Economics 101

We’re not the most adept mathematical wizard.  But what we’ve been reading has caused us to pause and to rethink how we spend what little we have.

The basics seem simple.  The current administration – you know its name – has apparently decided we should live as we did at the turn of the 20th century: unfettered, rich as Croesus and the hell with the hindmost.  What this means is simple: them who has keeps and spends; he who ain’t got, ain’t got, and ain’t likely to get.

The newly approved merger of AT&T and Time-Warner means clouds on the horizon for those of us who ain’t got.  It also means that consumer prices for basic services are likely to increase, including credit card rates.  It’s likely going to cost us all more to use the little wonders we have grown so used to: televisions, cable, basic wireless communication.

Add to this bit of news the idea that interest rates have increased three times so far this year –  number four is on the way – and you have a reinforced sense of your credit card going up a point or two.  Mortgage rates, rates for car loans, small business assistance, health insurance.   Almost nothing escapes untouched. Certainly nothing is getting less expensive.

The capstone is the decision to open the barn doors to unregulated supervision of the entire Internet (nothing any longer neutral about it).

So how do we survive?  Is it possible to evade the rockslide and mud that follow this series of forest fires?

Living in gold and glitter may be very well for some.  For most of us, our surroundings turn into pewter and plastic.  We have to decide what and whether individual activities are important to us.  Are we determined to live as before, paying more than before for the privilege?  Or, in order to do that, do we need to make some sacrifices to maintain our extravagances?

We need now to think ahead in order to stay ahead of poverty and bankruptcy, both of which seem approved by the new administration.  (And cutting off immigration isn’t going to help us, either.)

O.K., checkbooks and safe-deposit boxes open and out.   What could we do without?

Certainly we can cut our cellphone use and expense…most of this already on our credit cards.  We can erase the evidence of ”free apps” which are used only to seduce.  Amazon may take a severe hit, not just in its millions of items, but particularly in the book business.  (Remember libraries?  Remember books themselves?)

Ten minute jaunts to a convenience store for items that are overpriced (hence “convenient”) should go the way of the dodo.

Home repairs as a trade should be reinforced because Angie’s List et al aren’t going to get cheaper, either.

Take the 83 % beef instead of the 95% fat free.

Pretend you’re old enough to remember “Victory Gardens.”

Never say “no” to any unexpected second job that’s offered.

Stay off freeways and save on gasoline.

Take short trips rather than intercontinental journeys.

Learn again to sew.

Save spare change at the end of every day and deposit it.

Depending on what a bank offers, grab the “no fee” checking accounts or automatic deposits.

You don’t need a new car every other year.

Give up car services and learn again to walk a few blocks.

Prepay if you can.

Give up food deliveries and learn again to cook.

Continue reading “Economics 101”

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REVERSE

There IS hope.

Every day, on any media platform, we read, hear, see, parse, or have parsed for us, statistics indicating that what’s pushing the country (i.e., Mr. Trump) is propulsive because his ”base” has long felt unrecognized, ignored, treated as second-class citizens.   According to these reports – and many of them must be true – millions of American citizens have grown to feel useless, invisible, powerless.

What follows is NOT a bulletin from the front lines.  It is, rather, simple common sense, and we point it out in hopes that its value will not go south – i.e., that the Democrats will once again screw up and allow what’s taking place in our besieged nation to continue.

Say what we will about Dear Leader, his “base” got what they wanted: a Daddy who keeps his promises or else – the ‘or else’ eventually not only a scolding, but also a beating.   The “base” can take pleasure in watching “the swamp” being cleared – if they believe that.  Industries, sports teams, international allies, the spoiled, the rich, the one percent actually fearful that Dear One can and will alter their styles of  living.  Of course, this applies not only to the very well-off but also to the very poor, who fear being poorer, being deported, being imprisoned.

One of the stranger emotions citizens of the US experience makes no sense at all. For a country that appears to want to be directed and disciplined, that seems to admire the absolute power Trump himself covets when he looks at Russia, China, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia – we no longer believe it takes talent or thought to rule (at least the airwaves), to whit Dear Leader’s estimation of how much preparation he needs to meet with the leader of North Korea.  For the Donald, this is not matter of learning anything, or studying, or benefitting from others’ earlier experiences, it’s simply a matter of “Attitude.”

All our very own Dorothy needs to do is click her ruby heels together and the world will slew in the desired direction.  Not being in Kansas anymore but instead travelling by cloud, on a cloud, her (his) perceptions clouded by fantasies of flying carpets and billion man marches, Dear One need hardly leave the continental US in order to achieve peace on earth, good will toward all.  Those who would worry, instruct, or even “take a knee” are dolts who do not understand the simple power of fear.

Continue reading “REVERSE”

TIME TO STOP LAUGHING

Today, June 1st, is the perfect moment for the US of A to realize that what it wears on its head is catastrophe, not helmets.

Voters on both sides of the aisle have had a field day laughing at, belittleling, teasing our Dear Leader and his cohorts, men and women of little learning, less accomplishment, and basically no governmental experience.  Legislative triumphs are at most non-existent, international agreements have evaporated, our international standing has sunk.

This past week has begun to see a hardening of battlelines against ignorance and shooting from the hip.

Alas, this has made America’s bed rockier and more unforgiving.

Going ‘way back some sixty years, in the study of the English language,  we found the embryonic set-to between  “The New Criticism”(F.R. Leavis’s baby) and a more traditional critical stance, based almost entirely on emotional, nature, and nuture.

Leavis, at large in England during the med-forties to the later seventies, seduced his followers into accepting only the unemotional presentation of ideas.   Not for him the petticoats of Austen or Disraeli, or even Dickens.   What Leavis favored was unfiltered fact.  It was not enough to toy with country colors, birdsong, atmosphere.  Leavis wanted reality.  “The New Criticism” was meant to be bare-bone.  He didn’t need to or want to understand the trauma of his fictional characters.  It was enough that they were human and flawed and dependable in their actions and their choices.   Their family situations were  entirely beyond the point.

For undergraduates at the time (ourself among them) this made life exceedingly simple.  No Freud or Adler, Jung or Lawrence.   We read for understanding of human error, for taking a right fork rather than a left.  Those choices lead our protagonists to easily sympathetic and understandable behavior.   There was a cause-and-effect pay-off that could not be denied.  (Side-bar: we’re writing this based on our memories, rather than on research.)

What this led to was simplicity itself: depend not on flora and fauna of disguise and subterfuge

Stare straight ahead at fact, result.   It was not enough to rely on color, music, make-believe.

What this means for today’s Americans –either engaged or separated from the future  – should be equally simple.  In effect, what the new administration does matters more than what it says.

What the Donald is engaged in doing is destroying purposefully the pillars of a democracy that have proven to work (moderately, after all ) for more than two hundred years.

Continue reading “TIME TO STOP LAUGHING”

WHERE WE’RE GOING

Edward Markey (D., Mass) is an Ichabod Crane sort of guy: thin, worried, anxious. And heretofore a liberal/progressive quiet man on a sideline of his own making.  Dependable in his opposition to Big Government Republicanism, not an alumnus of Harvard but rather of Boston College.   A guy who worked to get where he is: the US Senate.

His opposition to our Dear One was automatic and reassuring.

Until yesterday, when Senator Markey tried to find light at the end of an increasingly dark tunnel.  By the end of the day, Markey was one of a very few politicians who saw hope in the cancelled meeting between North Korea and the US.  His reasoning: you have to find it, that’s all.

Markey’s rationale in effect was a taking of the knee, different from what we imagine when we picture athletes on a gridiron.  This one was offered in homage to our Dear Leader.   Clearly Markey had given up, given in, and given over.   In fact, his stumbling admiration for Dear One was less painful than it might have been.  It was, after all, only one of a hundred such cave-ins coming from men and women whom we believed had more guts and gumption.

The tribe of hill-dwellers (in both House and Senate) have been pounded back nearly to the stone age (lowercase purposeful) for one reason: no debate is possible with Dear One about anything.   HE rules; they do not. What HE wants from them is obedience, agreement, adoration, and silence. That’s what he’s getting. True, occasionally someone (Jeff Flake) gets a little steam up and spouts, but he’s already heading back to the ranch.   He no longer counts.  Besides, he talks a great game but then turns around and votes with the Donald.

So, in fact, does most of the Senate, people for whom we had greater hopes.  If our system of government is to survive in any healthy form it needs daily exercise, the airing of opposing ideas, the weighing of alternative possibilities.  Without a position of advance scout and trail-blazer, our representatives are largely useless, able only to see the expanse below their lookouts and none of the dangers, beauteous possibilities, growth.

And what we’re learning, at our peril, is that currently we have no leaders.  Our “reps” seemed happy enough to rely on time alone to right the focus of our vision as long as they themselves are still part of it.

We, the U.S. of A, are not in a good place.

Which leads us to reflect on some of the daily ”Breaking News” tape that dashes across our screens at all hours.

No matter what daily scandal is offered on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, there is one recurring loop that as much as promises where this presidency is going, where “the Investigation” is going.  Half of the nation is not going to like this.

But our Donald has already telegraphed to the nation at large and in effect the world, too, that when all is said and done he holds the winning cards and he will deal them as he sees fit.

Continue reading “WHERE WE’RE GOING”

GOD SHED HIS GRACE ON THEE

 

You know what?  Maybe Trump’s a follower, not a leader.

Because, as we look around the countryside, we find felons of all types – newly released, able to vote, able to run for elective office regardless of earlier misdemeanors  –  actually in  some cases being re-elevated to respectability – or what passes for it, public office.

We’re all for giving redemptive support to men and women who have worked hard to pull their lives together.

Forgive us if the format of God’s healing love seems tired, trite and over-used.  Successful, to be sure, but no longer miraculous.  What it has become is only a part of the process, not the deed.  Who can deny someone a moment  the sun?  Besides, how do we know it’s bogus theatrics? Really?

When a mayor of a Connecticut city of nearly half a million souls is arrested and serves 6 years for fraud and embezzlement,  and STILL seems like the best candidate again and the most trustworthy, have we got trouble?  Or convicted and released felons in Florida, Alabama, Virginia?    Not to mention Arizona, Texas,  Colorado.

These are people who profited from public scams.  Is their reappealing notoriety based on the success of their schemes, or of the fact that they’ve been through the mill and survived?  Nothing worse can be done by them.  How stupid they’d be to do whatever it was they did to begin with in the first place.  How neat  to be one of their friends!

On the other hand, at least they know the lay of the land, the ups and downs, the rules.  No flies on them.  They know where and how the bodies are buried, and no doubt have instant recourse to opening the vaults to slip in another few.

We know all America loves blood, guts and gore.   Nor to mention out-smarting the cops.  Riots, firebombs, murder for revenge, for love, for any reason whatever.  Tall buildings that can’t be leapt in a single bound.  Eliot Ness but don’t forget Al Capone.   Sinatra’s music but the hint of off-color connections makes it even more hummable.

Face it: you’re no one unless you’re carrying.

The idea that our school children will be better protected in their classrooms by an armed adult teacher drawing on and facing down a would-be one-on-one brings us back to Gary Cooper’s “High Noon.” Remember? Gary Cooper got no volunteers.

We don’t go to stock car races to see whose car is the fastest or most ingeniously reinforced to stand he stress and strain of the competition.  We’ve got to be there in case anyone is killed.  On the rail or in their cars.  The same way we stare awe-struck upwards at trapeze artists working without a net.  Not for us the admiration of their skill and bravery.  Rather the possibility that their hands may be sweaty, the ropes may break, the fall calamitous.  The neck broken.  Like watching a youngster impale himself for life on the knife edge of fame on the gridiron.  It’s what American guys do.

And we no longer have to regard this mano-a-mano as sexist.  What eight year old little girl doesn’t want to break her hip or knee playing kill-for-it soccer?

Endless hero interviews after the events.  Five minutes in the lights.  Fifty years of regret.  And still we admire these people, want to emulate them, are willing no matter what to vote for them.

Continue reading “GOD SHED HIS GRACE ON THEE”

CAMPAIGN PROMISES, or DIOGENES FINDS HIS MAN

The Dear One’s ecstatic signing in the Oval Office of everything but what could conceivably assist us all in living in our world constitute his high points in office.  (We already know about the low points.)

His second greatest pleasure is being rude to heads of state who visit him.

His first great pleasure is announcing to one and all that he is keeping his campaign promises, one by one, and that this very consistency should help Americans love him even more than he thinks they do.

It’s imperative that the Donald be reminded, early and often, that he was elected not by the country at large but rather a small fraction of a political party that took the time to vote for someone without experience and brain power.  Which is to say, he got lucky.  Ms. Clinton was unlucky, far better prepared but a victim of her own confidence.

Since his inauguration, Dear One has been luckier than hell.  Events and personalities that would have sunk other presidents harmed him not.  He displays genius of a sort by keeping the nation‘s head-spinning, by redirecting our attention from would-be disasters to minor triumphs of a completely different kind.

Along the way, he crowed about his ability to keep the promises he had made on the road.  Nonsensical, imaginary, bigoted, bellicose, proudly uninformed, threatening.   But the bottom line is that he was elected by a FRACTION of the Republican party – with the assistance of people around the country who were angry, ignored, needy and unnoticed.  Perhaps 30 million eligible Republican voters bought what he was selling.

What were some of these “campaign promises?”  Well, of course, the Wall and tougher immigration, the very life blood of how America was made great to begin with.  Everything about which he spoke was “the worst in the history of the world”.   Not in order of importance – our educational system, our national security forces, NAFTA, pipelines, the TransPacific arrangement to come, NATO, taxes, the Justice Department, the FBI, Hollywood, poverty, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, “Obamacare.”

There was nothing about our nation that made him proud, but for “his” generals and the armed forces.

Well, on our behalf, he has promised nothing beneficial.  But for the promise to “drain the swamp,” an effort we’ve seen fail entirely and in effect made even greater by its exposure and his selections for his “cabinet.”

He owes us nothing.   He can’t put together a defense plan for Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran or North Korea. It’s too early to know whether Dear One will get lucky on a North Korean agreement, one that may last three/four years and then simply disappear whether or not the Donald has a second term.   This effort at make believe has the Donald already proposing himself for a Nobel.

In point of fact, Donald owes us nothing but security and safety, and even there he falls far, far short; to whit, see what’s happened to Puerto Rico with (reportedly) FEMA pulling out next week.

Continue reading “CAMPAIGN PROMISES, or DIOGENES FINDS HIS MAN”

BOILING IT DOWN

 

The time has come, we think, for us to make some decisions about ourselves.

We’re not talking about the country en masse.  We mean individually, which of course eventually becomes en masse.

What kind of people are we?  Are we people who believe in the rule of law, the foundations of government, or are we all freelancers, ”exceptional” beings who believe they and only they have right answers and every right in the world to behave as they wish, regardless.

Are we people who listen, who respect others, who know enough history to understand even in the most rudimentary way how the USA got where it is, and have an inkling of where it seems to be going?

Are we proud of our leaders, convinced that their experiences entitle them to actually lead?  Or are we abashed at the quality of our leaders who seem, in so many cases, to be corrupt, who seem – in so many cases – to have crawled out from under rocks, their mouths open to devour whatever foliage and fauna lie in their path?

Do we admire men and women who – American first – are out to feather their own nests and happy enough, nay, content and oblivious to the less fortunate?

Why soul-search at this point?

Because it seems to us that we may have been wrong about the Donald being like Charles Schultz’s Pigpen.  Perhaps it’s not the Donald who tarnishes every object with which he comes into contact.  Perhaps, under layers of habit, strata of self-confidence, decades of self-adoration we are all as corrupt as the next person.  “Only I can fix it” – says our Dear One.  Actually, he has very little to do, and has done very little but lift that stone and let the ravenous, ravening millions of envious, ambitious, bitter citizens whose representatives have long since stopped listening to them exercise their worst instincts convince themselves that whatever they feel, say, see, do is right, honorable, patriotic.

Donald maybe playing the tune, but its music is opening the earth to hordes of angry people ready to follow their leader in his negligent, dishonest fashion –scolding, attacking, trying to frighten into obedience not just individuals but entire industries and nations.  “It’s our turn, damnit!”

To combat this explosive slide down the sides of an international volcano, some of us have to be detailed to put boulders in the path of this massive earth-shift.

And here we have to instruct our compatriots in willingness, hope and bravery.

This is not revolution.

What it is is an open-air class in honesty and – we hate his word – transparency.

Alas, some of this instruction must come only after investigations, trials, prison sentences.  Worse, this all must happen as we watch others duck and weave away from responsability.  AND AT THE SAME TIME imagine ourselves in those shoes, muttering “What would I do, what would I do?”

So banking off the spectacles of Scott Pruitt on the loose, Ben Carson whittling, Ryan Zinke ignoring the earth, Mike Mulvaney ignoring human beings on earth…what WOULD we do?

Continue reading “BOILING IT DOWN”