Ron Bischof: Monsters due on Maple Street

By Signal Contributor

Last update: Monday, November 28th, 2016

“Maple Street, USA, late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children and the bell of an ice cream vendor.

“At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 p.m. on Maple Street. This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street — in the last calm and reflective moment — before the monsters came.”

That’s the opening narrative to a memorable episode of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” television series. The story centers on neighbors in an idyllic suburban setting who see and hear an unidentified object flash overhead and subsequently experience inexplicable events that disrupt their peaceful coexistence.

Power and outside communication are lost, automobiles won’t start and then inexplicably do so while unoccupied, lights flicker, etc., causing disruption to the certainty all expected in their daily lives.

A boy details a wild story about mysterious forces that plant a seed in increasingly fearful minds that begin to entertain outlandish thoughts. In turn, each resident is accused of suspicious collaboration with an unseen enemy.

Hysteria and accusations fly, there’s a murder by the most conspiracy-obsessed man lashing out in fear, resulting in mayhem, each set against the other.

***

To the relief of many, a long and grueling presidential election season is over. In the Santa Clarita Valley and across a diverse and populous America, most would consider it a contentious one with “deplorable” polemics and emotion expressed by candidates, surrogates, media and potential voters alike.

All were focused on candidates’ character, personalities and antics rather than specific issues in the circus-like atmosphere the media whipped up to drive the viewer ratings competition.

The finalists were widely considered unfit for office, each with a record of highly unfavorable ratings.

Added to this dynamic was an ongoing FBI investigation into mishandling of classified data on unauthorized servers, compromised political party and campaign servers/accounts that revealed the unsavory machinations of machine politics and clandestine media collaboration.

On Nov. 8, American citizens made their decision and voted. While the election is still being analyzed, already it’s being considered a change election due to an outcome that surprised the political class in the Beltway, professional pollsters and other “experts,” accompanied by an often comical reaction by a media that had shed any pretense of impartiality.

Historically, the USA has experienced raucous elections starting with the inception of political parties in the contest of 1800, featuring but not limited to character assassination, calumnies and yellow journalism.

Duels with fatalities were fought over political differences, and the Civil War began because an election result favored an abolitionist.

Was this year’s election unprecedented in its negativity or unique in colorful candidates? From the perspective of history: decidedly not.

Whether you’re personally elated, devastated or cautiously sanguine about the election results, understand that we have surely experienced change and overcome adversity in our nation’s history. Our constitutional republic is robust and has completed a peaceful transfer of power over a 200-plus-year history. No one person or party has dissolved our union.

Does America face significant challenges domestically and abroad? Assuredly we do. Our economy is in the doldrums, and for the first time during a presidential term our economy hasn’t had a single year of 3 percent growth.

Too many have been left behind or are struggling to adapt to the disruption that automation and global trade present. Our K-12 education system is a calcified monopoly that’s failing to teach our children critical thinking, and higher education is a dysfunctional morass of overwrought social activism, spiraling tuition and a failure to adapt to a changing career marketplace.

Health care is in disarray due to misguided partisan legislation. Outside our boarders, once-reliable allies question our leadership, a multipolar world is chaotic, and vanquished foes again challenge world order.

As we focus on these challenges at the local, state, national and international levels, let’s not forget the reasons our union was formed.

Whatever our differences, we are still neighbors and Americans. Be considerate of your fellow citizens as we share our wonderful SCV community.

***

Closing narration: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men.

“For the record, prejudices can kill — and suspicion can destroy — and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own — for the children — and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is — that these things cannot be confined — to the Twilight Zone.”

Ron Bischof is a Saugus resident.

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Ron Bischof: Monsters due on Maple Street

“Maple Street, USA, late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children and the bell of an ice cream vendor.

“At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 p.m. on Maple Street. This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street — in the last calm and reflective moment — before the monsters came.”

That’s the opening narrative to a memorable episode of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” television series. The story centers on neighbors in an idyllic suburban setting who see and hear an unidentified object flash overhead and subsequently experience inexplicable events that disrupt their peaceful coexistence.

Power and outside communication are lost, automobiles won’t start and then inexplicably do so while unoccupied, lights flicker, etc., causing disruption to the certainty all expected in their daily lives.

A boy details a wild story about mysterious forces that plant a seed in increasingly fearful minds that begin to entertain outlandish thoughts. In turn, each resident is accused of suspicious collaboration with an unseen enemy.

Hysteria and accusations fly, there’s a murder by the most conspiracy-obsessed man lashing out in fear, resulting in mayhem, each set against the other.

***

To the relief of many, a long and grueling presidential election season is over. In the Santa Clarita Valley and across a diverse and populous America, most would consider it a contentious one with “deplorable” polemics and emotion expressed by candidates, surrogates, media and potential voters alike.

All were focused on candidates’ character, personalities and antics rather than specific issues in the circus-like atmosphere the media whipped up to drive the viewer ratings competition.

The finalists were widely considered unfit for office, each with a record of highly unfavorable ratings.

Added to this dynamic was an ongoing FBI investigation into mishandling of classified data on unauthorized servers, compromised political party and campaign servers/accounts that revealed the unsavory machinations of machine politics and clandestine media collaboration.

On Nov. 8, American citizens made their decision and voted. While the election is still being analyzed, already it’s being considered a change election due to an outcome that surprised the political class in the Beltway, professional pollsters and other “experts,” accompanied by an often comical reaction by a media that had shed any pretense of impartiality.

Historically, the USA has experienced raucous elections starting with the inception of political parties in the contest of 1800, featuring but not limited to character assassination, calumnies and yellow journalism.

Duels with fatalities were fought over political differences, and the Civil War began because an election result favored an abolitionist.

Was this year’s election unprecedented in its negativity or unique in colorful candidates? From the perspective of history: decidedly not.

Whether you’re personally elated, devastated or cautiously sanguine about the election results, understand that we have surely experienced change and overcome adversity in our nation’s history. Our constitutional republic is robust and has completed a peaceful transfer of power over a 200-plus-year history. No one person or party has dissolved our union.

Does America face significant challenges domestically and abroad? Assuredly we do. Our economy is in the doldrums, and for the first time during a presidential term our economy hasn’t had a single year of 3 percent growth.

Too many have been left behind or are struggling to adapt to the disruption that automation and global trade present. Our K-12 education system is a calcified monopoly that’s failing to teach our children critical thinking, and higher education is a dysfunctional morass of overwrought social activism, spiraling tuition and a failure to adapt to a changing career marketplace.

Health care is in disarray due to misguided partisan legislation. Outside our boarders, once-reliable allies question our leadership, a multipolar world is chaotic, and vanquished foes again challenge world order.

As we focus on these challenges at the local, state, national and international levels, let’s not forget the reasons our union was formed.

Whatever our differences, we are still neighbors and Americans. Be considerate of your fellow citizens as we share our wonderful SCV community.

***

Closing narration: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found only in the minds of men.

“For the record, prejudices can kill — and suspicion can destroy — and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own — for the children — and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is — that these things cannot be confined — to the Twilight Zone.”

Ron Bischof is a Saugus resident.

About the author

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Signal Contributor

  • Brian Baker

    Nicely done, Ron. Let me be the first to welcome you to The Signal’s opinion pages.

    • James de Bree

      And let me be the second. You raise some excellent points and do a great job of putting the current election in historical context.

    • Steve Lunetta

      Third!

  • indy

    Opo-ed: Does America face significant challenges domestically and abroad? Assuredly we do. Our economy is in the doldrums, and for the first time during a presidential term our economy hasn’t had a single year of 3 percent growth.

    Indy: I don’t know about the history of no prior presidential election not having a single year of 3% growth (I’ll check . . ), but when Obama entered office, the stock market had lost half its value and the nation was losing about 750,000 jobs per month.

    This was the result of ‘artificial growth’ from doubling the national debt creating one type of bubble (note: more home mortgage debt was issued in the 8 years of Bush than in the prior history of the US) while the ‘fake’ financial assets put forth in CDOs creating a situation where a major financial firm went broke and others were bailed out to the tune of ‘trillions’ of dollars.

    Now we’re seeing artificially low interest rates by the Fed that likewise hides economic scarcity and sustainability.

    If Trump goes standard ‘GOP’ . . . then we’re in for more deficits as taxes are cut and more blaming of regulations (think societal knowledge written down not to make the same mistakes twice . . . think the removal of Glass-Steagall).

    Reducing taxes for the wealthy (known as ‘trickle down’) doesn’t work as these folks simply move their investments ‘off short’ to gain ‘labor’ arbitrage on the nations with the lowest labor rates which creates even more off shoring and wage stagnation from unsustainable global population flooding global labor markets.

    So in fairness to Trump, his being ‘thrown in’ to see what happens isn’t really the case as the ‘swamp’ dominated by DNC establishment operatives are replaced by RNC establishment operatives, the same folks that brought you the 2008 crash . . . stay tuned . . .

    Opo-ed: Too many have been left behind or are struggling to adapt to the disruption that automation and global trade present.

    Indy: It’s true automation is replacing many jobs but at the same time, the owners of ‘capital’ (think stockholders) capture ‘all’ productivity gains from automation thus a stock market ‘booming’ while middle Americans sit frustrated being ‘promised’ outdated folklore (think American Dream) that ignores the actual economic reality in play.

    Opo-ed: Our K-12 education system is a calcified monopoly that’s failing to teach our children critical thinking, and higher education is a dysfunctional morass of overwrought social activism, spiraling tuition and a failure to adapt to a changing career marketplace.

    Indy: Lots to unpack here but indeed k-12 is just providing 19th century education for ‘industrial manufacturing workers’ (think show up on time, read basic manuals) versus helping students think critically as the Op-ed writer noted.

    You’ll have to go back to Reagan to grasp the movement of taxes from the general tax base to the students for higher education.

    Social activism is indeed just part of the college experience . . .

    • tech

      The economic data you seek is here, Indy:

      http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=US

      Shouldn’t academic studies be the focus of the “college experience”? Should University faculty be teaching impartially or radicalizing students with their politics?

    • indy

      Supplemental: Here’s the article making the conservative rounds:
      http://www.redstate.com/brandon_morse/2016/08/02/obama-will-president-us-history-never-achieve-year-3-gdp-growth/

      Yet it appears inaccurate:
      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/president-obamas-gift-to-trump-205127147.html

      Whatever the case may be, it’s important that we’ll be facing another round of deficits with Trump as he will cut taxes based on ideology based ‘trickle down’ that has never worked and only increases wealth concentration.

      And as we see in this article, it’s an example of the ‘fake news’ that circulates without any verification, here’s the Op-ed statement:
      “Our economy is in the doldrums, and for the first time during a presidential term our economy hasn’t had a single year of 3 percent growth.”

      And the reality:
      Obama May Become First President Since Hoover Not to See 3% GDP Growth
      http://cnsnews.com/blog/terence-p-jeffrey/

      That’s how propaganda works . . . add a bit of ‘truth’ then ‘frame’ same in your respective ideology which favors the ‘confirmation bias’ of your followers.

      In any event, conservative ideology based on libertarian market fundamentalism simply doesn’t work . . . even if Trump ‘promises’ he’ll do better.

      Politicians don’t affect the economy unless they remove regulations created from past economic problems . . . think societal knowledge . . . trying to overcome the inherent ability of an economy to grow based on its capital and resources.

      None of this economic reality will appear on ‘Red State’ or other partisan conservative media sites. These sites are created to fulfill their follower’s beliefs by ignoring the actual economic reality we face.

      • tech

        What a curious bit of projection, Indy!

        Despite your citing of conservative sites, you didn’t rebut the World Bank data I provided or the statistica.com stats. In fact, you made the same error as Nishka that Jim de Bree corrected and expanded on, i.e. a 3.2% quarter ≠ a 3% year. Do you dispute this? Yes/No?

        Rather than debunking “fake news” (talking point), you ignored data from a credible source and attempted your usual poisoning the well fallacy, revealing that you’re the ideologue, not the columnist or others. All you’ve done here is further damage your credibility.

  • nohatejustdebate

    Ahh…more comments from Indy’s fact-free zone.

    Indy: “I don’t know about the history of no prior presidential election not having a single year of 3% growth (I’ll check . . )”

    You won’t find this fact in your DNC talking points or reported on MSNBC, Indy, but any independent and respected news agency will confirm this fact. Yet another Obama failure that you’ll blame on Bush.

    Indy: “This was the result of ‘artificial growth’ from doubling the national debt creating one type of bubble (note: more home mortgage debt was issued in the 8 years of Bush than in the prior history of the US)”

    note: More debt was raised in the 8 years of Obama than in the prior history of the US, arguably more than all presidents before him combined! Another fact Indy refuses to acknowledge. If it doesn’t fit within his tiny ideological box, he believes it can’t be true.

    Indy: “Social activism is indeed just part of the college experience . . .”

    It’s just sad when this activism is not based in facts or reality.

  • Steve Lunetta

    Ron- an excellent synopsis that most will find difficult to argue with. I have never seen this described more effectively: “higher education is a dysfunctional morass of overwrought social activism.” Wow. You hit it out of the park with that one.

    Looking forward to many more columns from you!

  • Nishka

    “United States GDP Growth Rate 1947-2016 | Data | Chart | Calendar”
    “The US economy advanced an annualized 3.2 percent on quarter in the three months to September of 2016, up from 1.4 percent growth in the previous period and better than a 2.9 percent expansion in the advance estimate. It is the highest growth rate in two years, as consumer spending, exports and investment in structures rose faster than anticipated while fixed investment fell more, according to the second estimate released by the Bureau of Economic”

    • tech

      You underscore the point of the columnist, Nishka, i.e. “Our economy is in the doldrums, and for the first time during a presidential term our economy hasn’t had a single year of 3 percent growth.”

      A quarter ≠ a year.

      Also, if you review the source data, quarterly estimates of GDP growth have consistently been revised downward after initial release.

  • Nishka

    “The healthy GDP growth rate is one that is sustainable so that the economy stays in the expansion phase of the business cycle as long as possible. GDP is the nation’s gross domestic product. That’s the entire economic output for the past year. The GDP growth rate is how much more the economy produced than in the previous quarter. The ideal rate is between 2%-3%.” RIGHT ON TARGET !!!!

    • James de Bree

      First of all Nishka, I think you misunderstand what Ron is saying. He is merely pointing out that the US GDP has not grown by more than 3% annually during any year in the Obama Administration. That is a fact.

      The problem is that the electorate, the press, etc. hold the incumbent administration responsible for the economic results, even though, in reality, they have very little control over the economy. Judging by your comment, I think you believe that the current administration is doing things right because for the third quarter, the US GDP grew by 3.2%.

      Ron’s comment was that the failure to sustain a 3% economic growth rate is an ongoing challenge that America (and the rest of the world for that matter) will have to deal with. He did not blame Obama or the Democrats. Personally, I think Trump is going to inherit a rather strong economic downturn—irrespective of the recent stock rally.

      Getting back to GDP growth rates, the sustained failure to achieve a 3% growth rate is bi-partisan. According to the Department of Commerce Statistics the following chart shows the economic growth rate over the past ten years:

      2006 2.7%
      2007 1.8%
      2008 -.8%
      2009 -2.8%
      2010 2.5%
      2011 1.6%
      2012 2.2%
      2013 1.5%
      2014 2.4%
      2015 2.4%
      Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/188165/annual-gdp-growth-of-the-united-states-since-1990/

      Nishka, you are referring to the revised QUARTERLY GDP growth rate that was announced today. The Dept. of Commerce revised third quarter GDP growth upward to 3.2%. However, it was much lower in the first two quarters. The GDP growth rate was .8% in the first quarter and 1.6% in the second quarter. A back of the envelope calculation means that the GDP grew by about 1.4% in the first three quarters. If the 3.2% growth rate was sustained during the fourth quarter, the 2016 GDP annual growth rate would be about 2.2%, which is lower than that of 2014 and 2015.

      From an historical perspective, the GDP Growth Rate in the United States averaged 3.23 percent from 1947 until 2016. See http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-growth.

      I hope this adds some clarity and background to Ron’s comments in his column.

      • tech

        Nicely captured and expanded on, Jim.

        The challenge before us is recapturing the economic dynamism that has enabled the U.S. economy to consistently outperform the social democracies of Europe and Japan. Logically and obviously, this doesn’t entail emulating their policies that result in zero or slow GDP growth and high structural unemployment.

        Placing blame is a non-productive backward-looking exercise. As you noted, the slow growth dysfunction is bipartisan.

        • Brian Baker

          “Placing blame is a non-productive backward-looking exercise.”

          I don’t particularly agree with that.

          Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it — Santayana.

          • tech

            No one is suggesting that lessons learned be ignored or error repeated, Brian. Instead, what’s useful is focusing on application of that knowledge rather than score settling.

            No doubt an argument can be made that failed ideas are often repackaged and sold as new by politicians. Civic minded individuals such as yourself can remind the less informed about the relevant history.

  • Nishka

    PER INDY:
    “Whatever the case may be, it’s important that we’ll be facing another round of deficits with Trump as he will cut taxes based on ideology based ‘trickle down’ that has never worked and only increases wealth concentration.”
    “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”
    ‘trickle down’ has never worked”
    THE POOR GET POORER WHILE THE RICH GET RICHER !!!!

  • Nishka

    “As the clock ticks down towards President-elect Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, the window is rapidly closing on the General Services Administration’s opportunity to extricate itself from the Trump Organization’s lease of the historic Post Office Pavilion. The lease—in which Donald Trump would, in effect, be both landlord and tenant—now presents unprecedented and intolerable conflicts of interest. ”
    “Trump has already arranged special visits for foreign diplomats to the Trump International Hotel, making it clear that he intends to leverage the site. Visitors to the Trump White House would be well-advised to produce proof of where they’re staying. Reince can validate their parking.”
    But there’s a minor detail …

    “… in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom…”

  • Steve Lunetta

    Lois- Wow. Ron really got under your skin….

    • tech

      It appears President-Elect Trump is living rent-free in her head 24/7, Steve. Does obsessed begin to describe this almost hourly post stream?

  • nohatejustdebate

    Predictable in Indy’s DNC talking points how he condemned the deficits under Bush – leaped over 8 years and about $10,000,000,000,000 in new debt under Obama, and is now condemning the expected deficit under Trump. This kind of blind partisanship is worthless.

  • phil ellis

    This kind of blind partisanship is worthless – not quite true – it is at least worth a few chuckles and I am not laughing WITH the authors.

  • Nishka

    “How are we to trust the decision-making of a president so easily waylaid by nonsense?”
    “Does Trump’s lack of attention span and refusal to read make him susceptible to conspiracy theories?”
    “Can he continue his willful indifference to reality and still govern?”
    “Do his personal grievances interfere with his ability to function as president?”
    “Who, if anyone, can reason with a man this irrational?”

    • tech

      Off topic.

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