Thursday, November 19, 2020

Modern Democracy - Success or Failure

This week's topic was chosen by Raju. Be sure to check his take and the other 6 bloggers in our group's take at their respective blogs: Ramana, Maria, Sanjana, Padmum, Raju, Srinivas, and Conrad.

As a prelude to the topic  I offer this as a backdrop

11

Democracy dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman city states and has evolved through several different flavors over the years. The largest democracy in the world is India and the most powerful is the United States.

The last few  years have seen a largely amoral POTUS attempt to tear down the institutions of our government and instill a hard-right nationalist fervor which he succeeded in doing - you may recall  the armed militia, on the steps of the Michigan capitol and the arrest of several militia members planning to kidnap and possibly execute the governor of Michigan. Our country's divide is as deep and wide as the Grand canyon.

Democracy speaks to how we select our government or the leaders of any institution. You would be hard pressed to find people who prefer any other way of selecting leaders.  

Once the leaders are chosen, how they choose to govern largely dictates the success or failure as a democracy,  Types of democracy? Too numerous to list  or discuss  here. We, the USA, are a Republic. It seems our founders were not so enamored of direct democracy, as in their day that often meant democracy without the protection of a constitution enshrining basic rights. James Madison suggested a direct democracy got weaker as it got  larger whereas a republic could get stronger as it got larger (see the Federalist 10).

World population review list the top 10 of the most democratic nations in the world are: Norway (9.87) Iceland (9.58) Sweden (9.39) New Zealand (9.26) Finland (9.25) Ireland (9.24) Canada (9.22) Denmark (9.22) Australia (9.09) Switzerland (9.03). The bottom of the entire list is anchored by North Korea, the USA comes in at 25. You can see the entire list here - just scroll down through the ads and other info to the list.

Obviously economic performance is a huge indicator of the success or failure of a democracy. I believe the future success or failure of democracy lies with the success or failure of two countries - the USA and India. The USA has long been that shining ight on the hillside so often talked about.  Clearly though, the last four years show we are not without issues that must be resolved. While we do possess the treasure and strength to be a world cop, the wherewithal to do so may be waning a bit. I see that strength in India and a population willing to do nearly anything to be successful. The entrepreneurial spirit I have seen from India is mind boggling and they have the technical expertise. India is an effective counterweight to China with China ahead at the moment but with India in the race for the long haul. FYI, India's democracy score is 7.23, the USA is 7.96 and China is 3.32. Globalization increases daily as communication and technical growth run wild. Market stresses caused by changing and shrinking resources require technical innovation - such as ceasing global dependence on fossil fuels. Changing weather patterns will affect food supplies and population centers. It is going to be a vastly different world in 50 years. Democracy will make a difference, as in my opinion a largely east vs west slugfest becomes a north vs south slugfest.

Modern Democracy has been very much a success to this point thanks in large part to the success and growth of the USA. How the USA reacts to internal power changes, as the next generation of leaders assume control, and external power as  more nations step up on the world stage for their piece of the pie. India, this means you, will determine the future success or failure of democracy. Of course, we live in a nuclear world and there is always the chance some buffoon pushes the button that brings it all crashing down on us. I personally think the chance of that happening increases in direct proportion to the increasing political power of religions. There is a reason our country was founded with a very distinct separation of church hand state.  


That's it for this week's topic. See ya next week, same bat time, same bat channel.


                                                        

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Dinner in two hours

Maria offered this week's topic. You can check what she and the other bloggers have to say about the topic at their  respective blogs - RamanaMariaSanjanaPadmumRajuSrinivas, and Conrad.

Two hours, eh? That is just enough time so lets hit the road.





Time for one more tune before we get to the place we are having dinner


Yep - there it is 
                        

 Plenty of time to grab a seat and enjoy a couple of double Glenlivets before the others arrive. Won't hurt my feelings if they're late - that's one more scotch LOL. And, look who the bar band is tonight!



See ya next week when our group of 8 bloggers again write on a shared topic.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Letter to Santa...What I want for Christmas.

 Dear Santa,

I hope this letter finds you well. I really hope 2020 has been better for you than it has for most people but I'd love a sneak peek at your naughty/nice book. I suspect keeping it up all year has been quite stressful at times. As you and I share the same personal kryptonite, cookies, I trust the Mrs. or cooking elves have kept your supplies replenished. I  promise I'll leave a few extra on your plate Christmas Eve. I hope you still fit down all of those  chimneys and by the by - I have always wondered how you complete your deliveries without looking like a chimney sweep? Every pic I have seen displays a clean,  bright red suit with nary a smudge on it. You aren't photo shopping those are you?

At my age you might think it odd I am once again writing to you but frankly I cannot remember you ever delivering anything I asked for before. As I grew older and wiser I just assumed your day job was in politics and you are a typical politician. Alas, when the divide between folks in my country reached epic proportions and the red hated the blue, elephants hated the asses and some families were sadly torn asunder, I realized that not getting that Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Air Rifle (aka BB gun) could cause this much trouble. What the heck - that thing isn't even on the NRA's watch list.

Don't worry Santa - I won't ask for world peace - that must  be above your pay grade. 

How about a Stanley Cup for my beloved Tiburones de San José

The board game Version of QAnon - 

More tolerance to deal with the idiots in this world 

Winning lottery numbers (before the game, of course)

A pill for writer's block on blog day (just in case)

Zero calorie cinnamon gummy bears

Gym membership for my good angel since my bad angel seems to kick his ass regularly

The wherewithal to finish the great American novel

More patience - he is only 10  years old (my grandson)

CRISPR being approved for HD treatment for my daughter

One more year of Supernatural 

The sequel to The Last Starfighter to get filmed 

One last note Santa - since world peace is beyond your reach, how about just a simple thing like a return to civility?


Shackman

That's it for my spin on Padmini's chosen topic. Please see what the others have to say

Maria

Sanjana

Ramanas Musings

Srinivas

Conrad

Padmum & Raju














 


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Best, Worst, Probable, the World in Five Years

This week's topic sprang forth from the fertile mind of the Old Fossil, AKA Conrad. Time is running out on the US election season and Fos wants to know where it all will end. Honestly, so do most of us - the population in general. 

We begin our best view of the world in five years on November 3, 2020 by replacing the current inhabitant of the White House with Joe Biden. Mike Pence is shown the gate with his political career in tatters because he was nothing more than a sycophant for Donald J. Trump. We will have five years to repair the INTENTIONAL damage done to our Republic by the Trump administration. Trump took his deconstruction of the administrative state seriously. But, who could have imagined that one thing he did in his term was create a coalition primed to solve the divisiveness his presidency has  so enthusiastically engendered by uniting together to remove him from office. Irony of ironies.

Nobody in their right mind would expect this new coalition to remain in tact once the job of removing Trump is done. Most important, though, is the fact that the left and right are showing they can  work together if there is common ground. There is plenty of common ground to be explored and many opportunities to become a bipartisan country again. That is something we need to embrace and build on. That is something Joe Biden is known for - being an old school politician known for working across the aisle. We need to put folks in charge of departments that are qualified to run those departments. Regulations? How often have we heard from the automotive industry that they could not adhere to the regulations being imposed on them and remain in business. Yet, every year cars were made safer and more energy efficient. The entire industry is working toward nothing but electric cars in 10-15 years. Clean energy is an imperative and will require much work and new job creation. The oil industry companies are already working on this and simply need incentives to continue.

Part of the great unknown over the next few years is how the younger generations react to the real power transitioning to them. I frankly have no clue what they will do as I have no idea what they really care about - just that they blame us boomers for many if not all of our ills. I am reasonably optimistic they will take the ball and run with it. They may have a different plan of attack but the requirements  remain unchanged. Our west coast offense may soon become a thing of the past, just like the run and shoot I played in before Bill Walsh came along. To my Indian blogging partners, I apologize for the American football references, but they are the easiest to make that can be understood by readers here (especially those that know me).

We are undergoing a period of change in this country that could be as rocky as the sixties due to the divide between us. But that divide offers a chance to create a stronger, better republic - one that lives up finally to its promise. One that returns us again to a position of leadership on the world stage. One that our allies can trust and that our foes respect. One with our nation's soul restored, where our  politicians cease the name calling and behavior more akin to 10 year olds on a playground than adult leaders.

The worst? Like the best, the election November 3, 2020 holds the key. In the worst scenario, Donald Trump is reelected. Chaos continues to reign. Our primary foe - Russia - continues to make enormous gains against our interests, as does our primary competitor, China. North Korea is stronger militarily than ever. Tensions along the Korean peninsula are as tenuous as ever. That will get progressively worse IMHO.

Our justice department will continue its slide into the swamp and become more of a tool for 45 to seek revenge on his enemies, real and imagined. Our national parks and land will be sold or leased to companies seeking to drill or mine while little or no progress is made on alternative, environmentally friendlier power.

More tax breaks to wealthy Americans and companies will increase the national debt significantly. Healthcare will change but we have no idea how. Nothing 45 has said or done gives any indication beyond his promises it is about to be delivered. He has made the same pledge for four years.

I expect the protests in the streets to expand and be worse as militia groups feel emboldened by 45 to clash with protestors. The violent extreme left and extreme right use the streets as their battleground. 45 will continue to use "law and order" to push the limits of his authoritarian tendencies and label the left's actions as socialism and communism. Of course, that is likely no matter who wins the election. It also amazes me how many people are so ignorant of communism as to agree with Trump and so ignorant of socialism to not recognize its presence in our lives.

Trump's actions - or lack thereof - regarding the pandemic will lead to many more deaths as we await his vaunted herd immunity to be reached.  As this is being written we are adding 70,000 plus cases daily. Despite 45's protestation, the rise is not simply due to increased testing as the percentage of deaths and hospitalizations has increased. Vaccines are coming but only about 70% of the population seems willing to take the vaccine. 

Trump seems bulletproof when it comes to the economy and the stock market. His tax reductions and deregulation seem to keep the markets on the rise, though the benefits do not always trickle down to working folk. I see no reason for that to change.

I expect  chaos to continue its hold on a Trump administration should he be reelected. The cabinet doors will be constantly swinging as nearly everyone seems to cross 45 eventually and draw his ire.

Of course this is all speculation and swag (scientific wild-assed guesses). But, should Trump win reelection, why wouldn't he continue to enrich himself and his company by drinking at the government trough. I would also expect Don Junior to find a way to enter politics and continue the new and improved family business. The religious right sold their souls for Trumps judicial picks, hoping to overturn Rowe v. Wade and do everything they can to ban abortion in the country - something I believe the majority does not support. But regarding the judges, and specifically the Supreme court, anyone who thinks the Democrats would not have done the exact same thing given the opportunity is naïve, foolish or both. Both parties are largely amoral when it comes to getting their way.

We will also witness the beginning of the transition of real power between generations as the younger folk start assuming the reins of power. Things will change as dinosaurs like Moscow Mitch, 45, Lindsey Graham, Pelosi, Schumer, Feinstein and the rest of the old guard ride off into the sunset searching for a rest home to continue what I am sure they believe is the real battle. 

As our population becomes younger and browner, newer ideas will spring forth from young liberals like AOC and young conservatives like Ben Sasse. That is as it should be as they inherit control from Boomers and other old folks. The world in five years will be an interesting place - we are leaving a lot of ideas and broken toys for them to sort through. I just hope it is all  not filtered through another four years of Trumpian chaos. Plus, the world may be split more along north/south lines rather than east/west. It seems to me the haves are more to the north and the want to haves are more to the south. one thing is certain - Time Has Come Today

That concludes my speculations on the world in five years. Please Be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.

Maria

Sanjana

Ramanas Musings

Srinivas

Conrad

Padmum and Raju

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Day in the Life

This weeks topic is my choice and it is meant to catch us all up on life today in the midst of a global pandemic, that as this is written has infected over 40 million people, killed nearly 1.1 million people and of which over 26.7 million have survived. Over the last several weeks we have been around the edges of this subject so lets see just what is really happening.

Woke up - fell out of bed


The first thing I do every morning is head to the kitchen and make a pot  of coffee, throw a couple of slices of multigrain bread into the toaster oven and let the dog out.  After the animals and I are fed and watered or 
'coffeed", the day is in full swing. Full swing is to remain grounded in my little aluminum tube. See - I am one of those with comorbidities and pretty much under quarantine 24/7. If I do get out it is definitely with a mask and a large container of hand sanitizer. That is for trips to the Doctor's office, Cardiologist or the rare trip to a drive through for takeout. It is good to see that treatment for Covid-19 has improved - at least if you have access to treatments not yet available to the general public. Just ask 45 and Chris Christie.


No barbershop for me but I won't look like an elderly Sasquatch any time soon as there is someone here in the park that can cut my hair.


I spend most days playing Scrabble, Words for Friends 2, and being a political junkie and following the news - multi sourced of course. I must admit, though, the 24/7 news coverage and short news cycle are frustrating and stressful.
Frankly, I long for the old days - what we used to call normal. The weekends when we could pick up and head to a movie on a whim. Of course the cost these days is simply outrageous. 


I have noticed a cost increase for groceries as well - varying from 10% to 20% per order. Coupled with unemployment numbers and the inability of the government to come up with an appropriate new stimulus package, things are tougher than ever. There are 3 people here living off a single social security check. As long as nothing goes wrong - read breaks down - we are fine. Of course something always breaks down.


Things apparently will continue in this vain until we can get the Pandemic under control. We continue to lead the world in poor response to Covid-19. Nothing being presented in the news lately gives me confidence the situation will improve appreciably any time soon.


I am not particularly surprised by that as many people here are blessed - or cursed - with a fierce independent streak. One that seemingly equates the simple task of wearing a face mask as a severe infringement of their personal rights. There is as much rancor there as there is with gun rights critics. Who woulda thunk - a cloth face mask is as sore a point as semiautomatic weapons. The CDC is the right's NRA. Sensible? That is up to you.
It has been interesting to see home delivery of groceries and take out establish a strong foothold. I think those will be with us permanently as we move forward and establish a new normal. I must admit - I find the fact that I can make an Aldi, Publix, or Food Lion grocery order at 8AM and by 10AM  it is delivered. I have become a fan of Aldi and their prices while the prices on groceries are so unstable. And Door Dash is easy to use but expensive. Choose your establishment wisely as you can save money with special deals. Boy, do I miss a place called Mr. Pickles - the best sandwich shop ever. I discovered them while staying with my brother's family.


Something else that is gaining popularity is working from home. Out of necessity, many folks are discovering the joy of working from home. Commutes include  avoiding overly affectionate pets as you walk down the hall. Having spent ten years doing it at RadioShack, I am glad to see it spreading. I am even considering going back to work.


So here we sit - less than two weeks until what I consider the most important election in our lives. Essentially quarantined,, avoiding get togethers, watching way too much TV and being as careful as possible. NC is spiking in infections - but the weather is nice. So far I have managed to not lose any friends over the election but the number of folks I discuss politics with has declined. No harm there as it is a mad mad world there is always plenty of stuff to discuss. Less than two weeks to go until things settle down.

And so goes a typical day for me here in North Carolina, the place I not so happily call home these days. The unhappiness is my issue and not related to the Pandemic. We are rapidly entering the Fall season, my favorite time of year. The temperature has been falling to 43° nightly, there is definitely a nip in the air. Good news - it is much cooler and pleasant temperature wise. Bad news - the cooler temperatures may be leading us into the worst time of the Pandemic. It will cause people to congregate in enclosed areas and far too many people still have issues wearing face masks when they are out and about.  Opening the state's economies has caused new spikes in infections as beaches and bars become more accessible. Too many in our society prefer to be seen in pubic carrying their semiautomatic weapons rather than wear a mask and help protect people from Covid-19.

That's my take on this week's quirky topic. Please Be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.

Maria

Sanjana

Ramanas Musings

Srinivas

Conrad

Padmun & Raju



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Recipe For Your Grandchildren

This week's topic sprang from the fertile mind of the youngest member of the blogging group - our resident teenager Sanjana. Considering I have 2 grandchildren older than her, this topic is even more perplexing, but here goes anyway. I will attack the topic with a twist of sorts - my recipe is for a Saturday. A perfect Saturday like many of the ones I experienced as a kid.

Saturday AM

We will assume that you did not set an alarm to awaken early on this special Saturday. You did agree to call the gang upon rising so the first part of the days recipe is to call the "gang" and set in motion the events of the day. You might down a glass of OJ whilst calling the gang.  Arrange to meet at the local McDonalds for a quick breakfast - you will need some fuel for the day's activities. Meet ya at Mickey D's in an hour you excitedly say  - and after the calls are made, it is off to the kitchen to make your lunch, grab your stuff, and split.

A Healthy Lunch

Grab the bag of Cuties (Mandarin oranges), a couple of apples, the bags of chips from the pantry (healthy is in the eye of the young lunch maker) and a few bottles of Gatorade G2, the cooler and load it with ice and your ahem - healthy lunch selections. Just enough time to get dressed and hit the road. Mickey D's is only about 5 blocks away. You'll make it in plenty of time.

Dress for the ball game of the day - be it soccer, football, basketball or baseball. Gloves and bats - as necessary. While getting dressed you realize the cooler is overkill since you and your siblings all have backpacks. Load the backpacks and leave the cooler on the patio. You can clean it when you get back. Hop onto your chosen mode of transport - skateboard, bike or shank's mare (for the unenlightened, shank's mare was my grandmother's way of telling me to walk if the bike or board were not available). Within 10 minutes or so you meet up with the gang at Mickey D's ready to get some breakfast. Amazingly most of the gang had fries for breakfast. I had a sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin - well - 2 of them and a Coke. 

To the Park

Alright - fueled and ready, cross the street to get dibs on the baseball diamond at Gansberger School for the days activities. In my time 90% of those days were filled playing baseball or football, depending on the time of year. And yes - unlike my time, girls play. Some of the best ballplayers are girls - my niece Sammy got a scholarship to  college at Notre Dame  Demur. Her mom and sisters all played, my brother and sister were jocks. I suppose these days kids are more apt to be going out to play soccer than baseball but the Saturday concept does not give a darn about the game being played - as long as you get home in time for dinner. 

Let the Game Begin

Choose up sides and get the game going. You will only have 5 or so hours to play. Everyone will get 15 or so at bats or scoring chances. If another "gang" shows up, then it is your gang vs them for neighborhood bragging rights. And, if by chance a mud ball fight breaks out, open fire. Mudballs are best after a heavy rain - you grab a handful of grass (the fields were not mowed often) and pull straight up. Then shape the mud at the base like a ball and they will fly straight and true. In 7-10 years of mudball battles no gang members were hurt. 

Game Over

After 4 or 5 hours of serious fun the entire gang will be whupped. Time to head home and work on dinner plans. For me, that meant convincing the folks a trip to Ye Olde Pizza Joynt was in order. The recipe for that was convincing the folks it was more relaxing to head to there than cooking anything at home. Luckily, both parents  recognized the real value in an extra large confusion, a cold beverage and the sounds of the pipe organ blasting away. Confusion? Sausage, hamburger, multiple kinds of cheese, pepperoni, salami, mushrooms, green and black olives, bell peppers, onions, red pepper flakes and a liberal dosing of parmesan all excessively applied, and then baked to perfection so the center was not soggy. It was the perfect ending to a great day - a real recipe for success. And a loud belch.

Yes this is based upon my experience as a kid in Hayward, California. My summer days were very much like this as the neighborhood gang and I headed off to play baseball every day - an activity well documented in the 1993 film The Sandlot.

That's my take on this week's quirky topic courtesy of Sanjana. Please Be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.

"Sage" Advice

My editor suggested recipes for life - like always wear clean underwear, avoid  blind alleys and the like. We all have within us a sensible person and the idiot - unfortunately, we cannot often tell the difference. Lastly, people argue less on a full stomach. 

Maria

Sanjana

Ramanas Musings

Srinivas

Conrad

Padmun & Raju









Thursday, October 8, 2020

Power.

This week's topic, offered by Ramana, is short and sweet - Power. Well, maybe not so sweet. That likely depends upon whichever side you are on in the battle over power  you have chosen. Lovers and proponents of Chaos theory, like a pair of bloggers in this group, are likely doing backflips. Careful Conrad - you are not as limber and in such good shape as you once were.


Politics of Power

We are unique here in the USA in that every four years we show the world a peaceful transition of power. There was that little hiccup called the Civil War and there are grumblings by some extreme right-wing folks about taking it to the streets again, though frankly I prefer the Doobie Brothers version. I have seen folks I consider my friends threatening violence in the streets over politics. Perhaps I need to reconsider some of my  friendships but I will wait until the very last moment to undertake that.

We in the west make Christmas a power event. Listen to the lyrics of some seemingly cutesy children's songs like this one "Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town He sees you when you're sleeping He knows when you're awake He knows if you've been bad or good So be good for goodness sake! O! You better watch out! You better not cry Better not pout I'm telling you why Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town" Yep - that fat guy in the red suit has the power to make or  break every kid's Christmas.

Power has appeared in the name of Q-Anon. "Over the past few years, the Q-Anon movement, a baseless conspiracy theory referring to the belief in a cabal of deep state leftist pedophiles, has gained tremendous traction — and extremist researchers believe it’s largely been due to social platforms turning a blind eye to such content." Speaking of blind eyes, there will be Q-Anon believers/supporters in the next House of Representatives. Apparently we have not yet reached the bottom of the candidate barrel.  It seems like voter limbo - how low can you go? I sure hope we have hit bottom.

Use of Power

It's always interesting to see how the eventual winners in a power struggle choose to exercise their newly won authority. Do they do the things they promised to do during the struggle? Do they have an epiphany and do the opposite of what they promised? Do they have a clue what to do if they win? One need only look at the USA 2016 Presidential election to see the results of a seemingly clueless winner. Then again, Steve Bannon did state Trump was going to disassemble the mechanism of government a department at a time. So far so good. Clearly power in the wrong hands can be devastating. One also might wonder just what Trump would have done had he not had Obama to villainize and roadmark his own private Route 66 highway of destruction. It seems the only structure to Trump's administration is to piece by piece reverse any Obama action.

Power Speaks to Truth

When I was in college earning my BA in Political Science, we had one standard question that came up time after time - When does power speak to truth? I submit that power speaks to truth when it has to. Currently the Covid-19 pandemic is dominating the news waves and we here in the USA appear powerless to effectively deal with it - unless, of course, you accept the statements by Trump that he has cured Covid-19. He is, after all, a perfect physical specimen (in his own mind). I suggest power has spoken to truth in this instance and has had it's butt roundly kicked.

Power is clearly a multifaceted beast that we deal with daily. We give our children examples of its daily use in the way we wield power in our homes. Then the kids go to school, we go to work and another set of examples are presented, to our kids and to us. Power is wielded at work and schools in different ways - lessons for us all. And, we wield power daily. How we do that may well determine how happy and successful we are. That old adage treat people the way you wish to be treated stands out as the way to wield that power.

That's my quick shack-take on power, our weekly topic. Power is a topic worthy of  50-60 page paper. I did a few back in the college days. I enjoy interacting with readers on this blog, so those epistles are locked away somewhere  with my copy of David Mitrany's Working Peace System and other things from my youth that I outgrew. And, a few I never outgrew. 





Please be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.

Maria

Sanjana

Ramanas Musings

Srinivas

Conrad

Padmun & Raju