Saturday, May 21, 2016

TRACKER



I am scared. I mean really scared. A few weeks ago my wife and I got an offer to lower our automobile insurance by up to 30 percent. All we had to do was put a tracker under the dashboard in our car. The tracker would record our driving habits and send them to the insurance company. We soon learned that we both had a bad habit: Jack rabbit starts (me), hard braking (Janet). So we’re trying to rein in those habits. In the meantime someone told Janet that the tracker was another means of keeping us under surveillance.

That got me to thinking about the other ways that outsiders can look into our private affairs. The first thing that comes to mind is EZ Pass. With that device, the government can tell what time you went through each toll booth. They can even estimate your speed. A long time ago my father got a speeding ticket when he went from one toll booth to another in less time than he would have been able to if he didn’t go over the speed limit.

A few years ago I took some pictures of Janet in Maine with my cell phone. Those pictures are stamped with the date and place, so they show that Janet was in Freeport, Maine, on a certain date. There are still other ways to follow my movements. If I make a cell phone call, investigators can pinpoint my location through triangulating the cell phone towers that carry my call.

And then there is all that stuff on the internet. Google, Facebook, et al, know where I browsed, how long I stayed on particular sites, what I ordered over the internet. We have no privacy anymore.

I am not particularly paranoid, so why am I worried? I am worried that a year from now, Donald Trump could be President of the United States. What has that got to do with being tracked on the internet? Just this: I would not want to live in a country under President Trump. As Trump started pulling ahead of his rivals, I began speculating whether I could claim dual citizenship and move to Canada. (My parents were still Canadian citizens when I was born.) I realize, however, that at my age it would be a difficult adjustment for me to move to a country that is even colder than Maine in winter. I need a Plan B.

The prospect of the general election is frightening. The best thing you can say about a Hillary-Donald match-up is, “I admit my candidate isn’t very good, but at least he/she would not be as bad as yours.”

If The Donald becomes president, and it becomes too difficult for me to move to Canada, I would at least like to move to a cave somewhere where no one could find me. But with all that tracking, geopositioning, internet cookies, etc., there is no way I could I could disappear from view.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MIDDLE CLASS?



It’s disappearing. That’s what. The middle class, as defined by families with an annual income from $35,000 to $100,000, is dwindling. In 1967, 53 percent on the American population fit into this category. By 2013 only 43 percent were in the middle income group.

It’s pretty common knowledge how this has come about. Good paying factory jobs have gone overseas or have been taken over by robots in this country. People with limited education have been particularly hard hit by this change in the economy. It has become difficult for them to find jobs, and when they are hired, the pay is much lower than it would have been in factory jobs in the past.

Younger people graduating from college face their own set of problems. They are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, and it is not easy for them to find good jobs. Many young men and women in their late twenties, instead of setting out on their own, are moving back in with their parents.

The middle class is hurting. Not only has the quality of their lives been diminished, but the length of life itself is getting shorter. The life expectancy of Americans grew dramatically over the 20th century. It continues to grow in the current century—except for middle-aged whites. The people in this group are dying at a faster rate through an increase in suicides and problems related to substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of opioids. This is particularly true of people who had not gone to college.

For many in this group, the American Dream is a fantasy. Some bankers became obscenely rich through weird schemes which involved giving mortgages to people who would not be able make the payments. Then the bottom fell out as the Great Recession hit. Middle class people lost their jobs, their homes, and their health insurance, which was tied to those jobs. They looked to government for help, but they didn’t get it. Instead of working together, Congress and the White House were at odds. The Senate majority leader said that his main goal was to see that Obama would be a one-term president.

It should be no surprise then that embittered members of the middle class do not expect any help from government and reach to outsiders who can shake things up and get government working again. The problem is, these outsiders will not be able to keep the promises they have been making. Even though Bernie Sanders has been in the United States Senate for a long time, he is an outsider. He calls himself a Democratic Socialist. He was not even a member of the Democratic Party until he decided to run for the presidency. His proposals sound good to many people: Put tighter controls on the banks, make the super rich pay more taxes. Let all Americans who want to go to college. The difficulty is, these things don’t come about by fiat. They require the cooperation with Congress. How do you think the current Congress would respond to Bernie’s proposals?

Donald Trump may be intelligent (as he keeps telling people), but he is profoundly ignorant. As the owner of a vast real estate empire, he is not even answerable to a corporate board. It’s his money, and he can do whatever he wants with it. The President of the United States does not have that freedom. He is answerable to Congress, the Supreme Court, and the people of the United States. If the American people are unhappy with the president, he can be impeached.

Not only does Trump fail to recognize the limits of the president’s ability, he (Trump) doesn’t even seem to have a clear vision of how to accomplish any of the thing he calls for or to recognize what damage some of his proposals would do to the position of the United States in the world.

Since the malaise of the middle class arose from the elimination of good paying factory jobs, both Trump and Sanders have plans to fix it. Trump would start imposing high tariffs on goods imported from China. The problem with that is that China and other countries would retaliate by charging high tariffs on goods from the United States. It would lead to world-wide economic turmoil. In the end, it would do more harm than good to the American economy.

Sanders would stop international trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership., which he believe would result in sending more American jobs overseas.

The problem with both their views is that they want to take America back to some point in the past. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.” And you can’t go back. The past that we remember with such nostalgia is gone. The world has been changed profoundly in the last quarter century by computers. Instead of looking toward the past, we need to look to the future where more computer-related jobs will be created. In the transition to that future, we need to help the middle class.

Think of the projects created by Franklin Roosevelt to help the country climb out of the Great Depression. These projects put millions of people to work and helped improve the country’s infrastructure. Under Eisenhower people were put to work creating America’s superhighways. The infrastructure today is in bad shape. Many of the country’s bridges are unsafe. We need to fix them, and we need to create jobs for the millions of people who have fallen out of the middle class.



Saturday, April 30, 2016

An Interview with former Presidential Candidate Carl Perrin



Yes, I have a major regret, said Perrin, getting right to the point. I should have taken the campaign more seriously from the beginning. The problem with this presidential election is that there have been no good candidates on either side. Trump is a liar and a bully. He lacks the gravitas and the temperament to be president. He has no policy plans except his ego. In the beginning a lot of people thought that his campaign was a joke, but no one is laughing now.  It seems that he most likely will capture the Republican nomination.

Cruz is one of the most disliked politicians ever, and no one hates him more than his Republican colleagues. The former Republican Speaker of the House called Cruz a miserable son of a bitch, the devil in the flesh. Cruz has taken the unusual step of naming a running mate even though he cannot gain the nomination unless there is a brokered convention. His running mate, Carly Fiorina, isn’t much better liked than the Texas Senator. As CEO of HP computer company, she ran the business almost into the ground until she was booted. Before she was booted out, she cut thousands of jobs from HP.

Ohio governor John Kasich doesn’t seem too bad. He has political experience as congressman and governor. He is well liked in the Buckeye State. He looks especially good in comparison to Trump and Cruz. But he has garnered only a handful of delegates, compared to his two rivals, who each have hundreds.

Really, things don’t look much better on the Democratic side. Bernie Sanders has attracted an enthusiastic following. A lot of people like his ideas about taking more from the rich and creating benefits like free college for everyone. The problem is it seems more and more unlikely that he would ever be able to bring these ideas to fruition. Further, in interviews with the New York Post, he seemed unprepared, uninformed even about issues relating to the big banks that he would like to bring down.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the most competent and most qualified to do the job. However, while she is not as disliked at Trump or Cruz, a lot of people dislike her. She admits that she is not a natural politician, but she has a politician’s manner of evading painful questions. A lot of people just don’t trust her. Barack Obama was held in check by a Republican Congress who did everything they could to abort anything he tried. Congress seemed to have no regard to what would be good for the country. If Obama was for it, they would block it. If she is elected, Hillary can expect the same lack of cooperation from Republicans in Congress.

The upshot is, no matter which of these characters become the next president, a lot of people are going to be unhappy. Perrin feels sorry for the next president, no matter who it is. The country is going to be in a mess, trying to recover from the wounds that have been opened in this brutal election.

While Perrin regrets not getting into this year’s presidential campaign, there still is hope. At 90 Perrin will still be young enough to run for the presidency in 2020. After the disaster that the next president is sure to face, the voters of America will be happy to see a candidate who will bring common sense and mature judgment to the political scene.



   

Friday, January 15, 2016

singular they

Singular "they," the gender-neutral pronoun, has been named the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society this month. For example, "If anyone has a better idea, they’re welcome to try it."

It has been a long time since I was in high school, but it’s not true that dinosaurs were still around during my teenage years. However, I was taught to say, "If anyone has a better idea, he is welcome to try it." Such locutions, I admit, are now almost as out of date as tyrannosaurus rex.

Constructions like, "Everyone has to do their best for the team to win," started popping up on my students’ papers in the seventies. I used gallons of red ink correcting these sentences. I told my students that while such sentences might be  politically correct, they were grammatically incorrect, because “everyone” is singular, and “their” is plural. Like many of the causes I have defended in my lifetime, this was a losing battle.

By the eighties and nineties, I knew I was going to lose, and I admitted that to my students, but I continued to urge them not to commit sins of grammar in writing. Then I found myself once in a while saying things like, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion." When such sentences popped out of my mouth, I would say “oops,” and hope the grammar police had not heard me.


Now the American Dialect Society says it’s all right to use “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun. The Washington Post has adopted it in their style guide. I guess it’s okay to say, "Everyone looked out for their own interests." It’s okay, but I don’t think it will sound right to me. Everyone will do whatever they want anyway.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Help Inhofe Make America Great Again

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, one of the intellectual heavyweights of the Republican Party, walked onto the Senate floor last February, carrying a snowball. With this act he brilliantly proved that global warming is just another liberal hoax.

He would like to repeat the snowball act this year, but he hasn’t been able to find any snow around Washington. You have to be sorry for the poor guy. Like Prufrock, Inhofe has seen the moment of his greatness flicker.


You can help this poor man. If there is any snow where you are, take a few moments to make a snowball and mail it to him. Help Inhofe (and Trump) make America Great again.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Natural-born Citizen



Let’s all pile on Ted Cruz. Jon McCain, Ann Coulter, and of course, the Donald have all begun to question whether Cruz is eligible to be president of the United States because he was born in Canada, although his parents were naturalized American citizens.


Former presidential candidate Dr. Carl Perrin is not offended by everyone ganging up on Cruz. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. However, Perrin is worried. If Ted cannot claim American citizenship by virtue of being born to American citizens, what does that mean for Perrin? Carl Perrin is the mirror image of Ted Cruz. He was born in Massachusetts to Canadian citizens. If—Heaven forbid!—Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, Perrin wants at least the comfort of knowing he would be welcomed as a citizen if he chose to move to Canada.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

PREDICTION

PREDICTION

The next president of the United States will be a Democrat, and for that the Democrats can thank Donald Trump. No matter how the political campaigns go over the next 11 months, Trump will play a major role in the Republican camp, and whatever the outcome for the GOP, the Democrats will come out ahead on Election Day.

Even though he has been held a strong lead in national polls for months, the Republican leadership is desperate to push him out of first place, resorting to a brokered convention if necessary. If the convention opens with Trump holding a plurality of the votes, the electors representing those ballots will be legally bound to vote for him on the first ballot only. On subsequent ballots the electors can vote for anyone they want. The situation opens itself up to three possible scenarios, all of which would lead to a Democratic victory in the general election.

SCENARIO ONE
Trump arrives at the convention with a majority of votes or is able to overcome opposition at the convention and become the Republican candidate. His support comes primarily from older white males with limited education. Twenty-six percent of Republicans have negative feelings about him. Many GOP leaders have said that Trump does not represent Republican or even American values. Most of them, no doubt, like Paul Ryan, will hold their noses and vote for him. However, the Donald will not gather enthusiastic support from the Republican party.

The reality show star cannot expect much support outside of his core followers. He has insulted each of his rivals for the Republican nomination. He has alienated huge groups with his put-downs and gratuitous insults. Fifty-nine percent of the American public has negative feelings about him. If he runs, the Democratic candidate will win the election and possibly win both the House and the Senate at the same time.

SCENARIO TWO
The Republican establishment is able to deny Trump the nomination. In revenge he runs as third-party candidate. In such a case Trump would get votes from people who would otherwise vote for the Republican candidate. Result: a win for the Democrats.

SCENARIO THREE

Trump does not win the nomination and for whatever reasons decides not to run as a third-party candidate. He has been in the leading position for so long that his core followers will still feel that he has been cheated of his rightful prize. Those mendacious Washington politicians, along with the lamestream media swindled the Donald. His core will not then vote for Democrats. Heaven forbid! They will just stay home on Election Day and throw the election to the Democratic candidate, whoever he or she is.