Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Overdosing on Trump's Base, Belly Fat, Privacy, a Benevolent Monarch, Reducing Gun Violence and Peeking in Toolboxes




  Today's "mascot" is the Monarch butterfly, familiar to most of us.  There are fewer and fewer around these days for a variety of reasons.  You can help preserve this beautiful species by having a few milkweed plants around your house or garden.


An Addiction











The other morning on “Morning Joe,” MSNBC correspondent Kasie Hunt commented on what she thought was the reason so many Republicans in both houses of Congress were reluctant to speak out against the President’s efforts to discredit and conceivably ultimately fire Special Prosecutor Mueller, even though their body language and silence showed that they obviously disagreed with him.  Quite simply, she said, “They need him to get elected.”

Her comments reminded me that such behavior is not unlike that of a rock star who needs to take drugs to perform at the peak of their talents.  Without them, they fail, and sadly, by using them, they hasten their demise, which is often death as was the case with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, 
Prince and others. 

Relying upon Trump’s base supporters to get elected isn’t quite the same as using drugs to perform, but many Republican Senators and Representatives are beginning to realize that becoming addicted to such support, developing a dependency upon it, may not be a good thing in the long run.  Are they beginning to fear that that sooner or later, this dependency will be, like that of the addicted rock stars, their downfall when Trump is “taken down” by whatever means it occurs? They will have “O.D.’ed” on Donald Trump’s voter base. 

And Vice President Pence, who is likely to be in the White House within the next year or two, is not immune to this addiction.  His allegiance to Donald Trump will further shatter his already somewhat questionable credentials.

Recognizing this, some are beginning to try to find a way out.  Going “cold turkey” and denouncing the President would be suicidal for many, so they are content with encouraging efforts to discredit Prosecutor Mueller while not openly supporting any movement to fire him by the President.  Those who are not blind know this kind of fence-sitting can only delay the negative result of their dependency upon his base and is a path leading to a dead end, disastrous to themselves, not to mention the Republican Party. 

Enough of these musings, though.  After watching "Morning Joe" for a while, I switched channels to Fox to see what was doing there.  The other media outlets were filled with broad criticism of the President for congratulating Vladimir Putin for his “electoral” (to use the President’s words) victory in the Russian elections.  His victory being universally acknowledged to have been in a corrupted, fixed election, the President was reminded in “caps” by his advisors, NOT TO CONGRATULATE HIM in his phone call.  Nevertheless, he did.  So what did Fox have to say about this?

Well, they had an apologist on who explained that by congratulating Putin, Trump was enhancing his ability to work with the Russian leader in solving international problems in Syria, North Korea and with ISIS. (Eventually, the White House made this explanation more or less official.)  Of course, they initially ignored mention of the spy poisoning case in the UK, our closest ally, and Russian interference in our own election process, well documented by our intelligence agencies.  To the millions of gullible viewers who spend their time watching Fox apologize for the President, this was sheer brilliancy on his part.  (And oh, yes, he then fired the National Security Advisor who probably was the one who told him not to congratulate Putin. Re-staffing the White House is being handled, I believe, by the Human Resources Department at Fox News.)
Jack Lippman



Belly Fat


Marie Osmond, who does the Nutri-System commercials on TV, is getting old and folks may be tiring of her telling them how to lose their “belly fat.”  Should she choose to retire, an obvious replacement would be Sarah Huckabee Sanders who sooner or later will be fired by the President.  Of course, they would have to throw in an appointment with a really talented hairdresser too. Am I being too cruel?
JL




Privacy, Schmivacy

Another thought (although it is not original):  If you get something for free on the internet, you are not the customer!  Nothing is ever “free.”  You are paying for it by making yourself into “merchandise” to be the subject of another transaction by parties unknown to you.  You and everything that internet site knows about you is sold to advertisers or others interested in such information.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., don’t cost you a penny, but they make their money by peddling what they know about you.  Your “profile” on these social media sites contains much information you have voluntarily provided.  And you have no control, once they have it, as to how they peddle your information.
 
If you search for some free information on line about buying an appliance or car or check out airline fares or hotel prices in a particular location, you become the recipient of ads for car dealers, appliance stores, travel agencies and hotels. Gee whiz, how did they know you were interested in purchasing a late model used Mercedes convertible?  Well, they do and that is how you have paid the internet site you used “for free” for your information.  You have been sold to someone as a likely customer. You are the “merchandise” the “free” internet has for sale.  And unfortunately, this blog is no exception because it sits on a framework managed by Google.  But at least we give the pennies they pay us when you click on an ad to charity.

How much attention, really, do you pay to the “privacy notices” you receive from every utility, bank or other enterprise, financial or otherwise, with which you do business?  Or do you just throw them in the trash, unread, as I do.  Same goes for the “Terms of Service” of innumerable web sites you use.  You just click “Agree,” right?  They are required by law to tell you how they are using you, but you know that if you don’t click “Agree,’ you might not be able to use the site and you would have to move back to the way you did things in the twentieth century, depending on telephone calls, the U.S. Mail and trips to the public library.  But then, at least, you had your privacy.

A question:  If you have liberal, progressive, conservative or even radical political ideas, you might reflect those views by the sites on the internet you visit, the searches you make and the emails, often unsolicited, which you choose to open.  So long as you have no criminal intent, Is that anybody’s business but your own?  Really.

In totalitarian regimes in “the old days,” neighbors were called on to spy on neighbors.  Stalin’s Russia and Nazi Germany are good examples.  There are more.  But that isn’t necessary anymore.  We have the internet.  Think about it.  Think hard about it.
JL



Democracy's Failure - Would a Monarch be Better?

How did we get into the mess we are in today?  Two posting ago, I suggested that democracy wasn’t working because of:

(1)  the misinformation which is financed in this country by corporate dollars under the guise of free speech allowed by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision,
(2) unrepresentative legislatures made possible by the gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts,
(3) the replacement of traditional reputable sources of information such as newspapers by tremendous numbers of unreliable and opinionated internet media outlets and the exchange of specious information through social media.
(4)  the acceptance in the minds of many of the existence of more than one version of “truth.” 

Thomas Jefferson is often quoted, or more likely misquoted, as saying that “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”  While his remarks, if ever made, probably referred to education rather than to politics, they pretty much refer to the "educated citizenry” which the items (excluding the gerrymandering) listed above aim at destroying.  Ask yourself, because what we have isn’t working very well, would we be better off if we were not a democracy?

Would a kind and benevolent monarch or even a kind and benevolent dictator, one without worries as to where their plentiful resources were coming from, and faced no internal nor external threats, be better than a democracy which produces a Donald Trump in the White House, an N.R.A. supporting bad laws, the Koch brothers buying governmental power and an economy which caters to the wealthy and is not particularly kind and benevolent toward society’s have-nots? 

I think not.  Sooner or later the resources (think oil in Saudi Arabia) run out or threats to the monarch appear and then, the lack of democratic institutions can hurt or even be fatal … and the party will be over.  But in a democracy, so long as it doesn’t totally destroy itself, there is always the opportunity to rebuild and correct its errors.   The Roman Republic’s bicameral legislature, judiciary and executive branch (the consuls) lasted over half a millennium.  Our government, patterned after it, will last longer, once it corrects its flaws (enumerated above) and lets democracy get back to work.

Please register to vote!
JL


Reducing Gun Violence

We worked hard on our local demonstrations here in South Florida supporting the kids who went to Washington last weekend to “March for Their Lives” and lobby for the only real kind of effective way to reduce gun violence, the banning of military assault weapons in the hands of civilians! 


We must keep the pressure on legislators.  Here is a copy of an email with which I blessed Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell last Saturday evening. 

“After today’s demonstrations all over the nation, it becomes clear that your leadership role in Congress demands that you personally introduce legislation banning assault weapons in the hands of civilians.  The alternative to this for you is to resign from Congress.  The NRA is, as of today, history.  The voices out there on the streets today, far outnumbering the NRA’s membership, are the present and the future and you must accept this … or leave office.

In D.C. vs Heller (which dealt only with handguns), the late Justice Scalia clearly stated that Second Amendment rights were not unlimited and that prohibitions on unusual and dangerous weapons were acceptable.  Remember this when you decide whether to introduce legislation banning assault weapons in the hands of civilians or tender your resignation.”

And while on the subject of reducing gun violence, here is a copy of a sign I have in the rear window of my car.
Up until now, I have been very careful where I drive with it displayed, even removing it when I leave my car parked.  But after seeing the guts those Parkland kids displayed in Washington, I am proud to display it anywhere I drive for all to see.  There has been a “sea change” in America since last week.  We all must be part of it.

  JL


Look in Their Toolboxes

Joe Scarborough recently pointed out that In the "Art of the Deal," Donald Trump advocates striking back as the best action to take when attacked.   And he has not hesitated to do so frequently during his  Presidency.   Please note that the only ones whose attacks he has responded to with silence are those of Stormy Daniels and Russia, in the personage of Vladimir Putin.  His silence, other than claiming that what he doesn't like to hear is "fake news," is his tacit admission that the tools in both Daniels' and Putin's toolboxes are more potent than he can handle.
JL



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