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 who 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 to be contemplating an exit strategy for his 2016 presidential campaign if he decided to withdraw.

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 has hurt 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 Donald Trump 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 Donald Trump, 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-à-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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Somebody Get Obama A Cowboy Hat

Sources from the underground media are bringing to the surface "facts" that show that President Obama is running this country right off the range.

In a brazen attempt to arm the 99%, using a misconstrued interpretation of the Second Amendment, a secret committee is crafting a proposal aimed at a government funded gun give to provide every man, woman, and child, over the age of seven, with a gun of their choice.

It has also come to light that Obama's multi-faceted energy policy was instituted solely to undermine the Keystone Pipeline System by rendering it not economically viable, thus costing jobs and corporate profits. Hussein Obama betrayed his Arab brethren and brought down the price of gasoline solely for this purpose.

And, without much coverage from the lamestream media, Obama recently entered into a pact with Communist China regarding carbon omissions and global warming. Surely he must realize that this will directly impact the bottled water industry and cost jobs, or at least corporate profits.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Letter to Jim

Politics/History/Economics are all linked. Your education and genes have enabled you to have great evaluative powers and foresight. And they have given you the ability to live a good life regardless of the state of the current body politic. And that is what the financial aristocracy is counting on. The problem for  idealists like myself is how to communicate your keen observations and get people to listen and understand.

Your last communication dealt with the notion that liberalism is viewed by most as a pejorative term. And the notion of labels may be at the crux of why capitalism today has become analogous to Sherman's march to the sea. And those in the path appear stultified.

The fickle nature of labels allows idiots on the far right to justify anything by using them. The best illustration I can think of at this moment is the presidential election between Republican Teddy Roosevelt and Democrat Alton Parker. If the election occurred today I'm sure Fox News would be supporting Parker and I'm willing to bet that if you looked at an electoral college map Roosevelt's base would be remarkable similar to Obama's.

I think that the right's "bullying" is accepted by many- both men and women- as a sign of manhood, strength, as almost American. A much younger girlfriend told me that the current term is "swag". Perhaps people that view the world in a sane manner and have virtue, as a result of education, experience and breeding, should take a lesson from Teddy and begin to "speak softly and carry a big stick."

I also receive many robo-emails from Democratic PACs and organizations. I even got a few from Rick Scott as a result of a letter that someone in his staff misinterpreted. I recently responded to one from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz saying that I will not be donating in the near future, and, in the suggestion box commented that Dems should "grow a pair"! 

Right on, Jim!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is the Tea Party Leading America into the Dark Ages? Rare essay by Will Poor and Lame

I think that there are many parallels between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the current situation here in America. And looking at these parallels is not for the faint of heart. It is often accepted by historians that one of the major causes of the Dark Ages was the invasions by the barbarian hordes; and that the barbarians set in motion a reversal of centuries of learning and scientific investigation.

Like the composition of America today, the situation was a little more complex. Over time as the Roman Empire grew and became more complex, those in power found it expedient to "dumb down" Roman citizenship so that the people didn't ask too many questions. And those who wanted to seize power in the outlying regions took it further as they realized that fear of a central government would give them power, and the more ignorance they encouraged, the more fear they could engender in the local populace before "rescuing" them from the barbarians by delivering them into a feudal system of organized exploitation and violence.

The stark difference between the fall of the Ancient Roman Empire and the America of today is that the "barbarian hordes" are perceived to be a certain segment of the American population and some immigrants. So long as people believe this notion and, also, that they have the chance to join the ranks of the Republican "book cookers and outsourcers" if the barbarians are neutralized; and that this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned, nothing will change. Ironically the sycophants have very, very little chance of joining the ranks of their masters.
Enlightened people do not wish to be part of those ranks. But most of them are accomplished artists, creative business leaders, educators, and hyper-competent public servants. Many live a quasi-bohemian life full of economic compromise as I do. 

Many people still believe the distortion that all people are responsible, in some way, for the injustices and misfortunes in their lives. And that is just plain bunk. In fact increasingly people are becoming expendable ciphers whose purpose is to serve the financial aristocracy. Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full explored this idea better that anything I can recall reading.

The New Media Age- truly the "massage"- facilitated the rise of the Tea Party and the further entrenchment of America's economic aristocracy. Social Media, characterized by Facebook, Twitter, "Smart" Phones, and the Internet has had a desensitizing and "dumbing down" effect on the population. People have shorter attention spans, read less, fail to comprehend cause and effect, and absolutely fail to comprehend the Big Picture.

Now this is ironic. A political philosopher stated over a century ago that "the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people." Technology though invaluable to what I do to pay the rent, does enable me, as well as many people and small businesses to do without the services of some people. This was not so decades ago. And the overall economy adjusts, and the money "saved" trickles upward.

Finally, the emergence of the global economy has all but ended patriotism- don't be fooled by flag waving and lapel pins- and international relations has become a red herring, for the most part. There is a New World Order but not the one the Tea Party rants about.

I remember a conversation with a friend some years ago where he expressed his frustration over the fact that, if he couldn't get his point across in a paragraph most people would not read what he had written. And this is a real problem for a civilized society. It is a problem that home schooling for profit education won't fix, nor will praying for self along with a big donation to the Church of the Sacred Bleeding Heart. It's going to require a change in values and seeing education as necessary for an enlightened society, as it was when I was a boy; not merely as a tool to try to become a millionaire.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Warren Buffett, Values, and Motives

As near as I can tell, the investment philosophy of Warren Buffett is based on inherent value, and on investing for the long term, notions that have been foreign to much of main stream Wall Street for a long time.

I truly believe that Mr. Buffett understands that life is difficult for middle class and working Americans. The lives of most Americans vacillate between being tedious and boring to being excruciating and frightening. But life has some really great moments and events which some way, somehow make it all worthwhile. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Buffett understands this. And I believe that this understanding is reflected in his investment philosophy.

I tried to muster some righteous indignation over the Burger King inversion, but looking at values and motives I cannot. Since the inversion is designed to strengthen (possibly save) the company, and make it more competitive for the long term,  it is a good thing. And if they bring Tim Horton's clam chowder to the States it is a very good thing and may produce a few great moments.

The verdict in the corruption trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell illustrates this notion of values and motives in another way. The former governor's defense was predicated on the idea that his wife was responsible for all the high crimes, and that he was merely a victim, and had been separated from her for some time.

I personally believe that it is not my business, nor the public's business when it comes to what goes on between a husband and a wife, with the exception of outright abuse, regardless of who they are.

However, this man ran a campaign on family values. He claimed that his fundamental belief  in a Christian family made him a man in full and separated him from others. He intimated that his family should serve as a model. As a result of the trial, it is apparent that the values he actually holds, at best, illustrate his hypocrisy. And his motive, with hindsight, was to bamboozle the citizens of Virginia. When the chips were down he threw his wife under the proverbial bus. I guess, in this case, the Good Lord has decided to make Bob McDonnell pay for his sins.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hey, Sarah Palin, Whom Did You Kill?

A few readers may remember the rifle sights imposed over the faces of political leaders on Sarah's
website a few years back and the subsequent shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords, a federal judge, and members of her staff. These were political leaders that Sarah in her infinite wisdom, deemed too liberal.

Well, dear Sarah has pulled the metaphorical trigger again only this time it is random shots at the entire American public. She seems to forget that as a public figure, one that refuses to fade away, and one that most assuredly is the source of many a nightmare for John McCain and his former staffers, she has an impact on the misguided and the uninformed.

She recently stated after receiving a speeding ticket in her home state of Alaska, that she was not speeding, she was qualifying, making reference to NASCAR. Implicit in her statement is the notion that laws, including speed limits, are bad and should not be obeyed. With our current Culture of Media I wonder how many misguided young people will ignore speed limits and kill or harm themselves or innocent bystanders, because they are "qualifying". I wonder how many urban cowboys will "race" home from the local bar and not make the finish line. And I won't even get into the increases in auto insurance rates for local communities.

Four years ago when I started writing the political posts for this website, I received a critique from the founder of the Commonweal Institute. She told me that I should tone down the rants so as to sway those people that will consider, or at least look at, my arguments and point-of-view. Over the course of the four years my truths and positions have shifted moderately. And at times I have tried to lighten up on the harsh criticism.

However, I truly believe that the entire Republican Tea Party, Sarah included, is almost pathological and that no argument or fact can change them.  The only remedy for our country is to get them out and keep them out of positions of power.

Climate change deniers are now using a familiar talking point to support their position. They merely respond to questions about climate change by stating that they are not scientists. This is perplexing to me as many of the deniers are on the Congressional Science Committee. Most Tea Party members of Congress are not doctors either. When they have a ailment, they go to doctors for analysis and treatment. When they or one of their family members or loved ones is diagnosed with a serious illness, I'm sure they do not tell the doctor that it is balderdash and that they are not doctors!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tea Party Fiddles While America Burns

The saying, "Nero fiddled while Rome Burned" makes reference to the Roman Emperor Nero who in actuality was not playing the fiddle while Rome was burning. Ancient Rome did not even have "fiddles". Nero actually was performing in a play. He was acting on a stage, while Rome was burning.

I believe the actions of the Tea Party officials in our Congress, both in the House and Senate, strongly parallel the actions of Nero.

This week, three of the most successful and wealthy America businessmen, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Sheldon Adelson, three billionaires with divergent political views, got together and collaborated on an op-ed piece for the New York Times. In the piece these Job Creators chastised members of the US Congress for shirking their responsibilities and not doing the job they were hired for. The focus of the article was on the implementation of immigration policy, and the three wise men reiterated that all parties are very close to agreement in terms of policy and solution; and that it is wrong to do nothing and sabotage progress for political gain.

Like the right-wing commentators they model themselves after, Tea Party politicians make for great theater. But like the entertainers they emulate, they lack substance and are ineffectual on their own. It is shameful and disgraceful that they use their jobs, not to enact laws and carry out America's business, but rather for self-promotion, to pander to their base, and for profit. And while the Tea Party officials do all this America is burning.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Rise and Decline of the Middle Class

My first "real" job out of college was working for a plastics manufacturing corporation located in Manchester, Connecticut. One of my managers was an organization specialist from Gent, Belgium. During the course of one long conversation he explained to me how America had benefited from World War Two. He told me that as a result of the war, the manufacturing capabilities of the entire world had been wiped out. From England, to the rest of Europe, and from Russia to Japan, factories were in ruins. After the war, if you wanted to buy a toaster, you had to buy American.

This one factor greatly stimulated the expansion of the middle class. Coupled with the array of social programs and "safety nets" that were instituted a decade earlier by the American government to manage the Great Depression, the American middle class grew and prospered.

My conversation with Abe was in the early 1980's, during a recession, much milder than our most recent one. Abe warned me that the rest of the world had rebuilt their factories since the war. They had "modernized", and were in an advantageous position to compete with American manufacturing, which had not, modernized that is.

Decades have passed since my conversation with Abe. There has been a revolution of technology and information. New products have been designed and new factories have been built. Though most great inventions are born in the United States, more often then not as a result of subsidies from America taxpayers, manufacturing and distribution continues to be relegated to the rest of the world. And this is a result of politics and business practices, and has nothing to do with modernization.  Remember that Henry Ford realized it was good business to pay employees enough to buy the products they built.

Ironically, or maybe not so, the Counterculture of the 60's and 70's was primarily comprised of baby boomers, a product of the thriving middle class. Despite the many defects of the movement, it caused indelible changes to our societal structure in the realm of civil rights, sexual mores, women's rights, and our attitudes towards war. One of the factors that ended the Counterculture movement, and at the same time cemented in place many of the "causes" and social issues fostered by the movement, were the actions of Patty Hearst and those of the Mansion family. The establishment through compromise and change, and a sort of "bringing into the fold", absorbed positive elements of the movement and, at the same time, condemned and ended the violence.

The middle class, a source of change in recent American history, is rapidly declining. And much of the progress is being undone. Perhaps this is why the Republicans and the financial aristocracy are doing everything they can to destroy it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is Capitalism Part of Human Nature?

All human beings have basic needs and complex needs. Doing what it takes to meet and satisfy those needs encompasses the spirit of capitalism. Whether through hard work and utilizing the "proper channels", whatever they may be according to the societal norms at that particular time in history, or through cunning and guile and even crime, humans practice capitalism.

The socialist experiment of the USSR failed because humans are human. It failed because the Soviet Socialist Republic practiced avid capitalism on the world markets, and in the black and gray markets that operated within its society.

Those that argue against welfare and entitlement programs, programs that strip humans of their incentives, have some merit to their arguments. However, holding those positions, they necessarily must be in favor of anti-trust legislation, labor laws, and higher wages, the lack of which also strips humans of their incentives. For, such a state doesn't resemble the free market capitalism they profess to hold in such high esteem anymore than the socialist state they profess to oppose.

Many, many years ago I attended a lecture by William Kunstler at Wesleyan. The one thing I remember from that lecture is Mr. Kunstler's emphatic statement that all healthy people desire to work and achieve.

One thing that is lost in the current politics of the day, is that because of wage stagnation coupled with drastically increased productivity which has led to a drastic increase in the concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer humans, some of the many working people must use "entitlement" programs, to "subsidize" their income, to satisfy their basic needs. And those that work and cannot satisfy their basic needs are stripped of their incentive.

Florida, a decidedly Red state under Republican Governor Scott, according to the numbers, has hardly recovered from the Great Recession. Florida's real unemployment rate is 11%. The number of people without health insurance is at 25.8%. And the foreclosure rate is among the highest in the nation. The few pockets of economic health in the state have Democratic leadership.