Whose Bully?

To understand what happened last weekend in Helsinki, listen to WIIFM. It’s not a radio station; it’s an attitude, a value system.

WIIFM or What’s In It For Me.

From pioneer days on, our country has valued integrity, individual freedom, helping others, the rule of law, and mutual sacrifice for shared goals. In short, WIIFUS, What’s In It For Us.

After WWII, the rest of the industrialized world was in ruins. But because our mainland hadn’t been attacked, our manufacturing industry was strong and efficient. From aircraft to autos to clothing and food, we had it all. So, we used the Marshall Plan and other programs to help rebuild Europe and Japan.

What was in it for us? Reparations forced on Germany after WWI had not only made it impossible for them to rebuild, they also created Hitler and Nazism. Where we had once happily isolated ourselves from the rest of the world, we now understood that helping others helped ourselves.  So, we helped create the UN, supported the formation of the European Union, and embraced globalization. The idea was that, by intertwining economies, by encouraging shared values, we would prevent a third world war.

It has worked for 70 years and counting. The Viet Nam and smaller wars, even the global Cold War, threatened world peace, but never blew it up. WIIFUS didn’t stop competition; it kept it civil. It didn’t stop enmity from Russia or China, North Korea or Iran, but shared values, as embodied in NATO, the EU and other alliances, mitigated both.

After WWII, the middle class arrived and prospered. Two cars in every garage, colleges filled with assembly-line workers’ and farmers’ children, closets and cupboards overflowed. By the 50’s and 60’s the America Dream had become reality.

Then, sometime in the early 1970’s, European and Asian manufacturing caught up. Over the next 4 decades they roared up to and frequently passed us in steel, infrastructure, automobiles, television, clothes, building materials – you name it.

Over the same time we became complacent about manufacturing and, instead, focused on new industries – computers, software, financial services – that required fewer workers. As a result, real wages (wages after inflation) stagnated, resulting now in a shrinking middle class, growing poverty, and an expanding wealthy class.

And the shared values of WIIFUS shrank.  Where Jonas Salk in 1955 invented the first Polio vaccine and literally gave it to the world, Marathon Pharmaceuticals recently bought a generic muscular dystrophy drug that cost patients $2000 a year, renamed it, and now charges patients $89,000 a year. Where banks once epitomized trust (“you can take it to the bank”), Wells Fargo steals from its customers. Comcast and Verizon, U-Haul and other retailers across the country – all legally lie. Politicians have always skirted the truth; now they’re putting out fake news stories on their own fake news sites.

Where we were once a nation that valued shared values, it’s now all about money and power. WIIFUS – what’s in it for us, has become WIIFM – what’s in it for me.

Which brings us to Donald Trump.

Ironically, he was elected by WIIFUS people. They remembered the prosperity of post WWII America while struggling with stagnated wages and a rapidly diversifying culture. They felt discarded by the Congress, the Clintons and a Democratic Party that no longer speaks for them. These are people who felt bullied by the new WIIFM values; even so, in Trump they saw someone who said what they feel about big business and big finance, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and “liberal elites”.  He promised to bring back the America they remembered. So they backed him, even with his WIIFM values.

He was a bully, but he was their bully.

Last week Trump did something no American President has ever done. He insulted and attacked our closest European allies, just as he had insulted and had earlier attacked Mexico and Canada, our closest neighbors. On Monday he insulted his ownIntelligence community and praised a proven enemy of the US. All in an effort to aggrandize himself – or worse.

Do they stick by him now, even as the rest of the country is stunned, angry, even scared? Do they see the future, in which, between the debt incurred by his mammoth tax cut and the damage incurred by his trade wars, the middle class will continue to shrink?

Or do they peel away, leaving him without followers and thus without power?

Let’s hope.

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From saving children to separating them

It sounds like something out of the Bible.  12 young boys of the Thai “Wild Boars” soccer team and their coach were trapped in a flooded cave system three miles long. Against the odds, their rescuers found them. Then the monsoon rains held off. Then the rescuers parted the waters by pumping massive amounts out of the caves. Finally they shepherded the children and the coach, most of whom couldn’t swim, through four hours of pitch black, underwater caverns, to daylight and safety. One Thai Navy Seal died in the process. For observers worldwide, the saga inspired poetry and prayers.

For Trump it inspired a tweet: “Such a beautiful moment – all freed, great job!”

Meanwhile, back in the US, after Trump reversed his “separation” policy weeks ago, only 54 of 102 children taken from their parents since early May have been returned to their parents. When ICE grabbed them, they sent them all over the country. Now they can’t find many or their parents.  Too bad they didn’t put them in a cave in Thailand.

There’s a simple solution to this, of course, but more on that later.

Meanwhile, Trump selected Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee. Because we’ll be living with that decision long after the “Wild Boars” have become parents themselves, you might want to know something about Kavanaugh’s judicial decisions.

He favors Wade over Roe: “the government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion.”  So, if you’re anti-abortion, be happy. If you believe women should decide for themselves what to do with their own bodies, you may have a bad several decades, because, if Roe v Wade comes back to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will vote against you.

He favors religious beliefs over individual freedoms such as sexual orientation and/or abortion: “the regulations substantially burden the religious organizations’ exercise of religion because the regulations require the organizations to take an action contrary to their sincere religious beliefs.” If you are like the baker who denied a cake to a gay couple, or an institution that thinks birth control is ungodly, you will be happy. If you’re one of the 62% who support gay marriage, or the 70% who support Roe v Wade, not so good.

Kavanaugh favors loosening climate change regulation. According to him the EPA “exceeded its statutory authority” in regulating greenhouse gases. If you’re into buggy whip industries like coal, that’s good news. If you’re into surviving climate change, good luck.

He favors predatory financial practices over protection of the individual, calling The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “a headless fourth branch of the US Government”. If you’re a payday lender or a Wells Fargo type, you win. If you’re broke or unaware of banking tricks, you lose.

He favors gun rights over gun control. ”Handguns — the vast majority of which today are semi-automatic — are constitutionally protected” and  “semi-automatic rifles are also constitutionally protected”. The NRA will cheer. Others will fear.

Here’s the one I suspect sold Trump on Kavanaugh: “Congress might consider a law exempting a President — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.” When Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” he wasn’t kidding.

Remember George Washington’s refusal to be crowned king by the colonists? Quaint, huh.

But I digress.

Here’s an idea for reuniting those children with their parents. Call Facebook, or Tinder, or any other social media site. Have them put pictures of every kid on a web page. On another web page, put pictures of every parent. Then ask each kid to click on the picture of their parent and each parent to click on the picture of their kid. Bingo!

As to vetting? Ask child and parent to name the other’s favorite song or name a grandparent or describe their home or a birthmark or scar or any other identifying mark only a family member would know. In the time it takes sign up for a dating service, parent and child can find each other.

I don’t know about Trump, but to me, that would be a beautiful moment.

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Immigration Problems Aren’t New

Our first wave of immigrants were Europeans. The Native Americans weren’t happy. Some people think their mistake was tolerating it in the first place.

The second wave was from Africa. Immigrating here wasn’t exactly their idea, but those European slave hunters were very insistent. In fact, during the first five or six decades, there were more blacks in the south than whites.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 tried to resolve the issue of rights for the second and third waves, but they couldn’t decide whether to endorse slavery or abolish it. The southern stare depended on slaves for farming.  Also, there was that numbers problem; they were fearful of a black uprising. The northern states didn’t have a farming or numbers problem, so they wanted to abolish slavery.

That’s the first time immigration became a race issue.

There was also a population issue; there were fewer whites in the South than the North. If the South counted blacks as non-persons, the North would control the country.

That’s the first time race and immigration became a combined issue.

The Constitutional Convention solved the population issue by declaring blacks 3/5ths of a human being. Efficient, huh? But they put off a decision on slavery, so anger festered for the next 70 years until the Civil War, where 620,000 died, the equivalent of 7.6 million today.

Everyone denies racism exists today, but there is still lots of arguing about how blacks (and other races and ethnicities) fit into the culture. And the dividing lines are pretty close to where they were 170 years ago.

Immigrants generally come in waves. From the Irish to the Italians to Jews to Mexicans to South and Central Americans, racism and immigration have combined to be major problems.

How many immigrants do we allow in? From where? What ethnic or religious or national groups?  Do we accept based on merit or need? Lots of questions.

Interestingly, even though we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard).

Immigration has worked quite well for the country: Albert Einstein Werner Von Braun, Irving Berlin, Sergey Brin, Levi Strauss, Joseph Pulitzer, Madeleine Albright, Oscar de la Renta, to name just a few.

We have Italian-American governors and Mexican-American mayors, an Irish-American (and Catholic!) and a black President. We have an Indian American UN Ambassador. We almost had a Jewish VP. And there are too many immigrant descendants in down-tickets to count.

Each time a new group came in, the current groups resisted. Often the resistance was based on fear of “others” and the strangeness of their ways. They were called “dirty ___’s” (fill in the epithet), because very often they were dirty, living in ghettos in places like New York, Boston, or San Francisco.

Then, eventually, they all climbed the ladder of success to one extent or another – in business, science, education, the arts, and government and they did fit in. As they moved up, the “dirty” was dropped, and then, eventually, also the “_____” epithet. After that final acceptance, they could start applying their own epithets to the next wave.

Today, there is a virtual tsunami of immigrants, legal and illegal. The illegals aren’t waiting for permission, as others before them did, because they’re not just coming here for a better life; they’re escaping war, cartels, and genocide. So now, in addition to the normal resistance to “others”, there is anger at them for breaking our immigration laws, for pushing their way into the country uninvited. Over the last several decades, this wave has come so fast, we can’t control it’s flow or speed.

In response our governments have been doing what our first government did – putting off decisions.

So here we are, a nation of immigrants who still can’t decide what to do about immigrants. Oh, and that early issue of blacks? They’ve been 5/5ths of a person since the Civil War, but often in name only. And the dividing lines now? About the same as then.

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I stopped by a dog park the other day. There were poodles, shepherds, labs, terriers, hounds, big dogs, little dogs – and all kinds of mixes – playing together. Once in awhile, one would annoy the other and there would be some snapping. But it would end as soon as it started. They ran around in twos and threes and then changed groups, played tug of war with sticks, sniffed each other (and everything else), or just happily rolled in the grass. Dogs are great, aren’t they?

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The Weaponizing of Children

I’ve had it.

For a year or two now, I’ve had civil conversations with friends who support Trump. We’ve discussed his policies reasonably and at length. They’ve offered valid reasons for the policies they like. I’ve agreed with some. And vice versa.

I learned that most Trump voters had two primary reasons for supporting him: they hated Hillary Clinton and they thought the system was rigged in favor of “liberal elites”.  I didn’t disagree. To me it was a matter of choosing which crook to vote for.

It’s all part of our democracy.

What isn’t part of our democracy is what our leaders are doing to illegal immigrant children.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but tearing children away from their mothers and fathers isn’t American. It is cruel and vicious. It tortures child and parent. It is psychopathic.

Our President is weaponizing children to strike fear in the hearts of any family thinking of crossing into the US illegally.

What if it happened to you, President Trump? Would you or Melania like to see Barron yanked away and not know where he was taken, or what would happen to him, or when you’d see him again? Would you still puff and strut?

How about you, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III? Suppose people had taken Mary Abigail, Sam, and Ruth away from you when they were little? Would you keep that phony smile?

Or you, Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security? Would you and your husband like to have your kids hauled away? Oh, that’s right. You don’t have a husband. Or kids. That figures: connecting with someone emotionally requires empathy, which you clearly don’t have.

We’d have to reach back to WWII and Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans to come even close to what Trump and his minions are doing to these families.

No. Wait! There was an actual war then and the country was scared of anything Japanese. There was something of an excuse, weak as it was.

No. Wait again! Roosevelt didn’t separate Japanese kids from their parents. He actually kept the Japanese families together – even in the internment camps.

We’d have to go back to the 1930’s to find the last time someone tore children from their parents’ arms, back to Hitler and the Nazi’s. That’s when trainloads of Jews arrived at concentration camps and children were immediately taken away, most never to be seen again.

If referring to the Holocaust seems like a stretch, Google: dr. seuss 1941 cartoon adolf the wolf.

You’ll see a grandmother type reading to two frightened kids: “…and the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones. But these were Foreign Children and it didn’t really matter.”

Note the “America First” slogan on her shirt.

Note the drawing style. Yes, that Dr. Seuss.

Stephen Miller, one of the Trump advisors behind the weaponizing of children, was a Jeff Sessions’ advisor before joining Trump’s staff.

Here’s a scary fact: Stephen Miller is Jewish.

You know what is really scary? With a few exceptions, our Republican leaders, from Senator McConnell to Speaker Ryan to Senator Toomey of PA, – every one of them – has been downplaying, ignoring, or outright denying the immorality of treating people this way.

They aren’t leaders; they’re cowards, focused only on keeping their power.

They’ve been too busy genuflecting to their Don to stand up for children.

Just for a minute, Mr. and Ms. Republican, just for a minute, let’s forget about politics. Let’s forget the Clintons’ hijacking of the Democratic Party, over-regulation and over-taxation, climate change and all the other issues.

Just for a minute, imagine that some son-of-a-bitch just took your kids from you.

Imagine the horror, the freezing fear, the boiling rage.  Imagine getting your hands around the neck of any of the people who did that to your kids, to your grandchildren, to any child.

Now, hold onto that horror, hold onto that fear, hold onto that rage through the November election and maybe even 2020.

Take those feelings to your voting booth and throw out every single politician who supported – even for a moment – weaponizing children.

Democrats and Independents may be disorganized, weak-willed, regulation happy, do-gooders, and all the rest. But they don’t do this to children.

Yes. I’ve had it. And I hope you have, too.

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I’ve changed my life

I wasn’t paying attention. I wanted to. I spend all winter waiting and waiting and waiting for the cold to blow away. I kept looking out the window, anticipating balmy breezes, cookouts, and long summer sunsets.

Nothing.

And then, at some point, the boredom of winter got to me and I started following the news – fake news, real news, stupid news, funny news, sad news – anything news related.

It wasn’t long before anything news related became anything Trump related. I became enmeshed in Trumpism – all day, every day: which oligarchs he admired, which Democrats he ridiculed, what nicknames he assigned to his enemies, which of his golf courses he played. It was captivating.

And then “Trumpisms” were replaced by Trump conspiracies:

Like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos aiming the Washington Post at Trump and taking advantage of the Post Office.

Like the FBI spying on Trump.

Or knife-wielding children flooding our southern border and infecting our schools with their hispanicism.

And Deep State newspapers and leftie TV channels working together to destroy democracy with facts.

I mean, this required all my time. I was so worried I missed writing column the week before last. I stopped smiling.

If my internet hadn’t dropped out during a late winter rainstorm, I would have had no idea about spring.

I went outside one day a few weeks ago and saw all these flowers! And grass! Look how high! (That must be why the town code enforcement officer has been sending me all those nasty notes.)

There were kids riding bikes and playing baseball. My neighbor, Neat Mike, was restocking his bee-hive and building an above-ground garden (he says bending over to pick vegetables at ground level ruins the crease in his pants).

I started smiling again. Really.

And then the strangest thing happened. I felt an insatiable desire to check my TV, my computer, or my cell phone for Trump updates.

So I did. And I lost the rest of Spring.

And my smile.

My kids called it Trump-Addiction, but of course, what did they know, really. Besides, they’re addicted to cell phones whereas I could take them or leave them.

When I left them, I just turned on my computer. It was easy and, frankly, the screen is bigger and easier to read. That’s probably why young people know less – smaller screens.

A lot of people decry digital newspapers. Not me. While CNN or Fox are just starting to edit their stories, the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Post, Google News, Associated Press, and all the rest, have already published them on-line.

Sure, I had to read them instead of seeing the pictures, but that was another advantage I had as a grownup: I liked to read.

As a result, I knew about all things Trump-related way ahead of my kids or Neat Mike.

The only problem was, by following Trump so closely, I had missed most of spring.

And that’s when it hit me. Wow. The kids were right: I was Trump-Addicted.

So, I’ve gone cold turkey. I cut cable, ignored local and national news shows, and deleted all news links on my computer. I don’t go near the newspaper stand at WaWa. When people at parties start talking about Trump, I smile serenely and walk away.

I go on long walks and am getting in better shape. My appetite is back. I’ve stopped making jokes about Neat Mike’s garden and he says he’ll give me a tomato or two if I continue to be nice.

Life is much better.

Oh, and I discovered Netflix and Amazon’s Fire Stick and Chrome and HBO Go and other streaming entertainment sites. They’re really great.

I could watch them 24-7…

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