February 11, 2017
2016 elections, politics, popular culture, Trump
Democracy, Elections, Internet, politics, status, technology
America has had two great exports. Democracy and our Culture. That’s why our history is filled with supporting dictators, warlords and rebels against democratically elected governments we didn’t like. The American Empire. For all that the US still had an apparently viable two party system. A counter balance to the totalitarian Communist Soviet Union. The driving policy of post war lost it way when free market Capitalism won. Democracy spend across the former Warsaw countries.
Great we won. America won the gold medal. But just like on D-Day and Gulf War 1, there was no plan for after. The British had these weird attachments or specially designed vehicle to defeat the hedgerows. The American generals rejected them. They actually put all the bolts and cables on their purposely built dock extending out for supplies. The Americans had one. Because they didn’t. The Get it done and get it now mentality got it was destroyed in the first Atlantic storm. . The Gulf War? But my country is so large, we must have helicopters to get around. Please? Ask the Kurds how that worked out.
Then those ungrateful countries created Democracies that reflected their historic and cultural past. Filled with sectarian or religious prejudices. Tribal alliances at there worst. The baby steps of democratic institutions corrupted before they could become strong enough to resist. The CIA was instrumental in bring the Shah to power in Iran. The former Persian Empire of Xerxes reborn in the modern world. That conflict between modern and ancient directly caused the 1979 Revolution. The birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A limited Democratic Theocracy. One supported client groups to fight the Saudi backed Sunni factions. All the while export a very conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, with America never challenged. Gotta keep the oil flowing.
Both branches of Islam hate the Kurds. History lesson. Sal al-din, proper spelling, was a Shia ethic Kurd whose crowning achievement was the capture of Jerusalem in 1187.He had the personality to juggle all the various factions of his combined polyglot force to achieve that goal. Guess what fell apart afterwards? Following WWI, Kurdish land was split between three countries. Eastern Turkey, Iran and Iraq. All majority Sunni. the Brits have a long memory. Lesson done.
Americans tend to forget that we considered ourselves British until the Revolution. Even then many still did. Economic status. The colonist carried in their DNA English Common Law. A Parliamentary government. the Magna Carta. The privilege of Empire that didn’t include them. Democracy meant for the landed gentry. The last two are alive and well in the former Soviet states. Ukraine is the current example of our revolution without the institutions to support it.
Now a slim minority has elected an inexperienced Con man whose claim to fame is his self supported Cult of Personality. A man who brands everything in GOLD LETTERS. A self aggrandizing brand that rode an angry populist wave to the most powerful position in the world. And who does he admire? A second rate Authoritarian former KGB officer who played a part in scamming Reagan during his visit to Russia. A modern Czar in all but name. These events didn’t magically appear. They have been decades in the making. Nameless unelected political operatives for both parties whose only purpose was winning have brought us to this point. Party over Country. Any difference in basic party motivation is a smoke screen for a desire to win. By winning they have power. Absolute power is the theme of this President.
The genie in Aladdin got it right. “Absolute power. Itty bitty living space.” In this case its the Constitution and our bodies of laws. The Bill of Rights enshrine individual rights. Not limit them. That is still unique in the world. Demanded by the people to ensure Governments couldn’t run roughshod over individuals or groups. It’s taken a century or decades for those ideals to be fully realized. The struggle still continues for many. And one election puts it all in peril. Luckily Trump can’t throw his opposition in jail just cause. His lack of mandate and general thin skin works to unite the 3/4 of America who didn’t vote for him.
Start working towards 2018. Replace his single party majority in Congress. Or put a serious dent in it. That’s America Democracy in action.
February 7, 2017
Life lessons, Philosophy, politics, The Middle Way
Family, Lessons learned, lifestyle, society
My daughter was in a play this weekend. Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten. A series of stories wrapped in life lessons. Got me thinking about the current discord in the nation. I guess it matters which school you went to that allowed the environment for the innocence of the lessons to take root. The book was written by an older gentleman of a different generation. His voice resonated with the one I inhibit.
The play talked about the commonality we share along with the forgotten openness lost on the road to adulthood. Common decency tends to take the worst beating. Kindness? Only to those that look like us. Or in our Class. Neighborhood. Those we know. Play nice? Yeah right. We won. Piss off. The evolving fake emotion of the baseball handshake. Facebook feeds filled with toxic comments. Hide and seek complete with unassailable stone bastions to hide behind. Taunts from the protection of height.
Looking down not up to in childhood amazement the beauty of clouds. The warmth of the sun on your face. The grass has been sprayed with something. i just mowed that. Insects. Starlight travelling through time that our ancestors stared at. The smell of flowers on the summer breeze. All forgotten in the whirlwind of daily obligations and stress. Kids see reality through the tablet or phone. No one holds hands to cross the street past a certain age. Cooties.
The end was particularly thought provoking. The first word in the early reader is Look. One word that carries the weight of metaphor with ease. Take a breath. And Look. Stop talking. And Look. See the small wonders or joys in the everyday. It takes practice. An awareness lost in the noise of reactions. Not thoughtful response. We’ve forgotten to say Please and Thank You. The greeting of “How are you doing?” is now a filler for having nothing else to say. We don’t want to have the answer. It would mean having to listen.
What I see in the nation I call home and served is distressing. Aware that my actions or words have added to the current state of discourse. An environment my kids are growing up in. In our divide nation, we look at the other person but see what our reality projects on them. Not has they are. Our brains interpret the image through a filter of fight or flight. The one survival trait carried over when we where in the food chain. Not on the top of it. In the modern world it’s learned behavior informed by how we were nurtured. Encouraged to dream or hide? Our sense of beauty. Limitations not the possibilities.
Having radical challenges in life force us to reevaluate. Everything. Then we can change from reaction to response. A negative to a positive. Peace only happens when you are at peace with yourself. Accepting all aspects of yourself. The good. The bad. The ugly. Remember the first word in the first reader is “Look.”
January 17, 2017
2016 elections, politics, Trump
2016 elections, politics, society, Trump
The President elect communicates in 140 characters. His childish feuds and 3 am tweets capture the headlines. Daily. Russian hacking. Conflicts of interest in his world wide business brand driven empire. Recently admitted during his victory lap tour that “Drain the Swamp” was a good phrase. One he didn’t like until he saw the rection. Then he threw his slick carny sideshow barker soul into it. Keep poking the media to have them react the way he wants. All giving cover to the serious business of confirmation hearings for the people who will push fake science, anti regulation or ideologically driven attacks on their long hated targets.
One commentary before the election talked about brand of Trump’s candidacy. He stated that Trump is a shallow thinker ruled by emotions who trust family over outsiders. Unless he could use them to help sell the Brand or achieve his narcissistic goals. Those supporting him are deep thinkers. Of a narrow extremist bent. Their America. Not yours or mine. Not the one of the people who voted for him live in. Then there’s Mike Pence. A Conservative’s Conservative. The True Believer. Question. Who was leader of Germany when Hitler came to power? Not Hitler. He controlled the largest block of elected representatives in the Bundestag. Appeasement of a radical group for support of a weak leader in crisis.
The illusion of a free and liberal Germany helped elect the very ones bent on its destruction. A National Socialist is a non starter in the US. Cold War propaganda ensured that. Being a newish small “s” socialist in a extremely Capitalist society, I have argued that the color red is a hindrance. Forget the history. It closes the mind to any reasonable thing we could point out. So Mike Pence is waiting on deck. Calm. Sure of himself. Out of the eye of the storm. The favorite guy in the the clubhouse. While the multimillionaire star is an arrogant ass no one willing to have a beer with.
So the question is, who will spring the trap? The ones set by the Democrats are clearly marked to keep the innocent kids away. Safety first. Measures pushed by certain vocal factions. Here’s your signs, police tape and noise makers. Shut Up. We’re hunting here. How’s that gonna turn out? Who’s waiting in the tall grass with the elephant guns? The more extreme portions of the party in power. Those that fell for the biggest lies told by their savior from anything Obama.
I like puzzles. Not the detective story type. More the Sherlock Holmes kind. Clues hidden in plain sight by criminals operating from their basest instincts. The criminal Mastermind is always the ones closest to the mark. Theirs is a high level con. Simply look at the ones surrounding Trump has advisers. Reminds me of South American strongmen and dictators rather than the European model of democracy. Trevor Noah of the Daily Show found the best comparison. South Africa. The country he was born and raised in. One he knows intimately. The pieces are all there on the table. Edges done in Red State 2010. Just that little bit in the center to go.
The table everyone has studied. Talked about in quiet conversations. A one time chance. Don’t screw this up. Then there that one guy. Listening. Watching. Looking at the human pieces. 3D chess Master. Just my thoughts based on all the speculative fiction I’ve read since my teen years. It clicked with the way my brain works. I truly hope I’m wrong.
January 2, 2017
Buddha, Life lessons, mental illness, Philosophy, technology, The Middle Way
home, Insanity, Lessons learned, lifestyle, politics, relationships, technology, writing
Standing on the plateau after the long climb of 2016 gives me a chance to reflect. The dense fog that dogged my existence the past three years was a one way mirror. From here it’s so very clear. The decades long descent into chaos laid out. While another fog shrouds future lies ahead. This is the first flat spot in my journey. One my new reality allowed me to found. Funny what you can see when you’re not focused only on the next step.
Three and half years ago the rowboat I took out into the swells sank. No amount of bailing could keep out the waves. Finding the bottom was easy. Wait for the pain of rolling across the rocks seen in the troughs between towering seas. Some helping hands guided me over to the sand. My undying gratitude goes out to the nameless faces in the past that fought against the people wanting to cut away of the government support system for those of us suddenly drowning in the unknown. I survived in large part for where I live. While it was an act of escape to something in reaction, it is Home now. Being poor in a poor state is easier than one of rising effluence.
There were two saving graces. The first was I fell from a from a place of stability. Being raised in an upper middle class home left me unprepared for the moment but gave me the tools to think the way through. The second? My status has a Homeless Vet during a time when the nation and politicians actually cared about us. The sad fact is the political will only exist during that short period when the true cost of war intersects with the public’s exhaustion and horror of the headlong rush into it. The 24/7 news has brought the sanitized scenes into the home. Smart phones streams the unedited to sway the emotions towards a particular narrative. A new tool in the asymmetric warfare of tech savvy Vets against the coming political indifference.
In order to understand for the non military reader, some facts. The VA funding is considered discretionary. A source of funds that are victim to the whims of Congress. The current state of VA services has been building for decades. Underfunded by both parties in yearly budgets. Just enough taken away to keep up the appearance of caring for the Veterans to hide the backroom reelection deals hurting them. Likehe aging Baby Boomers populations are causing budget problems in social programs, many are aging vets. Add to that Korea, Vietnam and all the far flung little armed actions that the VA is responsible for, any cut hurts. One figure is it will cost on average $1 million from the day he or she separates from active duty. That’s also the cost of treatment for each combat critically wounded soldier from battlefield to evacuation for top flight first world hospital.(Iraq) Here’s the numbers of FY2016 of the US budget.
||February 2, 2015
||$3.999 trillion (requested) $3.854 trillion (estimate)
||$474 billion (requested) $587 billion (estimate)
||$18.819 trillion (projected)
||Office of Management and Budget
Here’s the entire list of Discretionary Spending. The Political football used to fund the budget deficits created by tax cuts and corporate welfare.
|Dept of Defense
|All Other Agencies
How does VA spending stack up in the overall percentage? Since 9/11 it’s increased every year. Why? Social Media. The important part for me is “since 9/11”. I’m a peacetime Vet. My GI Bill disappeared after 5 years. Guess being part of Reagan’s 600 ship navy to break the USSR did mean that much in Washington. Luckily I became Homeless. Think about that sentence.
Housing. SNAP. Preference in agencies. Low or no cost medication to control my Bipolar craziness. The water isn’t up to my nose anymore. More at knee level. The shore is a vague glimmer than a visible fact. There are still deep hidden holes in my path. One Aha moment let me find a compass. One of those deeply subconscious operating systems strengthened by the perception it creates. The deepest of the magical thinking children use to fill in the gaps to an incomplete understanding to the world we sought to navigate. The machine binary code on which all computer programs need to run. There’s a maxim fundamentally understood by every programmer. Garbage in. Garbage out.
I have written about the results. The endless dominoes hitting the next for last 40 years. Small nudges will shift the next 40. At this point my old reaction would have been Run Away. Run Away. Followed by the deep depression for the lost opportunity. Lock the door. Cover the windows. That parallel path is very close. The Middle Way is my response.
This past election cycle was a distraction in following that path. It also help to strip away the muck. That layer of randomly collected ideas that bury core values by sheer volume. The Downsizing of my physical world was the first step in changing how I navigated through the interior one. For the first time the wind on my face isn’t the gust front of a coming storm. The calm isn’t the eye of the hurricane. All the dips and detours of the coming climb won’t be seen has a descent into darkness. More a period where the absence of light is a temporary condition to be passed through. That’s my hope. Experience has taught me backtracking will happen.
Which is where my binary programming can be changed the most. That change will take a long time. One day all these blogs will be collected into a book. If by throwing my thoughts and words out into the digital ether brings help to someone, my purpose has been fulfilled. Maybe for more than one. Right this minute is a good place. One to be appreciated. Never to be repeated. It’s unique. So that’s where I’ll leave it.