Dark Days Ahead – Our Children are at Risk

 

One of the most frightening aspects of these times is our seemingly blasé disregard for the welfare of the world’s children. It is depressing to us all and suggests that we may be in for some dark days ahead. Children were not always separated out as a protected group in human societies. The harsher the conditions for survival the more likely children are to be treated as adults at an early age. Children helped families in their hunting, farming, marketing, housework, cooking and all endeavors undertaken by families to scratch out an existence. Only in families with secure incomes were children allowed to linger late into more prolonged childhoods.

It is a fairly recent development in societies with a large and thriving middle class that children are allowed to develop without many adult duties all throughout their teens. If we are totally honest this has not necessarily helped children in some ways. But many children also thrive under this freedom and experiment with adult roles until they are able to find where their talents lie. Teens who careen wildly through early years of free choices often still straighten out and become valuable contributors to the societies in which they live, although they run a greater risk of injury, death, or running into legal difficulties as they tend to experiment with pushing boundaries and testing limits.

We don’t, however, in most modern cultures believe that five year olds should be working on farms morning to night (although farm duties are still appropriate for young people). We don’t send children into factories. We send them into schools, both boys and girls, because young minds soak up knowledge easily and it tends to stay with them throughout their lives. So education is the work of young people in most cultures in these times. Girls do not have to be married at puberty; they are allowed to grow to mental and emotional maturity before they join a relationship, and to have satisfying or boring careers of their own. In fact, many modern families would find their lifestyles curtailed by lack of funds without two incomes.

But we are also aware that children, in our times, are losing ground as a specially protected and cherished commodity by the decline in the hands-off attitude that has pertained in the developed world. And children have not only lost ground in undeveloped countries. Last night suicide bombers who may have been young people themselves went to a rock concert in Manchester and committed as much mayhem as they could. This happened to be a rock concert that attracted lots of very young teens. As I watched the coverage on MSNBC last night, ambulances kept arriving at a Children’s hospital bringing more young victims, hopefully only wounded. We know that nineteen people died, and we do not know that some of the dead are children.

People get strangely inured to events when they happen too often. It is cowardly to target children. They are just beginning their lives. They are easy targets. It certainly revs up the outrage and gets better news coverage but it begins to lose much of its shock value and that is not a good thing. We have so many examples from which to choose. We have our own shame in this arena with the attacks by children of our own on other children in our schools beginning with Columbine and, so far and forever we hope, peaking with the deaths of 26 children and teachers at Newtown. The parents of these children have been treated so callously by our own Congress which seemed to only be passionate about saving rights to own guns (guns that did not even exist at the time the Constitution was written).

Some pseudo revolutionary thugs steal girls from a school and no one can get them back until much later when all the things we suspected would be done to them have been done and they are children no more. In many nations children are still needed to contribute to the economic survival of their families and must grow up early and forgo an education, which puts them behind the “earnings” curve for generations, unless they are lucky enough to find a way to rise through private enterprise or get an education later in life. We know that trafficking young girls and even young boys is still a thriving business in a world that should be far more enlightened by now. We know that terrorists find young minds just as susceptible to propaganda as they are to any more general educational training. Children are truly little sponges that you can sway in almost any direction by what information you feed them. People exploit this.  However appalling we find these things we seem unable to wipe them out, and perhaps we never will. Even our own Republicans say that our schools are turning out little liberals and are trying to undermine public education so they can teach “their own values” to their children.

We may not like the idea that we are more aware of cultures at a global level as opposed to a national level and we are not at all ready to give up our national boundaries, but the entire world is now pretty much “woke”, to use a term invented by today’s youth (I think) and we are all intermingled everywhere on the planet. There is now always someone from outside a culture to witness what is going on inside a culture and what we are seeing is not always pretty. Will humans ever overcome their flawed nature and find better levels of control over antisocial impulses that are generated internally as opposed to externally? Possibly not. But that is the benefit of nations with strong economies and educated citizens, that atrocities against children tend to go down. That is why it is frightening to see that this particularly important value seems to be losing currency, and that is one of the things that makes us feel that we might be headed for some dark days ahead.

Walking a Line at the Edge of Disaster

“I could shoot someone in the middle of Park Avenue and I would not lose votes.” I just can’t let that statement go. It haunts me. I have never heard anyone say something like this in a political campaign in the first place. In the second place I thought that might be a bridge too far and that it would be the beginning of the end for the Trump campaign. But Trump was right. This bald statement of random violence, issued for its shock effect, made barely a ripple in the election and possibly improved his election results. He enjoys walking a line at the edge of disaster.

I keep asking myself, why? What kind of person would offer up such a test of his follower’s loyalty or their lack of critical faculties? Perhaps his people thought he was just being dramatic, but why didn’t they question that he went there, to that particular dark and very public place?

I had never fallen under the spell of this shyster. I am not sure why many of us seem to see right through him and are shocked that such a man could run for and win the highest office in our Democracy.

We knew that our government was hardly pure. We knew that it was being tweaked out of its proper philosophical state by a few Americans with big money who were buying laws that would coincide with their ideas and their plans for the future of our nation. We knew that, because these folks were so wealthy and self-righteous that they felt it was their duty to transform the American democracy to match their goals, even if it meant that this nation would no longer be a democracy/republic.

(Our nation is defined as a democracy, but it is also a republic because we have a constitution. It is interesting and a sign of our partisan divide that Democrats call our government a Democracy and that Republicans are always correcting them and insisting that our government is a Republic. They do this because Republic matches the name of their party. They will no longer even say the Democratic Party, even though that is the correct adjective form of the word, because it makes the party sound too much like the name of our ideal of governance. They insist on calling it the Democrat Party. Even linguistics has been made to serve partisanship.)

But I did not think that our government had sunk so low that it would elect this polecat and place him in our Oval Office with all his oddball  and potentially dangerous cronies.

I did not think that he would be placed there in the hopes that he would dismantle government and somehow be so bad at being President that it would escape everyone’s notice that the Republicans may have wanted him to provide cover or distraction so they would not be blamed.  (How is that working for you?)

It is not as if I knew all the particulars of how a Trump Presidency would play out and I still don’t. But I knew it would be bad, and it is. If murder wouldn’t be a problem for his followers, how can we expect them to care about a subtle matter like treason? Even the press cannot decide if our huckster has sold us out to our enemies or obstructed an investigation or two. People almost seem to enjoy having a madman in the White House because each day gives us new audacities to gape at and to analyze ad infinitum.

I think we may be learning that we have given Presidents too much discretion. There are rules and traditions but they have no force. Recent Presidents have given us their taxes to look over, but apparently they don’t have to. A President is not supposed to run his own businesses when he is in office because he is in a position to profit individually from insider information. A President is not supposed to accept payments (income) from foreign sources because it could give the impression of confused loyalties or could lead to actual blackmail and subsequent treason.

None of these rules or traditions seem to carry any force with them. The President may comply or not comply, although every past leader of our nation has, however reluctantly, complied. And our current shyster-in-chief offers a cheeky grin (not at all a pleasant one) and refuses to accept any policy that will not result in his arrest, conviction, and incarceration and implies that there is nothing he can do that will have such a result.

With the Republicans in charge of all three branches of government, with little in the way of checks and balances available to stop a runaway President, Trump is quite comfortable changing his story until he hits one that shuts people up. Does he make tapes of his visitors in the Oval Office? He thinks he is so funny. “You can’t make me say.” Did he ask Comey to swear an oath of loyalty to him? “It’s my word against his and he has been publicly embarrassed and has lost “face” – he’s been fired just like one of so many apprentices on TV. Did he ask Comey to lay off Flynn? No unofficial piece of paper will back up that statement so, as far as Trump is concerned, that never happened. We know it goes on and on. The jerk invites two Russians into his office with no American press people to substantiate what goes on while his people stand uncomfortably watching the locker room camaraderie with fixed smiles on their faces.

By the end of all this, just in the space of one week, we feel as if we might be the crazy ones. Whether Donald Trump is crazy or not, whether he is all of the psychological terms we think he is or not, he should not be the President of the United States. I hate the way he treats the office, the American people, the Constitution, and even the world. If he won’t leave of his own volition he should leave in a strait jacket.

I know the Republicans have their own agenda. I have described what I think it is just recently in my article “It’s About Democracy”.

https://www.tremr.com/nancy-l-brisson-new-website-thearmchairobserver-/its-about-democracy

But why are they supporting the ridicule this person is heaping on the United States of America with his mind games and taunting and his incomprehensible belief that because he thinks he is smarter than us he can toy with us, hold us over a cliff by the back of our shirts and dangle us for a while. “Will he drop us to our death or won’t he?” Oh I don’t like this one bit and I don’t understand why anyone else likes it either.

Donald if you go your own way right now there will be not harm, no foul; no charges, no punishment, and you can go back to the life you enjoyed so much and be as nutty as you like. If you don’t I think the way you like to walk the lines at the edges of disaster will eventually catch up with you (and, sadly, perhaps with America.)

It’s About Democracy

Protesters are not in the “resistance” because they are sore losers as some would have it. And contrary to the man in the oval office they are not being paid to resist. This is about democracy. Activists are Americans who feel that our Democracy is threatened. It has been under attack by Conservatives and “Tea Party” members for decades. But these groups did not stop respecting the two party system and implementing their plot to undermine checks and balances until Obama took office. Now it seems that there are no moderates left in the Republican Party to reach compromises with on increasingly disparate policies.

Since the election of Donald Trump many Americans are even more worried about the demise of our Democracy. Judging from his recent firing of James Comey, head of the FBI, who has been conducting a probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 elections and possible collusion by members of Trump’s campaign staff, our brains are in chemical danger mode. Given this newest inexplicable action our fears seem validated.

There are 30 states with partially Republican governments and 23 with governments dominated by Republicans. If you think this is because the country has just naturally moved to the right then you are naïve. This is no “organic” politics. It is the “GMO” version of politics. It has been meddled with. Certain moneyed Republicans, no longer swimming in the exciting pool of burgeoning American business, are unhappy and bored. Our economy went off on a world tour. These people are social. They meet. They form organizations. They talk to each other. They decided that they would figure out how America went off the rails and lost its place as leaders in business and innovation. They believed that a nation with a quiet economy could not maintain its primacy on the world stage. They have a lot of money to spend.

These Conservatives decided what factors were to blame for our “slippage.”

  • One factor was too much regulation of banks, investments, the stock market, and all sources of investment dollars. So therefore, DEREGULATION is necessary.
  • They decided that Democrats and others had created a meme that humans were causing climate change and putting too much CO2 into the atmosphere causing global warming and that this was not true. They hired their own scientists who did real scientific explorations but they formed their conclusions first and chose their experiments to confirm their own conclusions. This, they felt, gave them permission to deny climate change and they vowed to overturn environmental protection rules and to, in fact, get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • They decided that the scope of our current government was a huge factor in pushing commerce away from America. The government was taking on powers that were not expressly given in the original text of our Constitution. They decided that the states needed more autonomy to conduct their own business and make their own rules.
  • They chafed under what they felt was an enormous bureaucracy. They felt their taxes were too high and they resented paying for people who were not working (whether they were able to work or not). They believed the way of the world is “no work, no eat.” They believed that any American could succeed like they did if they had the proper attitude. So, although they had begun offering benefits to workers in lieu of higher salaries, these wealthy businessmen were not happy that the government offered such benefits (and more) to people who didn’t work in their factories. They wanted smaller government to lower taxes and to stop offering benefits to the undeserving (and all are undeserving).
  • Conservatives blamed unions for being greedy and making wages and benefits so high that businesses looked elsewhere for cheap labor. So in the states where Republicans have gained power they work to bust the unions, mainly with “right to work” laws which sound good, but these laws say that if you do not want to join a union then you do not have to pay dues. That seems fair, but it robs the unions of any power they have to bargain with management. It undercuts workers and takes away the only tools workers have to stop greedy or punitive employers.

And so America’s millionaires and billionaires got organized. They connected with a loose network of Conservative clubs, think tanks, and SuperPacs and they formed a web of powerful movers and shakers (emperors and empresses of business) and they set out to reverse everything that they felt stood in the way of economic growth in the 20th century. They came up with “talking points”, they signed pledges, they began to move in lockstep to recreate the days before regulation and before labor unions. A group called Muckety (still on the internet) published this charts showing the Conservative Web organizations which receive grant monies from the Koch Brothers.

 

The strategies that rich and powerful Republicans (Conservatives) (billionaires) came up with have been very successful. We know what the strategies are:

  • Drawing gerrymandered districts,
  • Making corporation people,
  • Attacking women to get the men to get their women back under their control (get rid of contraception and abortion),
  • Suppressing the vote,
  • Winning at the state and local level,
  • Declawing unions,
  • Denying climate change,
  • Deregulating business,
  • Using ALEC to write legislation the rich and powerful favor and, since you have already packed the state government the legislation will become law,
  • Setting up a network of communications including Talk Radio and the 24/7 propaganda mill of FOX News which skewed conservative all the time.

When Obama got elected the plans to stage a bloodless coup of our Democracy by the “oligarchs” had to go on hold and then Obama won a second term and by then Republicans and friends were champing at the bit. During their years “in exile” they made a lot of progress. They knew exactly what buttons to push to make their listeners want to be with the Conservatives.

  • They cast doubt on Obama’s bona fides, on his strength, and on his policies (like “Obamacare”).
  • They played up the eventual demise of “white” America
  • They told folks that illegal immigrants were stealing their jobs and their tax dollars and that they were getting benefits intended for citizens only.

They did not consider themselves neo Nazi’s or members of an alt-right movement, but they prepared the way for these groups by making them seem less extreme and by making a connection between white supremacy and fears that white people were losing control of America.

The Republicans and their organizations expected one of the “true believers” to win in 2016. They had so thoroughly damaged Hillary Clinton that, had things gone as expected, they felt they had done their homework well and they would win. I imagine that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders took the party and their conservative supporters by surprise. Donald’s message which bordered on white supremacism matched well with the “brainwashing” accomplished by conservative news and talking points.

Perhaps the fact that Trump is mentally ill made him even more attractive and he spoke like a strong man. Well he has indeed turned out to be sort of caricature of a strong man, I guess, albeit one who had a taste for murderous dictators, which seems a bit frightening to the people who love democracy. This highly unpredictable man (or all too predictable man) has filled his cabinet positions and other posts close to him with billionaires and millionaires and a few “gestapo” types, who look like they will help the conservatives achieve their ends of making their old talking points the law of the land. How do you stop people who have “more money than God”?

Can the Conservatives recreate the America they think they can reanimate? Can history repeat itself and the Industrial Age rise again but with a more compliant and cheaper labor force? I believe they will be terribly disappointed. I believe that twisted methodologies produce twisted results. I think the future is inexorable and that what we find there will be anything but an exact copy of the past.

I ran across a new article this week which shows what goals the Conservatives have for the near future.

http://billmoyers.com/story/secretive-foundations-blueprint-spreading-right-wing-ideology/#.WRWmuLXaHkQ.email

“New investigations by Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy analyze hacked internal documents, which reveal that much like the Koch network, the Bradley Foundation has launched a national strategy to help conservatives control the branches of state governments and alter state policy to lower taxes, shrink government and attack labor unions.”

“Now the foundation is focusing on five states it views as having a strong conservative infrastructure, thus making them ripe for rightward change. The foundation is working to expand conservative power in Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin by funding established networks of right-wing organizations that promote conservatism and help far-right candidates win elections. It’s a long-term strategy that “can take decades,” according to the longtime CEO of the foundation, Rick Graber, who recently stepped down from his post.”

”With $845 million in assets at the end of 2015, the Bradley Foundation rivals the several Koch family foundations in size and in grants disbursed. That year, the Bradley Foundation gave out nearly $49 million in gifts and grants, while four Koch foundations and the nonprofit Charles Koch Institute donated close to $58 million. Both families give to many of the same national conservative organizations, including the corporate bill mill the American Legislative Exchange Council and right-wing think tanks the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, as well as to several additional think tanks that the Kochs founded such as the libertarian Cato Institute and the George Mason University-based Mercatus Center. From 2011 to 2015, the Bradley Foundation has given $550,000 to the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the sister group of the brothers’ most well-known political nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity”

There is much more and well worth following the link. Perhaps references like this will help you believe that I am not making this up. So I say “good luck us” and I contend that resistance is necessary to keep our democracy “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I hate to see the world march forward without the ideals American has always represented intact, rather than with some kind of ersatz America. I think we run the risk, right this very minute, of letting our Democracy be perverted into some form of government which will curtail the freedoms of “we the people”. I never thought we would have to fight to keep America’s democracy/republic strong. I certainly never thought the fight would be American against American. Right now it looks like the wrong side is winning.

 

Ironic Politics

In order to get to what’s ironic we have to explore the recent maps of voters in the 2016 elections. I’m sure that you have already seen those NYT’s maps showing where the red votes were and where the blue votes were in the 2016 election. One map shows red states and blue states:

 

Another shows red counties and blue counties:

https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president

A third set of maps shows where Trump voters live and where Democratic voters (Hillary voters) live:

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/us/politics/the-two-americas-of-2016.html

Trump’s America

Hillary’s America

 

 

One thing these maps point out is the urban/rural divide. It is difficult to believe that land mass and population are so out of whack until you examine these maps.  The land mass Trump drew from involves just about the entire interior of America. But the popular vote gave the Democrats 3 million more votes than Trump got. If we voted by land mass the Republicans would win every time. The fact that we vote by individuals and that the Democrats got so many more votes shows how much of our population is concentrated along our coasts and waterways.

This also might explain the more “cosmopolitan” outlook of people in our largest cities. They have more exposure to travelers and traders from other nations. They are centers of cultural diversity. It would be almost impossible for these coastal folks to be exactly like those who inhabit America’s interior – its more land-locked places. Conservatives have nothing good to say about coastal Americans. They overvalue intellect. They treat “aberrant” behavior as normal. They welcome immigrants and they are bleeding hearts for immigrants and the poor. Conservatives would be quite happy if there were no liberals and they are working overtime to make it so.

Well, here’s the ironic part (or maybe there’s a plan). They needn’t work so hard to hate and marginalize Liberals. Since Conservatives don’t believe in global warming, or climate change, or rising oceans their anti-science policies will lead to the flooding of the very areas where the Liberal population is concentrated. Et voila! Problem solved.

 

Bashing Democrats and Backing Meanness

Republicans claim that societies hurt their own citizens by trying to offer benefits that are supposed to lift up people who are economically on the bottom, but which instead turn them into persistent burdens dependent on public support.  This specious argument has had a long shelf life; it goes on and on interminably it seems. The opposite point of view is that a society, especially a democratic society, has a social contract with its citizens that includes compassion when misfortune strikes, compassion backed by economic support and the creation of opportunities for folks to rise out of their misfortune. There are generally two parties in any argument (0r more) and that is the case with this ideologically blockaded contretemps which is currently raging quietly in all our politics. It seems to be a matter which will not die out or be resolved through discussion. The GOP actually has been bashing Democrats and backing meanness for some time. They accuse the Democrats of encouraging dependency and thereby creating the stark inequalities in our economics. The Democrats are beginning to feel that they need to be apologetic for programs which they thought would work to end poverty because these programs have not wiped out poverty.

Joel Kotkin, in the April 30 edition of The Daily Beast writes about “The Arrogance of Blue America” with this precap:

“If you want to see the worst impacts of blue policies, go to those red regions—like upstate New York or inland California—in states they control.”

He goes on to say, “The essential logic—as laid out in a particularly acerbic piece in The New Republic—is that Trump’s America is not only socially deplorable, but economically moronic as well. The kind-hearted blue staters have sent their industries to the abodes of the unwashed, and taken in their poor, only to see them end up “more bitter, white, and alt-right than ever.”

Ouch! If this sounds like a valid criticism of Democrats that is because not all areas in New York State or California have prospered. It is also somewhat true that it seemed surprising that the rural areas in both of these states came down on the side of Donald Trump. And while it is true that these folks seem quite ready to blame immigrants and seem to fear a time when America will no longer be a majority white nation, to say that we classify our farmers and ex-factory workers, our neighbors, as alt-right goes a bit far. We might feel that they have listened to a bit too much talk radio and that we have been living in fairly segregated enclaves, especially if they do not live in a city, but we do not see our Trumpian neighbors as neo-Nazi’s however impatient we may be with their insularity and their intolerance. I also have not heard Democrats utter a word about people not expressing proper gratitude for benefits offered by government programs. I have heard some people say that there are people who benefit from such programs who are not aware of who funds those benefit programs. (I do not count people who receive money from Medicare and Social Security because they paid in to these programs throughout their lives and no one ever said that people were not paying enough in to support what they are getting paid out.)

Mr. Kotkin has more bitterness and bile to deliver. He continues,
The fondest hope among the blue bourgeoise lies with the demographic eclipse of their red-state foes. Some clearly hope that the less-educated “dying white America,“ already suffering shorter lifespans, in part due to alcoholism and opioid abuse, is destined to fade from the scene. Then the blue lords can take over a country with which they can identify without embarrassment.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/04/30/the-arrogance-of-blue-america

Well I always say that Republicans love to try to turn the tables by saying that the Democrats are guilty of GOP sins, and this is a doozey. Democrats are not the one’s touting a punitive new health care plan that will actually shorten lifespans in America and make the rich richer.

There is some data in the article that seems to back up Kotkin’s masterpiece of inside-out thinking. However there are other arguments to be made that blast some pretty big holes in his thinking and pontificating. First of all we know that no matter what humans do it always turns out to have both positive and negative effects because paradox seems to be the rule (because we sinned in the Garden). (Or because physics says that every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, although I don’t think Newton was describing the human condition when he observed and gave us his succinct summation of those observations.) While it is true that social programs are intended to do good; it can also be true that these same programs can have some negative outcomes. It is difficult to prove exactly how much socio/economic progress has been made when things look so similar to the way they looked when we started these programs. How many children got further in school because they had a healthy lunch (or indeed, any lunch)? How many parents were able to leave a poor neighborhood and move on to a better life? How much did economic events like the Great Migration of our factories and the bursting of the housing bubble hurt those who were just beginning to rise?

Republicans have never liked social programs, although they have become far more strident about it recently. Social programs always had to involve some punishment even if it was just lots of bureaucracy and paperwork, invasion of privacy, and public stigma. Accepting aid intended to lift one up actually had aspects designed-in that made recipients feel very low. Would the Dems have required the same kinds of accountability without the nagging of the Conservatives? Would programs that offered assistance without moral excoriation have done better?

Has the Democratic Party simply “ripped off” the less fortunate and pocketed the proceeds? Has the Democratic Party become a party that gives lip service to championing those who are less affluent, as Kotkin suggests, or is the party sincerely analyzing past performance and trying to create programs that are more effective in the 21st century? Did Mr. Kotkin write this article for cynical reasons to make sure that the Democrats stay under a shadow of hypocrisy in order to continue the propaganda campaign that created Trump voters in the first place? There are two different answers to every one of these questions.

Since we cannot argue this out, since the lessons of history are no longer enough to keep us from having to actually try meanness in real politics and society to see if it works as badly as it did for the first 17 centuries of human existence, we are going to put the principles of tough love into practice. We are going to dismantle social programs, entrust all of our tax dollars to a Federal government with very few duties, and see how that turns out? It will take another 75-100 years, possibly, to appreciate the effects of this social experiment. Will it have good effects? Since everything we do is both good and bad you can bet on it. Who will this dispassionate society be good for? My guess is that it will not lift up lots of poor or disabled people. It will just make the world drearier and more dangerous and far less hygienic. Despite the tough love approach or because of it, Kotkin tells us, people are moving into red (Trump) states in droves and this is for political reasons, (but his time line seems wrong).

As for the original contention of Mr. Kotkin that Democrats have failed in the very states where they do hold control to spread the wealth well enough that Donald Trump’s message would not be able to gain a foothold, there is no one simple answer. Large metropolitan areas seem to be less effected by and to recover faster from economic downturns than less populated areas. While this may not have been true when our factories kept people’s wages up, in our current service economy where wages are low recovery has been slow. Could the Democrats in power have been less selfish and offered better subsidies to areas that have been hit hard? Probably. Do Democrats fail to remind America that they are a party that will keep trying to help people rise as often as they should? Maybe. Are Democrats so affluent and intellectual as a party that they are unable to summon policies that make them the party of the common man as they have traditionally styled themselves? Perhaps. It may be only the Progressives who can now stand on the ground that the Democratic Party once occupied. Taking the word of a party that wants to turn America into a one Party system is like letting Russia give advice to the American President. (Oh, oh that might have already happened.)

Power corrupts. We have all learned this lesson well. Perhaps the Democrats have become a party of “fat cats” with no fresh ideas about how to make our society more fair and our economic prosperity distribute itself more equally, or too selfish to want to give up their intellectual high ground. I am hearing these critiques of the Democrats from everyone, not just Republicans. Bashing Democrats seems to be all the rage. Naively or not, I would still far rather have the Democrats in charge. They try to be self-aware and they want to protect our Democracy instead of undermining it. But I am feeling a little lonely lately.

(Here’s an interesting piece of analysis which appeared recently in the New York Times which points out how complicated the matter of approaching social/economic parity really is:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/nyregion/school-choice-new-york-city-high-school-admissions.html?_r=0

Did people set out to improve schooling or pretend to improve it while maintaining ethnic/class separations? Did they do both? Did they give with one hand and take away with the other? Who is at fault?)

 

Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Even if Donald Trump is not my President, this is still my country and he has been in the people’s White House in Washington, DC for 100 days. I’m sure that everyone has an opinion about this; I know that I do. I am quite happy that DT has been unable to accomplish some of his major objectives so far like overturning the Affordable Care Act or cutting off funds for sanctuary cities. There are some immigration horror stories but there would have been more damage if his executive orders had not been opposed by the courts. He has so far been unable to start work on the wall on the Mexican border. Congress has been able to pass some economic deregulation measures and is working full speed ahead to undo environmental protections. Trump has announced a plan for tax cuts that will put more money in the pockets of those who are already wealthy, so I hope his tax plan also goes down in flames. But after the blunders of his first 100 days people are hopeful, but not convinced, that the entire first term will be equally unproductive.

Mr. Trump has made his greatest strides in dismantling our federal government and this is not a good thing for the citizens of America. He has placed billionaires in his cabinet who have little or no experience in governance. Not only are they billionaires but each appointee has professed an interest in destroying the department s/he has been assigned to lead. Many agencies have almost no employees, especially the State Department which has apparently been practically emptied out. What is the rationale for this? Is it incompetence? Is it the implementation of a plan to make federal government small as Republicans have wished to do for the past eight years? Is it the first stage of what we can expect to be an increasingly authoritarian rule which sees employees who have been in Washington during the Obama administration as resisters who wish to undermine a leader whose philosophy differs from the previous President and from the entire American Constitutional democratic way? It makes little sense to fire people from good civil service jobs when, actually, you are supposed to be trying to increase the number of jobs available for Americans. It seems, to many, that running a large enterprise like our government without the people who pay attention to the details will be messy and eventually the whole machinery will grind to a halt. Again this could be wishful thinking.

Can a pseudo “Board of Directors” hand-picked by a corporate CEO-style President run America without a clerical staff of experienced government employees who understand the rules and the laws and who each have their particular sphere of activity which keeps that little corner of the government running smoothly. They can if they intend to ignore the rules and laws. Our unpopular leader shows a pattern of a top-down governing style that is quite at odds with the illusion of a more bottom-up governance that is the purpose of having a Congress with elected representatives. He is beginning to see that there is a Congress and that with Congressional approval he might get his way more often, but he is not used to sharing any of his power. All his employees, even when they are family, are perceived to have only advisory roles. He does have a Congress that is on his side and they are trying to help him grow into his role but he has never been malleable. He is sort of like a large hyperactive child and in the White House as the President that makes him a “bull in the china shop”.

I was hoping that the President would have already been ousted from office. He has broken so many traditions. I guess we are finding that these traditions do not have the power of laws and that the American President has been given immunity from many of the rules of ethics and just accepted practice, even though most modern Presidents have held to these standards. But not 45. He has turned our government into the family business. He gives the appearance that he has complied with an absolute separation between his business interests and his powers as the head of the US government but we all can see that this is not so. Nepotism even worried our forefathers but Mr. T has no problems with it and, apparently, neither does anyone else in the Republican-controlled Congress. At the end of the first 100 days we find his daughter and son-in-law ensconced in the White House and doing business with world leaders around the world. We suspect they do a little of the nation’s business and a lot of the Trump business everywhere they go.

Donald should either have to comply with these protocols which protect the American people from dictatorship or kleptocracy or he should be forced to leave the Presidency and return to the private sphere. However frustrating we find his casual approach to protections that have been important features of our government these things are apparently not deal breakers. Even the many connections between his Presidential campaign staff and Vladimir Putin’s Russia and possible charges of treason have not made a dent in Donald’s tone deaf occupation of the American Presidency or in the confidence of those who elected him. He manages to blithely tweet his way through all of it and head off on the weekend for some golf.

As to the actions of the incomprehensible leader of the free world in regard to our relations with foreign nations the first 100 days have been, well, incomprehensible. He seems to have alienated all our allies and made nice with all the nations that concern us, except Syria and North Korea. Is he ready to go to war or is he just rattling sabers? He has left us teetering between amusement and horror. We can’t decide if he is dancing on the edge of disaster taking us along for the ride, or if he is the astute gamer that he claims to be. We can see similarities between Trump and Kim Jong un, at least in their shared paranoia syndrome, but Trump does not seem to have the imperialistic or hostile motives Kim Jong un seems to telegraph. Is Trump taunting North Korea to get them to either back down or do that final incendiary thing that initiates trading bomb strikes with all the attendant damages? What will happen in Syria? We just saw DT threaten to cancel the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada (NAFTA) and these nations seem to have backed down and agreed to negotiate new terms. Will threats and bluster work? All I can think is that watching Trump deconstruct America is putting the fear in them. I liked America’s role as a diplomatic power, trying to keep hate from escalating and talking with other nations and not to them. It appears that this is not the Trump way.

Whatever each one of us sees as we reach the 100-day milestone (however arbitrary the time frame) it is clear that there is discontent in the realm, and as far as our “king” is concerned there are only bad polls, partisan courts, fake news and paid demonstrators. How incompetent, treasonous, uninformed, unethical and nepotistic does a person in the US Presidency have to be before s/he is given the boot? Obviously 100 days is not enough time for this disaster to reach critical mass.

 

AAUW Conference or Science March?

Last weekend I did not March for Science, although my heart was there. I had committed to attend a conference of the NY Branch of AAUW (American Association of University Women). Since part of this group’s mission these days is to help implement Title IX – a law that is a mandate for equality for girls in schools (sports, academic, safety) and since this includes encouraging STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) for girls through raising funds and providing support and oversight. I was, in a way, still “marching for science”.

AAUW also backs women at work and especially in university settings on issues like safety, equal opportunity, equal pay, and equal resources. It supports female students and faculty and has a legal fund to give it clout.

What I was reminded of is that there are women all over our nation who have studied and worked, for more than a century in this organization (since 1881), without any recognition beyond the admiration of their peers, on projects that affect educational opportunities for women and girls. I was in some very impressive company and I was just a beginner. These women had multiple degrees, often from prestigious colleges and universities and they had held an enormous variety of positions in educational, social, and governmental fields where they were able to provide services to woman and girls and anyone who needed someone to fight for their equality. Many of today’s members have done this for decades.

The schedule of events followed the template for most conferences. Everyone met for a business meeting that lasted until just before lunch on the first full day. After the budget was presented and the amendments to the bylaws were voted in we were introduced to a speaker, Louise Bernikow, who spoke about little known facts about women’s suffrage which we should all know. It was enlightening. I learned that the date I use for a women’s right to vote is wrong. I always say 1920 (which I got from the internet) but the actual date is 1917 (the year my mother was born).

We adjourned for a luncheon where awards were given to women who had donated generously to the organization and we had a speaker along with our dessert. The speaker was a woman from Yale, Susan Daria Landino, hired by the university to provide for student safety on campus until she tried to help a woman who came to her about a rape. The speaker reported the rape to the police who arrested the alleged rapist and after that she found herself in a world of trouble. She was ostracized and marginalized and eventually fired and escorted off campus, and so, also humiliated. Colleges do not like anyone to realize that their daughters might not be safe because it will hurt their bottom line and perhaps even bring eventual failure to the institution. This young woman had trouble finding another job and finally had to get a lawyer. AAUW, through its legal fund, helped her pay her legal fees, she got a settlement and her life turned right-side up once again. Good talk.

After lunch people were offered two sessions of workshops with several options to choose from in each session. The two sessions I attended were well worth giving up a Saturday for. Of course, by then the science march was over and so was any guilt I had felt about missing it.

AAUW used to be open to only women with a university background but has now opened up to any who want to support women’s rights and STEM programs for girls and who would find value in a nationwide community of women (and even some men) who support each other and stay in touch and fight for what is right. In these days when the rights of women seem to be under attack, when we may need to reengage in a fight that should already be won, this organization finds itself dying out. It needs a big injection of young energy to carry on the work of the wonderful women who fought so quietly and well. Many of these women are in their seventies and eighties and cannot do the work they once did (although they are still quite energetic and amazing). They are looking for younger women who will learn what they know before they have to retire from the organization and who will keep this important work alive. Please type AAUW into your favorite search engine, read more about the organization, and join this excellent group if you have something to offer.