On the Sunny Side in 2017

I’ve been in the hospital three times in the past six weeks, so you’ll have to forgive me for feeling morose. So morose that I can see nothing to cheer about in America’s – and the world’s – political future.

I see a Trump era ahead, in which Republicans are allowed to turn back the clock while the new President wheels and deals with the Russian mob, raking in the ill-gotten loot.

But I see one bright spot. Golf.

As I told a young nurse named Allison, taking up the game when I was about her age was the best decision I ever made. Not only because playing it has helped me weather the storms of life but also because of the many absorbing hours I’ve spent watching it and reading about it.

I only hope Allison takes my advice and heads for the driving range. She would never regret it.

Of course, playing is out of the question for me for a while, but I am looking forward to watching a great year of golf – perhaps the best year ever.

And I don’t say that lightly. I know about 1930, when Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam. And 1953 when Ben Hogan captured the Masters and the two Opens…. And  the Tiger years.

But 2017 could top all of those epic years.

Tiger is back. Phil is still the thrill. Bubba is … well.. .Bubba. And the young guns are coming after them – Jordan, Dustin, Rory and Jason to name a few.

There are lots more where they came from – Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Hidecki Matsuyama… and on and on.

And that’s just the men. You want to see talent? How about Lydia Ko? Brooke Henderson? Ariya Jutanugarn? Lexi Thompson?

Yes, folks. As I peer morosely into the future, I am heartened by the assurance that  golf will help get through the dismal year ahead. Just as it has helped me survive those other rough seas I encountered jn past years.

 

Person of the Year

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Time Magazine got it wrong. Donald Trump should not be the Person of the Year. That honor should have gone to Vladimir Putin.

Without firing a shot, the Russian dictator brought America’s democratic process to its knees and installed his fawning puppet as “leader of the free world.”

This bloodless coup is becoming more and more obvious as Trump picks his governing team. By reportedly choosing Rex Tillerson (above with his buddy Putin) as his secretary of state, Trump is signaling he will act in Putin’s interests, regardless of the fallout.

Tillerson, who heads the largest oil company in the world,  is Putin’s close friend and business associate. Tillerson can be counted on to go along with Putin’s campaign to rebuild the former Soviet Union. And he will surely use his influence to end US economic sanctions, which blocked his company’s half-trillion-dollar oil deal with Russia.

The Soviet Union used to be the “other” superpower, rivaling the US. But with the Soviets’ economic collapse, China has assumed that role. Apparently, Putin envisages a US-Russia alliance to counter China’s growing power.

Trump’s constant criticism of China – he was on Twitter again this morning with more accusations against the Chinese – leaves no doubt that he is on Putin’s side.

What this new alignment will mean to you and me is impossible to predict. But now that the world’s largest superpower has been outmaneuvered  by Putin’s hackers, it’s clear the Russian strong man is in the global driver’s seat. At least for the next four years.

More on Rex Tillerson

A Trump Twitter tirade

 

Laid up. No Blogs

george-headI slipped in the shower and hit my head a couple of nights ago. Blood everywhere. Couldn’t stop the bleeding. Brought to mind that line in Macbeth where Lady Macbeth says: “Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?”

Sandra called 9-1-1, and the paramedics came, bandaged my head and transported me to the emergency room at Lakeland Regional Health Center. A young doctor showed up and stitched and stitched until he finally stopped the flow of blood. Brain scans and shoulder x ray were negative.

But can’t type very well with this bruised shoulder.

I’m back home under Sandra’s care, and will resume blogging as soon as I am able.

Special thanks to my daughter Grace who phoned our neighborhood Publix from Miami and talked a good Samaritan named Bob into delivering us groceries and cat food as I certainly was in in condition to go shopping.

 

Did Anderson Email Me?

andersonAs I read the emails, supposedly from CNN and touting some online work-at-home deal, it occurred to me that they had the tone and feel of one of those videos about curing diabetes by eating foods recommended in the Bible.

There were two emails. Official looking, with the CNN logo boldly displayed. One message, supposedly from Anderson Cooper (at right), quoted Warren Buffet. The other, attributed to “Faith Karimi and Joe Suttton,” quoted Donald Trump.

Both offered to make me rich beyond my wildest dreams just by using my home computer.

So had Anderson become a work-at-home shill? And was CNN in on it?

I doubted that very much. I was sure the emails were forgeries. Neither CNN nor Anderson would get mixed up in anything like that. And there’s so much fraudulent stuff circulating these days that I was convinced this was just another scam.

But I searched and searched in vain for confirmation of my suspicions. I even checked Snopes but didn’t find anything about these strange emails.

And then I found a report that Warren Buffet has issued a warning against “a web site using his image to promote a work-from-home offer.” Here’s an excerpt:

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway took the unusual step of issuing a news release about the website that purports to show a CNN interview between Buffett and Anderson Cooper this summer.

Berkshire says Buffett has not spoken to Cooper in the last five years, and he hasn’t discussed Britain’s vote to leave the European Union with Cooper.

Buffett also says he doesn’t know anything about the “Global Cash Code” scheme touted on the site.

No word so far on the message quoting Trump. And nothing from Anderson or CNN.

I would think it takes a lot of  nerve to impersonate CNN and Anderson Cooper – not to mention Warren Buffet and Donald Trump, And I wonder who’s behind it.

Do you know anything about this outbreak of fishy emails?

If you know anything, post a comment. I don’t intend to sign up for one of those jobs posting links for Google, of course. But I’m curious.

The message quoting Buffet

Buffet’swarning

The message quoting Trump

 

Love it or Leave it

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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