Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Tipping Point, Goodbye "Crypto-Anarchists," Sexual Harassment, Carousel and "The Meeting"

You'll Never Walk Alone

Last week’s rather pessimistic blog concluded with a picture reproduced below, with the caption, “the future.”  Perhaps I should have added Oscar Hammerstein’s famous lyrics from the musical “Carousel.”  Here they are:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

“Carousel” opened on Broadway less that three weeks before much of the dark and the storm of the Second World War ended with Germany’s unconditional surrender.  It was 72 years ago then, when a “golden sky” peeked through the clouds and “the sweet silver song of a lark” might be heard if one listened hard enough. This lyric continues to have universal appeal today, especially today.

Jack Lippman

Playing with Words – “Crypto-Anarchist”

Up until the last posting on this blog I had been using the word “crypto-anarchist” (a word I erroneously believed I had invented) to describe someone who secretly (that’s where ‘crypto’ comes in) believes that we can do without the hierarchy of a governmental structure, which is what anarchy is all about.  Last week, I switched over to calling such folks “almost-anarchists,” people who make it no secret that their desire for very limited government approaches not having any government at all.

It turns out that the word “crypto-anarchist” has actually been around for a while (there actually is a “Crypto-Anarchist Manifesto!) and refers specifically to those who use electronic means, including computer programs involving “encryption,” to get around governments and subvert their activities, particularly those of a regulatory nature.  Julian Assange and his Wikileaks agenda might be considered an example, using encrypted emails to accomplish what governments wouldn’t allow them to do.
From now on, when I want to describe a conservative who wants to do away with most government functions, other than national defense, so that business can be carried on in as close to an unregulated manner as possible, I will henceforth use the term “almost-anarchist.”  “Almost-Anarchism” can be considered the extreme right wing of Libertarianism, which is a movement which aims, among other things, at freeing individuals from interference from “government.”
One of the Koch brothers, David, ran as the Libertarian candidate for Vice President in 1980 so that should give you some idea of that group’s orientation. Since that time, the Koch brothers (at right) have broken off their relationship with the Libertarian Party, preferring to use their influence (and money) to establish and support groups promulgating the libertarian ideas with which they hope to infuse the Republican Party.  Nevertheless, understanding “Almost-Anarchists” can be made easier by studying some of the elements of the Koch brothers’  activities.   Check out an informative March 2016 article  from the Bill Moyers website on this subject BY CLICKING HERE.
While It covers some of the same territory that Jane Mayer’s book, “Dark Money” (a “must” read for anyone who doubts that the United States is in great danger of becoming something other than a democracy), it provides considerable insight of its own as well.  CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

In August of 2011, I included a totally fictitious story (“The Meeting”) on this blog which after reading this article, seems closer to fact than fiction.  That story, for those of you who have not already read it, is included in today’s posting.  I believe that this short story preceded Ms. Mayer's wonderful book by several years.

What is the Tipping Point?

Anyone with half a brain knows that the President’s position regarding moving our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a bad move, along with our recognition of that city as Israel’s capital.  That is already accepted on a “de facto” basis, but putting it on a “de jure” basis can only serve to arouse Palestinian hostility, foment violence and delay any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Anyone with half a brain knows that mocking the North Korean leader and threatening military action is not the way to deal with that country’s nuclear aspirations.  If there is to be a solution, it must be a diplomatic one and not one based on military threats.  War is what happens when diplomacy fails.

Anyone with half a brain knows that ignoring histories of sexual harassment is morally reprehensible and that the President’s thoughts, as recorded on that infamous “Access Hollywood” video as well as the numerous accusations made against the Republican nominee for Senator from Alabama cannot be shoved aside for the sake of political expediency.

It is likely that many Republicans possess far more than half a brain and are beginning to show concern as to what the “tipping point” would be.  When will the President’s behavior prove to be even too much for Republicans in both Houses of Congress who, for the sake of political expediency and to avoid alienating the President’s army of supporters, have up to now supported him?  What will it take for them to rise up and scream “Enough is Enough! We have had it!”

Perhaps it would be best for the President to really shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue to prove his boast that even then his supporters would stick by him if he did that. But believe me, the New York City Police Department and the District Attorney for New York County (Manhattan) would not!  He surely would be arrested, jailed and tried for attempted murder. 

Would that be sufficient to convince Republicans to forget about their "Dopey" in the White House and start putting the welfare of their country and the world ahead of their party and the big money donors to whom it appears it is beholden? 
To avoid such bloodshed on Fifth Avenue though, it should be remembered that a President can also be removed from office according to the Twenty-Fifth Amendment if he is “incapacitated.”  The question remains as to how one defines “incapacitated.”  Woodrow Wilson, and possibly even Ronald Reagan, during their second terms in office might have met the dictionary definition of being “incapacitated” (deprived of strength or power, debilitated).  At this moment, unfortunately for the country, it does not clearly fit that high office’s present occupant, regardless of whether or not he has half a brain.  Duhhh.

Does What this Boss Did Qualify as Sexual Harassment?

The lecherous company president and CEO is peering into neighboring apartments through a telescope from the window of his palatial skyscraper abode.  

Through a bathroom window, he spies an attractive woman stepping out of the shower.  He recognizes her as someone he has seen at company functions, possibly the wife of one of his vice-presidents, and immediately, he "wants" her.  The next day, he contacts her,  insisting that she come visit him in his apartment.  Recognizing him and  knowing of his high position in the company, and perhaps awed or frightened, she dutifully complies. They have a sexual encounter resulting in her pregnancy.  After an unsuccessful attempt to make it appear that the husband was the father, the boss decides to make sure he is killed in an industrial accident.  And they live happily ever after.   This is not fiction.  It really happened.  Check it out in the  Bible.  (Prophets - ll Samuel 11, 12)

Even though he ultimately married her, was King David initially guilty of sexual harassment of Bathsheba?  The "Man (?) Upstairs" seemed to think so and sent the Prophet Nathan to let David know of his (her?) displeasure with his behavior.  

Sexual harassment is still with us. And to a greater extent than what is in the headlines.  Others are now playing the role Nathan did with King David.  It is not inconceivable that within a few years, just to be on the safe side, all TV newspeople and anchors, and those holding leadership roles in the entertainment world, will be women and gay men. Perhaps this also will extend into government and ultimately business, but to a somewhat lesser extent.  

The ultimate reaction to sexual harassment may be found in the mythological legend of Hippolyta, warrior Queen of the Amazons, whose followers only allowed their female offspring to survive, slaying the males.  Of course, ultimately this was self-defeating.  But it's only a legend.


And here is the 2011 short story I promised you in the second item on this posting:

The Meeting
Jack Lippman

The meeting was held in a secluded and luxurious chalet in the foothills of an isolated mountain range.   A private airstrip was the only access to the place other than a rugged unmarked road used to bring in the staff, food and housekeeping essentials from the nearest town, sixty miles away.  A number of private jets were parked at the end of the runway where the hangar and fuel depot were located.   

The men, all casually dressed as if they were there for a weekend of hunting or fishing, sat around a large conference table.  They shall remain nameless, but suffice it to say, each one represented personal wealth in excess of the 300 billion dollar level, which made their eight figure annual salaries almost meaningless.  These were the wealthiest men in America.   If I were to identify them, you would not recognize one name.  Each had gone to great lengths to preserve their anonymity, a quality common to possessors of wealth of this kind.
“Gentlemen,” intoned a short gray-haired man sitting at the table.  “In order to get to our agenda promptly and tend to business, I want to remind all of you of what our group is all about.  I am sure you all already know this … that is why you are here … but these ideas bear frequent repeating.”  No one said anything.  A few of the men nodded their assent.

"Although we as individuals are clearly the most charitable people in the world, our prime objective is wealth preservation.”

“Not exactly,” someone interjected.  “I am not in the least charitable.  I don’t care if people out there live or die or starve or whatever.  I donate for tax purposes.  If the God damn government took away the deductions I get for what I give, and what my foundations give away, I wouldn’t let loose of a red cent.”
“Thank you, George, for your comments.  But let’s get on with it,” the discussion leader continued. 
“Ideally, it would be wonderful if there were no such thing as taxes.  Some of you, I know, have moved a lot of your wealth to countries where there are practically none, but we all know there are limits to how much of that you can do.  So long as we are Americans, we must do as much as we can to keep taxes here to a minimum and deductions and loopholes at a maximum.  We must have a government, for without one, we would lose the protection it provides to allow us the freedom to do what we want with our money.  And of course, at a minimum, we need an army and navy to provide that protection.”
George raised his hand, was recognized, and spoke up.  “Bull.  We don’t need the government to provide us with a military.  We can hire our own.  It’s cheaper that way.  There’s plenty of mercenaries around and no one gives a shit if they get killed.”
“George, thank you for your comments.  That’s something to consider, but let’s get on.  Even though the maximum tax rate is down to 35%. that's still a big hit.  Even with deductions and shelters, it takes a lot out our wallets.  The Democrats would like to see it go back up to 39%, like it was under Clinton.  I would love it back down to 25% or even lower.  Single digits would be fine.  And paying into Social Security is something we must avoid.  That’s a bottomless pit. We only pay into it on a miniscule fraction of our income but I would hate to see that changed, and there are those out there who want to do exactly that.”
“Look at the numbers, though. There are only ten of us in this room and there are maybe another 100,000 top-bracket taxpayers out there who are almost in the same boat as we are, and we are speaking for them too.  Our task is to make sure the government keeps doing it our way.  We have to get the country behind us.  That Norquist fellow did a fine job getting a lot of Congressmen to pledge never to increase taxes nor get rid of our blessed loopholes, but he’s beginning to lose his credibility.  Bush helped him a lot to connect to the conservatives out there, but that’s history now.”
The discussion leader paused briefly, looked out of the massive picture windows at the spectacular scenery surrounding the chalet and continued.  

“As I see it, we must do everything to promote the idea that tax increases, in any form whatsoever, including removing loopholes and deductions, are extremely bad for the country.  We must drill it into the heads of all Americans that taxation removes incentive to invest and grow the economy at all levels and kills jobs.  That gets them every time.  We have to get that into the schools at all levels, even kindergarten.” 
“Ha,” someone laughed.  “Maybe we should put out an Ayn Rand inspired comic book for kids.”
“Great idea,” the leader chuckled. “But this is no laughing matter.  We must convince America that the Laffer curve, the economic ideas of Milton Friedman and of course, of Frederick Hayek, are irrefutable truths, deserving of as much respect as the Ten Commandments.  And that the Keynesian policies of using government spending and higher taxes as tools with which to manage the economy, and to provide an unearned safety net, are poisonous.”
“The way to do this is to convince a majority of Americans of the validity of our positions.  And this is a great time to continue to do this.  The citizenry is hurting and they, like us, are taxpayers.  We need them on our side. They will buy this argument that taxes are the cause of all of the country’s problems, if we shove it down their throats hard enough and often enough.  Put the blame on the government.  It spends too much.  On anything and everything.  As a wise person out there has said, ‘we have to starve the beast.’"

"If the funding for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and every government spending program out there were cut at least in half, we would never again need to even think about raising taxes.  We might even cut them significantly.   Frankly, I know people would be hurting and some might even die, and things the government does, like roads and dams and research, would have to be eliminated.  But it is far more important that this nation preserve our freedom to accumulate wealth without having to share it with anyone else through excessive taxation.  It’s our money. We cannot have anything that would even hint at the Marxist concept of wealth redistribution.  That’s what high taxes really are. The French cut off Louis XIV’s head to start this God damn leftist ball rolling and we aim to make sure it is stopped right here.” 
All those around the table rose and applauded the speaker.
“Okay, here is the way we do it.  And it has to be done so convincingly that even the Congressmen and local politicians who come aboard actually believe this stuff with all their hearts.  That won’t be easy, because some of them are really smart, but we need to make them believers.” 

1. We must control the media.  We have to have at least one or two major TV networks in our pocket whose programming we can control.  We must dominate talk radio, internet web sites, newspapers, particularly in smaller cities and towns, and magazines.  Once they get our message out, it gets E-mailed all over the country, multiplied ten-fold.  

2. We must fund foundations and institutes which provide legitimate appearing material and documentation, telling our story, to be provided to the media.  Generously endowing a few hard-up colleges or universities can result in strong support for our position from the academic world.  

3. We must ally ourselves with groups who seem susceptible to adopting our ideology because they are already single-mindedly devoted to one cause or another.  This blind devotion can be easily transferred to our cause. This will increase our numbers and believe me, this is very applicable to members of Congress and local legislators.  The groups with which we must ally ourselves are endless.  They include pro-Israel groups, pro-life groups, creationists, anti-fluouride groups, home schooling and pro-educational voucher groups, evangelical Christian groups, anti-immigrant groups, chambers of commerce, some professional societies, sporting groups, bankers associations and Second Amendment groups.

4.  We must repeatedly attack any opposition to our positions.  Innuendo and stretching the truth can be used to discredit any who disagree with us.  Guilt by association and lies, even ones easily disproven, are effective tools since refuting them takes the opposition’s eye off of the ball.  Individuals who are in financial distress can be coerced. Anything questionable in an opponent’s personal life should be capitalized on.
“Gentlemen, to embark on this program, we have established an off-shore funding center with access to all of our accounts in this country.  Everything is cryptographically protected to a degree beyond the capability of any government in the world to decipher.  You will never be identified as being involved in this program. Take a deep breath, gentlemen, for here is the price tag to do this job properly." 

"If any of you are not willing to contribute $200,000,000 to this effort right now and commit to that amount each and every year for the next ten years, you may get up and leave this room right now. All of your jets out there have been refueled and are ready to take off with you if you so choose. Remember though, what I propose  is not only for your good, but for the good of the country as we know it.  You see, I am firmly convinced of the truth of every word that I have said.”  
He rose and looked at all of the men sitting around the table, making eye contact with each of them individually.  None of the nine other men even budged nor made any motion to leave their seats.  He paused for half a minute and only then, smiled.

“Okay, then.  Let’s have lunch and afterwards, I want to introduce you to a few people who will make sure every penny of the two billion dollars that you have just pledged is well spent … and turn over the chair of our group for the next year to whomever is next in alphabetical order.  That’s you, George, right?”                                                                                                                                                 
Everyone leaned back as white-jacketed waiters entered the room, laid down fine bone china and sterling silver table settings and prepared to serve a lunch which did not come from McDonalds.                                                                                                             


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HOW TO VIEW OLDER POSTINGS.                                                
To view older postings on this blog, just click on the appropriate date in the “Blog Archive” midway down the column off to the right, or scroll down until you see the “Older Posts” notation at the very bottom of this posting.  The “Search Box” in the right side of the posting also may be helpful in locating a posting topic for which you are looking.

To send this posting to a friend, or enemy for that matter, whom you think might be interested in it, just click on the envelope with the arrow on the "Comments" line directly below, enabling you to send them an Email providing a link directly to this posting.  You might also want to let me know their Email address so that they may be alerted to future postings.

Jack Lippman 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blowing Off Steam - Is Democracy at Fault?

Is Democracy at Fault

Usually, the “bottom line” appears at the end of a lengthy article.  Today I will start off with the “bottom line.” Everything that is wrong with Donald Trump doesn’t matter.  His 33% approval rating doesn’t matter.  The Republicans can tolerate that.  If he is impeached or chooses not to run in 2020, they will be relieved because his logical replacement, Mike Pence,  has far less troublesome baggage dragging along with him.  The important thing, the “bottom line,” is that the Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, because of the gullible voters who supported “super-salesman” Trump at the ballot box, have been able work toward “deconstructing” half a century of American progress and start building a program in all three branches of our government to benefit some corporations and most importantly, the very, very, very wealthy who fund their campaigns, people I sometimes refer to as “almost-anarchists.”  That’s the “bottom line” and it makes me sick.  We are headed back to 1932, before FDR was elected.  

But here goes with what I have to say today:


Donald J. Trump is what he is, just as all of us are what we are.  That cannot be helped.  All we can do is to try to do our best, given the skills and abilities we have.

The President is a super-salesman and as do all super-salesmen, he believes fervently in himself and what he is selling. Such sales people often do this to the point where they no longer recognize the difference between veracity and hyperbole. Sometimes they become so involved in their “pitch” that they do not even have a full understanding of what it is they are selling. This is par for the course with some crackerjack salespeople; I think any of us who have bought an automobile or a home understand this, and accept it. 

But is it acceptable when that salesman is our head of State and continues to lead a life punctuated by hyperbole, often walking the tightrope between truth and downright lying?  As great a salesman as Donald Trump is, his skill set as a promoter and salesman lacks the attributes needed for the job he now holds. He is not promoting a real estate development, running a beauty pageant nor appearing on a “reality” TV program.  He is the President of the United States, making him responsible to and for the entire nation, where he gets no points for hyperbole and cannot get away with half-truths.  

How did it come to pass, then, that Trump ended up in the White House?  Where does the blame lay for putting an incompetent in the White House and thereby endangering the future of the nation?

Some of it should be placed on the “almost-anarchists” in the Republican Party who believe in as little government as possible.  Grover Norquist for years advocated "drowning government in a bathtub."  

They concede the need for armed forces to defend the country and some sort of revenue to support them, but see little need for government to do anything else.  Many of these people were raised on a diet of Ayn Rand’s phony libertarian political theories.  

Really, these Republicans survive only with the support of the very wealthy, also “almost-anarchists,” who don’t want to pay the taxes needed to enable government to function on any more than the minimal level mentioned above.  They see no need whatsoever for government to play social or economic roles in what they happily envision as a totally laissez-faire, free enterprise, unregulated nation, a place where their accumulated wealth will never be threatened.  These people are the ones who fund institutions, campaigns and candidates who espouse these ideas.  They share the blame.  But not all of it.

The bulk of the blame for Trump, however, rests on the American people who repeatedly elect candidates whose positions on issues are usually counter to measures which would benefit them!  

This blame rests upon the gullibility and ignorance of the American voter who voted for Trump and the Republicans, and there are about 62 million of them. 

To better understand this, one must watch Fox News, particularly when they interview Trump voters, some of whom still walk around with those silly red “Make America Great” hats.  These people epitomize ignorance and gullibility, have been terribly used, and are more to be pitied than scorned. The "evangelicals" among them who seem to ignore their religion's teachings when they vote are the most naive of Trump's supporters.  (Only when they go to meet their Maker will they become aware of the errors of their ways.)  Watch Fox News for a while and learn from what the nation is suffering. 

But getting back to where this piece started, the problem is not Donald Trump.  He is merely the result of the malfunctioning of the workings of democracy in our republic.

Two things essential to the successful operation of a democracy are (1) an unfettered, objective and most importantly, an honest free press and (2) an educated electorate.  Stretching the definition of “a free press” to include all media, printed or electronic, one might conclude that we no longer have such an institution.  There is a lot which passes for part of a “free press” which is totally lacking in credibility.  Calling "truth" fake news and reporting "lies" in the guise of truth has compromised the role of a free press.

The same goes for an educated electorate.  Education at all levels in this country has deteriorated precipitously. We pay teachers poorly. Public schools are becoming secondary to opinionated private institutions and home schooling.  Real literacy and knowledge of who we are and what our country is all about are no longer prime goals of eduction. While technology is important, it should not be emphasized at the expense of liberal arts, including the social sciences.  Those who are ignorant of history, it has been said, are doomed to relive it.  And Americans are woefully deficient in their knowledge of history as well as needing a lesson in what used to be called “civics.”

Thus, lacking a credible free media and a well educated electorate, it appears that democracy can no longer work effectively in the United States.  The presence of Republicans majorities in Congress, and Donald Trump in the White House prove the case. The people put them there even though their programs were not in their own interest! The people supported candidates who are philosophically dedicated to the “deconstruction” of our government for the benefit of the “almost-anarchists” who want, for the sake of preserving their wealth, to be free from the yoke of government.  Sounds stupid, but millions of American voters see it that way.

And because they were elected democratically, it must be that it is “democracy” which is at fault.   
The United States embarked upon a great experiment in democracy in 1789 and since then, it has worked pretty wellRight now it is sputtering and it is up to us to fix whatever is wrong.  Us....  that means you and me.
And here are two brief recommendations to help you in this task.  First, watch “Morning Joe” (MSNBC) for thirty minutes any morning you choose.  Then switch to Fox News (FNCHD) for a like amount of time to watch “Fox and Friends.”  The comparison will be a great learning experience.   And if it is too late in the day to watch these early morning programs, check out a recent E.J. Dionne column pointing out what is happening to our government by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  And now, go back to the top of this article to read “the bottom line” for this article.

Addendum: So eventually we may impeach him, or he will resign to avoid impeachment.  If that happens, it will be to the great relief of the Republican Party which has been ashamed of him since the day he took office.  But as I have said above, it won’t matter.  The forces of darkness have been given control the Supreme Court for the next few decades and for the time being, evil-doers will control both Houses of Congress as well. The currently pending tax reform bill, a givaway to the wealthy, proves this.  The only thing we can do about it is bend every effort to help Democrats wrest seats in the Senate and in the House from the Republicans in 2018 and 2020.  Because of state-controlled gerrymandering, that will be a daunting task insofar as the House is concerned.  Democrats must take over State legislatures as well to remedy this.  In view of the enormous amounts of “dark money” (please read the book with that title by Jane Mayer) that is available to the evil-doers, these tasks will not be accomplished in my lifetime. 

                                                                                    The future

Jack Lippman

Many readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by clicking on and sending me an Email.  

BY CLICKING ON THAT SAME ADDRESS,   YOU ALSO CAN SEND ME YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO BE PUBLISHED IN THIS BLOG AS WELL AS YOUR COMMENTS.  (Comments can also be made by clicking on the "Post a Comment" link at the blog's end.)


HOW TO VIEW OLDER POSTINGS.                                                
To view older postings on this blog, just click on the appropriate date in the “Blog Archive” midway down the column off to the right, or scroll down until you see the “Older Posts” notation at the very bottom of this posting.  The “Search Box” in the right side of the posting also may be helpful in locating a posting topic for which you are looking.

To send this posting to a friend, or enemy for that matter, whom you think might be interested in it, just click on the envelope with the arrow on the "Comments" line directly below, enabling you to send them an Email providing a link directly to this posting.  You might also want to let me know their Email address so that they may be alerted to future postings.

Jack Lippman 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Buttocks, a Puzzlement and News from the Third World

On Buttocks

In some religions, lusting after a woman is as much of a sin as actually committing an act of adultery.  The act committed in one’s mind is little different from the act itself. Fortunately, I do not follow that line of reasoning.

The other day I was standing in a checkout line in a Target store behind a trim woman probably in her thirties.  She might have attended some sort of gymnastics, yoga or aerobics group earlier in the day because she was wearing skin tight work-out pants, accenting a pair of shapely buttocks, which I could not avoid but noticing. Can you blame me for that?   With all the news these days about men taking advantage of women, butt-grasping seems to be a common type of such harassment.  But there is nothing new about it.  Read on.  The ancient Greeks probably indulged in it.

Years ago, I was chased to the dictionary when a review of a Broadway show concluded that “the only appealing thing about the show were its 'callipygian' chorus girls.”  Whoa!  Never saw that word before. And there it was, defined in the Merriam-Webster as coming from the Greek and meaning “having shapely buttocks.”  The Greeks had a word for it!  Stop and think about that for a second.  Buttocks are still just buttocks, the fleshy area behind one’s hips, regardless of what they look like.  There's no functional difference between ugly buttocks and pretty ones.  Either kind provide nice cushions when one sits down. But, as soon as some kind of value judgement is applied to them, however, it’s an entirely different story. 

Calling them “shapely” (running back to the dictionary again), means among other things, being “pleasing.”  Pleasing to whom, I ask?  Well, the pleasure derived from seeing callipygian buttocks (I guess that's a redundancy) would seem to be derived from one’s sexual drive, and the follow up action to being pleased by them, if that drive were not well controlled, would be to attempt to grasp them.   

I have even seen woman’s shorts with hand prints covering their portions fitting over the buttocks, inviting their being grasped.  It may be intended humorously by the wearer, but others might view it differently. 

Among us are some people whose sexual drive is not well controlled, and who are in a position to get away with doing whatever they want.  None other than Donald J. Trump, on live TV, famously said  “And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.  Grab them by the p... " 
And this, my friends, is the core of the problems we are having with men making unwanted, harassing, sexual advances toward women.  They are unable to control their sexual drive and sometimes are in a position to get away with it, that is until now, when finally most men have come to realize that the women they violate are no longer afraid to speak up.

The woman in front of me in the Target check-out line is fortunate that it was well-controlled me standing behind her and not Donald Trump or any of the other miscreants in the headlines lately.

Is a Puzzlement

I am puzzled.  Though they both have (sort of) retracted it, Secretary of State Tillerson called the President a moron and National Security Adviser Masterson called him an idiot.  We know what Senators Flake and Corker think of him and recognize that many, if not most, other Republicans are of like mind, and are only loyal to him because of his appeal to the gullible Republican base, necessary for their re-election. There is other evidence that Donald Trump, while a great pitchman and putter-together of deals, isn’t very bright.  Ask the ghost writer who penned “The Art of the Deal” for him. Listen to Trump when he speaks “off the cuff” or when he sends out his early morning “tweets.”  Last week, he chastised Roy Moore’s opponent as a liberal, soft on crime, weak on the military and not committed to the Second Amendment.  None of this was true, but it was what our nation’s pitchman thought it best to say at the moment, ignoring the fact that his words were lies.  Does anyone really believe he really understands world trade, how our economy works and the art of governance, despite the words he mouths? Listen to how repetitive his words often are, and how he depends on embellishing them with grand-sounding adjectives, attempting to compensate for their lack of substance.

Looking back six decades, I recall that teenagers who went off to military academies did so because they had problems in the regular public schools. Those who could afford it who left the public schools usually chose one of the many fine private “prep” schools around, but not the military academies. These “prep” schools (Phillips Exeter, Groton, Pingry, etc.) were available to him and the public high schools in Queens, where Trump lived, were excellent too, but instead, he was sent off to a military academy for his secondary education.  I wonder why.  Many military academy graduates go on to regular military careers and some even enter West Point or Annapolis. Not Donald. He never even served in the military, repeatedly getting medical deferments.  Trump went on to Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania for his undergraduate work.  The business courses he took as his major at Pennsylvania were offered by their Wharton School, something in which he takes great pride, since it associates him with one of the nation’s finest Business schools.  But I doubt that he has a Wharton degree.

And here is the puzzle.  With this not particularly distinguished background, Trump entered the real estate development field, working with his millionaire father.  That wasn’t too difficult, and when he went out on his own, it was with a sizable amount of money provided by Fred Trump.   And he succeeded.

The real estate development business, especially in New York City (Fred Trump’s fortune was made in the outer boroughs; Donald chose to operate in Manhattan) is highly competitive and is populated by some of the shrewdest, most clever, and occasionally the most dishonest, businessmen in the world.  This is the arena Donald Trump entered with the stake his father had given him.  By all rights, judging by what we have seen from his performance as President, he should have been an immediate failure.  It would be like a little league team attempting to play against the World Series champs.  But he succeeded.  That is the puzzle.

The way I see it, Trump made sure to connect himself with advisers and politicians far smarter than he was, people like Roy Cohn and others who might operate on the fringes of legitimacy.  His venture into the casino business, in which underworld connections existed until only recently, should have failed sooner than it did.  Depending on the advice and assistance of others, despite repeated corporate bankruptcies, he managed to build a name for himself, which turned out to be the primary product he has spent the last twenty years selling.  And this has proven to be profitable, except that it left his name attached to some less than savory enterprises in terms of domestic and international financing as well as in regard to the people with whom he did business.

Usually, when one's success is hinged to others, there usually is a "quid pro quo" involved.  Trump provided a name for others to use, and got paid for it.  If he developed a project on his own, he shortly sold it, but left his name on it, of course, for a price.  But early in the game, how much was his name worth?  Perhaps his earliest advisers dealt with him on the strength of his father's wealth and reputation.  Certainly, I doubt if Trump, totally on his own, would have been a success.  But he never was, I suspect, totally on his own.  There were always "others," either advising him or using his name on their ventures.  This is part of the puzzle.

His latest sale was his lending his name to the Republican Party.  Not a Republican, nor even really understanding the difference between Republicans and Democrats, he became their Presidential candidate, dragging Republicans into office behind him all over the country.  Looking past his time in office, I am sure he figured it would be good for his family’s business.  After all, his children really don’t know very much about real estate development, and really, he never did either, but he can’t be surpassed as a pitchman, a snake oil salesman and someone to make the gullible believe.   And so long as there are gullible people out there, the will be Donald Trumps to take advantage of them.  Just wait and see the response to whatever pitches he makes once the forty-fifth President is out of office.  They will be huge!  Unbelievably, unimaginably HUUUUGE! Or at least, I suspect, he anticipates they will be.

But as for me, I am still puzzled about how this has happened in the United States of America.  Are you?
Jack Lippman

Knocking Florida

I enjoy living in Florida.  It is a wonderful place for retirement.  But one should not expect it to be like any of the more civilized states elsewhere it the county.   Because most of the majority of its intelligent residents are concentrated in a few South Florida counties (Dade, Monroe, Broward, Palm Beach) and along the I-4 corridor (Tampa and Orlando), they have little impact on what goes on in the State Legislataure, which is dominated by conservative country-bumpkins and dim-witted Republicans, making Florida a third-world kind of place on a level with Mississippi or Alabama.  

Case in point:  A few years back the legislature enacted a law saying that anyone could lodge a protest regarding textbooks used in Florida’s public schools.  If someone felt that a book was objectionable, their complaint was sent to the School District involved where a decision as to its propriety was made by the School Board.  Usually the complaints were about evolution, science, climate change, sexual innuendo, foul language or what might be taken to be pornographic.

But that wasn’t good enough for the current version of Florida’s country-bumpkin legislature!   The law was changed so that instead of the complaint being heard by School Boards, they went into mediation, where the elected Board has far less influence and the complainer, however "far-out," is given the status of legitimacy.  And mind you, one need not have a student in the public schools to lodge a complaint.  Anyone can do it.  And they are doing it.  

They're going after authors with whom they disagree in the same manner the Church, back in 1633, went after Galileo who believed the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa (along with many of the "real" scientists of his day).  Incidentally, and it is a sign of progress, only a small percentage of Floridians still believe the sun revolves around the earth because they see it come up every morning and go down every night.  Some are in the State Legislature.

The latest schoolbook complaint is about Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451” which appeared on a high school reading list and which deals with the danger of the state getting involved with censorship of books.  My, what a coincidence.

But this is Florida, which looks good on the outside but is internally rotten.

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