Now, six years later, I find I am still enjoying finding things to think/talk/write about, although I will admit that some entries are more successful than others. I really had no idea that this would become such a part of my life, although it is by no means the only thing I do. Still, it gives me an excuse to spend some of my time doing something which might be construed as being "productive." I don't know if it's my Puritan roots, or what, but I enjoy being "productive," although I prefer mental productivity to something like digging ditches. That's probably my academic training and heritage coming through. So, I intend to keep on blogging, at least as long as I can find something to say and to do the research necessary to satisfy myself that I have some idea as to what I am writing about. Since my sources of amusing signs, jokes, comic strips, etc., don't appear likely to disappear any time soon, I suppose that I can keep on with these posts without too much difficulty.
I have, mostly, avoided getting into political topics in these postings. There are a lot of reasons for that. I have always felt it was important not to let political opinion intrude into my classroom. I was not teaching political science. Yes, many plays can have political content and I have never tried to avoid discussing those facts or including such content in productions where I had significant influence on interpretation, but I always made serious attempts not to allow my personal, political ideas invade my work in the classroom. I felt that my job was to assist students to acquire the best, most accurate information available and to help them develop the skills to assess that information based on reasonable judgement and sound thinking. It was NOT my job to tell people WHAT to think. And, I tried to follow that in my classroom.
The situation has now changed. I am no longer in a classroom and, while I still don't think it's my place to tell people what they should think, I do not have the ethical requirements of the teaching profession to prevent me from expressing my own opinions with a bit more candor than I felt appropriate in an academic setting. So, this blog, in the future, may, at least from time to time, have some greater emphasis on specifically political content than it has had in the past.
If that disappoints or upsets some readers, I'm sorry. But I'm not going to shy away from expressing what I believe. Politics is too important. I acknowledge that my ideas are only that. You are welcome to disagree with me. However, I would like to believe that I don't get far enough into an idea as to write about it without putting some thought and effort towards getting information about that idea from sources which seem likely to be reasonably well informed. I don't consider myself a "prime" source of most things political. I try to pay some attention to the news, so I believe that I have some handle on the facts. I also think I am enough of a scholar that I am hesitant to draw conclusions without at least some supporting evidence. I think I am willing to listen to others who can produce arguments which contradict my ideas, provided they are based on reasonable evidence, not just emotion. So, consider yourselves warned. I have thoughts and I've not afraid to use them.
After watching the news fairly closely for the past few years, I have come to believe that Donald John Trump is a danger to our country. I don't believe this because of a specific political philosophy which he has espoused. There have been many of our leaders with whom I disagreed on various issues. No, I'm concerned about Mr. Trump mostly because I have never heard him espouse any political philosophy except that he is the "savior" of the country; that he is the one to save us from all of those other people who aren't "real" Americans like him and who are, at least to hear him tell it, are clearly inferior sorts of people who should be ignored and distrusted. More specifically, however, it's because of a number of specific actions I have observed him engage in over the last four, or five, years. Let me provide some examples.
First, I find it hard to have faith in the leadership of a person who seems to have no ability to espouse reasons/explanations for many of his actions, except to indicate that, "I know what is best because I'm so smart; and the proof of my great intelligence is my great wealth." Okay, he appears to be rich, but he has left a long string of corporate bankruptcies; accusations of, at best, quasi-legal business shenanigans; documented fraud (Trump "University"); and other questionable activities (including racist practices and accounting gimmicks) in the record of his business career. This career, by the way, certainly appears to have been based on money which he was "loaned" or inherited from his father, not built from his own efforts. So, I find it hard to accept his much-touted record of great deal-making, especially when he refuses to reveal his tax or business records and requires "Non-disclosure Agreements" from, apparently all of his business associates, so that his record is almost completely unverifiable.
Second, he told us in his campaign that he "...knew all the best people" and would place them in appropriate positions of authority within his administration. His record in this area has been one of a constant flow of people into and out of various offices in his administration. People brought into office as "perfect" examples of the best our country has to offer are then quickly replaced with comments that they are examples of complete incompetence and stupidity whom we should be glad he fired. This gives me little confidence in his judgement. This is especially true since the firings all seem to occur shortly after these appointees displease him in some fashion, suggesting different motivations.
Third, it's easy to see many examples of a pattern of Trump trusting his "gut" over expert advice because, he says, his "great intelligence" proves that he "knows more than the generals," highly experienced public health officials, or, apparently anyone else about almost everything. Personally, I haven't seen what I would consider much evidence of Mr. Trump's great intelligence, especially since we are told that he doesn't read, often does not pay attention to briefings, etc., and seems more responsive to his supporters on Fox News than to the information from the country's intelligence services and other, qualified, experts, but that's beside the point. A more provable point is that his claim of "superior" intelligence does not seem to be borne out by his educational accomplishments, which consist of a B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School of Finance and Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968.
Now, Trump frequently brags about Wharton (notice he never says "UPenn) being the "best" school and has often spoken of his place near the top of his class. Yet, he threatened to sue Penn if it released his specific records (grades, etc.), which, according to the information I was given as a Faculty member at Western, are NOT publicly available without permission of the student, so they couldn't be released without his permission, in any event. (As an aside, I was told that, as a faculty member, I could not, under Federal law, release grade-related information even to a student's parents without the student's permission.) Apparently, he is not familiar with these laws. Clearly, however, Mr. Trump would prefer that the public not know the details of his academic record.
On the other hand, commencement programs ARE publicly available. The program for the University of Pennsylvania's 212th Commencement Ceremony, held on May 20, 1968 is available @ https://archives.upenn.edu/digitized-resources/docs-pubs/commencement-programs/program-1968. It shows that Donald John Trump graduated with a B.S. degree in Economics, just as he states. However, in the section of that program where "Academic Honors" are indicated, the same Donald John Trump is NOT indicated as graduating "Cum Laude," "Magna Cum Laude," or "Summa Cum Laude."
Now, speaking from my experience in attending many commencement exercises over 43 years of teaching, universities are ALWAYS proud of their "Honors" graduates. They ALWAYS want to celebrate those students who have achieved the "best" academic records. If Trump had, as he has suggested, graduated near the top of his class, it seems likely that he would have received some sort of recognition of that fact by the university on this occasion. After all, twenty-some others DID receive such recognition. I do not wish to denigrate Wharton, nor any of its graduates, but I find it hard to accept that a fifty-year old non-Honors B. S. degree in Economics and a questionable business career qualifies one with the knowledge and ability to know more about military matters than all the generals, more about international relations than seasoned State Dept. professionals, and more about medicine and public health than those with advanced degrees and many years of experience in dealing with such matters.
What this, and more, seems to add up to, at least to me, is that here we have an individual who appears so insecure in his own abilities; so insistent that his ideas are the only ones which matter; and, so concerned about proving his own importance that he is dangerous. Just my limited knowledge of psychology from Psych 101 & 102, suggests that one who constantly brags of his own superiority, belittles anyone who disagrees with him, and bullies almost everyone frequently, has a desperate need to convince others that he is THE "man." I think one could reasonably suggest that this comes from a high degree of insecurity regarding his confidence in his own abilities, but I am not a trained psychologist.
However, his constant need, as President, to "rule by decree" and tweet; his inability (or unwillingness) to assume any responsibility for even his own actions; his constant belittling and name-calling of any who disagree with any of his ideas; his pattern of labelling reports of his own changes of opinion as "fake news"; his paranoic obsession with polls and ratings, (which are "wrong" when they don't support him it spite of the proven objectivity of such measures); and his constant appeal to the tactics of contemporary "strong men" leaders and the application of methodologies which are strangely similar to those used in the 1930's by Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler and more recently by Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin are all disturbing.
His insistence on personal loyalty to himself as leader, and his encouragement of armed "militias" and efforts to make the Dept. of State, the Dept. of Justice, the organs of public Health and the intelligence agencies arms of his political ambitions are frightening.
I cannot support a "leader" who declares a "National Emergency" based on the emergence of a new strain of virus. (quoted below):
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) and consistent with section 1135 of the Social Security Act (SSA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 1320b-5), do hereby find and proclaim that the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States constitutes a national emergency, beginning March 1, 2020
and then proceeds to tell the Governors of the various states that they must assume the responsibility for the citizens of their states because declaring such a national state of emergency should not be taken to imply anyresponsibility on the part of the national government to actually DO anything, except, perhaps, to "help you out when you can't handle it yourselves." I come to this conclusion based on the established fact that Trump, to this day, refuses to accept any responsibility for the fact that we have no national strategy for preventing the spread of this virus in spite of millions of cases and close to 200,000 deaths. And growing.
The national strategy for developing a vaccine, such as it is, seems to be to throw billions of dollars at any drug company which has developed a candidate vaccine so that they will go into production of millions of doses of unproven treatments in the hope that something (ANYTHING) might actually work. Now we see statements that we should be prepared to "miraculously" have a vaccine JUST before the election, thus proving that Donald is the "savior of the country." If that idea doesn't smell of political desperation and attempting to manipulate public health policy for personal, political ends, I don't know what does, especially when the recognized medical and public health authorities strongly suggest that adequate testing of a candidate vaccine can't possibly have been accomplished within that time frame. These are NOT "alternative" facts, they are just news reports from what Trump usually describes as the "fake" news. Personally, I will take my medical advice and opinions from licensed doctors and practitioners, not someone with a mediocre record in finance and business.
I also find Trump's constant harping on the "great success" of the economy disturbing. Just because the stock market is doing well (which it has been), does not mean the economy, overall, is in good shape. I am not an economist, but it IS true that the government has been spending trillions of dollars which it doesn't have and won't get because big business is enjoying great tax relief and relaxation of anything resembling regulation. But real people have lost jobs and retail sales are down, in spite of the fact that Trump's nemesis, Amazon, is doing okay; government services (the Postal Service) are in decline, apparently because Trump considers voting by mail to be bad, in spite of the fact that he does it; evictions are up; food banks are empty; COVID-19 is running rampant; etc. All things considered, it doesn't seem to me that the overall economy is doing all that well; and is unlikely to do so at least as long as we can't resume "normal" activities without being concerned about dying of COVID-19.
And, even then I believe that the "new" normal will be quite different from the old. I would suggest that the concentrated business centers of big cities are doomed as the COVID crisis has demonstrated that a lot of business is capable of being conducted without assembling the workforce in common workplaces and that much work can, in fact, be accomplished remotely. I do think that education will return to a more traditional model, mostly because the social skills of group activity have considerable value for society. But "downtown," as a center of business, appears doomed in large measure, along with the shops and restaurants which have supported it. Factories will continue to exist, but they will be increasingly robotic and require fewer workers. No, it's too bad, but the "new" normal is unlikely to be the same as the "old" one, but I digress.
To return to my previous thread, to top off the other concerns, Donald seems to believe that he, personally, can be the one to judge whether, or not, the upcoming election has been "fair" and "correct”; and, if he decides it hasn't been, he has the right to refuse to give up the office when the Constitution says a new President's term would begin. Now, it is possible that Trump could be reelected, although it's fairly obvious that I don't believe that he should be. But, if he is not, his suggested unwillingness to leave office at the appropriate time could, I'm afraid, touch off a second civil war, testing whether any nation "... conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...." can long endure.
I believe that Trump's actions have made it quite clear that he is dedicated to the creation of a nation which is ruled, not "...by, for, and of the people;" but by and for Trump. His actions in exerting personal influence over our systems of justice, foreign affairs, public health, etc., strongly suggest that he is less interested in being President and more interested in being a "strong man" dictator like those he so admires.
Some may suggest that I simply hate Trump, but I believe them to be wrong. I pity him. His inadequacies have apparently been carefully honed by those whose love he desperately sought. I hope that he will someday find the peace to accept his own, frequently revealed mediocrity. Those who have profited from his pitiful failings, and I believe that there are many of them, should be punished to the full extent of the law. Their abuses, not only of this poor man, but of our country, are acts as heinous as those of the Holocaust, if on a somewhat smaller scale. Rather than assisting Trump to acquire the assistance he so obviously needs; they have continued to use and abuse this pitiable figure for their own ends. Their guilt is unforgivable.
I would urge others not to vote for Trump, not just because I find little to admire in this sad, little man, but because I find much to admire in the U. S. Constitution which he clearly sees as an impediment to his achieving what he wishes to believe should be his personal destiny. Do I think that the Constitution establishes a way of life which is perfect? No. However, I am unable to conceive of a better basis upon which to establish a government. It even has a process of amending itself in order to provide for needed changes, a process which has been used numerous times. Even with the imperfections which I see in our system, though, I can't accept that the crowning of some sort of all-powerful "Leader" is likely to lead to the establishment of the "more perfect Union" which our Founder's hoped to be starting.
What this suggests is that voting is the lifeblood of our country. We can vote in elections, or we can vote with our lives, but voting is how we achieve a better nation. Be informed. Take care. Vote as if your life depended on it. It probably does.
Next time I plan to make some comments relating to Mr. Trump's opponent, Mr. Biden. I'm not convinced that he is going to be the "Savior" of our country, either. Of course, I'm not convinced that's really what he wants to be. Nor am I convinced that a "Savior" is what we should be seeking.