Monday, September 28, 2015

Putin and Trump on 60 Minutes

Last night's 60 Minutes was symmetrical: two controversial world figures- Russian President Vladimir Putin and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump- interviewed by two hostile journalist, Charlie Rose and Scott Pelley, who were determined to show the American audience that they could be tough on powerful men, though these were powerful men it was politically easy to be tough on.

This is not a defense of Putin or Trump.  Yes, Putin cultivates an aggressive image as the man who will restore the Russian empire- while he says he just wants secure borders- and Trump calls for deporting 11 million illegal aliens with no explanation of how such a move could be possible.  Rose and Pelley worked to expose any duplicity in these positions, but they worked harder than they needed to and gave the impression they were motivated, not by a journalistic search for truth, but by a need to improve their ratings.

Rose found it necessary to challenge Putin, not only on policy, but on every aspect of how the policy is expressed.  He questioned Putin on the Russian incursion into Syria. Putin said Russia is supporting Syrian President Assad and fighting ISIS, and that the fight against ISIS in Syria should be viewed as a common fight with the U.S.  This is helpful to hear, just so we know the Russian line, but Rose felt he needed to expose more about Putin:  

Rose: But your pride in Russia means that you would like to see Russia play a bigger role in the world and this is just one example.

Putin: Well, it's not the goal in itself.  I'm proud of Russia, that's true. And we have something to be proud of, but we do not have any obsession with being a superpower in the international arena.

Rose: But you are in part a major power because of the nuclear weapons you have.  You are a force to be reckoned with.

Putin: I definitely hope so, otherwise why would we have nuclear weapons at all.

Putin grinned and often laughed at the questions about Russia's secret agenda, and there must have been millions of people who understood why. I read minds, so I had a special assist. Putin was thinking: "This man is trying to get me to admit that Russia is exactly like the U.S., meddling all over the world in a belief that it is protecting itself. Is Rose trying to make me point that out?"

Rose asked Putin if it's true as some say that he's a new tsar.  Putin laughed and thought, "What a joke! What does he think I'm going to say, 'Yes'?"    

Pelley's interview with Trump was similar, in that you could almost think Pelley was the one running for office.  Trump's positions, of course, are ripe for challenge. How, for instance, could the country deport 11 million people?  Pelley was right to point out the fantasy involved.   What was striking about Pelley was the smirking and frequent scornful laughter that accompanied his questions, and the continual charges that everything Trump said was wrong.   This was clear, undisguised bias against Trump, unexcused by Trump's shortcomings.  It might be more acceptable if Pelley's attack mode were expressed equally towards every candidate, but it isn't.  If you go back to Pelley's interviews with Obama when he first ran for president, you will not find Pelley demanding to know how an Obama presidency would improve America's race relations, an implicit promise of the campaign. Now that race relations in the country are significantly worse than before Obama, would Pelley demand from Obama that he explain his failure?  Not in a million years, but why not?

All the world's prominent politicians are in a sense frauds, after all, simply because they present themselves as capable of solving problems that they can't.  Prominent journalists are frauds too in the sense that they downplay the excessive power they have. They tell us whom to love and whom to scorn.   But who loves and scorns journalists?  Who keeps them honest?  

Rose and Pelley deserve credit for standing up to powerful men who would intimidate many, but by showing bias and rudeness to these men, they showed their own susceptibility to the seductions of power.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I read John Boehner's and others' minds

My telepathic abilities are strongest in the morning, so the timing was good on Friday for watching John Boehner's early news conference, when he announced his resignation from the House Speakership and Congress.  I should explain to new readers that over the years, in addition to my native abilities, I've developed techniques to read people's minds while I watch them live on TV.  It has to do with synchronizing waves on the electromagnetic spectrum (and "cousin spectrums") that are discrete, but carry similar information.  I had very clear reception Friday morning.

While waiting for Boehner to arrive, CNN put on President Obama's news conference with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, and the President was asked his take on Boehner's resignation.  I tuned out the words (which I often need to do in order to concentrate on inner thoughts), watched Obama's face and listened to the sounds (not words) coming out of his mouth.

Obama is feeling a certain glee that the other party is in such a mess when his party isn't, but he worries that his party is next. He worries that if the Tea Party really becomes so unwieldy that the GOP has to renounce it, a new, more rational GOP may emerge that no longer serves as a foil to accent Democratic saintliness. Obama knows, as well, that it isn't just the Tea Party that's messing things up. American and international politics are one big distraction from what's really going on: the end game for humans.  We spend all our time squawking about "controversies" handed us by the parties- always having to do with promoting this or that law that supports someone's world-view- while the real issue is that, because of our species' undiminished and seemingly undiminishable drive to conquer all before it, we face a very real extinction threat.  Neither Party talks about this in realistic terms, so any move to rationalize politics would include Democrats.

Boehner was striking in his sincerity.  I don't often say that about politicians.  When he said that he made the decision to resign when he woke up Friday morning, I probed deeply and it was true.  Ditto for the emotions and tears- all genuine.  I was a bit taken aback by the intensity of the emotion.  He is truly upset at the loss of his job away from home, where he had a dominant position; the media conveyed his words and deeds to all humanity, and everyone needed him to help run the world.  Now the only person who needs him is his wife when he puts the wrong towels in the downstairs bathroom.  Poor bastard!  

Boehner is not thinking much about how to solve the GOP dilemma; he's just aiming to escape the heat.  Other GOP officials I probed are very concerned.  I found a consensus in GOP leadership that, with the growing instability of the Tea Party within its ranks, the Party must change.  

I found no consensus on how to change it, but the leadership might consider how the Democrats saved themselves in a radical fashion with the Democratic Leadership Council which, at the end of Ronald Reagan's presidency, deemed that the Democratic Party was too far to the left to survive as a national party and moved it sharply to the right on welfare, trade and foreign policy.  Public fights were picked with prominent liberals like Jesse Jackson to ensure that voters knew the Democrats had moved to the right.  It worked: Bill Clinton was elected, and the benefit to the Party has continued through Obama.  

The GOP seems now too far to the right to survive as a national party, so some action is required.  GOP leadership might go one of two ways: continuing the GOP embrace of the Tea Party and accepting the resulting chaos as the dues of holy war, or definitively rejecting the more extreme far-right social positions in a public way, possibly by removing the following from the 2012 national party platform (

1. [Gay marriage] We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  

[Separation of church and state] We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and of our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage, and we affirm the right of students to engage in prayer at public school events in public schools....

3. [God against gun control] We acknowledge, support, and defend the law-abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense...This also includes the right to obtain and store ammunition without registration.

[Abortion]  We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.

As noted, no one is proposing such moves yet, no doubt because of the struggle entailed, but clearly something has to give or the 2016 GOP convention will be an exercise in self-destruction.

I'm still picking up lots of stray D.C. thoughts about Boehner's resignation (if I leave CNN on in the background I can surf thoughts). Everybody is confirming that no one but Boehner knew he would resign when he did. The entire U.S. government was surprised.  

Is that good or bad?

Yesterday President Xi thought about Boehner and decided, "It's not my problem," but the founder of his party, Mao Zedong, wrote, "Everything under heaven is in chaos; the situation is excellent."

Of course, chaos worked for Mao.  It doesn't work for everyone.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My lIfe, in installments

Chapter 1.    Does God have a sense of humor?

I lived in The Haight in San Francisco in the late '60's and had quite a vibrant following.  I would sit on a stool in coffee shops and just talk...about politics, culture, telepathy, and people would fill the place to listen.  I only read someone's mind once in public; it brought too much attention and made me uncomfortable.  I stopped speaking about telepathy too.  I guess at the present stage of my life I'm ready to open up a bit. 

The '60's was a visionary time because nothing was happening, so you could only see things coming and be visionary.  Now many of the speculative futures we talked about are arriving, and a visionary can see dramatic change either now or in the near future, inspiring a popular sci-fi genre of near-future stories (e.g. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which could come true just about any time, judging by the real-life adult version: the 2016 presidential campaign).

After a middle-class childhood filled with longing to be a member of the Bloomsbury Group instead of throwing the Green Sheet onto driveways in Woodland Hills, I started off as a hopeful undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley with a girlfriend and visions of a literary life.  She and I watched Mario Savio speak on the Sproul Hall steps, urging us, among other things, to use whatever words we wanted, "bad" or otherwise.  Mario asked everyone to raise a fist in solidarity.   I did not raise my fist, as I could already say "fuck" and "shit" if I wanted to.  She raised her fist.  Conformist!, I raged within. The next week she broke my heart by sleeping with every man she met.

I had thought I had a grip on life, but I had no grip on anything.

My major was English Lit., which I liked, but I couldn't understand what contribution to society, or to literature, the graduate studies made.  I loved reading Jonathan Swift, for instance, in my undergraduate class, but I found that graduate students do not read Swift- they read critiques of Swift, followed by a career of reading critiques of those critiques then writing one's own critiques of the critiques.  Who reads this stuff, and why?  

I decided that college was irrational and I had youthful impulses to change things.  I considered starting a movement to revolutionize college so that it would be a better fit with the youthful mind, at least in language arts.  But Mario stole my thunder with his call for freedom to say "fuck" and "shit," inspiring a mass movement to support the Anglo-Saxon's thousand year struggle to speak the mother tongue.  

Fear of not being a college graduate compelled me to get my bachelor's, but I fled academia after graduation.  The '60's were in full swing, a combination of nihilism and hedonism.  There were two types of hedonist.  The ideological hedonists had a belief system to support their proclivities, which held that all you need is love at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius.  The plain hedonists just sought pleasure while admitting they didn't know if they were entitled to it.  I was in the latter group.  I found that a message of nihilism is only acceptable if it's funny.  Well, I'd better back up and define a nihilist. A nihilist is someone who doesn't think the universe is funny.  A funny nihilist is someone who thinks it's funny that the universe isn't funny.  

I started to wonder if God had a sense of humor, and this started to seem to me the central question about God and existence.  Not that I already had decided there was a God, but it seemed to me, given the dire need in our universe for things to be funny, that if there were a creator god of our universe and it turned out this god did not have a sense of humor, that would be incredibly bad news.

After extracting my B.A. from the system I started my speaking career, but I became obsessed with the question of God's sense of humor, if any, and I left home to search the world for wisdom on the question.  This blog tells tales from my adventures, as well as stray political thoughts, and, for the first time, I will openly discuss my telepathic abilities and reveal some useful tidbits.

All the best, 

Harry the Human

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The big GOP debate

By the time the major debate with Trump et al came on at 8:00pm, I had watched two hours of the B list debate (see next post) and my telepathic energy and curiosity had waned, though there were a few interesting aspects to report.

It seems now that any candidate who has spent time as a front-runner, e.g. Trump and before him Jeb Bush, must pay by becoming overly familiar and vulnerable to being toppled.  Trump felt the difference and tried to counter it, though the network, hungering for Trump's past outrages, did not help him.  CNN moderator Jake Tapper brought up Trump's recent ad hominems directed at Carly Fiorina's face, while the cameras broadcast that face to 25 million viewers so that we could all watch her struggle.  But Trump, sensing the top-dog dilemma, was not in the mood to play that card, and backed out with, "Carly, I think you look beautiful," immediately after which he wondered if that sounded lame, if he would be left high-and-dry by attempts to be civil.  

Fiorina is using Bush's setback and the possible weakening of Trump to shine a bit. During the "face" segment, she felt like a vice was squeezing her soul, but she showed some strength in getting through it, to her advantage.  From her psyche all I could pick up was a blazing drive to win, but one of her handlers was present, and I read a concern that Fiorina should not use verbs like "crush" and "destroy" so much.

There were some interesting moments during the Iran deal debate when I gathered that all the candidates and media figures have received the word that no one, whether a supporter or detractor of the deal, is to depict it as an oil deal, though that is what it is; any peace involved will be the peace oil companies need for drilling.  Because the climate change debate is coming to the fore, giant oil deals are not inspiring to the public.  Better to argue about nuclear proliferation than oil drilling.

I honestly had trouble staying awake towards the end of the three somewhat pointless hours, though one bright spot got my attention: Ohio governor John Kasich delivered a lecture about the use of ad hominems by the candidates, urging a civil discourse. Almost in telepathic unison, every other candidate thought, "Shut up, you asshole!"