Trump, Putin and Us

trump-putin-usa big The Forward

Trump, Putin and Us

What a week! We can now see the connections between Trump, the GOP, the NRA, and religious fundamentalists and Putin in Russia that have been building for decades. And yet we still find a Trump/GOP base in America that cannot be swayed.

https://www.salon.com/2018/07/21/how-low-can-trump-go/

“As the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in tighter and tighter on Trump’s inner circle and Trump himself, tending to his base is the key to Trump staying in office. A recent Washington Post poll showed that close to 50 percent of Republicans believe that Trump won the popular vote in 2016. He didn’t; Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Trump. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans believe Trump’s lie that millions of illegal immigrants voted in 2016, and nearly 75 percent believe that voter fraud occurs “somewhat or very often.” It doesn’t; numerous studies have found voter fraud to be close to nonexistent.

But it’s this statistic that’s most shocking in the Post poll of Republicans. “52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election, and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress proposed this,” according to the Post.”

In case you didn’t read that quote, it said, in a Washington Post survey 52% of Republicans polled would support postponing the 2020 election.

We also learned of the close connection between Maria Butina, a Russian operative, and the NRA. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/opinion/republican-party-national-rifle-association-trump-russia.html

And we learned that Russians attended the National Prayer Breakfast, a Conservative fundamentalist religious function. https://www.salon.com/2018/07/21/putins-close-ties-to-national-prayer-breakfast-revealed_partner/

If America and Russia become besties, and if Trump is able to postpone the 2020 election, what can we expect America to be like. Hard to tell. This morning in the New York Times there was an article by a man who knew Sakharov, a Russian physicist and dissident who spent long periods imprisoned and in a Russian gulag. He warns us that life without freedom is a double life. You steal private moments of freedom at your risk and in public you comply to whatever the government asks. Within the article is a reprint of Sakharov’s essay, distributed in Russia as a secret document passed from hand to hand.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/opinion/andrei-sakharov-essay-soviet-union.html

“Sakharov’s decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country’s domestic behavior — and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,” he often explained…

Mr. Trump has taken America’s human-rights-free foreign policy to absurd new heights. His assertion that North Koreans support Kim Jong-un with “great fervor” undermined America’s moral standing, sabotaged North Korean dissidents and legitimized an evil dictator. His shocking refusal to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia over his country’s blatant interference in the 2016 United States presidential election highlights his unwillingness to protect Americans’ democratic rights, let alone Russians’ human rights.”

Trumps base big Getty images

Trump’s Base

But I don’t think this is what is on the minds of Trump’s base. Their interests are perhaps more varied and more parochial. Some are passionate about killing Roe v Wade. Some are simply nostalgic for what they consider better times for the middle class in America and they insist on having that back. Some are concerned that America will no longer be a white and Christian nation, and they will allow children to be placed in cages if that will make their wishes reality. Some are protecting an almost frontier vision of America, with absolute rights guaranteed by local law enforcement and by the federal government, think Duck Dynasty and the passionate defense of guns in America.

But what Trump supporters will get in the end probably will be quite different from what they are asking. They may get an end to Roe v Wade but they will also lose good health coverage, especially for those with preexisting conditions, which will be practically everyone. They may be able to stop all immigration and thereby end illegal immigration and they may no longer see their benefits spent on “those people” but they may also lose their own benefits. Medicare and Social Security use money from the budget that Trump and the GOP would like to earmark for other things, or steal. Without Medicare and Social Security seniors will die and they will die earlier and in greater numbers than is natural. If Trump and the GOP see seniors as burdens because they are no longer able to labor physically and perhaps, even mentally, then a man with so little compassion would be happy to let go of unproductive members of American society with barely a twitch of emotion. Poor people have already been written off. Trump says there are no more poor people in America.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/donald-trumps-poverty-problem/563960/

I think we can easily predict the demise of the social safety net. No poor, then no food stamps, no welfare, no Medicaid. We the people are the ones that will be cut out of America’s budget.

Who will do the work the immigrants have been doing, America’s dishes, weeding, planting and picking. Who will clean America’s public restrooms and serve as teacher’s aides in our schools? Who will complete American renos and put in American floors? Trump’s base could very well find itself doing all of these jobs or living in a nation where the niceties are no longer observed and filth and hunger and disease are what we inherit. We will have a government that keeps passing the dollars up the chain and we will be paid lower wages and have fewer ways out of the poverty that doesn’t exist.

We are the people who did not know how to turn a nickel into a million dollars, or who did not have a daddy who gave us a million dollar stake. We are the people who never learned to be ruthless in business but only ruthless to each other.

Who will our friends be? Well, Putin, and President Xi and Kim Jong Un and Duterte and Erdogan. We will have a whole new cohort of meanness and no one to appeal to for aid and assistant. Perhaps we will start picking off American drug dealers and drug users like Duterte.

Armed Guard in Kansas big The New Yorker

The Rich, the 1%

What will the wealthy be doing? I saw an article about that this week also. They will be looking for guards they can trust to protect them in their walled estates. Sound familiar. It should, it is feudalism without knights, only paranoia.

https://www.cnn.com/style/article/doomsday-luxury-bunkers/index.html

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

In a world that promises to be crowded with 9 billion people, how expendable will most of us be? Trump’s little cult is helping him and others separate the wealthy from the poor in whole other dimensions besides our bank accounts and our possessions. Trump’s base may be dooming themselves and us to obsolescence. Unless we show genius or the willingness to perform menial tasks, how will we be necessary to people who do not value the rights of ordinary people. Why should they share the wealth with us? I doubt that they intend to.

Whenever you get into this realm of extrapolating the future from the present you lose any real basis in fact and you lose your credibility. The future could unfold in many different ways. However I do not see a role for Donald Trump in the future of America. Now that we have him in the oval office though there does not seem to be a way to rid ourselves of him that is consistent with our morality. And that is a dilemma because we are dealing with someone without morality, only some kind of code of personal loyalty. We know he is a bad President, possibly a traitorous President but we have given power to the Conservative literal interpretation of our Constitution and we therefore have no way, within the rules of our system, to unseat him. We are waiting for absolute proof  which we may never have. This is a man who knows how to cover his tracks and see his troops indicted for his own deniability.

Our squeamishness may land us in Trump/Putin land. We can practice when Putin comes to oversee our election in November. I bet he will be here for Trump’s military parade. Donald will be so proud, except for the lack of the tanks. How will it feel? Like a betrayal of every little thing we treasured about the USA.

This is, as always, a view from the cheap seats.

Photo credits: Photo one – Google Image Search – The Forward, Photo two – Google Image Search – Daily Kos, Photo three – The New Yorker

 

 

 

The Future is Not Now Because the Supreme Court

way back machine 1947 mad over brand

That future of global human rights and a global economy, perhaps even someday a global government just became something that is no longer imminent. The Way-Back machine has won and people who hoped for a world that cooperated to save itself realize that we won’t be going there right away. Recent events suggest that the future that was barreling down the pipeline will be delayed indefinitely. It will now require a plan with a long view to evolve a governance that benefits all the world’s people.

GOP Long Plan

Charles Blow talks this morning in the NYT about what the people in power hope to gain through regression. They want, not surprisingly, to retain their power and to keep a world around them that looks like the world of their youth. We call them conservatives but they are really reactionaries. They did take a long view. They were horrified by the many signs that they were losing their grip on power. They met in their conservative groups and their think tanks and they plotted for ways they could reverse the trends they were seeing.

Conservative politicians joined forces with conservative billionaire corporatists, and evangelicals with views of religion so regressive that they did not even believe in keeping government separate from religion, as the freedom of religion guaranteed in our founding documents implies.

So we saw groups like the Freedom Caucus keeping Congress from passing any law that could be considered part of a futurist agenda and the Koch brothers working to win state houses and legislatures to the conservative cause.  A recent article even suggested that the Koch brothers are meddling in federal legislation and have big plans for influencing the midterm elections. See these remarks in the Congressional Record in the section with the title “Dark Money”

https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2018/4/24/senate-section/article/s2372-4?r=52

Right wing politicians legislated about money and they pledged to Grover Norquist that they would not raise taxes.

They turned the NRA into a rabid lobby group to pretend that the 2nd Amendment rights of Americas were under attack and to foment hysteria.

They passed laws that allowed corporations to give as much money as they wanted to political campaigns and then yelled bloody murder when Democratic billionaires did the same.

They gerrymandered voting districts to make them reliably Republican, they suppressed votes in key Democratic districts by making it harder for minority voters to get to the polls.

They kept the pressure on against Roe v Wade with things like trap laws that forced abortion clinics to be judged by the same rules as large hospitals, knowing they would not be able to comply and would have to close their doors.

They stopped President Obama from filling the seat of Justice Alito when he died unexpectedly by adopting a totally transparent policy to not allow a lame duck President to fill a seat (which was not a rule until they made it one).

They also want to allow religious bodies including churches to contribute to elections in the same way that corporations can.

They lost a few – the Affordable Care Act, Same Sex Marriage and equal rights for all sexual identities – and they have never stopped moaning about it and they will, most likely, overturn both of these laws that they hate, if they can.

We may even become a Christian theocracy.

Causes

Much of this seems to have been set into motion by demographics – first of all the data that predicted that white people would soon be the minority in America, and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center that set off alarms that there were Muslim people who wanted to turn the world Muslim.

Coup de Grace

Republicans and Trump have been busily stuffing the Federal district courts with conservatives (the more conservative the better). But the big prize has always been the Supreme Court. Stuff that court with Conservatives and they serve for life (or until they retire) and you get your way for at least a generation. If you stuff the court with young Conservatives you can control the US government and the US people even longer. We have arrived at the tipping point with the resignation of Anthony Kennedy. The Conservatives will now have an absolute majority on the Supreme Court. It’s the cherry on the sundae.

Remorse, Bitter Remorse

Everything that I was keeping an eye on, everything I was hoping would not happen has pretty much happened. The future is not now. However inevitable the future is, and young people will keep inventing it with all their energy and optimism, these old men have managed to put the kibosh on the future for now. Now I will not get to see the future happen. What comes next will not be pretty. A blue wave would certainly put a crimp in their style and not allow them the perfect victory, the victory without opposition that they have been plotting.

Trump does not deserve much credit for the way our government is currently configured – all one party, no appreciable checks and balances – but he did have whatever it is he has that makes him the most successful con man in America. He managed to get himself elected just as the Republican plans created the red wave that supported him and he is helping the Republicans turn back the future because that suits him to a tee.

America is not the only country that is pushing against the future, trying desperately to create walls, both real and metaphorical to keep the past, and not necessarily even what is best about the past, but whatever keeps these old reprobates in power. You might want to check out this article from today’s NYT about why Erdogan won his electionin Turkey despite his authoritarian bent.

Sad.

If we flee to our religious roots and entwine them into our government, then we have much more to be nervous about. Evangelicals are militant and judgmental. If we find ourselves governed by a Conservative Evangelical theocracy then we need to remember that the GOP and the CIA used torture techniques on foreigners who may or may not have been terrorists. Would they stop Evangelicals from conducting an inquisition against folks with other beliefs? Far-fetched maybe, but not impossible to imagine.

Scary.

Added 7/2/2018 Adult Content

https://www.thedailybeast.com/john-oliver-is-devastated-over-scotus-everything-is-terrible-now

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – mad over brand

New Feudalism or Enlightened Planet

 

It seemed like we all just got “woke”. Things were looking like they might coalesce into some kind of concerted effort to ensure things like an adequate food supply, plenty of potable water, clean oceans. We seemed to have generated some real interest in being good caretakers of our tiny planet spinning in space at the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, soon to be home to 9 billions humans (and as many species as we can keep from extinction). Younger people seem to have some interest in global cooperation, extending human rights – perhaps an evolutionary leap to a more enlightened planet.

Now we suddenly find ourselves in a white nationalist cul de sac which, if it becomes our permanent abode, certainly will put paid to our dreams of global nirvana. Our dual nature, of course, makes global nirvana just about impossible unless they design a drug to tamp down negative human traits (but the side effects would probably be brutal). Doesn’t matter. We have been turned away from that global future into this isolationist cul de sac. Will our sojourn here be brief or long? Will the world join us here or move on without us?

We were on the cusp of the future predicted by or copied from science fiction – except for the tiny hiccups like hating to share our country with people of color, or Muslims, and a weird insistence on doubling down on fossil fuels (that we are pretty sure are harmful to us because they harm this planet we are not able to leave – our lovely home, earth). However there are tendencies towards that still-possible global future developing alongside us as we get steered into that dead end where Trump wants to take us.

Progress in technology is relentless. AI may change everything. Adventurous sorts with money are still trying to reach the stars (Elon Musk, Tesla). We may still end up with cars we don’t have to drive and space elevators. Will these parallel trends save us from revisiting the Dark Ages? Will tech trends interrupt the economic trends that could turn most of us back into serfs.

I find myself awake sometimes in the middle of the night wondering what forms government might take in the future. I guess a brain sometimes wants to be entertained, although I wish it would choose a more opportune hour. But I am a science fiction geek, not so much the new stuff, with exceptions, but the classics, so my mind takes me to the future. I wish my understandings were mathematical, or as an expert in engineering or physics, but beyond comprehending that tesseracts involve dimensions and folding space (which we can’t actually do), I will never be joining any NASA  tech team. (I also know tesseracts, used in this way, are from Margaret L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time, which just became a movie).

My real interest in science fiction is political, sociological – about the mechanics of human organizations in space. Since none of us have been in space (not including the Moon) the writers of science fiction create the ways people behave in space, the governmental structures in space, the wars in space, even the day-to-day activities of humans in space. If/when we go to space will the schema we have placed in our brains limit the kinds of government we can imagine? Maybe.

Isaac Asimov, in the Foundation Trilogy (which ended up as more than a trilogy), depicted an entire universe plunged in a Dark Age with one lonely think tank/foundation of enlightenment hidden in a distant and rarely traveled corner in space. The trilogy tells what happens when the secrecy ends, which is a pitted struggle between, of course, the forces of evil and those of good, or corrupt reactionaries v. insightful progressives. The form of government favored by Asimov in this trilogy involves a sort of mind-meld of all living things into “one harmonious living entity in which all beings and the galaxy itself would be a part.” This is so far from our current cult of the individual as to seem far-fetched and not terribly enticing, although it seemed more beckoning in the Age of Aquarius when these books were widely read. At least it was not simply a rehash of the government types we already knew, but it also involves a mental transformation which is beyond our current capacities. It does coincide with the idea of a more global approach to organizing life on earth in the 21st century.

Frank Herbert fathered the Dune books which had one of the most intricate governmental structures, basically feudal in nature. The Butlerian Jihad had dictated the destruction of computers and machines and robots that “think”, (our suspicions about AI are a recurring theme in sci-fi). Mentats, human “computers” take the place of machines. There are royal families (the Houses), the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit sisters trying to genetically engineer a superhuman male called the Kwisatz Haderach, and the Fremen who control the sandworms that produce spice. There is the spice with all its parallels to our fossil fuels, although with religious overtones. Many feel that the Dune books were so popular because they went along with the environmentalist movement, still a sort of fringy, but hardly new movement, which appointed us as the caretakers of our planet. Although the feudal governments in Dune do coincide with our current moves in the direction of feudalism and a new dark age, that probably was not the real point of the series.

Star Wars gave us the Empire and the Rebellion but as the prequels were added we saw that this was intended to be Democratic government, although so enormous that corruption seemed inevitable – and it was. Star Trek had the Federation and its nemesis the Klingon Empire, a malignant imperialist military state, but we don’t learn much about how the Federation governs beyond the rule that its space peace enforcers should not meddle in other civilizations, a rule that may influence how we would like to conduct ourselves if we ever become a presence in the universe beyond our planet.

We have the systems of governance we have already tried – barter, monarchy, dictatorship, communism, socialism, democracy/republic, social democracy – and perhaps even some examples of anarchy. Every system we try tends to end the same way with plenty of economic inequality and the inability to keep at bay our negative traits. I could go on with my sleepless ruminations about whether or not science fiction may offer us some answers about human government and social structures, but it is just a symptom of my desire to part the curtain of time, to see how we will govern ourselves if we avoid being led into the wilderness and find our way back to global governance, or at least global cooperation. What we might get, if we accomplished this seemingly impossible feat, is a sort of microcosm of how we might interact with each other, or even with alien cultures, in space. And may I say, “yikes”, it doesn’t look like we will ever get the hang of a government framework that provides long-term stability, fairness and peace.

But if we will be sidelined into some grim nightmare of feudalism, of endless work – some nouveau Evangelical ethic which says that if you are not wealthy then you are inferior and you belong to the wealthy. You will be expected to labor, reproduce, get sick, and die. If such a future is where we are headed then I don’t have any desire to take any time machine to see it. I do not want to lose the fine freedoms we have enjoyed in our nation, an ideal of governance which has convinced much of the world to go along with it, and has, so far, been the most promising of any system of government that the human mind has devised on earth.

There may be some better design in the future but let’s not throw our republic away before someone imagines it. If we don’t conquer the issues of wealth inequality, the corruption that big money has bought to our republic, and the reactionary slide of our current politics we could easily descend into a society that turns the poor into slaves or convicts. We fear an Orwellian future or a return of gestapo mentality because we see these tendencies on the rise, and shockingly, it looks like America may go there first. No wonder I am having nightmares. Aren’t you?