Trump and the True Meaning of ‘Idiot’

Trump and the True Meaning of ‘Idiot’

Eric Anthamatten


In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, respondents were asked what word immediately came to mind when they thought of Donald Trump: The No. 1 response was “idiot.” This was followed by “incompetent,” “liar,” “leader,” “unqualified,” and finally, in sixth place, “president.” Superlatives like “great” and a few unprintable descriptives came further down on the list. But let us focus on the first.

Contemporary uses of the word “idiot” usually highlight a subject’s lack of intelligence, ignorance, foolishness or buffoonery. The word’s etymological roots, however, going back to ancient Greece, suggest that, in the case of the president, it may be even more apropos than it might first seem.

In ancient Greek society, an idiotes was a layperson who lacked professional skills. The idiot contributed nothing to public life or the common good. His existence depended on the skill and labor of others; he was a leech sucking the lifeblood from the social body. Related to this, idiocy (from the root idios, “one’s own”) was the state of a private or self-centered person. This contrasted with the status of the public citizen, or polites, such that to be an idiot was to be withdrawn, isolated and selfish, to not participate in the public, political life of the city-state. In Greek society, the condition of idiocy was seen as peculiar and strange (a meaning that is retained in the English word “idiosyncratic”); thus “idiot” was a term of reproach and disdain.

The education scholar Walter C. Parker sought to invoke this original meaning in his 2005 essay “Teaching Against Idiocy.” In it, he writes that “when a person’s behavior became idiotic — concerned myopically with private things and unmindful of common things — then the person was believed to be like a rudderless ship, without consequence save for the danger it posed to others.” The idiot, then, was a threat to the city-state, to public life, and to the bonds that make communication and community possible. Parker continues: “An idiot is suicidal in a certain way, definitely self-defeating, for the idiot does not know that privacy and individual autonomy are entirely dependent on the community.” Parker also notes that the idiot has not yet reached “puberty,” or the transition to public life.

The idiot, understood in this sense, undermines not only community but also communication. An “idiom” is a phrase peculiar to a specific language or place. The idiot speaks only in idioms, though these function for him not as colorful additions to a language or culture, but are understood by him alone. To members of the community, his utterances are the babblings of a baby or a madman, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Given all this, the idiot can be defined as such: a prepubescent, parasitic solipsist who talks only to himself.

In the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, the term began to take on the more familiar meaning, namely a person of low intelligence. This meaning is fraught with ableist history, as “idiot” was used as a diagnostic term indicating severe intellectual or developmental disability. Dr. Henry H. Goddard was the first to translate the French Binet-Simon intelligence test, a precursor to I.Q. tests, into English, and used the metric to classify “mental age”: An adult with a mental age less than 3 years old was labeled an “idiot”; between 3 and 7, an “imbecile”; and between 7 and 10, a “moron.” Originally, an I.Q. was determined by dividing mental age by actual age and multiplying by 100: An idiot was anyone with an I.Q. below 30. (Goddard, by the way, was an early advocate for special education but also favored eugenic practices and believed that the idiot should be removed from society by institutionalization or sterilization.)

Thankfully, such medical nomenclature has fallen out of favor. Yet, the term is still on the books in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico and Ohio, which officially do not allow “idiots” to vote.

Humans evolved for the most part by putting community first and the individual second. Despite many of the political narratives that posit a mythological “state of nature,” in which selfish, violent, atomistic individuals must forgo their natural liberties and make compromises and contracts to secure their own existence, scientific evidence simply does not support this. For creatures like us, self-preservation was always also social preservation. The “I” is in its very existence also a “we.”

The idiot does not understand this, and thus does not understand how he came to be, how he is sustained and how he is part of a larger ecology. The idiot cares nothing about public life, much less public service. The idiot cares only about his own name. The idiot, by way of his actions, can destroy the social body. Eventually, the idiot destroys himself, but in so doing, potentially annihilates everyone along with him. He is a ticking time bomb in the middle of the public square.


Crucial Facts from The Union of Concerned Scientists

Crucial Facts from The Union of Concerned Scientists

Facts that our present administration and some of our influential corporate leaders choose to ignore, fearing that these “inconvenient truths”, as Al Gore would call them, may adversely affect their personal wealth and fame.

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists fights attempts to censor, distort, or manipulate science by politicians or interest groups.
  • Since 2013, the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has exceeded 400 parts per million – the highest level humankind has ever experienced. Expanding our use of clean and renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, biofuels, and geothermal energy, is essential to reducing global warming pollution while providing secure and reliable power.
  • Sustainable agriculture is less damaging to the environment than industrial agriculture, and produces a richer, more diverse mix of foods.
  • The role of science in our democracy has been marginalized, misrepresented, and manipulated. The challenge is to change the discussion and advance the essential role of science, evidence-based decision making, and constructive debate as a means t improve the health, security, and prosperity of all people.
  • Tropical deforestation accounts for 15 percent of the world’s global warming pollution-more than the total emissions of every car, truck, plane, ship, and train on Earth.
  • Today more than 25,000 nuclear weapons exist around the globe. These weapons are a detriment to our society, not an asset.
  • There are more than 100 nuclear reactors providing commercial power in the United States, many of which are near the end of their mandated lifetime. With 10 safety incidents classified as “near misses” in 2015 alone, improving safety and security provisions at these plants is more critical than ever.
  • Renewable energy technologies tap into natural cycles and systems, turning ever-present energy around us into clean, safe, and sustainable sources of electricity. Requiring utilities to generate at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources would not only reduce global warming emissions but also create jobs and save consumers money.
  • Arctic sea ice is a sensitive indicator of the effects of global warming. Over the past few years the amount of ice that covers the Artic has steadily decreased and is now at record-low levels. This has potentially drastic effects on wildlife, ecosystems, and climate.
  • 2015 was the warmest year ever recorded in the United States, with tens of thousands of heat records shattered across the country. The impact of climate change has hit home-from extreme droughts to raging wildfires to record flooding to more extreme and frequent storms.
  • Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast United States has increased by two degrees Fahrenheit – with winter temperatures rising twice as much.
  • Rapidly retreating glaciers, melting sea ice, and thawing permafrost alter nature’s delicate balance in Artic ecosystems, threatening the continued existence of many species of Arctic wildlife, which highlights the impact of global warming on animals, humans, and the environment, and the importance of science-based solutions to protect our health and safety.

Trump Incompetence by David Brooks

“ …. the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence.”

When the World Is Led by a Child

David Brooks – May 15, 2017

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.

But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. On an impulse, he will promise a tax reform when his staff has done little of the actual work.

Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care,” he told Time. “A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber,” he told The Associated Press, referring to his joint session speech.

By Trump’s own account, he knows more about aircraft carrier technology than the Navy. According to his interview with The Economist, he invented the phrase “priming the pump” (even though it was famous by 1933). Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies.

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.

The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies.

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.

The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.


Making Trump great again

Making Trump great again

Ted Folkert, May 8, 2017

The news correspondents of the country are pecking away at their keyboards thanks to our dictatorial, authoritarian, egotistical, power-monger of a so-called president, our idiot-in-chief, trump-the-great. He is not only great but, as he tells us, he is doing a great job, actually, a fantastic job, of making American great again.

This guy gives the word “deception” a whole new meaning. He wallows in self-interest, self-love, self-worship, narcissism and nepotism. He slanders anyone who disagrees with him or criticizes him. He stumbles around the presidency like a lost soul navigating a labyrinth. He has no clue nor is he seeking a clue about running the country. Everything he tries to do focuses on tax deductions for the rich. He tries to camouflage his attempts with longstanding right-wing principles of smaller government, but everything centers on slashing budget items that help him lower taxes for the likes of trump-the-great and his “dear friend” Rupert Murdoch, the guy he turns to everyday to provide dialogue for his tweets. Of course, his tweets are his substitution for conversations with the people of whom he is supposedly leading. They are responses to those who criticized him the day before and have nothing to do with progressive thoughts of governance. Trump has been the brunt on more than a thousand jokes so far in his short presidency.

Trump supposedly speaks to Murdoch every day, so, apparently, we have an Aussie helping him plan his attack on the abusive taxation of the wealthy. Murdoch must be helping him plan his attack on healthcare for the people as well. Following are comments of Joseph Kennedy III, sent to Bill Lochman, about the trump proposed healthcare:

“It is among the most basic human truths: Every one of us, someday, will be brought to our knees. By a diagnosis we didn’t expect, a phone call we can’t imagine, or a loss we cannot endure.

That common humanity inspires our mercy. It fortifies our compassion. It drives us to look out for the sick, the elderly, the poor, and the most vulnerable among us.

Yesterday’s bill — yesterday’s devastating bill — does the opposite.

The bill is more than premiums and tax cuts. It is a cold and calculated world view: One that scapegoats the struggling, and sees fault in suffering. One dead set on dividing us based on who we love, where we come from, the direction of our faith and the size of our fortunes.

We see it in their tax plan, their budget cuts, their immigration policy, their civil rights assaults — and yesterday, in their cruel health care plan.

We must reject it.

We must decide, instead, to take care of each other — because, but for the grace of God, we will all one day wake up in need of a little mercy.

This nation’s character has never been defined by the power we give the already strong — but by the strength we give the weak.

This is our ultimate test. And it starts right now. Get involved in the fight today”

Bernie Sanders called the GOP-backed Obamacare repeal “one of the most disgusting pieces of legislation ever passed,” and called it a “death sentence for thousands.”

Edward D. Kleinbard, professor at USC law school, states it this way: “Congressional Republican’s plan is cruel by design, but the president’s is intellectually dishonest.” He further states: “Its principle objective was to remove Medicaid insurance protection for millions of lower-income Americans and transfer the savings to high-income taxpayers.”

Scott Mimieux, political sciences instructor at SUNY states: “Donald Trump’s promise to cover more Americans while protecting Medicaid was, evidently, a grotesque lie. Trumpcare would quite simply be a humanitarian nightmare, resulting in untold avoidable death and suffering for no good reason.”

Think about it!


The US Upheaval Begins – by: Allan Nairn

The US Upheaval Begins

January 20, 2017

By: Allan Nairn – an American investigative journalist who became well known when he was imprisoned by Indonesian military forces under United States-backed strongman Suharto while reporting in East Timor.

The US is in the early days of a long social upheaval. The working class collapse has reached politics and some of the rules have been suspended.

The system almost snapped left but Sanders fell short and now it has snapped right with Trump.

The oligarchic Republicans of the radical right could not have won an election on their own but now the collapse and Trump have given them their break and they come into office prepared.

They want to eliminate programs that serve the poor and expand subsidies for the rich.  They want to place public assets in private hands and give corporations state-like powers.

They want to further skew an already skewed system and make voting them out all but impossible.  They want to lift regulations on business excess and impose them on public resistance.

They want to kill off the US public school and cripple the labor union. They want the corporation to inhabit the state and the state to break and tame the public.

But at the same time they need a public base. They can’t impose their program alone.

Trump offers that with his simultaneous appeals to fear, hatred, pride and material justice.

He rallies people against the other – whoever the convenient other may be – and most importantly he rallies them against the rich elites he defends and in so doing in effect rallies them against themselves since he calls on people to save their jobs by further empowering the rich elites who’ve destroyed them.

Its a complex but classic ploy for elites: attack yourself to expand your powers.

Mao’s communists pulled it off with the Cultural Revolution, Wall Street’s capitalists did it with the Tea Party.

It’s effective when done right but also destabilizing.  Mobilization can get dangerous.

Trump is not what the oligarchs had in mind.  He dragged them to power kicking and screaming.

He self-exposed himself and them for the racists they are.  He pulled the riggers and murderers into the White House but at the price of confiding to the public that the system was rigged and murderous.  This telling of uncomfortable truths in the service of the big lie was not the oligarchs’ cup of tea, but it got them inside the palace.

The result is dramatic.  The consequence is that many extra thousands will die and that institutions will be altered to make dislodging these new rulers difficult.

Yet its now at their moment of triumph that they are also most vulnerable.

They’ve seized power but have not yet consolidated it and with full power they stand exposed, in the spotlight.

The same country and system that elevated them could just as well have gone for Clinton or Sanders, and could just as well, with organizing and persistence, go for something deeper still.

The fight is ancient and recurring, developing.

This new phase has just begun.




When the President Is Ignorant of His Own Ignorance

When the President Is Ignorant of His Own Ignorance

Thomas B. Edsall MARCH 30, 2017

How prepared is our president for the next great foreign, economic or terrorist crisis?

 “President Trump seems to have no awareness whatsoever of what he does and does not know,” Steven Nadler, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote me. “He is ignorant of his own ignorance.”

During his first 63 days in office, Trump made 317 “false or misleading claims,” according to The Washington Post.

The FBI, the Treasury Department and two congressional committees are probing whether Trump’s campaign aides and advisers — including Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn — were complicit in alleged Russian interference.

His 2018 budget, the potential impact of which he does not seem to grasp, calls for cutting $54 billion from programs that pay for education, housing and child care assistance for low- and moderate-income families, protection against infectious diseases, enforcement of environmental, worker and consumer protection regulation, national parks and a host of other social programs. See the accompanying chart, which illustrates the depth of these changes. It shows, to give a few examples, Trump’s proposal to cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31 percent; the Labor Department by 21 percent; and the Health and Human Services budget by 16 percent.

In addition, Trump has antagonized the leaders of allied countries like Mexico, Australia and Germany, and he has repeatedly demonstrated an extraordinary lack of knowledge about foreign affairs.

How dangerous is the situation that the United States faces?

I asked a range of foreign policy analysts and other scholars to assess the ability of President Trump and his administration to effectively manage the developments listed above.

Steve Nadler of the University of Wisconsin had more to say:

Donald Trump and the people with whom he has filled his cabinet are perfectly unqualified and unprepared to handle any and all of those developments and trends. The lack of experience and understanding of the world, especially of our historical and contemporary relationship with our European allies and rivals is frightening, especially in today’s world, where the stakes and the dangers are so much greater than ever.

Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University and a retired Army colonel, wrote that Trump is “utterly unqualified, both intellectually and by temperament, for the office he holds,” adding that “The possibility that Trump will disastrously mishandle” foreign policy “is real.”

Bacevich cites the growing list of things he seemed certain to do where that certainty has now largely disappeared: “tearing up” the Iran nuclear deal; jettisoning NATO; abandoning the “One China” policy; moving the US embassy to Jerusalem; reinstituting torture.

Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown, wrote me, arguing that Trump’s “America First” agenda is a retreat “into an illusory and dangerous isolationism.”

“If Washington walks away from the rules-based order it has defended for the last seventy years,” Kupchan explained, its democratic allies will be ill-placed to defend it on their own. Whether by design or by default, Trump may well preside over the closing of the era that began when the bombing of Pearl Harbor awakened the United States to the responsibilities and privileges of international leadership.

Of the multiple international tensions that could turn into crises at any time, North Korea could lead the way.

Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment, focuses on this growing threat. In an email, he writes:

Between an impulsive president who seems uninterested in details, an advisory system that does not (yet, at least) produce good advice, a general lack of respect for expertise, and a distrust of intelligence, a crisis with North Korea could go very poorly.

The current situation is not stable, Dalton said, and probably not sustainable. I wish I had greater confidence that Trump could distinguish between the imperatives and distractions, discern the worst outcomes and least worst outcomes, weigh up the options, and come up with a reasoned approach.

David Bell, a historian at Princeton, emailed his thoughts on Trump’s capacity to handle the difficulties that will face his administration:

Trump himself is abysmally ignorant about both international and domestic affairs, and he is nearly always guided by a single principle: his own self-interest.

Normally, there is quite a lot of expertise available in institutions such as the State Department to guide administrations during crises, but Trump seems to be doing his best to decimate the institution.

Mark Leonard, a British political scientist who directs the European Council on Foreign Relations, suggests that Trump is part of a much larger phenomenon encompassing Brexit and the rise of right wing populism. In a Project Syndicate essay at the end of February, Leonard argued that the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in what he calls “Liberal Order 2.0,” which no longer sought to uphold “national sovereignty at all costs” but instead “sought to pool sovereignty and to establish shared rules to which national governments must adhere:”

Before too long, sovereignty-obsessed powers like Russia and China halted its implementation. Calamitous mistakes for which Western policy makers were responsible – namely, the protracted war in Iraq and the global economic crisis – cemented the reversal of Liberal Order 2.0.

In this context, Trump arrives ill equipped to manage a larger, more dangerous process that Leonard argues has the potential to become “a new kind of globalization that combines the technologies of the future with the enmities of the past.”

In this emerging system, according to Leonard, modern and pre-modern forms will prevail: support for government repression, like Russia has provided in Syria, or ethno-religious proxy wars, like those that Saudi Arabia and Iran have waged across the Middle East. The internet, migration, trade, and the enforcement of international law will be turned into weapons in new conflicts, rather than governed effectively by global rules. International conflict will be driven primarily by a domestic politics increasingly defined by status anxiety, distrust of institutions, and narrow-minded nationalism.

So how prepared is our president for what’s next? Given the magnitude of the problems that lie ahead and the embedded contradictions that make them difficult to solve, we face precisely the kind of world President Trump is least equipped for, mentally and morally.


Trump Is a Chinese Agent – Thomas L. Friedman

Trump Is a Chinese Agent

Thomas L. Friedman MARCH 29, 2017

The big story everyone is chasing is whether President Trump is a Russian stooge. Wrong. That’s all a smoke screen. Trump is actually a Chinese agent. He is clearly out to make China great again. Just look at the facts.

Trump took office promising to fix our trade imbalance with China, and what’s the first thing he did? He threw away a U.S.-designed free-trade deal with 11 other Pacific nations — a pact whose members make up 40 percent of global G.D.P.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was based largely on U.S. economic interests, benefiting our fastest-growing technologies and agribusinesses, and had more labor, environmental and human rights standards than any trade agreement ever. And it excluded China. It was our baby, shaping the future of trade in Asia.

Imagine if Trump were negotiating with China now as not only the U.S. president but also as head of a 12-nation trading bloc based on our values and interests. That’s called l-e-v-e-r-a-g-e, and Trump just threw it away … because he promised to in the campaign — without, I’d bet, ever reading TPP. What a chump! I can still hear the clinking of champagne glasses in Beijing.

Now more Asian nations are falling in line with China’s regional trading association — the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — which has no serious environmental, intellectual property, human trafficking or labor standards like TPP. A Peterson Institute study said TPP would “increase annual real incomes in the United States by $131 billion” by 2030, without changing total U.S. employment levels. Goodbye to that.

Workers installing solar panels on a roof in Wuhan, China. Credit Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

But Trump took his Make China Great campaign to a new level on Tuesday by rejecting the science on climate change and tossing out all Obama-era plans to shrink our dependence on coal-fired power. Trump also wants to weaken existing mileage requirements for U.S.-made vehicles. Stupid.

O.K., Mr. President, let’s assume for a second that climate change is a hoax. Do you believe in math? There are now 7.5 billion people on the planet, and there will be 8.5 billion by 2030, according to the United Nations population bureau — and most will want to drive like us, eat protein like us and live in houses like us. And if they do, we’ll eat up, burn up, smoke up and choke up the planet — and devour our fisheries, coral reefs, rivers and forests — at a pace we’ve never seen before. Major cities in India and China already can’t breathe; wait for when there are another billion people.

That means that clean power, clean water, clean air, clean transportation and energy-efficient buildings will have to be the next great global industry, whether or not there is climate change. The demand will be huge.

So what is China doing? Its new five-year plan is a rush to electric cars, batteries, nuclear, wind, solar and energy efficiency — and a cap-and-trade system for carbon. Trump’s plan? More coal and oil. Hello? How can America be great if we don’t dominate the next great global industry — clean power?

The U.S. state leading in clean energy innovations is California, which also has the highest vehicle emissions standards and the strictest building efficiency codes. Result: California alone has far more advanced energy jobs than there are coal miners in America, and the pay is better and the work is healthier. In January 2016, CNNMoney reported that nationally the U.S. “solar industry work force is bigger than that of oil and gas construction, and nearly three times the size of the entire coal mining work force.”

“More than half the electric vehicles sold in the U.S. are sold in California,” said Hal Harvey, C.E.O. of Energy Innovation. “If there are two jurisdictions hellbent on transformation, it is China and California. There have been 200 million E.V.s sold in China already. They’re called electric bicycles, which cost about $400 — quiet, not contributing to congestion or pollution, and affordable.”

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

China is loving this: It’s doubling down on clean energy — because it has to and it wants to leapfrog us on technology — and we’re doubling down on coal, squandering our lead in technology.

It was bitterly ironic that on the same day that President Trump took America on a great leap backward to coal, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Tencent Holdings Ltd. bought a 5% stake in Tesla Inc., giving the backing of China’s most valuable company to the Silicon Valley electric-vehicle maker as it prepares to launch its first car aimed at the mass market. … Having a powerful friend in China could help Tesla as it eyes further global expansion. Big Chinese tech companies have backed a wave of green-car start-ups in the country recently.”

If you liked buying your oil from Saudi Arabia, you’ll love buying your electric cars, solar panels, efficiency software and batteries from China.

Finally, Trump wants to slash the State Department and foreign aid budgets and make it harder for people to immigrate to America, particularly Muslims. This opens the way for China to expand its influence across the developing world and signals the smartest math and science students in the world to start their start-ups overseas and not in America.

NBC News reported last week that applications from foreign students, notably from China, India and the Middle East, “are down this year at nearly 40 percent of schools that answered a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.”

So you tell me that Trump is not a Chinese agent. The only other explanation is that he’s ignorant and unread — that he’s never studied the issues or connected the dots between them — so Big Coal and Big Oil easily manipulated him into being their chump, who just tweeted out their talking points to win votes here and there — without any thought to grand strategy. Surely that couldn’t be true?


Homelessness – Those with nowhere to sleep

Homelessness – Those with nowhere to sleep

Ted Folkert – March 6, 2017

Having maintained an office and managed property on Venice Beach for many years, observing those who lingered about and who appeared to have nowhere to sleep, those most of us refer to as homeless, was an everyday experience. They are referred to as invisible and I suppose they are pretty much invisible since we see them but don’t see them.

A recent panel discussion on KCET public television station provided an in-depth conversation with those involved in dealing with those who need assistance for food, shelter and healthcare.

This subject is in the forefront presently due to Ballot Measure “H” which proposes to provide $355 million annually for ten years to resolve the homelessness situation – a very critical program which we need badly to improve the lives of those afflicted and the privacy and peace for those who complain of the annoyance of their presence.

I have heard so many inconsiderate and unsympathetic people blame the problems on the individuals: irresponsibility, laziness, freeloading mentality, criminals, etc. etc. etc. But, in reality, the causes that end in homelessness are many: mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, PTSD from military service, unemployment, inadequate income in retirement, inability to work, cost of housing, poverty, parental abandonment, foster children coming of age and others.

We must be thankful for those who attempt to deal with the victims each day. They have a tough job, impossible  or improbable at best. The task has always been too little, too late, lack of staffing, lack of funding, lack of affordable housing and lack of supporting services.

A recent count revealed 47,000 homeless in Los Angeles County. This of course omits those missed who were hiding somewhere or just overlooked. So, what is the number – 50,000, 60,000, more? These people need help. They need a place to sleep, mental and physical health care, life counseling, someone to consult, to talk to, to rely upon for everyday needs. We can’t expect someone who is totally demoralized to all-of-a-sudden be susceptible to help.

If we can get them into housing and someone to turn to then maybe we can motivate them to work on their problem of survival.

It seems we deal more with the complaints of homelessness than the needs of the homeless. Instead of providing a solution we cite them with violations and require them to show up in court and pay a fine. Unfortunately, they have no transportation to court and no money to pay a fine, so they have more charges against them for failure to appear. It’s a vicious circle with no way out. Their way out is to continue to deteriorate and eventually die. Then their problem is solved and so is ours.

We need Measure “H”. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Give a homeless person a dollar today. Give a homeless person a dollar every day. If we all did that it would put a couple of million dollars in their pockets every day just in Los Angeles.

Think about!

Meet the 5 Trump Administrations-Friedman

Meet the 5 Trump Administrations

 Excerpts from: Thomas L. Friedman – February. 22, 2017

It should be clear by now that there are five different Trump administrations swirling before our eyes — Trump Entertainment, Trump Cleanup, Trump Crazy, Trump G.O.P. and the Essential Trump — and no one can predict which will define this presidency, let alone make a success of it.

Trump Entertainment shows up every day now in the form of an outrageous “alternative fact,” a pugnacious press conference, a tweet denouncing the news media as “the enemy of the American people”

Trump Cleanup comprises the adults on his team who follow in the wake of Trump Entertainment and “clarify” what the president meant.

The undisputed boss of Trump Crazy is chief strategist Steve Bannon, who rushed the president’s initial mess of an executive order on immigration. Bannon is dedicated to shrinking the global clout of China, the European Union and Iran, and to making America a country less open to immigration and trade, a country that is whiter and more nationalistic and a country that is as free of Muslim influence and immigrants as possible.

Trump G.O.P. is led by Reince Priebus and represents the old Republican agenda. It knows that Trump is an invasive species who took over the G.O.P. garden, and Trump G.O.P. is just trying to get the best out of him — to kill Obamacare, cut taxes, deregulate Wall Street, promote fossil fuels and appoint conservative judges — while curbing his worst ideas, like his vow to restrict free trade.

The Essential Trump — a man who values loyalty above all else and who thinks his followers are so stupidly loyal that they wouldn’t convict him for a murder they saw him commit; a man who thinks only he can get the little people more jobs by single-handedly putting the arm on big companies; and a man who has shown no interest in earning the trust of Americans who did not vote for him.

When I add up all these Trumps I do not get a good team feeling. It doesn’t start with a shared vision of what world we’re living in and what are the biggest forces shaping this world. It starts with the conclusions on which Trump bases his facts.

But the fact is we’re living in a world being shaped by vast accelerations in technology, globalization, climate change and population growth, and government’s job is to enable more citizens to thrive in such a world and cushion its worst impacts. These are the facts on which I base my conclusions.

In this age, leaders have to challenge citizens to understand that more is required of them if they want to remain in the middle class — that they have to be lifelong learners.

It’s an age when the governments that thrive the most will be those that are as open to the world as possible and at the same time encourage radical entrepreneurship, provide stronger safety nets like health care, and foster life-learning opportunities for every citizen. They have to go left and right at the same time. They are the governments that are focused not on erecting walls but on preparing citizens to live without them.


Robin Abcarian on Trump’s Narcissism

Talking Trump and mental health

Robin Abcarian

Los Angeles Times – February 19, 2017

Robin Abcarian, a renowned psychiatrist who “wrote the criteria that defined narcissistic personality disorder”, discusses the condition of our (perhaps) crazy president, which has become the subject of fierce public debate.

He is self-absorbed, unabashed about repeating falsehoods, and rude. He doesn’t listen to questions before launching into misguided tirades. He thought a reporter from a Jewish newspaper had accused him of anti-Semitism when the poor guy went out of his way to do the opposite.

On Tuesday, the New York Times published a letter signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers accusing the president of “grave emotional instability” that makes him “incapable of serving safely as president.” Though it is considered a breach of ethics to evaluate or diagnose public figures, they wrote, “We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.”

“Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder,” wrote Frances. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill because he does not suffer from the stress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.” (Trump isn’t crazy; he makes other people crazy.)

“He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers,” Frances wrote. But, he added, “The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.”

“Most mentally ill people are nice, they’re well mannered, they are decent, they are unselfish, they are good people,” Frances said. “Trump is none of these. When you lump someone who is bad with people who have mental illness, it stigmatizes the mentally ill population. Less an insult to him and more an insult to them.”

Personally, I have no problem with mental health professionals making judgments about a president whose behavior does seem erratic and who also has the power to blow up the world.

Of course, we can’t forget about the swath of Americans who are delighted by Trump’s unpredictability and his follow-through, constitutional or not, on promises to keep “bad hombres” out of the country. They’ll probably come to their senses eventually. But we all may be speaking Russian by then.