Archive for December, 2017

The Mueller Investigation Scandal

December 31, 2017

The Kremlin has warned the U.S. against meddling in Russia’s presidential election. (Or its rigging; chief Putin opponent and recent acid attack victim Navalny is barred from the ballot.) While the U.S. president denies Russia meddled in America’s own election!

Despite, please remember, an official U.S. intelligence finding, a year ago, that it happened. And it was no mere “attempt.” Since then we’ve learned its audacious breadth* — surely enough to swing just a few thousand votes in three key states and thus the outcome. America’s top foreign enemy threw our election to its preferred candidate. That’s huge. Our hair should be on fire.

But Republicans’ hair is on fire about . . . the investigation.

I previously predicted a smear campaign trying to discredit Robert Mueller and his probe, because Republicans expect it to uncover some very bad stuff about Trump and his fellow creeps. Mueller is a highly respected former FBI director, and happens to be a Republican, appointed by a Republican. Yet the GOP (and their shameless shills at Fox Fake News) are now in full shoot-the-messenger mode, waging pre-emptive war against not only Mueller but also the FBI, Department of Justice, and intelligence services, flinging charges of corrupt partisanship. And muddying the waters with irrelevant old red herrings about Hillary. This is all blatant rubbish. It’s the GOP itself (and Fox) being corruptly partisan.

Their Exhibit A is one Peter Strzok, briefly on Mueller’s team, who wrote some anti-Trump personal e-mails. When that became known, Mueller promptly fired him. A Big Nothing. (Government investigators are actually allowed to have political opinions; even to contribute to campaigns. Mueller’s critics themselves certainly do.) But that doesn’t stop them from exploiting this stuff to beat on Mueller.

Focus on what’s happening. A foreign enemy subverted our presidential election, and the investigation thereof is being subverted by Republicans with phony smears aimed at tearing down our own institutions of government and law. Compounding the damage to our increasingly fragile democracy. That’s the scandal here, and it too is huge.

Any fair-minded, objective observer could see this reality. Like so much of the Trump dumpster fire. I myself was a longtime GOP stalwart until I saw the reality, of the party’s dive to the dark side. I’m reminded of the disgusting old line, “if you’re being raped, lie back and enjoy it.” That’s how Republicans have responded to Trump’s grabbing them by the pussy. Now they’re “all in” with him.

Trashing everything they ever stood for. Make America great again? Those red hats should be stuffed down their throats.

Happy New Year.

*One example: fake ads misdirecting blacks to vote on the internet.

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What is populism?

December 28, 2017

“Populism” is the political word du jour. America has its first president so labeled, and “populist” parties are thriving throughout Europe. What exactly does “populism” mean?

It (like the word “popular”) comes from the Latin “populus,” meaning “people.” During the Roman Republic, politics was divided between “Populares” and “Optimates;” not organized parties as we know them, but factions. The Optimates (“best ones”) represented the elites and the status quo; the Populares, as the name implies, aimed to represent the interests of the common folk.

“Populism” connotes the people ruling and getting what they want. Of course, all democratic politics is supposed to entail the people (a majority) having their way, that’s what voting is all about. But today’s populism reflects a notion that somehow “the people” have not been getting what they want, because the system is rigged against them by elites, who have to be pulled down. A theme of both the right and left.

America had a “People’s Party” in the late 1800s, also called “Populist,” whence we get the modern usage. Those Populists too stood against the elites, representing mainly farmers. One of their key policies was free silver coinage, championed by William Jennings Bryan (“you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold”). This might seem an arcane issue, but it was really about “easy money” and favoring debtors (mostly farmers) against creditors. It was at least a coherent and basically rational program which, if enacted, would have achieved its stated aims.

Sigmund Freud divided the mind among the super-ego, the rational moral cogitator; the id, the primal instinctual unconscious; and the ego which pragmatically mediates between them. Modern populism is id-based politics — the politics of the gut, not the brain. Emotion does have a legitimate role, of course, indeed it’s an inextricable part of our functioning. But it has to be moderated by our higher executive intellect. Otherwise the result is policies which are not coherent and rational, often actually running counter to the ostensible objectives.

This is epitomized by modern populism’s xenophobia, racialism, and economic nationalism. They manifest in hostility toward immigrants, toward ethnic and cultural diversity, and toward free trade. And in favor of misguided and counterproductive policies that will not “make America great again,” but worse. Likewise Britain’s vote to leave the European Union — quintessential populism. This is the id, not reason, in charge.

“Optimates” versus “populares” type class conflict is actually an eternal political phenomenon. But in America, until recently at least, the elites were seen to have a certain moral authority, were accorded a certain deference, were looked to for guidance. The nation had a sense of common purpose. However, all that has been eroded by a populist ethos of egalitarianism and individualism, with Joe Sixpack deeming himself equal, and maybe even in a down-to-earth way superior, to the “optimates.” And woe betide any “leader” who tells him nay. Politicians are cowed from making the case for anti-populist policies like liberal immigration and free trade.

But true leaders like Lincoln, FDR, and JFK summoned Americans to their highest values, ideals, and aspirations. “The better angels of our nature.” In contrast, today’s populism — Trump’s populism — panders to and enflames our baser nature. Appealing to the id, our primal engine of raw instinct, rather than our rational moral minds. Trump’s America is not a shining city on a hill, but a squalid slum in a swamp.

America’s state capture

December 24, 2017

               “The world sees how bad the United States is.”

                                           — Donald J. Trump, 2017

The tax bill is heralded as Trump’s big legislative win. In fact — having built his fortune as a grifter — it’s his biggest scam. At over a trillion dollars, probably the biggest heist in history.

Republican lawmakers duly performed a leader-worship extravaganza sickening for a democracy. One commentator called it ring-kissing; but what was kissed this Emperor’s clothes don’t cover. These sycophants do it because Trump laps it up. Foreign governments too have figured out how flattery turns him to jelly.

“State capture” means looting the state for private benefit. The term was coined in South Africa, where President Jacob Zuma and his business cronies, the Gupta brothers, hardly even bother to hide their corruption.

Zuma

Zuma was the example I cited when, after our 2016 election, I wrote that giving bad men power never makes them better. That such men have a golden opportunity to prove doubters wrong, and become heroes. But they never do. Creeps only become creepier.

The latest is Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa. Following one of the baddest baddies ever, he too had a golden opportunity.

Mnangagwa

So awful was Mugabe that it wouldn’t have taken much for Mnangagwa to look like Gandhi by comparison. And he promised a new leaf. But already it has the same putrid stench as the old leaf.

In South Africa, Zuma’s presidency has nearly ruined the achievement of the country’s transition to democracy. But there’s hope. The ruling ANC party met recently to choose Zuma’s successor, and he failed to swing the vote to his ex-wife (or to derail it). The winner — by a whisker — is Cyril Ramaphosa — just possibly a good man.

Trump is not. He too could have proven naysayers wrong; instead he’s proven we underestimated his badness. Yet a third of Americans still love him. Compare Brazilian President Temer’s approval rating of just three percent. Three! And he’s much less bad. But the difference is that Brazilians see clearly, not blinded by the disease afflicting America: partisanship trumping everything.

And so we get this tax bill — probably the foulest legislation in U.S. history, combining cravenness of intent with hugeness of impact. Looting the Treasury to the tune of over a trillion, mainly to benefit fatcats like Trump himself. His saying it will actually cost him money — “believe me, believe me” — is a stupendous lie. Among the bill’s biggest beneficiaries are what are called “pass-through” business entities. Of which Trump owns approximately 500.

And in the debates, Trump said the “carried interest” loophole, which also benefits him, should surely be scrapped. Was it? Of course not.

The entire bill is one big lie. No, two. First the lie that it’s a gift to “the American people” when it’s overwhelmingly for corporations and the richest, ultimately paid for by the rest. And the lie that it will pay for itself, and benefit the less affluent, by stimulating the economy.

Mnuchin’s teeth

No serious economist agrees. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin lied through his teeth (literally; his normal speech mode) about his own department’s analysis of the bill’s impact.

As both economic and social policy this is insane. Republicans railed against Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill as a budget buster, at a time when the economy was desperate. Today’s economy is, in contrast, humming nicely, with unemployment less than half, yet Republicans slate an even bigger unneeded stimulus. One that in fact will eventually harm the economy by increasing the megatonnage of our national debt bomb.

I mentioned social policy. Ever hear the word “inequality?” Trump was elected, in large part, because of middle- and working-class economic anxiety. Yet it’s the rich this tax bill coddles.

And it sets the stage for worse to come. Targeted next is “entitlement reform.” Indeed, the long looming fiscal hemorrhage of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., is worsened by the tax giveaway, making reform even more imperative. What’s needed is curbing welfare for the rich. But will Republicans do that? If their tax heist is any clue, they’ll instead use that very legislation — which slashes the money available for social programs — as a pretext for a “reform” cutting those programs for the neediest while preserving hand-outs for the people who . . . donate to their campaigns.

Merry Christmas! Make America great again!

Morality without God

December 19, 2017

Believers say that without God we can’t know right from wrong. The problem is: how does God know right from wrong? As Socrates put it, is something good because the gods love it, or do they love it because it is good? If the former, it’s just arbitrary, like a parent ending an argument with “because I said so.” But if God has reasons for his moral rules, then we should be able to figure them out ourselves, and don’t need him.

This raises the question of whether moral rules can be objectively determined. Objectivity means being based on facts, not mere (subjective) opinion. Are there moral facts? Out there, for us to ascertain? Philosopher David Hume famously said we can’t get an “ought” from an “is.” That is, we can’t judge how things should be from how things are.

Some conclude this leaves any supposed moral precept on the shaky quicksand of subjective personal opinion. But let’s step back and ask: why should we have morality altogether? What purpose does it serve? “So we can do what’s right,” you might reply. But why does that matter?

Here’s why. Because it makes life better. Leave aside whether you, personally, do what’s right instead of wrong. A world where nobody does would make for rotten lives — “nasty, brutish, and short,” as Hobbes wrote. Quite simply, morality enables us to get along together maximizing happiness and pleasure and minimizing pain and suffering.

And why does that matter? Well, there’s nothing else that can. Nothing in the cosmos can matter except the feelings of beings capable of feelings. There has to be someone to whom something matters.

So there we have the essence of a morality that’s as close to being objective fact as is possible. Morality means doing what (all else equal) increases happiness and pleasure and reduces pain and suffering. Everything else is corollaries.

Notice that the resulting moral rules are not arbitrary. It’s not as though any old set of moral norms would serve the function just as well as any other. A code that says lying and killing are okay won’t work for us as well as one saying they’re not. Such notions, again, might not quite qualify as objective facts, but nor are they mere personal tastes, and it doesn’t take a philosophy professor to figure them out.

This refutes the idea that atheists have no reason to be moral. A command from on-high (be it God, a king, or president) by itself is not a good reason for obedience, absent some independent reason for it. Again, if we understand that other reason, we don’t need the command. Atheists follow morality, just like most people (even before gods were invented), because doing so enables us all to live together in the best way possible. Indeed, that was bred into us by evolution, because tribes that practiced it survived better than others.

So nor do we need hope of Heaven or fear of Hell to enforce morality either. Query whether toeing the line for such self-serving ends is really “moral.” And if God’s idea of morality is punishing a sin (or mere unbelief) with eternal torture, that’s repellent. Civilized nations having banned torture shows we’ve progressed beyond such Biblical morality. There’s no mention of human rights altogether in the Bible.

Some might object that all this leaves morality a mere human construct; and there must be something higher. Well, there isn’t. Our humanity is all we’ve got. And it’s enough.*

Preachers rant about supposed American moral decline. But much of what’s lamented, like tolerance for homosexuality, is actually moral advancement. Yet today we do see a sharp downward lurch in America’s moral condition, with tolerance and even enthusiasm, especially among professed religious believers, for a president who’s a flagrant moral creep. Those Ten Commandments fans seem to forget the one about lying. They’re walking evidence against the idea that God imparts morality.

(For some ideas in this essay I credit one by Ronald Lindsay, “How Morality has the Objectivity that Matters — Without God,” in Free Inquiry magazine, Aug/Sep 2014.)

* This thirst for something outside of our moral systems to give them validity recalls those who consider money illusory without a gold standard. As if gold gives money real value. But what gives gold its value? That too is a human construct. Money has value because of the role we give it in human affairs. The same concept applies to morality.

The Founder — what is business for?

December 16, 2017

Ray is a middle-aged guy with a history of dicey, failed business schemes. Now he’s on the road pitching a super milk-shake machine to restaurants, promising it will boost their sales. Nobody’s interested. (And when eating at these joints, he hates the lousy service and food.)

Then he learns that a San Bernardino eatery has ordered eight machines! Curiosity impels him to drive across the country just to see it. There’s a long line outside. “Don’t worry,” he’s told, “it moves fast.” At the window he gives his order. Seconds later he’s handed a paper bag. “What’s this? he asks.

“Your meal.”

“But I just ordered.”

“Right.”

Disoriented, Ray sits on a bench, and bites into his burger. It’s the best he’s ever tasted. The look coming over his face reminded me of the prehistoric tale, Quest for Fire, when Naoh, the leader, is gobsmacked seeing the girl from a more advanced tribe demonstrate what he’d never imagined: making fire.

Ray is Ray Kroc. The year: 1954. The restaurant: a solitary local establishment named McDonald’s.

The rest, as they say, is history; told in the movie, The Founder, with Michael Keaton as Ray.

The restaurant’s owners, two brothers named McDonald, give Ray a tour, explaining how, with scientific attention to detail, they’ve created a unique system for delivering food both fast and good. Blown away, Ray hits on the idea of franchising it. The McDonalds say they’d already tried that, and failed, because they couldn’t master quality control from afar. Ray thinks he can, and persuades them to join with him.

They sign a contract and, overcoming some tribulations, Ray builds the empire with great success. But tensions with the McDonald brothers grow. The film portrays them as virtuous, but too virtuous; their refusal to agree to Ray’s sensible business ideas comes across as unreasonable. Finally, Ray buys them out for what seems an extremely generous cash settlement.

The settlement includes removing the McDonald’s brand name from their own restaurant. Eventually, the brothers are driven out of business altogether . . . by competition from a nearby McDonald’s. A text screen at film’s end also notes Ray’s dishonoring a handshake promise of 1% of future earnings.

Along the way, Ray meets smart and comely Joan, wife of a franchisee. Uh oh, I said to myself, will the movie now devolve into a messy marital saga? Happily, no. Ray’s first wife is swiftly dispatched, with Joan seen again only fleetingly in a final flash-forward scene.

Hollywood is dominated by people on the political left, with anti-capitalist, anti-corporate bents. Its films reflect this. Maybe strange, since after all they are produced by corporate types making lots of money working for big businesses. Yet they do portray business in a relentlessly negative light. In movies from It’s a Wonderful Life to Erin Brockovitch to Avatar to Robots (and, yes, Super Size Me), the villain is typically a ruthless, greedy businessman or corporation, criminally trampling human values. So pervasive is this theme in popular culture that it’s no wonder so many people revile the whole idea of business and commerce.

The Founder is, unusually, a more balanced and mostly positive portrayal of business. Ray is chiefly a sympathetic character. Even when he plays hardball with the saintly McDonalds, we see why he’s kind of right to do so (except for that final bit about the percentage). Though aiming to make money, Ray, and the McDonalds, were impassioned primarily by their vision for giving people excellent products and service. That could not be accomplished without the business earning a profit.

Steve Jobs too exemplified this: he made a lot of money, but saw that only as empowering him to make great products. It was the products, not the money, that he cared about.

This is the fundamental concept underlying business in general. You profit by giving customers something they value more than what they pay. But that idea gets submerged amid all the anti-capitalist, anti-corporate messaging, infecting even business people themselves

The PBS Newshour recently featured famed glass artist Dale Chihuly and his art-producing “factory.” The interviewer confronted him with criticisms that it is indeed “just” a money-making operation. Chihuly couldn’t answer except by agreeing (only when prompted) that the enterprise, with all its employees, could not continue unless it made money.

Chihuly and creation

He should have said: “What’s created here gives pleasure to people who buy it, own it, view it, and experience it. They value that more than the money they pay (or else they wouldn’t pay it). So yes, we make money, but we make it by making a better world.”

Decency wins in Alabama

December 13, 2017

How great it feels that the America I love and believe in still lives. Even in Alabama. Even if only by a 50-49 vote.

Doug Jones & Roy Moore; from The Economist

It was a vote for decency and dignity. It’s actually sad that we’ve come to such a pass where that’s the bottom line. Sad that anybody, let alone 49%, voted the other way. At least decency and dignity did manage to scrape through. And we didn’t have to suffer creeps like Roy Moore, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump crowing over a triumph.

Moore (taking a leaf from Trump) stonewalled his history of sexual predation. But the evidence — testimony by multiple credible witnesses — would convict him in any court. It got him banned from a local mall! So to the sin of venery he adds the sin of lying. His whole life, steeped in God-talk, is one big lie. Belief in God may be excusable; believing Roy Moore is not. Most Alabamans didn’t, even many who held their noses and voted for him.

And please no “what-about-ism.” What someone else did doesn’t sanitize sex criminals like Moore — and Trump (or voting for them). At least Al Franken (whose offenses were minor in comparison) had the decency to man up and resign. While Trump and Moore compound injury to their victims by slandering them as liars.

And please don’t call him “Judge Moore.” He has the brass to so style himself despite having been twice kicked off the bench for defying the law. (I was not, and some still call me “judge,” but I don’t myself.)

Moore also said 9/11 was God punishing America’s sinfulness; homosexuality should be illegal; no Muslim should be allowed to serve in Congress; the First Amendment doesn’t protect a “false” religion like Islam; all amendments after the tenth created a lot of problems; and America was great when we had slavery!

This is who Alabama Republicans wanted to send to pollute the United States Senate.

In contrast, Democrat Doug Jones courageously prosecuted the KKK bombers of a Birmingham black church. Electing him may have signified some atonement for Alabama’s past sins, turning the page on what Roy Moore represents. Doug Jones last night quoted Martin Luther King that the moral arc of the Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

I wrote recently that we’re experiencing a social revolution with sexual abuse viewed much more severely than in the past. But actually this applies only to a part of America. Another part is in fact doubling down on the old paradigm. The part that supports a pedophile Senate candidate and pussygrabber president. The part that shrugs off all their lies. And nevertheless preens as godly moralists.

They justify their political behavior by invoking, among others, abortion as a moral issue. It’s actually a very difficult one (unlike lying and sexual abuse). And many fetishize “right-to-life” for fetuses but not gun victims; their moralism rings hollow. But more importantly, embracing the likes of Moore and Trump goes whole hog on ends justifying means, crossing a moral Rubicon into perdition.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”

Thank goodness I quit the Republican party months ago — once a principled and honorable party, now the party of pious frauds, lies, ignorance, xenophobia, Russia-dupes, more lies, criminals, creeps, cruelty, bigotry, vulgarity, and depravity. I am still working at scrubbing off the stench.

The case of the gay wedding cake

December 9, 2017

Suppose you’re a portrait artist. It’s your profession. And the local Nazi asks you to paint him. “Get lost,” you say, “I don’t paint Nazis.”

“That’s discriminatory!” he thunders. “I have rights! You shall hear from my lawyer!”

Does he have a case?

I support gay marriage. And the principle of nondiscrimination. But does that mean baker Jack Phillips should be forced to supply a cake for a wedding he deems against his religion? This case is now before the Supreme Court.

I’m no fan of religion, too. I consider barbaric a Bible that condemns gay sex while applauding slavery, genocide, and children torn apart by bears as punishment for mocking an old man’s baldness. (Yes, God did that. What a guy.)

It’s also true that freedom of religion does not protect actions otherwise unlawful. If your religion teaches human sacrifice, sorry, no dice.

But cake refusal is not on a par with human sacrifice. It may be discriminatory, yet doesn’t actually deny important rights. When Kentucky official Kim Davis refused to issue gay marriage licenses, citing her religion, that denied couples’ rights to marry. Baker Phillips is not denying the gay couple’s right to marry. He’s only denying them a cake. And not even that; surely they could get one elsewhere.

As often, this is not a case of right against wrong, but right against right. The gay couple has rights — but so does the baker.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act established the principle that providers of public accommodations cannot discriminate and refuse service arbitrarily. Read Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Suns, about the black Alabama doctor who relocated to California, his trip an endurance ordeal because nowhere could he get a meal or a room. It was reasonable for society to decide that in balancing his rights against those of hoteliers and restaurateurs, the latter should give way.

Applying the same idea to a cake goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. We don’t need the federal government cracking down on bakers.

I can sympathize with the gay couple made to feel bad when the baker refused them. But their literally making a federal case of it vitiates my sympathy. We seem to have developed a strange civic notion that everybody has a right never to experience anything disagreeable. With the government as enforcer. My sympathy actually shifts toward the baker, with government power called down upon his head like a ton of bricks, just because he didn’t want to bake a cake. Talk about a disagreeable experience. He has rights too.

Gays have won the battle for marriage rights, and it’s a good thing. But, having won it, must they grind their opponents’ faces in the dust, shoving their rights down their throats? Liberals always used to bleat about “tolerance.” But actually they have no tolerance for anything they don’t agree with. This issue goes even beyond forcing people to bake cakes against their religious scruples. I’ve written about Brendan Eich, forced out as head of a major company, for the “crime” of supporting a California referendum against gay marriage (which passed). Isn’t that precisely the “McCarthyism” lefties beat their breasts about?

Perhaps, instead of seeking to browbeat and coerce resistors, gay marriage advocates would do better to emulate Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” A virtuously victorious gay rights movement might be magnanimous in recognizing that Jack Phillips has a right to his stupid religion.

Inequality, wage stagnation, and free stuff

December 6, 2017

Recent years have seen much agitation about inequality, and the seeming fact that middle-income earnings have risen very little, if at all, in recent decades. Some see this as the rich “hogging” all the societal wealth gains.

Inequality is a real concern. Society is ever more bifurcated between the well educated and the less educated.

However, there are a number of reasons why that ostensible wage stagnation is not what it seems. First, wage comparisons over time must factor in inflation. But most economists know that government inflation indices are themselves inflated, overstating the true fall in the dollar’s value. Compounded over decades, this significantly understates the current worth of today’s pay.

Also, such wage numbers generally omit fringe benefits, which are increasingly important. The biggest one is health benefits which have risen greatly in both cost and value over decades. When that too is factored in, today’s workers are again seen to be earning more.

A further factor was highlighted by a recent piece in The Economist, which really made me sit up and take notice. It’s the value people get out of the internet. This adds to living standards and the quality of life one has with a given income level. And it’s more significant than you might guess.

The Economist reports how some researchers made estimates of the value of web goodies based on how much money people would demand, when asked, to give them up. These are necessarily crude estimates, yet they are eye-popping.

It’s $900 a year for YouTube and other video; $2800 for maps; $750 for Facebook; and a whopping $16,600 for search engines. (The Facebook estimate seems very low to me in comparison to the others; it may reflect that many people have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, considering it a sinkhole of time). Anyhow, this again gives at least some idea of the value of these services, to the average American.

We get these goodies essentially free. Of course, we do “pay” by giving web businesses data they use to target ads at us. But it’s a very one-sided deal. The Economist notes that, as against the $750 estimated value of Facebook to an average user, Facebook eked just $4.65 in ad revenue.

True, this has still made Mark Zuckerberg very rich. But it points up the fundamental fallacy of the rich getting their wealth at the expense of the rest. Zuckerberg provides users with value over a hundred times what he gets. That indeed is the essence of commerce: businesses profit by selling things for less than their value to buyers. That’s how the whole world gets richer.

New depths of depravity

December 3, 2017

“Believe me,” he says, “believe me.”

A constant verbal tic. As if his subconscious knows he won’t be believed. You might think a man widely called a liar might try to avoid lies. But au contraire. He shoves his thumb in our eye.

“Believe me,” he said, regarding the tax bill, “This is going to cost me a fortune. This is not good for me. Believe me.” He said the “wealthy and well connected” aren’t benefiting and are actually mad at him because the bill is ending a lot of their loopholes. “I don’t care,” he said.

All huge lies. Does he think people are fools? Well, his supporters, yes.

Or does he delude himself that having concealed his tax returns he can now deny the nevertheless obvious fact that this legislation will benefit him personally, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars? What mental disorder is this?

But the big lie is claiming to help the middle class. In reality (yes, reality still does exist) middle class people will get crumbs at best, many will actually pay higher taxes, while the wealthiest, and corporations, make out like bandits. Moreover, while the latter give-aways are permanent, the benefits for the less wealthy expire in five years, so most of them will be paying more. This will happen, conveniently, in the next administration. Do they imagine the next president will get the blame?

It’s also a brazen political hit, targeted against wealthier states like New York, California and Massachusetts, which happen to have higher state and local taxes — and happened to vote against Trump.

And the idea that the tax cuts will trickle down to the less wealthy because businesses will hire more and pay more is another big lie. American businesses are already sitting atop piles of excess cash. And meantime, whatever stimulatory effect these tax cuts might have will be cancelled out by their blowing up deficits and national debt, which will ultimately wreck our economy.*

Then Trump re-tweeted stupid phony videos disseminated by an extreme right-wing British hate group to smear Muslims. Talk about fake news! A disgusting witless act by the President of the United States. Almost the entire British nation (including even Nigel Farage!) came together in shock to condemn it. (In response Trump tweeted an insult at Britain’s prime minister.)

The irony is that if he’d wanted to show Muslim atrocities, instead of this fake garbage he could have used pictures of children tortured by the Syrian regime; or James Foley’s head sawed off; or the Jordanian pilot burned alive; or, for that matter, 9/11; and the New Jersey Muslims celebrating it. (Oops, that was another Trump lie.)

Even more disturbing is that, despite everything, Trump’s approval rating still holds in the high thirties. In any other country, or in our own past, a leader behaving so egregiously would have forfeited all support. But today’s America is afflicted by extreme partisan tribalism.

Fools will say I should just shut up already, give it up, suck it up (and what about Hillary). Sorry, this is not normal politics. My beloved country is being defiled, and it breaks my heart.

* Only one Republican senator, Bob Corker, had the sense and integrity to vote no — literally the last man standing.

My chicken poem

December 3, 2017

The latest issue of the local poetry anthology, Up the River, includes one of mine. Click here to see it. (And note my bio!)