Monthly Archives: August 2015

Scapegoat Politics

This is how it started in Germany, only now it’s here, among us. The politics of hate and scapegoating, brought out from under its slimy rock in the Republican Party by Donald Trump and made all the more evident by his fellow nomination seekers following his lead to the right. Yes, Latinos have become the new Jews. Oh, and according to Jeb Bush, so have Asians.

At the risk of getting our hands filthy by prying the rock clear of its underlying muck, let’s take a closer look at what’s going on.

In this blog, I’ve previously pointed out that Republican political ideology requires the maintenance of class structure and, specifically, the ongoing presence of a lower socioeconomic class. There is a systematic failure to acknowledge society’s responsibility for elevating that class, which is viewed by the increasingly, radically right wing Republican party as somehow both morally and biologically inferior to the white, right, old guard and otherwise economically privileged. This blaming of the victims of economic, racial and ethnic discrimination coupled with unmitigated greed in the pursuit of self-interest has kept inner cities ghettoized, minority area schools inferior, and decent employment with upward mobility an incongruous reality in a country that hypocritically espouses equality of opportunity for all. (I’d include women in those being discriminated against, but that’s a subject for another whole article.)

The Republican right, aside from being nearly all white – where the hell did Clarence Thomas come from? — is also overwhelmingly Christian. Not in the “do unto your neighbor” kind of Christianity they pray for on Sunday, but in the day to day kind of Christianity that thinks there’s a “war on Christmas” (there isn’t), that the country was founded as a Christian nation (it most certainly was not), and that there should be no such thing as separation of church and state (the negation of a fundamental principle of our nation).

Taken all together, the Republican philosophy has unsurprisingly led to a paranoid set of beliefs characterized by increasingly mean spirited xenophobia with an overlay of anger over the fact that the country is changing before their eyes in ways they are powerless to prevent.

Beware the actions of ignorant, angry, paranoid people in large groups, because they will be easily goaded into destructive actions by the demagogues that will inevitably emerge. And so, enter Donald Trump, part schoolyard bully, part bigot, and catalyst for the irrational scapegoating of Latinos, Asians and anyone else they suspect of subverting “the American way of life”. And don’t confuse him or his followers with the facts. Illegal immigration numbers are down, and no white citizens really want to take all those jobs picking fields and paying three bucks for a cucumber.

The bad news for the misguided right wing is that from very near its origin America has been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-racial society, and the increasing proportion of non-white and ethnically diverse people is simply the manifestation of that fact in the twenty-first century. The country is changing because it is always changing, and in general we have been a better people because of that fact and not in spite of it.

The danger we face today is that our failed educational system, our factionalizing churches, synagogues, temples and mosques, and our enforced and entrenched class system all threaten to transform the country into a nation more closely resembling a Middle East war zone than the bastion of freedom and justice that we claim as our (albeit imperfect) heritage. We cannot allow the demagogues to steer the sheep, most of whom have deeply rooted views that we cannot hope to change. What we can do is encourage those of greater intelligence, perspective, and realistic views to stand up to the demagogues and inspire vigorous enough electoral expression to prevent America from becoming a right wing theocracy. Donald Trump and those who would follow his lead, including his cowardly fellow nomination seekers, need to be marginalized, branded for what they are: ignorant bigots. The country deserves better than these cockroaches, and if we don’t shine a light to scatter them, the blame will fall solidly on us.

Don’t let it happen. Please.

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I Hate iTunes

I hate iTunes, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one who swears a blue streak at what can only be described as the software application from hell. Here’s my litany of complaints:

  • Every now and then, it just refuses to acknowledge my password, resulting in the need to do a password change before I can log in.
  • Photo management is a nightmare. Some pics cannot be offloaded from my iPhone and iPad into regular .jpg files while others can. Syncing rarely gives me the results I’m looking for, and when pictures do transfer more or less as desired, their display order is totally f***ed up.
  • I play the guitar and often want to transfer backing tracks from a variety of sources to my iPad. The process isn’t consistent, and every time I attempt to do it, it takes me as long as 10 minutes to figure out how iTunes wants me to do it.
  • No really good support manual exists for the application, leaving users at the mercy of Google searches.

What’s wrong with Apple, anyway? How can they make such terrific hardware and screw up so badly on their software support? Or is it intentional? Maybe they want it to be difficult? How else to explain such a rotten piece of cybercrap?

Unfortunately, the only alternative is a move to Android, which has its own limitations and problems. And, besides, I’ve got so much stuff on my iPhone and two iPads right now that a switch simply isn’t a palatable alternative.

Now, if you think I’m the only person in the world who thinks iTunes is a horrible example of ergonomic design, just Google “iTunes is shit” and watch what comes up. Yeah, there are a lot of us out there. How about you?

Post-Op Pain, Creativity, and Productivity

Seven weeks ago I underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder. I’d always heard that the pain following repair and the ensuing recovery period with physical therapy were difficult to bear, but even though I am a (retired) physician, I had no idea how much pain I’d actually experience and how completely wearing it could be. The baseline pain is a 24 hour burden, exacerbated by movement, lack of movement (yes), torturous physical therapy, and the exercises that must be done two to three times a day. The prognosis: 80% recovery in three to four months and whatever residual recovery I’ll see by six months.

Now, you might think I’m complaining about all this, but you’d be wrong. I was warned, I underwent the repair because it needed to be done, and I’ll get through the next several months whatever it takes. Not to do so would be to live with restricted mobility in my arm for the rest of my life, and that is flatly unacceptable. No, then, no pity. That’s not the purpose of this week’s missive. No, the real purpose is to discuss the effect all this has had, and is having, on creativity, productivity, and, specifically, my work on the loosely related sequel to Zendoscopy.

It’s not surprising how physical pain can sap the urge to express oneself creatively, especially when the accompanying physical limitation precludes doing much writing by longhand or typing. For weeks following surgery, I had to type by left-handed hunt and peck, and it’s only recently that I’m back to some limited two handed touch typing. Even that is limited, though, as my right arm will only tolerate so much before needing a rest. This paragraph, for example, is being written 24 hours after the preceding ones.

Last week, I got permission to restart playing the guitar, and I expect to get back to more extended writing soon. In the meantime, I’ll try to be terse and pithy in my blog entries. In that spirit, I offer the following:

  • I’m going to miss Jon Stewart.
  • Donald Trump is the poster child for what’s wrong with the Republican Party, even as the Party would like to get rid of him for revealing its true colors.
  • We must be well into summer. Look at all those criminally stupid people leaving their kids and pets locked up in broiling cars.
  • While climate change continues to manifest itself in terrifying ways, the deniers continue to do nothing about it.
  • Guns, guns, guns. While the mayhem continues, Rick Perry voices the imbecilic opinion that one partial solution would be to allow patrons to take guns into movie theatres.
  • As fuel prices are starting to come down, gas guzzler purchases will surely rise.
  • Republicans, in their opposition to all things Obama, would rather see Iran get a nuclear weapon in two months than approve an agreement that would prevent it for at least ten years.
  • Oh, and did I make the point strongly enough that I’m going to miss Jon Stewart?