Friday, June 22, 2018

Trump The Baby Beater

You got to give Mr. Trump credit: There was never really a problem with immigrants in this country, not like what Europe has. The numbers of immigrants are comparatively small, and we absorb them seamlessly. But now we got babies who are an infestation, like termites, eating away at the soul and substance of America.
Who woulda known we even had a problem had it not been for Mr. Trump? 
He is like that helicopter gunner in Apocalypse Now, who is shooting peasants down below him as they flee from his machine gun fire, and he is asked how he can shoot down women and children and he replies,
"Easy, you just don`
t lead them by as much,"
 meaning the children are slower, so you don't have to move your gun to accomodate that.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Da Donald and Why They Love Him

The Boston Globe ran a list of the 10 policy promises Trump made to his base and how thoroughly he's delivered on them.

Working with the former shoe factory workers, the assembly line workers in Methuen and Haverhill, Massachusetts, I see another reason, and it has nothing to do with policy. They can barely articulate a single policy, beyond, "Well, we really should build a wall."

What they like is his lack of civility, his profanity, his lack of manners.

The Brits sometimes say given the choice of a society governed by manners or by laws, you will be better off with manners.

For my working class, paycheck to paycheck folks, this resonates as exactly what they hate.

They are actually made uncomfortable by manners and formality. They take delight in the uncouth. "How are you this morning, Mr. Smith?" actually makes them squirm.

"He's okay. He don't screw around, you know? He just says 'Fuck 'em all. We don't need 'em," these folks say, grinning.

It doesn't bother them he dresses in dark suits, wears expensive ties.

Like the British working class who strove to be just as middle class as they could be, our American counterparts follow a similar path.

"Lady Chatterley's Lover" depicted a society which is very recognizable in today's America, where the upper class moves past the lower classes, separating itself from the "drizzle of resentment" which permeates the country, and living in walled off communities, isolating themselves from those lower beings, much as the young women in the play "The Hairy Ape" did.

The discomfort evident among the anti Trump delights my friends in Haverhill and Methuen.

You had it coming, they say. This is what real revolution looks like.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Immigration: Emotion vs Numbers

"These darkies are like stray dogs. Best not to feed them or they'll follow you home."---Woman at a barbecue to Mad Dog, in Hume, Virginia

"There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner,
Who would hurt all mankind
Just to save his own"
--"People get ready" Curtis Mayfield

Democrats have seized on the images of suckling babes being torn from the breasts of mothers at the Southern border by heartless Republicans while that pink cherub, Southern speaking Jeff Sessions quotes the Bible to justify the Democrat law which demands this nasty face of America.

Whatever happened to the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"?

As vile as the Freedom Caucus, with its moronic Louie Gohmert spewing invective about the invasion poised on our border, all those darkies just straining at the leash for a chance to flood across and rape white women and take our jobs (not necessarily in that order) there is, for Democrats, a trap here. 

Sometimes it is best to Aude Alertam Partem, hear the other side.

Even cells have membranes, which separate the inside of the cell from the non cell parts of the body--although all membranes are permeable.

The question is: Is America a lifeboat in a stormy sea with only enough room for the few, and unless its inhabitants beat off those who frantically attempt to get on board, they will all go down together? 

Or are we a wagon train, crossing the continent, and when someone falls off, we go back and scoop him up and put him on board?

It is probably an apocrophyal story but there is said to be a survey that showed 10% of all Chinese and 10% of all Indians would immigrate tomorrow to the States if given the chance.

It is no stretch of the imagination to think 100% of all Hondurans, El Salvadorans, Nicaraguans would come tomorrow, if they could. Maybe 2% of Mexicans.
So let's add up those numbers:
China:  130,000 million
India:    130,000 million
Honduras:    9 million
El Salvador:  6 million
Nicaragua:    6 million

That's 260,000 million from Asia, 21 million from Central America alone, not to mention Africa, and the rest of Asia.

If we welcomed all, English would be a minority language and the complexion of the nation would be very different. Which may not be a bad thing. But is this what those living here now would vote for?

Most of us can remember our grandparents, many of whom were immigrants. 
The best thing my grandfathers ever did for me was to get on a boat and leave middle Europe and the Baltic.

But how generous can we be? 
How generous do we want to be?
And if we were totally open, would we have benefited the very people, those huddled masses, or would we all go down in the stormy sea together?

I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would've stayed home
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone
That man whom with his fingers cheats
And who lies with every breath
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise, fears his death
I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain
Whose heaven is like ironsides
Whose tears are like rain
Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me
I pity the poor immigrant
Who tramples through the mud
Who fills his mouth with laughing
And who builds his town with blood
Whose visions in the final end
Must shatter like the glass
I pity the poor immigrant
When his gladness comes to pass
--Bob Dylan

Friday, June 15, 2018

Of Grandfaloons and Carpetbaggers

Kurt Vonnegut had a word for people who find a phony association or affinity which is based on a meaningless connection: Grandfaloon. 

So two Americans meet in a bar in Paris and discover not only are they both from America but from Indiana, and it's "Hey, then! We are both Hoosiers! Imagine that. Two Hoosiers meeting in a bar in Paris!"

Of course a person from Indiana has no more in common with another person from Indiana than he has in common with someone from California or Maryland.

When Scott Brown tried to run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire he was accused of "carpet bagging."

Now we have Maura Sullivan, who has no prior connection to New Hampshire, but who apparently moved here because by her calculation and by the calculation of those dark money figures backing her, New Hampshire's open Congressional seat was ripe for the picking for a woman who had served in the Marine Corps.
I'm not sure if she was an Army brat or a Marine Corps brat, but kids who are raised in families of soldiers move every 3 years and grow up in a variety of states, wherever the fort is located. They are not Granite Staters or Californians, but Americans.

Levi Sanders has been vilified as a "carpet bagger" because he lives in the New Hampshire 2nd Congressional district and he is running in the New Hampshire 1st, as if that strange line drawn by unknown functionaries has any meaning. As if  were he to move 10 blocks across some line on a map, well then he would be more qualified to represent the New Hampshire 1st.
Looking at that district, it roughly conforms to the liberal/conservative split in the state (including the People's Republic of Portsmouth, the university town of Durham, the cosmopolitan Seacoast in the 1st, and the rest of the more rural and remote parts in the 2nd.) At least, in that sense, the map maps sense. But look at other Congressional districts across the country, and it looks as if they were drawn by drunken kindergarteners finger-painting five minutes after being awakened from nap time.

Amidst all this Sturm und Drang about carpet bagging nobody ever seems to recall that Bobby Kennedy was the United States Senator from New York, not Massachusetts. Apparently the good citizens of New York did not care that Bobby hailed from Massachusetts.  They knew who they were voting for.

Same for Hillary Clinton, who did not run for the Senate seat in Illinois or in Arkansas, but was Senator from New York.

One might argue that United States Senators represent the entire state, but Representative represent local interests of their district, so if there is a Naval base in the first, that's up to the Representative from the NH 1st to protect, but that has never been true in New Hampshire where all the Congressional delegation supports the Portsmouth Naval base, which, actually is not even in Portsmouth, but across the river in Kittery, Maine.  (Such is the irrelevance of lines on maps.)

As for constituent services, on the rare occasion I've had to request such from my Representative, I did not get much help, but one of my Senators came to the rescue over a problem which arose when my  income tax return got bounced back when I tried to file it and somebody had stolen my identity and tried to get the refund. In a state of 1.3 million people, distinctions about districts and even state borders seem pretty silly. Our two Senators both come from the 1st district (Exeter and Dover). Nobody cries much about lack of geographic spread when it comes to U.S. Senators.

In my own mind, state borders are artifacts of a now obsolete and useless history, and we should likely redraw state lines, if we still want to have states.  There would be the state of the New York City metropolitan area, which currently overlaps New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. There would be the Dallas/Houston state vs the rest of rural Texas and maybe the state of Austin/San Antonio. And surely the state of the Seattle metro area should be drawn off from eastern Washington, and so forth.

What does rural Pennsylvania have to do with Philadelphia or Pittsburgh?

The whole idea of a "carpet bagger" dates back over 150 years to the time after the Civil War when men from the North, which was primarily industrialized, grabbed a bag and rode the railroad to the agrarian South and got themselves appointed and even elected to represent the former slave owners and poor White share croppers, because they could get a nice government job that way. They clearly had no sympathy with the people they were suppose to represent; they were doing it for the money, for the job.
How different were their motivations from the average Congressman of today, who often could not get a better job which pays more ($174,000 annually)  than that of U.S. Congressman?

If we are trying to send to the national Congress, representatives of places with common interests, then we would circumscribe most big urban and metropolitan areas and group the exurban and rural areas.

As has been noted so often, most states are like Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia with Alabama in between. People in rural Wisconsin share more with folks in rural Mississippi or  rural Texas than they do with folks in Milwaukee.

In fact, you see Confederate flags in rural New Hampshire and people from rural Ohio often sound to the East Coast ear as if they are from the South.

What difference is there between most of Montana, Idaho and the Dakotas except for  Missoula, Boise and Sioux City?

But, for now, we are stuck with our state borders, arbitrary and meaningless as they are. We are not stuck with voting for  people who happen to reside, in at least one of their homes, in some geographic area outlined by some unseen hand on a map.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Trump Draining the European Swamp in Canada

So Donald Trump just tweeted that Canadian Prime Minister is meek and dishonest and that all the G-6 countries we trade with have been cheating us and ripping us off and playing us for fools all these years.

The heads of state from Germany, Japan, England, France were there. Once upon a time the United States came to the rescue of England and France. After that war, it in a very real sense, came to the rescue of Germany, with the Marshal Plan.  The USA treated Japan more or less magnanimously after the war.

Now we need these countries to return the favor.  If they had any guts and if they could see their own interests, could they not ban together and apply the right tariffs to make Trumpland really hurt?

Whatever it is the USA exports to Europe and Japan, could they not squeezes down on all that in districts which voted for Trump?

Those Japanese car companies which have opened factories in Kentucky and South Carolina and all across the un Unionized South, could the Japanese government not shut them down for a couple of years?

Wouldn't the Trump chumps, dumb as they are, eventually notice?

Mercedes: Vance, Alabama
Volkswagan: Chattanooga, Tennessee
BMW: Spartansburg, South Carolina
Honda:  Lincoln, Alabama, Marysville, Ohio 
Toyota: Georgetown, Kentucky, Princeton, Indiana
Nissan: Smyma, Tennessee
Isuzu: Moraine, Ohio

NB: All these states voted for Trump

Liberty vs Equality: Moynihan and Opportunity vs Results

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in "A Portrait In Letters" presents an agonizing. frustrating but ultimately enlightening world of thought.

What is agonizing is that he was writing 53 years ago about the plight of the Negro in American society and what he said then is still current now.
He cites numbers without references (this are letters, not treatises)  but he is academic enough for me to trust the general thrust of what he says:
1/ During the year he was writing (1965) 1/3 of all Negro males were unemployed  at least 1/3 of the year, where employment for Black women was not nearly as high. Black males were woefully unemployed.
2/ Not more than 1/3 of Negro youth reached age 18 having lived all their lives with two parents. At a time when the white of of wedlock children was 3% , 43% of children in Harlem were born out of wedlock. One quarter of non white families were headed by women and 40% of Negro children were living in homes where one or both parents were missing. Sixty percent of Negro youth receive Aid to Families of Dependent children, while only 8% of white children did. Of those drafted, 56% of Negro youth failed the military's mental test, where only 14% of whites did. 
Seventy five percent of all murders in the United States were committed by Negroes.

Of course, even today, we hear about the disproportionate number of black males in jail; the implication is Blacks are jailed because the judicial system is stacked against them, because, for example, crack cocaine will get you 30 years whereas the white version of cocaine barely gets you a slap on the wrist.  All that may be true, but the answer from those either less sympathetic to Blacks, or simply more objective truth seekers, has been, Blacks are disproportionately jailed, in part at least, because more crimes are committed by Blacks, or by poor people who happen to be Black.

All this, even in  1965  when it was written was politically incorrect, explosively so, however true it may have been.

Of course, Moynihan was suggesting that a two parent family with a father and mother both present is more stable, superior and a better place to raise children and that having a child out of wedlock was a serious disadvantage and in the 21st century that may no longer be true.  But in 1965 he was dealing with the numbers the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics could provide, and when taken with other data, like the portrayal of the disintegration of stable families or any family life at all, seen in documents like "The Wire" all this really does suggest Black life in America is a very disadvantaged life, at least for the large Black underclass.

Unwed motherhood may not today be as useful a surrogate for family dysfunction as it was in the 1960's but just because it is now commonplace among whites and Hispanics does not mean it is an antiquated measure, at least in America.

In Iceland, you don't have to be married or even living with a mate, to raise children successfully, but  that is because day care, health care, employment for the mother are so widely available, raising a child alone does not condemn you and that child to a life of economic and social deprivation. In the USA, it probably does for many, if not most who attempt it.

 Moynihan notes there are places in the country where a very substantial Black middle class is doing very well. He was happy about that, of course, but he was focused on the problem, and the problem was the Black underclass. For looking at that honestly, reporting what he saw, he was called a racist.

He then addresses the difference between the two movements in the Civil Rights movement: the one toward Liberty and the other toward Eqaulaity,

These are not the same. 
Lincoln and the 13th and 14th amendments bestowed Liberty without bestowing Equality.
And what is Equality?  Equal wealth, mostly. 
Lyndon Johnson faced the problem of demands which went beyond the need for equal opportunity to demands for equal Results. 
You can remove quotas against admissions for Blacks to the Ivy League, but if those Blacks are judged by the standards of SAT exams, grade point averages, education at competitive high schools, you still see the same result in the end.

Moynihan drifts off into a discussion of ethnicity, what it means and he mentions along the way that the Civil Rights Act forbade discrimination based not only on race but on "national origin." 

Americans have a way of rejecting their own ethnicity, while at times reclaiming it. It's a masterful accomplishment, and very true, when you think about it. 

Moynihan focuses, in his advice to Presidents and academics, on the Black family as central to solving the great racial divide in America, which he correctly sees as a divide in economic reality more than race.

He knows the emasculation of the Black male, rooted in the deep seated fear of white slave owners of the Black male as the potential sexual partner for white womanhood, is the core problem. Black males have done "male work" i.e. manual labor, construction, blue collar jobs, which have disappeared with technological progress, while Black women have done office work, then professional work, and they typically out earn the Black male, who leaves the home.  
Other forces have wrecked the lives of Black males. One of the things Moynihan focuses on is moving Black families out of the Ghetto and into the suburbs. Of course, what he may not have realized is the very federal government he was part of established that urban/suburban divide by refusing to lend mortgages to Black families in the post war suburban housing boom, relegating the Black family to rental apartments in inner cities.

But the biggest frustration, reading Moynihan today,  is the same frustration expressed by Howard Colvin in the 21st century "Wire."  Moynihan is an academic, and while he wants to use his knowledge to help people in the real world, he has not lived enough in the real world to know how.
Moynihan repeatedly identifies a problem: Black families are given welfare checks if the father leaves the home, but not if the father remains in the home bringing home an inadequate income.  Then he moves to the solution: Let's have a conference, or make a speech, as if that were a solution.

Ironically, the fictional character, Colvin (who of course is not really fictional but an amalgam of real people) lives in the trenches and without having a theoretical basis for his experiment, he simply takes action which is dictated by what is staring him in the face: If drug sales and violence are occupying his city like an army of occupation, then he will simply move those drug dealers from the corners they hold and concentrate them in three discrete drug zones, and the flowers bloom in the desert; neighborhoods freed of the corner boys selling drugs, shooting each other and passerby, spring back into life, like the tundra after the winter frost withdraws.

At the end, Colvin, having found work with academics studying children in the Baltimore schools, is disgusted by the remove of these academics who, being unable to solve the problems they find, are content to simply describe, write papers and amuse each other, advance their own careers, leaving their study subjects as desperate and doomed as ever.

It is hard to read Moynihan today and not see Howard Colvin's face, in a montage at the end of the last season of the "Wire" as he listens to academic papers given by white scholars, describing what he has seen every day of his 30 years in service, as if they are describing some exotic new species of life, before they return to their comfortable offices, homes and lives.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Unlearning: The Bitter Potion of Disappointment and Revision

--They always disappoint you.
              --Norman Wilson, "The Wire"
--You got to be taught to hate and fear
   It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
   To hate all the people your relatives hate
   You've got to be carefully taught.
             --"South Pacific"
--These are the worst people. Really the worst and most dishonest.So unfair!
            --Donald John Trump
--Say it ain't so, Joe!
            --Kid to Shoeless Joe Jackson

One of the most difficult things in life is to learn that what you have already learned is wrong, or only part of the story.  
For one thing, what you've learned sometimes releases all sorts of endorphins, joy juice: Babe Ruth, who you've seen step to the plate under nail biting circumstances and face the fear of failure and triumph with a home run, has to be a great man, has to be a ROLE MODEL!  Then you find out more about him: not so much.

One of the most destructive things ever to happen to the Catholic church, to millions of Catholics world wide was to have their faith in the Church dealt a body blow with the emergence of revelations of pedophile priests abusing children. Pope Pius XII may have been complicit in the Holocaust, bishops may have blessed corrupt politicians--well, everyone who swims in the dirty waters of our planet gets dirty, but the priests sexually abusing children, no.

When that attractive, bright young priest has been fondling your daughter, or that venerable old pink perfumed priest has had sex with your son, that shakes your faith in a way nothing else could.

When you have been brought up and conditioned to think we live in a meritocracy, and if you just work hard and apply yourself and resist the temptation to go out and play baseball and stay in and learn your calculus, and practice your clarinet and the college acceptances come in and you don't get into Yale, but you do get into Penn, well, you just weren't worthy. It's not that the meritocracy doesn't work. But when you transfer in your sophomore year to Yale and you discover the students and faculty look no different in quality, you are disappointed. When your father gets sick and can't work and you wind up at the University of Maryland, a dreaded state school for the C students, and you discover there are plenty of kids there who are every bit as bright as those you befriended in the Ivy League and the faculty is of equal quality, then that whole psychological structure of "deserving" the glittering prizes starts to collapse.

It's even worse with historical figures, who are even more creations of our imagination than real people in our own lives: Roosevelt rebelled against his own class, brought relief and hope to the suffering, destitute masses, stood up to Hitler, sent forth the forces to bring Japan to its knees, turns out to have been the kind of man who would throw people into concentration camps for being born to Japanese parents, embraced the genteel antisemitism of his class, allowed a boatload of Jews to be denied entry to America and sent back to die in the gas chambers of the German concentration camps.

Churchill, who vanquished the racist Nazis, was himself the leader of a fundamentally racist regime. 

Philip Sheridan, that essential pillar of the cause to save the Union and free the slaves, after winning that war through a scorched earth campaign in the Shenandoah, went on to wage war on the Indians and to say, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." Sherman, his brother in arms, was no friend to the freed slaves or the cause of abolition.

Labor unions, the only real and effective force to champion humane and just treatment for workers, have too often proven to be corrupt and their officers self enriching. "Animal Farm" depicted this problem so brilliantly, with the slogans of liberation and justice written in chalk on the blackboard, but then changed over time, so "All animals are created equal" becomes "But some animals are more equal than others" and pretty soon you cannot tell the pigs from the human beings.

And doctors!  Ayn Rand said the doctor in his daily work uses more learning, skill, perception than the President, and we grow up experiencing the benevolent pediatrician who brings down our raging fevers, relieves our burning throats and throbbing ears, and now, it turns out a physician's assistant with two years of schooling past college--less time than it takes many people to get a Masters in computer science or strategic communications or broadcast journalism--can now wear a white coat and stethoscope and see you in the office just as the doctor once did, the doctor who had to slog through organic chemistry and physics in college, gross anatomy in medical school and then do an internship--that trial by fire--and a residency. 
Nope! Don't need that. Just put on that white coat and practice medicine, pediatrics.

We have accommodated ourselves to seeing heroes from the military in that Jungian way--good and bad, heroic and cowardly. Same for police--as the cop in "Crash" who sexually molests a woman after a traffic stop later risks his life in pulling her from a burning car just before it explodes.

We can learn to do that for people. 
It's harder for whole systems:  The political system of "service" to our country as a United States senator, who turns out, if you look at the website Open Secrets, is simply bought in advance by whoever gives her the most money.
The health insurance companies, which run soft focus commercials on TV portraying their beneficent works, when all they care about is returning profits to their shareholders and if they deny you a life saving procedure today, and you die 4 years from now, well, by then, you will have another health insurance company, and the cost of your last few months will be on someone else.

Mad Dog has imagined what it would be like to arrive at the Pearly Gates, to be admitted to Heaven, and to find a reception line there, like at a wedding, and to walk down it and shake hands with Martin Luther King, and Jonas Salk, and a variety of luminaries, but to find on the line Adolph Hitler,  the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, smiling, greeting the newly received from planet Earth, with bonhomie. 

What would you think then?