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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. 

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  • The Contradictory Nature of Conservatism

    • Posted on May 05, 2016
    I wrote this some eleven years ago, and evidently scrapped it; don't think it was published at the time.  Re-reading it now, it seems to hold up well, and as we witness the utter collapse of conservatism under the guidance of Donald Trump, it rings true.   

    +++++++++++++++++
    Conservatives want smaller government, but still expect to be protected and defended by a strong standing army/air force/navy/marines/coast guard.  

    They also know that the federal government helps protect the food supply, and has a hand in detecting and preventing deadly epidemics.  Oh yes, they believe that upholding public morality is important, so regulating the media does have a role.  

     And they appreciate quality state education, though they might like to change it to fit their religious beliefs more than a secular government would allow.  They know how expensive private schools can be, so none call for national privatization of public schools.  

     They’d like to be able to drive or fly safely to any destination in the country safely and relatively cheaply, and that requires good roads as well as national oversight of the airlines, particularly when it comes to safety.  

    Oh yes, there’s social security, meaning some kind of assurance that old age doesn’t mean penury.  And Medicaid, which keeps medication costs from sending us all to the poorhouse. 

     All government programs, all costly, all to be continued.  So conservatives want smaller government, but no fewer services.  Ask a conservative what they would get rid of to cut government spending, and you end with a very short list. We’d still have a military, still government standards for food safety and water quality. We’d still have state schools both for grades 1-12, and they must know that our public universities remain the envy of the world.  

    As is the scientific research done at them, much of it funded by the federal government.  Because Americans have gotten so used to government providing so many critical services, from education to safe food to a large military, conservatives don’t seem to know how much they get from it.

     Like air to humans and water to fish, government is everywhere, so it’s taken for granted. In fact, here’s the dirty little secret behind conservatives’ anti-government rants:  they’re actually raving liberals by standards of just a few years ago. Few 1950s conservatives would have dreamed of the need for a pervasive and strong government in a globally-oriented world economy, not to mention a terrorist-threatened world.  

     Except for hot-button social issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and prayer in schools, today’s conservatives would seem rabidly liberal to 1950s conservatives,
    So though these conservatives can’t have a much smaller government, they yearn for it like their recent ancestors yearned for separation of the races, women keeping their place in the home, and a white-male dominated world.  

    We’ve moved beyond those too, thanks to liberal reforms, all of which conservatives fought--and lost. 

     Do any contemporary conservatives want women to stay out of the workplace? Would they now argue for segregation, as they once did so fervently?  Would they insist that blacks and whites not marry, as they once railed against “miscegenation” (interracial marriages) with as much fervor as they now outlaw gay marriages? 

     Of course not.  Such conservatives have long disappeared; we’ll all liberals now, no matter how much they might protest to the contrary.  That might explain why they’re so bitter and angry; except for a few outbuildings, they’ve lost the whole farm.     

     Of course conservatives still walk among us, but they mostly rant about secularism, about issues that they see threatening their beliefs, and about those demon liberals who seem to oppose such beliefs. 

     The major difference between liberals and conservatives these days?  Conservatives tend to base their arguments on black-and-white distinctions and demonizing the opposition, while liberals see complexities, gray areas, and mostly avoid name-calling and button-pushing, Al Franken excepted for his book, “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Liar.”   

     In a culture dominated by religion and the visual media, emotional demonizing will trump reason and facts every time.  

     Conservatives even admit this approach as a strategy.  In a review of Richard Viguerie and Richard Frankes’ book “America’s Right Turn,” conservative reviewer Diana Feygin points out that  “While conservatives have basically been able to say, 'This is good. This is evil. There is no in between . . .liberals have been more hesitant to identify the good and "vilify the bad" in such stark terms.  
    Shades of “evil empire” and “axis of evil,” by Presidents Reagan and GW Bush, not to mention the ugly ranting of the Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the nasty-wing conservatives.  

     Reviewer Fegin even admits that this all-pervasive and effective conservative strategy could bring the downfall of conservatives.  She ends her review with this: “ a reliance on muckraking to shame the 'bad guys' creates risks of its own. In the end, too much "black and white" victim rhetoric could bring to a premature defeat the movement Viguerie and Franke worked so painstakingly to establish.” 

     Given the fact that most of the liberal causes of a few years ago have already occurred, conservatives have nowhere to go but down and out.  






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