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  • Snake Oil is Still Snake Oil

    • Posted on Jul 31, 2016
    Here's this morning's Courier column--seems many of us are behaving like suckers buying snake oil from a billionaire salesman.  He's fooling a lot of a people a lot of the time.  

    We’re surrounded by problems and suckers for solutions.   That’s life.  

     So when we face problems, we seek solutions, and gravitate toward finding the best with the least effort and expense. 

     This makes us vulnerable to fake solutions, always and everywhere.   

     Old-time traveling medicine shows promoted cure-alls, often concoctions of alcohol and opiates.  Headache?  Two measures of Dr. Miracle’s Kure will fix it.  Ulcers? Dr. Miracle’s Kure has helped thousands.  Cancer? Five measures of Kure will make your tumors disappear. 

     Suckers, I mean customers, might feel cured for a day or two. Then problems returned, worse than before.   

     Snake oil, quackery, con, flim-flam, it’s been a constant.  Selling hope to the problem-ridden fearful.  

     The GOP behaved exactly like a traveling medicine show in Cleveland.   

     One drumbeat kept booming: Be afraid. We’re in big trouble. 

     Trumpeters passionately seem to believe in Trump’s vision: immigration laxity, ISIL fanatics, companies shutting down to move offshore for cheap labor, stagnant economy for the middle class.  Then there are gender/sexual orientation problems, the race problem—these falling under the category of political correctness and racial animosity.  

     These challenges were wildly exaggerated, made to look downright dangerous with misleading statistics and the usual bag of huckster tricks. 
    What’s the solution to this fearsome decline?  There’s only one: Donald Trump.  

    How does he know?  He consulted Himself.  
    Obviously it’s snake oil. When you ask for specifics, you get incoherent assertions that add up to “Trust me, I will make them happen.”  

     There are solutions out there, but they’re long-term, complex, and require collaboration. 

    Not once has he mentioned working with congress or our allies to move toward real solutions. Trump promotes his ego-based solutions—usually a fantasy of some kind (the wall) or illegal (torture, bombing noncombatants deliberately) that any real leader would seriously question. 

     Very wealthy people have to resist becoming states in themselves, virtual dictators.  

     A dictator, for a time, can impose his will on the world.  As the saying goes, 
    “dictators have nothing but friends until the last ten minutes of their rule.”  
    The U.S. President, in contrast, has limited power to change anything without congressional cooperation and collaboration.  Nothing Trump proposes could get done without it.   Is he a cooperator and collaborator?  No evidence so far. 

     A ghostwriter named Tony Schwartz recently confessed to having created a Frankenstein in his Trump book, “Art of the Deal.” 

     Having kept quiet until now about his research in 1987, he tells all in a recent New Yorker interview. Trump bears almost no resemblance to “Donald Trump” that Schwartz created in “Art of the Deal.”   Schwartz says he would have called it “The Sociopath.”  

     Here’s his conclusion: “If Trump is elected President . . .the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them”

     If elected, Trump will create the world’s biggest problem, with no solution in sight. 

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Conservatives/Liberals
  • Home Roots Go Deep

    • Posted on Jul 17, 2016
    Here's this morning's Courier column.  Felt especially attached to the Cedar Valley when we flew home here after two months.  Probably a bit sentimental, but still accurate for me. 

    Gliding down through three layers of clouds last Sunday night into the Cedar Valley on a flight from Chicago after two months in the deep South, one word came to mind: Home. 

     Not that I was suffering homesickness, mind you, nor any specific need to get home.  It was just time to return, and descending into the Cedar Valley, it felt just right. 

     We had just glided over the Mississippi, and twenty minutes later, the Cedar River, then down into the farmscape that I’ve welcomed so many times on the Chicago flight home. 
    It’s better in daytime when the landscape shows crop rectangles, tree lines, backyards, gardens, houses, factory roofs, connecting roads, all in their July versions. 

     The night flight offers shades of dark and shadow punctuated by street and yard lights, the occasional vertical line of blinking red tower signals, and two-eyed cars crawling home.  

    That winding Cedar river, where for decades I’ve picnicked, swam, daydreamed, canoed, tubed, sandbagged, and feared its rising waters, provides some of my home feel. It’s a constant feature that unites the Cedar Valley and deserves to be celebrated.     
    Yet home is more than a river.  Even though I’m gone part of every year, I revel at returning to Iowa. 

    James Hearst wrote that that Iowa is “a land not known by mountain’s height, or tides of either ocean—a land in its working clothes.”   Just so. 

     There’s an honesty and straightforwardness here that I don’t feel elsewhere.  What you see is mostly what you get.  Yet there’s a constant undercurrent of shyness, even inferiority from our deep Scandinavian heritage.  Large egos usually leave.  

     Read Garrison Keillor for a full explanation. 

     I recognize that we have serious issues, certainly with racism, which we don’t like to admit or discuss, but it’s there.  And a deep conservatism hangs on, unable to recognize that we’re not going back to the mythical good old days that amounted to region-wide denial.   

     In Charleston, my other home city, a good Charlestonian friend was lucky enough (after selling his company) to choose where to move and set up housekeeping.  He researched the entire country, as well as a few European destinations, and chose Charleston.  To him, it now feels like home. 

    He’s a biker, golfer, kayaker, born in Wisconsin, but lived in Texas for years, and enjoys an active outdoor social life year-round. 

     He made the right choice, he says, and plans to grow old there happily. 

    That’s exactly how I feel about our Cedar Valley.   

    Iowa amounts to social paradise compared to South Carolina, which still hovers around bottom in educational quality, (Iowa is 13th, South Carolina 45th) life expectancy, (Iowa is 15th, South Carolina is 42nd) and so on.   As a South Carolina lawyer asserted in 1860, just after the state had seceded,  “South Carolina—too small for a republic, too big for an insane asylum.” 

    That’s why whenever I return to Iowa, I instantly relax into the rhythms, sounds, smells, and feel of home.  

     Whenever I leave, my heart stays here.  

    Go comment!
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