Chaos

Do you feel like a ricocheting bullet? How about a squash ball bouncing off different walls?  In a moving car careening from side to side of the highway?  That is how I feel watching the news coverage of Donald Trump’s machinations.  Today I read where he had fired from the transition team the son of his security advisor for pushing the Fake news story about Hillary and child trafficking.  Does that mean he will now fire Bannon?  Wait, cancel the orders of Air Force 1 because it costs too much!  Compared to what?  What goes into Air Force 1 that goes into no other airplane?  Maybe it cost too much and maybe it doesn’t but shooting from the hip will cause ricochets.

Now he is meeting with Al Gore.  What that tells you is we have an extremely ignorant man who needs badly to get educated on so many issues, and if he does, and it takes like his reading of fake news, what then?  Then he nominates Ben Carson, the Pyramids were gain silo’s and you learn how to be a homosexual in prison, as the Secretary of Health and Human Sources.  The blind leading the blind.  Then he is going to tack tariffs on anyone who is going to take jobs overseas and his own Republicans revolt.  Just as an aside, I wonder if that kind of policy would cost more jobs because corporations just might relocate overseas, or expedite automation that reduces workers.

Oh, it gets better.  He saves 800 jobs at Carrier, but does not mention the 1200 that were not saved.  If you lost more than half your men in a battle and on top of it you paid a $7m ransom to fight the fight, would you consider that a win. No guarantee that next year they won’t be gone or replaced by automation.  Oh, and he is going to lower corporate taxes to make sure they stay home, except the big boys already pay nothing and for those who do, who makes up the short fall in tax revenue.  Oh, I know, supply side economics will make up the difference just like it always has.

Wait! Wait! Wait!  Japan is investing in America and is going to create jobs.  Hmm.  The deal maker has made a deal, but we know no details and we do know most of the money comes from Saudi Arabia, our best buds when it comes to human rights.  Oh, and would that be foreigners buying America?  Meanwhile he is going to save the coal industry, but loves wind power/solar?  Huh?  Oh, and the coal industry lost jobs mainly through automation, and coal is no longer cost effective.

Oh those damn facts.  They just get in the way of all the nonsense.  Take repealing Obamacare.  Yeah get rid of that thing, except don’t get rid of all the good stuff (that we never admitted was good) and we have no idea how to keep it and pay for it.  And I am not even going to get into the conflicts of interest on he and his family, but isn’t nice now that we don’t have just a President, but a royal family. But wait!  He is a businessman and he will run government like a business!  Oh be careful what you wish for!

Think about that business thing for a minute.  Business has been shipping jobs overseas because they only care about their bottom line, not the people who work for them.  Okay, this is going to be hard now, but try to transfer that knowledge to government which is supposed to be about the people.  If Medicare costs money, how can we offload that, oh, and don’t forget Social Security, on the private sector?  If we turn this country and most of the goods and services that government provides over to the profit motive, just remember, profit is more important that people.  We will quite literally become the country for the rich.  The French monarchy will have nothing on us, except they finally beheaded the monarchy.  Well that would be fun.

So turn off the news, it is ping-pong derby day, where once again they try to pretend all this is normal when the country is going the drain.  How oh how did we get here?

Bidden for President and a Pardon for Snowden

The news is already all over 2020 and Joe have jokingly said he was in it for 2020.  Then they said he could certainly appeal to white working class voters.  Really?  Do we have any idea what things are going to be like in 2-3 years?  Oh, and Joe would be 78 (too old) and what does that do to trying cultivate a young new Democratic Party?  Nothing good, I assure you.  So Joe, have fun with it, but 2020 is light years away and we will need a whole new crop of Democrats more on the Bernie Sanders side of social welfare, and more on the side of Thomas Friedman on capitalism and entrepreneurialism.  That is not today’s Democratic Party that just found out in the last election that they are obsolete. On the other hand I really love the campaign slogan, Oh what the hell.

Okay, we have Trump coming into office ignorant of almost everything and like a bull in a China shop is going to wreak havoc with markets and foreign relationships.  A good thing? No.  You see where their first priority is to repeal Obamacare, but with a delay in actually repealing it because they are just starting to figure out they haven’t got any better ideas.  So as Obama leaves office he may see much of his hard work destroyed by the bull in the China shop.  So why not go out doing what you know is right, but is not politically popular.  Empty Guantanamo and pardon Edward Snowden and tell them to pound sand.

Well Guantanamo has some problems with Congressional laws these guys passed to make that almost impossible, but you could probably get close.  On the Snowden thing, he really did the country a service pointing out the level of surveillance that was going on unmonitored and as he pointed out, Petraeus disclosed much more damaging stuff to his girl friend.  The only damage Snowden did was to egos and to an out of control security apparatus.  Any of you ever really thing about any of the Bourne movies and what it says about an out of control government “protecting” our security?

What else could President Obama do as a parting gift that may not be politically expedient, but the right thing to do.  I will have to give that some thought.

Who Said it Best Today – Roger Cohen

Sometimes you read something that pulls you up to 10,000′ and you see the big picture.  Roger Cohen did that for me this morning.  Mr. Cohen has a more global perspective than most of us who are microscopically examining the Trump phenomena.  He sees the whole picture across all liberal democracies and right now it is not pretty.  Here is a great description of the place we find ourselves and the anger that elected Donald Trump and other populist demagogues:

For at least a decade, accelerating since the crash of 2008, fears and resentments had been building over the impunity of elites, the dizzying disruption of technology, the influx of migrants and the precariousness of modern existence.

In Western societies, for too long, there had been no victories, no glory and diminishing certainties. Wars were waged; nobody knew how they could be won. Their wounds festered. The distance between metropolis and periphery grew into a cultural chasm. Many things became unsayable; even gender became debatable. Truth blurred, then was sidelined, in an online tribal cacophony.

Jobs went. Inequality thrust itself in your face. What the powerful said and the lives people lived were so unrelated that politics looked increasingly like a big heist. Debacle followed debacle — the euro, the Iraq War, the Great Recession — and their architects never paid. Syria encapsulated the West’s newfound impotence, a kind of seeping amorality; and, in its bloody dismemberment, Syria sent into Europe a human tide that rabble-rousers seized upon.


And so the British voted to quit the European Union, symbol of a continent’s triumph over fascism and destructive nationalism. Americans voted on Nov. 8 for Donald J. Trump, who used much of the xenophobic, fear-mongering language of 1930s Europe to assemble an angry mob large enough that he triumphed over a compromised Hillary Clinton. Neither victory was large, but democracies can usher in radical change by the narrowest of margins. To give the Republican president-elect his due, he intuited an immense disquiet and spoke to it in unambiguous language.

He paints a bleak picture of where we are going and what we need to do to restore what our Founders fought so hard for:

Western democracies are in the midst of an upheaval they only dimly grasp. Virtual direct democracy through social media has outflanked representative democracy. The impact of the smartphone on the human psyche is as yet scarcely understood; its addictiveness is treacherous and can be the enemy of thought. Mr. Trump hijacked the Republican Party like a man borrowing a dinner jacket for an evening. His campaign moved through Twitter to the aroused masses; it had no use or need for conventional channels. The major political parties in Britain and the United States will have to prove their relevance again.


Democracies, it is clear, have not been delivering to the less privileged, who were disenfranchised or discarded in the swirl of technology’s advance. A lot of thought is now needed to find ways to restore faith in liberal, free-market societies; to show that they can be fairer and more equitable and offer more opportunities across the social spectrum. Germany, with its successful balance of capitalism and solidarity, its respect for the labor force and its commitments to both higher education and technical training, offers one model. The rage of 2016 will not abate by itself.

In many ways in the last election, Bernie understood that anger as the media described him as a grumpy old man.  Hillary missed it entirely.  As I watch the Democratic Party flounder in its failures and then try to restore the old guard, I know they may just be obsolete.  They simply are too removed from the real anger or a clear understanding of the changes that have to occur.  New leadership is desperately needed and they seem oblivious to it as though like the rubes who think Trump will get their jobs back, they just need to restore the old order to re-establish what they have always been comfortable with.

But Mr. Cohen leaves us with this and I am sure for all my liberal and progressive friends and readers, is what we are all feeling right now:

The liberal elites’ arrogance and ignorance has been astounding. It is time to listen to the people who voted for change, be humble and think again. That, of course, does not mean succumbing to the hatemongers and racists among them: They must be fought every inch of the way. Nor does it mean succumbing to a post-truth society: Facts are the linchpins of progress. But so brutal a comeuppance cannot be met by more of the same. I fear for my children’s world, more than I ever imagined possible.

That my friends is where we are at.

Another Thought That Might Just be Right

Fareed Zakaria said this in his column last week:

As Democrats contemplate their losses in November’s election, most have settled on a solution. They believe that the party needs more economically populist policies. But this misses an essential reality: Most people don’t vote on the basis of policies.

There is excellent research by political scientists and psychologists on why people vote. The conclusion is clear. As Gabriel Lenz writes in his landmark 2012 book, “Follow the Leader?”, “Voters don’t choose between politicians based on policy stances; rather, voters appear to adopt the policies that their favorite politicians prefer.”

And how do voters pick their favorite politicians? It is a gut decision that is more emotional than rational. Mostly it hinges on whether they identify with a politician in the social and psychological senses.

…Globalization, automation and immigration all generate enormous social change. Republicans signal that at a gut level, they are uncomfortable with this change and like America the way it was. That is why states with older, working-class white voters, such as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, all have Republican governors and statehouses.

So the basis of my blog, to apply rational thought to issues, to use the scientific method to find fact, what works, is just a waste of time? Just appeal to the emotions of the rubes with lies and unrealistic promises?  Well maybe not.  When reality overwhelms you because you have been uncomfortable recognizing the change that is actually happening, who do you blame?  Certainly Trump won the election, but can he govern?  The Republicans are falling all over themselves to gain a piece of the pie, yet in the end, when it comes all tumbling down because they don’t deal with reality, they may find their whole party trashed.

I will grant him one thing, democracy as we have seen it for the last 15 years or so does not work.  Rational debate got lost in a Republican ideological fog of obstructionism.  So one can see why voters would turn to someone who offers easy solutions and overturns apple carts, but as one conservative Republican tells us, he is a true threat to democracy:

He had questioned judicial independence, threatened the freedom of the press, called for violating Muslims’ equal protection under the law, promised the use of torture and attacked Americans based on their gender, race and religion. He had also undermined critical democratic norms including peaceful debate and transitions of power, commitment to truth, freedom from foreign interference and abstention from the use of executive power for political retribution.

All this because people could identify with him as one who feels their pain (when he has no empathy, only the fake empathy of a con man)?  Okay, people are scared and uncomfortable with the rapidly changing world and their place in it.  But going back in time as Trump promises won’t happen.  If you hate winter and decide to deny it is cold, when you take off your coat you are going to freeze to death.  On Fareed’s Sunday show he had Thomas Friedman and Tom brought this little bit of reality to the forefront:

What is also upsetting people is not just the cultural thing, it is something broader.  You know in my book I quote a Minnesota Congressman and he talks about growing up in Minnesota and being an average worker in Minnesota in the 60s and 70s.  He said to be an average worker in Minnesota in the 60s,  the white blue-collar worker, you needed a plan to fail. There was so much updraft of blue-collar work, and even white-collar work for the average educated, you actually needed a plan to fail. Today you need a plan to succeed and you have to update it every six months and that is too fast and too demanding for a lot of people and that also what that is about.

…What I do believe is that this is the end of all the political parties that we have known as Western politics.  I think they are all going to blow up because they were originally designed to respond to the Industrial Revolution, the New Deal, the early IT revolution, and civil rights. I believe what the parties have to respond to today are the acceleration of technology,  the acceleration in globalization, and the acceleration in climate*, how we get the best out of them and cushion the worst.  

Therefore the right answer for a liberal is to on the left of Bernie Sanders on some issues, I am for a single payer health care system.  I think we need a strengthened safety net, but to be to the right of the Wall Street editorial page at the same time.  To be radically entrepreneur so that we can afford that safety net.  Bernie Sanders was selling that safety net that we could not possibly afford and the people who want radical entrepreneurism don’t understand how many people have been unmoored and actually need more of a safety net. I think the candidates that synthesize the two for me will be the successful party in the future.

I think he is right.  So when you add up all this up here is what I get so far.  Trump is not dealing with reality and the solutions he offers (more radical conservatism) to drag us back into the 70s simply won’t work (not to mention dangerous).  Meanwhile the Democrats just re-elected Nancy Pelosi to lead the House Democrats when she is a “San Francisco” liberal that no one is going identify with if the initial analysis of how people vote above is correct.

Tom recommends a way forward that I could get behind because I actually see a world where we depend on our safety net (Government) for basic fall back (retirement, health care, and education) and we go through life reinventing ourselves as the world changes rapidly around us.  We depend on government to level the playing field and make sure the profits of our endeavors are shared fairly, develop our infrastructure, help long-term planning when short-term profits prevent that, and protect us from unbridled greed.  I am looking forward to reading his book, Thank You For Being Late.

*Tom pointed out that the largest group immigrating to Europe these days were not from the Middle East, but from Africa.  They are immigrating because climate change is drying out their way of life (drought) and they are forced to move to survive.  It is not going to stop as climate change accelerates.

Decisions

I haven’t quite decided yet what I am going to write about this cold Sunday morning, the empowerment of the Trump election to bullying and bigotry, or about the real state of jobs.  I have kind of jumbled emotions here.  I am still very very angry at the people who either voted for Trump thinking he was their savior, or the false third-party “principled” vote.  Both are rubes (I think that better captures it than idiots.  A rube is a naive or inexperienced person.  Ignorant comes to mind).  So I will start with the real state of jobs. The narrative tells us we weren’t listening to rust belt America and Trump was.  Now for reality.

When a way of life dies off, there will be collateral damage.  So in that sense we should have been listening.  The rest of it is total nonsense.  One story-teller explains that when he was young, you were almost guaranteed a good manufacturing job when you graduated from high school.  Now that is gone and nobody is listening to them.  So Trump tells them he will bring back their jobs and they are all a twitter.  The rube effect. Those jobs are never coming back no matter how many tariffs you put on companies or how many trade deals you walk away from.  The pace of technological change, automation, and global competition will see jobs come and go much more quickly than ever before.  All Trump is doing is selling the rubes snake oil to feather the beds of his rich 1% cohorts and make things so much worse for the rubes.

Let me give you an example of my life.  I went to college in 1964.  It was affordable.  I got a degree in electrical engineering and yes I did have a guaranteed job when I graduated in 1968, the Vietnam war.  As a young officer I went to a missile and drone R&D unit to develop technology.  I got a pilot’s license there. Then I went to navigator school and learned navigation. Next reconnaissance F4 training to learn about, well, reconnaissance.  I went to survival school, several. I got trained in how to resist torture.  I went to war.

I came back and ended up in another school for B-52s and became a radar navigator (bombardier) learning about nuclear weapons and total annihilation.  I went to school at night and got my Masters Degree in Civil (Structural) engineering.  I got out of the AF and went to work first for the state of California, then the Navy in Texas, then the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, Texas, and then Sacramento.  I got my Masters Certificate in Project Management and learned all about environmental cleanups, unexplored ordinance, chemical weapons, construction management, and contracting.

Do you get the drift?  Even an old fart like me had to be continually reinventing myself, learning,  growing and moving to where the work was.  Oh, and it was fun (at least most of it).  That is the reality of today.  So don’t cry to me Argentina.  While I was ahead of my time, that is the reality you all face.  Ask a medical doctor or any professional and he will tell you it is a life of constant learning only now it is more accelerated.

So while we feel your pain, grow up, that world you are wallowing in is never coming back.  Certainly we should face those challenges with a government that understands that turbulence that is now built into our lives and provides a path for us to cope and evolve.  That would include (as I had) affordable education, healthcare, and a retirement system that guarantees a fixed income based upon earnings.  Then we are free to follow our dreams, or move on when things change.  You really are then responsible for yourself. But the rubes voted for an idiot and bought into snake oil and we are all going to suffer because they were angry.  Tough, grow up and move on.  Vote for a government that will enable growth and learning, not steal your money and give it to the 1%.

Okay, one last thing, that enabling thing.  Donald Trump has enabled victimization, rudeness, and of course racism and hate.  The incidents where people are acting out are increasing.  Somehow they are entitled to tromp all over you and not respect your space.  Joy Reed on MSNBC put together some phone videos people had taken to show these people acting out, from demanding they did not have to take a number at the meat counter like anyone else, to some rube in an airplane lecturing the rest of the passengers on the new day under Donald Trump.

This comes from extreme anger and bitterness and an ex-white supremest explained it this way:  You blame everything on someone else.  Nothing is your fault, but those others are holding you back.  The anger simply grows and grows because you fail to take responsibility for your plight.  So now they have been given a license to act out that nonsense because the Donald has legitimized it.  We are in for some very turbulent times and there is no measuring the damage this man is doing to our country.  Thank you rubes.  Your ignorance is boundless. I don’t give a fuck about understanding you.  You need to grow up.

Disconnections

Here is the kind of thing you hear, mostly from Republicans, but from many Americans as they fall to understand the mechanics of insurance and Obamacare:

Under the plan discussed this week, Republicans said, repeal will be on a fast track. They hope to move forward in January or February with a budget blueprint using so-called reconciliation instructions, which would allow parts of the health care law to be dismembered with a simple majority vote, denying Senate Democrats the chance to filibuster. They would follow up with legislation similar to a bill vetoed in January, which would have repealed the tax penalties for people who go without insurance and the penalties for larger employers who fail to offer coverage.

It’s like they are brain dead.  They want to keep the requirement that you can not deny insurance for pre-existing conditions and that you can cover your children up to age 26, because they are popular, but enroll less people.  So how do you pay for that stuff?  Did you ever notice that Republicans, the party of responsibility and discipline, is always about a free ride?  If we give away money to the rich they will spend all that money on jobs and money will just flow into the Treasury (Flow down) except it doesn’t and every time we have done that (See Ronald Reagan and George Bush) we created massive deficits.  

Now the free ride is that we will get rid of all the onerous stuff like you have to have medical insurance, and somehow by expanding the market (unknown how) with competition, rates will fall for everyone.  Say what?  The way insurance works is that everyone pays in and the cost are spread across the sick and well.  My home owner’s insurance is still affordable because generally speaking everyone has home owner’s insurance (required by the banks to cover their risk).  If that requirement wasn’t there and people could just decide not to have it, my rates would sky rocket.  Why would that be any different for health insurance?

So are we going back to the days where you can get “really affordable plans” that are nightmares if you actually get sick?  Are we going back to where there is no baseline for what insurers have to cover?  And how are those miraculous Republicans going to pay for this stuff if they let healthy people opt out until they are sick.  Does anyone get that this will drive up costs?  I might also ask for the 10,000 time, do you understand the business model of unregulated health insurance companies?  Enroll healthy people and deny claims.  And the sad thing is we have been there and now it appears we are going there again.

The only way for all of us to have affordable healthcare is a single payer system where we all pay in.  In many ways we already do that although the costs are hidden from us because our taxes are used to subsidize uninsured people.  But when we operate a system in that manner, instead of preventative care that can reduce costs, we get patients who have serious problems that drive the costs out of sight.  How hard is this?  The rest of the world does this and there are multiple clones of a single payer system that we could adopt, but instead the Republicans are promising us another free ride and the rubes in the hinterland think this is going to work this time.  

It will be interesting to see just how they bring a wreaking ball to health care as they are now doing to the economy and foreign affairs.  Stupidity and ignorance in the form of ideological blinders will lead them to one disaster after another.  Sadly we will be pulled down with them.

Very Dangerous Times

I watched Trump in Ohio last night and if there is any question left in our little brains about who he is, well it was clarified. There he was in front of the white mob as he was during the campaign, soaking up their adulation while he spouted lies and half-truths.  This is the way he is going to govern.  This is who he is. And it tells you something else very disturbing.  His supporters don’t care.  They believe every word of it. And maybe so does he.

The Carrier deal is a disaster from a policy issue for addressing the long-term problem of jobs leaving the country.  Now before we go any further let’s just examine the job flow issue.  We live in a capitalist state where the worth of a company is evaluated in how much wealth it can create for its stockholders (Wall Street).  So a company’s management is focused and evaluate on how it maximizes profit.  Now what is the biggest expense in most business operations?  That’s right, labor.  So that is where the pressure is to cut profits.  Welcome to Business 101.

Okay, now what about a healthy and educated workforce that is stable in the company?  Ha!  It is about the bottom line. Making a reasonable profit while employing Americans is not what stock prices depend on, but how you maximize profits.  That, and the global competition which may have fewer regulations and a depressed work force so on a world market they can make things cheaper. That is why if we do keep jobs they usually move to Southern states where labor unions have no sway and wages are lower.  In the end it is a giant vice from Wall Street and global competition to keep pushing wages lower and lower so the top can have more and more profit.

Enter Trump to save jobs.  Now the first thing you want to note is what he is actually doing, which is appointing Wall Street insiders to his Cabinet. So no change there. Then he sends Pence to Indiana (because he is still governor) to negotiate a ransom payment for less than half the workers displaced:

…critics have pounced on Carrier’s receipt of $7 million in incentives from the state of Indiana — just the kind of corporate giveaways Mr. Trump knocked as he slammed Carrier on the campaign trail last spring.

Others have pointed out that cutting individual deals with different companies is a costly and ineffective way to stem the powerful forces that impel business to move factories and jobs in a highly competitive global and national economy.

Think about the $7m.  Where does the state make it up? Basically think of it as a further subsidy by government to corporate profits.  And yes 800 jobs were saved but 1200 are still leaving.  And even more important, how many of those jobs will be around in the next two years.  If they can’t move them, they will automate them to reduce costs. And as Justin Wolfers of the Upshot tells us:

One lesson here is that Mr. Trump’s deal-cutting approach is wholly inadequate — and impractical — in view of the size of the American labor market. While the workers at Carrier benefited from Mr. Trump’s attention, the problem is that this approach doesn’t scale.

The number of companies that are in a situation like Carrier’s is so large that no president could hope to sift through and save any reasonable percentage of them. The number of companies that might pretend to be in distress in the hopes of getting a handout to remain is even larger.

But the larger argument, the one we really need to get our hands around is the one Mr. Wolfer addresses in this piece:

In the two hours that President-elect Donald J. Trump spent flying to Indiana on Thursday to boast that he saved 1,000 jobs, about 6,000 private-sector jobs in the United States were probably destroyed.

It’s a surprising statistic — one that speaks to the constant state of change in the labor market. My calculation is based on government data that shows that every three months roughly 6.7 million private-sector jobs are destroyed, which in an expanding labor market is offset by the creation of nearly 7.2 million jobs.

Over a full presidential term, more than 100 million jobs will be destroyed. Mr. Trump can’t expect to stanch much of that flow.

He then compares jobs to the number of cars parking in a multi-story parking garage where you try to keep the cars in the garage and points out that you are better off trying to attack new cars (jobs) to replace the old.  Then he argues:

Rather, the long-term strategy of such businesses is to try to attract a larger clientele by offering a more convenient experience. They understand that there are many more potential customers outside than inside the garage. In this analogy, the government’s best hope for creating jobs is to create a positive business climate.

I would agree with that and it points the fact that what Trump did was a publicity stunt that fails to address the basic problem.  I think Professor Wolfers (Economics at the University of Michigan) still is not tackling the basic issue, what does a positive business climate mean.  Does that drive wages to the lowest common denominator and removes not only health and safety protections, but environmental ones?  Lets just have the rich and the very poor?  What that fails to address is that while you are driving wages down, you are driving buying power down.

So we are back to the fundamental problem of should business maximize profits, increasing economic inequality, or does government have to step in to ensure through such things as minimum wage and overtime rules that the workers share in those profits, that our environment is not degraded, and everyone has a safe working place?

I listened to one fool from Wall Street, The Shark Tank, this morning tell us that if the Donald lowers corporate taxes by say 30%, then they could afford to pay their workers more and they would stay. Ha!  First most of the big boys pay nothing.  Second, he ignores his own cardinal rule, maximize profits.  Those gains will not go to the worker unless government intervenes (oh horror upon horror from a conservative point of view) and who makes up those lost tax revenues for those who do pay taxes?

The real issue is the one Tom Friedman identified and continues to try to get anyone to recognize, old jobs are going away.  New jobs are going to become obsolete quicker and quicker, and we have to have a vibrant workforce that can adapt to those changes.  Who is planning for that?  Certainly not the businesses who are focused on the bottom line.  We have big challenges ahead, and Donald Trump is a con man pulling the wool over the rubes.  Don’t get lost in they have valid complaints, they do, but they are taking a placebo and the nation will crash.

Really, The Madness Continues and Everyone Yawns?

Charles Blow wrote a really good op-ed today.  As he called it (really David Axelrod), “Monster Ball”, the gathering of “billionaires and bigots, homophobes and Islamaphobes, climate change deniers and white supremacy believers,” that are making up the Trump disaster. He then does what our news media gathered at the Trump building like Apprentice groupies, fails to do, identify how this bunch of well, see above, violates everything Trump was promising.  I am wondering if his voters are starting to question their vote.  The answer, of course, is no.  They only react to outcomes that affect their lives and are pretty much oblivious to what is really going on, hence their re-election of Republicans that were the problem in the first place.  I will leave it you you to go to the link and educate yourself on the Monster Ball while our press tries to normalize the whole thing.

Meanwhile in Green Party land, the recount continues and Hillary now leads by over 2.5 million votes and we are not even talking about doing away with the Electoral College, which with Republican control of the State Houses, is ripe for gerrymandering (it is already badly tilted conservative, see We Have a Problem Houston) if we start proportioning the electoral votes like we do House of Representative members (two states already do that).  I warned against third party voting here and it is quite likely had they stayed out of the election, Hillary would have one.  Here is a good reason to not vote for Jill Stein as she said this (from Gail Collins):

Stein claims most of her supporters wouldn’t have voted for anybody if the Green Party hadn’t been an option. But even if she did make a difference, she doesn’t care. “I don’t regard one candidate as preferable to the other,” she said….Knowing what we know now, do you think the best thing the Greens could have done to battle global warming would have been running around trying to get attention for Jill Stein, or working like maniacs to support Clinton and keep Donald Trump out of the White House?

“In my view they’re both lethal to the environment,” said Stein.


In my view, the Green Party screwed up, big time. We will think of it from now on as the Chartreuse Party.

Says everything you need to know about how ideology will never solve problems, as they refuse practical solutions and just make the world worse.

One last thought as the world goes crazy.  It would seem that the airliner that crashed killing most of the Brazilian soccer team ran out of gas.  According to voice recordings recently released the pilot was calling for Vectors (directions) to land:

“We ask for permission to approach, we have a fuel problem,” cried a voice that the radio station identified as the pilot. He later says that the plane had a “fuel emergency.”

During the 12-minute recording, the pilot also says that the plane had experienced “total electrical failure” and repeatedly requests flight vectors, indications from the air traffic controller, on how to land. The controller tries to help but mentions other obstacles like another plane flying close by and fuel on the runway left from yet another aircraft.


“Nine thousand feet,” yells the pilot. “Vectors! Vectors!”

I have faced a similar situation back in the day, ran short of fuel over Cambodia (in an RF4C) and made an emergency landing at a close runway.  But that is fighter pilot mentality.  We decided what was best and everyone better get out of the way.  Maybe had the airliner had a navigator, vectors would not have been necessary, just an announcement from the airplane that we had a fuel emergency and we were landing, better get out of the way.  Just saying.

Did Not Get the Memo

Well I see the Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi.  Big mistake and a giant sign flashing business as usual.  Also it leaves the Democrat party bereft of new blood.  Nancy was a big proponent of Hillary meaning she did not get the memo from the primaries about what this election was about.  She is from San Francisco.  All these things turn off a lot of America they need to win next time.  I think Nancy is one tough nut who is probably the best person to fight out-of-control Republican legislation.  But that is not where we are at.  Where we are at is redefining what the party stands for.  You cannot do that and make it believable in this political environment without changing leadership.  This, I think, will not help Democrats in 2018.  I have addressed their way forward here.

Let’s talk about what happened in the election, because it is critical for Democrats to understand how they failed, and what is the path forward.  I will try to be brief as I have gone here before:

  • Identity Politics –  The idea that you can shape your argument to meet different interest groups needs*.  In this case, white America perceived that the Democrats represented everyone against them.  The Donald stood up with total nonsense, but seemed to represent white America against all the other interest groups, and that was critical in rural America
  • Government Dysfunction – The realistic view that government wasn’t working.  However assigning blame was highly partisan and in most cases not based on what actually was going on.  See below
  • Fake News – The ability to get false stories out that was eaten up by white America (and quite profitable) that redefined reality.  This was part of the problem with the first two reasons Democrats totally failed (identity Politics and Government Dysfunction)
  • Infotainment – Our 24/7 news media’s focus on ratings and lack of fact checking, coupling with he said/she said dueling conversations with no moderating with facts has lent itself to a poorly informed voters who can side with whoever they like, with two sets of facts
  • Democrats failure to understand the mood in the country for change, putting forward an establishment politician with baggage that had been exaggerate for years by the conservative news organizations and Infotainment jumping on nothing stories for ratings
  • Failure of the Democrats to provide a coherent economic way forward.  Sure Hillary slowly bought into the economic inequality argument, but again she was a flawed candidate because most people did not trust her.  Fair is not the point here.  She had many plans to address the real issues of white America, probably much better than the Donald, but it was never put into a coherent economic vision and message for the country
  • Finally, the failure of the Hillary team to understand any of these dynamics, the impression she was entitled and it was her turn, and the final days attacking Donald Trump the man instead of providing a focused way forward and arguing against all Republican policies

The way forward is to leave identity politics behind, and look at economic inequality as the real issue.  It is not business as usual.  The world economy tomorrow is not your father’s economy and that is what Democrats seem to not get yet.  Again I have written about this in The Correct Problem, Wrong Solution, when Tom Friedman said:

I think the working place is being fundamentally transformed and what Bill Clinton said back in 1992 just doesn’t apply any more.  What did he say at that convention?  He said if you work hard and play by the rules you should be in the middle class.  Good luck with that.  Today you have to work harder, work faster, retool and re-engineer…I use to say when I graduated from college I got to find a job.  When my daughters graduate today they have to invent a job.  That’s what is new all right? You may get lucky and get your first job you did not have to reinvent and nobody wants to trust the people with that truth because it is really scary.

That is the real issue.  We are all afraid of what the global economy is changing, which counter to the Donald, we can not opt out of, and automation is a real threat to jobs, not offshoring.  It affects all of us and nobody is addressing it on the Democratic side except maybe Bernie.  Donald did address it with a fantasy world.  We can just be tough and go back to yesterday. Middle America is not going to get those job back, they are going to have to grow and reinvent themselves as Tom pointed out above.  So what is the Democratic solution to this problem. How will they help them do that and make the transition less painful? Well, they really haven’t defined the problem yet.  There still moving chair around on the Titanic.

As the Donald’s approach fails, and it will because it is nothing more than flow down and conservative ideas that have failed before, are the Democrats going to be the party that is unafraid to point out the real problem and come up with a coherent and focused vision for the direction of the country, or will they still take the Hillary approach, we just need to tweak the systems.  If they take the latter one, they learned nothing and the party will further decline.  The re-election of Nancy did not help.

*One of the classic examples of this is when Black Lives Matter took over an event when Bernie Sanders was speaking.  He was talking about economic inequality for everyone and they wanted to know what he and Democrats would do them.  That turned off more people than they will ever know. The election was about all of America, not just black America and they help defeat Hillary Clinton with their of the tactics of me, me, me.  White America saw it as us against them.

The Passing of the Flag

There is a very interesting article in the NYT this morning about a metric to determine if democracy is on the wain.  I think we all know that, but it is a gut feeling, not a rational look at indicators.  It uses these measures:

The first factor was public support: How important do citizens think it is for their country to remain democratic? The second was public openness to nondemocratic forms of government, such as military rule. And the third factor was whether “antisystem parties and movements” — political parties and other major players whose core message is that the current system is illegitimate — were gaining support.

Mr. Mount then took these measures and plotted them for countries we know have had their democracy decline, and they appear to be fairly good indications.  Think of it as an early warning system that we are moving in the wrong direction.  Enter Donald Trump.

In the United States, Donald J. Trump won the presidential election by running as an antisystem outsider. And support for antisystem populist parties in Europe, such as the National Front in France, Syriza in Greece and the Five-Star Movement in Italy, is rising.
It’s not just about what Trump will do to the E.P.A.,” he said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. “It really is that Trump may try to undermine liberal democracy in the United States.”

So when the Donald tweeted:

You understand that those 198,263 loves like authoritarian government and have no understanding of free speech or free expression in a democracy.  This is the real threat that Donald Trump brings to America, not his incompetence on the economy, climate change, or foreign affairs, but his gross lack of respect and understanding for our most basic values.

I find the burning of the flag repugnant, yet I would defend others right to express their displeasure with our government.  When we have turned it into a symbol of patriotism instead “of the constitution for which it stands”, and we see all the “right” people with their flag lapel pin as a sign they are in the patriotic club, you can understand their feelings.  But there is a much more basic principle here.

Democracy is not a religion.  It can not be accepted on faith. The whole idea of democracy is anti-faith in the fact that we can and should debate our beliefs.  In the old world that was heresy.  But that is what the Founders wanted to get away from. They felt that open debate would lead to rational choices.  Religion takes things off the table.  If you belong you have to believe because the belief is the religions ultimate truth.  But the Founders thought open debate is how you arrived at truth.  Think about this idea that disrespect of the flag would cost you your citizenship.  What we have is the establishment of a religious artifact and a religious test for your right to live here.

It’s a loyalty test, and makes dissent disloyal.  It is the basic undermining of the very basis of democracy, opposition, debate, and compromise.  The flag is a symbol and when symbols and what they stand for can no longer be questioned, democracy has left the building.  That is what we have to fear from Donald Trump and his supporters.