One & One-Half

THE TWELVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS DONALD TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME (Thing No. 1):

That I was privileged to live in America’s Golden Age.

Yes, 2020 was a challenging, no, a horrible year. The Trump presidency wound down toward an election loss to a demonstrably decent patriot who loves America as much as I do. So there will be some better days ahead. But, with so much to be turned around and salvaged, what will our new President Biden be able to accomplish and sustain?

My fear is that you and I, dear reader, have seen the best of America’s days. We are the country that, in my lifetime, liberated Europe, emptied the concentration camps, welcomed millions of immigrants, advanced space technology, outlasted the Soviets in a Cold War and did all these things and still managed to turn out creditable literature, music, and visual art. Government programs provided assistance so that people could eat, become educated and receive a level of health care that, even at its lowest level, was better than people receive in much of the rest of the world.

Our appraisal of history is limited by our place on the time line and by our position in society. When I say we have lived during the Golden Age, I understand that most of the people who were alive at various times in the past probably believed that they were living in their country’s best years. And, of course, that assessment would vary by each person’s place in society. What may look like a golden age to one person, will look like a lifelong descent into hell by someone born without the privilege of color or inheritance. I am sure that my view turns to a large degree on having been born white and in a family where one or the other of my parents was able to work and secure some income most of the time.

But looking ahead to the future, there are so many problems of truly major proportions that it is hard to be optimistic. The climate is changing rapidly. We know why it is changing. We know how to retard and even stop the process. But we would rather gorge ourselves on material wealth, travel and entertainment. In the process, we have attacked the science capable of providing deliverance. Why? For revealing truths that would demand a level of discipline from us that no government was willing to enforce. The inconvenient truths Vice President Gore warned us about years ago.

We have undermined and exploited public education by privatization and “reforms” designed to reward teachers for teaching their students how to test. We have purposely denied health care to millions of Americans by failing to expand Medicaid to take full advantage of available federal funding. And political leaders have purposely led the public to distrust science, the key to so much of the nation’s progress since our founding.

After decades of progress in expanding the franchise, we are watching Republican majorities shrink the electorate through shameful voter suppression techniques. Technology assisted gerrymandering has made it possible for legislators and parties to perpetuate their majorities in the Congress irrespective of the general will of the voters. As a result, the legislative process is usually in a state of gridlock and unable to legislate for the needs of the citizens.

We have catered to the National Rifle Association as they campaigned to put guns and ammunition into the hands of every right wing voter the industry could reach in order to shake them down for the price of long guns and ammunition. The court has provided them an interpretation of the Second Amendment that arms manufacturers have taken to the bank while consumers take to the streets, armed and dangerous, to make the country safe for the nonsense and lies they have seen and read online.

All of these things taken together make it likely that we have not seen the last of DJT and his “base.” He was not the most competent candidate to lead an authoritarian movement. He may trail off into the sunset but the followers he has stirred will find someone else and, sooner or later, they will find someone with more of the skills and planning abilities to move beyond the entertainer stage of development Trump seemed be stuck in. It’s a job my junior United States senator seems to be auditioning for with great relish.

I look to the future of our country with foreboding. There may be another “Greatest Generation” out there. It seems odd to say it, but it may be us they have to liberate this time.

For the last fifty or so years, I have suppressed my pessimism. But my visions of the bad things that could happen have come true more often than not. I wish I had something more than thoughts and prayers to offer the young ones who have to try and deal with the mess we are leaving them. But I am afraid it has come to that.

Thoughts and prayers – and Joe and Kamala. May God bless them in their work.

2020 – A SILENT GENERATION LAMENT

The cohort of Americans born between 1928 and 1945 has been called the Silent Generation. I didn’t know that I was a member of the Silent Generation until I wrote the piece below and I looked up “generation” in Wikipedia to see if I was indeed a boomer myself or, maybe, even an undeserving member of what they were calling the Greatest Generation. I found out that I am stuck in between the two. We are hardly noticed by the folks who try to generalize about the behavioral characteristics of people born in certain age cohorts.

I was late coming to the Silent Generation so my adult years were spent with talk everywhere about “boomers.” Marketing and media primarily addressed their needs and preferences. I heard so much about boomers that I subconsciously identified and, in any case, I was very nearly one myself since you could say that I was born on the cusp. But as I read more about those years between 1928 and 1945, I could see how completely my life was in the grip of that history.

What follows is very long. If you decide to read it, you will see that it is laid out like a poem. If it reads like prose to you, at least stop for a beat to think before going to the next line. Each bit of our history is loaded with plenty to think about. Yes, Truman and Eisenhower may not excite you. Ozzie and Harriet may bore you. But the kids who first learned about the world from floor model radios and small black and white screens had much to think about. And we have much to regret.

The piece is a personal project. It was completed during the 2020 election campaign and before the Biden-Harris election results were known. Although it is a hopeful sign, it doesn’t really change much. Having lived through alternating and descending stair steps down into Trump hell, I know that it will take more than a single presidential election to get us heading onward and upward again. But we must continue the struggle.

Continue reading “2020 – A SILENT GENERATION LAMENT”

Some Thoughts on the Election from Over There

www.theguardian.com/books/2020/oct/24/how-do-we-become-a-serious-people-again-dave-eggers-annie-proulx-and-more-on-the-2020-election

I will offer more on this myself after I finish reading the entries from various writers. However, after reading the first by Annie Proulx and the next by Dave Eggers, I wanted to go ahead and post it so others could take a look for themselves. The Guardian offers a fresh view from the UK that I don’t get from the Times and the Post, my usual first stops in the morning.

I will get back to these essays later. In the meantime, enjoy them as YOU have the time.

Summing Up: After the Plague

For the last few days I have been setting down a few of the things that America needs to work on right away. The experience of dealing with a pandemic during a period of such ineptitude in national leadership has made it very clear that we need to do these things. Limiting DJT to a single term will help, but it won’t fix the things that need fixing. So, today I would like to quickly review the items covered and then offer a quick list of some additional things to work on once we have a congress and administration willing to begin dealing with the realities of our world.

Last Tuesday (May 28) I suggested that the first priority should be to adopt a program of universal health care.

Next, I talked about the electoral and legislative processes that could benefit from some tuning and the application of current technologies. The guiding objective would be to improve the fidelity of communications so that voters can be assured that those in the seats of power in government hear “their masters’ voice” more clearly.

On Thursday, I addressed the need to correct the imbalance in income and wealth distribution that has occurred over the last four decades of Tea Party tax cutting and the Republican attacks on the graduated income tax.

Saturday (May 2), I talked about the necessity of having the public sector and education professionals in charge of primary and secondary education again.

And, finally, the need to restore the civil service and properly staff the government with qualified, independent, non-partisan professionals is also of paramount importance.

That should keep the 117th Congress busy for a couple of years. But there is so much more that needs to be done while we have at least two branches of government enlisted on the side of sanity, goodwill, and a spirit of sharing. Here are a few:

  • Maybe we should look at how we are teaching civics and government in public schools and in college. We are experiencing a generation of voters who have no clear understanding of their job and responsibilities in a democracy. They think it is enough to have an opinion, wave the flag and cheer for other people’s sacrifices without understanding what the government does and how to apply one’s own constitutionally endowed power to make it work for their own interests and those of their families. So, enough about the patriotic symbols and hero-worshipping the founders: Let’s teach about the principles underlying our constitution and the mechanics of governing.
  • Make our foreign policy consistent with the need for promoting governments around the world that will take care of the rights and needs of women and children as their top priorities. (Of course, we must first make that our policy here. Much of that can occur if we take care of those top five items I discussed.)
  • Make major investments in infrastructure consistent with Green New Deal goals that will provide jobs and address climate change issues.
  • Put climate change at the center of our domestic and foreign policy concerns. Four long years have ticked off the clock of doom while DJT gave his pulpit over to science denial and the short-term interests of industries that make money from environmental exploitation. And while we are at it, we need to re-examine the principles of American capitalism and how It relates to government and the people.

And as we take on this list of necessary reforms, we need to always keep in mind the constitutional features that have tended to make us less a nation and less a democracy. It may be time for us to try nationhood and democracy rather than the federal system that works pretty well so long as people behave as if we are a nation. However, lately it has proven to be an impediment to national action when we most needed to act as a single nation.

And, democracy? We owe our tears and shame for what we have done to that sweet ideal as DJT has exploited and corrupted our public purposes at every turn and has placed America on the side of dictators and power hungry narcissists like himself, wherever he finds them in the world.

The President Discusses Wind Energy with Young People

The president addressed a group of young voters yesterday at something called the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. I have copied his remarks from the White House web site where you may read the entire official transcript. His remarks follow:

We’ll have an economy based on wind.  I never understood wind.  You know, I know windmills very much.  I’ve studied it better than anybody I know.  It’s very expensive.  They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none.  But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes.  Gases are spewing into the atmosphere.  You know we have a world, right?  So the world is tiny compared to the universe.  So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything.  You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air.  Right?  Spewing.  Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air.  It’s our air, their air, everything — right?

So they make these things and then they put them up.  And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price.  They’re noisy.  They kill the birds.  You want to see a bird graveyard?  You just go.  Take a look.  A bird graveyard.  Go under a windmill someday.  You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen ever in your life.  (Laughter.)

You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle.  If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for 10 years.  A windmill will kill many bald eagles.  It’s true.

And you know what?  After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off.  That’s true, by the way.  This is — they make you turn it off after you — and yet, if you killed one they put you in jail.  That’s okay.  But why is it okay for these windmills to destroy the bird population?  And that’s what they’re doing.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Because they’re idiots!

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  This is a conservative group, Dan.  (Applause.)  No, but it’s true.  Am I right?  (Applause.)

I’ll tell you another thing about windmills.  And I’m not — look, I like all forms of energy.  And I think (inaudible) — really, they’re okay in industrial areas.  Like you have an industrial plant, you put up a windmill — you know, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields — most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up.  And sometimes they’re made by different companies.  You know, I’m like a perfectionist; I really built good stuff.  And so you’ll see like a few windmills made by one company: General Electric.  And then you’ll see a few made by Siemens, and you’ll see a few made by some other guy that doesn’t have 10 cents, so it looks like a — so you see all these windows, they’re all different shades of color.  They’re like sort of white, but one is like an orange-white.  (Laughter.)  It’s my favorite color: orange.  (Applause.)

No, but — and you see these magnificent fields, and they’re owned — and you know what they don’t tell you about windmills?  After 10 years, they look like hell.  You know, they start to get tired, old.  You got to replace them.  A lot of times, people don’t replace them.  They need massive subsidy from the government in order to make it.  It’s really a terrible thing.

Recommended: Thomas Friedman in the New York Times on Immigration Policy

Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent review of immigration problems, procedures and policies for the New York Times in this morning’s edition. It is listed as an opinion piece but Friedman always writes from a background of solid reporting and this piece provides a comprehensive review of the current situation at the southern border and the likelihood of future developments if we do nothing to change.

Fans of the president may not get beyond his endorsement of the need for physical barriers. That is unfortunate because he makes the point that a wall alone accomplishes little or nothing. However, he also describes places where physical barriers have worked to the advantage of communities on both sides of the border allowing commerce to thrive and homeowners to enjoy their property.

Federal employees whose job it is to enforce our rag-tag immigration policies are underfunded and tasked with carrying out unenforceable laws. Comments you are likely to encounter on FB often present our choice as being between open borders and building a wall. Not so. Life is so much more complicated than that and it gets more complicated the longer we ignore the real problems we share with our neighbors.

(The Friedman article is here. If you cannot read it from this link, you may have to subscribe to the NY Times. Maybe it’s time to throw your support to good journalism.)