Archive for July 2015

Cuba is a Symbol for About Everything Republican

Democrats have seen the failure of the last fifty years of isolation with Cuba and have decided to throw off that policy.  The latest was Hillary (and this is a switch in her earlier position) who called on Congress to remove all the restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba.  Republicans, especially at least two presidential contenders (Cruz and Rubio), want to go back to the embargo.  Why?

Well you just can’t reward bad behavior.  The fact that the policy has failed and in fact has been counter productive is irrelevant.  Cuban leaders are bad people so they must be punished, not rewarded with trade.  Hillary made a good argument why this is such flawed logic, but it will be lost on them.  Also let’s not remind them we trade with China, Saudi Arabia, and others with bad or worse human rights abuses.

But the point here is really not Cuba, but change.  Republicans do not want change.  See Iran and their total rejection of a chance for peace and change.  It may not work, and we will be back to a military option, but it might.  Yet they reject it outright, and aside from purely political motivations (election 2016), they don’t want change even though without it, we could be in another Middle East war.  Iranians are bad people with American blood on their hands, so they must be punished, even if we end up killing thousands of Americans in the process.

Watching Jeb Bush run for President and say amazingly stupid things about the economy (workers don’t work hard enough, we need a balanced budget amendment, or take credit for a bubble economy in Florida that collapsed after he left), is a giant example of ignoring the lessons of history and hanging on to old ideas.  Note that throughout all those ideas runs a morality play.  

But reality doesn’t care about winners and losers and sometimes the smart thing to do goes against the morality lesson.  And change is all around us.  Being a conservative means resisting change, but they have taken it to a new level, inventing an alternate reality.  So look at Cuba and their illogical stance, and then think about everything else they stand for (let’s deport all 11 million undocumented aliens) and you get an idea that a country led by these people would be a disaster.  Reality does not stand still.

David Brooks Friday

Fridays always get me worked up as I read Krugman and then force myself to read Brooks.  The great part about reading Brooks is just about when I think I am going to pop with rebuttals, I read the comments and see that three or four hundred already have responded.  The interesting thing about David is that he usually raises a real issue, and then puts old Republican economic conservative thinking on it.  You know, that thinking that has already shown to be false.

In this particular article Mr. Brooks went after economic inequality (there is no denying that) and government’s role in dealing with that, which of course he would be totally against.  Government only messes up the market place according to Mr. Brooks.  Mr. Brooks’ op-ed was in response to a speech by Anand Giridharadas at the  Aspen Action Forum, a gathering of young business and NGO leaders selected because of their work for social change. According to Mr. Brooks, Anand made the following points:

The winners of our age [successful businesses] may be helping society with their foundations, but in their business enterprises, the main occupation of their life, they are doing serious harm. 

  1. First they are using political and financial muscle to enact policies that help them “stack up, protect and bequeath the money.
  2. Second, they offload risks and volatility onto workers. Uber’s owners have a lot of security but they deny any responsibility for their workers’ “lives, health, desire for career growth.”
  3. Third, the owners of capital are increasingly remote from their communities. “In the old days, if a company C.E.O. suddenly dumped the defined-benefits pension, you knew who to go see to complain. Today it may be an unseen private equity fund that lobbies for the change.” The virtualization of ownership insulates the privileged from the “devastating consequences” of their decisions.

Now David doesn’t deny this, he just thinks government interference would be worse:

First, government planners are not smart enough to plan complex systems in this way. The beauty of capitalism is that it takes a dim view of human reason. No group of experts is smart enough to allocate the resources of society well. Capitalism sets up a system of discovery as different people compete and adapt in accordance with market signals. If you try to get technocratic planners organizing investment markets or internal business governance, you will wind up with perversities and rigidities that will make everything worse.

There are so many things wrong with this reasoning, it is hard to know where to start.  Would that “dim view of human reason” be putting profits before the environment? Does that dim view of human reason mean putting the company before the good of the country.  Mr. Brooks’ bias here is that what is good for the company is good for the country.  Then there is the allocate resources thing.  Does anybody think that Wall Street and investment is allocating resources in a way that is beneficial to the nation and workers?  What if big bad government put a carbon tax out there.  Then business would have to account for their damage to the environment in their business planning.  How would that hurt?  Oh, they wouldn’t have the maximum profits which is the goal, right?

Then he says:

Second, the attempt to tame the market will end up stultifying it. Everybody knows that capitalism’s creative destruction can be rough. But over the last few decades, a ragged version of global capitalism in places ranging from China to Nigeria has brought about the greatest reduction in poverty in human history. America’s fluid style of capitalism attracts driven and talented immigrants and creates vast waves of technological innovation. This dynamism is always in danger of being stultified by planners who think they can tame it and by governing elites who want to rig it. We should not take it for granted.

Look, if I can take this apart, does Mr. Brooks ever really examine his propoganda?  Did creating the EPA to deal with the fouling of our air and water stultify the market or did it create new enterprises along with actually cleaning up the environment?  Did turning financial institutions loose to “self-regulate” work out back in the Bush years?  Is not the tax code already gamed to have the wealthy keep all their profits while the rest of us are left with the bill?  Yes those nations are growing fast, and in that growth maybe dooming their future.  It is government that can tame that growth in ways that we can even survive it.

Oh, and the wealth of Wall Street is not being reinvested and allocated in market driven ways that benefit growth for all of us, but being hung on to or put into financial transactions that build nothing.  Workers see no benefit from all that “dynamism” as their salaries stagnate.  Meanwhile, we may get more apps for our iPhone, but “technological innovation” stagnates because we have massively cut the government budget for R&D so we can afford all those tax cuts for the job creators who don’t create any jobs.

Sure there is an element of truth to Mr. Brooks’ argument.  Government regulation does slow down some enterprises, and restricts others.  But some need to be and as one reader who commented on this article put it, those big bad mean ol’ government people aren’t focused on the profit of the company, but the good of the country.  Mr. Brooks has major blinders on when it comes to the invisible hand of the market place.

Is The Fix In?

Does it bother anyone that Fox News is really controlling who makes the top ten in the GOP debate.  They are going to average four or five polls (which polls?) to determine the top 10.  So when you get down to it, the Republican Party is now totally subservant to Roger Ailes.  Now most of us Progressive have known for years that the party has become a total tool of Fox News, but I think now it is dawning on Republicans and they may not like it very much.  This debate will set the stage and many serious candidates are getting pushed out for the Donald (which is not Ailes choice, but he has not choice on this one) and who Ailes wants in the debate by gaming what polls he uses.

What I see coming is some real revolution in the Republican Party as good candidates with alternative points of view (Rand Paul, Lindsay Graham) get silienced.  Of course the Donald may put the Top 10 on the spot if his position on immigration is deport them all.  How do you get further right than that and where does that leave you in the general election.  Insanity rules.  Stay tuned.  For a more in depth look at this see New York Magazine.

Who Said it Best Today:  Congressman Levin via Roger Cohen

Congressman Sander Levin is the longest serving Jewish member of Congress and he had this to say about the Iran deal:

“In my view, the only anchors in public life are to dig deeply into the facts and consult broadly and then to say what you believe.”

Levin’s reflection led him to the sober, accurate conclusion that the agreement is “the best way to achieve” the goal of preventing Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon, an outcome that will make Israel, the Middle East and the world “far more secure.” Not the ideal way, the perfect way, or a foolproof way, but, in the real world of ineradicable Iranian nuclear know-how, the best way attainable. That is also the view of other parties to the deal — the not insignificant or unserious powers of Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

Roger Cohen goes on to lay out the reality of the deal and our “friends” who are against it:

It is intriguing that, along with Israel and Republican members of Congress, the most vociferous criticism of the deal has come from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have had it with what they see as American fecklessness. They have been convinced since the Iraq invasion that the United States is pro-Shia (read pro-Iran). They are so persuaded of Iran’s anti-Sunni imperial designs that they have embarked on an indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen with the purported aim of stopping the Houthis, seen as Iranian proxies.

Here is a defining moment.  If you are against this deal you are living in fantasy land or you simply prefer war to a chance at peace.  Either way, we have a real window into who serves the country and the best interest of their constituients and who is playing politics for personal aggrandizment.

The Walter Palmer Debacle

Walter Palmer is the dentist from Minnesota that killed Cecil the lion after he was lured out of a game perserve with bait.  That act, luring a protected creature out so it could be slaughtered is bad enough in itself, and we don’t know at this point whether Dr. Palmer knew of that crime.  But the real issue is that in a world we are destroying at an ever more rapid rate,  why do we still take pleasure in slaughtering its endangered beasts?

I have my baises.  When I walk to exercise my knee, I take care not to step on the red ants scurrying everywhere.  I don’t know.  Life is precious and why should I upset their struggle with a crushing footprint.  I wasn’t raised to be weak willed when it came to hunting.  My dad was a big hunter and our freezer was always filled with moose, bear, dear, goat, you name it.  It was important to not kill wantomly and to use the animal.  I did my share of hunting as a kid and did enjoy (and do) wild game dinners.

And I get that hunting is a tradition and does thin the herd of deer (or whatever) that could overrun the ecosystem if they aren’t properly controlled because we killed off their natural predators.  Here is one defense from Dan Tichenor, a board member of California Houndsmen for Conservation, which represents thousands of hound hunters:

Humans evolved to be predators and there is no shame in perpetuating that instinct, he said. “It’s not just about observing the natural environment but being part of it. It brings us back to our roots as homo sapiens. This is how we survived through all our history.”

Over the years Tichenor, a leading hunter in California, has killed an impala and warthog in South Africa – and brought their skulls home – and hunted dozens of bears and mountain lions in the United States. “I can’t think of a more natural inclination.”

Certainly, it seems that many feel it is a bonding moment with father and son out in the woods on the big hunt.  And I do know that my dad taught me more about survival and self-sufficiency than I would have learned anywhere else out on a dog sled hunt through the Alaskan backcountry in February.  But we weren’t out there for a trophy.  We were connecting with nature and what we killed was our food.  There is something very different and wrong about the two instances.

There is something regal and majestic about a lion, and the fact that we kill them for sport somehow demeans us as humans (been watching Zoo lately?).  The idea of killing something connects us to our roots is abhorent.  I think it is the act of being self sufficient in the forest is what is the real catalyst and we have gotten distracted by the big gun and a hunt that is anything but about being self-sufficient.

For me, my killing days are long over.  There is something about the struggle to survive of every creature that is nobel and the last thing I want to do is upset the balance as a human.  Do you remember the scene in Blade Runner where the Replicant decides not to kill Harrison Ford because at that moment as he is dying, he understands how beautiful life is?

Trophy hunting to me is a blood sport gone too far, especially in a day when these noble creatures may soon be extinct.  While I can still see the hunt for animals that are carefully managed to not overcome the ecosystem and keep the balance, especially when it is an outdoor experience where harvesting the meat is critical to the experience, let’s not kid ourselves with our technology that this is some proof of self-sufficency or self worth.  It is a killing expedition and it says something about us that I don’t like very much.

Last spring I was out shooting arrows in my target (olympic recurve bow).  I live in a vineyard on almost 22 acres with forest all around me.  I shoot over 50 yards so sometimes I miss and have to look behind the target for a wayward arrow.  I was searching for an arrow when I caught a movement near the deer fence that separates the vineyard from the forest (and keeps the deer from eating my grapes).  I just stopped and watched.  A bobcat came through the fence and walked within about 20′ of me before it picked up my scent and hightailed it.  It was a beautiful creature and it was just a thrill to see it in the wild.  Couldn’t that not be enough?  Why do we have to kill them to be fulfilled?

A Week to Go to Make the Playoffs

No, not sports unless you think politics is sport.  If it is, sportmanship has died.  The Playoffs is the Fox News GOP debate to occur in a week.  The conventional wisdom is that if you don’t make to the top ten, you are toast.  Now I am not sure about that in this season where being crazy is how you get in the top ten, but …

Anyway it is now clear how to get in the top ten (and eight positions are pretty much decided).  Say something really crazy to attract attention to yourself.  Be rude, bombastic, and offend as many people as possible, and you can bet the nine (there are 17 total candidates for the GOP presidental nomination as of today) are going to work it. So I may start a new blog category just to track what they say and call it, Who Shouted the Loudest Today.  Stay tuned.  

University of Cincinnati Police Shooting

The first thing you might want to ask is why a campus cop had a gun and why he was doing traffic stops off campus, but I get sidetracked. There is plenty of injustice here but what I want you to think about is open carry.  Open carry allows anyone to carry a gun.  

So we have this policeman who is suppose to be trained and yet instead of de-escalating the situation, in just a few seconds he shot a man dead.  He could have just let him leave, and get him later on a real crime. It was a gross over reaction from someone who is trained (supposedly) and should be experienced in these situations.  So what about the average citizen, each carrying a gun?  It will be the wild west.

Oh, and Governor Perry is right up there with the mindless rest.  He thinks no gun zones would not work.  I keep thinking about a bunch of people in that theater in Lafayette all armed trying to figure out who was the shooter and who were the defenders.  Better yet when the police arrived, trying to figure out which of the gun toting and shooting patrons is the bad guy.  Gun fight at OK Corral would look meek in comparison.  Where can I get a bullet proof vest anyone?

Oh, Hillary, Hillary, Hillary

Answer the mail Hillary or you just give the credence to your gaming the system and the trust worthy issue.  She dodged the Keystone Pipeline and the TTP question on what her position was.  She said she was the Secretary of State and she should not pre-judge them as she had a hand in them.  And further, we don’t know exactly what is in the TTP.  On the Secretary of State thing, you are not deciding this issue like a judge, we are judging you as a political aspirant.  Answer the damn question.

On the TPP, I will give her a pass.  We don’t know what is in it.  I was totally against giving the President Fast Track Authority on the TPP because it is like approving it before you know what you are buying.  But we are past that now.  But her answer left you wondering if she is waiting to see which way the wind is blowing.  

She could have said that if it is like earlier agreements that shipped jobs off shore and basically protected the transfer of wealth to the wealthy, then she would be against it, but if it had appropriate safeguards, she would be for it and we just have to wait and see what it says.  It puts her on the hook.  It lets us know where she will likely go.  But her answer gives you real pause with that ringing question, can we really trust you Hillary to be a Progressive?

On the Keystone Pipeline, I believe her answer was a total punt.  And that scares me.  Either you believe in global warming and the science or you don’t.  It is not something that you can punt on.  If we really are (WE ARE) facing rising sea levels of 3′-10′ in the next 50 years, then this is a no brainer.  As hard as it will be, we cannot continue to take carbon fuels out of the ground and burn them.  Yes there is the argument it will just go another way so we might as well partake, but that is like saying, the Titanic is going to sink so let’s dance the night away.

Then there is that other little problem, running a ticking time bomb through our most precious resource, water.  Pipelines will break and if you have not figured it out yet, the really precious resouce out there that is getting harder and harder to come by is water.  Do we really want to put our aquifers at risk to pump a very dirty fuel that puts our climate at risk?  

Again, you can argue that there are court cases about right of ways and property rights and maybe you can dodge the question until these are resolved, but it is dodging the question that makes us wonder if you really understand the threat from climate change and how our behavior has to change.  It makes us wonder if you are saying all the right things and nothing changes.  There has to be there there, Hillary.

So here we go again.  This election is for her to lose and she seems determined to do that.  You either energize the voters or you leave them wondering if they can trust you and they don’t get to the polls.  Take a page from Bernie, Hillary, stand for something and fight for it.  It is the details of how you reach the goals that count, not the goals.

No, We Don’t Need No Stink’in Gov’ment

From the Guardian today:

Billionaire hedge fund managers have called on Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes.  The hedge funds called for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default – and repay its debts – by collecting more taxes, selling $4bn worth of public buildings and drastically cutting public spending, particularly on education.

Let them eat cake, oh, and their children can rot in debtors prison.  No we don’t need to stink’in gov’ment to reign in these greedy bastards.  According to Ronald Reagan via Gordon Gekko, greed is good.

Just How Screwed Up the Middle East Is

So Turkey starts to feel some of the blowback from being a swinging door into Syria for ISIS fighters (ISIS attacked Turkey) so their come to Jesus moment (or is it come to Mohammad moment?) is to allow the U.S. to use its bases there as launching points for air attacks.  But then it attacks the Kurdish separtists along its border.  And who are our best and most reliable fighters in Iraq to thwart ISIS?  The Kurds.  What a mess.

Oh, and as the NYT pointed out, where is our Republican Congress in authorizing these attacks and the establishment of a safe zone?  Looking for emails about Benghazi, trying to end sanctuary cities, thwarting womens reproductive care, and ignoring gun violence.  Yeah, vote Republican you morons and we can stay in the Middle East forever.