Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Month: August 2017

No Messenger To Kill, No Message To Deliver

The midterm election campaigns have started. You might have missed it if, like me, you unsubscribed from the Begging Machines; blocked the robocalls; refused those few pleas that are still sent by mail.

The first quarterly report is in, and it’s dismal. The Democrats have no message for these times. They have announced no plan, no agenda, no defining vision. They slog from year to year with the same beloved bromides but no strategy. They could have been the party of Take Back Our Country, but they missed out on that one. Their platform reflects the views of a majority of voters, but they aren’t clever enough to beat the Republicans at the Game.

What they need first is a vision that sweeps into it the disaffected voters whose departure cost the 2016 elections. It doesn’t have to be novel, only compelling. Spoiler alert: it has to be more centrist. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama got elected on mainstream platforms. Much as one might see the virtue of revolution, revolutionaries don’t win elections here – although Bernie Sanders might have pulled it off against Trump.

The second issue is the messenger. When the most popular figure in the Democratic Party isn’t a regular member – a socialist septuagenarian- the problem is readily apparent. There is a scarcity of electable candidates.  The current aberration aside, the path to political success hasn’t changed. Hard work, a solid, affirmative vision and a little charisma, and they have a chance to catch fire.

America is a global power still, wrestling like other developed nations with the challenges of industrial turnover, technology and scarcity. It’s a time for creativity aimed at broader communal goals. We’ve been through this before. We can get through it again.

 

Closing Time: GOP Begins Its Push for Trump To Resign

 

It’s one thing when former Vice President and ex-officio former President-elect Al Gore called for the future ex-President to resign.  It’s quite another when, the following day, two GOP Senators – prospective jurors in any impeachment proceeding – smacked him on the snout, saying  that he has demonstrated a lack of the moral authority to be President.  It says that he has lost the Senate. Now, the only thing standing between him and impeachment is a House full of vulnerable candidates who will be running in 2018.  Rupert Murdoch has jumped ship. Steve Bannon is working his exit strategy.

 If he doesn’t resign it may be forced on him. With Nixon, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling forcing him to disgorge his tapes was the final blow. Trump is not in obvious legal jeopardy, as was Nixon. Still, he has alienated many of his allies, and has given no coverage to his team.   He has appalled many of those who voted for him. He is a lame duck, six months into his administration.

He risks starting wars along the 38th parallel and the Mason-Dixon line. 

 As Trump will admit, he is not an experienced politician. He knows how to lie, he just doesn’t know when. People say he is impulsive, unable to contain himself.  In Tuesday’s return to Trump Tower, after delivering a short statement on infrastructure, he was goaded into further discussion of the fallout from Charlottesville. No doubt his staff had prepared him but he couldn’t contain himself.  It tripped a circuit breaker in his head, and sparks flew out of his mouth. That would not have happened with a disciplined politician.  A seasoned pro would have stuck to the script. He can’t do it, and doesn’t want to do it. 

There’s blood in the water.  The nobles are fleeing.  The generals are ignoring his commands and publicly rebuking him.  The Senators are meeting in the Capitol’s  recesses. Mike Pence is getting fitted for Air Force One flight jacket.  Plots are being hatched,  and people are positioning themselves for regicide if he does not go quietly.  

 Here’s the deal. He won’t quit unless it’s clear that he will lose his fortune or the children their fortunes or liberty. Impeachment won’t happen. Besides, it would take too long.  As for the GOP, time is against them. The longer it takes to make the change in the White House, the worse their chances in 2018’s House election.  So, do you wonder which lucky  party leader will get to say, “You’re fired.” My guess is that he’ll have a Kentucky drawl on his tongue and a smirk on his face.

 

Past Tense, Future Tenser

The day finally arrived, the day that Revolted Colonies was no longer past tense or future conditional.  It’s all right out there in the open.  The column has been quiet over this long, horrible weekend of the Charlottesville demonstration, riot and murder. So many people weighed in and so many people had meaningful things to say.  Not a time for levity, so no new posts.  Until today.

The future ex-President stalked his golf club away from home all weekend, equivocating on his position about the debacle. Initially, he blamed “many sides,” although he did name check Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, part of the larger White Supremacist cohort.  As the weekend wore on, he backed away from his “equal blame” position, faulting the protesters who started the demonstration.  On Tuesday, during a press conference at Trump Tower on the subject of infrastructure, he was Donald Unleashed.  Livid with rage, he walked back his walk-back.  Asked why he waited so long to speak out about Charlottesville, he delivered a seemingly impromptu restatement of the events through his unique filter. A transcript of the complete conference has been published in many places, including the dreaded New York Times.

If the words were impromptu, the thought behind them was the product of his upbringing.  He may not be the Ku Klux Klan member his father Fred was and he may not be a card-carrying member of any White Supremacist organization, but he courted their support and found a narrow path to the White House against an unpopular opponent.  Now he articulates Alt-Reich views from the Rose Garden. 

Trump is succeeding where Charles Manson failed: he’s inciting a race war.  That’s scary enough, but even worse is the fact that while the media are pouncing on every outrageous statement he makes, his team is at work, lining up new voter suppression tactics and defunding the census.  The Republican party is determined to hold on to power even though its tactics repudiate the concept of one person-one vote and the right of equality under the law.

Gas Has Been Passed

The Tesla Model 3 has received rave reviews so far. In its souped-up version it has a range of over 300 miles, The basic model still gets about 220 miles before requiring a charge. The car has more space than its BMW and Mercedes competitors. It accelerates better. it is today’s car of the future. Pending repair and maintenance feedback, the Tesla is not only a winner but a game changer. Gas-fueled cars are on the way out or on the way down, however you want to look at it.

Land yachts, with names like Denali, Sequoia and Yukon, are a dying breed. They will be replaced by jumbo’s with names like Callisto, Io, Ganymede and Europa – the mammoth Galilean moons of Jupiter: ships of the sky.

It’s going to take time for the world to convert to electric cars, but convert it will. In 1973, OPEC first flexed its collective muscle by shutting down oil exits to the US. Citizens pulled together long enough to curse their tormentors. Then in a show of unity, we moved onto to learning ways of syphoning gas out of a neighbor’s tank.

Few heeded the omen of shortages to come; the politics of energy. US manufacturers were slow to react with economical vehicles. The 1976 model year showed no evidence of recognition For example, Lincoln brought out its Continental In four design packages Hence, the Bill Blass Mark IV, a car that has taken its place along side the Edsel.

In 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from political exile; seized the American embassy and shut down oil production – just a little. It was enough to send a second shockwave through the United States automobile culture. Prices rose, gas lines formed. As soon as the crisis ended, automakers returned with new breeds of behemoth: minivans, SUVs, crossovers, land cruisers. Real progress in fuel economy efficiency stopped in the early 1990s. Petroleum-dependent cars of the 2015 model year showed negligible improvement in the 15 year window.

Meanwhile in another part of the world, the first electric/hybrid car was being designed and built. Toyota’s Prius was introduced to the world in the 1990s, making landfall in the United States in 1999. With average air and water temperature levels rising annually, the push was on to make progress for environmental as well as economic reasons. Thus, the Tesla, an electric car that cuts our dependence upon petroleum and eliminates the carbon emissions that are destructive to the earth’s atmosphere.

Naturally, this is the perfect time to discuss whether or not climate change is real. Do you want to ignore that ice

Naturally, this is the perfect time to discuss whether climate change is real. Do you want to ignore that iceberg the size of Delaware floating around in the southern hemisphere? Or that we keep hitting a record temperature annually? Or that there is a hole in the ozone layer that will not close? Go right ahead and be doubters about climate change. Persist in your belief that we have done nothing to cause these shifting paradigms. Have at it! Mr. Musk will be driving his Jetsons car all the way to the bank.

The debate over the reality of climate change would be amusing if it were not frightfully stupid. Less than two months ago, an Ice Shelf broke off of Antarctica.

Whether human beings are altering the environment or not, the environment is changing the planet in extremely fast and terrifying ways. Human beings need to respond by preventing additional change and by adapting to emerging conditions. The Tesla is a phenomenon because it breaks through in both ways.

This is the really stupid part. Blaise Pascal, who is a 17th-century French mathematician and philosopher. Like others of his age he had to reconcile his findings in natural philosophy with the belief in God. Pascal happened to be a man of faith, and he was challenged by his colleagues for the discrepancy between his belief and his professional findings. Pascal devised an argument known as the Wager.

Pascal’s argument was that people should believe in a God and act in accordance with religious principles. Naturally, Pascal was contemplating a Christian God but it really doesn’t matter for our purpose. If it turns out that there is a God and you have been a person of good will, you have lost nothing of significance – material wealth maybe, libido running wild perhaps. But if there is a God and you have not acted as if there were, you will be in a colossal mess. You will have sinned without seeking absolution. That’s trouble with the capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for perdition. In the words of that great 21st century moral philosopher, Donald J. Trump, “What have you got to lose?” Or as Pascal put it:

Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.

 

Many of my philosopher friends, of which there are none, are prepared to point out the flaws of the Wager as proof of the existence of God. However I do not suggest this as proof of the divine. Pascal’s wager is a good practical approach to dealing with uncertainty when the consequences are significant.

The same principle applies to environmental practice. If there is no climate change and we have developed less toxic and invasive means of producing energy, we lose very little. But the water and air will be cleaner, and our environmental practices will not cause any further deterioration. However, if mankind is destroying the environment through its energy industry and we do nothing about it but continue the same destructive ways, we will lose the World.

Think about energy production in terms of Pascal’s Wager, The best course of action is obvious. With the benefit of revolutionary propulsion technology, independent of the petroleum industry, belief is beside the point.

 

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