Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Let's End at the Beginning:



True man of the people:
"Trump simply doesn’t have the ability to form a coalition of strength the way our country is now constructed and populated."


As America (or at least, 37% of it), prepares to inaugurate Donald Trump as its next President, I think it’s a good time to put Major Re-Write out to pasture. This was my…5th?--or maybe even 6th blog to date; but this one never really got going. But that’s okay. Now that I see where the world and specifically this country’s going, I’ve got nothing to say to anybody. And apparently my neighbors (or at least, 37% of ‘em), don’t want to hear from me either. Course in a move that will surprise no one that’s followed me over the years, I’ll be starting my new blog called Open Mic in a couple weeks (I’ll post the link here when it’s up and running).

So, I’m going to end Major Re-Write by talking about the beginning. The beginning of perhaps the end. The end of public civility—or the expectation of it from our leaders. The end of respect for education. Or of institutions like the FBI or CIA or the Supreme Court. The end of critical and strategic thinking. Of precedent. Of journalism and its role in a Democracy. Or for that matter--of any writing that’s longer than 140 freaking characters. 

In my life I’ve found that, regardless of the field or endeavor, you can usually tell successes and/or major failures right from the start. There are always exceptions, but the signs more often than not are evident from the get-go. In the case of President-elect Trump, his inability to ever surpass the 40% vote mark—even in the early Republican primaries, was a harbinger of all the problems I see likely to come for his administration.  Even as he slowly peeled off one B-list (or C-list) Repub after another from the Republican Primary field, he still never got over 40-something % in any one contest* (*you might want to fact-check that). This was always my biggest concern and complaint against him from the start. He simply doesn’t have the ability to form a coalition of strength the way our country is now constructed and populated. Yes, he achieved the Affirmative Action/Electoral College win—I’m not going to challenge that; but that was by winning 49% of the 60% of eligible voters who were actually able to keep their lunch down and vote for one the two worst candidates in American history. That’s a God-awful way to start your term, especially when you consider how motivated Trump voters were to get to the polls. Whether it was their Floyd Mayweather/Justin Beiber-like hatred for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama; or just their belief in the orange-haired Caucasian messiah from NYC with the creepy, thin-lipped, East-European Stepford wife, Trump voters turned out! Showed up at the polls. And yet, they still couldn’t get past the 49% mark. 49% of 60% is…an elected President? I’d call it more of a, “declared winner by the rules as written.”

I repeat, as of this writing Trump’s approval rating stands at 37%. This is where he’s starting his first-term. That’s going hurt him (and us) sooner rather than later. My prediction (which I’ll admit isn’t very unique or original) is a relatively smooth ride for the first 8 to 10 months as the Repubs use him to pass what they want and secure their Supreme Court nominations; and then—as their paths begin to diverge, the center’s going to fail to hold.

Course I’ve been wrong throughout most of this process to date, so one more time wouldn’t be shocking. If there really is such a thing as karma, then Donald Trump must have been some kind of 11 year old Thai-boy prostitute in his past life. He’s certainly gotten and gets every break in this life. Inherited the equivalent of $250 million dollars as a kid for no accomplishment of his own. Wins the Repub nomination against the worst 12 pieces of Republican shyte this country’s ever produced. Obtains the Presidency via an Electoral College win against the lamest Democratic candidate since Michael Dukakis—and only accomplished that with the help of the Russians, a last-second intervention by the FBI’s James Comey, and the decision by Joe Biden not to run. And now he's going to inherit a rapidly growing economy that’s already at full-employment; with rising home prices; the stock market at record levels; and no on-going, full-time military commitments (least beyond what’s been normal for the leading country of NATO and the free world). Plus he gets a majority Repub Congress that’s going to pass tax reform and ease banking/business regulations. So committing this post to writing may prove to be a real big embarrassment for old Lodo Grdzak in years to come. Yet I promise not to take this post down or edit it even if that proves to be the case.

But unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue; mainly because the failure to achieve the 50% or higher approval rating or vote-count is indicative of a larger, more fundamental problem for a candidate like George Bush Jr, or now Trump. One that goes beyond just policy disagreements. It says something in a very basic way about the candidate’s leadership powers--or lack thereof when they can’t clear that hurdle. Why cant they? Or couldn’t they? The #1 thing a leader does or is supposed to do is lead. Unite their party via charisma, shared interest and vision--and then take it to the country as a whole. And yet the numbers don’t lie. Never surpassed 40-something % in even the Repub primaries. 49% of 60% in the General Election. And now 37%  approval rate. Should Trump lose too many more points to he’ll already be approaching Watergate numbers. Or 2nd term Bush Jr numbers. And were still a week away from inauguration.

The most disconcerting thing to me is, who’s going to start coming to Trump’s side over time? Where with his attitude—with his style and method of communication; his obvious disdain for the people is he going to suddenly start to pick-up support? Trump still won’t show his tax returns to clear-up his business/Russian dealings and is already complaining about having to give up a $2 billion dollar hotel deal in the Middle East because “he doesn’t like the way that’d look.” Gosh Donald, sorry being President is a step-down for you. Sorry if--God forbid we experience a terrorist attack, we Plebeians would like to know you’ve been a full-time President and not splitting your time between Trump, Inc. and that side-project known as President of the United States. Trump really has only one consistent base. People so committed to him that “he could walk down 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and they’d still vote for him.” And we all know who that is. And why he phrased it that way. So if/when things don’t go his way we know who he’s going to turn to for support. And against. To distract the masses or to intimidate the remaining populace.

I don’t think America would have ever descended to the point of a Donald Trump without the rise of the internet or its vile offspring—Twitter. The damage that robotics, and particularly the internet have done to society and community make crack cocaine look like a box of Pixie-sticks. Course the job-destroying creators of the internet and personal computers/smartphones presently hiding behind our political leaders aren’t street thugs. They went to Stanford and Harvard and MIT and the like--so no need to be concerned about that incessant, obsessive-compulsive need to check your emails. Nothing psychologically damaging there. Let Capitalism flow like a river! That inability of your kid to focus on any single topic for more than 20 minutes ‘cause they’re checking their Facebook status or responding in kind (plus one) to that chat-board commenter on the opposite side of the issue?  Healthy stuff for mind and critical thinking! Spending time contemplating just ONE topic is so last century!!

The realities of today’s modern predicament have caught up with the First World in the form of Donald Trump. Fact is, we don’t like each other. Many of us over 50 don’t like ourselves. There’s too many of us. There’s not enough meaningful, satisfying work for us to do and the work that does exist is all mental. Intellectual. Chick shit and fag stuff. It doesn’t exhaust the body’s physical energy. Instead, that energy keeps getting turned back on itself via that previously mentioned Facebook and internet and FOX News and the like. Cycling in what I’d argue is a very unhealthy manner. And yet Google, Apple, GM, Amazon—they’re all stampeding full speed ahead towards artificial intelligence, driver-less cars, drone delivery service.  The days of walking down a quiet street will soon be a thing of the past. Instead we’ll have the constant humming and buzzing of drones in our ear, the underlying chirp of street signs communicating with traffic signals will be the new summertime crickets, and of course there’s going to be cameras, cameras, cameras! All while we sit at home or our cars and look out the window like a dog for our next delivery.

Einstein once famously stated that you can’t simultaneously prepare for war while preparing for peace; and in a similar vein I’d assert that you cannot consistently de-value human life and the value of work on a daily basis, and then expect people to have more respect for each other. Or themselves. Yet here we are adding  roughly a million people to our overall world’s population and labor force every single week while Apple, Amazon, Google and the like continue to destroy the need for mom and pop businesses; for commercial real estate like malls; for drivers of cars and trucks; for factory workers. No more need for a watch, no more need for a calendar, no more need for a camera, or film, or a newspaper, or record store, or a map, or a travel agent, or…where are all those big job gains and products technology and Trump have promised supposed to come from?

There’s a point where the convenience allegedly secured or obtained via technology simply flattens out. Or even diminishes my happiness. And intellect. Once you have hot/cold running water in your house; a fridge; electricity; a toilet and shower; a stove/oven; a car; a stereo; a TV. These are life-changing things for someone who’ve never had them before. Big things. That said, beyond those modern necessities, everything else is just more shit. Stuff. The fact that I can monitor my house while I’m away at work via cameras and timers. Uh, okay. I wouldn’t exactly call that a necessity or life-changing product. Just another distraction really.  Another device for the Russians and crooks to hack. The fact that I can record my shows via TIVO? Wow! What a world. But where are the places going to be where we come together in common cause? Chores are,…well a chore, but they provide a platform where we can work together in pursuit of a singular goal. Where we can pass the time with each other—not online, but in-person (a/k/a reality).  Creating a machine that wipes my ass for me when I get up from the toilet isn’t necessarily empowering. Kind of makes me a baby doesn’t it? And removing the need for physical community makes me isolated, not connected to my neighborhood or country.

Were on the road to nowhere in a driver-less car, but no political leader can ever say “have smaller families.” No CEO of a company can admit “Uh, maybe the modern corporation doesn’t create or increase economic opportunity anymore.” That’s a big no-no to say in a Capitalistic society. Capitalism always needs more people! Always lifts boats! To reject that is heresy. So the CEO’s hide behind the politicians. And the politicians hide behind the flag and religion and mostly phony idealism. Trump is supposed to be the cure for all that. That anti-politician. The supposedly “straight-shooter.” Yet he’s already done a 180 on the Russian hacks. Already done a 180 on refusing to settle his Trump University lawsuit (now settled for $25 million dollars).  Already done a 180 on his agreement to fully divest from his business holdings. And at 37% approval, already proven he can’t live up to his promise to unite the country.

And his term is just beginning.

Maybe Trump’s genuinely got an economic plan. From what I’ve seen so far it looks like the plan is another Obama-like stimulus (which the Repubs simply call an Infrastructure Bill or Border Wall) coupled with the repatriation of billions in overseas money by Apple, GE, and Amazon. Wow, what an original mind Trump’s got, though it'll probably be enough to create the short-term illusion of actual economic accomplishment. Then again, maybe economic progress isn’t the goal. Maybe more stagnation is the plan. More stagnation, more anxiety, more political instability, and then…when someone here at home finally loses it and takes a shot at the wrong leader or institution—bam! The race-baiting starts. The search for an enemy. Marshall Law. 

Probably not. Fact is I hate Trump so much I can’t really think straight about the guy. The Tweeted messages, the myth of his great business acumen when in fact he lost over $900 million dollars (in boom year 1995!). Plus it’s been proven that if he just put his money in the Russell 2000 all those years ago he’d have done a lot better than where he’s at. Let’s not forget the grossly obvious pandering to hillbillies he’d never even let on his servant’s driveway; the adolescent 3rd world banana-republic blustering; or the never-ending appeasement by his supporters on his tax returns, his five military deferments, and the way he and his wife conduct themselves (remember all the critiques of Obama’s conduct for simply appearing on a talk show?). How ‘bout the worldwide exposure of his real estate holdings to possible terrorism? Are U.S. soldiers now expected to respond to that very likely possibility? We've now got another two-dozen "embassies" to protect. In the name of Trump. You’re tired of the “Wall Street bankers” and insiders so you elect trust-fund Trump? And now what kind of people does he have in his cabinet?

Course my issues with Trump are more direct. More visceral. You cant hate a guy like I hate Trump until you have personal experiences.

Most of my readers know I’m an insurance investigator. That’s my trade. Around the time I first moved to NYC—a few years after, but lets not get bogged down; I got a job at a private firm. When I was hired we negotiated salary, benefits and whatnot. One of the things we absolutely agreed upon was that I’d receive $250 a month as a car allowance. For parking, insurance and…whatever. That’s something I insisted upon and I negotiated for it. It was agreed via handshake.

But after just two months I got my paycheck and expense check and…where’s my freaking car allowance? I called up my boss—Tony.

“Tony, you forgot to send me my car allowance.”

“I didnt forget Lodo, I’m not paying that anymore.”

“What do you mean you’re not paying it? That’s $250 a month.”

“I know, that’s why I’m not paying it. I’ve looked at your billing--you never use your car.”

“You knew I wasn’t going to use it in the city. We talked about that at my interview. …Are you gonna raise my pay another $250 a month? That’s gonna get taxed differently, but I guess I can accept that.”

“I’m not giving you anything Lodo, you don’t use the car.”

“I havent used it yet. Besides, that doesn’t matter. We had an agreement. This is just part of my overall pay-package. We talked about this at length.”

“Yeah, well I’m not paying that. You wanna leave after two months—go ahead. How you think that’s going to look? ”

Freaking asshole. Hope you know I walked right then.

And that’s not the only time. I got a job several years later with a guy named Barry. A guy who I thought was my friend; so again, just a handshake. But within the first month of working with him he tried making major changes to my healthcare plan. Shortly thereafter he called me into his office to make a lot of petty complaints.

“Lodo, it takes us hours to re-write your reports. They’re terrible.”

“Hours?--really? With an “s” at the end? I was always told reporting’s my best thing. I’ve had companies use my reports as their samples for new hires. That’s surprising to me.”

“Well its true. And that’s why I’m not going to be able to keep paying you the same rate.”

“Wait a minute, it takes you hours—with an ‘s’ at the end to edit my reports but you’re not firing me? You just want to pay me less?”

“Yep. I cant pay you the same for this kind of work.”

“Why wouldn’t you fire me if its taking you hours to rework my reports?”

“Look, here’s the deal—take it or leave it.”

So you know I left that too. But I could afford to, which is what lying leeches like Barry and Trump don’t expect. Or want.

Luckily for me I’m one of the best at what I do. And I have a trade that’s stable. But for the young people (and those over 55);  when the work dries up, trust amongst ourselves diminishes, the proverbial office water-cooler and meeting places disappear due to technology, the original traditions of our country age, the population gets old and tired, and critical thinking skills erode due to TV and Facebook and the like, what’re you left with?
I suppose one thing. A thing that never goes away. So simple its black and white. And you can bet Trump and his team know who’ll support him if and when he decides to take that walk down 5th Avenue. 

* NOTE: I should be starting my new blog in a few weeks. Link will be posted at this site. Thanks for reading y'all!! 

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