Jul 23

Trump, Republicans and Fascism

In Brief — The author explores whether Donald Trump and the Republican Party are fascistic or merely opportunistically partisan. [Written in April 2017.]

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If It Looks Like a Duck…

There’s an old saying that if it looks like a duck, has feathers like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. Using this reasoning, we’ll see if Donald Trump and the Republican Party are the fascists they seem to be.

Some overly-cautious people who fear being wrong believe that that in order to be a fascist, it’s necessary to be a Nazi like Hitler, to be Mussolini. To put that to rest, let’s look at the dictionary definition of fascism.

According to the dictionary, fascism (lower case “f”) is generally defined as a right-wing organization that is authoritarian, anti-liberal, nationalistic and militaristic. A fascist is an individual who holds these beliefs.

Breaking that down, right-wing means roughly conservative, reactionary, nationalistic, traditional and opposed to socialism in all its forms. Examples of some forms of socialism include public schools and trade unions.

Authoritarian refers to a person who is submissive to someone in authority, who believes in adhering to tradition, is hostile to those who don’t adhere to social norms (e.g., LBGT), and advocates coercive measures to achieve conformity.

Anti-liberal means one who is opposed to new ideas and has no respect for opinions other than his/her own.

Nationalistic can best be defined as belief in the superiority of one’s own country. “America First.” “America is great.”

Militaristic essentially means a policy of aggressive military size, preparedness and involvement.

Put all these definitions together and you have fascism.

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? —

Right-wing — Taking the elements described above, Trump is described by virtually every source as being right-wing. He espouses right-wing positions, appoints right-wing spokespersons to power positions in his government, and embraces right-wing ideologues.

Authoritarian — Out of his own mouth, Trump’s speeches indicate he is an authoritarian. Not just what he says but everything he does screams authoritarianism. He embraces dictatorial national leaders like Putin in Russia, Erdogan from Turkey and al-Sisi from Egypt.

Anti-liberal — Even a cursory look at the liberal view of accepting new ideas and respecting views other than one’s own, shows that Trump fails again. For example, on health care, Trump, aided by the Republican Party, has done and is doing his utmost to destroy Obamacare (is that also racist?). On consumer protection, he has bent over backwards to gut the laws protecting the little guy from greedy financial exploiters. On climate change and the environment, he refuses to accept the idea that humanity must act now to protect all of us.

Nationalistic— Everything Trump says revolves around the greatness of America and its way of life, i.e., his warped view of what is great about America. Whether it’s a border wall to keep out those dark-skinned people he feels are undesirable, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, having the strongest military in the world and other steps, it’s about assuring that the citizens of America, particularly white citizens will keep America great.

Militaristic — Trump’s budget lavishes buckets of money on an already overstuffed, wasteful and omnipresent military at the same time as he and the Republicans slash funds for art, science and education. Trump’s inner circle is chockablock with present or former military officers, more than any other administration in history. If you think the U.S. military (including military-equipped police forces) already owns the country, wait until Trump’s actions really kick in. This monster is already swallowing the nation whole.

The True Republican Party —

Take a look at the actions of the Republican Party beyond its frightening glamorization-of-the-past party platform. The party refused for many months to give a confirmation hearing to President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, and promised to refuse any judge for at least four years if a Democrat should win. Partisanship rules.

A look at Republican-dominated states shows that women are being deprived of their right to control their own bodies, LBGT individuals are being deprived of their rights, specious reasons are being put forth to deprive people of the right to vote, people of color are discriminated against and much, much more. In short, the Republican Party is setting America back in a wide variety of ways. This is partisanship on steroids.

While it’s undeniably partisan, the question is: Are they fascists or merely partisan? Although they are unquestionably complicit in Trump’s harmful actions and appointments, they don’t yet qualify as fascists as is the case with Erdogan’s Turkey. The evidence proves that the Republicans are blindly and harmfully partisan, but not yet fascists. Tomorrow? Maybe.

Although the truth hurts, America has a fascist president — for the nonce —  put in office by voters who are predominantly fearful conscious or subconscious racists and homophobes. America also has a dominant party (also for the nonce), the Republicans, who are so partisan that the country is being noticeably set back. The combination is poisonous to the little “democracy” that remains. Concerned voters have a chance to take back America in 2018. Will it be too late? Will the voters restore a measure of sanity? Will they even care? Voting is the key!

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on November 2015.

 

Jul 16

Being Under Government Covert Surveillance

In Brief — The author’s experiences with government surveillance while he was involved with draft and military counseling during the Vietnam War. [Written in mid-April 2017.]


Peek-a-boo, We’re Spying on You —

Spying. It’s as old as when our human ancestors came down out of the trees. Humans and governments have always sought to protect themselves by covertly learning what their opponents are up to. It’s not unusual, but the methods have become more sophisticated and more intrusive.

When I practiced Selective Service law, those of us who kept young men from the killing fields of Vietnam found safety by knowing the Selective Service law better than those whose job it was to send young men into harm’s way. We knew where the red line was and made a sincere effort to avoid crossing that line.

One evening at dusk after a long day in the office, I rounded a curve on Mulholland Drive that wound its twisty way atop the Santa Monica mountains. I was late arriving at the monthly meeting of the L.A. Selective Service Law Panel, lawyers who opposed the government’s efforts. My headlights illuminated a neatly dressed man who was working with a large piece of electronic equipment in his car’s open trunk. He quickly stopped what he was doing until I was past. As the house where the meeting took place was within sight, it was obvious that we were being surveilled, but this type of surveillance was beyond a known plant who was attending the meeting under false colors.

On yet another occasion, I was approached by an attractive young lady in our small alley parking area. She said she was interested in working in our office. No position was available. Why a young woman? Why in the back alley? Why not a young man? Why me? A coincidence? Paranoia? Just askin’.

In the office we often spoke on the phone with colleagues, doctors or clients. At that time, a phone was unlike today’s mobile phones. Today’s technology makes surveillance more complicated than when J. Edgar Hoover tapped Martin Luther King, politicians or suspected Hoover enemies. In the Vietnam War era, it was a simple matter to tap a phone. Our phones were a piece of cake.

On a number of occasions it was not unusual to hear a click followed by a slight drop in volume. We can’t prove our phones were being tapped, but oddly it never occurred with our home phones. It was a safe guess to assume that the government was tapping our phones, but we weren’t concerned because we always followed the law.

Honey-trap Time —

Ever hear of a honey-trap? That’s when an attractive person (in my case, a female) is used to entrap a target in order to get information, leverage or prosecutable evidence.

An attractive young woman showed up where I was teaching pottery on the weekends and immediately focused on me although I have no recollection of her ever being a student. I was an eligible professional known to be a ladies’ man. I thought she was worth exploring, so I invited her for dinner. During the course of our evening’s conversation, I learned that despite her mature appearance she was underage so I determined she was off limits. As usual, I was polite but impliedly not interested in a further relationship. She knew it. That evening was the last time I saw her.

I’ve often thought that it was a honey-trap set by the government to entrap an active anti-war lawyer. I did draft counseling for paying clients and counseled poor young men at the Los Angeles Free Clinic. I was occasionally on speaking panels with Quakers. I was a regular speaker on the ACLU law panel, and the scuttlebutt was that I was loathed by the Marine officers at Camp Pendleton where I represented a Marine who wanted out. I can’t prove I was targeted, but the coincidences point to that conclusion. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…etc.

A common method of gaining intelligence on an opposition group that’s used even today is to have a person infiltrate the opposition group and report on the group’s activities. As I mentioned earlier, we had such an infiltrator in the L.A. Selective Service Law Panel. Bill Smith, the leader of the panel, greeted the unnamed and unidentified infiltrator in a light-hearted manner and proceeded with the meeting as usual since we had nothing to hide.

Such was the life of a Los Angeles draft lawyer during the Vietnam War era. Such is life in this technological age today. Today, however, is considerably more complex than when I was part of the opposition. These days we have lost our privacy to an ever-growing surveillance state that threatens to become an autocratic monster. Are you afraid yet?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on October 2015.

Jul 09

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home — Part 13

In Brief— A look at one of the departments and the old folks who live in this area of the warehouse. [Written in February 2017.]

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Old Folks “R” Us—

Like everybody, we’re all different…except we’re older. We may be getting grayer and more wrinkled in a comfortable warehouse instead of grousing and giving sage advice at the kitchen table, but a warehouse is the future…at least here in Scandinavia.

Some of my fellow residents are mere youngsters in their mid-sixties while others in their mid-nineties are challenging national statistics. Some are clear-headed if slower than a few years ago, but some sit staring into space and don’t even recognize their spouses and children. Tragically, one lady in the next department is only in her mid-sixties and suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. I hate using “suffering” because she is clearly not suffering; she has glommed onto a guy there who endures her attentions. Visiting dogs, however, charm us all, including the personnel. A wagging tail and the warm slurp of a canine tongue are worth a thousand hugs.

At this end of the second floor corridor, the view from our windows is over back yards, trees, grass and playing children who noisily skitter about in the yard of the daycare center. Fortunately, it’s across the street. In the winter, it’s snow…at least most of the time. The hill and the forest are only a couple of blocks away to the right. Birds and occasionally deer are common sights here on the island. The bustling town of Östersund is just across the lake, accessible via a short, well-traveled bridge. Ewa lives there in our apartment…the apartment I used to live in, too.

The rooms here in the warehouse are much the same throughout the building except for the color-coding of the different areas. Ours is dusty rose…without the dust. The other colors on this floor are soft gray and soft green. I read once that colors affect our moods. Makes sense.

Relatives and spouses decorate the rooms with furniture that supposedly makes the residents feel at home. Mine features a work desk for the computer, book shelves and a comfortable chair where I can relax and read. Oh, and the narrow bed, Ewa’s art, family photos and a few of my pieces of pottery. Admittedly a bit spare, but it works for me.

At the far end of our wing is Ingaborg. She’s just a name to me because she’s unable to get about and join the others in the nearby dayroom. I see the personnel deliver her meal to her when I take my irregular walks at midday. From what I can tell, this invisible woman appears to be clear-headed.

Next is Aina. She’s a slight, clear-headed woman whose husband used to live downstairs and was the only other person here fed through a tube. He got off the train at his destination several months ago. Since her husband’s departure, Aina has faded a bit, looks considerably older and has fallen severely injuring her knee. She smiles, but she’s not the upbeat person she was before.

Between Aina and me, is Kjell (pronounced “shell”). He’s one of the guys who got into a tussle over a bowl of Xmas snacks. Short and stocky, almost exactly my age, he has all his marbles and greets me like a brother, albeit silently with a smile and a cheery wave. I’m told that he refers to me as “that American.” I really like him, but after the snack incident at Xmas, I have to admit he may have a bit of a short fuse.

Last but definitely not least on this side is me. I’ve described my room above and my yo-yo emotions in past pieces, but I don’t recall if I’ve told you how I came to be here. When Ewa became stressed by having to dance to the tune of my disabilities, I realized it and volunteered to live in an eldercare facility, a warehouse like this. A meeting with a woman from the kommun led to my being here after a short wait. It seems to be working. Occasionally, despite regular visits by Ewa and the family Sheltie, I miss the old days, but the future beckons and I’m okay.

I haven’t included the four old folks just around the corner. They’ll appear in another episode, but for the curious among you, Bengt (the three-time escapee) has descended sharply into dementia and looks like he may not last long.

Since my mandatory nap is whispering to me, I’ll tell you about my fellow residents next time. The personnel who work so hard to see to our comfort will also be on the menu. Their personalities, like everybody’s, make life interesting. Stay tuned.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on September 2015.

Jul 02

How I Became a Lawyer

 

In Brief — The author retraces his path to becoming a lawyer. [Written in March 2017.]


Making Lemonade When Life Gives You Lemons—

It’s said that if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. While a few lemons have come my way, I’ve made my fair share of lemonade. How I became a lawyer is one example of how making lemonade can improve your life.

I’m lucky that I was born white. I’m lucky that a middle-class life has been my good fortune. I’m lucky that I had a bright, humorous uncle who was a lawyer. I’m lucky to have the friends I have. I’ve been lucky in so many ways that I think that maybe we make our own luck in more ways than we thought.

What pushed me to deciding that the law was to be part of my tossed salad life? One of those pushes occurred after the divorce: being told by my former wife and her husband that I couldn’t see my daughter. I felt helpless and had to hire a lawyer. What seemed a curse turned out to be a gift. Another was being married to the bright woman who was my second wife. That pushed me to realize that I should become a lawyer.

Lawyers and politicians were often in our apartment. Seeing them and attending meetings of the ACLU, an organization devoted to protecting our civil liberties, showed me that being a part of a noble profession was more important than laboring in anonymity in the TV industry and attending meetings.

With an attitude of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” I approached the vice president of NBC’s law department with the suggestion that I become a legal intern. In short order I found myself going to law school at night after spending my day researching the law. Day and night. I look back now and wonder how I made it. Motivation was the key. Four years later, I became a full-fledged TV lawyer only to be laid off when cigarette advertising ended.

Then there’s the bar exam. The dreaded bar exam was the nightmare that haunted those few who managed to survive the grind of law school. Two and a half days of answering questions covering the law. While the rest of those anxiety-stricken hopefuls spent each lunchtime worrying about whether they had written the right answers, I was down the street from the cavernous Hollywood Paladium lunching in luxury in the plush office of the temporarily-absent president of Columbia Pictures. Did I mention that my former wife was his secretary?

I dined on delicious food and drank fine wine while studying in comfort for the afternoon session. My fellow would-be lawyers down the street ate from paper sacks or at the local Greasy Spoon. When the exam was over, I refused to second-guess myself, taking a leaf from Zen masters that “What is, is.”

While awaiting the exam results, I volunteered at the Los Angeles Free Clinic (where I later became president) and in my spare time learned Selective Service law from the lawyers there who counseled young men who couldn’t afford a draft lawyer. The killing fields of Vietnam were deprived of another warm body. When I learned that I was one of the lucky ones who passed the bar exam, my mentors recommended me to a law firm in Santa Monica. Days later, I was earning more than I was at the big TV network. What I had learned at the Free Clinic was helping me save lives.

Long hair and hippie garb added to my inner rebel allowing my clients to relate to me. But something was missing. A sign in a pottery studio window allowed me to do something with my hands in addition to working with my brain. Being driven, I soon became good enough at shaping clay to be asked by the owner to teach on weekends. Having learned that most of the students were females, it took me only seconds to say “Yes!” This recently divorced lawyer quickly earned a reputation as a ladies’ man and, ultimately, that reputation almost cost me the love of my present wife. But that’s another story.

I’m now an old guy, but I’m still a lawyer albeit not allowed to practice unless I pay up to get reinstated. Nevertheless, although rusty, I still think like a lawyer. I require reliable evidence before accepting something. Logic is my touchstone. Time has added bone-deep skepticism and a measure of cynicism, but I’m still a lawyer and believe all that work and experience have been more than worth it.

When I shuffle off this mortal coil, remember that Bay was a lawyer…the best kind.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on August 2015.

 

Jun 25

The Day I Killed Our Cat

In Brief— A reflection on the author’s youth, a pet’s death, the damage and the lessons learned from a turbulent time in his life. [Written in March 2017.]


Nine Lives Versus The Car—

She was a three-legged cat. The vet who amputated her badly infected front leg said it was a scorpion sting. Plenty of those devils around where we lived in Albuquerque. In the months that followed, three legs were no hindrance to her going over our five-foot outer wall as easily as if she were hopping up on the sofa.

It was the beginning of my sophomore year at the University of New Mexico. As too often happened, I had butted heads with my mother and was angry. I stalked out of the house, through the back yard and jumped into my car, not even bothering to close the gate in the outer wall.

Angry and in a hurry, I didn’t notice our cat dozing in the shade beneath the car. I felt the bump and saw her shoot from under the car and head for the house. I quickly leaped from the car and stopped at the open door in time to see her breathe her last at my mother’s feet. Since then, I’ve occasionally wondered if Mother realized how much that cat loved her. Sick at heart from what my anger had wrought, I fled, jumped into my car and, with tears blurring my vision, was gone.

The Car—

Shortly after buying the used powder-blue Ford coupe, a friend and I modified it with straight-through exhaust pipes giving it a deep throaty roar to go with the increased power, added lowering blocks so it looked ready to take off and fender skirts to enhance “the look.” Never having been a car buff, I assisted while he did most of the work. At the time trials, it did passably well and looked great.

The Chase—

All I remember now is that I needed to drive. I headed east into Tijeras Canyon where Highway 66 skirted the southern edge of the Sandia Mountains. I finally stopped and sat reflecting on what I had done. I had accidentally killed our family cat. I turned around and headed back toward town…too fast. Still churning inside as I rocketed past the huge boulder where the police often waited, I didn’t register the highway patrolman.

On the long, shallow slope of the highway, I saw the cop’s blue lights flickering in the distance behind me. I found myself assessing my car’s speed against the aging Chevy driven by the cop. My foot hit the accelerator and saw the Chevy falling back. My Ford was no match for an old Chevy.

As I entered the outskirts of town, traffic thickened. It crossed my mind that those dirt roads to the right would leave an easy to follow trail even in an old Chevy, so I passed the slower traffic on the shoulder. Now I could see the Chevy closing in and heard the siren. Cars fell out of his way. As the New Mexico State Police building loomed ahead, rationality returned and I pulled in and parked beside the building. The old Chevy with the star on its door parked next to me. The chase was over.

As chance would have it, I knew the patrolman’s cousin, had gone to school with her. When we entered the old judge’s small court across the highway from the state police building, the cop talked with the judge behind his closed door.

The gray-haired judge was a kindly type, probably near retirement. He listened to my story, sympathized and acknowledged that a young college student deserved leniency for a trivial offense and pronounced a fine. I thanked him, paid the fine and drove away. I’d been lucky. What if I’d been black or Hispanic?

Not long after that, I volunteered for the draft. Surely the army would blunt the sharp edges of my anger and erase the guilt. It didn’t.

Years have raced by. Guilt still blankets my heart. So many layers now. I have a T-shirt that says, “To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid.” I’m older now. Still waiting.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on July 2015.

Jun 18

My Letter to Women

In Brief— The author’s impassioned plea for an awakening of opposition to what is being done to limit a woman’s power over her own life. [Written in March 2017.]

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ALL Women are Oppressed—

I’m alarmed. Why? Because women are being deprived of the right to determine their own lives. Some friends tell me that it’s men’s problem, too, but men who want to control women are obstacles to be overcome while all women have the power to say to those who would control them, “No, I’m the only one who has the right to determine how I live my life.”

I’m an old guy now, an American who chooses to direct this to Americans and to English-speaking females everywhere. I know that females are treated as second-class members of society everywhere in the world, but although those living in foreign countries carry burdens, I’m focusing this plea primarily on American women who are under attack as never before.

Some of you will say that you are already opposed to restricting female rights. Some of you will say that you are the CEO of a corporation. Some will say they are doctors, lawyers or scientists. Some will say that I have a lot of crust to chide them about standing up for women’s rights. To all who say stuff like this I say, “Wonderful, but you are still limited and oppressed in ways you never thought about.”

Are you a woman of color with limited resources? Do you have limited finances or limited education? Are you a worker who puts in a full day in the office and comes home to cook, clean and raise your kids? Are you a single woman working two jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table? Are you paid less than a male coworker doing the same things? Do you have an abusive partner? Are you a LBGT individual who feels the lash of discrimination? Do you face demeaning and groping by supervisors in the workplace or are you pressured to “put out” in order to get promoted? Are you a Marine who is treated as a “slut” by your male colleagues. These are just a few of the ways women are being oppressed. There are dozens of examples of women who are being oppressed. Oppression comes in many forms. If you’re a woman, you know about oppression.

If you look at what is happening under the administration of a confessed sexual predator who is also a liar, you see laws being passed to restrict what a woman does with her own body. Politicians—mostly men, but also a few women— seek to eliminate the right of all women to determine their own reproductive health, defund Planned Parenthood because they provide abortions in addition to general female health matters, destroy a woman’s right to an abortion and even contraception, eliminate Title IX efforts to provide equality for women, force all of you to believe as they do. “It’s my way or the highway” is their motto. Are you angry yet? Are you pissed at them or are you angry at me? Which party is attacking you? The answer is…the Republican Party!

Some of you are Republicans. You should ask yourself why you are a Republican. “Well,” you say, “I like their economic approach and their efforts to reduce the size of government, etc.” At the risk of offending you with the truth, you’re a dupe to buy that hogwash, but this is about how they are robbing you of your rights. You don’t need me to point out that the Republicans are busily attacking your rights even as I write this. Don’t believe me? Do your own easy research on known reliable sites, not cherry-picked right-wing sites like Breitbart. Just yesterday (March 30, 2017), Mike Pence helped the Republicans place more restrictions on women. Pence is a Republican!

Here are some facts for you to digest:

In congress, 97% of House members are reelected; it’s 90% of the Senate. That’s because the average voter doesn’t bother to check what their representative votes for. After you absorb that fact, make yourself some easy money by asking friends or coworkers to name only three of their six federal and state representatives. They probably can’t name even one. Don’t be greedy. Bet them a measly quarter. By the way, know the answers yourself.

As of June 2016, the Washington Post states that are thirty-one (31) Republican-dominated states have at least one regulation that limits your right to make decisions about your own body. Restrictions apply even to female teenagers. They are discriminating in a variety of ways. That should make you angry. Why are you allowing this?

Take just 15 minutes of your valuable time to write or call your congressional and state representatives and say, “I will cast my vote to remove you from office unless you remove all laws restricting what I can do with my own body!” Then follow through at the next election. There’s nothing like a threat to fire your oppressor.

Women are oppressed. Women have the power to end that oppression. Embrace that power. Do it now and keep standing up for equal rights! End your oppression!

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on June 2015.

Jun 11

A Dose of Reality — Part 2

In Brief— Part 1 of “A Dose of Reality” explained how there is little justice in America. This part examines the reality of how the American government is drowning in corruption. While corruption has existed from America’s beginning, the Trump administration sets new records for corruption. [Written in December 2016-January 2017.]


“Politics is Corrupting”—

When asked for her candid view of politics, my former wife who had been immersed in the political world stated succinctly that “politics is corrupting.” This piece puts meat on the bones of her brief but pithy observation.

In Part 1 of “A Dose of Reality” I spoke of Human Nature as including both the good and bad aspects of being a human. Every human has those aspects within. Corruption, double-dealing and duplicity are parts of Human Nature. This piece merely scratches the surface of America’s political culture.

What exactly does corruption mean? Basically, it is a process by which something is changed from its original form or meaning to something that is deceptive or fraudulent.

Let’s start with congress. The United States Congress is referred to as “The Millionaire’s Club.” Why? Once in office, a member of congress sees his (most are male and white) net worth exceed a million dollars. In many cases, it exceeds ten million dollars. It’s not salaries, it’s investments. Where does that investment advice come from? Wealthy donors whisper advice into the shell-like ears of their representatives and senators. Do you wonder why those representatives do the bidding of their rich donors? Ever hear of Insider Trading? According to the law, that’s illegal. Corruption

As an aside, it should be noted that the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted on January 3, 2017, to gut the independent Ethics Office because it did its job in investigating miscreants of both parties including Republicans who voted to gut the Ethics Office. Due to the public outcry, the House backed down and shelved the action. Could they have attempted the gutting because Donald Trump’s business dealings might also be challenged as unethical? If it looks like a duck…!

The above ethics-gutting—which incidentally is primarily taking place in Republican strongholds across America—demonstrates the extremes politicians seem willing to use. I’m compelled to add that attempting to conceal a crime is also a crime. Look for this example of corruption to surface again…and again and again. Lest you think I’m attacking only the Republicans, banish the thought. Democrats want to protect their perks, too.

As you may recall, not only do most voters have no idea what their representative stands for or has voted for, but the vast majority of representatives are reelected: 97% for the House and 90% for the senate. In effect, many voters are casting their votes for corruption. Let’s see what happens in 2018. Is anybody paying attention?

Now let’s look at representations made by the U.S. government, the Democratic Party and the FBI. They claim that the Russians hacked and influenced the American election. Computer experts traced the hacks back to the Ukraine, parts of which are controlled by Russia. There’s a gap between the charges that Russia did the dirty deed and undeniable proof. Maybe the Russians actually influenced the American election. As of this writing, we don’t yet know; hints of truth but the proof remains open, stoutly denied by the corrupt Trump administration where lies are common. The smell of corruption is in the air.

There has long been the assumption that Richard Nixon deliberately sabotaged a proposed peace settlement of the Vietnam War in order to get reelected. Now it has been proved from H.R. Haldeman’s notes that Nixon deliberately sabotaged the peace settlement in order to be reelected. Here we see an assumption confirmed as fact. Tricky Dick Nixon was a liar when he denied his actions. This is a man who was called ”a statesman” by his fellow politicians and many pundits. Nixon was corrupt.

The National Security Agency (NSA) continues to assert that they have done nothing wrong in their surveillance practices and that everything they do is constitutional. As Edward Snowden has proven from the NSA’s own files, and as several federal courts have shown, substantial parts of the NSA’s surveillance are unconstitutional. Put bluntly, the NSA and those who support the NSA’s actions are liars. That’s corruption.

I’ve told you about the Republican effort to corrupt the ethics office. Well, now they are attempting to make the independent budget office a partisan organ that’s no longer an independent source of information. Why? Because the budget office will explain the truth about the doctored numbers provided by the Republicans. They don’t want the truth. That’s Corruption.

As if that weren’t enough, a former Navy admiral and eight other officers have now been charged with bribery that cost us millions of dollars. That’s corruption!

This is just a teeny-tiny fraction of the corruption of the American government, a miniscule piece of the corruption that has gone on since America became a nation. The Trump administration’s corruption on steroids reveals it’s getting much, much worse. The level of corruption is mind-boggling. It’s said that daylight is the best disinfectant. Is there daylight in America’s future? Fact is that we are daily seeing the corruption of the Trump gang and Republicans growing so fast that our heads are spinning. Hey, folks, we need to be very worried.

Our democracy—or what’s left of it—now faces the peril of becoming an authoritarian state. Only America’s citizens can turn it around and make America the best it can be. Except for the endemic corruption, I’m still optimistic enough to believe America can be saved. What about you?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on May 2015

Jun 04

A Dose of Reality — Part 1

In Brief— An examination of America’s so-called “justice” system instead of the comfortable myths that we live with. [Written in December 2016-January 2017.]


Justice Ain’t Just—

Hippity-hop, the Easter Bunny scurries about hiding eggs. A tiny fairy hides a shiny dime under the pillow in exchange for a tooth. A bearded fat man clad in red slides down the chimney to place presents under the Christmas tree. A loving deity rewards good folk and punishes the bad. These are all myths. All are injurious whether directed at children or adults. Now we’ll look at the myth that the American system of justice delivers only justice.

J.R.R. Tolkein wrote of a ring that rules them all. I’ll write of a fact that rules humanity: HUMAN NATURE rules them all.

We are all animals. We humans like to think of ourselves as smart and above them all, but we aren’t as smart as we think we are. Fact is some animals believed to be lower on the intelligence scale are smarter than we humans are.

Humans are smart, ignorant, good, bad, liberal, authoritarian, lazy, energetic, compassionate, stingy, brave, fearful, peaceable, warlike, partisan, generous, greedy, individualistic, clannish, informed, naïve, etc. Look around at the world, think of a descriptive adjective and realize that humans are simply animals who have all those characteristics, some with more predominating adjectives, some with less. In short, what we see is human nature.

Although you may be bored by this repetition, from time to time, I use the word “ignorant” meaning lacking in knowledge. By contrast, I occasionally use the word “stupid.” Stupidity is willful ignorance. Someone who deliberately choses not to learn is stupid.

America’s “Justice” System—

Atop America’s justice system is the Supreme Court. Under normal circumstances, the Supreme Court is composed of nine justices. These men and women are humans who are subject to many of the same influences as any educated person. All have biases that lead them to be conservative, centrist or liberal in outlook. Unfortunately, these biases can be partisan, even naïve.

A good example of partisanship or naïveté can be found in the Citizens United case where the conservatives ruled essentially that money and rich donors are entitled to equal standing with all of us. Put simply, money can buy a case’s outcome.

Thus, poor folks are at a decided disadvantage when their opponents have barrels of cash to spend on getting the outcome the rich wish. This is partisan and possibly even naïve.

In twenty states, judges are effectively partisan politicians because they periodically have to run for office rather than holding lifetime positions. You can see that both lifetime tenure and partisan elections have drawbacks, but once money enters the picture, lifetime tenure is the lesser of evils. Human Nature arises here as each side wants to win and have his/her own case favored.

At the federal level, the dominant party gets to appoint judges to empty positions that will reflect the party’s philosophy, and those judges have lifetime tenure. Age and judicial philosophy are paramount here. Such judges will often hear cases before the Supreme Court has a chance. In many situations, a case will be permanently decided at this lower level because the Supreme Court doesn’t want to hear the case for one reason or anther.

As the unpredictable and seemingly destructive if not autocratic Trump administration addresses vacancies, a number of these lower federal courts will have a conservative judge appointed. Such judges will set the tone until they retire or die. Once again, Human Nature will rule. Reality!

Local “Justice” Ain’t Just Either—

Crowded local courts handle most cases. I have written about my experiences as a defense lawyer. In these courts, people of color are too often the defendants. Guilty or innocent, because of the potential for lost jobs or evictions, it’s often easier to take the prosecutor’s plea bargain and plead guilty instead of running the risk of conviction. All lawyers, prosecutors, private or public defenders, are complicit in this travesty.

Cops routinely commit perjury with impunity while the judges are aware of their perjury. Public defenders are overworked and, as noted, complicit in the plea bargain offered by the prosecution. Defendants often have to pay fines and court costs or go to jail. Who says there’s no such thing as debtor’s prison? I could go on, but you get the picture. Justice? There’s rarely justice in America. And it’s assuredly not going to get better under the Trump administration. Reality!

Although this seems pessimistic, it’s a realistic look at the “justice” system in America. America is said to be an exceptional democracy. It is neither exceptional nor a democracy. It’s a plutocratic oligarchy that favors the rich while all those who are without financial comfort are being duped. What we find is a kakistocracy. That’s reality.

 Human nature says you’ll probably not even know about this criminal situation. So now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on April 2015

May 28

Sex for Fun and Profit—Part 3

In Brief — The author presents a thought experiment that may upset some but is guaranteed to make you think not just about sex as a central part of society but whether we are locked in propaganda and tradition. [Written in February 2017.]


Sex is Popular Because It’s Centrally Located—

Are we locked into traditional ways of thinking? Are those ways helpful or a hindrance. This is a thought experiment. It’s a challenge to all of us if for no other reason than we are unable to peek around the corner to see what the future holds. While we can’t predict the future, there are some tantalizing hints of what’s ahead. Now let’s do some thinking.

But first, its necessary to understand that we’ll be thinking about just the individuals involved, not the impact of society or the law.

A Thought Experiment—

Joe, a randy sixteen-year-old boy, gets Sue, a rebellious but equally naïve girl of fifteen, to try out their sexuality in the back seat of a car. Sue gets pregnant and, with her parents’ angry push, puts the baby up for adoption. The baby is adopted by an anonymous couple unable to have children of their own.

Years pass, and the baby named Joan grows up to be an attractive, liberated young woman. By chance she meets Joe who is older and wiser. They fall in love and, not knowing that Joe is Joan’s father, move in together. Their sexual relations are wonderful. They enjoy sexual intercourse frequently; their love for each other and their commitment to one another grows.

Stop! Here is the first question of the thought experiment.

A) Is this relationship acceptable or unacceptable? Why? Remember that they are deeply in love and committed to one another. Remember that they are unaware of their relationship. Answer this question now before going on to B.

B) Now, let’s add an additional element: Joe and Joan belatedly learn that they are father and daughter. What should they do? Why? As before, answer this question before going on to C.

C) Now let’s add another element: Joan becomes pregnant with their child.

1) If Joe and Joan are unaware of their relationship, should the pregnancy continue? Why? Why not?

2) Joe and Joan become aware of their blood relationship, but their love and commitment remain strong. What should they do? Joan gets an abortion? Take the risk a negative genetic outcome? Why? Answer these questions before going on to D.

D) Finally, let’s add that hint I mentioned earlier: Science eliminates or edits any negative genes in Joan’s and Joe’s baby. Does this change your answers or have your answers remained the same?

I said at the beginning that this is a thought experiment. Your answers say much about you and your commitment to rationality or tradition. It reveals your imagination, your compassion.

Regardless of how you answered, this experiment makes you think and realize that reality is not as neatly arranged as you once thought. The important thing is that you thought…and that’s always good.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on March 2015

 

May 21

Sex for Fun and Profit—Part 2

In Brief— The author reaches back in memory to reveal a few of his adventures with sexuality during his tossed salad life.


Sex Is Popular Because It’s Centrally Located—

Once a long, long time ago I was a child who was, like most kids, curious about lots of things, not least sexuality and, more specifically, about my own sexuality. This is the tale of how my curiosity about sex led me to where I am today. It’s unique to me, but readers may see bits of themselves in this tale.

Sexuality Sends Forth a Bud—

In the 1930s, when a kid started asking questions like “Where does a baby come from?” enlightened parents gave the kid a book that was supposed to answer those questions. For me, a recitation on the sex life of an insect or basic human anatomy served only to raise more questions. But I didn’t ask.

It was a soft summer day when I was ready to see if the other kids were right in saying, “I peed in my pants when I came down the hill.” I ran and did a belly-flopper onto the Flexi-Flier and headed down the hill. It wasn’t long before the vibrations made me pee in my pants. Years later, I realized that it wasn’t pee…I was ejaculating. My sexuality was showing itself.

Like most pubescent youngsters, I was critical of what I saw as my physical shortcomings. “I’m too skinny.” “My scrawny legs don’t have big muscles.” So what did I do? I read sex manuals on female anatomy and how to sexually satisfy a woman. On finding an upper body exercise device in my dad’s closet, I began working out. I was so compulsive that my alarmed mother said, “Stop, you’re getting a bull neck!” That sublimated sex drive opened doors in later life.

A Youngster Grows Up—

I was thirty-years-old before discovering that females found me attractive. Like a turtle slowly coming out of its shell, I began experimenting with this new-found power. Becoming a lawyer accelerated the experimentation…and the attraction.

One young woman taught me that my inherent shyness was hindering the excitement of love-making when she tactfully asked, “Don’t you ever talk when making love?” I was forty-years-old, for crying out loud! Forty! But I learned a valuable lesson about sex. Spin fantasies, be blunt about what you’re experiencing. You’re never too old to learn…even about sex.

One incident during my hippie lawyer years exposed me to the world of spouse-swapping. In our hippie garb, this leather-clad, long-haired lawyer and two or three lovely young women of my acquaintance entered a notorious swapping club. Around the dance floor sat a number of straight-looking couples, at least half of whom probably didn’t want to be there. The curt waitress who served our drinks clearly felt these hippies didn’t belong there.

We were watched by the couples frozen at their tables. We slowly danced and sexily circled around each other. We were the show and knew it. When I paid the bill, I laid a big tip on the waitress who was obviously completely stunned. In just seconds, the manager appeared, obsequious to a fault, to invite us to come again. We never did, but it was an interesting learning experience.

Then there was the time when, as a well-muscled lawyer whose compulsive nature led me to being offered to teach pottery on weekends, I jumped at the chance. I’d observed that most of the students were females between 18 and 40. I was like a kid with unlimited credit in a candy store.

Needless to say, I acquired a reputation as a ladies man. That reputation not only introduced me to several wonderful women but it nearly cost me the love of my life. I learned that sexuality is a double-edged sword: it can bring great pleasure, but it can destroy as well. As I said, you’re never too old to learn. All it takes is paying attention.

Now I’m an old man basking in memories of earlier years. My lovely wife of nearly forty years visits me and is my strong right arm doing for me what I can no longer do for myself. Sex is past, but remembrance fills my days and fuels this blog. I’m glad for the experiences described here and for all the experiences that have filled my life.

Next week is the final part. It’s a thought experiment that may shock some readers but is guaranteed to generate thought. Thinking is always good. Let me know what you think about this part and check out Part 3.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on February 2015

 

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