Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Madness of the Orange King

What's His Trumpness to do when he can't glorify himself by searching Google for feelgood stories about his truly?  Outlaw Google of course.  As absurd as this sounds, that's exactly what our dear president is proposing after a search for himself yielded all sorts of unkind sentiments at the top of his results.  I don't know what it will take to expose his madness anymore than these early morning tweets.

The Orange King tasked Larry Kudlow to investigate this incredible bias, first called out by PJ media.  Kudlow, his economic adviser, will also be probing facebook and twitter in regard to this "left wing bias."  Surely, Larry has better things to do.

There are a whole bunch of theories for this latest twitter tantrum.  Most likely he was upset by the adulation John McCain was getting in the wake of his death and was hoping to find some kind words about himself when he woke up needing to relieve his swollen bladder.  I wonder if he peed blue blood?

I imagine some of you will get the reference to King George, who began to lose his grip on reality when the British colonies rebelled against his highness in the 1770s.  The royal doctors weren't exactly sure what was going on with him. The King's moods fluctuated wildly.  He was under a lot of stress for losing the colonies, and Napoleon was kicking up a lot of dust in Europe as well.  Eventually, his affliction got so bad that his kids had him committed, with his eldest son taking over the throne as Prince Regent.  Today, we know this debilitating illness as porphyria, in which the afflicted actually pees blue blood.

Our dear Donald is also under a lot of stress, namely the Mueller investigation, which appears to be closing in on his inner circle.  Some suggest it won't be long before Donnie Jr., Jared and maybe even Ivanka are all indicted.  The "brave" Paul Manafort is apparently ready to flip ahead of a second trial to avoid spending the rest of his life in jail.  At that point, there will be nobody left to defend His Trumpness other than Alan Dershowitz.

The whole thing has gotten so bat-shit crazy that Alan literally lost his mind on Fox & Friends decrying what he regards as the extra-legal authority of the FBI, ending with an apocalyptic warning that they will become after you next, pointing to the imaginary television audience.

All I can say is that our dear President brought all this on himself.  All he had to do was drop out of the election when the shit first hit the fan back in early October of 2016 (the new year zero) with the Access Hollywood tape.  Instead, he gutted the election out, seemingly sure he would lose only to pull perhaps the biggest electoral upset in American history.

We all knew this man was not fit to serve as President, given his shady past and declining mental health, but still many people felt he might somehow rise to the occasion.  That never happened.  Surprise, surprise!  Here we are 19 months into his presidency and he seems more crazed than ever.  One may not like Omarosa, but she sure as hell pegged this guy.

While watching the president's interview with Lester Holt in May, 2017, Omarosa knew that "something real and serious was going on in Donald's brain" and that his "mental decline could not be denied."

We all knew this but few were willing to admit it, including Omarosa at the time.  This was shortly after he fired James Comey out of fear that the FBI director was coming after him.  The President was so damn paranoid that he hoped to eliminate the one man he felt was at the root of his worst fears.  Instead, he opened up a Pandora's box, which led to Rod Rosenstein calling for a special investigation into the allegations surrounding Russia's hacking of the 2016 election with former FBI director Bob Mueller in charge.

Since then it has been an almost daily twitter barrage against Mueller, Rosentein and Sessions, who Trump believes failed him the most by recusing himself from the investigation.  Our President believes all these federal agencies work for him, and should be serving his interests, as a team of business lawyers would.  This is what has led many to ask if Trump has even bothered to read the Constitution.

There are those who believe Trump is a modern-age Machiavelli, playing the public against the Mueller investigation, but this is just primal fear.  He said way back last summer that his family's personal finances was a red line that Mueller better not cross.  It seems that Mueller not only crossed that line, but has enough to indict members of his family on many of the same charges he leveled against Paul Manafort.

Trump's real estate holdings have served as a money laundering operation for Russian oligarchs for decades, making him easily compromised by Russian poltiical interests.  He first toyed with the idea of running for President back in 2000 on Ross Perot's Reform Party ticket, and also flirted with a run for New York governor.  So, it isn't surprising that Putin, who first came to power in 2000, has had an eye on Donald all these years, waiting for that propitious moment when he could use him.

The only problem is that this once formidable businessman appears to be riddled with so many anxieties that he can barely hold himself together.  As the White House walls close in around him, the madness grows deeper.  He no longer knows who to trust, as everyone appears to be plotting against him, including Google.

Maybe if Google provided Trump his own private search engine, similar to the one they are proposing for China, he can screen out all that "fake news," and watch only supportive videos from Fox & Friends and other media-friendly sources on his screen.  Let Donald live inside his bubble until the Mueller investigation is complete.  Then he can face reality when Steve Doocy has the sad task of informing the Orange King it's over.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Too Big to Fail

We hear this phrase a lot, but when it comes to America it seems to be true.  Here in Lithuania I hear numerous reasons given why the Good Ship United States keeps chugging along, namely printing cash.  If that were the case, we would have seen runaway inflation like we did in Germany between the world wars or in Venezuela today.  No, the US keeps going because the Federal Reserve keeps pumping hard currency into the market.  To help cover the costs of the tax cut bill, the White House has borrowed an unprecedented trillion dollars from the Fed.  Of course, this is reflected in the national debt clock, which now stands at $21.5 trillion and counting.

Fortunately for the US, much of the national debt is domestically owned.  About one-third is foreign owned.  We are still controlling our own destiny, not China or Saudi Arabia or other countries that buy up public holdings.  The fact that they do is also a good thing, as they consider this to be a good investment.

I suppose you can say the US is "printing cash" in that some of this debt takes the form of treasury bills, notes and bonds, but this "money" is all backed by the Federal Reserve, and you will always get face value for this "currency."  But, this isn't the way it is usually described by economic pundits.  They prefer "truthful hyperbole," making it sound like a cryptocurrency subject to crash at any given moment.

Even when we have gone through hard times, as we did in the wake of the 2008 housing collapse and stock market crash, the Federal Reserve kept pumping hard currency through the economy so that it didn't come to a standstill.  The Bush and Obama administrations borrowed heavily from the Fed to save the banks and auto companies from bankruptcy, as they were "too big to fail."  Obama extended this liberal policy as much as he could to small businesses and individuals through his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as his stimulus package.  It wasn't enough and many persons found themselves scraping through those lean years just the same.  Nevertheless, the economy began to grow again by the third quarter of 2009, and has been growing ever since, with the GDP briefly dipping below zero in 2011 and again in 2014.

What makes the current borrowing hard to understand is that we are enjoying "boom" times according to our Hairpiece in Chief, the best economy in history he has tweeted.  Normally, one only borrows during lean times, so what gives?

Economists seem to think that last quarter's high GDP growth of 4.1% was an anomaly.  Our economy is slowing down after a sustained growth period of over 9 years.  The Dow peaked in January at 26,600 and has yet to regain the losses it suffered the following month.  It finally climbed back above 26,000 yesterday.  Surprised we didn't hear His Trumpness crow about it on twitter, as he did when it re-reached 25,000.

Basically, the markets are in a holding pattern, waiting to see what comes of these trade wars our dear President initiated.   There was some bounce yesterday when the US reached a tentative agreement with Mexico on a new trade deal, but it remains to be seen what Canada thinks of the new trade policies.  For all his bluster, this deal amounts to a little more than a few tweaks to NAFTA, but I guess as long as he can have it in his name it is seen as an "incredible deal."  The only problem is that there will be a new Mexican president in December and he might not be so amenable, and Trump hasn't exactly been on good terms with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.

The US economy will most likely weather the tempestuous fury of Donald Trump as it has all the other storms in our long history.  In the end, Trump mostly wants to put his imprimatur on everything, like one would scrawl one's signature all over the bathroom walls of a high school to show that he was there.  It's not like he is the one creating policy.  His Trumpness has negotiators trying to gain a little more leverage than the US had before so that he can feel good about himself and relate this mood to his devoted twitter followers.

We haven't had to deal with an ego as big as that of Donald Trump in the White House before, but the policies pretty much remain the same of any Republican president, resulting in a great debt burden that our ever growing economy somehow manages to cover.  Even with all the growth in Asian markets and the economic juggernaut that the European Union has become, the United States is still the largest economy in the world.

The biggest worry is that fewer persons are sharing in that economy.  Much of this capital is vested in wealthy families and corporations, namely the Walton family, while the rest of us fight over the scraps.  For a populist president, His Trumpness hasn't been very good when it comes to spreading the wealth.

Like it or not, the United States has become too big to fail.  It's huge market holds much of the global economy together and the dollar remains the preferred currency of exchange.  Donald Trump may shake things up, but it is doubtful he will bring this behemoth of an economy crashing down on us.  It may reach a point where our national debt becomes so bloated that the Federal Reserve is no longer able to cover all this excess borrowing, but until then we continue to sail along as we always have with the Good Ship United States rocking a bit at times.

Monday, August 27, 2018

So long, Mackie

Watching all the accolades roll in following his death makes me wonder what is going on here?  Did I miss something in him, or are people projecting in him the noble leader they so much yearn for?  Whatever the case, John McCain was all too human and hardly deserves all this outpouring of grief.

He's even being hailed in Lithuania for his steadfast resistance to Russian aggression.  He had a chance to visit the country for the first time in December, 2016, giving his best wishes to the renegade state that had defied the Soviet Union in 1990.

The Senator for Life ran again for office in 2016, despite probably knowing he had cancer.  Glioblastoma is not something that happens overnight.  According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, it is a brain tumor that usually forms in men between the ages of 45 and 70.  When it spreads, it spreads quickly and is almost impossible to contain.  It could be he ignored the symptoms until the headaches became so severe he had a brain scan, announcing he had cancer in July, 2017.  More likely Mackie couldn't imagine a life outside the Senate, and was going to serve as long as he humanly could.

That would have been fine if he truly had something to offer, but as we found out in December, 2017, he was just as much a politician as anyone else on the Hill.  He made a dramatic show of saving The Affordable Care Act from the "skinny repeal" his good friend, Lindsey Graham, had proposed in July, only to turn right around and approve a Senate tax cut bill that had the very same health care cuts he previously voted against.  Either he didn't bother to read the fine print or just didn't care at that point.  This is quite telling for a man who was getting the best cancer treatment in the world thanks to his Congressional health care plan.

Time and again, Mackie sold out his principles.  Back in 2008, he refused to sign onto a torture ban despite publicly admonishing the Bush administration for using torture.  This from a man who had been tortured in Vietnam while detained for five-and-a-half years in a Hanoi POW camp.  You really have to wonder what he was thinking, especially running for President that year.

He struck me as someone constantly torn by his convictions and the political expediency that characterizes Washington, hence his often pained expression.  He could be strong and resolute in his beliefs one minute, and cowering and subservient to political interests the next.  It was really hard to know where he stood on key issues because he rarely expressed the same view twice.  But, somehow he was seen as better than the rest, largely because of his POW experience that he never let anyone forget.

I suppose this is what rankled Donald Trump about McCain, leading him to make that infamous remark that he liked heroes that don't get captured.  Trump wasn't the first to question McCain's "hero" status.  Back in 2008, General Wesley Clark similarly called McCain's war record into question only to be quickly dismissed by Presidential candidate Obama.  Barry didn't want to go there.

Many felt that McCain exploited his Vietnam experience for political gain, but few publicly said it.  Trump not only said it, but stood by it, which as it turned out was the sentiment of many rank and file Republicans who supported Trump.  This includes Kelli Ward, who the day before Mackie's death suggested that his announcement of going off chemo was designed to deflect attention away from her campaign.   I guess we can excuse her for not knowing he would die so quickly.

At heart, I think McCain was a good man and had noble intentions, but just wasn't able to achieve them.  He certainly didn't deserve the wrath of Donald Trump or the petty suggestions of Kelli Ward, but he does deserve criticism.  Despite all his protestations, he stood behind Trump 83% of the time on Congressional legislation, according to 538.  That's less than the average Republican, but still a pretty good indication he wasn't the "maverick" many believed him to be.

John McCain loved the Senate life.  He took over Barry Goldwater's seat in 1987 and remained there until December, 2017, the last time he voted in the chamber.  It gave him a great feeling of importance, especially when it came to foreign policy issues, which he regarded as his strong suit.  He missed out on the final version of the tax cut bill, but no matter it carried 51-48.  His vote wouldn't have made a difference.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, Robin!

You can be excused if you don't know who Robin Leach is.  He's been living under the radar for some time, but back in the mid-80s he brought the lavish "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" into middle class living rooms across America.  You might say he was single-handedly responsible for elevating our aspirations and spurring the real estate market by making persons crave spacious bathrooms and kitchens, sunken firepits, walk-in closets, indoor-outdoor swimming pools, and other amenities to their modest homes. 

The period between 1984-1995, in which the syndicated show ran, coincided with an unparalleled building boom in the real estate market.  Everyone wanted a bigger home with as many of the features of the jet set as they could get a second mortgage for.  The average size of a single-family home grew from 1700 square feet (170 square meters) to 2500 square feet (250 square meters).  Real estate agents pushed large bathrooms and kitchens, walk-in closets and fireplaces as must-have features if you wanted to fetch a good price on the market.  People maxed out their lots, and if they ran out of space converted their garages into extra rooms.  With  real estate prices going up, up, up, you were guaranteed a good return on your investment.

Mr. Leach is probably too modest to admit his show had a big influence on this booming real estate market, but he opened the door to all these glittering palaces, which you could only see before in the glossy pages of Architectural Digest and other coffee table magazines. 

The show also had an impact on the rich and famous, as they soon began trying to one-up each other for the biggest mansion.  One of the more hilarious competitions was between Aaron Spelling and David Saperstein for the largest house in LA.  Spelling eventually topped out his sprawling mansion at 56,500 square feet (5650 square meters), leaving poor Dave a distant fifth with his 35,000 square foot (3,500 square meter) mansion.  You can read all about these monstrosities on Curbed.

With the MTV era and the rapid rise of music moguls, we soon had the syndicated show MTV Cribs, the heir apparent to Leach's long-running show.  We got to see the homes of all these suddenly wealthy rap artists and other overnight celebrities, similarly battling each other for the coolest "cribs."  Robin Leach wisely bowed out.

Now, you can check out all these lavish homes on the Internet.  Everyone seems to love to show off their "crib."  The only problem today is that some of these guys spent so much money on their lavish homes that they had to eat the losses on resale.  Nicholas Cage is one sad story.  Apparently, there is a limit after all.

For decades we had been coaxed into the idea you could spend as much as you could borrow on your home because you would get it all back on resale.  When the housing bubble burst in 2008, many folks were taught a hard lesson in real estate speculation.  It reaches the point where a house is simply too big and/or too gaudy to interest a prospective buyer, especially when there is a downturn in the market.

Ironically, Robin Leach lived a relatively modest life, well within his means, despite having promoted these lavish estates for so many years.  Smart man.  Maybe he could have shared some of that wisdom with Nicholas Cage and other celebrities who lost big financially.

Friday, August 24, 2018


Rough week for the Donald, seeing both his former campaign manager and lawyer go down.  Not only that but the head of National Enquirer, David Pecker, flipped on him by supporting Cohen's admission that Trump was fully aware of the payoffs to the two bimbos in question.  Is there a more perfect name for the head of a rag like the Enquirer?  It's like something out of a bad mafia movie with Trump complaining that there should be a law against flipping.

One would like to think time is running out on the artful dodger, but I wouldn't hold my breath.  Even if the Democrats get the votes to impeach him in November, they would have to turn a dozen or more Republicans in the Senate against Trump and that is a very tall order.  Nevertheless, they finally have a crime to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Darling Rudy took time out from a round of golf to say there will be a revolt in the streets if the Democrats dare to impeach the people's president, but I have a feeling they will get about the same turn out they got for the white nationalist rally in Washington earlier this month.  I think most persons are sick of all these pathetic fun and games and want a real president again, not this fake one we have had to endure for the past 18 months.

Not that Mike Pence would be much better, especially given his ties to Paul Manafort, but it would represent a victory of sorts, and it is doubtful that Pence would be anymore than a lame duck his two years in office, much like Ford after Nixon was run out of town.

Of course, this all hinges on the Democrats taking the House in November, and at the very least breaking even in the Senate with no losses of seats.  This would send a clear message to the Republicans that Trump is dead weight.

As for our dear president, he continues to act as if he is in complete control of things.  He admitted to paying off the bimbos but said he did so with his own money.  Nothing illegal about that.  Only problem is that there are records of these transactions having gone through his campaign, so he couldn't bring himself to come completely clean on his fourth try.

He went from a complete denial, to an admission there was a payoff but he didn't know about it, to yes he did learn about it after the fact to now an admission he approved the hush money.  It's really a wonder anyone can trust anything he says at this point.

Florida Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo sure isn't buying anything the president says.  He was on CNN today openly discussing impeachment.  In fact he wants everyone to know he was open to impeachment since last May after Trump fired Comey.  There are a handful of Republicans in the House who never bought into the Trump mania and have been waiting for the ongoing federal investigation to yield something they could latch onto.

This is also forcing Democratic leaders to rethink their campaign strategy, as Chuck and Nancy haven't embraced impeachment.  Feinstein has insisted on going slow, much to the chagrin of her California patrons, and many others remain sitting on the fence.  But, it is clear the Democratic base wants Trump to go, and will help propel those candidates that support his impeachment.

The national mood is ripe for a revolt, but not the one Giuliani imagines.  The resentment toward Trump has been building for 18 months.  What Americans have been waiting for is something that will force Congress to act against Trump.  Now they have it.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

If Al Bundy were President

Basically, your love or hate for Donald Trump comes down to whether you loved or hated the old Fox sitcom, Married with Children.  At its center was Al Bundy, a struggling shoe salesman trying to keep his high-maintenance family fed.  It could have been set anywhere, but the creators decided to put Al in the suburbs of Chicago.  It was a big hit, had a devoted following, and ran for 11 seasons.

The show was purposefully over the top.  Al always wore that contorted look as if battling hemorrhoids.  The highlight of his dismal life was going to the local strip club, where he would tie a dollar bill on the end of string to lure the dancers over to his end of the runway.  You never really knew whether he had any feelings for his wife or teenage kids, not that it mattered since poor Al lamented everything.  He was the quintessential loser, personifying a large cross section of frustrated men across the country.

Donald seized on that image during the campaign.  He loved playing the underdog, relishing each and every unexpected win in the primaries until he had garnered so many delegates that Republicans were stuck with him whether they liked it or not.  He developed a devoted base that has stayed with him through the first two years of his administration.

However, there has been some discord among the ranks, notably Joe Walsh, an ardent early supporter who now rails against Trump every chance he gets on his conservative talk show.  Before you start following Joe, you must be made aware this is the same guy who got punked by Sasha Baron Cohen on the first episode of Who is America?  Seems Joe isn't very smart.  You might say he is Jefferson D'Arcy to Trump's Al Bundy.

This helps explain why Trump is so popular among the Fox conservative audience.  Trump is essentially what Al Bundy would be like if he was a billionaire and President of the United States.  The only difference is that Trump went through several wives, whereas Al stuck with Peg through thick and thin, but then if Al had all that money and power he would have probably dumped Peg as well, and ran off with one of the strippers.

One of the things I've always found odd about Trump is his selection of women.  This is a guy who had unparalleled wealth and influence yet has had a strange array of relationships that one would regard as beneath a man of this stature.  Ivana was a young Czech immigrant when she met Donnie at a fashion show in New York in the mid-70s.  They didn't make for a particularly dashing couple as their wedding pictures attest to.  But, Donnie claims to have adored her in his best-selling business book of all time, The Art of the Deal, even if he was soon flirting with other women in Atlantic City, namely Marla Maples.

Trump was after glamor but seemed to strike out when it came to leading ladies.  At one time or another he made passes at Kathleen Turner, Helen Mirren and a host of others, yet there was something so smarmy about him that they all rejected him.  Kathleen Turner recently described his gross handshake.  When Al Bundy dumbly stares off into space, it's like he is imagining himself as Donald Trump. This is something he would do if confronting such glamorous actresses.

Like Al, Trump loves strip clubs.  One of his favorites was Scores, which Howard Stern made famous on his syndicated radio show.  Trump even had his personal Scores inside his infamous Taj Mahal on the boardwalk of Atlantic City.  Surprised he hasn't installed one in the White House, as Al would no doubt have done if he had ascended to the highest office in the land.

Trump was a regular on Stern's ribald talk show, engaging in the sexist banter the "Fartman" was famous for.  Nothing was beneath the Trumpster.  Ultimately, this is what endeared Donald to the same audience that loved Al Bundy.  Trump may have been a billionaire, but he was the people's billionaire, the sum of all their lowly aspirations.

Trump played these idle fascinations out in real time.  The women were easy marks, good in bed, and gave him five children derived from an interesting gene pool.  Hard to square Ivanka with this clan but then you never know what you are going to get with all those repressed x and y chromosomes.  She must have inherited some long dormant Aryan features to turn out to be such a ravishing beauty.

Donnie has developed an unusual bond with her, as Omarosa recently pointed out.  Ivanka is the glamour girl he had always been looking for in his wife so no surprise he pretty much said this in a cringeworthy interview on The View during the campaign.  At least Al had some boundaries.  I don't recall him ever hitting on his daughter Kelly.  However, you get the sense that Ivanka, like Kelly, isn't all that comfortable with the Trump name, but has to gut it out like she did on The View.

Trump is accessible if nothing else.  These admissions come so unexpectedly that you don't know quite how to respond, as was the case on The View.  Smartly, he very quickly moves on so that you don't have time to dwell on it.  Al was good that way too.

As for his two eldest sons, they more or less come across as versions of Bud, equally dumb and prone to the same stupid mistakes.  We can only hope that Barron emerges as the smart one, restoring honor to the family name.

Tiffany is the forgotten child, as if Al had an affair at some point and this girl pitched up one day to say she was his daughter. Trump doesn't seem to have much attachment to her. He rarely mentions her. Not surprising since they had very little contact with each other.  Probably just as well, given how he acts around Ivanka.  Maybe Tiffany will have a chance to lead a relatively normal life.

So, here we are having to deal with a president who is even more a caricature than Al Bundy, drifting off into puerile fantasies of how he would rule the world.  The only problem is that we have to deal with these fantasies.  His advisers have to clean up the many messes he leaves behind or try to gloss over them, which is usually the case.  This is what happens when life imitates bad television.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unapologetically Stupid

You may have seen this cowboy philosopher, especially if you have Southern friends.  Chad has become an internet hit with his wit and wisdom on what it is like to be a good ol' Southern boy.  I got into a little scuffle with friends over one of his latest vlogs, as Chad didn't see anything wrong with corporal punishment, saying that maybe if we threatened the belt more often there wouldn't be so many "bratty kids" running around in restaurants.

I find Chad's whiny voice more annoying than I do kids, and we have a daycare center next door.  More often it is the parents or guardians who make me cringe with their awful songs, childish antics and other attempts at placating their kids, when maybe if they just treated kids as persons, they might respond better.  Chad, like so many others thinks the kids are the ones out of control.

Of course, it is a thinly veiled attack on Millennials, going after their kids, who have been dubbed Generation Alpha.  The problem with Chad is that he offers one whiny clip after another, making fun of all the latest trends in parenting and other social aspects of the much maligned Millennials.   He gets millions of hits on his vlogs, making him a celebrity of sorts.  He is a frequent visitor on Fox & Friends and other conservative shows, sure to get a laugh out of the hosts and audience.

If we are going to deal in stereotypes, it is usually the grandparents who pamper the "bratty kids" by loading them up with sugar products so that they go darting around the room on a sugar high.  It takes parents hours to bring their kids down from this rush.  Bill Cosby summed it up perfectly all those years ago.

So, why have Millennials become the brunt of jokes by all these conservative pundits and so-called humorists?   It's a constant stream of abuse on Fox and the conservative social media.  Nothing these young adults do satisfies them, and now the conservative pundits seem to think Millennials are lousy parents to boot, unable to keep their bratty kids in line, like the previous generation likes to think it did.

The idea of a permissive society is nothing new.  Each generation laments the generation that follows it for having things too easy.  We all like to believe our young lives were much harder and ultimately more rewarding.  You see so many memes glorifying our teen days as if all we had were our wits to keep us out of trouble, growing up on the tough streets of some city like Oliver Twist, or the country roads of some rural community like Huckleberry Finn.  Our parents didn't pamper us, like parents do their kids today.  Another one of Chad's pet peeves.

Fact is parents are parents.  Some over indulge their kids, some are too hard on their kids, others find a way to strike a balance.  Corporal punishment never worked.  It was the last act of frustration when all else failed, and was generally seen as such by both parent and child.  The kid might calm down, but only for a moment, only to repeat this vicious cycle all over again, because the parents failed to establish boundaries with their child.

Everyone knows parenting is tough.  I've raised three children myself.  My patience has been tested numerous times, but my wife and I got through those difficult years by reaching an understanding with our children.  Not once did either of us have to raise a hand in anger.  Neither had my mother and father.  I'm happy to say we all turned out fine.

I suppose Chad sees parenting as an easy mark.  He has five kids of his own, to read his wiki bio, so draws on his personal experience.  However, this really isn't about kids.  It's about the frustration conservatives have with Millennials, who aren't living up to be good Republicans, but rather seeking voices of their own that are often in conflict with their parents.  Everything has become politicized, even Dr. Spock's famous book, which today is seen as a leftist rag by conservatives, when it was the authoritative guide to child care throughout the post-war generation, first published in 1946.

Today, you can find a huge selection on child care in bookstores, and innumerable pages online that discuss parenting, but still most parents rely on their own experiences to guide them through the ordeal of bringing up baby, which can be both bad and good.  No one said it was easy, but let's not turn this into another political whipping post.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Space Force all the way!

Given that half of his base thinks the moon landing is a hoax, you have to wonder why Trump and Pence are so keen to kickstart the space program.  Just the same, there was Mike Pence unveiling the new "space force"  last week.

This has been a pet project of Republicans for some time now.  Newt Gingrich was pushing for moonbases during his ill-fated 2012 run for President, earning him the nickname Moonbase Newt.  But, where Newt wanted to colonize the Moon and even Mars during his proposed presidential administration, the Trump administration has something more along the lines of Reagan's Star Wars in mind, only with Russia and China as the new "evil empire" to contend with.  It didn't help that North Korea launched one of its intercontinental rockets well into the thermosphere last year.  Far higher than anyone expected they could reach.

While there are reasons to worry, do we really need a separate arm of the military to deal with it?  Given how slow things work in the Pentagon, it could be decades before they actually get a "space force" off the ground, and by then, well, all kinds of calamities might occur, given our over-heated planet.

The Pentagon worries more about global warming that it does a space race.  We are witnessing the hottest summer on record, leading to forest fires throughout the northern hemisphere, even into the Arctic Circle of Norway.  Yet, all Trump has done has throw more fuel on the fire by blaming California's environmental regulations that don't allow fire departments to pump enough fire to put these fire outs.  A bullshit claim that is a very thinly veiled attempt to endorse the Republican John Cox running for governor.

So, are we to assume all this attention given to the "space force" is some kind of political ploy as well?  Or, merely a branding ploy in an effort to leave some kind of legacy behind him should be booted from the White House in the next Congressional session?

Most likely, Newt or someone else planted this bug in his ear and he couldn't get it out of his head.  Kind of like the tariffs he felt so emboldened to initiate when some strategists told him they might rally the base in the midterm elections.  It is hard to know where these ideas come, but while we scoff his political base eats it up.

What is most curious about this is why a man who promised to cut the annual budget deficit to zero his first term in office would keep spending money left and right on projects that have very little value.  Here again, all we need to do is look at the extravagant bill he has rung up on weekend getaways the past 18 months to see this is a guy who doesn't give a rat's ass about the any budget.  He had also promised he would be so busy he would have no time to play golf.

Yet, he is literally promising America the moon.  I suppose he can't stand Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk getting all that attention with their space programs.  He plans to one-up them by creating his own space force regardless of anything NASA is doing, which is working with Bezos and Musk to develop rockets to carry its astronauts to the international space station, since it doesn't have the budget to do it on its own.  NASA has to content itself with probes like the one that failed to launch yesterday on a journey to the sun.

NASA has been working on a relatively threadbare budget for decades.  It had to mothball its space shuttle program in 2011 due to lack of funding, relying on Russia to ferry its astronauts into space.  But, nary a word in Pence's lumbering speech about NASA.  Like everything else, Buzz Trumpyear wants to rebrand the final frontier in his name, hoping that it will excite his political base this Fall, getting their minds off far more pressing concerns.  There are even patches that come with it, which not surprisingly the Internet has had a field day with.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Close but no cigar

The pattern emerging is that the Democrats can make it close but they can't win crucial seats.  Of course, none of us would have paid much attention to Ohio's 12th district special election had not Danny O'Connor saw an upsurge in the polls over the summer suggesting Troy Balderson was vulnerable in this normally reliable Republican district.  So, all eyes turned to the suburbs of Columbus to see if a "blue wave" would roll over Ohio.  As of this morning, Balderson holds a narrow advantage in the race, but it is doubtful the provisional ballots yet to be counted will tip the election to O'Connor.

The Democrats were able to force the Republicans to spend heavily in a district they didn't make much of an investment in.  The GOP had to bring out all its firepower, including Trump, who appears to have rubbed just enough mojo on Balderson to give him a badly needed victory.  Kasich says the president was never invited to Ohio, but turned up anyway, throwing the race into disarray.  Either way, the Dems can claim a moral victory of sorts, but is that enough to turn over Congress this fall?

My guess is no.  As disgruntled as many moderate conservatives are with Trump, they can't bring themselves to vote Democratic, as they want their representatives in Congress, if they have any hope of holding onto their party.  So, unless a pure Trump candidate is going up against a Democrat, there isn't much chance these districts will swing in the Democrat's favor.

The difference between Pennsylvania and Ohio is that Rick Saccone firmly aligned himself with Trump.  Balderson did not.  In fact, the veteran state legislator rarely mentioned the president's name on the campaign trail, choosing to attach himself to Governor Kasich instead.  Balderson was as surprised as anyone that Trump turned up the last week of the special election but who is he to say no.

The Democrats need to gain 22 seats in the House of Representatives to hold a one-vote majority.  The mid-terms are shaping up a lot like the Virginia state legislature race last year, where the Democrats fell one vote shy of splitting the state house.  It came down to a coin toss and the Republicans won.  Close only counts in hand grenades and horse shoes as the old saying goes.

There are some things the Democrats could do to change the dynamics of this election.  For one, Nancy Pelosi could at the very least give up her role as leader of the party, which would go a long way toward undermining the GOP campaign strategy of focusing on her leadership.  Preferably, she would retire.  Two, the DNC could show more enthusiasm for its progressive candidates rather than playing this election safe, as they did in 2016.  Three, they could offer something more inspiring than a "better deal."

Instead, they seem to be banking largely on buyers' remorse, hoping to turn key seats in moderate districts that are worn out on Trump politics.  Yet, they have only been able to turn one House seat and one Senate seat in special elections over the last two years.  Granted, both victories were impressive, but a far cry from the blue wave many pundits have predicted. 

What we have seen are Democrats making gains in a handful of states disgruntled with their Republican leadership.  This is not enough.  They have to regain the US House of Representatives.  The Senate is a pretty tall order given they have to defend so many seats.  Only by gaining a split in Congress can they hope to thwart Trump over the next two years, otherwise he will be gloating like a guy who won a pie-eating contest at a state fair.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Welcome to the Panhandle

I remember my first political rally.  It was for Bob Sikes.  He was your quintessential Southern Democrat, representing our district in Northwest Florida in the US Congress.  Our high school was pretty small.  The rally was in an old gym, which sat maybe 500 persons in the fold-out wood bleachers.  There was a stage recessed into the opposite wall, the curtain drawn over it to hide all the weights and other gym equipment.  Mr. Sikes spoke from the floor of the gym.  We all were impressed, lined up to shake hands with him afterward.

That's as close as we came to our representatives.  What we saw of them was mostly on television, which was only four channels at the time.  The PBS station out of Pensacola was usually "snow," no matter how much my mother tried to adjust the aerial. 

I asked my father if he was going to vote for him.  He said, no.  Typical Democrat, although it was pretty hard to tell Southern Democrats and Republicans apart, not that he had much choice.  My father constantly complained there was no one to vote for in the Republican primaries, as the politicians all ran as Democrats.  Eventually, he bit the bullet and registered as a Democrat so he could vote in primaries.

Things were pretty simple then.  When my mother wanted to clarify something she saw on the news, she would pull down a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica to read more about it.  She didn't like the World Book Encyclopedia because she felt it was dumbed down like the new Bibles.  She preferred the King James edition.

In this day and age, it is hard to believe we consulted encyclopedias.  These heavy tomes are still around, but now sell for a fraction of their original cost on ebay.  No one wants them except as an odd piece of nostalgia.  You can find everything you need at your fingertips on the Internet, but it takes a little effort to sort out fact from fiction.  What was nice about the Britannica is that it was irrefutable, at least in my mother's eyes.

The biggest worries came with hurricane season when the waters got churned up in the Gulf of Mexico.  My mother tracked the storms on the map she cut out of the newspaper.  More than once we had to evacuate.  We went up to the armory in DeFuniak Springs one year, as Eloise bored its path through Walton County in 1975.  We expected the worse when we drove back but our concrete-block house was still in tact.  There was grime to clean off the floors as water had seeped in through the sliding glass windows, but judging by the mark on the baseboards, it was no more than two or three inches.

Dad kept talking about building a second story above the block house and turning the lower portion into a garage and storage area, but that never happened.  These houses were pretty typical along the beachfront.  Many of them built by retired officers who had last served at Eglin Air Force Base.  We were surrounded by generals and colonels who served in Europe during World War II, my uncle included.  My father always felt odd man out, not having been in the military, but reminded everyone he was part of the Marshall Aid Plan.

The biggest issue that I recall was busing.  There weren't very many black kids in our school.  Two families as I recall.  All along the panhandle of Florida the small towns were either black or white, very little integration between them.   We accepted the status quo.  It was enough to just play each other in basketball and football, shake hands afterward, and go our separate ways, but now we were being forced to think about integration.  Busing never came to Northwest Florida and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Bob Sikes may have brought it up at his political rally.  I can't recall anything he said at the time.  He served in office for 16 years before scandals began to swirl around him.  According to Wikipedia, he believed "flaming liberals" were conspiring against him, although the House vote to censure him was 381-3.  He retired rather than face re-election in 1978.  A local newscaster, Earl Hutto, became our new Democratic representative, no less conservative than Sikes, but considered to be a clean, no-nonsense type of guy.

The Reagan Revolution would come in 1980 with many Democrats turning Republican over the next eight years, an irony not lost on my father.  Today, the panhandle is as red as you can get in Florida. It's had a Republican serving my district since 1990, when Hutto chose to retire rather than switch parties.  We got a young guy from Pensacola named Joe Scarborough, who is now a popular MSNBC talking head, deeply worried that the Republican Party has been taken over by Trumpkins.

It didn't take much to turn Northwest Florida.  No Democratic President had won the panhandle as far back as I can remember.  When George Wallace ran for President in 1968, he drew most of votes in the district, as this was considered Lower Alabama.  So, you can say that Panhandlers were primed for Donald J. Trump.  Our current US Representative, Matt Gaetz, has been called the Trumpiest Congressman in Trump's Washington.

There are some gripes over the new law privatizing beach front all the way to the water line, but otherwise nothing has changed much over the last 50 years.  Some liberalism has crept into the area, but not enough to turn any election.  Panhandlers will go on voting for their conservative candidates, be they Democrat or Republican, come hell or high water.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

There was a bulletin for a 40-year high school reunion on my facebook timeline this morning, as if we don't hear enough from each other on facebook as it is.  I really don't see much value in attending, but I said yes just the same.

I've de-friended some of my classmates, as they have de-friended me over religion and politics.  Some became Seventh-Day Adventists and are trying to impose their strict new beliefs on others, forgetting what they were like as high school students.  Others have solidified their political views, or rather these political views have become ossified to the point they need not repeat them, as just seeing their name pop up on my timeline is enough to know what they have to say.  Many of these I have unfollowed, so I don't feel compelled to respond to their posts.

I last attended one of these things 20 years ago.  It was a mini-reunion with ten or fifteen classmates at a friend's house, as I wasn't able to attend the official reunion later that fall.  This was before facebook and all that social media that now binds us in ways we could never have imagined.  I hadn't seen some of these guys since graduation.  Some I had hoped not to see again, but there we were all under one roof trying to get reacquainted.   

There was even Cindy Kirk, who I had a big crush on as a kid.  My hopes were shattered when I saw her in the swimming pool with Rozier Cuchens at the hotel of our after-prom party.  She was now on her second husband with one of her boys in tow.  She looked as fresh as I had remembered, but for whatever reason we didn't talk much that night.  Ernie Perdue kept trapping me in one corner or another of the living room, and once in the kitchen.  He was trying to draw me out, as if for a fist fight, I don't know, as we never liked each other in high school, and I saw no reason to start liking him then.

I had consigned my classmates to the past when one day I got an invitation from Darryl McDaniel to join him on facebook.  I wasn't sure what to make of this social medium, but within weeks I had invitations from former high school and college friends and it was like one big on-line reunion.  It was fun at first, sharing all these pictures and anecdotes, but then religion and politics began to creep in, and soon we were unfollowing and even defriending each other, so as to no longer be compelled to respond to each other's political and religious posts.  Things got pretty heated between Ernie and me, leaving me no other choice but to defriend him, as he would stalk me in other person's posts after I had unfollowed him.

This is the odd part of our social media world today, it is now very hard to escape each other.  Past and present have become seamlessly merged, and here we are projecting what we knew about each other 40 years ago onto each other today, or vice-versa.  More than once I've been told I was "always liberal," when my "conversion" didn't come until years later.

I grew up in deeply conservative Northwest Florida, or Lower Alabama as it was informally known. My first chance to vote in 1980 was for Ronald Reagan and I did so again in 1984, although I was starting to lean "liberal" by then, having been charmed by Jesse Jackson in the primaries.  I remember getting into an epic argument with my uncle over Jackson.  He was somewhat relieved when I ended up voting for Reagan in the general election, as I couldn't stand the thought of Mondale.

Even weirder is how the facebook profiles remain even after some persons have passed away.  On more than one occasion I posted birthday greetings only to find that this classmate is now dead.  Yet, here is this internet ghost of him, with persons still posting in memoriam.  I recently found out one of my best friends from elementary school had died tragically, rekindling all kinds of memories.  I felt it was better to keep these thoughts to myself.

There are a couple of ghosts on this blog, who I couldn't bring myself to delete from the list of contributors and followers.  Somehow we think we can hold onto these persons on the Internet, as if they pass into a form of artificial intelligence.  That may very well be the case someday.

As with everything else on the Internet, there is no commitment.  It doesn't matter whether I go or don't go to the reunion, as I will still be seeing many of my classmates' posts on my timeline, but there is something magnetic about a reunion that is hard to resist.