Dem Rx

Certain folk are complaining that the Democratic Party has gone off the rails, and is incapable of doing anything right. Nonsense. Dems believe in what they have always believed, that the strength of our democracy depends on how well our citizens are treated.

It’s the Republicans who have gone off the rails, and are now devoting all their time to serving the very rich and living in a fantasy world where magic works just fine. In recent decades Republicans have operated at the edge of the law. This has resulted in 120 indictments, 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences for Republicans, compared to 3 indictments, 1 conviction, and 1 prison sentence for Democrats over the same period. And that’s pre-Trump.

But aren’t the Dems just as corrupted by corporate bribery as the Repubs? The way I see it is that the Dems have no choice but to accept Corporate Personhood bucks if they want to mount an electoral defense against multi-billionaire fossil fuel science deniers and the like. That’s unfortunate, but unavoidable, and Dems in this trap have to be extremely careful.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to correct the ongoing lies that Trump voters believe no matter what evidence there is to the contrary. The absurd Republican belief is that making the billionaires richer will help everyone. The opposite has been proven numerous times to be the case. Pure greed is the only thing the Republican belief serves. It makes the rest of us worse off.

Some problems and how to fix them.

Poverty: It seems so obvious. Set a minimum wage that allows people to simply live, without working two jobs. Currently that seems to be about $15 per hour. Every place where $15 has been tried has thrived.

Shorten the work week. We no longer work a 72-hour week, yet the 40-hour week didn’t bankrupt us. A 20-to-30 hour week is overdue. The transition will need to be carefully managed, but the result will be that more people will have work and fewer will be unemployed, which helps the country.

Get rid of desperate poverty with a guaranteed minimum income that prevents suffering from the worst effects of extreme poverty, but won’t be enough that it would be desirable.

Establish tax-supported national health care. This will save tens of thousands of lives yearly, and will vastly improve the national health, which in turn will boost economic health. Since cost control would be a part of national health care, excessive costs from fees, technology, and medicines would be reduced. We would no longer waste one of every three dollars on insurance administration, which contributes absolutely nothing to health care. The cost savings would be some $200B annually. That’s a savings of $645 per person per year just for instituting universal health care.

There are many other things Dems should support, policies that create greater common wealth. For example, encouragement of worker ownership of businesses. Policies that help domestic businesses be more competitive against overseas businesses that exploit workers with very low pay. For example assistance in financing a new business and modernizing older ones, and improvements in transportation and marketing. Tax breaks that help real people, not just corporate billionaires.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Dems is reaching Trumpsters, who have fallen for blatant lies, and live in a fantasy world where Trump will make them all rich. Dems must learn how to reach these people and show them how government actually works, and what will help them personally. That’s a tough challenge, because many such people are very resistant to such realization, and would rather remain in their fantasy world. They hate Obama and Democrats because they hate Obama and Democrats.

No, Democrats haven’t gone off the rails. The Democratic platform should be what it has always been: serve the people, all the people, not just the rich. Enact laws based on factual evidence, not quasi-religious faith that doesn’t hold up under inspection.

What to Call a Hater

The short answer is, Don’t call them anything. Don’t label them. Forget what they look like to you. Drop all your preconceived notions. Even the worst haters are sentient beings, after all. Maybe the dumbest and ugliest of them mostly wants you to pay attention.

This is what liberals should do, rather than the vile name-calling we often see under Comments on political statements online, from conservatives and liberals alike. It’s not so easy to maintain a level head when someone is calling you a “libtard” or some equally insulting name. But using such a label is just a reflex, to be used instead of debate.

If you keep your response neutral you may learn something valuable. For example, some guy who lives in an area where so many are becoming addicted may be unemployed for years, and rightfully angry about it. Ask him about his problems. Then ask him what he thinks the solution is. If he spouts nasty comments, do not respond in kind. If he speaks of information you know is false, gently remind him of the actual facts. Tell him where you found your information.

In this particular case, your new buddy might have some simplistic solutions to complex problems. Explore with him some of the options for improving the situation. For example, what does he think of a guaranteed minimum income? The role of robots these days. Is more unemployment due to shipping jobs overseas or to replacing workers with robots? He may have some interesting insights from the front lines.

Offer to meet with him online with Skype or FaceTime. Ask him to put some of his friends in touch. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with a lively discussion group.

What to call a hater is part of a much larger problem, that of turning the hate that Trump cultivated and tapped into over a long period, and enlarged greatly during the campaign, back into civilized discourse. Trump’s campaign of lies and hate, much approved of by racists and haters of every kind, and never disavowed by him, even to this day, has resulted in a storm of hate crimes against virtually every social, cultural, and religious group that is not white and Christian. In short, we have rapidly devolved from an admirable nation into a dangerously uncivil one, unsafe even to visit.

It will not be enough for liberals to simply “make nice”, though. Hatred makes a lot more noise, even when very few people are involved. But are there very few? I’m afraid not. It has been obvious for a long time that racism is one of the defining characteristics of today’s Republican Party. Republicans believe all blacks are lazy and stupid, all Mexicans are criminal, all Asians are sneaky and untrustworthy, all Muslims are terrorists, and so on. Not to mention the rampant misogyny we have observed in hundreds of proposed laws to control and limit women—but never men, not once. Many are outspoken in these and similar beliefs, although most refuse to explicitly acknowledge them. But the beliefs are there, and making nice on the part of liberal Democrats can only be a weak and ineffective response.

It is not the liberal message that needs to be changed. The rights and welfare of the people are still the primary concerns, and not the wealth of the already wealthy. It is the way the message is delivered that must be improved. It is imperative to know that ending the loud shouts of hatred depends not only on how a better message is delivered, but on formulating workable specific programs and policies that address the legitimate issues raised by the unemployed and disappointed in all parts of the country. Moreover, bringing new hope to neo-nazi haters is just as important as improving the lives of more likable characters. If a cause is legitimate, it is legitimate for everyone, and seeing that improved fortunes for all don’t depend on worsening fortunes for some—it’s not like dividing a pie—may change a few minds.

No such coherent plan exists at present. Hillary Clinton, as competent a president as she would have made, would largely have preserved the status quo, rather than forge a very progressive new plan that would address these very real problems. What we need is that progressive plan—guaranteed minimum income, encouragement of domestic industry of all sorts by various means, a strong program of acceptance of all people—always delivered with kindness.

It must be consistent. It must be insistent. It must be brought to all, including the very people who would prefer to simply hate and shout.

The Lingering Death of the Carbon Age

Donald Trump’s presidency, custom built for the benefit of the very rich, is not a new fashion. Every few years the power shifts in an unsteady balance between those motivated by the welfare of the people, as Lincoln’s memorable Gettysburg address states, and those who think money itself is the highest order because they have a lot of it.

What is new is the failure of the latter to understand that the larger world has changed. But it has, a lot. Republicans show every sign of resisting or ignoring the increasingly obvious sea change from from carbon captured millions of years ago in the age of dinosaurs, to energy from the sun that surrounds us every moment and will not be exhausted. Energy from sunshine in the form of electricity and heat, wind-derived electricity, ocean wave-generated energy, natural purification powered by the sun, from tides, and many other sources, and continually improved by the ingenious devices of people everywhere.

This change is happening no matter who doesn’t want it or how rich they are. Several nations have either achieved or are about to achieve complete energy derivation from the sun, and independence from all fossil-based fuels. These are nations where government isn’t so interested in making a few people very rich, and are permanently focussed on the welfare of all their people.

The very rich deniers, in fact, risk the very lives of their own descendants—and ours—because the Carbon Age has died, and they waste large sums of money that should be spent on the future, not on dinosaurs.

Some of you have probably seen the bones of the colossal dinosaur in New York’s Museum of Natural History. It’s so big that its tail extends out of the huge main hall and into a hallway. It is said that the tail is so far away from its tiny brain that there needs to be a sort of second brain to operate the tail.

What has happened is that the Carbon Age dinosaur has died, but the little tail-brain of carbon investors doesn’t know it. Those who do are moving on, building new societies not built around oil and coal.

Here’s another way of looking at it. We’ve all seen the guy in the cab at the rear of the fire department’s “hook and ladder”. He steers the rear wheels. He turns the rear wheels first in the “wrong” direction, then the “right”, so the very long truck can make sharp turns. He is like the old carbon investors who deny that the world has changed. They are not going to steer in the “wrong” direction because they deny that it’s necessary. And they are going to crash the fire truck, which then becomes useless, like a 21st century economy built around coal-powered steam trains.

The US has from the very beginning been a nation ruled by the Almighty Dollar, something noted by Alexis de Tocqueville in his mid-1800s tour of the country. As a nation of inventors and innovators, there were more than a few people who turned their talents into wealth, sometimes vast wealth. Among these were the millionaires, now the billionaires, whose great wealth derived from oil, gas, and coal. Today many descendants of these same people expect their carbon-powered festival to continue forever.

But it won’t. It can’t, because the combination of over 7.5 billion people in the world and the pollution caused by the use of these fossil fuels has poisoned everything and created global warming and other signs of radical change that are now inescapable. But, in spite of massive undeniable evidence, the carbon dinosaurs still don’t believe it, because to do so would mean the end of their big celebration. So they spend many millions to convince others by means of manipulated evidence and outright lies that the changes that are all around us don’t exist.

Our new president is one of these ignorant deniers, because he too gets richer from these antique investments. As the commander in charge of the country he will do all he can to preserve his own bragging-wealth, along with the other very wealthy. These are the people who keep the dying Carbon Age on ever more expensive life support, while more advanced countries understood long ago that a new age of renewable power was already upon us, and we must shift our efforts to survive. They have succeeded, whereas the deniers harm the future for the sake of money they don’t need.

Prez 2.0

It becomes more apparent with every passing day that our president is mentally unbalanced, and incapable of fulfilling the duties of leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

He is incapable of accepting reality, and daily insists that his fabrications are the truth. Although he says he has independent evidence that no one else has, he never presents it because it does not exist.

He is obsessed with petty obsessions, to the detriment of the nation. For example, he insists that he won the popular vote, although the clear evidence says he lost by nearly three million votes. He says he has objective evidence that this is not so, but he does not and cannot present this evidence. He says that the crowd for his inauguration was of record size, although continuous photographic evidence comparing crowd sizes from the recent two inaugurations clearly shows that at no point was the crowd even close to the crowd for President Obama’s inauguration. The worldwide Women’s March in opposition to him, held the following day was at least three times larger that the inauguration crowd in the US alone, but he insists it was not.

During the campaign he hid his tax returns, saying he would release them when he was no longer under audit. Audit does not prevent anyone from such a release. Later he gave other excuses, one being that he would release them when he was elected. Now that he is president he says he won’t release them at all.

Clearly, there is something in these tax statements that is compromising to our national interests or outright illegal. With his ongoing influence over his own investments, an undisclosed amount emanating from Russia, our national independence may be compromised. It is worth noting that his signed document saying he resigns from the many businesses he headed is meaningless, since his own family, with whom he is in regular contact, continues to control it all.

His obsession with Twitter has been shocking. Virtually every day in the early hours he published petty tweets about people with whom he became upset. The tweets were all either outright lies or defied reality in some other way, and became a national embarrassment.

This man does not understand that his imagination is not reality, that the way the world is cannot be invented or decreed. Virtually every day he says something that denies objective reality. Even his inner circle is finding this mental fantasy impossible to defend. They are forced to parrot what he says, even defending it as “alternate reality”, which of course is nothing more than falsehood or outright lies. His press secretary was trapped in this way, and clearly embarrassed or infuriated by what he was compelled to say. Later he insisted he had a right to “disagree with facts”. (!)

To their great shame, the reporters of the mainstream media failed to tell the public what they knew during the endless campaign, that this man was unbalanced, leaving the public with the impression that his endlessly changeable and self-contradictory statements somehow passed the giggle test, although they were so far from reality that no thinking person could possibly accept them at face value. They were, in fact, an endlessly long stream of lies.

In recent days it has become more apparent as he perseverates about crowd size at his inauguration or some other event, to the detriment of affairs of state.

Unfortunately, he has surrounded himself with people who, although they may be better at accepting reality in the larger sense, clearly fail in other ways, insisting, for example, that the Bible has all the answers for how to conduct a modern state of 340-million people.

In some ways the president fits right in with the unspoken overall goal of Republicans in recent years: to guide the maximum amount of wealth to the already wealthy, while punishing everyone else, with particular emphasis on dark-skinned people, poor people, immigrants, and followers of several religions.

Within days, the president and fellow Republicans began to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which independent research shows will result in the additional deaths of 44-thousand people annually. At the same time he signed hundreds of statements to dismantle eight years of progress in protecting the people and environment under the previous administration, and to move government into dark secrecy. Although these steps may reflect Republican dogma, they are clearly detrimental to public wellbeing.

There are far too many Republicans who are also unable to understand that reality is independent of their beliefs, and the remainder have lacked the intestinal fortitude to challenge them because among their own constituents include many people equally undereducated and lacking critical thinking skills. Somehow, the Republicans who are capable of understanding what has been wrought must seize the reins and begin the process of removing a president who is mentally incapable of performing his duties.

When Does the Real Storm Start?

Various of our presidents have entered office amid a great deal of controversy. It’s probably safe to say that the opposition virtually always wrings their hands in despair.

But this time is different, unlike anything that has ever happened before. That Donald Trump will actually become president astonished virtually everyone. Even many members of the Republican Party, who refused to support him during the campaign, are, with the inauguration at our doorstep, as alarmed as Democrats and other thinking people are.

On his way out the door President Obama published a 50-page article on legal matters and shorter one on science trends, both in respected journals, while Donald Trump put out insulting 140-character Tweets about his “enemies”, by which he means literally everyone who is not a strong supporter. Unfortunately, this sort of activity, completely and endlessly egocentric, is the most characteristic activity in his repertoire, and his ADD prevents his attention on anything for more than a few minutes. He could not write what I’m writing now, which is hardly Nobel material.

There is something pathologically wrong with this man. Many believe that Trump should be examined by clinical psychiatrists, because he exhibits many characteristics of the mentally ill. Trump is unlikely to do so, because his enormous narcissistic ego leads him to believe that he is extraordinarily smart, and practically perfect in every way. This braggadocio alarmed many people when he refused to attend the daily briefings that would keep him up to date on global events, supposedly because he was too smart to need them. It remains to be seen whether Congress will be forced by circumstances to either demand an examination or simply impeach him, hopefully before he does too much damage.

He is apparently smart enough to game the tax system and to routinely cheat the people who work for him, but these are legal, not presidential, requirements. He faces thousands of court cases, at least one on-again-off-again for rape of a minor. In New York, hundreds of workers he has stiffed are placing liens on the hotel they worked on without getting paid, one of thousands of lawsuits he faces.

A small group of very wealthy men (almost always men) gained their wealth from the mining and use of fossil fuels, which is the main reason the planet is in dire danger. These men cannot be convinced that the Carbon Age is over, because that’s how they made their money, and not one believes that the future lies elsewhere. They devote hundreds of millions to propaganda denying what cannot be denied. Even in the face of radical change in energy use all around them, their faith remains unshaken.

Trump, like the fossil fuel billionaires, doesn’t “believe” in the climate change that has engulfed our little planet. As if our daily experience could be a matter of belief. As if the deadly smog engulfing Beijing and Kolkata were a mere figment. As if the last dozen years or so, each year setting a new heat record, is something made up by Las Vegas bookies. While those who don’t understand that the Age of Carbon is over try to pretend these changes are not happening, smarter people are working on ways to survive. “Alternative” energy sources are fast becoming “standard” fuel sources that will leave the fossil billionaires with a new nickname, fossil fuel fossils.

A small but slowly growing list of Republicans seems to be coming around to acceptance of these realities, rather than religious faith that so many rely on to guide them through difficulties that have nothing to do with religion. Although Trump doesn’t appear to be at all religious, he can’t accept that the huge changes happening daily to our planet are real. He simply doesn’t understand that it is impossible to “not believe” in science, any more than they could “not believe” in gravity, because science is entirely indifferent to all systems of belief and human endeavors. Science is how we have been able to learn about the realities of the universe, which were always there. A star that explodes is indifferent to anyone’s opinion. It explodes whether or not someone “believes” it exploded. You cannot not believe in it because it is reality, and indifferent to your beliefs.

And so, Donald Trump Trump selects people for his administration entirely on the basis of their personal wealth and their agreement with him. Not on their expertise, not on their accomplishments, not on their openness to reality and evidence. He thinks money is the hallmark of “success” that will enable them to deal with their challenges, and cannot conceive of a more important criterion.

Worse, virtually every appointment is a person who believes in the opposite of his job’s description. They believe their goal is to dismantle their department, and kill off everything in Washington. They think the Great Free Market will be the unseen hand that will guide our nation of 340,000,000 souls to a new prosperity.

What will happen when President Trump demands something of the world that is impossible to fulfill? What will happen when he demands that rational persons believe what they know cannot occur? What will happen when the outcome of his plans is the opposite of what he believes will happen?

Congratulations Are Due

The Republican Party has discovered the formula for dismantling democracy in the United States. Their longstanding dream of thwarting the intent of the Founders has become reality.

There are five rules:

  1. When Democrats are in power, do nothing.
  2. Establish obstacles to voting.
  3. Create confusion and false beliefs.
  4. Create new truth by constant repetition of lies.
  5. Deny the reality of factual and scientific evidence.

The Republican Party’s entire stated goal for eight years has been to thwart President Obama. Nothing else. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said outright that his proudest achievement was to prevent anything from being done at all.

There is a concentration of ignorance and stupidity among Republicans that is not easily denied. More than a little of this derives from the weak education and poor critical thinking skills of some of them, and reliance on the Bible for all “truth”. Thus, fundamentalist Republicans are incapable of understanding simple statistics, and cannot reason critically when these deny the “truths” of their faith. Such people deny the truth of climate change because they fail to understand how science works.

Meantime, over decades, states with Republican governors and legislatures have set in play numerous amoral and illegal games to limit voting by those more likely to vote Democrat. These are not unsubstantiated claims, but recorded statements by establishment Republicans. Many of these plans are blatantly unconstitutional. But that doesn’t matter because by the time legal challenges work their ponderous way through the courts they will have already served their purpose and been replaced by newer unconstitutional laws.

Take a law that closes voter registration offices everywhere except the largest cities. Reduced registration because of great inconvenience is what Republicans want, but once offices in less populated areas are closed and their personnel dismissed, it is difficult to reopen them on court order. Mission accomplished.

Then there is always the ever popular gerrymander, which accomplishes its deed by putting most of the Democratic voters in a painfully contorted voting district that defies geographic reality. Since all the Dems are in one district, it’s easy for the state to be Republican regardless of how many Dems there are statewide.

Voting prevention goes far beyond these tricks, however. Voter registration hours become limited to, say, one morning every two weeks during the work week, so that low wage workers will find registration virtually impossible. A multi-state data base is used to remove voters from rolls if there is someone with the same name in another state. This is done late during the election season, so that it becomes impossible for a voter to challenge her removal before the election.

In spite of blatant disregard for the welfare of the nation’s people, Republicans falsely claimed that President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was ineffective and would bankrupt the nation. Nearly 30-million Americans signed up, many gaining health insurance for the first time in their lives. Republican governors who refused to participate caused many thousands of deaths from untreated conditions. House Republicans voted some 60 times to repeal the act.

The spreading of false information became a cottage industry among Republicans. Once Donald Trump had become the last man standing among the army of fools running for the Republican presidential nomination, he took over and the entire effort shifted into overdrive.

Denial of plain reality has become a Republican hallmark. They dare not accept the fact that the universe is some 18.8 billions of years old, that humans are on course to make the planet uninhabitable, that we are not a Christian nation, and many other undeniable realities. Independent scientific reality or reality in any other form simply does not matter if it’s not what they believe.

The Republican effort often centered around the creation of confusion about various facts, and the purposeful creation of Trump voters’ false belief that they understood. Trump told his followers endless lies that shifted by the hour. Yet his true believers simply did not listen to what he claimed, only to his racist and misogynist anger and extravagant unworkable promises. This even gave rise to a new dictionary term: post-truth, meaning an era when truth became irrelevant.

Thus the decades-long effort to criminalize Hillary Clinton did not require actual evidence of criminal behavior, of which there was none whatsoever. All it took was Trump routinely referring to her as “criminal Hillary”.

Nor did they examine any of his false claims that they would all become affluent because of the wonderful things he would do as president. As the inauguration approaches and Republicans in Congress lay the groundwork for eliminating health insurance for 30-million people, their number one goal, buyer’s remorse is only beginning to occur to Trump voters.

Democrats, for their part, underestimated the degree and intensity of resentment by people who felt they had been bypassed by the affluence that everyone else enjoyed, regardless of whether they had taken steps to become educated and develop marketable skills. Most of these were angry ill-educated whites who believed their skin color alone made them superior to all other races and cultures. Thus Trump earned the endorsement of every KKK chapter and every neo-nazi and white hate group in the country.

Further effort by the Republican establishment became unnecessary after the primaries because Trump took on his own shoulders the entire effort, and spewed an endless stream of grand falsehoods so rapidly they were virtually impossible to keep up with. The mainstream press gave him billions of dollars worth of free coverage and virtually no negative press, while correction of falsehoods fell largely to the small independent internet press.

Trump is the master of the exorbitant lies that are well beyond any possibility of becoming reality. His huge wall, the length of the border with Mexico and paid for by Mexico, to prevent the illegal immigration of the many millions of criminal and rapist Mexicans he claimed, is only the most recognizable false claim. During the election itself he claimed—without the first shred of evidence—that millions of illegal voters had voted for Hillary. There are hundreds more such lies, and they haven’t stopped.

But the game has only begun.

Congratulations are due. Republicans have discovered the formula for bringing to a close the Grand Experiment in democracy. Whether means can be found to restore it remains to be seen. It is apparent, however, that the entire political seascape has been altered to one that is dangerously unstable.