Just So You Can’t Feign Surprise Later

The Treasury Department said government borrowing this year will more than double from 2017 to $1.34 trillion. Thank God we have fiscally responsible Republicans in charge.

And a special thanks to all the Millennials and Generation Zers who will be paying the interest charges on all these bonds. And thanks in advance for not voting next week. The Boomers and their parents aren’t done raiding the cupboard.

Have Privacy and Freedom Collapsed?

Do you think privacy and freedom aren’t under attack? Then perhaps you should spend a few minutes and watch this.

In the short term, my hope lies with the E.U. and the market. And the hope that the threat of revenue loss will constrain those who know our every move and thought. With whom we entrust with more than we’ve ever entrusted anyone before.

In the meantime, I’m off the parasitic Facebook. It’s a small but important step for me. Mark Zuckerberg is simply not to be trusted to protect and respect my privacy. And the addiction he peddles should have no place in my life. I have too many other addictions to battle; I don’t need another one.

Google isn’t to be trusted either. But I have yet to find an acceptable substitute. I hope one appears soon.

Now my focus is Amazon and Jeff Bezos. It seems clear to me that Mr. Bezos isn’t to be trusted. Not with my information. Not with Americans’ freedom. My goal is to thin out the tether that connects me to his empire and database.

Before it’s all said and done, I suspect there will be more intense battles for the sake of privacy and freedom. At least I hope so. Otherwise, democracy will surely be lost. Forever.

An Idiot Wants to Run My Home State

I live in Indiana now. But I was born and reared in Pennsylvania and spent the first 56 years of my life there. I’ll always consider it home. Which is why it pains me to see what’s been happening there.

Yesterday, it was the senseless slaughter of innocents in Pittsburgh, where I used to live and work. But it’s larger than that. A fog of idiocy and hatred seems to have enveloped the state.

I have a cousin who lives there who used to be smart. She’s now dumb. Dumb as a log. She’s been consumed by a hate-filled ideology and meanness that is abhorrent. But she’s not the only one.

Now an ideological idiot (all ideologues are idiots) is the Republican candidate for the governorship of the state. Let me introduce you to this man. Just watch this.

How does such an idiot become the standard bearer of a major party for the state’s highest office?

That’s a rhetorical question. Need I remind you who is serving in high positions in Washington?

Fortunately, all of the idiocy has not been for naught. It has caused me to examine my own life. My own self. It’s caused me to question my reactions. My emotions. My own idiocy.

The world is a crazy and cruel place. We have been taught how to navigate it and change it. But I’ve discovered most of what we are taught is flawed. An illusion. Constructs that fail to serve us well during trying times such as this.

If Pennsylvania choses to elect an idiot, no one should be surprised. Or too upset. This idiot has no power over any of us, no matter what position he holds.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to the task of ameliorating my own idiocy. God knows I have a ways to go.

This Is Reality

Steve Schmidt was a Republican; in fact, he worked hard to get many of them elected. Yesterday he reflected on the pipe bomber who targeted certain high-profile Americans, including former presidents. Here is what Steve had to say (via Twitter), which is worth everyone’s time to read. Why? Because it’s a good reminder of the reality that is, yet the one so many people deny. And it’s a good reminder that there is evil in the world. And of the challenge facing good and compassionate people. To help change our reality. To make the world a better place. Continue reading

The Backlash Is Coming

Excesses lay the groundwork for reversals. And that’s what we’re going to see in your lifetime, Vera. Perhaps in mine.

We are in the midst of an era of excesses now. An excess of capitalism you might say. It began in earnest around 1980 with the Administration of President Reagan. And it’s been accelerating ever since but for a few stalls here and there — notably, the Great Recession.

Which brings us to where we are today: a massive accumulation of wealth among those at the top, stagnant or falling standards of living for most people (in real, current terms), unconstrained consumerism, extremely high levels of public and private debt (including more than $1.5 trillion of student debt), underfunded pensions, ballooning federal deficits propelled by tax cuts for the rich, massive underinvestment in public infrastructure (both physical and intellectual), etc.

In a rare if not unprecedented development, due to massive tax cuts for the rich our federal government is now adding more than $1 trillion to the federal deficit each year. Just think what will happen when the next recession hits, which it will. It’s then the backlash is likely to happen. It’s then that people will come to realize they’ve been lied to and deceived and will react harshly and probably excessively.

I suspect we will then see a political tidal wave that turns the country sharply to the left. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth from the wealthy elite. But it will be too late. Years — indeed, decades — of excesses and unconstrained greed will render the reaction inevitable.

The thing to remember is, it is what it is. Today and tomorrow. And whatever it is, you must find ways to navigate it and live in a way that allows room for love, meaningful relationships, and the things that bring joy into your heart.

Often, it seems humankind puts many roadblocks in the way. We make life harder than it needs to be. If not for ourselves, then for others. It doesn’t have to be that way. Or does it? Sometimes I wonder.

In any case, you are likely to live through a period of change unlike I’ve lived through, Vera. On a macro-basis, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any say in the matter. But on a micro-basis, you will have a say.

Live your life well. With integrity. And compassion. And you’ll be just fine. No matter what the backlash brings.

Feeling Ashamed Seems to be Our Lot

By now it’s pretty clear agents of the Saudi royal family murdered and dismembered a journalist in the Saudi’s Turkish consultant. Most probably at the behest of the Saudi prince — who’s supposedly a buddy of our president’s son-in-law and the darling of many rich and powerful people in the West, including the U.S. It’s also pretty clear by now that our president wants to look over the whole affair. He wants to pretend it didn’t happen. After all, it was the Saudis who treated the president like a king when he visited last year and, as everyone knows, the only thing that matters to Donald J. Trump is how it affects him.

But, of course, Mr. Trump isn’t merely a citizen of the United States of America. He’s its president. Which means his attitude toward the assassination and dismemberment of the journalist reflects on all of us. He is our leader. Supposedly, he embodies our values. Once again, I’m ashamed. Continue reading

Putting on the Pounds

According to a new report, approximately 71 percent of millennials aged 17 to 24 — the prime age to enlist in America’s armed forces and fight a foreign war in the Middle East — are non-recruitable, with obesity disqualifying about 31 percent of them.

“Out of all the reasons that we have future soldiers disqualify, the largest – 31% – is obesity,” Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, said last Wednesday.

This is new. In my lifetime. It used to be that overweight teenagers were rare. Not anymore.

I’m certainly not an expert in such matters, although some of the reasons for this erosion in the health and fitness of our nation’s youth seem obvious. Less physical activity. More high-carb junk food. More prepared food and sugar drinks. Fewer home cooked meals. More stress.

As for our armed forces, perhaps we won’t need all that many fit recruits in the future anyway. Perhaps drones, robots,  computers and people sitting at terminals will do most of the fighting. Moreover, if we need more than we can get with a voluntary army, we can always reinstitute the draft.

But that won’t make America fit again. That’s something you don’t hear much about these days. You hear about making America “great,” but apparently you don’t have to be fit and healthy to be great.

The first step, in my experience, is to control what comes into the house. My record in such matters is very spotty at best. Too often highly addictive sugar-laced crap finds its way into the shopping cart, destined for our cupboards or frig. I don’t know how that happens, but I do know that, when I’m serious about my fitness and health, it doesn’t happen.

The second step, physical exercise, comes easier. While it’s important for fitness, it isn’t a substitute for controlling what goes into my mouth. You can’t exercise enough to make up for a shitty diet.

We don’t go to the shopping mall often, but when we do I always see overweight kids and wonder why there are so many. And how it happened. And what they’ll be like in another 20 or 40 years.

Perhaps we should have a campaign to make America great again.

Digging, Deeper and Deeper

In case you missed the news earlier today, the federal government’s deficit jumped to $779 billion in the fiscal year just ended. That’s a 17 percent increase over the previous fiscal period.

An escalating deficit late in an expansionary economic cycle is unprecedented. But under the self-proclaimed King of Debt, it’s hardly surprising. All he needed was a Republican-controlled Congress that doesn’t give a damn about deficits. And that’s exactly what he got.

The obvious question is, how will the federal government be able to respond to the next recession? No one knows. We’re in unchartered waters. Close to shore. Where rocks can bash your ship into smithereens if you’re not careful. And extremely lucky.

In the meantime, keep an eye on that Medicare and Social Security. They’ll be coming for that next.

Do You Live in a Bubble?

Follow this NYT link to a very cool map that will tell you how your precinct voted in the last election.

I was surprised to learn I live in a blue precinct, albeit not by much and, moreover, one that is surrounded by red. But at least it’s an improvement over the political inclinations of the last place we lived (Loveland, Colorado).

I see that the places where I spent most of my childhood years (south-central Pennsylvania) are solidly red (not surprisingly). I further note that many of my high school friends never returned to the area after college. Migration plays a big role in creating political bubbles.

Tribalism seems to be part of the human condition. There’s no way around it. But when it leads to closed minds, we all suffer. Which is why I’d rather not live in a provincial area (although I have, the worst being a short stint in Virginia).

Even more important than that, however, is to remind myself frequently of how little I actually know. And of the difference between narrative and reality.

In times such as these, narratives play an outsized role, and people are only thinly tethered to reality.