Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Age and Wisdom in a Chaotic World

You get old(er), but do you become wiser?

I hope this isn't going to be a "think" piece. I don't want to dispense wise aphorisms about age and wisdom. Who would care? At 70 years old I find myself living in a mean-spirited, chaotic world. But at 70 I also realize (my view of history) that it has always been a mean-spirited, chaotic world, although many people fear that it has gotten worse. Those with a short view, a lack of knowledge about history, lack historical perspective and might well think that things have gotten worse.

But there have always been slaves and slave holders—even now; there has always been religious strife and wars fought over religion; there has always been a schism between the rich and poor, and even though many think that the rich today are richer than the rich have ever been also lack perspective. There have always been murderers and thieves and serial killers; there have always been rapists and child abusers and wife beaters and bullies. There have always been puppet masters and puppets, dictators and those who advise them, schemers and the fools who believe them.

In short there has always been the powerful and the powerless, and almost regularly through history there have been revolutions, civil wars, where the powerless rise up in such numbers that their sheer volume is able to overcome the power in the hands of the few.

And above all there has always been fear, throughout history. There are those who embrace change and those who fear it; there have been those who explore and wonder and have adventures and live life while they have it and those who are afraid to live. Fear paralyzes some and causes others to strike out against that which they fear. Galileo was imprisoned because he dared to look through his telescope and the Church pronounced him a witch. Men have been put to death for speaking truth to power, because those in power feared the truth. Fearful men will do evil things. And today, the fearful men are those who have the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, but they fear losing their rich donors more than they fear the wrath of the voters.

The opposite of fear is knowledge and a historical perspective. I've learned that lesson over the course of 70 years, but perhaps also that there are important issues that need to be dealt with and unimportant, petty issues to simply ignore. Maybe it's the force of realization that I'm near the end of my life, whereas when I was a kid I could not conceive of my own death. I'm not afraid to die, even though that's one of things that I know nothing about and can never hope to know. Those who are afraid to die will do anything to stay alive; those who are afraid to grow old will engage in all sorts of regimens to stay young, or at least young looking, like having their faces carved and reshaped, and tucked, and stretched, while ignoring their aging hands; men who will father children in their eighties because they fear growing old. The rich who hoard their money and can never have enough because they fear poverty (or something...who knows?).

But once you realize that the world has always been mean and chaotic and there's nothing to be done on a grand scale to make it less mean and chaotic, you realize that you, the individual, merely has to ensure that you are not mean, you do not live a chaotic life, and you work toward stability within. Think about this. Who fares better, the law-abiding citizen who seeks stability in an unstable world or the criminal who seeks to alleviate his/her own fear by stepping into the chaos with guns and knives? Who fares better, the person willing to accept and understand others who might be of a different religion, ethnicity, sexuality or the person who fears those who are different? Those who fear and act on their fear are those who grab arsenals of weapons and jump into the chaos. Who fares better, the man or woman who carries a gun or those who leave their weapons at home? Those who look to others to fulfill their needs or those who seek to be self-reliant? Those who only want to work for wages or those who try their hand at creating a business?

The secret is to be self-reliant, calm within, friendly to those who are different, respectful of anyone who comes into your life, judicious with all things, fair in all dealings, educated to the best of your ability, whether formally or self-taught. Moderate in all things, even entertainment, though fearful at times does not let fear rule.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Keystone GOPs

The Republican Party is at war with itself...

Keystone GOPs in Pursuit of
Obamacare Repeal
Until the 2018 elections, the Democrats in both houses of Congress might as well just sit back and watch the antics of the Keystone GOP's episodes as it continues its self-destruction. It was a perfect storm that actually managed to work in getting a majority of GOPs in both houses AND the presidency by a minority of voters. The leaders of the GOP are fond of saying the American people elected them to office and that one of their most important promises is to repeal Obamacare. "We've made this promise to the American People," says Mitch McConnell.

No Mitch...the American People whom you appropriate to your agenda do not want Obamacare repealed. Just the Republican part of the people wanted it back in 2008, which is a minority any way you slice it. but now, not even many of those want to lose what they have with Obamacare. The Keystone GOPs have attempted repeal and replace, repeal, skinny repeal, and all of those attempts showed the majority of Americans one important thing: The GOP is filled with mean, heartless Obama haters. No wonder even those who didn't want Trump at any cost are now completely on board with him, since his actions have been solely in line with your true agenda: take the US back to the days when the rich ruled and owned everything, when there were no brakes on capitalism, no enlightened sense of responsibility to anyone but the rich and the corporations, back to the McCarthy era.

Joseph McCarthy during the House Unamerican Activities
The Keystone GOPs are still finding Communists under every bush, and anything that smacks of socialism is to be smothered in the crib. Currently the GOP in congress is composed of three factions: the Freedom Caucus (Ayn Rand Libertarians), the vast middle of alt-right leaning conservatives, and a tiny fraction (but just enough to stymie major legislation attempts) of those who seem to have the best interest of their constituents back home at heart. It's an odd phenomenon that those in the Freedom Caucus have been against any of the repeal attempts because it's not mean enough, and when you add the votes from the tiny fraction of those who think the bills are not fair enough, the only votes the Senate (for example) can count on are those in the big middle of the GOP, the yes men of alt-right Obama haters, the yes men of Trump, who they align themselves with, even though they tried in vain to make him lose the primaries. There are very few moderates in the GOP with enough spine to stand out from the mob in the middle, and so every attempt at repeal of ACA fails on the narrowest of margins.

Tax reform is next. The same factions will be active in this next episode of the Keystone GOPs.

Reflections of a Political Kind

Or is it a choice between what makes us humane vs. the "Dogs of War"*?

* I'm thinking more of Pink Floyd's "Dogs of War" lyrics than Shakespeare's (who said everything first).

I'm not going to list all the things that our new "President" has promised to do vs. what he has not done (first 100 days). The left/right/fake/real news media have done that to the point of making it all meaningless.

Nor am I going to pin all the blame on Trump or Bannon or Ryan or the Freedom Caucus for what is wrong with the direction we're moving in this country. I just want to discuss the issue behind the political agendas, and that is the U.S. becoming the "dogs of war" rather than what makes us humane.

An Aside:

Apparently to the "originalists", the US Constitution only allows the federal gov't to raise a standing "militia" and regulate commerce and does not allow the US to fund social programs, because it's not specifically spelled out in the Constitution. I don't want to argue for any interpretation of the US Constitution, except to say that like the Bible depending on how you're already committed, you can justify anything in the Constitution. That's why we have Supreme Court Justices, after all—to apply the test of constitutionality to laws passed by Congress. Originalists like Scalia and now his successor are like those Christians who insist that the Bible should be taken literally and that there is only one meaning to be had for any passage in the Bible. Originalists will insist that if social programs that would be set up to take care of those that are poor or ill or in need of some sort of assistance were Constitutional it would have been included in the Constitution. But lets not forget that the original first ten amendments to the Constitution were added because there were those who would not ratify the Constitution without them. They insisted that inalienable rights should be listed. The framers of the Constitution had thought that quite unnecessary, since they viewed the Constitution as flexible and meant to be a guide. But Originalists insist that, no, if it's not specifically written in the Constitution or provided for by an Amendment the Supreme Court Justices cannot interpret such social and humane programs to be included as "constitutional."

Except, of course, when it comes to Corporate welfare and making corporations individuals, just like you or me.

Back to the Main Subject:

So,  that conservative view of the Constitution means that we can only fund the "militia", which back in the late 1700s were muskets and bayonets and army uniforms (maybe); no one from the eighteenth century could have dreamed of fighter jets, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, rocket launchers, and million man armies. Whenever I hear senators, representatives, and presidential candidates talking about increasing funding to the military or making it "great" again, I do have to wonder why we need even more military might than we already have. There is not a single other country on Earth that even comes close to the US Military in its strength and national budget spent on it. A single fighter jet could easily fund the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, or an After School program for children in the inner cities of the United States. But there are those loud and strident voices in the Congress that insist that the Constitution does not allow for such programs and they have been eager to defund all such programs for decades—and now they finally have their chance with the President and both houses of Congress in the hands of one party.

In other words, no amount of money is enough for our military, and yet the cost of a single jet is too much to spend on programs that help the US continue to be a humane country, a country that looks after everyone when they need a hand up or a place of refuge or a program that will help them get back on their feet.

Update September 26, 2017

And now, Trump is itching to use the nuclear arsenal on North Korea, and Kim Jong Un is ready for him to do it. Both these pigs are itching to destroy the planet. And instead of global warming we will have nuclear winter.