Saturday, April 29, 2017

A New Architectural Language?

One of the reasons I like older buildings so much is their ornamentation.  Prior to the twentieth century, and even well into it, buildings were constructed with the naive but sincere intention that they would last for decades, perhaps even centuries.  In part because of this view, this led artists and architects to design and construct buildings that were intended to be works of art, as well as functional places for human activity.  This of course meant that their interior and exterior surfaces were covered with all sorts of features that served absolutely no function at all, except to give pleasure to those who saw them and, perhaps, to make the building stand out in the crowd--or, to put it another way, to turn it into a "landmark," something that could be used as a reference point for guiding oneself or someone else around a city or town.

By the middle of the twentieth century, however, technology had begun to crowd out decoration as an important consideration for architects and their clients.  Buildings needed to be designed in such a way that their technical systems could easily be repaired or replaced.  And, if that meant completely tearing down a building that had been put up only a decade or two before, then the building in question got torn down.  This need for technical innovation, combined with the depletion of many traditional resources for building construction, led to the destruction of many beautifully designed buildings and their replacement with glass-and-steel boxes that could easily be adapted and even repurposed for changing technology and tastes.  In this context, "landmark" became something of a dirty word to many real estate developers.  It meant that a particular building they wanted to level could not be taken down, or even substantially modified, because that building had acquired a constituency beyond its ownership and/or occupiers--a constituency that could bend the political will to save a popular older building that might otherwise disappear.

I cheerfully admit to being part of that constituency.  And I cheerfully admit that I enjoy ornamentation in construction, and lament the fact that so much of modern construction is so bland in an uninspiring and almost fascist kind of way.  I've often wondered whether it would be possible for modern artists and architects to develop a kind of ornamental language that would, in its basic concepts, be more suitable for today's tastes than (to use one example) the gargoyles of Gothic cathedrals.  I had just begun, in fact, to despair over whether such a development could occur.

And then, I saw this.

Okay, maybe Emojis aren't your thing.  But maybe this is, instead.  One way or another, maybe there's a place for ornamentation in the modern world after all.  I hope so!

Still Fighting The Good Fight For All Of Us

To be alive in the 1960s and 1970s was, among many other things, to bear witness to the importance of freedom of the press.  Not as a slogan.  Not even as words in the Bill of Rights.  But as a living, breathing reality, one that allowed the American news media to justifiably claim the title of the Fourth Estate, a branch of government that served as perhaps the most effective check on the other three.  Whether it was dissecting an overseas war that destroyed the national consensus on the use of American power, or revealing to the world the power of protesters to change the course of an entire nation, or exposing the corruption of an Administration too busy serving itself to remember how to serve the American people, the press was there.

And Dan Rather of CBS was foremost among them.  So much so, in fact, that Richard Nixon, the head of the aforementioned Administration, regarded him as a personal enemy, and not just as a man who was trying to get answers to questions that troubled a good many people.  So much so, in fact, that when Rather later took over the anchor duties for the CBS News from Walter Cronkite (himself no shrinking violet in facing down the truth and those who would hide it), the VRWC made a point of throwing every resource at its disposal into the effort to destroy him.

Personally, I think that Rather cracked a little under the strain of that effort.  Any human being would be likely to do so, at least to some extent.  Some of the more bizarre episodes from his anchor days, such as his interview with then-Vice President Bush, reflect that strain.  That's not to say that he doesn't bear responsibility for those moments.  He does.  That is no less true of the controversy that ultimately drove him from the anchor desk:  his reliance on false documents in telling a story about the National Guard service of George W. Bush.  If anything, his stature as a journalist at that point required him to accept responsibility and even discipline for those failures. But that doesn't negate the fact that he was a target, one that was pounded relentless until the wingers got their proverbial pound of flesh.

But Rather's failures should not be allowed to obscure who he basically is:  a man with a passionate love for his country and an equally passionate love for telling it the truth.  We've never needed him more than now, and it's not surprising that, in these days of darkness, he is being re-discovered by a generation that grew up on journalism as a series of corporate press releases.

Go get 'em, Dan.  And when the pressure builds up, just remember that a new generation is behind you.

A Tale Of Two Parties

To continue with the Dickens referenced employed in my title, it was the worst of times, and it was the far-worse-than-than-that times, even if you are a member of the 1%.  For whether you realize it or not, your country, and your entire international system, are in the gravest of jeopardy.

I've chosen this as my starting point after I found myself reflecting back to the presidential campaign of 2004, a sour experience that nevertheless makes the more recent one seem like Athenian democracy in its heyday by comparison.  You may or may not recall that the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, selected fellow U.S. Senator John Edwards as his running mate, based in part on a desire to balance the ticket geographically (North and South), and also to incorporate Edwards' economic message from the primaries.  In that message, Edwards liked to tell a tale of "two Americas, one rich and one poor."  Of course, concerns about the post-9/11 world outweighed Edwards' efforts to build his primary campaign and, later, the Kerry/Edwards campaign around the crisis in economic equality, and George W. Bush was re-elected (or elected, as I prefer to say it) to the White House.  It probably didn't help Edwards as an avatar of economic equality, of course, that he was a wealthy plaintiff's attorney with a somewhat colorful personal life.

Still, Edwards had a point, and that point has only grown sharper in the Donald Trump era, where a real estate tycoon compromised from almost every direction and with no practical experience in government nevertheless managed, on his first try, to "win" the highest office in the land, thanks to the Electoral College, the Russians, the FBI Director, and who knows how many other electoral tricks the GOP had up its sleeve.  Trump's place in the Oval Office does more to reflect the current dominance of wealth over people than does perhaps any other single fact, alternative or otherwise.

In any other country, in any other period in history, this state of affairs and its attendant instability would led to some sort of upheaval in the status quo.  That upheaval might be violent, and might not directly lead to a new and better status quo.  But currently, there is no center, moral or otherwise to our society, and something would have to give.  And yet, we seem to just be "chugging along," grimly determined to grind it out, while kidding ourselves that we can get through this disaster of a government without any lasting harm to our society, as well as to our system of government.


Because the tale that we should be considering is not one of two cities, or two nations, or two economic classes.  It is, primarily, a tale of two parties.

In the one case, we have a party that was born and organized in the mid-nineteen century around the twin poles of national unity and personal freedom.  As the century wore on, this devolved into a business-first perspective that, when combined with anti-Communism in the twentieth century, began to devolve into a cult, one that became obsessed with evaluating the patriotism of everyone. Finally, in a desperate attempt to stay alive, it embraced a new set of twin poles, white supremacy and fundamentalist religion, that turned its pro-business slant into a new capitalist creed that could broker no compromises with what it saw as "the welfare state," even when the advocates of that state were advancing causes designed to save everyone (e.g., fighting climate change).  Today, that party is willing to do whatever it takes to unilaterally impose its will on everyone, turning the tools of democracy against the people to ensure perpetual control of the system.  Democracy in name, in short, but nowhere in fact.

And what about the other party?  The one that takes its name from democracy.

That party's first president was Andrew Jackson, a man who, his shortcomings notwithstanding, knew how to fight.  And fight it did, from Jackson all the way into the twentieth century under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.  And then, suddenly, somehow it stopped.  Whether it was purely out of concern of being seen as "too socialistic," or whether in fact it mirrored society in becoming so relativistic that it saw nothing as truly being worth a fight (unless their constituents took to the streets themselves), that party suddenly lost not only its voice, but its backbone.  And, along with those things, and with a few intervening exceptions, it started to lose elections.  A lot of them.  Today, nowhere in this country do they have control of any of the levers of power, except for a small handful of states.  Its constituents live in terror--a terror that is justified by the anger and contempt that the other side feels for it, as well as an awareness of the means that the other side is prepared to use.

One party heartless, the other faint of heart.  One party with a confused head, the other with an empty one.  One party that can do nothing but fight, the other too scared to think of the word.  One party with voters who will cheerfully vote for someone to enslave them, the other with voters that permit the enslaving, because they'd rather wait for the kind of "perfect" candidate who never shows up.

In this sorry state of affairs, what nation needs to try and take us prisoner?  We may already be dead.

Please prove me wrong, America, and soon.  Either take over the Democratic Party and give it a soul and a pair of fists, or start a new party with both of those things.  I think the world, even the atheists, might be praying that we do one or the other.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Congratulations, Seve, On Passing The Baton Well

I turned 60 last year, and that, probably combined with the fact that I am now a grandfather twice-over, has given me some incentive to think about the proverbial meaning of life.  And I've come to one conclusion, one that I hope has some usefulness beyond me.

Life certainly isn't about acquiring "stuff."  We don't really acquire "stuff"; we basically rent it for a period of time.  Thereafter, it's either disposed of or destroyed.  What lasts a lot longer is the impact we have on people--our families, our friends, our colleagues/co-workers, our customers/clients, our neighbors, our fellow citizens, everyone with whom we come into contact. And, in a digital age, our ability to come into contact with people is greater than ever before. Even the smallest communication we have online can create ripples that, to echo Russell Crowe in "Gladiator," echo in history.

To me, it's a little like a baton race.  Each of us gets to carry a baton for a time, and our lives, our experiences, our wisdom, our love, our hate, whatever makes us what we are and what we become, transform that baton, for better or for worse.  And then, when we die, we effectively hand the baton off to those who survive us, and what we've done with it through the life we've lived either makes the race better, or worse.  That's really what life is all about--handing off the baton in a way that makes the lives of others hopefully better.

Which is why I enjoyed reading this article about Sergio Garcia winning the 2017 Masters golf tournament on the birthday of his late mentor, Seve Ballesteros, and paying tribute to him in the process.  In a very real sense, Garcia's triumph was also Ballesteros' triumph as well.

In other words, Seve passed the baton well.  Congratulations to them both.  And may we all learn how to pass it as well as Seve did.

Not Just The Death Of A Congressman

If you didn't live through the Watergate scandal, you really missed something.  A President who had just been re-elected by a historic landslide vote frittered away his political accomplishments by trying to protect lower-level campaign workers from prosecution for undeniably illegal acts.  Putting this in the vernacular of criminal law, he obstructed justice.  And he memorialized the obstruction on a tape-recording system in the Oval Office, giving Congress the ability to impeach him and thereafter leave him vulnerable to criminal prosecution though evidence that established his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  But he beat Congress and the criminal justice system to the punch, by resigning and being pardoned by his successor.

It shook our system of government, and the faith of the American people in it, to its core.  But what held everything together, and got us past this terrible episode in our history, was the willingness of partisans to come together.  On the Supreme Court, Justices appointed by Democratic and Republican Presidents came together to force Richard Nixon to surrender the evidence of his perfidy that he himself had manufactured.  And in Congress, Democrats and Republicans likewise came together to face the evidence and produced three articles of impeachment against Nixon.  They were never voted on by the full House--Nixon's resignation obviated the need for that--but, once the Oval Office tapes were produced, there was no doubt that any vote to impeach would have been bipartisan.

One of those members of Congress on the Republican side was Lawrence J. Hogan, Sr., father of the current governor of Maryland.  Hogan was the first member of his party to indicate that he would vote for Nixon's impeachment, paving the way for a bipartisan resolution of an American tragedy. One can scarcely imagine such an outcome in today's Washington.

Which is why Hogan's death this past Friday, at the age of 88, feels not just like the end of a Congressman's life, but the end of an America that could come together to meet its greatest challenges and overcome them.  I pray that I'm wrong.  But I thank him for his service, and I hope that others will rise in our present crisis to follow his example.

It's Not Just Manufacturing--Or Men, For That Matter

In an earlier post, I wrote about the devastation of small-town industrial middle America, and how it contributed to the level of economic desperation that made Donald Trump an attractive candidate to many of the residents of these towns.  In doing so, I touched on the role that the economic policies of the 1980s contributed to that desperation.  I neglected to mention, however, the role that automation has played, and continues to play, in creating the desperation and making it even worse.

Nothing, not even the level of federal involvement in my earlier post (which I continue to advocate) is going to make the devastated communities of our country what they used to be.  And automation is the single greatest reason for that right now.  Even if the companies themselves came back, they wouldn't be offering many new jobs, unless those jobs were in robotics.  And even the availability of overseas work forces don't matter; the jobs that were exported from the United States, and many of the indigenous ones, are being automated out of existence.

We're familiar with the role that robotics have played in eliminating manufacturing jobs, but, until recently, less has been said about the role that e-commerce has played in devastating traditional, bricks-and-mortar retail shopping.  No aspect of retail shopping is immune:  not luxury retailing, not suburban shopping, not even the traditional urban centers that long ago adapted to the flight of businesses into the suburbs.  And this guarantees a degree of gender equality in the devastation. While most manufacturing jobs have been held by men, most jobs in retail are held by women. One is forced to wonder whether the loss of retail jobs will get the same political attention that has been given to manufacturing losses.

In any case, it's time to take technology, and make it work for everyone, and not just the 1%.  How about it, progressives?  Want a 2018 issue?  Here you go--something that could bring male and female voters together.

California Leads The Way--But Will America Follow?

I've made several posts here about how California, which led the way for the conservative revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, seems poised to lead the way for the nation to follow a different direction. More proof of that can be found here, as Californians decide not only to tackle the infrastructure crisis head-on, but also to do so by--gasp!--raising taxes!

Can you imagine the current leadership in Congress attempting to do any such thing?  Of course not. Its base still believes in tax cuts that pay for themselves, and in the view that no problems are so terrible or inevitable that they can't be ignored in favor of short-term tactical gains.  So the country crumbles, street by street.  Who cares?  What matters to the GOP is this:  how can we blame it on the Democrats?

And what about the Democrats?  Actually, it's a Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown (term-limited, sadly, and therefor on his way out of office) and a state legislature with a supermajority of Democrats, that are responsible for this remarkable achievement.  Proof of what can be done when Republicans don't get in the way.

Replicating this on a national scale, on the other hand, is a very different story.  Getting another Democratic President is doable, especially in light of the currently collapsing popularity of the current one.  Getting a Democratic Congress with a majority large enough to override Republican opposition seems very unlikely--unless, of course, the Democrats decide to modify the current filibuster rule or, as I've suggested, eliminating it altogether.

Whether or not they do eliminate it, Democrats in Washington and around the country need to grow a spine when it comes to taxes.  As California is proving, the people are ahead of them on this issue. It's time for the party of the people to catch up to them.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

What Should Wall Street Do For Main Street? Plenty!

In the wake of Donald Trump's unexpected (and equally unwanted) victory in last fall's presidential election, a lot has been written about Trump voters in the America between the coasts, especially voters in small towns largely abandoned by industry, by their neighbors, and all too often by the state and local governments that supposedly serve their interests.

This process of abandonment, of course, is not a recent one:  if it can be said to have a starting date, it was undoubtedly the economic recession of the early 1980's, which began the slow-motion destruction of industrial America in the Upper Midwest and beyond.  But even the de-industrialization of the nation had already started before that, as manufacturing opportunities for American companies opened up overseas and the slow march of good-paying union jobs leaving the country began in earnest.

I knew all of this, and yet even I found myself shocked by some of the articles and photo essays I have seen over the past several months.  Two of them can be found here (a photo essay on the decline and fall of Cairo, Illinois), and here (an article by the author of a book on a former "all-American town" now in steep decline after corporate raiding destroyed the town's principal manunfacturing business).  No one can bear witness, even by way of the media, to the human degradation portrayed in these stories and not feel that something must be done.

But what?

Trump, to put it mildly, is the least likely savior for the people in these towns, and I suspect that many of them, even the ones who voted for him, know it, deep down inside.  Beneath the flashiness of his real estate projects and the power of his television persona lies ... well, not very much.  Just a trust-funded, four-times-bankrupt con artist who talks his way in and out of trouble.  Desperation made many of his voters think that there might be more to him than that, when he was just a candidate.

But he's not just a candidate any more.  And, sadly, for many in even the most desperate parts of small-town America, reality, slowly but surely, is beginning to sink in.  It may have sunk in quite a bit, in fact.

And then, I saw this.

And I began to ask myself:  what if a combination of tax breaks and business grants at the Federal level could be created to help create buyers for these small towns and bring them back to life?

What if this program was paid for by a tax on Wall Street, particularly on the kinds of merger-and-acquistion transactions that help to destroy towns like Lancaster, Ohio?  There may, in fact, be far more support for this type of taxation than many people realize.

What if it was also geared toward advancing the cause of a sustanable economy, with requirements for the support of renewable resources?

What if it also encouraged the promotion of the arts?  As a theater preservationist, I was particularly struck by the image of the Gem Theater in the Cairo photo essay.  What if its restoration could help lead the way toward the greater restoration of Cairo?

Are you listening, Democrats?  There's an opportunity here to put pressure on The Donald and pry his voters away from him?  Are you up to taking advantage of it?  G-d knows, I hope so.

Opportunity For Democrats In A Constitutional Disaster

Well, as you all know by now, it happened.  Senate Democrats successfully filibustered the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, under the then-prevailing rules of the Senate. And Mitch McCONnell, taking exception to one Democratic filibuster in the wake of the near-record number of filibusters he and his Republican colleagues launched, did what you would expect an end-justifies-the-means politician to do:  he changed the rules.  He did this, of course, on top of an unprecedented year-long blockade against a nomination made by the previous (Democratic) President.  And thus, McCONnell, Donald Trump, and the conservative moment won, at the expense of the comnity of the Senate, the judicial independence of the Supreme Court, and the general sense of fairness that undergirds any real understanding of the Constitution and the government it was meant to create.

And Gorsuch wasted no time in taking his seat in such a way as to disgrace himself and telegraph the level of harm that his vote on the Court will achieve.  He started at his swearing-in ceremony by talking about having "inherited" his position on the Court from a "great man."  Leaving that assessment of Antonin Scalia alone for now, that comment is unintentionally revealing when it comes to Gorsuch's views of constitutional government:  a property right that belongs exclusively to conservatives.  And, after a spectaularly rocky first day on the Court, he confirmed that limited understanding of the law by voting for the execution of a man whose attorney was drunk in court.

But give McCONnell credit.  By his standard, he point a point of the board for his party and his President, in the wake of the latter's epic failures (the failed travel ban, the collapse of the anti-Obamacare movement, the collapse of tax reform, etc.).  So far, GOP 1, Democrats 10 and counting. It's no longer a shutout.

Truth be told, in fact, Democrats should consider themselves set free by all of this.  McCONnell is too cluelessly focused on short-term results to understand that what he has ultimately done by setting fire to establish precedent is, in fact to create a new precedent.  And a potentially dangerous one for him and his party.

In effect, McCONnell has created a world in which the advice and consent that the Constitution requires the Senate to provide with respect to Constitutional nominees is whatever the Senate wants it to be.  No due process is required.  Not a hearing.  Not even a vote.  In effect, the process can be no process at all.

Indeed, it could be any number of possibilities.  It can be much more than just refusing to hold hearings and a vote.  It could be trial by combat or ordeal--concepts with a great deal of tradition behind them, and therefore with great potential appeal for conservatives.  It could be a principled refusal to accept any nominees from a particular President--based, for example, on perceived sexual abuse by that President.  Anyone who saw Trump put his hands on his grown-up daughter's derrierre on television at last summer's Republican National Convention knows what I'm talking about.

There's so much more.  What about a bill to expand the number of Supreme Court justices, timed to allow a Democratic President and Senate to make their appointments?  The number nine isn't sacred; the Constitution specifies no minimum or maximum number of Justices.  What about a bill to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court?  No constitutional barrier to that, either.  What about withholding funding for Gorsuch's seat?  Again, no law agin it.

All that's lacking to make any of this happen is a willingness for Democrats to understand that pacifism is no strategy against an opponent with no respect for the rights of anyone but themselves. This nation was born in battle.  Its greatest advances have frequenly been born in battle.  It's time for Democrats to learn how to fight.  Most of all, it's time for them to want to fight.  The people they represent want and need them to do so, now more than ever.  Are they listening?

Let's hope so.  And let's hope they see the opening that McCONnell and his colleagues have opened up for them.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Who Do We Help When We Help The Undocumented?

Why, ourselves, of course!

By 'the undocumented," of course, I'm referring to those folks normally referred to as "illegal."  But, since it's impossible to pass a law against the existence of people, "undocumented" makes so much more sense.  The undocumented are simply people who are here, but their papers aren't in order. And, if you had any idea of how costly and complicated it is to get one's papers in order, you would begin to understand how inevitable it is to have so many people who are here, but not under the full color of law.

Instead, so many of the people who are anti-undocumented based on racism or ignorance (if that's not repeating myself) defend their views in terms of public safety.  Immigrants are a menace to our communities, and that justifies enormous public effort and expense to remove them from our midst.

But, leaving aside the fact that this view simply isn't true, statistically or otherwise, it is actually dangerous to not provide assistance to the undocumented.  Like it or not, the undocumented have taken jobs native-born Americans will not do, raising families and building community roles in the process.  They have become part of the social and economic fabric of America, while we have looked the other way, perhaps ashamed of the fact that all of us have played some role in their exploitation.

Looking the other way has a price tag, however.  Here is at least part of that price tag.  On the other hand, facing reality has real benefits.  Here is an example.

We live in a world in which money moves around it at the speed of light, yet people can only move at the speed of sludge.  We need comprehensive immigration reform--not just at the national level, but at the international level as well.  Perhaps, if Americans faced fewer obstacles to travelling abroad, and enjoy more opportunity in the process, perhaps they will recognize more easily that, when they hurt the undocumented, they hurt themselves.

Sorry For Getting Back On This Hobby-Horse, BUT ...

... once again, the Republicans have it completely wrong on the subject of taxes.  We, the people don't think we're over-taxed.  We think you're under-taxed.  And here's the proof.

The problem, of course, is translating this into an election-year message, and thereafter into public policy.  And that requires getting Democrats to get over their fears of talking about taxes, and start talking about all of the things for which taxes pay.  Social Security.  Medicare.  The strongest military anywhere in the world (sorry, Donald Trump, but it's true).  Veterans' benefits.  Our system of railroads, highways, and airports.  Lower prices for farm products.  Our system of National Parks. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which gave the children of the world "Sesame Street."  And on, and on, and on.  To say nothing of the public benefits going to the unemployed and the underemployed in the red states that the red-state Republicans keep trying to cut.

Compared to all of this, the government spending that gets red-state voters riled up--public benefits for the urban poor--take up the tiniest portion of our national deficit and debt.  You know what most of that debt comes from?  From tax cuts for the rich that were supposed to pay for themselves, but didn't.  Instead, those tax cuts became the most lucrative foreign aid program in history--if, by foreign aid, you mean deposits in off-shore bank accounts and the enslavement of foreign workers in sweatshops.  (And, of course, I mean exactly that.)

And don't even get me started on the portion of our national debt that paid for wars into which we were lied.

So, Democrats, start talking about what taxes pay for.  Remind them that taxes, to borrow a phrase, are the price that we pay for civilization.  Remind them of all the people who gave not simply their treasure, but their lives, to help us build that civilization.  And don't be afraid to suggest that real patriots are people who pay their taxes, proudly.  Or that the real freeloaders are the so-called "producers" who produce nothing but empty rhetoric, aimed at emptying our pockets into theirs.

Sorry, But What You're Really Mad At Is Yourself

I've been busy with cleaning for, and observing, Passover, so I'm a little late in posting.  By now, therefore, you should be familiar with the story of the doctor/passenger who was violently removed from a United Airlines flight as a last resort for making room on an overbooked flight (room, as it turned out, for United employees).  If for some strange reason you haven't heard about it, and absolutely if you have not had the experience of seeing footage of this episode, here's a chance to get up to speed.

The linked article is an essay--a very good one--outlining the view that this debacle in customer relations is emblematic of a system that allows a handful of economically and politically powerful people to systematically oppress everyone else.  Or, as we like to call it politely, capitalism.

But capitalism wasn't always this oppressive.  From the end of the Second World War until about 1980, the United States was building upon the New Deal and its victory in the war to move toward a mixed economy, one that tempered the potential overreach of capitalism and capitalists and the potential for disaster their employees might face.  American did not move as far as European countries did to create and maintain a social welfare state.  There were few if any nationalizations of industries.  The Taft-Hartley Act limited the power of unions to organize the workforce.  But there was a limited welfare state for the poor, the elderly, and the disabled; it didn't meet all of the needs of these groups, but it reduced the suffering enough for state governments and charities to make a difference.  And there was always the hope that, in time, we could find ways to build a social welfare state that protected everyone.

But about 1980, all of that changed.

We were sold the biggest bill of goods in our nation's history.  We were told that all of our needs would be fulfilled if we stopped trusting in government, and put all of our faith in the hands of the investing class.  All we had to do was trust them, and give them unlimited room to move, and all would be well.

And we bought it.  Hook line and sinker.  Even Democrats were at a total loss for words at this turn of events.  So much so that they started to pretend to sound sort-of-kind-of-like Republicans.  And thus we ended up with two Republican Parties.  And no hope for turning the tide.

Today, the tide has gone all the way out, perhaps forever.  And we have only ourselves to blame.

We, the people, who voted for this nightmare, time and time again, even when we saw our purchasing power shrinking, our job security vanishing, our hopes for a decent retirement and a better future for our children change from realities into fantasies.  We, the people, who bought the bill of goods without examining it too closely, without checking it against the ledger of history, which would have told us that we had tried this before, and it had failed us then as well.  We, the people, who mistook a smile and a shoeshine for sound public policy, and who have built the snares that trap us though our gullibility, our laziness, our greed, and our simple-minded faith in the people who tell us the lies we're itching to hear.

We should be mad at United Airlines, and all corporations that live to monetize every aspect of our lives, at the expense of basic human decency.  The overbooking of flights is merely one example, although it effectively illustrates how corporations get away with systemically disrupting our lives while buying us out at the same time, thereby turning us all into commodities.

We should be mad at all Americans, who either deliberately voted this insanity into power, or didn't do enough to stop it.

But each of us needs to start dealing with our anger by looking in the mirror.  I'm no exception.  I have spent a lot of time lately asking myself what I can do to turn things around.  And, if you want to turn things around, and you haven't started looking in your mirror, start now.  Before United Airlines can get its hands on another passenger.