Inevitable?

Tantrum

In retrospect, it was inevitable. The very first time he encountered limits imposed upon him by systems he could not control, he regressed into the infantile emotional state that always existed just below the surface. For someone who never had to answer to others until he was hired to be President, he was woefully unprepared emotionally to face opposition and rejection. Thus now we have the spectacle of Donald Trump, arms crossed tightly around his torso while he expectorated his disgust about the actions of the US attorney’s office of the Southern District of New York.

He’s never had limits. As a child, he was fractious enough that his wealthy father enrolled him in military school to teach him discipline. While there, he began to exhibit his predilection for delegating responsibility while enjoying the privileges of rank. As documented in a story from the Washington Post in January 2016 , a dispute about whether a change in Cadet Trump’s assignment as a senior represented either a promotion, or a lateral move due to a failure in Trump’s ability to control his command, still drew a vitriolic response from Donald Trump decades later. Supposedly Donald was reassigned from a direct command role in his academy to a support staff role because he had overly delegated his authority, resulting in hazing of a younger cadet, who complained. As the reporter for the Post requested comments for the story in 2015, Donald Trump vehemently denied that his reassignment was due to a fault of his own, and he insisted on contacting his then 89 year old instructor from military school and asked him to refute what the Post reporter had discovered. When I saw that story and realized that here was a man running for the office of President, yet so incredibly insecure that he had to refute a story from military school days over 50 years ago, making multiple calls to the Washington Post to refute these allegations, I realized the boy was still firmly in control of the man.

Look at the business career he so proudly wears around his ego. Rules obviously were meant for others, not him. In the 1970’s, the real estate management company he shared with his father was sued by the US Justice Department (see, he’s had reason to not like Justice for a long time) for racial discrimination. His response to the complaints, made years later, was that they didn’t rent to any welfare cases, black or white. He didn’t like the new rules imposed from without, and thus did not deign to follow them.

He never had to answer to anyone else other than lenders during his family company’s existence. He touts his business acumen, but since his companies are private, not public, he never had to answer to shareholders, or a board of directors, or the SEC. No, he was able to shield the public’s eye from the internal financials of the Trump empire, except for those six times when he was forced to restructure debt from his real estate dealings through bankruptcy court. Of course, looking back, it does look rather foolish to have purchased two casinos in the limited gaming market of Atlantic City, then building the Trump Taj Mahal in the same market. Since Donald has never demonstrated an ability to think strategically, who could have foreseen that his new trophy to his ego would cannibalize revenues from his other two Atlantic City casinos? And who could have foreseen the growth in gambling facilitated by states throughout the nation, thus dooming Atlantic City properties to gambling irrelevance? Actually, just about any developer who had an ounce of common sense would have realized that doubling down on Atlantic City was going to generate only fool’s gold. But somehow, even with these failures, the Trump brand grew in status.

Donald hit his stride when he realized the value of his name exceeded his own ability as a developer. By using his brand name, he could leverage his influence by allowing him to manage properties without running the risk of financing these properties. Then came the breakthrough that solidified his status in the eyes of a gullible nation. “You’re Fired” evoked the image of a forceful leader who dispensed his wisdom in boardroom settings without his ever having to get his hands dirty. He had it made! He had the highest rated show in TV history! Women kept fawning over him – and all he had to do was begin to kiss them, he couldn’t help himself. Everywhere he looked, people were deferential to him, people worshiped him, people surrounded him to bask in his charisma.

Except, sadly, it was not enough. It was not enough that only those who watched his TV show paid him the homage he was due, he wanted his wisdom and wit to grace everyone in the nation. Nay, everyone in the world must recognize this super genius who could solve the world’s problems by himself, if only he could grasp the reins of power. The new tools of social media allowed a way for his brilliant thoughts to flow directly to his followers. He used Twitter since 2011 to expound his fantasy that President Obama was not born in the US, keeping himself in the public spotlight. And then, the fateful escalator ride in 2015 where he announced that he was inflicting himself on all of this nation, he made his Presidential announcement. He was grasping for the brass ring that would fulfill him. Life was good.

Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it. So it was with Donald Trump. Despite all odds, his spoken thoughts resonated with a nation that was desperate for a reversal of economic trends that had been in place almost all of Donald Trump’s adult life. There were enough people who believed in the man despite (and in many cases, because of) his bluster and take no prisoners style during the campaign, to elect this man to the office he sought. And now, for the first time, Donald Trump discovered limits imposed upon himself.

He swiftly learned that the Justice Department worked for the nation and under the Constitution, and didn’t serve as the President’s legal arm. Recusal by Jeff Sessions against any investigation of malfeasance in the campaign was taken as a personal slight, that to this day has not been forgiven. concept of an independent judiciary chafed at him, as legal challenges to his travel bans prevented his signature policy goal from taking effect. Then Congress pushed back, and the vagaries of party politics prevented passage of the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

And then, horror of horrors, an independent counsel was appointed. Someone outside of the control of Donald Trump, whose charter was to pursue illegal activities through the campaign, and even before the campaign should these activities be found relevant. Soon, targets of the investigation began to be charged, yet still Donald Trump kept chanting his “No Collusion” mantra. But pressure kept mounting as more and more of his colleagues and appointees either were drawn into legal jeopardy, or demonstrated administrative incompetence through petty purloining of public funds.

Now, this week, with raids by the FBI on Michael Cohen’s residence and office, the next to the last line of defense for this President has been breached. All the sins of the past are about to surface, and the truth will be revealed to the American public. Only, will the American public believe truth once they see it? Has the relentless campaign by Donald Trump to diminish and demean the press and the institutions of the Justice Department succeeded sufficiently where even if clear evidence of misdeeds is revealed, not enough of the base of this man will care? And this Congress, while it still resides in Republican control, will it exonerate Donald Trump before his high crimes and misdemeanors are given a full and just hearing before the eyes and ears of the nation? I hope not, but in this post-truth environment, I fear the worst.

Still Crazy, After All These Months

Trump's world

Fourteen months ago, the Trump administration took office. The American electorate selected a novice politician as their executive leader. This leader extolled his business acumen, his management skills, his abilities to only hire “the best people”. The voters of this nation, having grown used to the presence of this actor from his television reality show, ignored the baggage that he brought to this office. Baggage of multiple business bankruptcies. Baggage of two failed marriages, and the baggage of a reputation for womanizing. Baggage of a history of making money through the expedient act of not paying local craftsmen for their honest work. Baggage of sponsoring a bogus real estate course offering expectations of great insights from the master developer, only to instead offer bait and switch courses where for a few thousand dollars more, course participants could get the next level of knowledge. Baggage of over 3,500 lawsuits filed against Donald Trump and his affiliated companies over the course of his career. Baggage of egregious racist attitudes exemplified by his crusades against the falsely convicted Central Park 5 defendants and his outrageous birther claims against President Obama. Still. He was elected as President of the United States despite this pitiful record.

So why is it now, fourteen months later, do I have the feeling that I’m revisiting a 1930’s movie with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, only instead of “Hey, let’s put on a show!”, I believe that the rank amateurs in this administration decided, “Hey, let’s put on a Federal Government !” I can see the facades of the scenery being constructed for the big musical numbers, err, the big cabinet meetings that is, with the cheesy dialogue coming from the cabinet members pouring out laud and honor upon he who must not be criticized. Why is it that this supposed genius at personnel management managed to hire people better suited for roles as parking valets than as government managers?

I hear his supporters keep claiming that he’s accomplished so much, and all of the media and coastal elites just keep harping on the same old things, can’t get over the fact that Hillary lost, just shut up and take it. OK. Fine. Hillary lost. Apparently enough voters from enough states wallowing in the echo chamber of social media (soaking in a Russian dressing marinade) selected this candidate to enable him to succeed in the electoral college. I’ve seen all of the graphics showing that Trump won the overwhelming amount of land area and the county count. Guess what? This nation has turned into an urban nation, and it is in the urban centers that the repudiation of Donald Trump was at its strongest. Only the Electoral College was in favor of Donald Trump.

As far as Donald Trump’s incessant claims that his administration has accomplished the most of any first term President in his first year, I realize once more that he lives in the delusional world of his own making. I count his successes in his first year at exactly two – first, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch and his confirmation by the Senate, second, the extremely tortuous path to an upper class and corporate tax cut foisted upon the American public late in 2017. What are some of his failures in his first year as he played his role as President?

  1. Repeal and Replace. Easiest thing in the world (who knew that health care was so hard!).
  2. Witch hunt! Seems to me that the witch hunt is getting closer and closer to unraveling the webs of deceit and deception surrounding the unnatural ties between Trump and Russian influence and money. We shall see what we shall see.
  3. Infrastructure week 1. Infrastructure week 2. In what should have been the easiest sell in the history of Presidential politics, can anyone enunciate what infrastructure policy Trump is advocating and how that is going to restore the nation to greatness?
  4. Let’s all sing like the birdies sing. Tweet, tweet tweet, tweet tweet. Enough said.
  5. I only hire the best people. Yeah, the best people who manage to trip all over themselves in justifying exorbitant plane fares (in first class I don’t get yelled at by the people affected by my policies), the people who can’t figure out how to comply with instructions on how to fill out forms for security clearances, people who beat their spouses and can’t get security clearances but still remain on the job until their actions get unwanted press. I can keep on going as long as you have patience to read examples of incompetence, but still I think the Mooch has the unbeatable record of being fired before he actually took over a position within this administration. I don’t know how you can ever top this as a signal accomplishment of this totally incompetent President.
  6. There’s good people on both sides. Ah yes, the moral equivalence proposition that neo-Nazis who paraded down the streets of Charlottesville in their khakis and polos carrying their tiki torches and chanting anti-Semitic slogans were just as good as those who marched to protest the neo-Nazis. And yes, I am aware that there were antifa provocateurs who provoked attacks from the neo’s. But they didn’t drive cars through crowds of protestors, mowing down victims mindlessly.
  7. Diplomats? We don’t need no steenkin’ diplomats. While there is optimism that the Korean peninsula is not going to become a giant ball of nuclear flame, the American people (and the rest of the world) greatly prefer the use of diplomacy with an adequately staffed State Department to the vagaries of an adult with ADHD who decides on the spur of the moment to accept a summit invitation. What does it say when the leader of North Korea exhibits more maturity than the President of the United States? Welcome to our world.

I know that none of these arguments are going to sway those who are true believers in the complete imbecile now occupying the office of the President. I also know that the true believer who occupies the office of the Vice President is perhaps more dangerous, since he is an ideologue, and has demonstrated competence at government administration. The Vice President’s ideology is putrid, and his pronouncements would have the institution of a theocracy as one of his highest priorities. For all of Donald Trump’s failings, theocratic leanings are not one of them. Donald Trump has played the Christian card for all of the benefits he could get, being himself a card-carrying hypocrite. So there is danger in forcing the removal of this President, should the opportunity present itself. No, what I am doing is using whatever power I have in my words to keep shouting to the world how Donald Trump’s incompetence and narcissism is placing the security of the world at risk. And once more emphasizing to the American public that it is not a good idea to elect charlatans to the highest office in our land. Not that they care. Last time I checked, the Kardashian’s are still trending on social media. And of course, that is our highest priority, right?

Chaos Theory?

3 dollar bill

Here is a definition of the branch of mathematics known as chaos theory:

Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.

Having survived the events of the past 13 months, I offer the following alternative definition of the field for your edification:

Chaos Theory – A study of the effects of the Trump administration, with special emphasis on the unintended consequences of the election of a particularly unqualified and immoral individual as President.

The theory posits this proposition: When a craven and narcissistic individual manages to exploit the weaknesses of his opponent, assisted by overt propaganda campaigns (some of which were Russian in origin), and this individual wins election, then this same individual will create a state of chaos in the government and in international relations due to the individual’s insistence that everything revolves around him. Ancillary effects include failure to perform constitutional duties involving protection of this nation from foreign adversaries. Other effects include performing carnival con games aimed at distracting members of the class that elected this individual by continually braying how good his accomplishments are, while delivering the largess of the Federal government to the corporate and plutocrat donor class.

The longer term effects of this experiment being conducted upon the American public are uncertain. If the experiment is to continue for a full term of four years, the potential impacts may be stated as follows:

  • Continued expansion of Chinese influence throughout Asia, Africa, and South America due to the abandonment of all US influence other than military power.
  • Ongoing degradation of existing infrastructure within the US due to the adherence of this administration to the principle that the only valid method of infrastructure restoration involves assigning private interests an ownership position in the restoration efforts.
  • Fomenting racial and cultural division by continually repeating lies and quarter-truths in order to justify policies of exclusion.
  • Developing a subgroup of the US population that steadfastly refuses to accept facts that contradict the brazen lies of both the leader of this administration, and all who shill for this individual.
  • Accelerates the decline of the US as a world leader due to the continual failure to recognize that the world has become interdependent. This failure to recognize the need for international cooperation will result in the abandonment of the US by other nations when US interests are threatened globally.
  • Eliminates all semblance of belief in scientific validity, thus enshrining policies that violate physical laws, and eliminating funding for scientific research. This also accelerates the decline of the US by allowing other nations to glom onto the growth engines of the global economy for decades to come.
  • Removes the economic growth that has always come from open policies for working within this country. By placing increasingly stiffer barriers against foreign students studying and then working in this nation, the US misses out on entrepreneurial energies of potential immigrants.

The list above includes only some of the potential effects of continuing this experiment within the body politic of the US. Part of the uncertainty involved with chaos is that there will be further unanticipated effects that will occur as a result of the seeds being sown by this administration. Given the direction and the effectiveness of this administration, it is apparent that the downside potential for the effects is much more likely than any upside potential.

One of the most disturbing effects of this experiment is that it is essentially an experiment conducted within another experiment. That larger experiment is the US republic, an experiment that has run for over 240 years. Some of the techniques being used by the current administration are testing the bounds of the Federal system enshrined by the constitution. In particular, the independence of the different branches of the government has ensured that no one branch gains ascendency over the others. This independence is being threatened by the trends developing within the Republican party of providing unswerving support of the executive branch, regardless of the harmful effects of the actions of the executive. By use of the feared twitter attack, this President has caused a phenomena within the Republican congress known as “toadying”. Once the poison toad has been licked, the tongues of those affected are capable only of providing statements of affirmation towards the administration, and declaiming those of any who speak ill of the President.

The current experiment may not reach a natural conclusion. During 2018 will come a checkpoint in the experiment, where those who pay the bill for the experimenters will indicate either their approval for completing the experiment, or will choose to apply constraints upon the unfettered excesses shown to date. It is even possible that the 2018 checkpoint will cause the experiment to be canceled due to changes that may come in the legislative chambers. Those who believe in the original US experiment are desiring that the legislative change happens, and serves as a stinging reproach towards the party that allowed itself to be hijacked by incompetence and immorality.

Where Have All The Christians Gone?

Long time passing.

The demise of Christianity was declared in 2018, and the declaration was made by the current generation of Evangelical Christian leaders who assumed the mantle of leadership from their fathers. Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University, tweeted the following: “Jesus said love our neighbors as ourselves but never told Caesar how to run Rome – he never said Roman soldiers should turn the other cheek in battle or that Caesar should allow all the barbarians to be Roman citizens or that Caesar should tax the rich to help poor. That’s our job.” This was in response to Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, who stated in the mulligan interview, “Evangelical Christians were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

So the last bastion of Evangelical Christianity, having sold its soul literally to the devil in order to accomplish its legislative and judicial agendas, now has openly admitted its hypocrisy against following the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. You know, all of that squishy liberal stuff about turning the other cheek, and overturning the moneychanger’s tables in the temple, and dining with tax collectors and prostitutes. Well, at least on that last count, Donald Trump has shown that he is more than willing to share space with a prostitute, and even to provide recompense for silence. I guess he turned the other cheek in order to have it paddled with the copy of Forbes.

For those of us who have wandered in the wilderness of the mainline Protestant churches, we have long awaited an exposition like this from the holier than thou crowd. I would gloat at the naked display of hypocrisy, but that would seem too much like hubris, i.e. pride, and you know, that is one of the seven deadly sins. But for us, it has long been apparent that actual Christian culture left the building a long time ago. Ironically, our current President Donald Trump formed whatever religious beliefs he has under the tutelage of the originator of the prosperity gospel, Norman Vincent Peale. The Power of Positive Thinking is the progenitor of the prosperity gospel movement, where worth is measured by the bank account rather than by beliefs in the gospel. This bastardization of the biblical message has grown by leaps and bounds over the subsequent decades, and now, wrapped in its mantle of praise bands and lyrics to hymns displayed on screens inside of modernistic sanctuaries, has completed a hostile takeover of the message of the gospel. Combine this with those who discern prophetic messages about the ascension of Donald Trump from Youtube videos, it completes the surrealistic transformation of the evangelical wing of the Christian church.

Back in the late 1970’s, there was serious discussion about whether Ronald Reagan would be accepted by Christians since he was “DIVORCED”. The answer was clear, divorce was no longer a barrier to electoral success. Still, the issue of marital fidelity consumed the Evangelical crowd, so much so that when President Clinton had his infamous encounter with the blue dress, the response from the Evangelical community was not whether Bill Clinton deserved impeachment, but whether he deserved to be drawn before being quartered. Now, two decades later, the Evangelical community has chosen to cling to the robes of a charlatan who pretends when it is advantageous, to pay lip service to the precepts of Christianity. Or at least the Christianity he heard in his younger days. Now he is happy to have his little cracker during those infrequent times when he attends a church service. He has abandoned all pretense at following marital vows of fidelity, but then again, he got a mulligan.

So the Faustian bargain has been struck, and the Evangelical Christians are reaping the benefits. They’ve gotten judicial nominations aplenty, and the vacancies within the court system that were prevented from being filled by the Republicans during Obama’s terms of office, are being stuffed with judicial candidates that are declared as unqualified. The liberal organization calling the candidates unqualified? None other than the American Bar Association, a hotbed of liberal activism.

What else have the Evangelical Christians received as their part of the bargain? Daily doses of the violation of the commandment against bearing false witness (lying) from their dear leader. The honor of being represented by a government that believes the worst of anyone who does not look like America in the 1950’s – white, male, and macho. They’ve received reinforcing messages that the rest of the world owes the US – owes us trading relationships that always favor the US (because we deserve it so!), owes us unilateral obedience when we complain about another country (but don’t say anything about abrogating multi-lateral relationships and treaties), owe us respect when we take action that is nearly universally decried in the United Nations. We’ve gone, in one single year, from a nation that was respected for our moral position and standing (whether we deserved it or not), to one that is now being actively and deservedly disrespected for our selfish and short-sighted policy pronouncements and our diplomacy via tweet.

But the vast majority of Trump’s Evangelical supporters won’t consider that their leader is the antithesis of a moral follower of Christ. No, instead he is the first adherent of the Church of Celebrity ever to hold high national political office inside of the US. And as such, he is remaking the moral code of the nation into one befitting this new religion. It is now, what’s in it for me, and how much can I take, and what can I get away with. Those are the precepts driving the actions of this administration.

Still, it does not seem to matter. What matters to many is that Trump speaks his unfiltered thoughts via twitter. He does not need any intermediary in order to shovel his best covfefe into the brains of his addled followers. They can judge the validity of his statements on their own. And why in the world would we ever need eloquence in the political sphere? Eloquence, like competence and expertise, is much overrated in this day and age. When anyone and everyone can state something as a fact, and dare the world to contradict it, why do we need universal standards of behavior? It only gets in the way of our agenda.

Normality and morality are being redefined before our eyes. I hope that the deviancy that Trump has brought to our national stage is transitory, and that we can regain our moral bearing and actually be a light unto the world again. You know, back when America was Great.

A Sad Case of Stockholm Syndrome

inspector-160143_960_720

The grizzled detective pondered the crime scene laid out before his eyes. He pushed back the brim of his hat, bent down, and reached out to touch the cooling body of one of the victims. He rolled the body over, and it was apparent that the victim had fallen upon his own sword. Same posture as all of the others who spread drying blood into the exquisite carpets of the cabinet room. The detective looked over to his assistant, who held a notebook and pen, awaiting the wisdom about to come from the veteran crime solver.

“It appears to be a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome,” said the detective. “Notice how all of these Cabinet Secretaries, Senators, and Congressmen, all managed to off themselves with what was available to them.” The detective pointed over to one of the victims, who obviously had a difficult time in offing himself. All he had was a letter opener, and it was clear that he had fallen repeatedly upon the less than sharp point until it pierced his heart.

The detective turned away from the scene in front of him in disgust. “We’d best go and take a look at the scene as it played out.” Fortunately for posterity’s sake, all of the meetings in the cabinet room were now televised live. The cameras ran unattended, which kept the lying media from having a presence in the room. The cabinet room’s new nickname was Soundstage 3, befitting the experience of the resident of the house. For the resident understood a good show, and slowly his administration became the highest profile reality TV show ever scripted. You can assume a regal posture if you only have to be on your best while the cameras are rolling.

The scene was cued up for the detective to peruse. At first, nothing was different from many of the previous meetings in this room where both cabinet members, and Republican members of the House and Senate gathered. They each took turns heaping unadulterated mounds of fetid praise upon the personage of the resident of the house. One after another, each speaker offered their undying gratitude towards the resident, the whole session an attempt at one-upmanship, where the trick was to employ the most cloying and excessive adjectives and lay them at the feet of the resident. The resident sat in his chair in the center of the gathering with his arms folded against his expansive torso, and occasionally favored a particularly exceptional offering with a bit of a nod and a slight upward twist of his mouth.

Finally, the last person offered up his praise. As befitted the established tradition, that was the Vice President, who set a new record for the number of times he compared the resident of the house with the greatest humans who had ever set foot upon the planet. He extended his own record for the number of times he declared his undying gratitude at having the opportunity to serve the resident. With that, the resident of the house uncrossed his arms, and began to enunciate the reason for the meeting.

“I was just in a meeting, they were telling me, it was impossible to get to 270, but we did it, a massive things even though there was no collusion, no collusion with the Russians, though the Democrats did have collusion, they got that dossier, they used it to spy on me, no way that we had collusion with the Russians, but those Democrats, they took Hillary’s e-mails and sent them to the server which they bleached. I mean, can you believe they poured bleach all over the server?” As he spoke, he picked up several ball bearings that were arranged in front of the resident, and began to turn them over and over in his hands.

He began to speak with more urgency. “Now, the Democrats want us to open our borders, want us to stop spending money for defense, they want us to surrender. SURRENDER!” He slammed his hand down on the table and the ball bearings scattered all over the table. Several people hurriedly chased after the rolling bearings, and gathered them and placed them back in front of the resident.”And there’s good people on both side, both sides, nothing wrong with being in favor of your race, those blacks have their own organizations.” He looked up and down the table, watching the exaggerated nodding of the heads of the meeting participants. He really had them in the palm of his hand. He looked down where his hand had found the ball bearings and was twisting them around, again and again.

“We don’t need those rapists, those criminals they are sending from their shitholes. No way they’ll ever want to go back to their mud huts, we need more Norwegians here. And we can make it happen. Now my people have told me of something that happened a long time ago – long ago. They wanted the people sent back over to Africa, to Liberia. That’s what we can do, get all of them sent back to Liberia or some other country over there. They won’t be taking a knee while our anthem is playing if they’re back home in Africa. We can do it!”

There was a stunned silence in the room. But slowly, a murmur began to emerge from the throats of the meeting participants. It swelled and was amplified as everyone joined the chant that became a coherent call. “We! Can! Do! It!” The chant echoed off of the walls, and soon even the staid Republicans were dancing around their chairs, arms linked as they circled around each other. The crowd was psyched. They were enraptured. They were prisoners of the resident, sharing in his delusions, unaware that what they had just committed their own political suicide. They had just been shown on live TV agreeing to a new proposal to forcibly re-segregate the country by expelling their fellow citizens.

There was one participant in the room who had thought this through. His voice called out to the resident. “Do you think maybe folks will think this is racist?”

The change that came over the resident’s face was startling. A flush of red colored his visage, and his mouth extended forward as spittle flew from his lips as he shouted. “How dare you! How dare you question my plan! My plan is the greatest plan ever made. I am the greatest! And who are you to question me? You all can kill yourselves for all I care. Come along, Mike.” The Vice President sprang to his feet and quickly followed the resident, who was storming out of the room. Soon afterwards, the cameras captured the images of the Cabinet secretaries, Senators, and members of the House all began to fall over themselves, searching for the tools to effect their own demise, which played on and on until there was no movement left in the room save for the slow spread of blood across the table and the rugs.

The detective turned off the replay of the scene, and turned towards his assistant. “I can remember when the resident started. There were Republicans who would stand up to him. They told him when his conduct was unacceptable. They claimed they’d never work with him. Then he won. And they slowly, slowly fell under his spell. You could see it with Graham. He’d been quoted as saying that he was a kook, was unqualified. But recently, he said the problem with the press was that they were calling him an unqualified kook. He’d been captured. It happened to all of them. They realized this was there one, best chance to implement their goals of cutting taxes, pleasing their donors. They never understood they were selling their souls in the exchange.” The detective stood up, and got ready to leave the room. “No point in investigating further. It was obvious that these prisoners grew to believe whole heartedly in his mission, so much so that they were willing to follow his off-hand suggestion to its logical conclusion.”

He left the room and the medical teams came in and started to remove the bodies inside of the cabinet room.

 

In Honor of Fire and Fury

Trump's world

I wish I had begun my blog in 2016 instead of 2017. That way, I would have been able to claim ownership of this parody of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, by the band.  I wrote it in July of 2016. But since the topic of the parody just won’t get out of the news, I am posting it now, in honor of the new book by Michael Wolff. I won’t claim complete prescience, but …..

Donald Trump is the name, and I ran to be President,

Till reality set in, and I learned what that job meant,

I was tweeting up a storm, scoring bigly, worried not ’bout form

Told that I was going to fall, it’s a thing I remember not at all

 

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the bells were ringing

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the people were singing, they went

What were we thinking of, he’s loony, and incompetent

 

Back with my wife in Trump tower, and I showed her my huge hands

She say “Donald, run for office, there’s no one can beat your stands”

Now I possess the candidacy, and I don’t care if Ryan falls from a tree,

You don’t diss the Don, you pay homage instead,

But I can’t stand that they call me sick in the head

 

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the bells were ringing

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the people were singing, they went

What were we thinking of, he’s loony, and incompetent

 

Call me ignorant of founding texts, I will trash your wife,

Call me poor as a businessman, I will ruin your life,

I’m no loser, I’m hugely big, and Pocahontas, I see you are a pig

Can’t wait till I’ve got the button to press,

You will see those losers in distress

 

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the bells were ringing

The night they drove the Donald mad, and all the people were singing, they went

What were we thinking of, he’s loony, and incompetent

 

The Party of Pragmatism

fractured flag

Clauses and adjectives fly back and forth in attempts to spear opponents. Verbs are parried and thrust, aiming for the weak spot in the logical armor of the arguments of the opposite opinion. Nowhere is there an attempt to gain understanding across the chasm of ideologies. And thus we continue this bifurcation of the political spectrum, with the extremes of the right and left pulling apart the middle who does not have a voice in the cacophony of political discourse.

The silent majority of the US does not identify either as a progressive socialist liberal nor as a libertarian follower of Ayn Rand. In early 2016, before the craziness of the latest election cycle played out, fully 42% of the US voting age population identified as independent. Only 29% were self-identified Democrats, and 26% were Republicans. Obviously, the ideologies of both parties are being rejected by a plurality of the population. Neither party appeals to a broad swatch of the voting-age citizens of the US. Yet it is the ideologies of the extremes that are driving the legislative agenda of government. And it is the fear of being primaried by a fanatic of one’s own party who paints an incumbent as being insufficiently ideologically pure that keeps pushing the parties further and further towards the extremes.

This skewing of the discourse towards the extremes is what is poisoning the well of civic dialogue. Of course you cannot ever dare to forge a compromise with the evil bastards of the opposition. If you do, you will be pilloried as a RINO or a cuck or some other derogatory term. We must maintain ideological purity at all costs! Who cares if the country falls down all around us, at least we kept ourselves pure.

Thus we get legislation that doesn’t address real problems, but is enacted through parliamentary tricks simply because it can be done. The mental gymnastics that were used in unsuccessful attempts to repeal health care, and the similar gymnastics that were used to ram a Trojan horse tax bill through using reconciliation in the Senate laid bare the legislative charade for all to see. This time it was the Republicans who used the tools to pass legislation that is deeply unpopular with the voters of this nation. A few years ago it was the Democrats who were unsuccessful in getting Republican participation in creating the Affordable Care Act, thus forever relegating that legislation to become a perennial target for repeal. It really doesn’t matter what the actual legislation is. The fact is that it has become impossible to work in a bipartisan fashion, because the power structure in both political parties has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

As this trend towards political extremism lurches forward, the side effects are becoming more and more toxic. The Republican party entered this year with majorities in both houses of Congress, and a (nominally) Republican President. Yet due to the constant pull towards the right, they were unsuccessful in passing any sort of repeal of the Affordable Care Act. What passed the House with its fermented tea influence was too extreme for the Senate to take up. What came out of the Senate still found enough disfavor with the shriveled moderate wing of the party, and the result was a series of embarrassing failures. All because the power in the Republican party did not accept the possibility of developing a truly bipartisan piece of legislation by working with Democrats.

The only success that Republicans had legislatively in 2017 came when they finally acknowledged the necessity to kiss the ring of their potentate, and accept a tax reform proposal whose only reform was to cut corporate rates, and sprinkle a little paycheck dust on the working class, while bestowing outsized largesse upon the donor class who keep greasing the gears of politics. The display of toadying that accompanied the celebration at the White House after passage was outside of my experience. The sound of sucking up heard on the White House steps rivaled only the sound of jobs being sucked down to Mexico after the NAFTA treaty (according to Ross Perot).

So what is it that the middle of the nation would like to see? What is it that those of us who are not party activists want from our elected officials going into the future? I can only speak for myself, but I can enumerate several items that I think would truly move this country forward again, instead of subjecting ourselves to bashing our heads repeatedly into concrete blocks like we’re doing now.

I’d like to see a real effort made to put the Social Security system on sound actuarial footing. A part of that would come from raising the earnings subjected to Social Security. A part might come from a small increase in the tax withholdings (say from 6.2% to 6.5%, increased by no more than 0.05% per year.) A part should come from examining the Social Security Disability system, since it has become a de facto welfare system that is rife with corruption ( See eastern Kentucky), and is the epitome of a debilitating system for those whose ambition in life is to draw a check. But I’d also like to see a new option added to Social Security, one where a fraction of a person’s withholdings would go toward purchasing an equity-based product, with the aim that eventually when a person retired, they would have an equity share in the nation’s economy that could either be converted into an annuity (Social Security Plus) or turned over to the control of the retiree. What would be better than to have equity ownership and the virtues of capitalism shared across the entire nation, instead of just the investor class. By the way, such a combination plan (partial privatization coupled with tax increases) just might find bipartisan favor, if someone had the guts to propose this.

I’d like to see a real effort made to increase the portion of the gross domestic product that is applied to maintain and improve our infrastructure. I’d like it to be set up for at least a 5 year period so that the private companies who will be doing the work will gain the confidence to invest in equipment and labor and training to ensure that we don’t get in a boom and bust cycle, which is a very inefficient way to spend money. The money for this infrastructure work should be local, state and Federally based, but the majority should be Federal funds. Perhaps an imaginative program could be made where local and state governments borrow excess Social Security funds and pay back at a lower rate than the bond market, but pay Social Security more than Treasury rates. And the money would be put to work, instead of sitting in a lockbox doing nothing (we should have done this 15 years ago).

I’d like a real attempt made to control medical costs. If someone were to design the most inefficient medical system possible, you may not top the one we’ve cobbled together. We apply costs to the companies providing benefits, hobbling their competitiveness, while begrudgingly providing one step up from charity care with Medicaid. Meanwhile, a relatively efficient Medicare system goes on but doesn’t ever become a model for expansion. I’d like to see medical coverage decoupled from employer provision, and a basic medical provision be made through the government. Insurance providers should serve as they do in Medicare, by providing supplemental coverage. They seem to do right well at that, given the volume of ads aimed at convincing seniors of their benefits. If you freed companies from paying and administering medical benefits, you really could unleash the competitiveness of the private sector. And someone needs to really look at the pharmaceutical industry since their costs keep growing exponentially in our current system.

I’d like to see a real effort made to reform the safety net. Not with the goal of eliminating it willy-nilly, but in making it more efficient with less administrative overhead, and making it family-friendly instead of placing barriers in the way of encouraging families and marriage. You want people to be encouraged to work, instead of causing them to avoid working to avoid losing some of their benefits. What we have now does not work well.

I’d like to see public school education valued instead of becoming the punching bag for every dissatisfied interest group in the nation. I’d like to see academic achievement placed on an equal standing with athletic achievement, and I’d like to see the culture shift towards making it cool to be smart. Something to yearn for instead of being the target of bullying.

I’d like to see a real review of our military and its mission and its financial needs. Some of the revisions sought by the President may be valuable and worthwhile, but his methods of bullying our allies while supporting the strongmen of the world is the wrong way to go. But do we really need military bases in so many places, supporting who knows what missions? The first time years ago I heard that we had an Africa Command I wondered who authorized this, and what is it doing? And while we’re at it, I believe diplomacy is more valuable than military might, so I’d like this evisceration of the diplomatic function to cease immediately.

Now, I know that this list (and it’s only a partial list) will be assailed as being agin’ the Constitution. So be it. My interpretation of the Constitution under the general welfare clause allows for functions to be undertaken without being specifically enumerated within a clause of the document. The world is a far different place than it was 230 years ago when the Constitution was written. If we are going to exist with our neighbors and our adversaries without going to armed conflict, then we need to adapt to the realities of the world today. We cannot afford to be ideological purists like we could when we were building this nation in the 1800’s. And besides, it seems like ideological purity caused our greatest internal conflict back about 1861. No, instead of a Tea Party reverting to original principles that won’t work in today’s world, we need a Pragmatic Party, working to deal with real problems in a way that allows for them to be solved while still allowing for regional and state differences in approaches. Who’s with me?

The Party of Pragmatism

fractured flag

Clauses and adjectives fly back and forth in attempts to spear opponents. Verbs are parried and thrust, aiming for the weak spot in the logical armor of the arguments of the opposite opinion. Nowhere is there an attempt to gain understanding across the chasm of ideologies. And thus we continue this bifurcation of the political spectrum, with the extremes of the right and left pulling apart the middle who does not have a voice in the cacophony of political discourse.

The silent majority of the US does not identify either as a progressive socialist liberal nor as a libertarian follower of Ayn Rand. In early 2016, before the craziness of the latest election cycle played out, fully 42% of the US voting age population identified as independent. Only 29% were self-identified Democrats, and 26% were Republicans. Obviously, the ideologies of both parties are being rejected by a plurality of the population. Neither party appeals to a broad swatch of the voting-age citizens of the US. Yet it is the ideologies of the extremes that are driving the legislative agenda of government. And it is the fear of being primaried by a fanatic of one’s own party who paints an incumbent as being insufficiently ideologically pure that keeps pushing the parties further and further towards the extremes.

This skewing of the discourse towards the extremes is what is poisoning the well of civic dialogue. Of course you cannot ever dare to forge a compromise with the evil bastards of the opposition. If you do, you will be pilloried as a RINO or a cuck or some other derogatory term. We must maintain ideological purity at all costs! Who cares if the country falls down all around us, at least we kept ourselves pure.

Thus we get legislation that doesn’t address real problems, but is enacted through parliamentary tricks simply because it can be done. The mental gymnastics that were used in unsuccessful attempts to repeal health care, and the similar gymnastics that were used to ram a Trojan horse tax bill through using reconciliation in the Senate laid bare the legislative charade for all to see. This time it was the Republicans who used the tools to pass legislation that is deeply unpopular with the voters of this nation. A few years ago it was the Democrats who were unsuccessful in getting Republican participation in creating the Affordable Care Act, thus forever relegating that legislation to become a perennial target for repeal. It really doesn’t matter what the actual legislation is. The fact is that it has become impossible to work in a bipartisan fashion, because the power structure in both political parties has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

As this trend towards political extremism lurches forward, the side effects are becoming more and more toxic. The Republican party entered this year with majorities in both houses of Congress, and a (nominally) Republican President. Yet due to the constant pull towards the right, they were unsuccessful in passing any sort of repeal of the Affordable Care Act. What passed the House with its fermented tea influence was too extreme for the Senate to take up. What came out of the Senate still found enough disfavor with the shriveled moderate wing of the party, and the result was a series of embarrassing failures. All because the power in the Republican party did not accept the possibility of developing a truly bipartisan piece of legislation by working with Democrats.

The only success that Republicans had legislatively in 2017 came when they finally acknowledged the necessity to kiss the ring of their potentate, and accept a tax reform proposal whose only reform was to cut corporate rates, and sprinkle a little paycheck dust on the working class, while bestowing outsized largesse upon the donor class who keep greasing the gears of politics. The display of toadying that accompanied the celebration at the White House after passage was outside of my experience. The sound of sucking up heard on the White House steps rivaled only the sound of jobs being sucked down to Mexico after the NAFTA treaty (according to Ross Perot).

So what is it that the middle of the nation would like to see? What is it that those of us who are not party activists want from our elected officials going into the future? I can only speak for myself, but I can enumerate several items that I think would truly move this country forward again, instead of subjecting ourselves to bashing our heads repeatedly into concrete blocks like we’re doing now.

I’d like to see a real effort made to put the Social Security system on sound actuarial footing. A part of that would come from raising the earnings subjected to Social Security. A part might come from a small increase in the tax withholdings (say from 6.2% to 6.5%, increased by no more than 0.05% per year.) A part should come from examining the Social Security Disability system, since it has become a de facto welfare system that is rife with corruption ( see eastern Kentucky), and is the epitome of a debilitating system for those whose ambition in life is to draw a check. But I’d also like to see a new option added to Social Security, one where a fraction of a person’s withholdings would go toward purchasing an equity-based product, with the aim that eventually when a person retired, they would have an equity share in the nation’s economy that could either be converted into an annuity (Social Security Plus) or turned over to the control of the retiree. What would be better than to have equity ownership and the virtues of capitalism shared across the entire nation, instead of just the investor class. By the way, such a combination plan (partial privatization coupled with tax increases) just might find bipartisan favor, if someone had the guts to propose this.

I’d like to see a real effort made to increase the portion of the gross domestic product that is applied to maintain and improve our infrastructure. I’d like it to be set up for at least a 5 year period so that the private companies who will be doing the work will gain the confidence to invest in equipment and labor and training to ensure that we don’t get in a boom and bust cycle, which is a very inefficient way to spend money. The money for this infrastructure work should be local, state and Federally based, but the majority should be Federal funds. Perhaps an imaginative program could be made where local and state governments borrow excess Social Security funds and pay back at a lower rate than the bond market, but pay Social Security more than Treasury rates. And the money would be put to work, instead of sitting in a lockbox doing nothing (we should have done this 15 years ago).

I’d like a real attempt made to control medical costs. If someone were to design the most inefficient medical system possible, you may not top the one we’ve cobbled together. We apply costs to the companies providing benefits, hobbling their competitiveness, while begrudgingly providing one step up from charity care with Medicaid. Meanwhile, a relatively efficient Medicare system goes on but doesn’t ever become a model for expansion. I’d like to see medical coverage decoupled from employer provision, and a basic medical provision be made through the government. Insurance providers should serve as they do in Medicare, by providing supplemental coverage. They seem to do right well at that, given the volume of ads aimed at convincing seniors of their benefits. If you freed companies from paying and administering medical benefits, you really could unleash the competitiveness of the private sector. And someone needs to really look at the pharmaceutical industry since their costs keep growing exponentially in our current system.

I’d like to see a real effort made to reform the safety net. Not with the goal of eliminating it willy-nilly, but in making it more efficient with less administrative overhead, and making it family-friendly instead of placing barriers in the way of encouraging families and marriage. You want people to be encouraged to work, instead of causing them to avoid working to avoid losing some of their benefits. What we have now does not work well.

I’d like to see public school education valued instead of becoming the punching bag for every dissatisfied interest group in the nation. I’d like to see academic achievement placed on an equal standing with athletic achievement, and I’d like to see the culture shift towards making it cool to be smart. Something to yearn for instead of being the target of bullying.

I’d like to see a real review of our military and its mission and its financial needs. Some of the revisions sought by the President may be valuable and worthwhile, but his methods of bullying our allies while supporting the strongmen of the world is the wrong way to go. But do we really need military bases in so many places, supporting who knows what missions? The first time years ago I heard that we had an Africa Command I wondered who authorized this, and what is it doing? And while we’re at it, I believe diplomacy is more valuable than military might, so I’d like this evisceration of the diplomatic function to cease immediately.

Now, I know that this list (and it’s only a partial list) will be assailed as being agin’ the Constitution. So be it. My interpretation of the Constitution under the general welfare clause allows for functions to be undertaken without being specifically enumerated within a clause of the document. The world is a far different place than it was 230 years ago when the Constitution was written. If we are going to exist with our neighbors and our adversaries without going to armed conflict, then we need to adapt to the realities of the world today. We cannot afford to be ideological purists like we could when we were building this nation in the 1800’s. And besides, it seems like ideological purity caused our greatest internal conflict back about 1861. No, instead of a Tea Party reverting to original principles that won’t work in today’s world, we need a Pragmatic Party, working to deal with real problems in a way that allows for them to be solved while still allowing for regional and state differences in approaches. Who’s with me?

Things Fall Apart, The Centre Cannot Hold

tectonic

“A House divided against itself cannot stand.” These words from Abraham Lincoln as he began his campaign for the Senate seat in Illinois, are just as true today as they were nearly 160 years ago. For the US in 2017 is divided against itself in ways that are difficult to comprehend. Fault lines exposed in our society in the 1960’s have widened, and the shifting of the electoral tectonic plates threaten our stability as a nation.

In the 1960’s, Richard Nixon evoked the image of the Silent Majority. That is, the good honest working men and families who shared true American values, who decried the changes in society playing out on TV and in the streets. Yet the 1960’s proved to be the time when the belief that American society was a monolithic culture, came apart. The beliefs in monogamy and consumerism were challenged by the hippies. The belief that the Federal government always had good motives and would never lie were chipped away as the truths came out regarding Vietnam, and past programs like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Then Watergate revealed that even our top leaders were capable of deception and crimes. A schism grew between those who considered themselves anti-establishment, and those who represented the silent majority.

Fast forward through the decades. Societal changes continued through the succeeding generations. Some changes were evolutionary, such as those wrought by the 1965 immigration bill that removed the preference for white, European immigrants in favor of other groups that were not as prevalent in the US population. The fallout of our war in Indochina led to a large increase in Asian immigrants. Small cities that had been homogenous, like Lincoln Nebraska, developed a growing ethnic nature through the settlement of refugees, and later, their families.

One of the largest fault lines in US culture was created in 1973, with the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade. Before that decision, abortion was legal only in a few states, and services to terminate pregnancies were spotty throughout the rest of the nation. Desperate women sought the services of unlicensed and often incompetent practitioners, resulting in many having to go to hospitals to repair the effects of a failed abortion. In 1962 alone, nearly 1,600 women were admitted to Harlem Hospital Center in New York City for incomplete abortions. This document from the Guttmacher organization from 2003 gives an excellent perspective on the nature of abortions prior to Roe v Wade.

https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2003/03/lessons-roe-will-past-be-prologue

Quite simply, throughout history women have faced the issue of unwanted pregnancy, and have sought extreme means to relieve themselves of pregnancy. Although the stigma of unwed motherhood has been reduced (are there any homes for unwed mothers still around?), abortion will continue to be sought by women. It is only in the past 44 years that it has been recognized in the US as a right for the would-be mother to choose to terminate a pregnancy within certain bounds.

Another of the tectonic plate slippages of the past few decades is the change in religious attitudes. We have seen the demise of WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) leadership in society. The P’s have migrated over the years, over to E’s and C’s (Evangelicals and Catholics), or to Nones. Those who moved to denominations with more fervent beliefs have led the efforts to reverse Roe v Wade. Those who moved from P to None are often wondering why the religious right is looking to take away their freedom. Those of us who have remained behind in one of the standard P churches are wondering how to retain our relevance in a society that seems to actively align against our own choices. The chasm that exists between the Christian sects gets ratcheted up multiple notches when non-Christian religions are brought into the equation. Especially in the past few years, the hydra heads of anti-Semitism have remerged, and the internet overflows with references to the Protocols of Zion, about Jewish domination of the US media empire, and with conspiracy theories of various false flag operations aimed at deceiving the US into fighting Israel’s wars by proxy.

Then there is the issue of Moslems. To many in this nation, Islam is viewed as an affront to all that is good and sacred. For those who are against Moslems, the words of the Quran are parsed and spat back out, showing those portions where the texts call for Jihad. Those quotes are taken as emblematic of the entire religion, relegating Islam to be a religion of hatred. Never mind that one can find similar quotes in the texts of the Jewish and Christian religion, and never mind that the history of civilization has often been punctuated by battles over religious supremacy. The despising of Moslems has motivated Donald Trump to try multiple ways to permanently ban one fifth of the earth’s population from having access to this country, all in the name of preventing domestic terrorism.

At least in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we still had the vestiges of a common enemy to unite our population. Communism was our existential threat during that time, and we built up our military-industrial complex to face its menace. Then, within the blink of an eye, the entire edifice of Communism collapsed, and suddenly the economies of nations long suppressed through isolation of socialistic regimes was unleashed. China became everyone’s favorite supply chain partner, and the US began hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs, especially low value-added jobs, and jobs in energy intensive industries like steel. Those were often the jobs that held together smaller towns and cities in fly-over land within the US. The phrase Rust Belt was coined to represent the decline begun when old manufacturing sites were shuttered and left to the elements to oxidize, since they had no economic value anymore. Entire regions where a good and honest living could be made through factory work, now had few options for advancement. Emotions began to boil as resentment built at the unfairness of life when those on the coasts were living the high life, while those in the heartland subsisted on fast-food jobs and big-box retail clerk jobs.

With the advent of the internet and the shattering of the old system of 3 television networks showing only what they wanted you to see, came the next stage of this nation’s partition. The media fragmented into self-reinforcing segments, and for those who stay within their media world, it becomes impossible to understand those who listen and watch the other side’s media. Fox News and Breitbart fans do not believe that old-time media outlets can report the truth. Thus the allegations against Roy Moore are viewed as part of the plot of the deep state to take down the leadership of Donald Trump. Similarly, those who follow the elite media and liberal television networks cannot comprehend why those who support Roy Moore are ignoring the facts. We are now in an age where facts are irrelevant if they don’t agree with your preconceived notion of the truth.

In 2017, the fault lines of this nation have split off both sides of the spectrum. On the left you have the remnants of the counter-culture of the 1960’s, with calls for radical redistribution of wealth across society. The right itself has fragmented, and what has emerged is the Donald Trump manifestation of nationalism and ethnocentrism taking over the Republican party in a hostile takeover. This segment of the population has assumed the anti-establishment role that hippies played in the 1960’s. They have a deep distrust of all things related to social elites. Even though they have seized the reins of power, they have not yet been successful in exerting their will to move the ship of state to their liking. The events of the next year will likely determine the eventual fate of this movement. Will they be reaffirmed by continued electoral success, or will the segment of the population still residing in the center of the political spectrum end this attempt to hijack the American experiment?

 

The Decline and Fall of Which Empire?

Nebraska stadium

Empires die, if they are lucky, with a whimper, not a bang. On October 14, 2017, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Nebraska let out a huge whimper. On that night, the team representing the University of Nebraska laid down and allowed Ohio State to eviscerate the Husker’s defense. Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense smothered the offense, eventually allowing meaningless second half touchdowns, but shutting out the home team throughout the first half while amassing a 35 point total when they were not stopped once. Five possessions, five scoring drives.

The whimper was heard in the second quarter. A tradition of Nebraska football is that fans purchase red helium balloons, and release them when the first score happens for the home team. In the middle of the second quarter, the Huskers gained their second first down of the game. First a trickle, then a flood of balloons started to dance in the strong north wind, signifying the depression that the fans felt due to the humiliation they were witnessing.

At half time, the wind picked up considerably. The huge American flag flying over the north stadium snapped loudly in the breeze as it stood straight out as if starched. The noise of the wind muffled the whimper being sounded by the hordes of fans filing down out of the stands, and eventually out of the stadium to face the cold strong wind. I joined the exiting throngs along with my brother’s family.

As we wound our way back through the campus, we heard the roar of the stadium at our back as the team managed to strike with a lone long touchdown pass. But nothing could disguise the utter demolition of a team with a proud history by one of the few teams with even a prouder history. That pride has shown itself through the 55 years of consecutive sell-outs of the stadium, longest sell-out streak ever in either college or pro sports. If the performance of the team continues to match that of the last two games, even that tattered remnant of empire will fade away, if not this year then certainly next season. But the rise and fall of a college football empire will affect only a small fraction of the population of this country, and does not represent an existential crisis.

Empires do have a finite life. Empires fade when the cost of maintaining the empire exceeds the tribute brought in. They may be overthrown from without, or within. But until this year, I never heard of an empire being overthrown by its own government. With its initial effort, the new President withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade treaty. That treaty, intended to align nations in the Pacific watershed away from the growing maw of China, was a symbol of the American empire of commercial dominance. However, the new administration believes all trade agreements are win/lose propositions, and that the verdict of history is that the US has lost with all of its trade agreements. What this administration does not realize is that the US has used its position as the owner of the global reserve currency to enable this country to run both substantial trade deficits and Federal governmental deficits. The reserve currency is the symbol of the American empire, since it ensures demand for US dollars and US debt instruments. Imagine what the cost of imported goods would be if the US dollar suddenly was not required for international transactions?

Yet the current administration ignores these macroeconomic factors, arguing instead that all of our trading partners are taking advantage of us since we do run trade deficits. This administration believes that if we just pull back from international engagements, trans-national agreements, and treaties, we will be able to set our own trade terms and retreat into a world of US sourced products that fulfill all of the nation’s needs.

The effects of this near-sighted policy is already making itself felt. China is pressing Saudi Arabia to accept yuan as a mode of payment for its oil imports. When that happens, look for other countries to follow suit and then the whole house of cards propping up the US economy will be left teetering in mid-air. Other signs of the US ceding its international role are showing with Europe turning inward as the US President disparages NATO and other treaty obligations. A fundamental misreading of the Iran nuclear treaty shows that this administration does not recognize the treaty as only having jurisdiction over nuclear matters. No, this administration insists that Iran is not adhering to the spirit of the treaty by invoking factors that were never included in the treaty.

And then there is the elephant in the room (sorry, Republicans, you didn’t make the cut). How do you solve a problem like Kim Jong-un? Apparently, this President believes that intimidation and crude insults trump all other choices, like, maybe diplomacy? After all, intimidation and crude insults helped him triumph over all of the other prospective Republican candidates. Why wouldn’t the same tactics work with the still-young heir to the North Korean political dynasty? Everyone fears the US military!  We’re invincible (but we must do something about the appalling lack of nuclear weaponry. What have we been doing since the 1970’s anyhow?). No, North Korea is not a problem you can bluster your way through.

The history of the US empire post WWII took a wrong turn after the end of the cold war. Instead of using the opportunity to begin limited withdrawal of US forces from the excessive number of bases we maintain overseas, we felt the need to expand our footprint. The events of September 2001 enabled the US to go even further to increase our presence throughout the world, and all in the name of the war on terror. We should pursue reductions in bases and overseas presence of our military. It now is viewed as divisive across the world instead of being a soothing presence. But with an administration whose head decries diplomacy, and threatens fire and fury, do not look for this empire to go gently into that dark night.

When you have an empire replete with a naked emperor, and simpering sycophants in his party who still fear the tweet of doom, nothing good will happen. I can only wish that the American Empire does not go out with a bang. Yet I fear that, for once, cooler heads will not prevail, and we will find ourselves in a conflict with unimaginable casualties, and unprecedented global consequences.