Ranting and Ramblings of an Old Man


GOP August 3, 2015

The Republican hopefuls resemble nothing so much as a bunch of spoiled children. Much as I hate to say so, Jeb Bush looks like the only adult among them. Personally, I still like Ike and would vote for him in the blink of an eye if he were still alive… or for Robert kennedy, or even Ronald Reagan… all of them men of honor (mensch) who cared about something more than belly aching on a big stage.

Ice Cream Trump August 3, 2015

I just made myself an ice cream soda. Bryers vanilla and chocolate in coffee soda. Tasted like heaven. If the Donald wants to do some good with his billions he could provide this to kids in boiling hot Sudanese refugee camps. It would do more for America’s image and to undercut the propaganda of our enemies than any number of government programs providing the necessities of life. Like the candy bomber did for America’s image in the wreckage of post war Germany. We are so spoiled.

Trump the wastrel July 18, 2015

The worst thing about Donald Trump is not that he is playing a clown, though he is. Nor even that he is making a mockery of the electoral system. We don’t need him for that. But that he is wasting his millions. I expect that he contributes to charity. Every rich person does if only for the tax breaks and to avoid being labeled a scrooge. But he will be giving millions in this silly campaign to other rich people at advertising agencies, etc. I am not a bleeding heart but there are hundreds of causes both foreign and domestic in which he could invest the bulk of his wealth for the betterment of mankind instead of just moving it from one rich man’s pocket to another’s.. That is a moral obligation for men like him. After all, while he may have once actually earned money himself now it is only money generating money without any actual labor involved. There is no fear factor of losing a job. He is simply playing with investments like a game that he can afford to lose some rounds of. To think of it as anything he has actually earned is wrong and immoral. My wish is to someday get him alone for a couple of minutes to remind him that after he dies or otherwise drops off the stage that he so much loves, within months no one except those with business interests with his companies will think of him at all. Within two years he will be irrelevant even to these and forgotten or unknown to young execs. Finally he will not merit even a footnote in American history except, perhaps, as one of the many sillies in this election year. He so craves constantly being in the highlight that he says anything to get attention and loves to tell us how many people are listening to him. Hey Donald, there are children starving through no fault of theirs. In a way it’s like ignoring the Holocaust while you play your self important game for the crowds.

IRAN, PUBLICITY, AND THE BOMB July 15, 2015

Iran wants to be important. An atom bomb is a marker of having arrived internationally. All the talk about Iran and the bomb is more important than actually having it. It gets Iran a lot of attention in the press and on TV. Otherwise who’d care what the ayatollahs think about anything? The only way to stop countries from getting the bomb for attention is for everyone to not have them. Ike offered to put A-weapons under UN control; a good idea then and a good idea now.

Constantinople falls – May 29, 2015

On May 29, 1453 Constantinople, the jewel of the Christian world, fell to Islam because the East and the West hated each other. Love does not “make the world go round” as the song says, greed and hate do. Haters being the poor dumb foot soldiers of the greedy.

I’ve long thought that our courts have misinterpreted the restriction against cruel and unusual punishment. The constitution does not say cruel “or” unusual. To me the obvious meaning is that punishment not be arbitrary, the whim of some judge or governor intent upon making the punishment fit the crime. In fact the restriction is in keeping with the tradition in Britain that everyone is equal before the law. Thus a rich man and an ordinary citizen should be fined a similar percentage of their worth. Likewise, everyone, rich or poor, is entitled to bail if there is little risk therein. If he cannot afford anything bail should be set at $ 0.00. But the founders hardly meant that punishment should be no more than rehabilitation any more than they meant that the restriction applied only to capital cases. By definition a society exists to protect its members from the common foe. Why should punishment not be both cruel and usual for those who have decided to prey upon it: defrauders, con men, muggers, computer hackers, and mortgage bankers? By definition such persons cannot be members of the society. Why is it that we reserve the death penalty for murderers who offend against only one family while letting those outsiders who prey on the whole society live. Though I doubt that in practice I could refuse a plea for mercy if I were a governor, in principle I do feel that these are the people who deserve the most cruel punishments, just so long as they knew what was coming their way when they set upon a life of crime – that cruel would be the usual outcome. Likewise, a spell in prison should not be a rite of passage as it can be when incarceration is short. It should be obvious that the way to break the chain of daddy to son criminality is to keep these two separated for many years. Does this punish families? Yes. Life is tough but the responsibility of government is first to the society it represents, not to individuals be they criminals, their families, or even the victims.

Sir Alec Guinness May 2, 2015

To many of us of a certain age our first experience with British humor was a series of dark comedies starring Alec Guinness in the nineteen fifties. Some of them still entertain TV audiences with their humor today: The Man In The White Suit (1951), The Ladykillers (1955), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Captain’s Paradise (1953), and particularly Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949) in which he played eight roles including that of a woman.

However, my favorite of all his comedies has to be his brilliant portrayal of the eccentric artist Gulley Jimson in the film adaptation of Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth (1958). It borders on slapstick.

The brilliance of Sir Alec was not in comedy alone. Though most of the younger crowd may only know Sir Alec as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars films, he disliked being identified with that role. Many people a bit older preferred him as Col. Nicholson in The Bridge On The River Kwai and Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). But perhaps his most dramatic and very untypical role was as the bully Major Jock Sinclair in Tunes Of Glory (1960). He was so convincing as a total jerk in Tunes Of Glory that I was too troubled to sit through it’s entirety the first time that I saw the film.

Air strikes vs sorties April 19, 2015

Why does the news, and I assume the US military, now report air strikes instead of sorties. As I understand it a sortie is one flight by one aircraft, an airstrike can be any number of aircraft, a far less accurate release of information than in the past. I expect our enemies know what is decimating them. Why obfuscate?

I was disturbed to see the NY Times today further obscure the line between news and promotion. An article by Farhad Manjoo lauded the demise of internet banner advertising and promoted the use of “native” ads. I run into many of these on Yahoo news. Originally they were clearly marked by being in a contrasting color from true news items. Now there is only a light gray warning in small type. Of course they try to appear as true news items. Yes, they get my attention but by deceiving me. I would never purchase an item that such an insertion leads me to. More important, for its own reputation the Times should be against any conjoining of news and advertising..

Recently I heard the rather brilliant Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves. He was proudly touting the computerized system used throughout his country which coordinates all sorts of information about everyone. http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/talk-to-al-jazeera/articles/2014/10/3/toomas-hendrik-ilvestalkstoalivelshi.html Frankly I think it is great not to have to always fill out forms for everything and coordinate all your health etc records. It couldn’t work here though. It would be “unamerican” and violate our “privacy” and other “freedoms.” You seemed upset that our government will not just refuse entry to anyone from west Africa, but imagine the hullabaloo that would raise. It would interfere with business yet the objection would be couched in other terms of rights and freedom. Everyone speaks of privacy from government snooping but no one is willing to stand up and complain about privacy from marketing interference. The Do Not Call Registry is a joke and why is it that no politician has dared to complain that Target stores kept our personal identification? When I pay cash that’s the end of the transaction, why should it not be the same if I use plastic except that would interfere with marketing. It is about time that someone insisted on defining terms like “privacy” and “freedom” and “rights” recognizing that such definitions evolve. As they stand now they are meaningless except as rabble rousing shorthand.

In the post war era into the nineteen sixties Americans got used to a standard of living that they could only afford because there was no competition left, not because of their work ethic or some innate industrial superiority as they liked to believe. I recall in the seventies how the auto unions were still talking about theirs being the most productive labor force in the world. At the same time the car companies were unwilling to warrant cars for more than one year. And wasn’t everyone surprised when Toyota sent us lower priced cars packed with all the more desirable American car options and with doors that didn’t start rattling after a few thousand miles. The auto dealers and magazines tried to project it as unamerican to buy one of what they quickly labeled “econoboxes” though they looked much like a Mercedes box. Neither the industry nor the unions got the message. We keep expecting to somehow return to this superior lifestyle which is seen as a base line. We see the economy as bad because we don’t get high wages and benefits.

The 90% with the money want US labor to become accustomed to a more competitive standard of living. The other 10% are missing the point by blaming the 90% entirely for their lower take home pay. But the present situation cannot continue. The graduated income tax was a great idea. Since all profit is from business that was a fair way of taxing it through the employees. (I’ve seen enough of the attitude of employers to know that if taxes were paid directly by employers every employee in the same position would be paid the same regardless of his personal expenses: “No one told you to get a house, to have children, etc.”) But if the shrinking working class can’t support the government and corporations won’t – preferring to cut programs to the poor and tax breaks for the “middle class” – than who will pay taxes?

I might add that protectionism got a bad rap in the latter 20th century but I’ve also observed that despite their complaints industry generally will live with higher taxation so long as their competitors face the same cost. Globalization however has thrown that equation off and some protectionism is needed today to level the international playing field. The internationalization of industry itself has, however, complicated that equation. How much of a “made in America” car is actually made here. Most is assembly of parts from overseas which parts themselves are sub-assemblies of things made elsewhere, sometimes in the USA. Very complicated.

Face it. A lower standard of living, more in keeping with the rest of the world, is the new (and more natural) reality.

I have long felt that the trouble with even the best meaning health and poverty programs is that they get bogged down in “dealing with” the situation, not ending it. It is the old saying about teaching a man to fish but on a global scale where there will soon not be enough fish to feed everyone. We’re exhausting that resource like all others.

May wife asked me what will be done about global warming? My answer was that nothing substantive will be done. A rotting edifice will be whitewashed … again. The cruel math is that the life style of the well off has always depended upon the enslavement of many others under one name or another. But today fewer and fewer slaves are needed while the slave population continues to grow or at best has stabilized at a high level. Global warming will reduce the population by drought but no one able to change it will bother too, just as the problem has been avoided for decades though it was seen to be coming. Al Gore tried to warn of global warming but was sidelined by a campaign that depicted the one-time vice president as alarmist. And just try to sell Nuclear power to either the miners or the mine companies in Tennessee.

There is much wringing of hands by the best people, those who refuse to turn their backs on the helpless like the levite and priest did in the story of the good Samaritan. They deal with the problem but even these saints don’t envision solving it.

Meanwhile the levite and the priest contribute some cash and try to feel that they have done their duty. (Yes, there are a few who do more but they are in the minority and do not control governmental policy which is set to advance business, trade, and industry. Ie: the wealthy CEOs and stock holders.)

Despite the hard work of the well meaning and the cash sent by the wealthy to ease their consciences, millions of slaves will die from hunger, disease, war, and drought. There will be hand wringing but the life styles of the “haves” will not decline one bit. Recently I heard some unusually forthright CEO answering a question about it being unpatriotic to relocate corporate offices offshore. His honest answer was to the effect that patriotism wasn’t his concern. He was employed to increase profit.

The sad truth is that had we made a more conscious effort to limit births decades ago to perhaps half of what we had there would be enough jobs, fish, etc for all. Of course every mom and dad want children. In some countries children are a parent’s only retirement plan. So that was unpopular and only China could effectively do it (though India did try.) I’m a bit tired of third world men who complain on the news that they have no job and can’t feed their nine children so it isn’t entirely the fault of “the West.” I understand that the mentality that many children are necessary is changing now that survival rates are high, compared to past centuries at least. But the change is slow.

Bottom line? A hundred years hence after the coming devastation there will be a warmer planet with a much smaller population but with jobs for all who survive. Those with wealth know this but won’t face it.

For the record, I believe in capitalism. No other system has worked nearly as well on a large scale. I do not want Goody Two Shoes types running corporations for they would run them into the ground and that would help no one. Corporations must be run by hard headed businessmen who don’t think more than a few years ahead.

It is the second and third lines of executives who do the damage, for their jobs are not leadership but to advance the profits of the companies and its executives without regard for anything else, be it their employees, the environment, the slaves worldwide, or any damage done today that will harm tomorrow. The most conservative of conservatives should therefore see the necessity of someone to constrain these vice presidents and financial experts. Business organizations on their own have shown near zero ability to make more than cosmetic changes. (Consider the tobacco industry which fought regulation kicking and screaming in the USA and continues to promote itself worldwide.) It is the work of government to defend our national interests and promote the common prosperity. Yes, this means business but also the citizenry. These two bodies have always clashed and the overseas horror is only tangentially the business of governments. For this they have set up the United Nations but the UN is famously bureaucratic, wasteful, and nepotist where each state promotes its own business interests more than they do common goals.

The best third world governments see the media as an educational tool, for they often quite correctly view their people as too ignorant to handle our ideas of democracy and freedom of the press. After all, even ancient Athens was unable to do so in the end. Of course their ideas of education are not the same as ours. To be more correct, their worldview is very different than ours and not always wrong just because it doesn’t support American business interests. It can be a difficult balance: either have their people – often their children – work at slave wages, or starve. That has been the conundrum of India since its independence. Wages and hours are abysmal but some years ago India was able to boast that none of its citizens had starved to death that year. It’s a matter of perspective. But after seeing a documentary that my company had made of the working conditions of the Indian boys who do the brass plating of those items we import, I decided never to buy one. The boys go blind. Very occasionally the publicizing of some such conditions do marginally increase the conditions of the workers as happened after the factory fires in Malaysia (?) a while ago. But it doesn’t help long term. There is a company in China whose sole purpose is to find the cheapest labor force in the orient for any western backed business. How can a local industry or country which tries to improve conditions compete against such craven western businesses that hide behind a Chinese company and have plausible deniability? The only real answer is a smaller work force but no one seems to be talking about population control in recent decades. (Since the creation of super strains of grains temporally took the pressure off, fewer excess people starve but they still live in extreme poverty.)

If there is a positive note it would be that TV entertainment may yet improve millions of these lives. Because of TV people do look to a better future for their children. In the past fatalism has reigned and it continues to reign in nations not in the European tradition. The very word Islam means to be reconciled to the Divine will, and despite the best efforts of the Indian government there is still discrimination against those who are assumed to have greatly sinned in some previous life. Fortunately this fatalistic attitude is becoming a harder sell. People in the developing world see another life on TV and want a piece of it. No, they do not want to be like Americans and give up their old ways entirely, but they do want at least a piece of the action and that piece is rarely delivered by their local oligarchs who relate more to other wealthy in other countries than to their own people.

So people will die from global warming and epidemics carried world round by the globalized economy and then the world may get better for the reduced slave population that survives. Futurists tell us there will be little real work to be done in the coming entirely electronic world. Life will improve for the survivors much as it did for the reduced population of serfs in medieval Europe after the Black Death.

 

 

 

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