. But in the end, what voters got from Hillary’s campaign was an unfocused message and the prospect of business as usual.

I know, that might seem unfair. Hillary had a lot of good, progressive proposals to offer, but you had to visit her web site to learn about them. Her campaign ads and speeches seemed – to me anyway – to be all about bad boy Trump.

And it seems that’s just what many of Trump’s supporters wanted – a bad boy to wreak havoc in Washington. It will be up to the Democrats to figure out how to pull this nation out of the wreckage that’s sure to result from Trump’s presidency.

More on the Democrats’ loss

 

“Master Race” Fascism Reawakens

trump2

 

You might think the world would never again tolerate the rise of “master race” fascism. Surely, mankind has learned from the Holocaust and the other terrors inflicted by the Nazis?

But you might be mistaken. There are signs throughout Europe and in America that racially charged fascism is emerging from the shadows and becoming politically mainstream.

In Britain, right-wing extremists are basking in their Brexit victory.

In America, Richard Spencer’s “Allt-Right” movement, which staged a show of strength in Washington over the weekend, has been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump.

In France,  Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of the Front National, said that Trump “made possible what had previously been presumed impossible.” She is urging voters in her country to rise up against “the elite” as they had in America.

In Germany, the right-wing nationalist party, Alternative for Germany, is poised to make significant gains in next year’s elections.

All of these movements oppose non-white immigration. Spencer, for example, flatly advocates the creation of a white homeland. He says Europeans are “conquerors” and are superior to other ethnic groups.

You might say Trump is not necessarily sympathetic to global racists. But he has not denounced them. Indeed, Marion Le Pen’s niece, Maréchal-Le Pen, said Trump’s representatives have invited her to work with him.

And Stephen Bannon, Trump’s senior adviser, is a close ally of Brexit architect Nigel Farage, who visited America to support Trump’s presidential campaign.

Trump’s election is a product not only of economic resentment but also of white rage. And the world cannot afford to ignore this fact, however uncomfortable it may be to acknowledge it.

More on Richard Spencer

More on the rise of the far right

Racism and Trump’s victory

 

No Dignity, No Pride

trump

 

The abject surrender of Trump’s former opponents in the Republican Party makes me cringe. How can Mitt Romney shake the hand of a man he called “a fraud,” “a con man,” a phony” and “a danger to democracy”?

Why would Romney want to work for someone like Trump? How can he find common ground with someone he accused of “playing the American public for suckers”?

Was Romney mistaken when he said Trump “has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president”?

He must have been, for there he was yesterday shamelessly kissing Trump’s ring in a bid for the position of secretary of state in the new president’s regime.

Why would a billionaire like Romney stoop so low? Surely he doesn’t need a job that badly?

And Ted Cruz. Didn’t Cruz denounce Trump, refusing to endorse him at the Republican convention? Didn’t Cruz call Trump “a pathological liar”? Didn’t Cruz warn America that Trump is”utterly amoral,” “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen” and “a serial philanderer”?

Wasn’t it Cruz who said “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father”? Wasn’t it Cruz who vowed he would never be Trump’s “servile puppy dog”?

How can Cruz now proclaim Trump’s election as “an amazing victory for the American worker”? How can Cruz swallow his pride and offer his services as Trump’s attorney general?

Is this how sleazy the Republican Party is now? Is there nobody left with any pride or dignity? These are the people who now lead “the party of Lincoln”?

Romney and Trump

Cruz and Trump

 

Elections Have Consequences

canada2

 

The protests against Donald Trump’s election victory are a waste of time. The protesters must realize that elections have consequences, and the way to influence those consequences is to vote.

Democrats did not turn out, so they lost.

Now, they will simply have to live with Trump’s racist, xenophobic, bigoted presidency. They probably will also have to live with economic disaster. Trump’s trickle-down approach has been tried and tried before, and it does not work.

With Trump’s selection of Michael Flynn as his national security advisor, we might even have to face catastrophic wars. Flynn is such a hothead he was kicked out of the Pentagon. Pray that he doesn’t plunge the world into a nuclear conflict.

Instead of blocking traffic, the protesters should be planning for the next election. In just two years, we will have an opportunity to regain control of Congress. And that will be the best defense against Trump’s excesses.

For example, we can put enough Democrats in the Senate to block his extreme Supreme Court choices. With a Republican Congress, Trump will stack the court with justices he can count on to repeal legalized abortion and turn back the clock on civil rights. If you don’t believe me, look at the people he has picked for his cabinet so far. Jefferson Davis Beauregard Sessions, for one.

With Alt Right apostle Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, Trump will trample civil rights, pander to the NRA, antagonize America’s global allies and increase income inequality. There will be no consideration for the LGBT community. Their right to marry the person they love will probably be taken away.

As for us seniors, we are in danger of losing Medicare and Social Security. If Trump gets his way, these life saving social programs will be turned over to his corporate cronies, who will rob us blind.

But Trump is assured of a Republican Congress for only the next two years. Democrats should be figuring out how to turn Congress blue in 2018. Wandering about in the streets won’t do any good.

 

In the Fake News Era

fake

 

To an old reporter like me, the “fake news” phenomenon is hard to take. In my day, we were so careful to check and double-check our stories. There was a a total ban on “single-source” reports, for example. If we couldn’t get a story confirmed, we didn’t publish it.

Now, with nearly half of Americans getting their news from Facebook, there is no line between reality and fiction.

You may have read on Facebook, for example, that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump and that leaked emails showed Hillary sold weapons to ISIS. Fake news stories like these were shared by millions of the site’s users.

There are dozens of people out there making up stuff to put on the internet. One example is Paul Horner, a 38-year-old fake-news impresario, who makes a living from concocting crazy stories and putting them on Facebook.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Horner  explains his success this way:

Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.

How dumb is the American public?

Well, when I was in the hospital recently, a young nurse earnestly informed me that she had read an article accusing Hillary Clinton of having an affair with an under-age girl. The young nurse seemed totally convinced that the story was accurate.

And Rickie, who lives across the street from Sandra and me, breathlessly reported that the Clintons regularly visit a 72-acre island in the Caribbean to have sex with children. He said the island is owned by a registered sex offender, billionaire Jeffery Epstein, and has a statue of “the owl god” on it, presumably for pagan rituals.

Now, if you can believe these stories, you won’t have any trouble accepting the zillions of conspiracy theories spewing from the far-right noise machine. You could also accept the notion that the “mainstream media” are spreading lies and the fake news outlets are the ones telling the truth.

Facebook and other popular “social media” sites are promising to try and curb the spread of false news. But, apparently, there isn’t much they can do except restrict access to advertising dollars  – when they identify which “news” is fake.

It’s a scary situation. I don’t see how democracy can survive when the Fourth Estate is so perverted. Do you?

Horner’s interview

More on fake news

Fake news web sites

Some popular fake news items