Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Formerly Silent Majority

Throughout my adult life, I have been baffled by people who have supported candidates and political platforms that were contrary to their own self-interests. Why would small business owners and blue collar workers support GOP candidates that facilitate anti-union efforts, corporate raids, unfair corporate advantage, and the exporting of American jobs? Why would people in economically- challenged rural areas support candidates that favor agribusiness over small farmers; and seek to ban abortion when the cost of raising a single child is astronomical and can be devastating to the life of a single woman? And these same candidates seek to squash all government aid designed to assist in the raising of an economically-challenged child.

Reflecting on my own childhood, I began to get some understanding. I was part of a large middle class family. My father was the breadwinner and my mother managed the home. We were not ultra wealthy but we were very comfortable in everyway. Education and travel were taken for granted as long as one maintained a healthy work ethic. All our neighbors, and all my friends, had remarkably similar circumstances. I attended a public middle school and public high school in the late 60's and early 70's. It seems very peculiar now, but there were no African-American students and you could count the number of students of Hispanic decent on one hand, shocking in retrospect, for a public school in Los Angeles.

Fifty years later the dynamics of my neighborhood and my school, over time, have changed broadly. I believe this may not have been the fact for many communities in Red states. And because of this some Americans have not adapted either psychologically or economically to the changing realities. And the change is not fake news, but real. And this change is disconcerting, even frightening for those Americans.

We have had a black president. The LGBT community, something that was never discussed when I was a boy, is achieving recognition and rights. Foreign competition and technology have evaporated well-paying American jobs. Women play a prominent role in the workforce. The wealth gap between the rich and poor is increasing faster than the polar ice caps are melting. And the American middle class is becoming an endangered specie.

America became great with the rise of a middleclass, beginning with the Industrial Revolution typified by Henry Ford and innovation of interchangeable parts, and solidified by the post World War II boom when America provided for the world. And with globalization and the decline of the middleclass, America is waning.

I didn't vote for Trump. In fact I haven't voted for a GOP candidate since Lowell Wicker ran for governor in Connecticut in 1990. But I can see why many people did. GOP candidates tend to be loud and brazen and angry. They symbolize masculinity and a return to the "better" past. They appeal to the machinist who has lost his job and cannot provide for his family and the small farmer who has just faced foreclosure. They appeal to the veteran in Thurmond, WV whose kids can't find a job. And they appeal to all the Archie Bunker types who feel emasculated by the election of a gay city councilman.

The GOP has become the party of depraved, indifferent, conmen and criminals. The greatest tick Trump, and the rest of the Republicans, ever pulled is convincing the formerly silent majority that he would do something for them.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Why Trump Won in "16.........

I  heard one pundit the morning after the election say that both parties have been so busy trying to put together coalitions of wedge and single issue voters over the last 30 years that everyone forgot to broadly target the formerly young, formerly middle class white families in middle America that have become a vanishing demographic and are now in the minority, but still the largest minority voting block in America.  These were the people whose anger Richard Nixon tapped into in the turbulent society of 1968 when they were still the "great silent majority", and while most of them were and remain surprisingly provincial and unsophisticated in their ideals, they were not the same cadre of angry bigots and anti-government white people that George Wallace rallied around the American Independent Party (affectionately known then as the "Apes" for their acronym and political philosophy) in the same year.  These were the people who suffered through two oil shocks that further isolated them from the rest of country and disrupted a lifestyle that depended upon travel by private automobiles and supply lines served by over the road trucks.  They had their savings devalued by runaway inflation, then were "squeezed out" of buying cars and homes and investing in farms and small businesses when Paul Volker raised interest rates to squeeze the inflation out.  The Reagan Republicans energized these people temporarily, but ultimately abandoned them and took them for granted by adopting tax cuts for the rich on the theory that the benefits would “trickle down” to them, even though very little of that money ever really trickled down to the small mill towns and agricultural centers of middle America.  Bill Clinton sold middle Americans on a new vision of sensible populism to replace the New Deal and Great Society, but he too abandoned them and took them for granted by talking their employers and unions into supporting free trade on the theory that it would replace their industrial jobs with higher paying modern tech and service jobs.  In the end, a few people became fabulously wealthy in the "new economy", but free trade and lower tax rates encouraged traditional employers with factories and service centers (which had moved to smaller places in America seeking lower costs and cheaper labor in the 1950s and 1960s) to outsource labor intensive business to countries where building and labor costs were negligible, and their ability to offshore and outsource work gutted the bargaining power, prestige and political capabilities of the great industrial unions and left workers to fend for themselves.  While some people in major urban centers with good infrastructure managed to make a transition to better work, the working class people in small towns and cities more commonly ended up with shift work in retail and fast food or doing odd jobs for construction companies or their neighbors to make a living. 

Middle Americans have always been patriotic and nationalistic, and while many made a pragmatic decision to join the "all volunteer military" to escape the increasing dead ends of local life, many more saw the National Guard as a way to make extra cash for their young families by volunteering for weekend and summer duty, and the occasional task of helping with disaster relief and security did not impose too many hardships on people rooted in families and jobs in small places.  George W. then betrayed them again by deploying National Guard units to conduct foreign wars rather than gearing up the number of regular volunteer army troops needed to meet his objectives, and although he paid lip service to the sacrifices of the Guard units, he did not do very much to support their families or small business employers while they were deployed and ultimately dropped hundreds of thousands of returning veterans back into their small communities without access to the kind of medical, psychiatric and social support needed to treat their physical injuries and PTSD.  Bush then led the country into a financial and economic collapse which might have been the only time in 35 years when the small places in middle America received the same treatment as their urban and suburban counterparts, and Bush then "solved" the problems he created with a plan that bailed out the major financial oligopolies from the liabilities and losses sustained from their intemperate gambling for bonuses, but did not require them to pass on the favor to the people in middle America who had undertaken financial obligations to them in good faith that they could not now repay.  Obama offered middle America the "hope" of rebuilding our country, and actually got votes from some of them, but allowed his handlers to waste his temporary majority in Congress on a stimulus bill that combined "investments in America's future" with old fashioned pork barrel deals, and neither of these provided much tangible relief to any of those
areas outside of the major urban centers where the steady increase in people's misery had grown even worse after the financial collapse.  By the time Obama started working on ideas that might have broader benefits, so many people who had been left behind over the years had been poisoned by the anti-progressive propaganda of Fox News, conservative talk radio, fundamentalist churches, and internet conspiracy theories that they swelled the moronic ranks of the Tea Party, which beyond its pointless fixation on nostalgia, negativity and anarchy, elected representatives who were openly antagonistic to and categorically rejected any efforts by the Obama administration (like the ACA) to provide meaningful relief for any of the real world problems faced by the very voters who elected them.  

And Why Trump Will Win Again in 2020



In his own P.T. Barnum way, Trump united small town working people with each other and with family farmers who had been driven to the wall by industrial farming, produce imported from low wage countries, and constant manipulations of financial markets that generated obscene profits for speculators but created wide swings in the prices of commodities and agricultural land that made small farming unsustainable.  In doing so, he turned the century old farmer-labor coalitions of Midwestern Democrats and Progressives on their heads, and managed to get enough votes to turn back the new Obama urban coalition of educated young professionals, aging liberals and poor minorities that had enabled the Democrats' to elect a black candidate despite their loss of traditional support among working people outside of the major urban centers.  Unlike Hillary Clinton and the establishment and Tea Party Republicans he out polled, Trump appeared to finally listen to the grievances of his new “silent majority”, and even pretended in his semi-coherent way to stand up for them after 35 years of neglect and betrayal by both parties by dumbing down his message and selling it enthusiastically and relentlessly.  Along with their respect for the power of the "big lie", Trump and his surrogates also used rallies and events in the same clever ways as the Nazis had in the 1930s - to amplify the supposed voice of "little people" by gathering them into crowds where they gained an initially unrealistic but increasingly self fulfilling view of the power of their own numbers and Trump was the only star.  In contrast, Clinton's rallies drew countless famous people from pop culture to energize her supporters, but did not provide the same immersive emotional experience of being part of a larger movement to the little people in attendance and tended to upstage the qualities of the candidate with the star power of her endorsers.

The final results did not so much reflect a lack for support for Clinton as a net rise in voter participation for Trump among people who had stopped caring about the government (as opposed to Tea Partiers who already actively hated and feared it), and this edge was enough to sweep an unqualified, temperamentally unsuited, and generally dishonest person into leadership of the Free World.  The media and Democratic Party analysts can slice and dice the data in a thousand ways, as they did before the election, and it still won't explain why Hillary lost after she had run the right kind of campaign to win an election in an increasingly pluralist and supposedly data driven America.  My post mortem review indicates that all anyone needs to know about this election can be seen in the maps showing vast red expanses of counties in rural areas of the swing states that had turned colors many times over past election cycles in favor of particular candidates or messages, and in some of the lopsided vote totals these smaller counties returned for Trump.  While Trump's support in urban areas was generally a distinct minority composed of his basket of young deplorables from the alt.right and aging Archie Bunker holdouts in shrinking white neighborhoods, he almost uniformly swept the votes in districts which used to have functional Democratic Party support in those cities of under 100,000 people anchored for many decades by local industry, and these allowed him to win the electoral vote with close races in swing states despite coming up short in the total popular vote.  I guess it took the gut feelings of a “big picture” promoter to see through the details of single issue voters and demographic voting propensities that for years have hidden a larger and simpler (and therefore more troubling) picture of the mood among the least cultivated and often least rational segment of our electorate.  From the evidence in the swing state voting, I think this election was more about geography and economics than age, sex, religion or level of education (although many of these may correlate statistically by reason of self selection - i.e., young people, liberals, gays, atheists and highly educated people tend to move to urban areas where they find better opportunities and social acceptance).  While Trump's marketing ploys may have exposed a more realistic fault line in America than the market segmentation and targeting of minorities and single issue voters that got Obama elected and reelected, I personally find it sad that Trump and his racist allies have replaced Lincoln and his abolitionist allies as the face of the Republican Party, and I still believe from the exit polling that there were more people on the wrong side of the fundamental geographical, economic and cultural divide who were willing to overlook the racist and misogynist overtones of his campaign than the numbers who actually embraced it.  Because so many of the Trump voters were willing to ignore facts and common sense to vote against the establishment, this election has provided future Republican strategists with a new corollary that Lincoln left out of his famous quote on the American electorate – “You can win an election if you fool most of the people most of the time.”

To illustrate the problem with an analogy, most people know that even the most loyal and good natured dog can turn vicious and aggressive if it is abused or neglected over a long enough period, and once a good dog turns bad, it takes an enormous amount of time, attention and consistency to restore its trust in people and bring back its original character.  Some people are willing to make the effort to turn the situation around and have the love and patience to rescue a dog, but others don't believe that it is worth the time and effort, or the risk of the rescuer being attacked and injured during the process because of the evils inflicted by other people over the years which the dog comes to associate with people in general.  I have likely wasted thousands of hours over this long election reading, researching and vacillating between mindless rants and more elegant but equally feeble efforts to explain things political and historical in an election that defies precedent, and while I like to think I understand what went wrong with politics in this election, I came away with no good ideas of how anyone would fix the situation, regardless of who ultimately won the contest.  In my frustration, I have been forced to fall back on a piece of blunt New England wisdom offered at the end of what is perhaps Robert Frost’s most morbid poem, “Out, Out”, where a young New England farm boy bleeds to death after cutting his hand off with a power saw.  After recounting the boy's last moments, the surreal nature of the momentary violence of the accident and quiet fading of his life, and the helpless moment when the family confirms that his heart had stopped, Frost closes with words that resonate with me today:



 "No more to build on there. And they, since they
 Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Will Wishful Thinking Destroy the Dems in 2020?

The recent Democratic debate and follow-up discussions on cable television, have been very critical of the Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden. A thinking person must acknowledge that the understandings, values, and truths of an individual evolve over the course of a person's life through experience. Throughout American history, our perceptions and understandings have changed. And this is reflected in our interpretation of the Constitution, and the laws we in act. Change and the quest for our better angels is never instantaneous. It is a process that requires hard work and occurs over time.

I was a college student at Wesleyan University in the 1970's. At that time, it was almost impossible for anyone to be more politically correct. I entered the university enamored with the teachings of Karl Marx. I knew intellectuals who viewed the USSR as the promised land. Over the course of my studies, the logical flaws in the political philosophy of Karl Marx became apparent. Marx presupposed that human nature could be altered within the constructs of a political system. He believed that people maturated in such a system and left to their own devices, would act in the interests of the society, the greater good, and "ignore" their complex, self-centered, instinctual nature.

Social democracy, and the social programs in our country, are far different from the political system that Marx fashioned. Many Americans have no understanding of this fact. And this represents a major problem for Democrats, especially those on the far left. Perhaps if we renamed it Equacap it would be met with more open-mindedness in rural America.

The socialism that is practiced in America, which neither Trump nor ultra-conservatives object to when it benefits them, seems to work well with capitalism. It creates a compromise that transcends both and benefits both. The 2008 bailouts of the banks and automakers are prima facia evidence that this is truth.

Politics is the art of the possible. In the 40 years since I graduated, there have been significant changes in American life. The demographics of our country have and are continuing to change. We have taken a bite from the apple in the garden of Silicon Valley. And technology plays a dominant role in our lives. These realities, for obvious and complex reasons, have disconcerted a significant segment of America. And this is one of the reasons we have a jackass in the White House.

Let us not let our self-centered, instinctual nature, despite the fact that it is clearly aligned with the Age of Enlightenment philosophies, righteous truth, human decency, and the traditions of Christian charity and mercy, give the beast four more years.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Trussians Are Coming

Back when I was in my youth, some time ago, there was a comedian who ran for president. His name was Pat Paulsen. I believe he "waged" his campaigns not with the intention of winning, but rather to add levity to politics and increase the strength of his brand.

His quotes included:

"You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can only make a monkey out of the voters every four years."

"All the problems we face today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian."

Since the inception of the Tea Party, and their success at the polls, we have witnessed an surge in "politicians" of this nature. Only the humor has been replaced with hatred, vitriol and bigotry. Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis featured an ad teaching his children to emulate Trump complete with an explosion in his backyard. And the appearance of 'I'd rather be a Russian than a Democrat' tee shirts at Trump rallies, while we are in the mist of an investigation to determine to what extent the current administration conspired with the Russians to meddle in our democracy, is quite troublesome.

These non traditional candidates, shamelessly, are driving out traditional, more decent, moral and competent, candidates witnessed by the departures of Darrell Issa, Jeff Flake, Paul Ryan and 28 other Republican congressional candidates not seeking reelection.

Humor is a wonderful thing. But it is not a panacea for all things. As Trump and the Trussians continue to defile America, attack her traditions, institutions and the rule of law, it may be time for a quote from one of our country's founding fathers who refused to sign the Declaration of Independence because the Constitution did not yet have a Bill of Rights. Patrick Henry said:

"Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and (Vladimir Putin)…..may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it."

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Understanding Trump


First, Donald Trump cognitively is a corporate leader. Corporations are by their very nature dictatorships ruled by CEO's and often a board of directors that is somewhat beholden to  shareholders. The sole objective of corporations is to accumulate wealth and power (to facilitate further accumulation), for top executives and board members, and shareholders.

Employees are merely expendable ciphers of the corporations, a necessary evil to be eliminated whenever possible. Trump's lack of concern for his workers and failure to pay some of his small business vendors over the course of his life is a result of this mindset. Be loyal and produce or your fired, until I don't need you anymore. He has also demonstrated the same lack of concern for clients exemplified by the lawsuits against Trump University.

For Trump and the super rich like-minded, laws and regulations get in the way. The environment, the quality of life for Americans, the future of anything are irrelevant annoyances and consideration of them stands in the way of their one and only purpose. Traditions, institutions, civility are roadblocks that must be torn down. Wealthy donors and supporters are his shareholders. No matter, as Balzac stated, "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."

Trump likes dictators. He likes Putin and Jong-un. They are his contemporaries. Their corporations run relatively smoothly.

And foremost, Trump is also an entertainer, a showman in the vain of P.T. Barnum. And though he craves validation, he fully understands that he is CEO of America because of his base. He was elected because they are discouraged, disenfranchised and afraid. He continues to play on their frustrations. He continues to delve into the dark corners of their minds, and has shocked them to the point of giddy stupefaction. He must have their ratings or the show will be cancelled.

Trump is the culmination, the final product, of the Revolution of Insanity in America that began with Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. Back during that period, when facts and figures, reality, and the truth still had some relevance, Tea Party thinkers criticized deficit government spending. They argued that since American families must live within budgets the Federal government should also. Government should be run like a business. Then when they began to consider healthcare, care of the elderly, education, addiction, and support for small businesses not to mention the Blackwater debacle which broke the budget, they ceased. Faced with the idea of "firing" a sick family member whose medical bills exceeded the family budget or farming out a child to avoid father's income from being taxed, they soon realized the folly of this analogy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trump World: The Lies We All Tell Ourselves

Despite the damage being inflicted by Trump's policies, more and more I am coming to the realization that it's a numbers game. The earth is finite and real solutions will never come about without an acceptance of the fact that many of the paradigms and models we all use are flawed. Most people regardless of political affiliation believe that what they want is what they need. And they want what they need immediately without regard for consequences or how they impact others, the world, or the future. The two dimensional television unreality of Trumpism reinforces this and causes consequences, facts and the truth to take on an almost surreal state. We can put our heads in the sand, or switch channels but ultimately we cannot turn off the consequences of our actions forever. The days of reckoning are already beginning in the form of mind boggling debt, crazy weather, diminished employment opportunities, and unsustainable populations,

There was open talk among intellectuals that Trump is delusional and void of reality evidenced by his claim that it is not his voice on the Hollywood Access tape. Technology in our middle history (planes, trains and automobiles, telephone and pre-cable television) brought people together and fostered a sense of community. The New Media has done quite the opposite. Since it impossible for humans to access and process the vast amount of information that is available, and people are becoming unable to differentiate between what is reality and fake news, people are becoming selective and live in technology tribes. And we are becoming dumber and are becoming addicted to "attached" technology, some of which is really useless in the broad scheme of things. The financial aristocracy whose members have always lived in a self-imposed bubble, understand this and are using this understanding to manipulate the rest of us. This was a major factor in Trump's win though he probably doesn't understand any of this.

Liberal Google and Microsoft really don't care as they live in their own very comfortable eco-friendly, organic bubbles. And Amazon is reaching monopoly status but nobody even talks about it or the multitude of mergers that have transpired recently.

In Trump World, to maximize their wealth and power, reactionaries, religious fanatics and plutocrats now hide under the conservative label and use their resources to undermine and attack the Age of Enlightenment philosophies and traditions of Christian charity and mercy that shaped the beliefs of our Founding Fathers, all the while paying insincere public homage to them like Roman Gods.

Meanwhile a significant segment of America is being ravaged by drug addiction. There is a line from the Oliver Stone movie, Savages: " Drugs are a rational response to an insane world." Though Stone was talking about marijuana, guessing the same goes for opioids.  Most in the areas ravaged by addiction essentially haven't done anything wrong. Most did what they were told to do.They worked hard and played by the rules, for the most part. And for decades they have been neglected.  And they are coming to the realization that there might not be a way out. Most of them are probably right. And they voted for Trump. It is impossible to comment definitively on their condition or their chances from any bubble.

Trump World is about tribalism, bubbles, enemies, real or fancied, and the lies we all tell ourselves. It is primal, dog-eat-dog. It is impossible to fully understand without again acknowledging the impact of social media and technology on all of us. We are getting to the point where we literally live in groups in clouds. And technology is beginning to appear to have more value to some in the upper strata than people. If Marx were alive today perhaps he would declare it the new opium of man.

Living in Trump World doesn't foster contentment and actualization but contrarily anger and fear. In this state it is very difficult to solve weighty problems let alone even fully understand them and their gravity.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Four Days in a Florida Hurricane Shelter

Hurricane Irma struck South Florida early morning on September 10th. I had just returned from a trip to Connecticut and began to focus on the storm three days prior. The lurid media projections of a category five storm charging up the center of the state, touching both coasts, unsettled me. After being unable to book a hotel or flight, and hearing of a traffic jam all the way to Orlando, I opted for a shelter.

Inside the shelter, people were clustered in hallways. The man seated next to me was a retired Harvard professor. In a crescent around us was a twenty-seven member extended family of people of Michoac√°n heritage.

On the first day the professor and I had a conversation about academia. He told me that he had witnessed a change in the essence of a Harvard education during his tenure. He went on to say that when he began teaching, Harvard sought to produce great Americans who influenced the world through their graciousness. He expressed that this gradually changed over the course of his career where students primarily became concerned with getting good jobs and making a lot of money.

Over the next three days I became aware of how well-mannered and affable the large family around us was during this difficult period. They socialized their children, engaged in polite conversation with everyone, offered fruit, sandwiches, and cell phones to all. They even helped the professor rise to his feet several times.

Except for those at the ends of the hall, who had complained constantly during the ordeal, the Man of Letters thanked everyone for a tolerable experience before he left.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Will the Real Donald Trump Please Stand Up!

Crude abhorrent talk and behavior is nothing new to politicians and political leaders. Anyone with even a smattering of political history will remembering the racist comments of Woodrow Wilson and John Kennedy's adversarial relationship with Nikita Khrushchev, who was given to drunkenness and pounding his shoe on the table during nuclear weapons negotiations.

In the 2016 elections the Democrats forgot all of this. Basking in the delusional superiority of political correctness they attacked Trump's style and demeanor and showed that they were out-of-touch with the lives and struggles of white working class voters. The lives of truck drivers and family farmers are far different from the precious liberally educated.

In fact, Trump's "loading dock, barroom" delivery resonated with these former Democrats. And, unlike the Democrats, the Trump team understood the new medium, and how to reach these people, tweak and twitter their frustrations and communicate with them. It is not far fetched to believe that some women were titillated by Trump's groping comments or that the Bush family endorsement of Hilary Clinton actually helped Trump.

This notion is further substantiated by the fact that virtually all the polls and all the media predicted a Clinton win. MogAI, which predicted winners in the primaries and the last 3 presidential elections, based on a algorithm using social media data, predicted a win by Trump. Even Nate Silver predicted a Clinton victory.

One thing is for sure. As president, Trump will enrich himself and those immediately around him. We can only hope that many of the altruistic notions he has espoused in the course of the campaign and his life are ideals that he truly holds and believes. He has stated repeatedly that all Americans should get a fair shot. And that we can't just let people die in the street. He admits that he has profited from the corruption in the system, that he knows how it works, and he has stated that he wants to turn things around and "drain the swamp." We can only hope that he conveys and instills in those around him, these values and perceptions. And that these values and perceptions translate into policy.

And we must pray that his administration does not evolve into a Bush/Cheney administration on steroids. And that his administration is not characterized by even more obscene tax cuts and greater deficit spending- partially to temporarily placate his supporters- than the Bush administration which he so openly criticized. For this will lead to the annihilation of the middle class.

Trump has taken business bankruptcies four times. We must pray that The Donald has seen the error of his ways and does not try to run the government like one of his businesses. After all, unlike his failed casino ventures, there is no institution to bail out America.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Toto, I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore.

There is an old colloquialism that is often attributed to Sam Clemens that goes, "Figures don't lie, but liars do figure."

I think that the 2016 Presidential primary races of both the Democrat and Republican parties illustrate that a large segment of the American people, on some level, are beginning to see that the understandings and beliefs that served as the foundation for previous generations are not applicable to the current realities of life in America. That is, they just don't add up.

This is highlighted by the surprisingly strong support that non-establishment candidates are getting. We just may be on the cusp of a revolution of understanding.

On the GOP side, Ted Cruz, the Tea Party darling, is beginning to be seen for what he truly is: the consummate sociopathic grafter, the carny preacher who plants "miracles" in his tent while taking money from Wall Street to finance the show.

And because of this new feeling by Americans that something is not quite right, this man who ultimately is only concerned with his own self-aggrandizement, is loosing the support of a significant portion of his Evangelical base.

Marco Rubio, with the aid of a combination of cronyism and nepotism, is mouthing policy and platitudes that served the establishment of previous generations but are no longer viable in today's world.

Pull yourself up on the coattails of the rich and powerful is his American Dream.

Trump is much more complicated and his motivation is much less transparent. Certainly with individual and national debt reaching mind boggling levels, and with the rise of globalization impacting the standard of living for most Americans, and the ability of Americans to save, Trump's brand of nationalism does have mass appeal.

Though he does denounce inversion, corporate welfare, and global monetary and business practices that harm the American worker and America as a whole, it is unclear if his brand of nationalism allies with Teddy Roosevelt's vision.

President Roosevelt called for the end of special protections for businesses by the Washington Establishment. He believed that anyone who worked hard should be able to provide for themselves and their families. No person or group should have access to "special privileges" that are not available to everyone else. (This notion is an anathema to both Cruz and Rubio and Trump has openly acknowledged that he has made many "donations" over time to further his business ventures.)

Teddy, the Trust-Buster as he was nicknamed, advocated equality in the rules of the game ensuring that the rules and laws made opportunity available to everyone. Lofty!

Bernie Sanders is without a doubt the most authentic candidate running for the Presidency in 2016. His candidacy has great value in that it focuses on and highlights the corruption and inequities present in our society, conditions that Roosevelt sought to remedy.

Bernie Sanders points out the special protections for the wealthy afforded by our government. He makes us aware of the inability of many hard working families to provide for themselves and their families currently. He elucidates the special privileges, inequities and corruption by the Establishment in our society, issues that were central to the policy of President Teddy Roosevelt over a century ago.

Unfortunately, these maladies are as old as mankind and the actions have been entwined with and divorced from our democracy, in varying degrees, over time. And they can only be changed through the process of our democracy over time.

In American government, Trump is right about one thing. Progress comes about from making deals. And democracy is compromise.

However, as Sanders points out, democratic progress cannot come about if a majority of the shareholders are excluded from the negotiating table by economic or procedural means, by lies and misinformation, or a rigged system.

Chris Matthews on MSNBC recently stated that an ultra right-wing Congressman recently told him that he spends all of his time in Washington convincing his colleagues that he is not crazy and then returns home to his constituents and has to convince them that he is.

The very surprising support of Sanders and Trump may illustrate that many Americans are starting to come to the realization that things are not quite right.

Friday, November 27, 2015

End of the World as We Know It

In a very methodical, efficiently systematic, and very timely manner; and with the aid of the information revolution and social media, a hybrid business model, masquerading as the Capitalism described by Adam Smith, has eroded the middle class, the economy, and democracy in America.

Capitalism has become synonymous with, forgive the Civil War analogy, Sherman's "March to the Sea", in order to provide unfathomable wealth and power to the few. Fast food corporations are selling diabetes and obesity. Phillip Morris is selling lung cancer. And virtually all corporations are destroying the planet beyond repair.

In the wake of economic crises and the challenges of climate change and resultant instability in the world, corporations are practicing inversion to avoid paying for the damage they do.

Pfizer Pharmaceuticals' union with Allergan is the latest example of corporations running amok. Over the years American taxpayers funded grants for research and development and tuition for employees. And Americans currently pay the highest prescription costs in the world and constitute the largest block of consumers. Yet Pfizer doesn't want to help pay the bills of America while continuing to reap the benefits.

Our government is under attack from the far right. But the lessons of the economic crash of 2008 show that without government, capitalism would have destroyed itself. If the Federal Government didn't bail out the banks and auto companies, it would have been the end of the world as we know it. Remember, George Bush, a Republican, began the bailouts.

If the extreme far right-wing of the Republican party is able to severely disable the Federal Government, capitalism, all versions thereof, will end in a blaze of golden parachutes. And America and the world will enter a system of feudalism and the New Dark Ages.

It began with Sarah Palin and the omnipresent social media. Statements, opinions and positions all of a sudden could be transmitted instantly to everyone without regard for facts, the truth, or reality. The American population was saturated with misinformation smartly masquerading as the wisdom.

The disparaging remarks by Republicans regarding education illustrate the intent. From the Koch brothers' offer of money to forgo college and the buying of curricula in some colleges, to the Republican attack on political science typified by Tom Coburn's bill to kill funding for research, to Sarah Palin's own term, "Nerd Prom", when describing the White House Correspondences' Dinner, it is clear that critical thought, logic and reality are under attack.

It must be noted that political scientists study how to make our democracy work better. They aid in understanding terrorism and identify global threats and help develop strategies. They develop public policies that improve response to natural disasters, health challenges, and many challenges we face as a nation.

It is clear that, in this era of flawed thinking and social media, critical thinking, a product of formal education including the liberal arts, is more important than ever.

Decades ago, back prior to the era of social media, back in the time of the newspaper and critical thinking, people examined their existences. In the era of social media, people are having their existences molded by the medium, and ultimately the powers behind the medium.

Four decades ago, in the America I knew, the prevailing thought- stated in various ways- was to examine your existence and maximize upon it. Put simply, figure out what you are capable of doing and be the best you can. And go after the necessary education, training, and experience.

It use to be a sign of stupidity and futility to aspire to and seek a position that you were totally unqualified for; a position where you lacked the understandings, values, competencies, and experience to perform that position with any degree of success. This is laughably obvious for pilots, sea captains, physicians, et al, but much less so for those seeking public office. Maybe this is one reason that Congress has had so much difficulty performing in the last decade.

Hillary Clinton, though a flawed candidate, is the best hope for America in 2016.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Are Climate Deniers the Greatest Domestic Terrorists in American History?

A terrorist performs heinous acts for political gain, either economic or psychological.

The projected impact of climate change on America, both domestically and in terms of national security is almost beyond human comprehension. And climate change affects virtually every aspect of human existence.

Hard evidence of climate change can be found in the oceans, at the poles, and in everyday life. Dying coral reefs, strange shark migrations, vanishing glaciers and species, and the warmest temperatures on record are reality and not a product of a vast liberal conspiracy.

Another glaring example is the 2015 water shortage in California coupled with lowest winter snowpack in recorded history. I have a client that is working on a process to extract water from the atmosphere in California. He is also attempting to work with the Chinese.

Man-made global warming has and will continue to have a tremendous impact on the production of food for human beings. Rising oceans have and will further alter and damage peoples' lives, and increase the costs borne by our government to deal with the climate related catastrophes. New weather anomalies and diseases have and will continue to be created. Every facet of human existence will be increasingly challenged.

These ever escalating challenges will tax resources to the point of near chaos. Domestic catastrophes coupled with scientific realities- exemplified by the effect of ocean warming on sonar- will gravely impact our national security at some point.

A thought occurred to me the other day when Donald Trump complained about the rigors of campaigning and appeared , at least to be contemplating his exit strategy for his 2016 presidential campaign.

The compos mentis segment of the GOP base appears to not want to be in positions of leadership.  John Boehner was joyous and appeared almost intoxicated when he announced his resignation as speaker of the House of Representatives. And the Republican controlled House has yet to find anyone that is willing, and at the same time, able to meet the "requirements" of the party's extreme right-wing. Even reactionary commentator Bill O'Reilly chuckled when asked if he would become Speaker of the House, the third person in line to the presidency.

I only hope that the GOP's denial of global warming is not at the core of its propensity for obstruction and, merely one of the fanciful vagaries of it's less competent members. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trump's Candidacy Has Value

Donald Trump is an arrogant, narcissistic very successful businessman. I am sure that he greatly overestimates his real understanding of and ability to rectify the things that are truly wrong in the world. Yet he does recognize many of the problems and issues, realities that most other candidates are unwilling or unable to address. And because of this his dialogue has merit.

Trump rails against Mexico and China. And matter-of-factly states that, when elected, he and his gang will put both Mexico and China in their respective places. He will be able to get Mexico to pay for a wall that will keep their undesirable, criminal, illegal emigrants from entering our country. He neglects to discuss what Alan Greenspan told Congress years ago: that illegal immigration has a profound positive impact on our economy.

He proclaims that he will stop the Chinese from devaluating their currency which is hurting American businesses. He neglects to say that his clothing line is manufactured in China, that his best clients are Chinese, or discuss the staggering amount of our Treasury securities China holds.

It is obvious that Trump has never read Metternich or essays by Henry Kissinger. And he lacks understanding of the complex political and economic interconnections of nations today, which are more so today then at any time in America history  (See Post: Is America Being Purchased? 10/10/10).

I will concede that his analysis of the Middle East, a region full of internal contradictions, is pretty sound and decision makers might consider utilizing cost/benefit analysis as part of their decision making process. Most of the Middle Eastern countries and territories share a combination of policies that support American objectives and, simultaneously, policies and behaviors that are abhorrent, detrimental to our objectives, and ones we are trying to eradicate. And I applaud Trump's opposition to the War in Iraq and his dialogue on the reasonable use of force.

Trump has also talked about corporate inversion and his own bankruptcies. He has stated that he is against inversion and that the corporations should be forced to return to the US and pay taxes.

He has talked about his bankruptcies and explained that they constituted legal means to build wealth. He intimated that these shenanigans, along with inversion, should be illegal. Students of history will remember that Franklin Roosevelt appointed Joe Kennedy as the first Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission after he had used every "trick in the book" to build his wealth. 

Trump has talked about political correctness and stated that by focusing on it we are wasting time, loosing sight of the truly important things, and the Big Picture. I don't think that Trump is a racist or a misogynist, in the same way that many Tea Party Republicans are. His political incorrectness is a perfunctory reaction to what he views as annoyances. It is pragmatism versus the abstract for him.

He has countered his PC critics by stating that America has an obligation to take care of its poor. He briefly outlined an upgrade to Obamacare that must be driving all other Republicans crazy. And, he has stated that with the exception of abortion he supports the work of Planned Parenthood.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Cause in sleepy London Town there's just no place for a street fighting man." Jagger/Richards

"When a plutocracy usurps economic and political control of a democracy, the only remedy for that democracy, save a  violent revolution, is a system of taxation, aimed at the plutocracy, that enables economic and political power to be distributed to the citizenry in a more democratic manner."  

Will Poor and Lame


The week of June 21, 2015 was historic in terms of social change. In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld Obama Care. The justices interpreted the law enacted by Congress and deemed that it was not contradictory in intention and was constitutional.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court ruled that same-sex marriage is an unalienable right, granted by the Constitution, and must be honored in all 50 states.

And, as a reaction to the massacre of 9 Africa Americans at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston by a white supremacist brandishing the Confederate flag, many leaders in Red states are taking down that flag, and distancing themselves from that symbol.

I do not want to underplay how momentous these rulings are or what a big deal it is for reactionaries to acknowledge that the Confederate flag is divisive and a symbol of hatred, racism and bigotry for many.

These rulings and actions certainly illustrate  the potency of the Obama presidency and they will contribute to his legacy.

After celebrating this historic change, the likes of which we have not seen since the sixties, let us focus on and work on the truly momentous problems that this country and mankind face.

Citizens United is real. The plutocracy is buying political power. And their objectives are detrimental to the majority of the citizenry.

Income inequity is a complicated issue and real. With defference towards those that practice alternative lifestyles, the positive human impact of being able to marry, gay or straight, is minimized if couples can't afford to feed themselves or go to the doctor when they are sick.

Obama began his presidency with "The Audacity of Hope".  And to continue forward America needs this audacity followed by clear thoughts and actions.

West Palm Beach, Florida, the home of Rush Limbaugh and Newsmax, recently instituted the most advanced and cleanest waste-to-energy power plant in North America. The plant will provide energy to 40,000 homes and businesses while processing more than a million tons of municipal solid waste. This will reduce reliance on the landfill by almost 90% while recycling 30,000 tons of industrial metals. And it will create 200 full time jobs.

For the life of me I can't figure out how this got by Rick Scott.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Marco Rubio, Rex Nutting & Reality

It has recently come to light that the golden boy of the Conservative wing of the Republican party has a benefactor.

The New York Times, on May 10th, 2015, made us all aware that a billionaire auto dealer named Norman Braman is the money man behind Senator Marco Rubio's rapid political rise.

"As Mr. Rubio has ascended in the ranks of Republican politics, Mr. Braman has emerged as a remarkable and unique patron. He has bankrolled Mr. Rubio's campaigns. He has financed Mr. Rubio's legislative agenda. And, at the same time, he has subsidized Mr. Rubio's personal finances, as the rising politician and his wife grappled with heavy debt and big swings in their income."

Inherently, there is nothing wrong with having a patron. Many artists, musicians, and intellectuals have them. One can only speculate where Rubio would be without this benefactor. But what is especially troubling, is the hard Social Darwinism that Rubio espouses when, in fact, his situation is prima facie evidence that it is false.

Rex Nutting is a real person and has written a very relevant article in MarketWatch documenting how the stock market destroyed the middle class.

Put very briefly, for the last three decades a pervasive business model has encouraged top managers of American corporations to raid their companies of the funds they need to build and expand, and invest in their workers for the long haul.

They, according to Nutting,

"Loot their company, by using large stock buybacks to... manipulate share price, which allows them to use inside information to time their own stock sales. By using buybacks to funnel most of the company's profits back to shareholders (including themselves)." Wow.

I can only wonder how Senator Rubio feels about all of this. One thing is clear. His benefactor, who benefits from the propagation of misinformation, is happy to continue subsidizing Senator Rubio as long as he continues to espouse Horatio Alger myths which help facilitate the destruction of the American middle class.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Save the Middle Class But Don't Touch My Salary!

Back in February 2015, Rex Nutting wrote an article for MarketWatch outlining seven means to slow the erosion of the American middle class. He acknowledges that "history shows a prosperous middle class makes the economy stronger." His caveat is that these seven measures will accomplish this "without soaking the rich."

Full Employment. By increasing employment for "could be" workers, wages will rise for all workers. And this objective can be facilitated by Congressional action that authorizes money to repair and upgrade our forgotten infrastructure. A fantastic idea but requires government spending (tax money) and will never get through our current Congress.

Give workers a voice. The GOP has literally been at war with workers and unions since the beginning of the Bush administration. Unless it is accompanied with pro-worker legislation, regulations and tax policy, it will result in the further exportation of jobs.

Give workers better skills. I have been arguing and documenting in this blog, for years, that in addition to legislation and tax policy that is brutally and shamefully anti-American workers, technology has played a major role in rendering obsolete many skill sets. Machines have and continue to displace many workers.

Encourage more profit-sharing. I still come across American companies that offer their employees profit-sharing and 401K plans. However, due to the evolving nature of employment in this country, these benefits are dwindling and are currently an endangered specie.

Enforce and strengthen laws protecting American workers. Mr. Nutting argues that millions of workers are being cheated by the companies that they work for. And that they have a right to pensions, health care, disability insurance, and workers' compensation insurance. He continues that Social Security and Medicare should be reinforced, not gutted. Workers PAY for these entitlements and are relying on them more and more because of the aforementioned.

Raise the minimum wage. A truly good idea short term. Our country is beginning to act on this suggestion in certain political regions as well as on the federal level.

Require our foreign trading partners to respect their workers' rights. At this point in my critique I am beginning to wonder if Rex Nutting is in actuality a computer program. If he is not a virtual cousin to Harvey the Rabbit, I sincerely hope he continues to advocate for the Progressive agenda.

Though his goals are truly noble, and a more equitable distribution of wealth is necessary to preserve democracy and the America that most of us know and love, what Mr. Nutting fails to realize is that these proposals "soak the rich" only by slightly different means. Spending on infrastructure must come from taxation and is a very Keynesian notion. What Mr. Nutting fails to acknowledge is that the super rich and global corporations have significant control of the American government and, short of a revolution, these whimsies will never come into being. The powers that be see democracy, justice, and equity as an anathema to their world and vision.

As a boy in the 1960's, the model for living a "good" life was to go to college, get married, buy a house, and save for retirement. The millennials will attest to the flaws in this model in our current world.

Also, for some, landing a well-paying government job was akin to hitting the lottery. Not only did this offer security in one's life but might also serve as a spring board for the formation of a small business or "private sector" venture with a grant or a lucrative government contract. Conservative Republicans and their wealthy puppeteers, despite trying to dismantle most of the federal government, have taken this concept to the extreme.

Monday, March 16, 2015

President Scott Walker is Tough on American Terrorists

I expect that SNL doesn’t take unsolicited ideas for their openings, but I think a brilliant one in view of recent events would be to open with a faux Fox News (a little redundancy there) special bulletin on international terrorism from 2017 and have their commentator cut to a White House briefing by President Scott Walker, announcing that the President of the Teamsters International had been apprehended by special ops forces and was being taken to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation.  He could then reiterate his campaign promise to track and hunt down other “international” terrorists who threaten our way of life.  As a final absurdity he could dramatically announce that just prior to his message, the FBI and Military Police had staged a coordinated night raid on the State Department and Pentagon, where terrorist cells of the American Federation of Government Employees and National Federation of Federal Employees had apparently infiltrated our most sensitive government installations disguised as janitors.  He could point out that these terrorists were given free reign by the Obama administration, and even allowed to meet regularly with their spymasters at their union locals to discuss their plots, and then resolutely face the camera and tell the American people that they now have a President who isn’t afraid to tell terrorist organizations, “live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Economics of States' Rights

A co-worker said to me the other day that we all want nice things but none of us wants to pay for them.

This simple statement encapsulates the economics of states' rights.

The conservative leaders of Red states, as a whole, tend to advocate strong American influence in foreign affairs, ostensibly for the cause of democracy and to ensure national security, but more often than not, primarily for the economic gain of the wealthy and global corporations. And deficit spending is never a consideration when allocating funding to reach these ends.

Ironically, conservative leaders tend to be more concerned with sustaining democracy abroad then they are domestically, here at home, where they appear to view the American populous in almost the same manner they viewed the people of developing countries during the era of imperialism.

Vis-√†-vis Federal programs, Red states are quite content to allow Progressive states to subsidize their states. In too many cases they bend Federal laws and divert Federal funding intended for the populous to the uber-wealthy and corporations. Red leaders and their mouthpieces use vague talking points and political labels to justify their actions, and avoid facts and figures. Regrettably, facts and figures don't lie.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What Do American Football and Capitalism Have in Common?

American football is a very competitive fast-paced sport that incorporates aggression with complex planning, preparation, and strategy. Because of the nature of the competition it requires evolving rules and codes of conduct; and referees, boards and offices to enforce those rules and codes.

Players on the teams, seeking to maximize their economic value, seek to be "accomplished"; and the teams seek to win, again for economic value, and to satisfy complex human needs.

In the game of football, without rules and regulations, it is not inconceivable that chaos would ensue, on all levels, and the games would cease to exist in a season or two. Professional football would cease to be economically viable on the legitimate and "underground" markets.

Capitalism is a competitive economic system that incorporates assertive, confident behavior with planning, preparation, and strategy. Idealists postulate that through hard work and merit, exhibited by the individual or organization, success will be achieved. They also believe that capitalism is inhibited by rules and government regulations. Some go so far as to argue that government involvement forces out "private sector" participation.

The ugly truth of our "free" market system is that it would simply not exist as we know it without the presence of an active government that creates and maintains the rules and conditions that allow it to operate efficiently, anymore than football would exist without highly circumscribed detail and regulation.

Staying with football, last year there was much talk about the name of the Washington football team and the use of the name "Redskins". Though the term redskin most definitely could be construed to have pejorative connotations, somehow I feel that changing the name of the team will not improve the plight of America Indians, or improve the game of football, or significantly improve our country in any way. The New England Patriots haven't gotten any outrage over their name from anyone that I'm aware of.

We Americans tend to be reactive. Decades from now, if we continue to allow ourselves to be manipulated by Conservatives, and we are living with the effects of global warming, and it is apparent that we are killing the oceans and mankind in the process, nobody will give a damn if the Washington football team changed its name or not.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why Congressman Patrick Murphy Withstood GOP Sweep


In the wake of the Republican tsunami nationally, many may find it surprising that Congressman Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, won reelection in a Republican leaning district, in a decidedly Red state. And he won the election by almost 20 points.

As a former registered Republican I, along with many voters in Florida's 18th district, recognized that Murphy, during his first term, put politics aside and worked across the aisle to accomplish many things for the benefit of our veterans, small businesses and the environment. He exhibited effective leadership through  keen focus and positive action. Though criticism is an essential part of policy, Murphy zeroed in on tangible plans of action.

I hope that others learn from this election and recognize that when an elected official represents his constituents, and essentially does what he is elected to do, without regard for political labels, he will get the support of the majority of the people he represents.