Thursday, May 26, 2016


Donald Trump is scared, really scared. How else do you explain his actions not only during the campaign but especially in the last few weeks? From the beginning he has done things that no politician has ever done before. And he has got away with it! He attacked his rivals for the nomination, not their ideas, but their personal traits. He alienated large groups of people: women, veterans, Hispanics. The Republican establishment hates him because of his attacks on Republicans as well as for what he is doing to the GOP.

But now the nomination is all but in hand. This would be the time for Trump to start mending fences, making nice with the groups that he has been insulting, to unite the Republican Party behind him. But he’s doing just the opposite of that. At a rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he lashed out at the governor of the state, Susana Martinez. What did Trump have against her? She did not show up for his rally. Martinez is not only the governor of New Mexico; she is also head of the Republican Governors’ Association, a group that can do a lot to turn out the vote for the GOP. In one fell sweep the Donald further alienated women, Hispanics, and the Republican hierarchy.

But he didn’t stop there. Later he went on to attack another female Republican governor, Nikki Haley of South Carolina because she endorsed Marco Rubio. While he was at it, called Jeb Bush low energy and called Mitt Romney a choker “who walks like a penguin.” Their sins? They failed to endorse the Donald. One major Republican says he doesn’t fear Trump losing; he fears that Trump will win and an indelible scar on the GOP.

Talk of pushing someone else into the nomination through a brokered convention seems to have died out. There is talk of a third party candidate who would take some votes from Trump. Recent surveys have shown Donald and Hillary neck and neck. As horrible as the thought is, it seems possible that Trump could be the next president. And it is possible that no one is more frightened by that thought than Trump himself.

According to speculation that is going around, the idea of running for the presidency grew out of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2011. At that occasion Trump was the butt of jokes by President Obama and comedian Seth Meyers. A man who combines an over-inflated ego with deep personal insecurity, Trump, according to the speculation, decided to get revenge by running for the presidency.

At first Trump never thought he would actually win; he just wanted to show those professional politicians a thing or two. Doing everything “wrong” at a time when the public was sick to death of the politicians, he probably surprised himself as much as anyone as he won primary after primary.

But now the day of reckoning is approaching. What if he is actually elected? What would he do then? Even he must have some inkling that he is no way capable of doing the job. And worse: the president make $400,000 a year. That would be a cut in pay for the tycoon. His ego wouldn’t allow that.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


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


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.