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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Inmates are Running the Asylum

When America was being formed and the wise men of that time got together they designed a system of governance where the people appointed men (yeah only men) to get together to make and alter the rules of society and the common good. Part of the idea was that every (qualified) citizen would and should at one time or another do his civic duty and become one of those appointed representatives.

The process was one where each adult male of European descent would cast his one vote to decide which candidate or other would best represent their region of the Republic. After those early successful years everything went haywire. (Note: when one mis-handles a coil of baling wire it can energetically become an un-mitigatable tangle of surprising complexity. Mostly you just toss it out and go get another coil of haywire. Hence the name.)

In more recent decades, the elected representatives have become lifers in the comfort of their positions. Not only have they voted themselves great annual salaries, incredible fringe benefits and time off to ostensibly go home to their constituents and local office and continue the job for which they were appointed. Along the way they discovered that they knew what was coming in the way of regulations (or the removal thereof) and could profit from that knowledge. They developed the mindset they could write legislation which impacted the Everyman while exempting themselves and granting special privileges.

All of them are the equivalent of being the hired help of We The People except that they have taken over. The constituents used to tell their representative what they wanted them to do, what they wanted and needed, how to protect them from the reversal of fortunes in the weather, the economy, the relationship with neighbors and neighboring nations. Where that used to be the way, now the representatives tell the people what they are allowed to have. Representatives used to represent all of their constituents. Now they have developed the idea they at best represent only the citizens who voted FOR them. They have reached a place where non-citizens residents and voters who voted for another candidate do not matter and actually should be denied representation.

In light of the more recent shift in parliamentary procedure and Citizen United (a highly misleading nomenclature) they have come to represent only moneyed interests who pay them to vote for legislation as written by other paid interests. If those interests were promoting laws and permissions that benefitted human constituents, it would not be such a bad thing, but the moneyed interests are always buying permissions and prohibitions which benefit their business model and bottom-line.

With the reversal of employer-employee relationships, it is as though the Inmates Have Taken Over the Asylum. The totally delusional patients have assumed the roles of Institutional Director, Head Nurse, Strong-arm Orderlies, Groundskeepers, etc. while the former staff are kept locked up in the basement along with the weak and feeble-minded patients who did not have a place in the New Administration.

There are genuinely earnest inmates who believe the new Administration is legitimate and will say and do everything they are asked to do. There are many inmates who are too scared to resist. They kowtow to the Authority of a Nurse Ratched knowing she will prevail by hook and crook.

Somewhere along the line, a tipping point was reached in the administration of governance where the hired help (Representatives and Senators) took over and now run the operation as THEY see fit. In many cases they have created their personal fiefdoms and command the loyalties of a sufficient number of constituents to negate the influence of the majority. That majority must resist and fight back or allow the consolidation of power by the Inmates who took over.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Matador Down

The following is an excerpt from the chronicle of my hitchhiking trip to California in June of 1971 with my best friend Chuck. It describe our experiences on the day his uncle Rube took us to Juarez to see the bullfights. It was a brutal day in our young lives. So is this account. Jump to the end if you want to cheer for what happened to the Matador... Steer clear if you are sensitive to such violence.

The time drew near for the fights.  They all piled into Rube's old station wagon and headed off to pick up another couple who were going to the fights with them.  Rube said that he never took the Caddy south.  The Mexes could have the station wagon if they really wanted it, he said.   Rube parked the car on a side street and the walked to the arena where they met one additional member of the party.  He was a bullfighter himself, but not recently.  He explained the activities that were to come.

Mariachis played outside the arena raising a festive air.  The arena consisted of about 20 rows of tiered benches surrounding a dirt ring.  A wooden wall provided a safe zone between the dirt ring and the first row of seats.  On two sides of the field a narrow wall provided a place of refuge for the Matador to duck behind.  Amplified fanfare music poured from the speaker cones above the last row of seats and the crowd rose to their feet at the promenade of the Matadors, toreadors and company. Two men on horseback and a three brightly dressed Toreadors walked around the perimeter.  The Picadors strutted their horses and carried the colors on spears. 

A heavy wooded door was swung open and a maddened bull leaped into the arena.  The three toreadors pranced around looking like fairy clowns dresses in pink and green satin clothes waving pink ropes at the bull.  They teased the bull like a squadron of flies on a horse.   Then El Matador, Manolo Martinez, hero of the bull ring strutted onto the arena to the lauding of the crowd.  Women threw roses to him and blew kisses.  He waved his hand to his adoring fans.  His skin tight golden satin suit shown in the afternoon sun backed by his red cape.  He declared his manhood by ignoring the bull that stood across the field from him.  A scabbard hung by his side.

The gate was once again opened and two Picadors rode blindfolded horses onto the field.  One horse was heavily padded on the left side and under his belly.  The other on the right.   The riders of the horses surrounded the bull and goaded him with a spear tip in the shoulders.  This barbarity is supposed to tell if the bull is a good one or not. In actuality, this act is to weaken the neck muscles and keep the bull's head lower to the ground.   Manolo ran up next to the bull and stuck him with small barbed poles with colored streamers.  Blood streamed from the wounds on the shoulders.  He ducked his head, beat his hooves and charged the Matador.  He thundered passed the Manolo as he sidestepped, misleading the bull with the presentation of the cape.

"Ole, cried the crowd.  "Ole," again as the bull again charged the cape and missed the man.  Martinez reeled about and faced the charging bull.  The bull stopped short and pitched his head backwards.  The matador drew his sword from its scabbard and hid it under the cape.  He took three more charges, stepping aside and allowing the bull to rush passed under the loose fabric.  Then he turned to face the staggering bull.  His tongue hung loosely from his frothing mouth.  Martinez drew the sword high above his head and drew himself up on his toes.  With three quick steps, he advanced on the bull and drove the sword between the shoulder blades of this first bull of the day.

The bull's tongue hung limply from his gaping mouth.  He staggered.  Martinez faced him down as the bull fell to his knees.  The costumed man withdrew the sword with a sweeping gesture and stood before the dying bull with the sword raised above his head.  The crowd cried, "Ole". 

The bull fell to his side and stretched out his legs as the muscles relaxed.  A little fat man ran on to the field and thrust a dagger into the brain of the bull under the back of his skull.  The bull twitched then lay still.  Then in one final act of man over beast, he cut the ears and tail and presented them to the matador, who displayed them in the air.

One of the horsemen rode out into the arena.  The little fat man looped a lasso loop over the horns of the dead bull and the horse dragged the dead carcass out through the wooden door.

Act Two followed soon after the dead bull was removed.  The second bull succumbed in identical manner as the first.  Bull Three lost a horn while being taunted by the picadors. The crowd threw up a roar of dissatisfaction.  They came to see six bulls give a good performance and die.  A bull with one horn was no challenge to the matador.  He was lead off the field the way he arrived, alive.

Bull Four was lead in kicking and tossing.  He headed straight for the wall and leaped over the top.  He leaped and crawled over a wall about 6 feet high.  The clever men were prepared for such a show of cowardice from a bull.  The gate in the inner wall swings both ways.  The gate attendant merely swung the gate outward from the ring and the bull was redirected back into the ring to face the matador and his hidden sword.  When the bull charged the matador's cape, the matador produced the sword from behind the cape and skewered the bull.   Another set of trophies and another bull was dragged from the ring.

Chuck sat on the bleacher with his hand to his face.  His pallid face gave expression to the deep sickening sensation that quickened within him.  "I'm going to go find a coke or something,"  he said and got up.  Alberto explained the rituals to Bob.  Bob thought the whole event was barbaric and cruel, but was never one to criticize the culture of anyone else.  He watched with a morbid curiosity.  He felt the slice of the blade as if it were piercing his own shoulders.  It brought on a sensation of guilty pleasure.  The scene was horrific, but one at the same time, he was happy that it was the bull who was being sacrificed and not himself.   

On number Five a young boy eager to earn his manhood, leaped from the front row across the outer track and down into the ring.  The crowd was brought to its feet.  The boy waved his jacket at the bull and he charged.  The toreadors distracted the bull while Manolo Martinez grabbed the boy and pushed him behind the shield on the far side of the arena where Bob and Alberto sat.  The Policia were brought in to take the boy away.  Alberto explained that the boy was showing his machismo and that he would be turned over to his parents.  Later he would face the indignity of mother and father, but for now he was a big man for being so brave as to challenge the bull without weapons.  To Bob, the boy was much more brave than the matador because he went in without a sword, unlike Martinez who had the upper hand.

Bull Six began like all the others.  He charged into the ring then came to a halt, looking bewildered.  The picadors drew blood with their long poles.  Then the bull was taunted into a frenzy by the toreadors.  Manolo Martinez then strutted up to the bull, challenging him with the cape.  The bull charged.  Martinez swiftly stepped aside, wrapped the cape around his back as the bull slipped passed.  He again faced the bull, to the excitement of the crowd.  He then ran up to the bull and stuck barbed bannered poles into his shoulders.  The bull kicked and fumed.  He spun around and pitched his head upward catching the inside of Martinez' right thigh.   The bull lifted him and tossed the man over his back.   The crowd jumped to their feet in disbelief.  A collective groan was raised from all quadrants.  Then he turned and charged the man who lay on the ground with blood pouring from the torn flesh of his leg.  The bull ducked his head and thrust in at Martinez again, pushing him along the ground.  The toreadors poked at the bull, working as a team to distract him from his target who lay bleeding in the ring.  This rarest of sights held the audience transfixed on the scene that played out before their eyes.

The ring officials struggled to bring Martinez to his feet.  His face had lost all of its color.  Even though, he fought off his assistants.  With a last defiant gesture, he broke free and stood before the bull.  The crowd roared out his name.  He waved off the toreadors.  With sword in hand, held behind his back, and no cape, he stood firm before the bull.  The crowd proclaimed their adoration.  The bull hoofed the ground and charged.  Martinez raised his arms over his head, sword aimed at his attacker, and thrust the blade deep into the shoulders of the bull.  He staggered.  The bull staggered.  Martinez fainted backward into the arms of the officials.  They quickly carried him off the field and through the gate through which countless dead bull had passed.

Alfonzo Leal, Martinez' assistant, finished the job.  The bull fell to his knees, then toppled on his side.  The little fat man severed the spinal cord with his dagger than took the ears and tail.  The bull had won out over Martinez but suffered the pain of death anyway.  This day of brutal barbarism was over.


Please let me know in the comments if you read this post to the end.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

One Party Politics

America is at a critical time in its long storied history.  Today we have a President who says publicly he supports policies which will benefit the people of this nation while signing Executive Orders which decimate those very same policies and others. 

He smiles and declares he is in charge and everything will be amazing but the Congress of his same party passes bills to reduce access to healthcare and other social services this poor nation needs.  They pass bills for revolutionary change and this President is sure to sign them into law without much fanfare.

He has set this nation on a path to degradation and loss which may not be survivable. The government of the United State was instituted to protect people from harm both foreign and domestic. The foreign threats were armies which never came. The foreign threats were ideologies which are counter to the life, liberty and happiness of citizens. The foreign threats were the economic interests of non-American corporations with designs on taking profits from Americans in unequal trade balances.

The domestic threats are the corporations which seek to exploit extractive resources (minerals, gas, oil, lumber, coal) while leaving their sites barren and prone to letting  toxins and excessive rainfall to run off into clean streams. Prior to the EPA clear-cut mountain slopes experienced erosion of soils into waterways when the trees were gone. EPA required remedial measures; reforestation and runoff controls.

Coal and other mineral mining operations were required to contain their tailings.

Coal Ash Pit at Powerplant

"Mine tailings are the ore waste of mines, and are typically a mud-like material. Worldwide, the storage and handling of tailings is a major environmental issue. Many tailings are toxic and must be kept perpetually isolated from the environment." from Wikipedia

Without regulations the mining companies typically mix the tailing with a sufficient quantity of water to make it flow through pipes and discharge it into the nearest stream with impunity.

When this President speaks of economic value to reducing government regulations, he really is saying industrial enterprises will be once again allowed to freely pollute the environment and poison humans who live nearby, downstream and downwind of the operations. A number of jobs might be created or retained by such reductions of operating costs but the damage done to the health of the population now and in the future is far greater.

Joe Magarac hero of Steelworkers
For example, a coal miner may earn $50,000 per year (if his wage is not extremely curtailed by the removal of collective bargaining regulations). The other side of the Equals Sign is the cost of treating Black Lung Disease which most every coal miner will eventually suffer can exceed the 10-year earning potential of the miner. The only way to make coal mining "profitable" is if the treatment of lung disease and other physical injuries is completely neglected. The only way to completely neglect those costs is to NOT TREAT the miner. Otherwise taxpayers pick up the bill anyway. It becomes a "hidden" cost of using coal.

So when the President declares the policies of the nation and the congress is complicit in fashioning legislation which allows for the degradation of the air, land and water; the reduction of public education; the reduction of healthcare access; Laissez-faire financial policy on the banking empires, to whom can the people address their grievances? We have this body called the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) that is supposed to evaluate Executive, Legislative and other judicial actions in terms of the US Constitution.

When the Chief Executive has the job to appoint Judges to this body and the Legislature has the job of confirming or rejecting those appointment, when all parties involved are of the same political party and partisan ideology what is the remedy for people who are harmed by the actions and decisions? When all three Branches are dominated by a single political position this is a recipe for a steamroller takeover of what America has been.

If you are person who wants everything made easy and profitable for corporations, you will be happy about the course the nation is being driven. If you think people should be able to live unencumbered lives free of extreme hardships you will not like the direction the nation is going.

Here is the bottom line concern. One elected man; his two dozen or so appointed cabinet members that lead federal government departments and bureaus have the legal authority to completely dismantle this nation's government and reset all the regulations previously enacted to make this country great. They have the authority to command bombs to be dropped on any country, send troops to any theater and commit the full military assets for any real or imagined reason. If Congress doesn't take action to stop him, we the people will have to pay the bills and suffer the consequences. One party politics is a huge failure.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Yes,The Law is on Trumps Side, but...

Yes the Law is on Trump's side. Therein lies the problem. The laws have always been written and interpreted in terms of rational people who were placed in charge of our democracy. Alternatively, they were written by people who would derive value from the efforts of others and call it their own.

Never before has there been a scenario where United States elected officials were subverted by foreign influences and those people were the ones in power. It has always been the influence of domestic power that allowed the individuals vested with power to yield that power with little or no interference. While the Law may be on Trumps side, that doesn't mean the laws are good laws of just and equitable laws. Those laws can be changed.

Today we have a man who has wrested power from the former owners and is utilizing it for entirely new purposes. Not only does he represent a particular political party but he also has the backing of both the House and the Senate. His use of power has been commingled with his own enterprises for creation of personal and family wealth. People with whom he has business relations are standing in line for him to sign the papers to free them to exploit terrestrial resources and those of people that in need. 

Nothing he sends their way will get voted down and no bills sent to him will be vetoed. This entire scenario is the recipe for disaster. At some point in time he and Congress will differ on some positions but all the important and far reaching actions will already have been agreed upon. Food availability, housing, medical care, education are all a matter of law. So is who is allowed to have such things.

He is feeding the GOP controlled Congress all the items they have had on their agenda for decades. Education policy is trashed by a religious zealot until Congress formally disposed of the Department entirely. Similarly, the Attorney General, William Sessions, is a self-styled racist judge who also promised to foist his religious notions on minority groups under the guise of "restoring religious freedoms with such Act as titled: Restoring Religious Freedoms Act. Eliminating the Environmental Protection Administration is yet another action now or soon to be signed out of existence via signature on an Executive Order.

Once GOP is finished with Mr. Trump, they will kick him to the curb in favor of their more favored President, Mike Pence. He will be better suited to carry America into its century of Theocratic governance.

However, in the meantime, the Law is on the side of the now President, Trump. But that power of law is not absolute. The US has a Judicial Branch which was designed to keep the Legislature and Executive in check. Neither of them can run off willy-nilly doing just anything they want to. There remains that ever-present and highly regarded document, the Constitution, to be satisfied.

The founding father of this country saw the possibilities of a tyrant getting into power or for an incompetent to be elected by the folly of the people who were so taken astray. They built into the Constitution safeguard to right the wrong. It is time this country take a long and hard look at the road we are now traveling. It is time to stop and go a different way. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Big Fish, Little Fish, Mr. Trump

Some portion of the American population cast their ballots for a man who promised to make their country great again. A greater portion of the voting public case ballots for one or other of the candidate who were running against his platform of systematic dissection of American economic strides of the past 70 years. An even greater portion of the American population failed for one reason or another to cast a vote for any candidate.

Hillary Clinton ran with a well-established and time tested team of advisers and like-minded politician and staff. The minor candidates, not so much. They lacked the synergy which comes from working together in common pursuits.

For good or for ill, businessman and entrepreneur, Donald J. Trump ran for and won the election to become the 45th President of the United States. Here is a man who was a Big Fish in a Small Pond. While in private life he owned, bought and sold hundreds of businesses. Some of them were good enterprises and others failed. Mr. Trump was the undisputed owner and director of every part of those enterprises. His "pond" consisted of a few dozen board members and investors to whom he was responsible. In the shallows of that pond were several thousands of employees who relied on his prowess and ability to maintain a working business. He was good at commanding respect and making people jump through the hoops he held out for them.

This command and control structure extends to his three wives and five children who stand politely at his side and reflect his greatness back to him.

The era of Mr. Trump's big status has come to an end with his election to the office of President. Now he is responsible for and to tens of thousands of Federal employees who make his newly acquired enterprise work. No longer is the command chain only three links long. In his private business life he could summarily dismiss anyone and everyone at his pleasure and reassign duties as he saw fit. After all they were his employees and their jobs were his personal property. This is not the same in government circles.

While he struggles to realign the government to his liking he is finding that he is responsible for far more people than before. His employees needed wages and health insurance. He could wave his hand and raise, lower, add or remove any and all compensation with near impunity. If anyone did not like it, they could look elsewhere for a job.

As elected leader of the nation he assumed his 43 million supported were his constituents. Meeting their wants and desires were his calling. That pond got measurable larger and he, proportionally smaller.

The people who voted for him are not his only concerns. There are 317 million Americans to whom he has a duty. Even if the few hundred board members and investors would not inform him that he had spinach in his teeth, there are millions of ordinary citizens who would immediately tell him and make an Internet meme all about it. Those 317 million Americans comprise an even bigger pond.

Mr. Trump is wholly unsuited for the magnitude of the position he now occupies. He is appearing progressively smaller and smaller as time goes by. The sheer number of direction he must look and act have overwhelmed the man. He has no highly experienced team with government experience to carry out his executive decisions and legislative priorities. The only experience his Wall Street appointees, Pharma appointees, regulatory agency appointees have is as adversaries of the very government bodies they are supposed to manage. Mr. Trump, the businessman who hated government regulations and taxes, is now the man who can whisk away those pesky regulations with the stroke of his pen. That power is awesome and awful at the same time.

The Art of the Deal is more a treatise on his ability to get his own way than it is for how to negotiate for mutual benefit. In business one can crush the opponent bring him to his knees and force him to kiss your signet. In politics, this is never a good practice.

The 317 million Americans are not the end of the pond growing responsibility. Mr. Trump becomes even small in the pons which houses 7 billion humans. Like it or not, every decision an American President makes ultimate impact each and every one of those people. Shaking one fist at the ceiling and declaring America First is a declaration of conflict when heard by peoples of other countries. It harkens back to the days of ITT, Standard Oil, Ford and other American multinational corporations which moved in on South American and Asian countries sucking the wealth out of the region and leaving the spoils to the indigenous populations.

Like it or not, the entire world is in your hands, Mr. Trump, not just the white male demographic of the US. You are now a very Small Fish in a very Large Pond. The common people will tell you to your face that you are not doing a good job. Other leaders will tell you to your face and to their people that you need to clean up your act and become a team player and not be yet another despotic dictator in the world. The Press will describe your attributes and report on your actions. That is their job. You cannot stop them without doing yourself more damage.