Where is the outpouring of public outrage against Trump?

January 14, 2018

In troubled times as these we should look back into fairly recent history and ask what are we coming to? The president of the United States can refer to other nations and people by foul names and he can insinuate that if you are not white, and preferably rich and white, you are not worthy and not be immediately censured for it. Oh, it can all be explained away or ignored as simply inconsequential in the bigger picture. Or maybe it’s about time we “Americans” stood up for ourselves. And get over it, it’s just his style.

Yes there is outrage at President Trump’s “shit hole remarks” referring to nations in Africa and parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, populated primarily by people with darker skin than his own (than my own too), and where there is abject poverty and often lawlessness and corrupt governments (gee sounds like home). Even so, in all it seems a bit muted.

I just watched a documentary on the May Lai massacre in which during the Vietnam War American soldiers wantonly killed 500 civilians in a couple of small villages, including babies and their mothers and old people. The Army tried to cover it up. But a year or so later word got out and there was public outrage. But there was also public outrage when the powers that be tried to use one lowly army lieutenant as a scapegoat (evidence shows he was guilty but it also showed he was not the only one and that the orders came from higher up the chain of command — but he was eventually freed and no one ever faced punishment, except for a few months in the stockade for the lieutenant).

Anti-war people along with much of the general public were outraged that a solider following orders in what had become known as a pointless and unjust war would be made to take the blame. Even people whose proclivity was to support our country right or wrong could not stomach it all anymore.

And what of the men who mowed down the innocents? Even though no one of us would ever want to think that we could do such a savage thing, think about it. You are in a foreign country and you may never see home again. Your fellow soldiers have been picked off by landmines, booby traps, sniper fire — no head-on engagement. You know that at times civilians are complicit in it all. And then you get the orders: you are going into a “free fire” zone — everyone is a target.

(Faulty intelligence supposedly indicated that only Viet Cong soldiers and no innocent civilians would be present — very confusing in that the Viet Cong were guerilla units that dressed in black pajama peasant garb — but they were certainly not babies. Yes, I know, there were reported instances in that war where bombs were attached to toddlers who approached unsuspecting GIs, but that is bedside the point here.)

I know the official government line back home here was that we were helping the people of South Vietnam fight off foreign aggression, a communist takeover — of course it was all very complicated. You had what amounted to an ongoing civil war aided and abetted by the old Soviet Union, primarily, as well as neighboring communist China. But before that they were fighting off their French colonial masters, and then the Japanese, and of course not everyone in Vietnam was on the same side. But our soldiers were dumped into the middle of it all and soon all of the Vietnamese were just “gooks”. Once you put that label on, once you dehumanize them, I guess it’s easier to rationalize brutality against innocents. I guess.

Now supposedly you even as a lowly private are not required to follow illegal orders. But what is an illegal order? You can’t just pick and choose.

I was reminding one of my daughters the other day that although I was in the army during the worst part of Vietnam I served in Germany, or in the “Beetle Bailey army” as I termed it. But I still vividly recall our one class on following orders in basic training conducted in a little garage-like building at North Fort Lewis, Wa. The young lieutenant told us that we were not required to follow an illegal order — the only example I recall he gave was if we were ordered to march off a cliff. But he cautioned us: if you choose not to obey what you believe is an illegal order you are still subject to courts-martial and punishment if the tribunal decides it was a legal order. Or as one participant in the May Lai massacre asserted in the documentary: there is no such thing as an illegal order.

Now, still, at least a couple of others in the documentary claimed that they willfully refused orders to kill civilians (and we are talking women and children, including babies) or somehow dodged them. They said they were not sure whether they themselves might be shot for disobeying an order in the middle of a combat operation. And since then, they said, they have always anguished over the thought was there something they could have done?

And before I get too far away from my original point, it was scary how the army seemed to implicitly threaten the soldiers in the May Lai incident that if they leaked a word of it they too might be up on charges for the atrocities themselves. They were told directly to say nothing to anyone.

But the mentality that sees everything in black and white, we are the good guys, they are the bad guys, and the mentality of people who don’t question their leaders even when the reality of right and wrong is staring them in the face leads to the horrors of May Lai, the atrocities of German soldiers in Word War II (not the only ones that ever happened in any wars, just examples), and some of the things that have happened in our more recent military engagements in the Middle East.

But May Lai was a turning point I think. There was public outrage, and from then on support of the war withered away.

Somehow I don’t see enough outrage over the vile words and actions of Trump.

Personal greed, distrust among races and social classes, political expediency, and apathy have supplanted morals in our culture.

p.s.

Perhaps what I have written is making kind of a stretch or is a false analogy. But what I am trying to say is how can we claim the moral high ground when we have leadership that is so low? Or have we lowered ourselves? Or do enough people care?

And I did not address all of Trump’s vulgarity, his disgusting behavior around women. I myself am neither a prude nor pure, and even President Jimmy Carter, a church pastor himself, allowed as how he “lusted in his heart”, but we are talking of how a president of the United States comports himself in public, how he projects himself to the world, while representing our nation and all of us. I really am not sure we can survive this. If we do, we are going to have a lot to atone for.

And one more thing: whenever I refer to the Vietnam War, in general, I am not criticizing you who served. You were duty bound. I will always have more respect for those who actually served than those who simply talk tough but skipped out (oh, would that include Trump?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our potty-mouthed president; some voters made a deal with the devil…

January 12, 2018

Let me say this right up top here: I am for America First!

Having made that clear, I still think that referring to other nations as “shit holes” is below the level of dignity that a U.S. president should have — but of course ours does not have any dignity, and he tarnishes the good name of our beloved nation.

But his apologists and some realists, I suppose, settle for the notion that he is who he is, and he is president, and he is likely to be so at least for another three years and even perhaps four more after that.

Some voters were so repelled by the idea of having the sometimes shrill and seemingly shady Hillary Clinton as president that they voted for the unquestionably racist, sexist, and known potty-mouthed Donald Trump.

(And I should mention that he is a pathological liar. But that does not seem to bother his faithful because, they will tell you: A. all politicians lie, and B., he is their liar.)

So, in electing Trump, the nation has made a deal with the devil.

On the one hand we are getting an America-first agenda. The stock market is climbing. It seems as if the labor market is expanding. Some conglomerates are raising employee wages in a gesture (politically opportune) of thanks for the new Republican tax law that gives corporations (and various others) a major tax cut.

And get this: some of those quintessential Dodge Ram pickups (they are a sign of manhood where I live I know; but ladies love’em too) will go back to being produced in a plant in America in Michigan (although others will continue to be made in Mexico).

Of course Walmart has announced raises for employees, although it also announced the closing of some of its low-performing Sam’s Club stores (but hard to criticize ’em for not wanting to lose money).

I don’t know the extent of this spreading of the largesse. We would not want to exaggerate.

But something I have noticed over the past year — empirical evidence if you will — are help-wanted signs seemingly sprouting up all over the place. And I do get around as a long-haul truck driver.

Okay, that was the good part of the bargain in the deal with the devil (if you give Trump the credit).

On the other hand:

We have created more animosity toward our nation on a crowded planet. We may be strong but we are not stronger than the whole world. That is to say there are more of them than there are of us. A whole lot more.

And by putting down people and other nations we give more ammunition to terrorists who use this as evidence to feed to potential recruits to fight the great Satan (us).

Besides all of that, so many in this nation profess their adherence to Christianity, or let’s just say their belief in God (no matter what religion), and supposedly a major tenet in that belief is a respect for all of God’s children. I don’t see how that squares with a president who uses foul language to disparage people of color or races other than his own.

His actions could result in an increase in racial strife right here at home too. We do not want that.

Trump was reported to have uttered his “shit hole” remark at a meeting in the White House that was not public and may have not been recorded (I don’t know), but that has been corroborated by both Republicans and Democrats in attendance, as I understand it.

His spokesmen have not denied it but in some strange twist of logic have simply stated that the president is for America first, by which one can only conclude that as long as one is for America using uncivil and foul language to describe others is permissible.

So I guess if we advise our children to learn to act like adults they should in turn brush up on their foul language, and boys (#Me too notwithstanding) should learn how to grab females in their private parts and brag about it (as our fearless leader).

I fear our civilization is falling into the gutter.

But if Trump is due some credit for good things (and I do not know that he really is), could we have these good things without his repulsive behavior?

Or do I not get it? It just seems like a deal with the devil to me.

The most evil man of the 20th Century, Adolf Hitler, whipped the beleaguered German nation into shape, and his partner in crime Benito Mussolini made the trains in Italy run on time, and there was an awful price to pay for it all.

p.s.

Oh, and meanwhile, Republican elders and people with influence continue to be conflicted as to Trump. On the one hand they wince at his bullish and uncivil ways but on the other hand they are fearful to protest too hard lest they lose their grip on their own power, and they may feel that they can use him in some way (although it is they who may be being used I think).

Yes some people have protested, only to take it back when they get cold feet.

The following quotation or words closely resembling it has been attributed to several icons of history but, whatever, I think it apples here:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

(Edmund Burke)

 

 

 


My fellow truckers: you have 15 years tops…

January 10, 2018

Note: The immediate issues of today, the ones swirling around the phenomenon of the Trump presidency, and of immigration, of employment, what is best for the economy and so on pale in comparison to what we are facing with automation promising to put, I think, the majority of workers out of their jobs. My comments below address primarily truck driving but really tell the story of what most everyone who does not hold some private fortune faces in the not at all distant future.


 

I’m just working till I die I guess. I’m 68. I work as a long-haul truck driver and basically full time, except I do take a week or two off every few weeks now and I take a month or more off straight each year (have been for the past four years). There are reasons I continue to work — money being at the top.

But don’t pity me. I feel sorry for those far younger than I and those just starting out in the trade. If what I read or just read is true, there is no future in this business, at least not one that lasts beyond the next 15 years. By then our work will virtually all be automated with no need for that expensive overhead called experienced drivers. While there may be an interim period where not-so-experienced people will be used as monitors on self-driving trucks (often called “autonomous”), they will be discarded because they will be seen as just unnecessary overhead.

And I am not a communist or someone running down our economic system — I am a patriot. I love my country. I love our freedom. I appreciate our free-market capitalism, such as it is and so on.

But let’s be honest: as a worker you are just overhead. And the minute it is determined you are expendable — sorry, it’s been nice but we can’t use you anymore. You are on your own. And really shame on you for not being an entrepreneur with your own business in which you yourself could be letting someone else go — nothing personal, that’s just life, reality.

Now the article I just read (a link at the bottom) is just one person’s view but it sounds accurate to me with what else I have been reading. And all of it can be applied to just about all work now. There is very little left that cannot be automated, from the most heretofore hands-on technical to those supposedly cerebral jobs once thought safe from automation. Can machines and computers always do a better job and make the best decisions? I am doubtful of all that. And at some point we should as a society ask ourselves if we are going beyond making our lives easier and more comfortable and safer and into some realm devoid of all humanity. Do I,  do you, really want to live in a non-human world where we all sit around at the mercy of computers — run by who? other computers? I think I just wrote a definition of dystopian.

(The question of course is how do we as a society determine how finite resources are shared with no tokens called dollars (or currency) — with no work so many of us will not be earning them. A sure danger of societal upheaval between the haves and have-nots.)

As far as trucking goes for the brave new world, devoid of drivers, described, I think a major upgrade in infrastructure, from roads to bridges to storage and docking facilities will be needed and the question will be: who will pay for it all? Even though the present infrastructure that supports our contemporary system is falling apart it seems no one wants to fund its improvement on a large scale. But once that obstacle is overcome, it will be hard to stop the advance of automation. Even though our brand of capitalism provides great opportunities for upward mobility in society, in the end capitalism demands dollars over people.

If any truckers read this blog and have not read about the automation to come, click on to this link  (and then click continue to article) — you may want to think about your future unless you are like me and have just resigned to work until you die — or when automation lets you go, whichever comes first.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/aalsin/2017/11/28/beyond-teslas-semi-truck-the-future-of-trucking-and-transportation/2/#8146bf616a35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Is being a celebrity now required for the presidency?

January 9, 2018

Oprah Winfrey for president?

Is that the way we choose a president now, by celebrity? We’ve already done that (well not we) but someone did. We see how well that has worked out. Not well, to my way of thinking. But you know? Not everyone thinks like me.

Actually I guess the first celebrity president was Ronald Reagan. While I personally did not care for him, apparently a lot of people worshiped him. I will say he acted and looked presidential. He played by the rules. Conducted himself with civility. He had been a grade B movie actor but was well-known for his work on Television with GE. He was the host of Death Valley Days for a number of years.

There has been talk for several years of the possibility of Oprah running because of her mega notoriety and her wide appeal across social and racial lines.

Okay fine. But what in the heck does she know about politics and governing? I know some people say that’s the problem. We need non politicians in politics. I’m wondering, though, how you take the politics out of politics. About the only way you can do that is to have a king or dictator — but no, even that does not work. History shows there is almost or always royal or palace intrigue — it’s politics.

Now we are in need of someone who is able to bring disparate groups together, someone, and I hate to have to quote George W. Bush, but who is a uniter not a divider (remember that is what he touted himself as — and perhaps he tried). The man we have now is definitely a divider. He even helps tear apart the fabric of the political party he supposedly represents.

Winfrey has not made a decision or has not announced one and 2020 is way off. But I wonder if she would really want to give up her status of such a liked person for doing a job that is guaranteed by its nature to bring out enemies and make people who may have thought they liked her not feel so good about her — I mean you cannot please all of the people all of the time — not by a long shot. And you can’t always pick and choose warm and fuzzy topics or self-righteous causes to rally around.

But who knows? She just might be up to it.

But even with the tell-all scandal book Fire and Fury causing such an uproar and giving political forces against Trump hope, barring some foreign policy catastrophe it will likely be the economy that decides Trump’s political fate. Even though the president does not necessarily have any direct control over the economy he gets the credit or the blame, except that if the economy is picking up maybe it is just as much Barack Obama’s doing as Trump’s. The Democrat Obama, after all, inherited a Republican-driven mess that resulted in the Great Recession. But much of the private sector seems to want to give some credit to the new Republican tax law pushed through by the Trump administration — too early for actual varifiable results, but it’s more of a feeling I guess.

To my way of thinking, it is like politics. I mean they say all politics is local. I think the economy is what each individual voter thinks it is for him or her and they tend to vote accordingly — not so much the stock market or statistics about GNP — but of course those measures have technical relevance.

Trump just might settle down — I know seems unlikely. And it’s a shame we have to hope for something like that. But neither impeachment (on what grounds? and certainly not by a Republican-controlled congress). With his sanity in question, removal via the 25th Amendment seems more likely but there would have to be pretty serious and obvious grounds and if it was that bad it would seem it would have already been done.

And far out I know, but with the control of the nuclear arsenal in question and a questionable order by the president, who has the ultimate authority, I could see the possibility of a military coup if it came to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Prediction: Trump will leave office or there will be a nuclear war…

January 4, 2018

Is it too late to make a prediction for the new year?

Here goes:

Either Donald Trump will be removed from office or quit or there will be a nuclear war.

I did not necessarily mean that there will be a nuclear war if he does not vacate the office, rather I meant those are two likely things to happen.

I’ve obviously never met the man nor have seen him up close, just on video clips on the internet. But everything I read and certainly what I see and hear indicates he is to put it mildly not a deep thinker. He seems to have a surprisingly rather limited vocabulary for someone who is supposedly a college graduate. Reports I read claim that, in fact, he is just plain ignorant. He does not know things about the world around him. Apparently he has lived his life in a rich man’s bubble. He was born into wealth.

That is not to say that he has not put in a lot of effort himself into personal financial matters along the way. His main skill seems to be that of a charlatan. So rather than intelligent (and what is intelligence?) I would describe him as clever.

Keeping in mind he did not receive the most votes for president but won the office by way of a dangerous quirk in our electoral system (he is proof that the Electoral College system is dangerous), he was clever enough to take advantage of the dumbing down of our society. I am convinced that the move from reading print news to catching sound bites and surfing the web and the transformation of serious news into entertainment, an offshoot of which is the über-nationalistic propaganda of so-called right-wing radio, has seriously impaired the collective thinking ability of too large a portion of our citizenry. Right-wingers reading this will say that this is just the opinion of a liberal. But, no, it is an observation (or opinion if you will) of a middle-of-the-roader who likes to read legitimate or serious and varying points of view and then decide.

The Republican Party leadership already knew or certainly has discovered by now that the emperor has no clothes. But they just apparently hope that they can somehow keep using Trump nonetheless as some kind of barrier they work behind in order to do what they want to do. They are embarrassed at times but like the English they do their best to keep the stiff upper lip.

Economics could protect Trump. I mean if the economic climate seems good for the majority of Americans then his chances of survival I think are good. Keep in mind it is never good for everyone, not by a long shot. Am I the only one to observe that you can’t be rich unless someone else is poor? I mean I have said that to various people and just got blank or non-committal reactions.

But, say, economic conditions are good or greatly improved, does that do away with the dangers of Trump? No, the whole world could end because a mad man is at the helm in the U.S. Oh, yeah, I have not mentioned yet what we all know. There are indications that Trump suffers from mental illness, that he is not just ignorant but irrational. We do know that he demands adoration and just cannot stand to be criticized or taunted. So, would he launch nuclear missiles if his precious little pride felt threatened? Or if we really were under some kind of attack would he have the mental discipline to take caution, to take the most prudent steps?

It’s probably hard for the general public to get too worried about imminent nuclear war — I mean what can one do? As someone who grew up through the Cold War thinking each night as I went to bed the world might not be in existence come morning because the Soviet Union launched missiles at us, either in deliberate attack or through some miscalculation (a mistake originating from either side), I can understand indifference to the threat.

Nonetheless with someone as unpredictable and perhaps unstable as Trump facing off a kooky and evil and dangerous nuclear-armed dictator in North Korea, there is a clear and present danger of nuclear war. And the threat of nuclear war might well come to realization somewhere else. India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and Iran is working on them, for example.

I just read that during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 our leaders did not realize that some Cuban forces and some Russian forces there had tactical nuclear weapons (besides the ICBMs we knew about) that they were in some cases authorized to use at their own volition, without orders from higher up. If they had chosen to fire them (they did shoot down one of our spy planes) our leaders would have thought the orders were from the Kremlin and likely launched a full-scale attack on the Soviet Union which would have likely ended in a nuclear exchange and holocaust. Our leaders also undercounted the Soviet troop strength in Cuba that would have stood in the way of an invasion of the island which the U.S. was contemplating. If U.S. forces had been overwhelmed nuclear war could have been the result. I had previously read that Soviet submarine commanders were given permission to launch nuclear missiles on their own because of the difficulty in communications with higher authority in Moscow.

So, anyway, we are always in danger no matter who is in charge, a calm and cool and level-headed leader such as John F. Kennedy in the time of the Cuban crisis or an anything but cool Trump. It just makes it far worse with someone like Trump.

I think the continuing investigation over possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians could wear down the administration and result in a Watergate-like resignation of Trump — although he might come up with some other excuse (health, my work is done). There may well be other scandal we know little to nothing about.

Or some incident might happen on the world scene to wake the electorate up from their complacency over the dangers of having a mad man at the helm of our ship, one who makes comments on Twitter about his huge nuclear button.

 

 


For the sake of our nation and the world we should move beyond Trump…

January 3, 2018

The only reason the world pays attention to Donald Trump is that he is the president of the United States, at this time still the most powerful nation in the world, and, despite criticism of it around the world, the nation that perhaps the majority of the world looks up to, and that despite our faults, and worse, Trump, we (the U.S.) are the role model for democracy and decency on the planet (still, so far).

But all of this is being tested. We have our crazy man trading barbs with North Korea’s crazy man. Using what many have described as a crude sexual innuendo, our president claims on Twitter that his nuclear button is “a much bigger & more powerful one” than Kim Jong-un’s of North Korea.

The North Korean nut case began the latest round of trash talk by warning the U.S. that he has a nuclear button on his desk and claiming that his nation could hit targets throughout the U.S. (we do not know for sure if that is the case).

Some could argue that Trump is being crazy like a fox (or crazy for Fox News). An upshot of this trading threats seems to be that North Korea has made what is described as a peace overture to South Korea and South Korea has responded positively.

And then some observers seem to think the North and South on the Korean peninsula might just deal with each other cooperatively and leave the U.S. out of it. I guess that is what they are saying or worrying about. What’s wrong with that? We could bring our troops home. It is incredibly costly for us to have the troops there and a large part of our own population probably does not know (or care?) why we have them there or even why they were ever there in the first place. And having troops there leaves the U.S. vulnerable to being caught up in an armed conflict it could do without.

But whether Trump is to blame or to be credited with that it occurs to me (not for the first time) that the best way to deal with Trump is to ignore him, hoping that he will fade away. I mean attention to himself seems to be all that he craves. No attention, he might just move on or out.

One commentator on television I heard this morning was talking about how other world leaders or nations are starting to dismiss the U.S. as a world leader — all over the craziness and disrespectful actions of Trump, even to our allies.

Now if the congress (all parties or both parties included) could just do that.

It is unnerving to have someone so unstable as president of the U.S. Someone who could in a fit of rage or by crazy whim order the use of nuclear weapons, resulting in a counterstrike, or even just the effects of our own action that could destroy the world. One can only hope that others who would have to act to make it so, in the military primarily, would recognize it was the action of a crazy man and would not follow orders.

We just have to ride it out. I saw at least one mention that Trump might not choose to run for re-election.

Let’s hope we can get through it.

To the rest of the world: don’t mind him, he’s just our crazy uncle who came down from the attic.

p.s.

I don’t know how presidents conducted themselves in, say, the 19th Century because we have no electronic recordings (no TV images and sound). But as far as I have seen in the 20th and 21st centuries (until now) they conducted themselves with decorum and civility, something that one would think fitting and required for such high office in order to govern a nation of disparate interests and needs and of various ethnicities and customs and religions, and be able to keep it all together and able to face the threats of a sometimes hostile world. Now we have a president who conducts himself in the style of pro-wrestling (he was involved in that business at one time) with fake bravado and crude gutter behavior. Lyndon Johnson I realize was sometimes described as “earthy” in his social dealings. But on camera before the nation he was civil and sober and reached out to all people, regardless of race, color, or creed or national origin in his words. I’m not commenting directly on LBJ’s politics but his words and the way he conducted himself in public. It is painful to me that we moved from decency, Obama, to indecency, Trump, in our presidency — and again I am not talking politics necessarily. Words and public conduct of a leader matter. They set the tone for society. The tone right now is unpleasant.

 


Is the crowd who once turned on the West now turning on the Mullahs of Iran? I say let THEM do it

January 2, 2018

Maybe I’m mixing apples and oranges but I find it ironic that back in 1979 the Islamic-fundamentalist theocratic government of Iran claimed it had no power over the supposed demonstrators that took Americans hostage. But now demonstrators are venting their anger at the Iranian government. Now the government there is not so glib. In fact, although it is allowing some demonstration, it is warning people of the consequences of demonstrating too stridently against the government.

There have been reports of deaths, including at least one policeman. Several hundred people have reportedly been arrested. Back in 2009 the Iranian government took a hard line against dissent when demonstrators took to the streets then as well. It seems now it may be trying to let people at least burn off some steam if it does not get too out of hand, and who knows to actually what extent it already has? Information does not flow freely out of there.

(For good measure there have supposedly been some pro-government demonstrations too.)

It would be wonderful I think if the people ousted their authoritarian government, although that would not guarantee better relations with the U.S. Those who can remember are rightfully unhappy with us for meddling in their affairs decades ago when we helped install and then backed the far-right dictatorship of the Shah of Iran who was ruthless with his own people. Their anger resulted in the ousting of the shah and the takeover by Islamic hardliners who hate the West.

President Obama was heavily criticized for not taking advantage of the protests in 2009 by supporting the government opposition in some way, such as sending in arms. Talk about adding fuel to the fire.

This time around Trump is giving lip service to the cause against the Iranian government so far, with tweets in favor of the anti-government demonstrators.

But it seems to me the best thing is to sit by and watch the mullahs squirm.

Let the Iranian people decide. It’s their country.

Maybe the mullahs should look homeward instead of trying to take over the rest of the Middle East and the world.

Now if our own politicians could look homeward to the needs of the common people.

Bad things happen when they don’t.

For instance: we get Trump.

P.s.

Slightly different subject, but I guess I agree with Trump on one thing at least: the nuclear arms deal with Iran is a farce. It probably is working as well as the understanding we supposedly had with North Korea once upon a time.