Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20th, 2017: a New President Trumpets a New Order on a New Day

Newly installed U.S. President Donald J. Trump projected a
serious and calm demeanor at his inaugural, but he has his whole
history to overcome to become a credible president. For now,
today Chauvinism rode a pale horse into the White House,
replete with promises impossible to keep, such as re-opening
"all the shuttered factories". Ever-evolving technologies, married
to the exigencies of profit and loss, long have dictated the changed
marketplace. Those  left behind were unwilling/unable to retrain,
yet demand the world dance to their outdated skill set's tune.
(This reality goes back to the 1950s; I possess a periodical
from that era which discusses "automation", Chicago Magazine.)

Protectionism and isolationism, two themes from the Don's
campaign playbook, still sounded front and center in his
45th Inaugural Address. It would be fiendishly expensive
to bring all outsourced jobs back to the USA, even making
shopping at Walmart a costly expedition. How does that
help the "down and outers" to participate in making America
Great Again?

There they were, by the thousands, smiling in the rain, his
true believers, avidly settling for slogans, Chauvinism and
all the other pablums which seem so exciting until examined
along with a little injection of "fact serum"...

Say, starting MONDAY.

Monday, January 9, 2017

About America: Alexis de Tocqueville, Then and Now

Alexis de Tocqueville published two trenchant volumes
regarding our then new nation after touring here in 1831.
Democracy in America (1835 and 1840) shrewdly analysed
the characteristics that made America different from European
countries, traits that often weren't/aren't always "positive".
Among the more famous descriptions is one of an American
always hungering after novelty, not delving deeply into important
subjects, etc.

Long before nefariously/infamously/selfishly conservative
capitalist "theorist"/fiction writer Ayn Rand, Alexis de T.
noted the rise of the cult of individualism: "...Individualism
is a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen
to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw
into the circle of family and friends; with this little society
formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look
after itself..." (quoted in Rushworth M. Kidder's How Good
People Make Tough Choices, 1995.)

Fast forward to 2017: Closeted in and focused on their personal
lives, far too few adult Americans study the issues, vote, attend
public meetings where they can engage their officials, call up
legislators with suggestions, criticisms and concerns. As Benjamin
Franklin and Alexis de T. understood, these participatory public
practices help insure a stable, democratic republic, one we are in
grave danger of losing, with the cult of wealth and celebrity
overweeningly influencing major events.

Sociologist de Tocqueville's thoughts on our nation are as relevant
today as they were in the 1830s--sadly, even more so. His work
has honesty, observation  and keen intelligence; it inspires
reflection and change among the perceptive.

Let us all be perceptive.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Florida: More Murders Made Possible by Bad Laws: A State to Stay Away From

The latest murderous horror to occur in Florida could have
been averted with rational laws, namely, that no one can carry
weapons on passenger planes, be they unloaded and checked
into the baggage areas of said planes' and airports' debarkation
areas. That must include military and police travelling in civilian
situations as well. People on board the unfortunate flight
seemed safe enough, but were killed once on the ground...
where I come from, dead is dead, no matter the location.

That New Jersey nutcase started out from Alaska, flew to
Minneapolis, then landed in  Florida, where he retrieved his
weapon, killing five and injuring eight. Florida officials' press
conference remarks contained the usual sorrow, bromides
and assurances, but I am not reassured, because...

Right about now the Florida Statehouse is mulling over
a bill which would allow guns on college campuses and
other wildly inappropriate settings, as if mass murders
haven't happened in such places. Say, who ARE these
legislators? They appear to be as insane as the murderers
whose behavior they are facilitating, failing to protect
the public they serve.

Once this country allowed gun carry in public, (whether
concealed or open) shootings have certainly continued to
escalate as statistics prove. --Coincidence? Of course not.
16 hours' practice at a firing range and an FOID card are
not adequate safeguards; abusing the Second Amendment
is the result, causing the loss of many innocent lives.

The USA's current version of the Wild West is even worse
than the lawless West of over a hundred years back--the
weapons are now often military grade. (--Gee, great! Now
even more can get killed!) But there are regional differences,
especially regarding gun laws. It pays to know where
you go, so...

Florida: more murders made possible by bad laws,
a state to stay away from.

Friday, January 6, 2017

National/International Politics: A New Year but Not a New Page

...Except in the calendar. POTUS-Elect Donald better duck
and cover, because the Republicans in Congress know they
are responsible for our nation's safety, even if Trump doesn't.
The Don won't waffle or walk back his antipathy to the highly
inconvenient CIA report regarding Russian hacking of several
important U.S. websites including the Democratic National
Committee's, Hillary's and others. Today's briefing in Trump
Tower with the heads of our security apparatus may be worthy
of pay-per-view fireworks, as Mr. Trump is not known for
apology and/or compromise. He HAD, however, better heed
and read the disturbing, factual reports--

That is, if he wishes to keep America as great as it is now,
never mind making it great again. Being great as a sovereign
nation means ensuring safety from other countries' various
vexing and dangerous machinations, which does not appear
to be on the Don's agenda. Being way too cozy with the
Russians and the Ukrainians because of his business deals
blinds our next president to the threat...

Of slipping back to bad old days here and abroad. A
right-wing wave has overtaken the Northern nations of
the West, which bodes ill for human and civil rights, the
lower and middle classes. Here at home, halting women's
rights, minority voting rights and personal rights are all
seemingly on the table. Have we just entered yet another
negative swing era in world history? It is not enough to have
Hope Float--we must act, reminding Congress that it is only
two years 'til the next election which could throw out right-
wing hardliners. Any legislator more interested in arrogating
more power at the expense of our security and sovereignty
ought to get the heave-ho then too.

2017 looks to be a chauvinistic, chaotic year ahead.
Fasten your seat belts, brother and sisters. This may
be a new year, but scarcely a fresh, new page.