A Team of Rivals [Rival Morons]

John Bolton for NSC Advisor? Oh good grief. If you want a world of bluster and threats, with the military as the only avenue for diplomacy, well, you got it. Here from conservative Joe Scarborough sums up what we see at the surface:

Six decades of Republican overreach and corrosive causes have instead led to the rise of Donald Trump and a foreign policy run by John Bolton, an economy guided by Larry Kudlow and a legal team led by conspiracy theorist Joseph DiGenova.

These are incompetents at best and you can start at the top with Donald Trump who is ignorant and stupid, not to mention racist, nativist, and misogynistic. I used to say just ignorant, not stupid, but when he is presented with real facts, he ignores them. He cannot connect the dots and that leads me to stupid. If you doubt any of the above, I will be happy to connect you with video’s for every one (ignorant, stupid, racist, nativist, misogynistic) to see that demonstrates each of those characteristics. Larry Kudlow is an ideologue like Bolton only in the world of economics and I would be happy to connect you with tons of data to demonstrate he has almost never been right about the economy. Then there is the conspiracy theorist Joseph DiGenova that will be eaten alive in court that only lives in the world of facts, but pushes unbelievable and unsupportable theories about all things liberal. Again, if you want, I will connect you to video to show his wild assertions and then debunk them.

Talking heads have been describing Trump as not ideological and that the generals around him were going to keep him out of trouble. So much for that theory. Who do we have left, McManis (Secretary of Defense)? Oh wait, there is that gutless and lying General Kelly. Again, I will roll the tape if you want, to show Kelly lying and defaming a black woman. Fits right in. Meanwhile he is surrounding himself with ideologues just as impulsive and misguided as he is. So don’t tell me Trump isn’t ideological. Of course he is when it comes to his narcissism. As Max Boot put it this morning: “Most presidents initially stock their administrations with cronies and ideological purists. Then, after suffering inevitable setbacks, they usher them out in favor of less ideological and more competent professionals. President Trump is doing it in reverse. He is jettisoning anyone who could serve as a break on his extremist tendencies, and replacing them with fire-breathing TV personalities.”

The latest leak about his congratulating Putin tells you all you want to know about responsible people around him. They are terrified and so should we be. The walls are closing in and he is surrounding himself with ideologues who will reinforce his narcissism uninformed by facts, logic, or science. Thank you Red states. May you enjoy the hell you have created. All those jobs and great economy you have been enjoying on the bootstraps of Obama are going to come crashing down in a trade war, looming deficit, and a closed America. You all are such morons. And I say that because we could roll the tape during the election and see everything we are seeing today. None of his policies are a surprise, nor the fact that they are a disaster is a surprise. But you got your snake oil. Yes I am angry and I do not ever want to come together with you. It would be like celebrating ignorance and stupidity.

I think Mueller’s time is running out and that pandering fool, Mitch McConnell, sees no need to protect him. Personally, I think Mueller is close. Why would you want to interview Trump until you have all the facts? So if they are trying to negotiated an interview, they already know the answers to the questions (Rule #1 for a prosecutor: Never ask a question you do not already know the answer to). If I were Mueller I would be tying all the evidence up into a doom’s day package to set off if he gets fired and the investigation gets stopped. We don’t have a two party system anymore, just Republicans controlling everything, but we still have a free press, although President DFF is doing his best to stifle that. We can still vote and stop this.

I will leave you with one more angry thought on this Friday morning. Democratic leadership has to go. We have all been acting like this is some aberration and cooler heads will prevail. “We need to move back toward the middle.” THE MIDDLE HAS MOVED SO FAR TO THE RIGHT THAT WOULD NOT ONLY BE CAPITULATING, IT WOULD BE FAILURE! And if anyone out there has taken the time to read How Democracies Die, or even the link I posted the other day to how “smart” politicians accommodated populist nut jobs waiting for a better time (Hitler), then you know we are on that same path. That accommodation is why Republicans are no longer a political party and must be banished from office.

These are not normal times and they call for extreme measures. Nancy and Chuck (Pelosi and Schumer) have fought the fight, but they are associated with failure and the old order, or at best, no change. DACA not being in the latest funding bill is an example of their failure, accommodating the economy waiting to 2018 in the hope things will change. Lines have to be drawn now so people have a reason to vote in 2018. It really is as simple as that. Frustration is growing. Here in my little space we had a police execution two days ago and nothing will be done because Democrats do not want to alienate police. The existing federal law is that if they feared for their lives, deadly force was justified. I fear for my life every time I get in the car and drive in the Bay Area. Does that mean I can shoot people who cut me off? Time to start changing things and Democrats have been way too cowardly. This time, democracy itself is at stake.

Death Penalty, Facebook, Murder in Sacramento

President DFF has called for the death penalty for drug dealers.  The kids from Parkland (at least some of them) are calling for the death penalty.  They are both wrong, although from the kids from Parkland it is understandable.  From President DFF, it is just stupid.  But he is a stupid, they are not, just human.  We know from tons of data that the way to deal with the drug problem is treatment, not punishment.  But treatment costs money and that would be antithetical to conservatives, so just kill the dealers who are doing nothing more than their capitalist thing, responding to demand.

Oh, and on the drug thing, about half the deaths come from opioids from prescription drugs.  Kill all the doctors.  It is such a throwback idea that it is almost Dark Ages.  Maybe we can start cutting off the hands of thieves.  I once looked at a study of growing poppies in Afghanistan and our approach to burning out their fields.  It destroyed their economy and forced them into the hands of the Taliban.

Okay, on to the kids at Parkland.  Just what does killing the kid who killed and injured your friends accomplish?  Well, one thing it says is killing is okay if it is appropriately justified (you define appropriately) .  So a twisted mind sees slights at school appropriate justification? That is the message you send, killing is justified. Secondly, it just keeps the perp in the news and then makes his death a big deal.  And finally, it won’t help.  It won’t discourage the next one and it won’t give you relief from your grief and PTSD.  Take it from a father who lost his daughter to a drunk driver.  Anger and the need for vengeance just eats up your soul.  He wins.  Life in the obsurity of prison is plenty punishment.

Facebook.  What to do?  I like Facebook because it connects me to friends I would not be connected to otherwise.  Once in a while I actually click on the commercials targeted at me because it is actually something I need or want.  So how else could I be targeted?  Well politically, but good luck with that as I actually have a mind the works and questions everything.  I go looking for fake news, and when I see stuff that supports my point of view, I do the same thing. I get real from real news sources not propaganda machines like Fox News.

So am I missing something?  I understand the information was mined to target gullible voters, but it is also mined for gullible consumers.  We did not have a problem with that.  Now, I never give an app access to my Facebook page and so it cannot misrepresent me, but I guess there are issues.  In a perfect world I would like to see false information removed or identified as false.  It might educate some of those that voted President DFF.

On the other hand, how can Apple, Inc, call me asking to call their technician to fix a problem on my computer? We know it is a scam.  Why isn’t ICE redirected to get those criminals instead of the running down of innocent immigrants and breaking up families?  Sure we need to do something, but I am not sure what yet.

Finally, right here in River City, we got to see a senseless killing of a young black man in his Grandmother’s backyard armed only with his cellphone.  I watched the video.  My take is simple.  Poorly trained and terrified police officers whose mission is to protect and serve themselves.  Okay, the guy may or may not have been breaking into cars.  Last I heard that was not a capital offense.  The cops were chasing him and told him to show his hands (twice).  They never identified themselves as police.  When he did show his hands one panicked policeman shouted gun, gun, gun, and they mowed him down. Twenty shots.

There is no way this is a justified shooting and these policeman should not be policemen.  It will be justified and this kind of wild west shoot first and ask questions later mentality will continue.  Being a policeman is a hard job.  It requires you to take risks.  That is the attraction for many along with the increased power it gives you over your fellow citizens.  That comes with great responsibilities. But you have to take that risk, not react to any shiny object (white cellphone) as a gun, and then the shooting is justified.

There is no scenario in which this guy was a threat to the police officers, just a perceived threat (black with something in his hand).  I remember back in the day, in Vietnam, we could only return fire when fired upon.  What happened to that simple rule?  They were in a protected position.  A little talk and this would have ended peacefully.  But guns are everywhere and there is an attitude among some policemen that this is the wild, wild west.  Hopefully something good comes out of this.  But I can’t help wondering if this were a white kid, would he be dead today?

Change Must be so Hard

I marvel at our reaction to the Uber-pedestrian accident. It is almost as if we are gleeful it happened. Uber must be stopped! Okay, I hyperbolize, but did we not expect some problems, and do we know this is even a problem. Well, of course it was a problem if someone died, but do you have any idea how many pedestrian/car (with humans driving) accidents we have a year? “In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 1.6 hours. Additionally, almost 129,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2015,” (CDC). 16 pedestrians were killed in Tempe (where the accident occurred) last year according to their police spokesperson.

So is this even statistically significant? I will give you that we should stop and investigate and see if it could have been prevented, but it is almost like see, this will never work. Did the monitor in the car have time to react? Did he apply the brakes? Did the woman jump out between two cars at mid block (well walked out, and yes). Here is the great thing. They got tons of data from the vehicle itself with lots of cameras. So we are actually going to know. Driverless cars are here and even though I worry about the drivers it unemploys, it is where we are going. There just seems to be the element of glee that it hit a speed bump and I wonder why.

Maybe it is the realization that automation is here and we may be expendable. Except that without us, you would not need cars at all. But I think there is that element and it is real. How many of us are expendable to automation? More than we would like to think and I found one statistic in yesterday’s blog about universal guaranteed income that says within the next 20 years about one-third of the workforce could lose their jobs to automation. So the fear is real, but so is the reality. Sure we could choose not to automate, but we are a capitalist state that loves the market place and if you are going to maximize shareholder value, workers bear the brunt of the cuts. Maybe this is another one of those moments where we are acting out our anxiety. Hey, did I not see an article about a burger flipping robot the other day? Maybe we ought to start thinking about this stuff and where we are going.

We can’t stop progress and change, but we can control where we are going and how it impacts us. Oh wait! That would be big government. Can’t have that can we?

Universal Basic Income

Need a break from Stormy, President DFF, lie dectors, idiot cabinet members, Republicans equivocating?  Okay, lets discuss what is becoming more and more popular, the Universal Basic Income (UBI).  A UBI is an unconditional cash payment given at regular intervals by the government to all residents. Holly sh*t you moron, there will be hammocks everywhere.  We wouldn’t have enough trees! Well, that is traditional conservative thinking, but we need to get outside the box.  Sure you will be able to find the anecdotal surfer who uses his food stamps for lobster, but the reality is most people want to work and there is a growing economic inequality that cannot be justified.  There are also estimates that in the next 20 years automation could displace 1/3 of American workers.  Couple that with fact that we have all these various and sometimes very inefficient programs to help those who are poor and unemployed, and you start to say, okay what’s the best way forward?

This has gotten some press because Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, made a pitch for it in SXSW last week.  He made what might be sacrilege for Republicans, the obvious, that the economy is unfair, economic inequality is getting out of control, and he is there with his billions based on luck.  Most of us Democrats or Progressives know this.  That is why we operate on leveling the playing field, not pretending poor people deserve their fate.  Or as Chris Hughes put it:

It is such a fundamental idea behind America that if you work hard, you can get ahead — and you certainly don’t live in poverty. But that isn’t true today, and it hasn’t been true in the country for decades…

My own experience shines a light on how the tie between work and wealth in America has frayed. I was a scholarship kid who worked hard to get to Harvard, and I’m proud of the work I did to make Facebook successful in its early years.

But the fact that I was able to earn nearly half a billion dollars for three years of work is indicative of how unfair the American economy has become. Few people recognize that the same forces that enable the outsized “success” of many Internet entrepreneurs are also making it harder for everyone else to make ends meet.

So what we can agree on is that we are facing some real changes in the future and let’s get real, a lot of people are not going to go back to school and become programmers or whatever the new world needs (Think coal works or steel workers in their 50-60s).  But profits keep rolling in so how do we share that more equitably (and creat demand with spending)?  Now I offered my solution which was an economy that guaranteed education, retirement, and healthcare so that as jobs change, we have the freedom to retrain and evolve (grow).  Oh and a government that creates good jobs by upgrading infrastructure. But that does not answer what happens when there are no jobs to train for or to train for realistically.  Should they starve?

Now if you discount the sky is falling Republicans who see a nanny state, we are all going to die, and I do because most of us want a better life than a minimum wage, and most of us find our meaning in work, then what are the pluses and minuses of doing this?  Let’s look at Hughes’ proposal to give $500/month to every working adult whose family makes less than $50,000.  Now the first problem I find for this is “working adult”.  What if there are no jobs?  Is the government (like with food stamps and Medicaid) just subsidizing low wage jobs, allowing corporations to force down their costs in labor?

Now on the plus side, first we get rid of a ton of overlapping and complex programs.  Second we take away the incentive not to work because they might lose those benefits.  Okay, okay, okay.  Here are the pros and cons I found on the internet:

  • Pro:  Reduces income inequality, poverty, and improves health
  • Con:  Takes money from the poor and gives it to everyone (this assumes you don’t decide on a maximum income to provide support to)
  • Pro:  Leads to job growth (grows the economy by increasing buying power) and lowers school dropout rates
  • Con:  Decreases the incentive to work, adversely affecting the economy and leading to a labor and skills shortage (So wages are going up and no one will work???, What happened to Econ 101?)
  • Pro:  UBI guarantees income for non-working parents and caregivers, thus empowering important unpaid roles, especially for women
  • Con:  UBI is too expensive (aren’t we spending it anyway and not taxing wealthy to distribute some of the economic inequality? Oh and we also already do it to some extent in the Earned Income Credit, not to mention Alaska and their handout program)

Well you get the drift, the argument is really on ideological grounds.  I found two articles (CNBC and NYT) about the experiment in Finland and they came to two different conclusions. But context is everything, how do you design it?  And we have to deal with the fact that one in three workers could be out of work in a short 15-20 years because of automation.  So what is your plan?

Here you have the demonstration of the massive difference between conservatives and Progressives.  We Progressives want to think about the future and try something new.  Conservative pooh-pooh it on ideology.  Maybe it won’t work, but once again we are facing a crisis, what is your idea, a gated community?  That is the real difference between Conservatives and Progressives.  Come on people, engage.  All you have to lose is the chains conservatives have put on mind.



It is 1984

With one exception. It’s about money. It’s mind control about the money. It is not big government controlling your mind, it is about big money controlling your mind (oh, and the Russians too, but that is also about the oligarchy that Putin set up, so it still about the money). We now have the relevations of Cambridge Analytica using disinformation to manipulate the vote. They were actively working with the Trump boys and girls to win at any cost and any lie*. Michelle Goldberg has the details if you are interested. Then of course we have the data mining from Facebook and once again, because of the almighty dollar, looking the other way.

You want the real evidence that it is 1984? Who did President DFF just hire for his new lawyer? A conspiracy nut whose home is Fox News. Then we have Fox News itself where if you want to mislead yourself, that is your go to news source. And they all look so normal. There was a little story about how Fox News has not covered the Stormy Daniels affair. It does not fit their narrative of President DFF. The fact that they have a narrative should worry you. President DFF lies, then Fox News doubles down on the lie. It is the first time in history that we have a main stream news organization that is nothing more than a propaganda echo machine and it is creating a very dangerous America.

Did you see President DFF’s pick for Economic Advisor. That would be Larry Kudlow who has not got anything right about the economy, ever, but he spouts conservative economic nonsense, and he is telegenic. And that my friends is what is most important to President DFF. It is not “the best experts in the world”, but those who look good on TV. Of course I think Larry Kudlow looks like a flaming a-hole when is talks, but then I actually read and know something about economics, not driven by ideology.

So we have a cabinet of idiots and he will have to fire some because it is okay to be an idiot, just not on TV (See Betsy DeVoss or the SNL caricature of her which kind of nailed it). It is really, really all about smoke and mirrors. The world of advertisements is driving the world of politics and it is all about psychological manipulation, not facts and data, to decide policy. The policy was decided on long ago. And money drives the train (Look at who owns Cambridge Analytica).

But there is this one thing that keeps pinging around in my brain. Are we really that ignorant and gullible? I mean, I know better that to believe anything people write on Facebook. I used to think the “Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan, that the press was so in love with, was full of sh$t. Have we checked our critical thinking at the door? Rhetorical. We certainly have judging by the last election or that the country keeps electing Republicans to screw them over. President DFF is a despicable human and that can be ascertained by just listening to him talk, you don’t need all that other evidence. Or do you? And even when you have it, are you acting on it or just denying it?

But I think Abraham Lincoln comes to our rescue with, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Sooner or later Americans are going to figure out none of the conservative ideology is not working any more (Paul Krugman refers to them as “in thrall to zombie ideas”). Sadly it is always about the money. So I will leave you with Eugene Robinson this morning on whether Republicans will finally stand up to our out of control idiot:

The Constitution gives Congress the tools it needs to deal with this situation, but Republicans in both the House and Senate refuse to use them. There could be constraints — legislation protecting Mueller from being fired, for example. There could be oversight — hearings into the havoc Trump’s Cabinet is wreaking on government agencies, such as Tillerson’s decimation of the senior Foreign Service or Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s war against climate science. There could be investigations — not only into Russia’s election meddling but also into the many apparent and potential conflicts of interest involving Trump’s far-flung real estate and branding empire.

If Trump does try to fire Mueller, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should get much of the blame. They have given Trump no reason to believe they will ever stand up to him.

Fortunately, the Constitution gives ultimate power to you and me. With every outrageous, shocking and depressing week, the November election becomes more important. The Trump presidency will keep going from bad to worse, and it is our responsibility to use our votes to make it stop.

*We have ourselves to blame here as we accepted the narrative that “it’s just campaigning when we hear abject lies.  Why did we ever decide this was funny or tolerable because it is just campaigning?  Why don’t we demand truthfulness from all candidates and campaigns and not tolerate exaggerations and lies as just part of the process?

So What Do We Know Today?

I think the most important thing you can know this morning is that Republicans will never take responsible action to rein in President DFF. And that is true even if he fires Mueller. The only remedy for the nation is voting. Those who point to a few statements from Republicans have failed to note how they have failed to act in the past after making similar statements. The Republican Party is so tainted at this point, it is irredeemable. But I am not the only one who is coming to that conclusion. James Downie for the Washington Post came to the same conclusion:

On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told moderator Jake Tapper that Americans shouldn’t fear: If the president fired Mueller, “that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation.” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) echoed that: “I would expect to see considerable pushback in the next couple days in urging the president not to go there.”

Graham and Flake may believe that, but they’re wrong: As long as Republicans control Congress, Trump can do what he wants. The end will begin only at the ballot box.

…As Watergate shows, what Trump does about Mueller or the probe doesn’t matter unless Democrats retake at least one of the House or the Senate. Then, Democrats will be able to use the committees’ tremendous powers and their leverage over the legislative agenda to hold the president accountable. Whatever “end” the Trump presidency comes to, the road to it starts at the midterms.

Update: Alexandria Petri made the point for me this morning humorously.

Another writer, Charles Edel, asked why political courage (read: To do the right thing) is so rare:

While written more than 60 years ago, Kennedy’s book [“Profiles in Courage”] offers a useful guide for understanding why so few members of the current president’s party seem to be holding him to account. Kennedy observed that the wish to be liked by colleagues, the pressures to act with party loyalty, the impulse to reflect the preferences of the majority of their constituents and the desire to secure reelection combine to make true political courage extremely rare. Taking unpopular stands jeopardizes all of these.

The author goes on to point out various incidents in our political history (like Senator Joseph McCarthy) where until public sentiment was swayed, most politicians were unwilling to stand against the popular wave. Then he notes this that is so relevant today:

Those stories, like the others in the book, allowed Kennedy to make several broader points about national politics. First, courage required more than words, it required action. And it required taking action with the full knowledge that there would probably be consequences, both personal and national. True courage, according to Kennedy, meant a willingness to live with those consequences — even if they meant electoral defeat.

We hear words today, but no action. There are plenty of ways Congress could protect the integrity of the Mueller investigation and they don’t (Republicans). And to me the lessons here are two-fold. We need a vigorous two-party system that balances one another. Republicans no longer qualify as a political party by as an ideology for the rich and status quo cloaked as a political party who works tireless to suppress the vote and impose a conservative ideology that has failed. They do this by stifling free speech through the attack on science, data, and research. Sadly, the American public put them in charge of everything and the destruction to our democracy is rampant.

But the conclusion from all this is quite simple. Nothing will happen even if Trump fires Mueller, or even if he doesn’t and we find out there was collusion, obstruction of justice, and money laundering, which is probably exactly what he is going to find. Nothing is going to change until Republicans understand they will not be re-elected supporting this nonsense. The only thing that will change anything is if the Democrats, as Mr.Downie pointed out, take one or both Houses of the Congress.

For my part and my crusade is to get Americans to wake up to the fact that conservative ideas have run their course. They no longer operate in a modern world. The mob with pitchforks and torches that elected President DFF were just that, a mob, excited by hate, racism, misogyny, nativism, and of course fear. They do not represent the majority of Americans, but they control the Republican Party and through the Republican’s effort to stifle the vote, and gerrymander the districts, overcame the majority. Isn’t it time we the people take back our government?

Well a Couple of Thoughts

There was an op-ed you need to read in the Washington Post, I Went to Prison for Disclosing CIA Torture, Trumps Director Nominee Helped Cover it Up. Now there are some things here that I think are critical. If you know anything about real torture, besides it is immoral, is that it does not work. The second thing is that once it did not work, they lied and tried to make it looked like they were getting real intell, and then destroyed evidence of their brutality. That is the person you want to head up the CIA? That sends a great message. There is one more thing. Obama failed miserably here when he wanted to look ahead not back and then went after leakers when they were whistle blowers. And now here we are again. That is one I have never figured out.

Meanwhile President DFF gets more erratic. His lawyer comes and and makes sure none of us missed the political message firing McCabe was by now demanding we should stop the investigation into Russia. The reason McCabe was fired is now exposed for what it was. President DFF has a tweet storm and calls McCabe’s alleged memos Fake. He is panicking and even a couple of Republicans said wait, this looks like a pure partisan spite. He doesn’t seem to care anymore, so next week ought to be really interesting. He is a true danger to this country.

The other day, I laid out what I thought was the way forward for us and what that end state should look like. There has been an interesting discussion going on lead by some at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin about a guaranteed income. With the onslaught of automation and the recognition of those left behind, maybe we should redistribute some wealth to guarantee everyone a living wage (without work). Oh, I know Republicans will blow a gasket on this one because they really believe everyone is lazy and the hammocks would be everywhere. I don’t. It might be the simplest way to get rid of the myriad programs to help the poor and just guarantee a living wage. It is worth some thought and I will do that in coming blogs.

Finally some words on Stephen Hawking who was explaining why he had come to the conclusion there is no God and why I think he was honestly surprised at the reaction. Stephen was a man of logic. He felt that you always look for the simplest solutions as probably the right answer. He had seen science wipe away the need for a god in the sense of explaining anything in the universe. In fact, he had even shown that there was nothing before the Big Bang and the Big Bang did not need a creator to set it off. To him, everything down to our own choice and actions could be explained by physics.

I won’t try to recreate his descriptions of this, free will, or the meaning of life, but I think he is right. And I do think if you understood all the variables you could predict everything. But he made the point that we humans were far too complex to do that. Our choices could be made up of billions of connections within our brain, and predicting our choices are impossible. As for God, the universe doesn’t need one and to imagine one is to find something we have never been able to show, something that violates the laws of the nature, thus the simplest explanation is he does not exist.

But then he said something about the meaning of life I think was very insightful. Each of us has to find our own meaning of life. It is within us. I take that to the next logical step and say, some people need a god to give them meaning, so they invented him. I find the argument that we cannot arrive at morality and goodness without a god, almost childish. Think of all the gods we have created over the millennia, and there is a thread through all of them that has many of the same moral prescripts. How can that be? Did the gods all make a pact? And of course as we expand our knowledge, we inform ourselves and our morality matures and evolves. Hey, gays are people too. What do you know.

And the last thing he said made infinite sense to me, there is no afterlife. Of course there isn’t. If there were, why would we wait so long to kiss goodbye the suffering and ignorance in this one? When we come to the realization that god is nonsense, and afterlives are fiction, it makes every second we are here so much more important and special. It makes doing something wonderful and helping each other in this life so very important.

And now you know if you think about it, why Republicans so hate science. It really is about challenging what we know and growing. That is the last thing they want us to do if they want to hang on to their power and favored status. Welcome to the thinking world. We question everything, even god.

Stephen Hawking 1942-2018

We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God, and no one created the universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization, there is probably no heaven and no afterlife either. We have just this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Me too Stephen and thanks for giving me that glimpse. For me that struggle to get that glimpse is all that is needed for the meaning of life. I think, therefore I am (Descartes), and the meaning of life is what I give that awareness. Don’t waste a moment of it.

The Country we have Become

President DFF is so soiling the nation that we should all be ashamed. He claims to love conflict, but anyone who disagrees with him gets fired. What he really means is he wants fear and chaos around him so people will respect him a la Stalin. He tries to have a lawsuit to stop a porn star from telling her story about her affair with the DFF moved to federal court where he appoints judges. He threatens her with $20 million in lawsuits to try to get her to shut up, to move the suit to arbitration out of the sight of the public, a gross act of intimidation against the First Amendment. He has lied consistently about the affair and now his court filings expose those lies. As her lawyer put it:

To put it simply — they want to hide the truth from the American people. We will oppose this effort at every turn,” Avenatti wrote in an email. “The fact that a sitting president is pursuing over $20 million in bogus ‘damages’ against a private citizen, who is only trying to tell the public what really happened, is truly remarkable. Likely unprecedented in our history. We are not going away and we will not be intimidated by these threats.”

Then we have the spectacle of Andrew McCabe being fired 24 hours before he could retire. We don’t know what is in the Inspector General’s report, but here is what we do know. He served the FBI, a government job, for most of his life. He served admirably or who would not have been where he was. We know that President DFF was out to get him having tweeted his displeasure with him on numerous occasions, politicizing the FBI process and calling for him to be fired. We know that little Jeffey Sessions has no honor or integrity. We had the White House spokesperson call him a “bad actor” from the podium of the White House before the decision was made. And finally we know that the process moved extraordinarily fast to make sure he could not retire. It stinks of politics and the destruction of our independent agencies.

President DFF tweeted this this morning:

Trump tweeted early Saturday morning, “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”

Make no mistake. He was probably set up to lie and the whole process is a move to try to tarnish the Mueller investigation. I am a federal retiree and I am shocked about what happen to McCabe. We give up a lot to work for the Federal government, and the one thing we enjoy is the promised retirement. This is a strike at all federal workers to let them know the system has been politicized and you had better be very careful. Forget doing the right thing, which is why most of us went to work for the federal government in the first place.

At this point I see all Republicans as traitors to this country. There is no other way to look at it. You make whatever equivocations you want to, this is open and blatant politicizing one of the most important independent institutions in our country. Whatever Andrew McCabe did or did not do, this sends a message loud and clear, Trump way or the highway. Republicans are allowing this to happen and they are all traitors to our Constitution. If we survive this, we will look back on this as our own Darkest Hour in America, where Americans supported and enabled a person as evil and corrupt as Donald Trump. The Republican Party and people who call themselves Republicans are traitors to the Constitution and everything we stand for. Full stop.

Fight back Andrew McCabe, fight back.  It is time for all good Americans to fight back.  When this nightmare ends we will have to hose out the White House, and maybe the Republican side of Congress. Oh, and on this one, deplorables, Hillary nailed it.

Our Economic Way Forward and Other Miscellaneous Topics

I have argued that Democrats need a plan for our future that provides a stark contrast to Republicans’, you are on your own, justice comes to good people (and those that already have money). So once again, I will try to explain what the way forward is, and why.

But before I get there, I would like to comment on the coverage of the pedestrian bridge that failed yesterday in Florida. I have been reading the stories hungrily looking for what caused it. Well of course they don’t know yet, but for a structural engineer, there would be hints. Yet the coverage provides none of the clues one would need because the reporters are clueless about structural engineering. I would want to know if it was a post-tensioned structure, had it been post-tensioned, did it use high-early concrete, was it, as I saw in one artist rendition, a cable suspended final structure? Even a close up of the structure would tell me what the reinforcement looked like.

Now all of those would give a hint about possible failure modes but the focus is on the deaths, who the company is, and the PR for building the bridge. The only reason I raise this is because it is about logic. Knowing how many died and who built it is certainly headline news, but tells you nothing about a possible failure modes, hints to a root cause, or a fix going forward. Now draw the line between that and how we report on many issues that affect our lives. Enough said.

In order to come up with an economic plan for our future, it helps to look at our past, but not too hard as Republicans do. You can’t recreate the past. Here are some of my assumptions. America as a country outpaced the rest of the world because we had built the engine of capitalism and it was ready to roar. And while trade was important, domestic demand really drove our economy. We did have fewer regulations, but let’s not forget the Robber Barron’s or the anti-trust work of Teddy Roosevelt. So there were problems. Who can forget the Great Depression. We had this amazing pent-up demand after WWII with an amazing industrial machine that could be turned to peace time building. Innovation was amazing and remember when all Japanese products were considered cheap?  Many blue color jobs were lifetime, with good benefits and retirement.  But the economy changed.

First we have been on probably a 60-year trend of more and more of the income going to fewer and fewer.  Markets changed and capital became king.  As domestic demand feel, market places were expanded to a world economy, and with the focus on Corporate profits, labor costs were suppressed or moved overseas.  Lower wages equal lower demand. We are still in that world with mechanization changing the jobs that will remain.  Tech companies have taken off benefiting the educated younger class who can code while the old blue and white-collar jobs are taking hits.  Oh, and we are depleting resources on the planet at an accelerated rate. So what to do?

Well, first do not throw out the baby with the bath water.   Capitalism is what drove our miracle, and is driving giant leaps in the undeveloped countries, but it is also wreaking havoc with those left behind and our biosphere.  In its present form it is not sustainable. So what to do?  Enter the conservatives, you work hard and you will get ahead, losers lose, and the poor are responsible for their plight.  It is the I got mine crowd working with the whatever I got, I am not going to share crowd.  It only works for the I got mine crowd and does not work in our economy as more and more hard-working people find themselves left behind.  The latest is pandering, bring back jobs that are never coming back, and tariffs to protect us. And as what was just seen in the last special election in Pennsylvania, that may not be selling anymore.  One reason is that it simply doesn’t work.  Those jobs aren’t coming back and people know it.

So enter the Democrats who have always been the party of the softer, kinder, gentler Republicans.  They have been labeled the tax and spend, big government, bust the budget Party (note that that common belief is not supported by how deficits and the economy actually do under Democrats).  Whatever solutions could be implemented,gvoernment just get is the way is the conservative line.  But more and more people are coming to the realization that the market place has no answers for them, tax cuts don’t flow down, and tariffs are taking an ax to brain surgery. Democrats see innovation and education as the way forward, but tell that to the 60-year old iron worker without healthcare. He voted for President DFF because he was tired of the status quo, but found out it was the same old tired ideas on steroids.  Yesterday is not coming back.

Okay, that sets the table.  Capitalism is the best tool to allocate capital for investments in future jobs.  It has also become one of the worst, because it is controlled by those who profit from the status quo.  It is short-term profits driven, and its basic mentality is winners and losers. So we are not  throwing out capitalism, just making it work for everyone, not just the few.  Don’t kid yourself about “free markets”.  They are not free and the rules they operate by right now are set by conservatives who have set it up to benefit themselves.  So step one is to “Rewrite the Rules.”  The good news is that we don’t have to make this up on the fly .  Economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Dean Baker, and others have already done this and made some great recommendations.  Now when running a campaign, getting into these kinds of details usually puts people to sleep, so what Democrats have to do is get behind and sell it as changing the rules to make capitalism work for all of us.  Here is a short summary:

  • Bring back competition to force the system to change and evolve.  Start limiting rents and intellectual property to allow the system to evolve.
  • Fixed the Financial Sector so that the high risks with big gains is limited where it can destroy the economy (remember 2008?).
  • Incentivize Long-Term Growth, and more importantly, sustainable businesses.
  • Rebalance the Tax and Transfer System.  Return the profits to the people in terms of security, and investment in our future
  • Reform Labor Markets to ensure that everyone benefits.
  • Expand Access to Labor Markets for everyone (that is equal rights, education, equal pay for equal work, etc.)

Now there are all kinds of sub-policies to get this stuff working for the rest of us including negotiating trade agreements that do not promote growing economic inequality.  But that brings me to the second part of this that you heard and hear from Bernie and a few other Progressives, but considered too left-wing for the status quo.  Probably not anymore.  We don’t know where markets are going in the future or what the next big idea is.  Government should not be deciding those kinds of things (really bad at it) except to put their thumb on the scale to ensure it recognizes our long-term interests like alternate reliable energy, sustainable growth, and the environment and global warming.  But what is it that makes markets thrive and gives us an advantage.  Hint:  Take a lesson from the 1950s.

  1. Well educated workforce
  2. Strong infrastruction and workforce
  3. Freedom to innovate

And the amazing thing is we already have the tools to do all this.  Here is what is required:

  1. A strong investment in our infrastructure, transportation, and communications systems so that people, capital, and ideas can easily flow to where they are required.  That would be government people, and investment in infrastructure, communications systems, and transportation.  The data is overwhelming that this creates an upwardly mobile workforce with increasing wages because they can move to where better jobs are and train for them.
  2. A strong education system that allows for all those able, to learn and continue to learn throughout their lives.  That would be government again in working to improve our education system (pay teachers more), improve curriculums (less testing), and make advanced education affordable, not a loan program to support tax cuts for the wealthy.
  3. A strong retirement system (It’s called Social Security), so that all of us can afford to retire and if we supplement it, retire well.  Once again, government.   Seen how business have thrown off that responsibility as too costly and dependence on the stock market has wiped people out when they need it most?
  4. A strong single payer healthcare system that allows us to quit worrying about not leaving a job, or how we are going to afford healthcare.

Note thatall of them been accomplished in other countries and unlike what conservatives want you to believe, it does not create a hammock for the lazy, it reduces risk for changing jobs and innovating.  Once again the data is unequivocal, but conservative know that will upset their status quo apple cart.  That is what Bernie was pushing when Hillary said it was unrealistic.  That is what the Progressive model should be, rewrite the rules and create the environment for a strong innovative economy.  Sure it will cost a lot in taxes.  But it is being done in other countries and unless you haven’t noticed, things are not going swimmingly here.  Second, yes there will be rules that get in the way of profits and innovation.  But those rules consider the long-term benefit, not the short-term one, and consider everyone’s children.

That is the future if we want to embrace it.  Or we can stay with what we got and most people will find their place in the economic world eroding.  On the way, we are going to have to have many intermediate steps, and some redirection as we see that one approach does not work.  But that is progress.  That is what made America great.  If we can get it back, where everyone has a fair chance at a future, then we will be great again.  The road President DFF and his supporters have us on is a quick ride to oblivion.