All posts by douglascsmyth

War of All Against All?

It’s hard to believe Micah Johnson alone made so much mayhem, and up-ended a growing awareness that black lives haven’t mattered, but that they should. Now, some white people blame Black Lives Matter for Johnson’s rampage!
It’s almost as if some white racist group, maybe one of the ones endorsing Trump, paid and trained Micah in the fine art of killing white people, in order to start their much anticipated Race War.
It feels as if humanity’s response to trouble is violence. When violence becomes endemic in a society, dictatorship often follows: to quell it.
Thus, if we have well-armed crazies, or groups, attacking the police, and the police attacking civilians, it is likely that many will feel that the only answer is a ‘strongman’ aka a dictator.
Trump has not offered himself as Dictator, as Julius Caesar explicitly did, but he has presented himself as “strong,” “tough,” and independent, his own man, unconcerned with “political correctness,” appealing to white men angry about their loss of dominance, as well as their loss of economic security, and priority.
I suspect that Trump’s appeal to, let’s call them the white, psychologically disenfranchised, less educated men, is not so much in the substance of what he says—mostly zippy one-liners—but in the way he says it. His pronouncements are meant to enrage and mobilize, not to lay down a political platform. What he’s for may be fairly obvious, and is sometimes even revealed (like his comment that wages are too high), but as far as his followers are concerned, that’s not the point at all.
The violence on both sides of the divide legitimizes violence by the State. So, Trump’s projection of “strength,” much of it simply bravado, makes it that much more plausible to many, that what the US—and the world—needs is a Strongman: Trump as popularly elected dictator.
Many will see the shootings by and of police as justification for “a strong hand,” to bring society back to order—with white men on top, of course.
To create peace and positive relations between races, or between law enforcement and minorities is much more difficult. As Obama remarked, the tensions may not even be resolved in his children’s lifetimes, certainly not in mine (I’m 77).
But, through the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the LGBTQ movement, American society has evolved beyond the patriarchal white supremacy of the Jim Crow era. Obviously, it has a long way to go. BlackLivesMatter posits a simple idea: black lives matter as much as white lives, not less.
So, how to respond to Trumpophiles?
Show that Trump, by both his pronouncements and his business actions, can’t be trusted: he’s changed positions, sometimes even mid-speech. Even more revealing, he’s ripped off the little guy, time and time again; that’s how he built his fortune, like the stereotypical crooked used car salesman multiplied many times over.
Then, look at what he favors (lower wages, punishing woman for abortions, tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling government services, like Veterans care, Obamacare, small business loans. Want protection from loan-sharks like pay-day lenders? That’ll go away under Trump. Want protection from banks? Trump wants them as his friends; he wants to dismantle any regulations that “hamper” their operations, maybe even sub-prime mortgages redux, or pay-day loans. With his five bankruptcies in Atlantic City casinos, Trump made money; his creditors, including many small business-people, lost big-time: they were paid back pennies on the dollar.
That’s legal larceny; he transferred their work, and money into his pockets and kept it, because he hired sharp lawyers.
The real reason Trumpophiles support him is: because he implicitly and explicitly gives them the freedom to express their rage against the myriad “others” who seem to have challenged their supremacy and had significant successes.
That rage has a lot to do with our soaring rates of inequality, which create vast social gaps between people in, supposedly, middle class America.
Rage is also fear, which, may be the reason for the police shootings and the Dallas sniper.
Police are taught to shoot at body mass, the biggest target, which is why so many black people are killed. So many are shot, however, because white policeman have been taught from childhood to fear black men, so when they encounter one, the meeting is tense and the cop shoots because he expects the worst and acts on it: as he did with Philando Castile; shooting him because Castile was reaching for something, telling the cop he had a permitted gun, but was reaching for his wallet—the cop had asked for his license and registration. Because Philando was black, the cop shot him (four times), not knowing which he was doing: reaching for his wallet, or his gun. If he had been white, the cop would have waited a fatal instant longer and would not have shot him.
Micah Johnson wanted to kill white men, because he was afraid and angry that white cops were killing his people, so black people never felt safe. I know I’d be enraged; I wouldn’t go out to shoot cops, but desperate people do desperate things. How would you feel if you had to fear for your life every time you drove to work? How would you feel if everyone with your color skin, also drove in fear?
In the long run, the solution for the violence, desperation and anger is a radically more equitable distribution of wealth, to lessen the gaps, or tears in our social fabric.
In the short run, just recognizing that people are hurting and fearful on both sides, and sharing that fear and the hurt would get us started on the right track: closing, or narrowing social gaps and tears.
It will be a long road, but the alternative is a new kind of Fascism and/or race war.

Hillary, Bernie, Trump and the Realities of Protest Voting

Bernie Sanders has generated a genuine movement, but it may have peaked too late to win the Democratic nomination. So, what are Berniers to do? For a Bernier like me, voting for Hillary is a difficult lift. Part of the consciousness raised by Sanders is the systemic corruption implicit in the Democratic Party’s dependence, since Bill Clinton, on raising millions of dollars from wealthy donors and corporations. Hillary is certainly part of that system.
On the other hand: Trump is now the presumptive nominee of the GOP. He appeals to the baser instincts of the disenchanted, the angry, the racist, those who feel left behind by either party establishment. Trump’s a fraud, but clever enough to brush aside all scrutiny through his mastery of media.
Think of Trump as if he were the petty dictator of a Third World state, financed by his exploitation of victims like the ones who went to his university, or got fleeced in his casinos.
The least bad that could happen, if Trump were elected, would be: repealing Obamacare, privatizing Medicare and Social Security and eliminating income support programs. Further, he’d appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices in his first four years. Abortions could be outlawed and women could be prosecuted for them. Guns would be protected in white neighborhoods, questionable in ‘other’ neighborhoods. Unions and labor would see their rights weakened, enforcement eliminated.
Republicans argue it’s Government overreach to regulate anything.
The economic consequences of a Trump takeover would be, per orthodox Republicanism: cutting taxes “across the board,” especially for corporations. However, Trump likes to do the deals himself; he doesn’t want to pay taxes, he wants Uncle Sam to pay him: for building the wall, for example. He could become the first $100 billion leader of a nation, from all the money he’d make, just on the wall. But he wouldn’t stop there.
Beyond the corruption, deficit hawks would use the rising deficits (from tax cuts) to justify cutting all Government programs other than defense and law and order. A depression could ensue, although you wouldn’t know it, if it benefits corporations owning the media.
So, who loses most, who gains most from a Trump Presidency?
Losers: all non-whites, all immigrants, most women. They don’t lose just because they will have fewer jobs and no job security, or will be sent “home,”or because they, again, can be legally discriminated against (along with LGBTQ). They will also lose because so many of the services that make life possible for the less fortunate, would be cut. Further, minorities and the poor would bear the brunt of climate change disaster, a near certainty in a Trump Presidency, for reasons given below.
With a Republican/Trump Supreme Court, there would be no reprieve from this regime, because the court would make it easy for the GOP to permanently gerrymander Congressional and state majorities, to restrict voting and to maintain a permanent GOP Senate supported by corporations and billionaires, and GOP Presidents funded by them.
Think of it: a Republican Supreme Court for the next 30 years! I won’t be around that long. A GOP monopoly for longer.
The winners: Big corporations and their leaders and the wealthy more generally; he would lower their taxes and regulatory oversight, not just his own. Corporations would rule. Psychological winners: white males would be winners, the way Po’ Whites were in the segregated South. Kept poor, they were reconciled to their poverty by knowing that black people under them were even poorer and under their control. White supremacist support for Trump is symptomatic of the direction the nation would go with Trump as President.
If Trump is elected, put your money in the Defense industry and you’ll probably do well, because his fragile ego will cause wars or armed disagreements all over the world. Better to make the guns, than to have to go out and shoot them; leave that part to the losers.
Fossil fuel corporations would be winners: Trump advocates expanding production of all of them, while reducing or eliminating regulations: a dream for the Koch Brothers.
What is the worst that could happen if Hillary were elected? She might be pulled into wars, too. She does seem to have a weakness for the Military. But she knows that one of her worst decisions was to vote for the Iraq war. Neither Libya, nor Iraq have been anything but disasters. So, she’d likely be more wary of military involvement.
Hillary would keep and try to expand Obamacare and all the other programs like Medicare and Social Security, and income support programs. She might consider a “public option,” i.e. open enrollment for Medicare for all, a backdoor to Single Payer and also the debt-free college program she advocated, to deal with student debt.
Trump would probably encourage more for-profit colleges like Trump University.
Hillary’s tax policies would start with Obama’s; she has made many commitments to reducing inequality, so, she would attempt to lower taxes on the poor and raise them on the rich. It may not be her highest priority, the way it is with Bernie Sanders, but she would push in that direction.
Trump would do the opposite. Lowering taxes on the wealthy and raising them on the poor is the Republican prescription for reducing inequality (by increasing opportunities from all the “good jobs” the wealthy will not create and the shit-jobs they might). Trump has even said: “wages are too high.” He and the GOP would increase inequality; more wealth would be siphoned to the top of the income pyramid.
As for the big banks, Hillary wouldn’t summarily break them up, like Bernie, but she would insist on strict regulation, and breakups would be possible.
On the other hand, Trump wants to repeal Dodd-Frank regulation of banks. He’d just want to insure that bankers were his friends, so he could call up Jamie Dimon, or other bank CEO’s, and get what he wants. He certainly wouldn’t want them punished for fraud; he’s done similar, so you could expect more fraudulent behavior from Wall Street, not less, in a Trump Presidency.
Climate change/global warming: Trump usually denies there is such a thing. After all, large Republican funders, fossil fuel owners and handlers, would be bankrupted if forced to keep their assets in the ground. So, with Trump as President, expect no meaningful attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has now said unequivocally that he is for expanding coal, oil and gas production, and advocates reducing regulations to make that possible. He’s also pledged to reject the Paris agreement on controlling global emissions. Therefore, expect full-blown climate disaster.

It’s the worst time for this to happen, and it’s something that could never be undone.
Clinton would press to alleviate climate change, as would Sanders, the latter perhaps more single-mindedly. Clinton would have to be persuaded: to stop fracking, for example; to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, to stop leasing public lands for oil/gas/coal extraction. But she would know that a significant part of her constituency would support her for doing this. She has also supported the Paris climate agreement. Trump’s followers want more drilling, more fracking, more digging, more fossil fuel jobs. Why worry about grandchildren?
Bernie Sanders is right on all these issues: taxes, banks, inequality, climate change, etc. And he acknowledges the danger of Trump and the violent passions being unleashed—on both sides. But it looks from here as if Bernie’s unexpected successes have turned his head, just a little, even though it’s virtually impossible, given party rules, for him to win a pledged delegate majority.
Bernie didn’t say he’d hurt Clinton to weaken her if she were the nominee, but he does imply she deserves to be hurt, that she’s corrupt and that her allies have skewed the primaries in her favor (probably true). He’s also, reportedly, trying to win over super-delegates with the argument that he’s better positioned for the General Election and less vulnerable to Trump attacks. He may be, but, no one knows what would happen if Bernie were the nominee. He’d certainly be labeled “crazy Bernie,” by Trump and attacked as a radical Commie. He can’t become the nominee unless existing party rules are abandoned, but how could he run as Democratic nominee, if Hillary has garnered more votes and delegates? As fantastic as his latest victories have been, even landslides in California and New Jersey would not earn him the necessary delegates to win at the convention.
Reforms are clearly necessary in Democratic Party rules, and Bernie supporters will demand revisions, but negotiations are in order, not diktats. I hope we don’t have 1968 redux. The nominee and the party were weakened enough in 1968 that Tricky Dick Nixon was elected, just four years after Democrats had one of their greatest victories. If progressive Democrats tear down Clinton and the party on which she runs, a Trump triumph becomes more likely, especially if progressives vote third party in the election, or write-in Sanders, in effect, a half-vote each, for Trump.
Nevertheless, the Bernie or Bust movement is a real one. A lot of Berniers are repelled by “establishment politics.” To them, Sanders represents the real thing; he addresses the real issues and confronts the inherent corruption of a party (the Democrats). Most of its office-holders still claim they can accept money from big banks, fossil fuel corporations and other representatives of what Bernie has labeled “ the Billionaire class,” without being corrupted by them.
Hillary points out that she never changed a vote or has given a favor in return for money she received from Wall Street interests. Outright bribery is rare. It’s more subtle corruption that’s a major problem. Having friends like JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, is not bribery, but it does change the way you view the world. Familiarity between Wall Street leaders, Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries probably explains why, despite widespread evidence of fraud, Wall Street executives have not been prosecuted for it: their banks have been fined billions, instead. Therefore their questionable activities continue.
Having been politically awakened, many Berniers feel there is no going back. How can you support a party (Democrats), or a candidate (Hillary), when you know that both are major contributors to systemic corruption?
And yet, to reiterate: if Trump is elected there will not be just systemic corruption, but government by and for billionaires, abortions banned, services for the many slashed, taxes extracted from the not-wealthy, while the wealthy’s taxes are cut. Minorities would be discriminated against even more, immigrants would be driven out, torture would be revived, and civil liberties would be under threat. The environment would be under sustained attack, and Trump would likely have ongoing conflicts (some armed) with many nations around the world.
Protest votes can have real consequences. While Hillary haters won’t feel those consequences as soon, or as deeply, as non-whites, immigrants and the poor, everyone would ultimately regret their short-sightedness if Trump is elected.
The would-be protest voter should consider her/his complicity if a Trump regime is made possible by their electoral protest, principled as it may well be.

An Open Letter to Bernie: May 1, 2016

Dear Bernie,

I have given to your campaign multiple times, I have petitioned and canvassed for you in my local area. I have even written letters to the editor promoting you and finally, I worked on the GOTV operation in my local district until after the polls opened.
When you averred, in a CNN town hall, that you couldn’t tell your followers what to do vis a vis Hillary, you committed a major tactical blunder.
You can endorse Hillary. And, if you don’t get the nomination—given delegate rules, I don’t see how you can—you owe it to all of us who will have to live with the outcome of this election, to consider what effect a non-endorsement would have.
You know as well as I do, the results of the Carter-Reagan election when people like me couldn’t vote for Carter, so we voted for Barry Commoner, or John Anderson. And then there was Bush, Gore and Nader. You would have much more influence than either of these marginal candidates, of course.
In both the Reagan and W elections, the resulting disasters would probably have been averted if we hadn’t insisted on what we thought was a purer vote. That’s a steep cost for ideological purity: the breaching of the walls in the counterrevolution: the increasing inequality you inveigh against, and then a disastrous war created by the man who shouldn’t have been elected. Millions dead, the Mideast in chaos. Tally up the lives, the dollars, think about it.
That’s why, as much as I agree with virtually all your proposed policies, as much as I’m a part of your movement for a political revolution, which we sorely need, that’s why I’m asking you to be positive about Hillary; better her than Trump.
I know you shouldn’t endorse Clinton until the last delegate is won, pledged, etc., but then, unless some political earthquake happens and you win the nomination, you should make very clear, that you are not only endorsing Hillary, but, given she’s a Democrat, a party that should stand for the People, you are endorsing her and the party’s attempts to carry out as much of our political revolution as they can. And, you should make crystal clear that the Republicans, and Trump are simply beyond what any reasonable American should support, certainly anyone who’s followed you (I assume he’ll win the nomination, but all of the alternatives, even Ryan, are as awful).
I should point out that in my local incarnation as a Bernie volunteer and meeting participant, I met many Berniers who declared they couldn’t consider voting for Hillary. Some, even said they’d prefer Trump. And many of the Trump supporters I spoke to, said they’d vote for you, if you ran as a Democrat in the general election.
You really do have to spell it out in the general election campaign, that Hillary is far, far better than the Republican, who would in fact make things far worse for them, than they are now. With her, the revolution won’t be dead; it will be a sub-Presidential movement, and Hillary would be committed to responding to it. Trump wouldn’t listen, nor would he respond to demonstrations or letters. Trump isn’t about helping people; he’s about helping himself. Hillary is committed to governing and succeeding as President, at very least.

Here’s a line I offer you when you talk about Single Payer: “Paying taxes for health care will be so much cheaper than paying billionaires for health care.”

Sincerely

Douglas C. Smyth
Ph.D. in Social Science (Political Science, Economics and Anthropology)
Retired college teacher in the above
Novelist

A History Lesson: the recent Middle East

France&Tunisia0304 049

The first misstep the US took in the Middle East was to get involved in it, at all.

Oil and competition with Britain for it in Iran, and our continual maneuvering against the USSR on its periphery, led our CIA to overthrow a nationalist government led by Prime Minister Mossadeq in 1953, because he advocated nationalization of foreign oil operations (British and US). The US backed the Shah, who gave them oil fields for their efforts on his behalf. However, luxury at the top didn’t improve the lot of those on Iran’s lower rungs; it got worse, but the Shah’s American and British supporters didn’t notice: they were making money.

The Islamic Revolution was the inevitable result of the Shah’s repression, his overreaching and his attempts to keep the lid clamped down tight: Iran exploded.

The Shah was the first to go probably because his reemergence was a foreign creation to begin with.

After that, the Middle East became a lot less stable. It was held together by strongmen: Nasser’s successors in Egypt, the Assad’s, the Saudi monarchy and Saddam.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution?

Arabs and Persians (Iranians) rarely get along, and neither do Sunnis and Shiites; they fought a bloody war between Iran and Iraq, in which the US allied with Saddam!

We drove out Saddam Hussain, who had been CIA’s man until he got too ambitious and tried to take over Kuwait, and then the unforgivable: plotting to assassinate George HW Bush. By overthrowing Saddam and his whole Baathist organization we turned Iraqi society upside down by empowering the majority Shiites. They promptly began discriminating and abusing their former rulers, the Sunnis, probably what they had learned from them. The Sunnis, therefore, were fertile ground for Daesh (also known as ISIS).  American bad judgement gave Daesh its professional military—Saddam’s army dissolved by American forces: soldiers and officers were eagerly recruited by Daesh. Fitting, when they captured so many of the successor Iraqi “Army’s” US-supplied weapons.

I doubt Obama thinks the Libyan strategy (a coalition under his leadership) was a success. Qaddafi was summarily executed by his militia captors and the whole nation-state fell apart. Now, Libya has no functioning state. There are two regional governments, each claiming to be the legitimate government, while the vast majority of the country is controlled by militias of all stripes, often fighting each other. Qaddafi’s collapse, despite vast caches of arms, also armed Islamic militants as far away as Nigeria. And 150 miles of Libyan coast (on the Mediterranean) is controlled by a Daesh offshoot. We’re bombing them, so far with little success.

When Reagan sent aid and training to the “Freedom Fighters” in Afghanistan, they were the mujahedin, but some of them, the non-Afghans, morphed into al Qaeda and many of the Afghan mujahedin formed the Taliban.

So, our military interventions in the Middle East since 1953, created: an enemy Iran, a Shiite Iraq informally allied with it, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and then, Daesh in Iraq and Syria, as a result of Shiite arrogance and American stupidity, chaos in Libya and a Daesh foothold, still chaos in Afghanistan and a ferocious rebellion in nuclear armed Pakistan.

We still count on our “friends,” including the Saudi monarchy, the monarchies of the Gulf plus Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, but some of our “friends” are much more concerned with stopping Shiite (Iranian) gains, than with stopping Daesh. They’re bombing rebels and civilians in Yemen and have locked down Bahrain. Iran, of course, is aiding the rebels in both places.

And Turkey, our longest, closest military ally, is bombing our most effective fighting force against Daesh, Kurdish allies in Iraq and Syria.

Quite a mess, isn’t it.

We should get out of the Middle East and leave it to its own chaos. Islamic radicalism, was fomented by our interventions—and our support of the Saudis, the core of Wahabist radicalism.
We should create a cordon sanitaire and announce a non-interventionist position. Then, the US and Europe would be less likely targets, and non-radicals among both Shiites and Sunnis would realize they were going to have to handle the radicals themselves, or be exterminated. We’d sell them weapons, but what gives both the US and Europe long-term leverage: we don’t need their oil, especially since we should be converting to non-fossil fuel energy sources as rapidly as possible.

In Europe, not only is Germany leading the way with solar and wind, Norway is reconfiguring its hydropower system, so it can become the battery for all the solar and wind energy collected above current daytime use.

Refugees generated from Mideast chaos should be seen for what they can be: dynamic replacements for aging populations in both Europe and North America. If we are no longer intervening in their region, we should have much less to fear from them.

Even when we were dependent on Mideast oil, we simply could have purchased it (it’s fungible), instead of thinking we had to control it. That’s especially true now. If American oil companies are scared of losing their investments, that’s their business, not ours.

As for Israel, from my perspective, they’re making the same mistake the Iraqi government is making: alienating their Muslim population, and squeezing it, instead of attempting to peacefully separate, or peacefully integrate (two states, or one unified state with citizens of different faiths). One or the other must happen, but the US cannot and should not attempt, anymore, to interfere.

On the other hand, it should not support Israel if it oppresses its non-citizen subjects, and that includes military aid. To do so, continues to make us anti-Muslim, in the eyes of most of the Middle East, and therefore involved and a target, perhaps the primary target, of the dispossessed.

Chaos creates more and more of the latter.

Helots (Metis) and Immigrants: Response to Cruz

Ted Cruz let slip his plans for illegal immigrants in the 1/28/16 debate:, according to his short amendment (138 words, I think he said) anyone who entered the nation illegally, no matter the reason, could get “legal status,” after passing through many tests, but could never earn citizenship.

A life-long handicap simply because they came through US borders without the proper papers and procedures? Even if they were fleeing inhuman conditions wherever they came from.

What does this mean?

In Sparta and ancient Athens, “foreigners” were a large part of the population, and an important part of the economy: they were helots  or metis, not slaves, but not really free, because they had no rights. They were easily exploited and abused.

What Ted Cruz was proposing was the creation of just such a class. So, unlike the Donald, he won’t ship all 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants “back to” anywhere. He’ll just create an easily exploitable class of never-citizens, doomed to work for others in demeaning, low-paying positions.

If one followed Cruz’s logic, these helots would also lose a lot of other rights, not all at once, but piecemeal: after all, if they can never vote, even their protests won’t mean much. If a President Cruz didn’t move to eliminate the minimum wage, rather than raise it, he’d certainly propose a significantly lower minimum for the helots. Maybe, he’d even try to make them ineligible for membership in unions or political groups.

Further, helots would populate the lower rungs of society, probably commit a disproportionate share of crime, and would “take away” good jobs, by their own vulnerability to exploitation. They would lower the bar. The new helots would be a legally defined underclass, convenient for keeping other working Americans from successfully demanding higher wages, or better working conditions.

The new helots would also be a large, restive class, vulnerable to groups like Daesh aiming to take advantage of their discontent. Cruz could be creating a rejectionist “fifth column,” inside the fearful, authoritarian, billionaire-dominated United States.

The Republican re-made nation would no longer be a haven for the displaced, oppressed and desperate.

Ironically, while Republicans, excepting Jeb, excoriate paths to citizenship or amnesty, more illegal entrants are going home than are entering the country.

The angry, punitive approach to immigration appears to be the general Republican position, despite the presence of at least three primary Presidential candidates, who are first generation Americans: Trump, Cruz and Rubio.

Their theme seems to be: I’m here, dammit, so close the door!

After sitting on this for a day, I realized I’d left something out.

The obvious, almost primary, reason for general Republican animus towards immigrants: they’re afraid (with good reason) that more immigrant citizens means more Democrats, especially in places they control right now, like Texas. So Cruz’s “legal status” becomes a way to seem reasonable and humane, but is also about political control for the next generation.

Or maintaining white dominance.

Sweet Spot For Seniors!

Older in Sweet Spot In ref to NYT 6/15/15

The older generation is better off than any other age group, in large part because the stability of Social Security has given us all a floor upon which to float, rather than sink, in the economic tides.

The extremely wealthy gained almost all of the recovery; seniors hardly. So, a class, the billionaire part of it, especially, siphoned off the good times, while the rest of Americans, with the exception of seniors, were the losers: flat or declining earnings, increased demands at work, including having no time of your own—the “flexible” labor market.

Seniors are not to blame for the declining standard of living of nearly everyone else—except for the very rich. We are only lucky that we have Social Security, and for many of us, yes, we were lucky in real estate, perhaps in investments, possibly in finding a part-time job to supplement Social Security and make possible a moderately middle class lifestyle.

We did not fund the “think tanks” that created the “conservative” agenda, although a regrettable number of seniors may have joined the resulting reactionary counter-revolution.
That money came from the same place as the money now flowing into the electoral system, through superpacs and all sorts of other “legal” ways to buy elections for their own interests.
One of those interests is to somehow persuade people they don’t really want Social Security any longer: it’s Government Tyranny.

Huge majorities of Americans want to inherit it, however; they don’t want to jettison it; they want to expand it.

So, what does the the NYTimes article illustrate: “American Seniors Find a Middle-class Sweet Spot?
It isn’t that seniors have been greedy. So far, we’ve been lucky, Social Security and Medicare now and stable jobs in the past, and maybe even retirement pensions. That is what everyone should be getting. But everyone, not either very wealthy or a senior, took the brunt of the losses of the Great Recession and only the very wealthy gained far more than they’d lost, in the recovery. Flat incomes (in buying power) and loss of job security for the many, stability and modest gains for my generation, wildly inflated incomes engorging a very few.

Bernie Sanders is hitting chords of discontent, and well he might. Most people, even the many who are gulled by Fox and Rush, can see only worse times ahead, not better, and yet we’re still a growing economy—one of the few in the developed world.

I once taught a political science course on Revolution. The dominant theme of all the revolution scholars was relative deprivation: good times followed by the immiseration of most, especially from the middle class, combined with a sharpening class divide from the very rich, was the proximate cause for many revolutions in the past.
It could happen here. I hope not. Radical reform is better than manning the barricades.

The Peculiar Gardener

I long ago stopped following planting “directions, and started planting the way I thought it would work. For example, seed packets advise that you plant the tiny lettuce seeds one or two inches apart and 10” to a foot from the next row. I plant lettuce—I collect my own seeds—in clumps, thickly clustered, so that the lettuce crowds each other, stays tender and molts long after single plants. I extend my lettuce crop into July, without watering and I have an abundance of lettuce.

I have a book from the 70’s that I consult about “companion planting.” Peas dislike onions, for example; basil and tomatoes like each other. Or, at least, they supplement each other, enrich each other.

I planted one crop of potatoes in November, under a layer of fallen leaves. It was something people did up in a little Gunk’s hamlet not far from here, in the 19th century, people who lived close to the land. The potatoes are doing well, and may have benefited from the plenitude of rain in the early part of summer.

We’re now in a moderate drought that has impacted my bees most of all. I can water vegetables a little bit, and start fall peas and lettuce, because we have a well whose water is not potable. Apparently, bees can’t extract nectar from all the abundance of flowers in my yard and in two large fields with bee balm flanking me, because it’s too dry—baked, really. I’ve fed one hive about two and a half gallons of bee tea (highly sugared water with some herbal infusions). I may feed them more. Right now, the feeding bottles just hold water. I’m hoping they can tolerate municipal water.

I’m also watering by drip hose, the big, 300 year old Oak on my cover; I give it a couple of hours an evening, and it seems to be doing better. Something attacked its spring foliage, probably gypsy moth, and it has an incurable fungal coating (according to an arborist) on one hip, but watering seems to be helping flesh out its thin upper foliage.

I have a philosophy of gardening, not a dogma, but I do shy away from chemicals, from fertilizers to pesticides. Since it’s my garden, I want it free of poisons, if possible, but I do water it with the “bad” water we have in our well.

Our “bad” water is the result of an industrial cleaning plant on a nearby hill; ending more than a decade ago, it dumped its toxic waste on the ground, without safeguards. Anyway, the “plume” of trace toxics reached ground water up to a few houses beyond ours on our sparsely populated exurban road. So, Superfund/EPA cleaned up the toxics and built a municipal water plant and water lines to all of us (our predecessor here), but were able to keep existing wells, for other uses. Our plumbing was all connected, courtesy of Superfund, to the municipal water system.

I should test my well water, to see how bad it is, but I’d rather have the municipal water: there’s no cutoff if the power goes off, whereas with a well, you’re out of luck: the electric pump won’t pump. Our water comes from the same source as New York City, but is treated locally. It tastes good, although I worry about the small amount of chlorine if I want to make wine or beer.

More later.

Apres Nous, Le Deluge

Apres Nous, Le Deluge: In ref to NYT 6/15/15

The older generation is better off than any other age group, in large part because the stability of Social Security has given us all a floor upon which to float, rather than sink, in the economic tides. The extremely wealthy gained almost all of the recovery; seniors hardly. So, a class, the billionaire part of it, especially, siphoned off the good times, while the rest of Americans, with the exception of seniors, were the losers: flat or declining earnings, increased demands at work, including having no time of your own—the “flexible” labor market.

Seniors are not to blame for the declining standard of living of nearly everyone else—except for the very rich. We are only lucky that we have Social Security, and for many of us, yes, we were lucky in real estate, perhaps in investments, possibly in finding a part-time job to supplement Social Security and make possible a moderately middle class lifestyle.

We did not fund the “think tanks” that created the “conservative” agenda, although a regrettable number of seniors may have joined the resulting reactionary counter-revolution.

That money came from the same place as the money now flowing into the electoral system, through superpacs and all sorts of other “legal” ways to buy elections for elite interests.

One of those interests is to somehow persuade people they don’t really want Social Security any longer: it’s Government Tyranny. Huge majorities of Americans want to inherit it, however; they don’t want to jettison it; they want to expand it.

So, what does the the NYTimes article illustrate: “American Seniors Find a Middle-class Sweet Spot?
It isn’t that seniors have been greedy. So far, we’ve been lucky, Social Security and Medicare now and stable jobs in the past, and maybe even retirement pensions. That is what everyone should be getting. But everyone, not either very wealthy or a senior, took the brunt of the losses of the Great Recession and only the very wealthy gained far more than they’d lost, in the recovery. Flat incomes (in buying power) and loss of job security for the many, stability and modest gains for my generation, wildly inflated windfalls engorging a very few.

Bernie Sanders is hitting chords of discontent, and well he might. Most people, even the many who are gulled by Fox and Rush, can see only worse times ahead, not better, and yet we’re still a growing economy—one of the few in the developed world.

I once taught a political science course on Revolution. The dominant theme of all the revolution scholars was relative deprivation: good times followed by the immiseration of most, especially from the middle class, combined with a sharpening class divide from the very rich, was the proximate cause for many revolutions in the past.

It could happen here. I hope not. Radical reform is better than manning the barricades.

Douglas C. Smyth: Author

cropped-Douglas-from-Marion.jpg 

I’m half Venezuelan and a quarter Hawthorne–my grandmother was the granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, my mother was Venezuelan: a mixed heritage. My paternal grandfather was also a writer, novelist and founder of what became the New York Times Book Review.

I have written for magazines and free-lance assignments, from encyclopedias to radio programs. I have authored many unpublished novels and, so far, four (self) published novels, as well as assorted published short stories.

Before my Ph.D program (Political Science, Economics and Anthropology), I tried to write short stories while I was editor of a business magazine. In full-time academe at the University of Central Florida, I published almost the requisite number of academic articles (full of Political Science’s jargon, basically not worth reading), but I had no time for anything else. That’s why I quit full-time academe and taught for years in a college prison program. That’s when I turned to writing novels as well as freelance work. I wrote at least ten novels. Agents and/or publishers seriously considered several of them, and finally I self-published two of them as e-books on Smashwords: Body Destiny and From Renata With Love, the latter a prison novel.

Scrapping the formula: write what you know, I wrote two historical novels. They are: Attila as Told to His Scribes and I, Zerco. These I published on Kindle, after a British agent marketed both of them unsuccessfully for years; he finally retired.

So, I’ve self-published 4 novels, after despairing of the publishing race. All four novels are available (See My books available here) online.

I’ve since written another novel: My mother, Olga (1913-2014), was born on a Venezuelan island off its coast. She was named after a Russian princess on ship-board, an event that shaped the rest of her life. She was raised in Trinidad until age 11 or 13 (depending on her account, or the Ellis Island records), and then she, her brothers and her mother, fled Trinidad for New York–but her family denied they fled. My maternal grandfather later became the Governor of the Venezuelan state of Falcon. He and his many brothers were mostly high up on the security side of dictator Vicente Gomez’s long-lasting regime. There was a connection between his family’s career path and my grandmother’s and mother’s flight from nearby Trinidad to NY.

The story is told as a fictional memoir. Princess Olga and Her Venezuelan Connection , begins with the 97-year old Olga dreaming about her idyllic life in Trinidad, and what happened that forced her family to flee Trinidad for Harlem in 1926. According to her, she precipitated the flight, but not for the reason told within her family, a story which never made sense. She claimed credit for her family’s escape from a dangerous situation. And after all, she ended up where she wanted to be: in New York City.

I am now in negotiation with a publishing start-up, for publishing Princess Olga.

Concurrently, I am working on several other story projects. Stay tuned.

 

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