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Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

Smokescreens

A decade ago, an editorial cartoon by the great Kirk Anderson observed that cats are like Democrats and dogs are like Republicans. The analogy remains as valid today as it was then.

But, in one sense, the reverse is true.

Consider the fact that dogs are uncomplicated, guileless creatures. Dogs have no hidden agendas. With dogs, what you see is what you get.

Cats, on the other hand, are sneaky little bastards, cold-hearted and lethal. With cats, you are advised to be on guard. The average cat is plotting something ugly.

Now consider how this observation plays out in our politics — how liberals conduct themselves compared to conservatives.

With the lefties, what you see is what you get. Liberals want to use government and our common resources to make life better and safer. They consider that to be the fundamental purpose of any government.

The liberal mindset is clear and straightforward. There are no facades, no deceptions, no smokescreens.

With conservatives, everything is a smokescreen. They are honest and candid about nothing.

At every opportunity, Republicans in Congress work to undermine government involvement in the healthcare system because they don’t believe government should be involved in healthcare.

But they don’t have the guts to admit it. They claim their goal is to make your healthcare better. Puh-leeze.

Republican politicians pass laws designed to make voter registration and voting more difficult, because lower turnout always benefits Republicans.

But they don’t have the stones to own up to what they’re doing. They insist they are protecting the nation from “voter fraud.” Voted fraud is a fabricated, non-existent, laughable threat.

Republicans despise government funding of social programs, Planned Parenthood, NPR, the arts, etc., because those are do-gooder programs. Do-gooder programs elevate the right’s collective blood pressure.

But they can’t make themselves admit that publicly. Instead, they claim they want to rein in wasteful government spending.

The irony here is that conservatives are just as transparent as liberals, and we all know it. But the right-wingers lack the conviction to admit their beliefs in the light of day. Hence, smokescreens.

Let’s be real. Republican politicians are an opportunistic, cynical, and despicable bunch. They reaffirm my contempt with every breath.

Most Republican voters, on the other hand, are normal enough people. While they clearly have more hang-ups and issues, they are no more evil and malicious than anyone else.

But they embraced a philosophy that is precisely that.

The Republican ideology is, on its face, selfish and mean. Fundamentally, Republican doctrine consists of the attitude, “I’ve got mine, go fend for yourself.”

Conservatives still believe, or profess to believe, in the tired old myth that welfare queens are bleeding the nation dry. They believe millions of lazy deadbeats are living the good life at the expense of honest, hard-working Republicans like themselves.

They believe that if you’re poor or sick, it’s your own fault; you didn’t work hard enough or plan ahead adequately. And furthermore, it isn’t the job of government to step forward and help you. Tough cheese, pal. Now get lost.

Sneaky, cold-hearted, and lethal. Cat-like to the core.

President Trump Speaks At The White House After The House Voted On Health Care Bill

 

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The 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kidwas a major hit, and so was Bob Dylan’s soundtrack. The album became a best-seller.

Most of the songs are instrumentals and supportive of the plot, but the exception was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which turned out to be a significant hit single in its day.

The song is slow, simple, and emotional. It consists of the last words (I assume) of a mortally wounded (I assume) deputy sheriff to his wife. One music critic called the song “an exercise in splendid simplicity.”

PG&BK

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

By Bob Dylan, 1973
Written by Bob Dylan

Mama, take this badge off of me.
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Mama, put my guns in the ground.
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

 

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No-Fly list

Bridge

Roll me over

Don't look

 

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Blue Lies

You tell people a lie three times, they will believe anything. You tell people what they want to hear, play to their fantasies, and then you close the deal.

— Donald Trump in ‘The Art of the Deal’

————

Donald J. Trump, the Orange Vulgarian, was in the national spotlight for decades before he became President.

Over the years, Trump has been on regular display, making his name as a celebrity, a personality, an entertainer. The public had ample time to see him in action and observe how he thinks and operates.

Those years of exposure clearly revealed the man’s many unpleasant traits of personality and character. He was, and still is, coarse, tasteless, narcissistic, amoral, vindictive, and, underneath it all, needy and insecure. I make that diagnosis with full confidence that I’m right.

Trump being Trump makes him totally unfit for any position of public trust. Yet, great numbers of seemingly ordinary Americans voted for him.

Here was one of the most shallow, petty and unqualified persons ever on the national scene, and a huge chunk of the electorate, oblivious to reality, put him in office. To my eternal credit, I wasn’t one of them.

I still struggle to grasp the underlying psychology here. I don’t fully grok the motivation of the trumpophiles. I’ve had no eureka moment that allows me to understand fully why people voted for Trump and continue to support him.

Was he so convincing that he told his lies three times, played to people’s fantasies, and they believed him? Of course not.

Can his win be explained by anger in blue-collar America, hyper-polarization in society, and the Fox New bubble? Yes, to a degree.

The cloud over everything, of course, is the matter of Russian interference and influence — the meddling by Putin, the creepy web of connections/collusion between Russia and Trump’s inner circle. This is unprecedented stuff, with consequences yet unknown.

But, that aside, focusing on what was in the minds of the Trump voters, I’ve found a new piece of the puzzle that, for me, is very illuminating. It has to do with the art and science of telling lies.

Lying, the experts say, begins at about age three. That’s when children discover that adults can’t read their minds, and it’s possible to tell lies — self-serving black lies — to avoid getting into trouble. He hit me first. I didn’t do it.

By age seven or eight, kids learn the concept of white lies — tactful lies told to avoid unpleasantness or hurt feelings. Yes, ma’am, the meatloaf was great. That’s a pretty dress.

People lie, tactically and strategically, all their lives. Psychologists classify the lies we tell in various ways, usually something like this:

Black lies — Told for selfish reasons.

White lies — Told for selfless reasons.

Gray lies — Told partly to benefit yourself, partly to benefit someone else.

Red lies — Angry lies, told for spite or revenge, even at the risk of harming yourself.

And now, add to that list the concept of blue lies — lies told to benefit the group to which the liar pledges allegiance.

Think about how humans operate socially. By nature, we divide ourselves into groups, for protection as well as to share resources. For the most part, we are loyal and generous to others in the group. To our fellows, we are magnanimous and compassionate.

But, while we tend to be pro-social toward members of the group, we tend to be antisocial toward non-members.

Non-members are outsiders. Potential enemies, potential threats. They are easily dehumanized. They can become targets of suspicion, hate, and violence, usually in that order.

In that context, telling a blue lie can be positive and morally justified. It is seen as lying in the interest of the collective good, while simultaneously taking a shot at a perceived enemy.

Blue lies are told wherever people divide into groups — in politics, government, business, everywhere. We applaud our spies, who tell blue lies to defend the homeland. We accept lying as an appropriate weapon against enemy nations.

It follows, then, that lying to our political enemies is also acceptable.

Thus, when Trump tells a lie, the faithful don’t consider it a case of Donald making an outrageous, demonstrably false statement. They see it as a strike against their enemies. Their man is scoring one for the team.

Rational people can wig out all they want when Trump tells another obvious whopper. But the fact that he lied is of no concern to his supporters. Nor is the actual truth of the matter.

Trump’s conservative admirers rally behind a litany of familiar issues. Freeloaders on public assistance. Immigrants as a criminal threat, stealing our jobs. Climate change is a hoax. Government regulations hobble free enterprise. Hillary ran a sex ring out of a pizza parlor.

How much of that they believe, if any of it, is immaterial. More to the point, those issues amount to blue lies being used as weapons against enemy tribes.

The concept of using lies as a social force and a weapon explains a great deal. It helps me better understand the mentality and motivations of the Trump voters.

It also makes me thank God that I have a brain, a heart, and an empathy gene.

Us vs. Them

 

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Baby on board

Kardashians

For the cah

You can dance

 

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Tune o’ the Day

When the rock band The Cars released their debut album in 1976, they had me at “Good Times Roll,” the first tune on the album.

To me, The Cars are in a special category because I like pretty much all of their songs, not just the familiar hits.

I can count on one hand the bands that clicked with me like that. And, no, I won’t burden you with the list.

One of my favorites among The Cars’ tunes is “Drive.” It’s a melancholy song, a lament by someone in a relationship with an addict or an alcoholic, trying to snap the person out of it, and probably about to give up. It’s a moving and beautiful song.

A relatable situation, simple and effective lyrics, and a captivating melody. This is good stuff.

cars-the

Drive

By The Cars, 1984
Written By Ric Ocasek

Who’s gonna tell you when
It’s too late?
Who’s gonna tell you things
Aren’t so great?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Who’s gonna pick you up
When you fall?
Who’s gonna hang it up
When you call?
Who’s gonna pay attention
To your dreams?
Who’s gonna plug their ears
When you scream?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Who’s gonna hold you down
When you shake?
Who’s gonna come around
When you break?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Oh, you know you can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

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Follow the Money

Back in 1976, in the movie All the President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein are told to “follow the money” to get to the truth, understand motivations, and see the big picture.

Follow the money. Always good advice, especially in business and politics.

For example, consider the following facts about Russia, the oil industry, and the orange vulgarian, Donald Trump.

————

In 2012, oil behemoth ExxonMobil entered into a partnership with the Russian oil company Rosneft (world’s 2nd largest oil/gas company, state-controlled) to develop oil reserves under 63 million acres in the Russian Arctic. The deal was estimated to be worth a mind-blowing five hundred billion dollars.

To celebrate, Vladimir Putin awarded the “Russian Order of Friendship” to Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil. As you may know, Putin, Tillerson, and Trump have a history of personal and business ties and speak glowingly of each other.

But then Putin invaded and annexed Crimea, and the United States and other countries imposed sanctions against Russia that blocked the Rosneft/ExxonMobil deal.

Tillerson and ExxonMobil lobbied strongly against imposing sanctions, but were unable to stop them.

At the moment, 15 of the 20 largest energy-producing companies in the world are state-controlled. This means the head of state is the de facto head of the energy company. Saudi Arabia’s oil company is the world’s largest, followed by Russia, Abu Dhabi, Iran, and China.

FYI, the U.S. has no state-controlled energy company. We’re the only major country that doesn’t own and control its oil and gas industries.

Also FYI, ExxonMobil is the world’s largest non-state-controlled oil company.

So, to summarize: a mammoth oil deal was blocked because Russia got punished for steamrolling and annexing one of its neighbors. Imagine the anger and frustration left seething inside Putin, Tillerson, and Trump.

When 2016 and the U.S. presidential election arrived, Putin and Russia interfered in the campaign to a degree we civilians don’t fully know. We’re aware that Russia spread fake news stories about Hillary Clinton, stole emails from Democrats, and arranged for the juiciest of them to go public.

All in all, Russia’s intention was to help Trump win. He did.

Almost immediately, Trump nominated Tillerson to be Secretary of State. Tillerson solemnly tendered his resignation from ExxonMobil, the only company he has ever worked for.

The resignation is meaningless, of course. It’s a bit like the Trump children running the family business while Dad is President: an un-blind trust.

There is much in the news lately about Trump and Tillerson bemoaning the bad blood between Obama and Putin. They muse about making nice with Russia. They wonder if sanctions are really, you know, such a good idea. Can’t we all just get along?

Whether the three of them can pull it off, can manage to get the sanctions lifted so their fat oil deal can proceed — well, that’s a jump ball. In time, we’ll find out.

But in the meantime, the moral of the story is clear: to get to the truth, follow the money.

puppies

 

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