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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
  • Old Glory and Free Speech

    • Posted on Jul 03, 2016
    Here's today's (July 3) Courier column.  Watching the salt tide wash away a sand graffiti version of an American flag on a beach got me to thinking:  Should that sand flag-scratcher be prosecuted for desecration? 

    Recently I was moseying along an Atlantic beach at low tide when I came upon an American flag scratched out in the sand with a stick. 

     It had the familiar outline—the box in the upper left with stars, horizontal stripes on the right and bottom, the whole sitting in a rectangle.  Well done, I thought, probably by a patriotic beach-walker with a sharp stick.  

     I knew that graffiti-sand flag wouldn’t last past noon, thanks to the approaching tide. 

     Imagine if someone had placed a Wal-Mart American flag there instead, and tacked it down with sticks.  The saltwater tide would inundate it daily.     

     Trouble. People would complain that a “real” flag was being desecrated by saltwater and carelessness.  No such problem with the sand flag.   

     That flag was a mere scrawl, a graffiti that any smart 10-year-old could have done. 

     So should patriots take “real” flags more seriously than sand flags?  Should anyone be fined or jailed for “desecrating” store-bought versions of Old Glory? 

     No.  They should not. If desecrating a flag depends on the elaborateness and detail with which the flag is created, it’s nonsense. 

     The flag serves as the country’s logo, and worldwide, the Stars and Stripes symbolizes what the country stands for.  Nothing more, nothing less.

     If this seems like common sense, point your browser to “Flag Desecration Amendment” and check out the serious attempts to outlaw flag destruction. 

     In the late 1960s, legislators from practically every state as well as federal legislators were rabidly opposed to flag burnings by Vietnam War protestors. 

    It infuriated them to see their beloved Stars and Stripes trampled and burned. 

     If you think the country’s divided now, a half-century ago we were burning down buildings—not just flags—and police and the National Guard were beating and shooting students for marching and protesting.  Now we merely carp and grouse on the Internet.  

     When the so-called “Flag Burning Amendment” to the constitution went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968, the decision split 5-4 in favor of “desecration” being free speech.  And therefore perfectly legal.  

     And get this—Justice Antonin Scalia voted with the majority, insisting that public
    desecration of the flag was in fact protected the by the First Amendment.    

    Still, the idea didn’t die.  The U.S. Senate brought it up in again as recently as 2006.  It lost by one vote.   Basically, lawmakers wanted to give the courts power to punish anyone who damaged the flag in any way. 

    That piece of colored cloth, in other words, would be treated like a powerful religious relic, with the government behaving like an avenging church.    

     There’s a crucial irony here.  You can’t damage a country’s freedom by hurting its logo.  The only way to inflict real damage is by curtailing freedom of speech.  

     That’s what anti-desecration laws would do, as the Supreme Court wisely declared.    

    Defacing or destroying any representation of the U.S. flag does nothing whatsoever to harm the country for which it stands, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
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