Archive for December 2015

2016 Limitless!

I am sure you are familiar with the movie and TV spinoff show, Limitless.  The basic plot is that a young 30-something is aimlessly going through life with no goals, no ambition, just basically lost.  And as the rest of his peers moved on to adulthood, relationships, success, he is stuck in limbo land.  Then he takes this amazing pill (NZT)  and suddenly his potential is limitless.  The pill actuated his total brain so complex problems seem simple, he sees all possibilities, he can remember everything he has ever experienced, including the ability to pick up a language in about 2 minutes.  Just what we need in 2016 to solve our most intractable problems, right?

Wrong!  Almost all of our “intractable” problems have very simple solutions, we just won’t implement them, or Republican’s won’t let us.  Oh, I know, the present narrative out there is that this is just a partisan rant and what we really need is both sides to compromise.  HA!  Maybe you do need some NZT.  Let me just give you a quick rundown of the simple solutions we already know work from our own history have been blocked by those compromising Republicans:

  • The Economy – Suffers from a lack of demand, so we need to spend as a country and it is not like we don’t have things we badly need to fix/build
  • The Debt – Is not a problem and we can sustain one much larger than it is now.  History tells us that.  But we can also tax fairly across the board to help pay for our spending.  And no, most of us are not over taxed
  • Global Warming – Probably past the point of not happening, but both our economy and our climate would benefit from a total focus on a switch to clean energy.  Then of course we could start building defenses for the inevitable severe weather to mitigate the impact on us
  • Economic Inequality – Reform the tax code and laws, regulations, and treaties that favor a transfer of wealth to a few.  And no, Tax Reform is not further tax cuts for the wealthy which is what the Republicans mean by it
  • Immigration – Get real.  It benefits our economy, even the illegal immigration.  So let’s understand our needs and get on with real reform that is humanitarian.  Sure we need to control our borders, but a wall is a joke.  But of course if law breakers always have to be punished, nothing is ever going to happen
  • Terrorism and ISIS – Congress do your job and authorize force.  Recognize that only Middle Easterners can really solve their problems and simply support their efforts.  And don’t lose our values along the way making deals with the devil or forget the women must be equal (actually all minorities must have rights).  Stand up for our values with words and ideas, not weapons
  • Social Issues – That would be gay and transgender rights, woman’s rights, religious rights, Black Lives Matter.  Treat people as human beings and allow them their individual right to live and believe as they choose as long as through doing so, they don’t try to deprive you of yours.  Oh, and people choosing to live differently than you is not depriving you of anything.  That includes abortion or using contraception
  • Over Regulation – Again, get real.  Almost all regulations hinder business in one form or another, but most came from lessones learned from the massive damage some business can cause unregulated.  So government isn’t bad, but it has to be smart.  We need to make our regulations smart to, not just think small government and no regulations will solve our problems.  In general, they created most of them.

This is not rocket science.  But getting anything past the Republicans and some Democrats who are indentured to the status quo money misers that keeps even common sense solution being implemented because it upsets someone’s apple cart is almost impossible.  So maybe a small dose of NZT so they can see the possibilities instead of the status quo might just do the the trick.  Maybe we could put it in the water.  Here is hoping for 2016.

The Morning Follies (News)

Let’s see.  Should I watch to political strategists (lackies for their particular party ) discuss whether the release of more of Hillary’s emails today will have an impact on the campaign or the football game? Hmm…  Those chicken wings ready yet?

Connecting the Dots, No Really

There were two informative articles that tell you a lot about America today and how selfish we have become.  And in that selfishness, vote against our own best interests.  The two articles I would like to connect the dots on are one in McClatchy talking about Hispanics who would like to vote Republican except for Donald Trump, and the other, how the wealthy have insulated themselves from taxes so that economic inequality continues to grow.  While the tax burden falls on the middle class.  Here are some of the gems from interviewing Hispanics about their voting Republican:

Talk to Latinos throughout the Las Vegas area and their views are strikingly similar. Top concerns are better schools, more ability to grow their own businesses and leaders who share their strong religious and moral beliefs.

Jesus Marquez, who runs an air conditioning business, grew up in a Democratic household but turned Republican after watching details of President Bill Clinton’s relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky unfold. “They devalued the office when he lied,” Marquez said as he sipped some very dark coffee recently in the very dark Florida Café Cuban Bar & Grill, a popular downtown Latino gathering spot. He saw Republicans as the party of higher standards.

Peter Guzman, a real estate developer, has long been sympathetic to Republicans, but he can’t stomach Trump’s comments.  “It’s going to be a challenge for me to embrace a candidate who has completely talked to my culture in an undignified way,” he said.

Ariel Gomez, a handyman, urged listening closely to what Trump is saying. He was not condemning all Mexicans, Gomez said.

Krissian Marquez, an entrepreneur, sees herself as one of those good people. Born in Mexico, she grew up in California. She understands the lure of Democrats. “When people first come here,” she said, “they say, ‘I’m going to do this for you,’ so obviously that’s how people vote and a lot of them just stick to that.”

Marquez warmed to Republicans as her daughters began school. She appreciated how George W. Bush, as governor of Texas and as president, understood the Latino community’s desire for better schools. One of her daughters went to the neighborhood school and it was “not the best,” said Marquez. Another daughter had the freedom to choose, went to a magnet school and did much better, she said. “I fight for what I believe in, and Republicans are more about school choice,” Marquez explained.

Antiles voted for Obama twice. His wife is of Mexican ancestry; he’s Cuban. Though Obama did halt deportations of the children of immigrants here illegally who met certain criteria, he never really delivered on his promise to overhaul the immigration system.  Antiles wants to vote Republican, and he likes Rubio. But Trump? “I don’t like this guy,” he said.

Now follow the logic here as there are a couple of logical threads.  First is denial.  The Republicans treat Hispanic well except for Donald Trump.  Was it Donald Trump that refused to vote on immigration reform and who has a base that wants to throw them all out and judge them by their color, but “He saw Republican’s as a party of higher standards.”  Really?

The next thread is that many of these folks have made it into the middle class and they want to pull the ladder up.  They want a more friendly business environment, lower taxes and less regulation on their own businesses, and not wasteful spending on those who have less. They want school choice failing to recognize that their Republican friends and their low tax rates are what are devasting schools.  I want is best for mine screw everyone else.  There is just a total lack of logical connect the dots here and it is mind bogling.

Now let’s connect the dots.  From the NYT on an article how the wealthy were shielding their money from taxation: 

With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.

The impact on their own fortunes has been stark. Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.

So who is it that wants to cut taxes on the “job creators”?  Who is it that thinks lower taxes on the wealthy results in flow down to the rest of us.  And how do they pay for them?  Slashing the very investments we need to be a strong competitor in the future.  And if it hasn’t dawned on these Hispanics who are moving up, as more and more wealth gets concentrated in a very few, our whole economy suffers because the rest of us have less to spend.  Yet these are the people they want to vote for?  So the Republicans throw a few bones out to these folks in lower taxes, and less government regulation, oh, and more school choice (for those that can afford it) and they fall in line marching to their own demise.  Yes, there is a limit to selfishness and self interest.  But they vote Republican or don’t vot at all and then are surprised at the results.

The Morning Follies

Note: Follies is my new name for what calls itself the news.  As I listened to the Follies this morning, I had this thought:  If we knew as much about economic policy as we know about Bill Cosby’s sex life and the details of his drugged rapes, this would be a different nation where no one could really tell us flow down works.  But heh, who needs economic policy and data when we can relive horrible rapes and salacious details.  Isn’t life great?

When Money Talks, People Die

I think we are starting to see the effect of the Republican anti-intellectual, anti-science drift on real people.  The denial of Global Warming is pathological, but somehow is necessary to their ideology.  Government can’t fix things and only government could deal with global warming, therefore it does not exist.  This is faith-based logic that allows an ideology of conservatism to exist in the face of science and data.  The offshoot of this is the idea that scientific findings are just another voice in the opinion market instead of reasoned logic based upon proven methods of research.

Sure there can be questions about some findings and they need to be peer reviewed.  Most are and things like global warming are no longer up for questions.  It is happening and the only questions involve the details, how much, how severe, and when.  But the result of this kind of attack on the scientific community (remember the warnings on tobacco?) has led the conservatives and their base to look at science as just another point of view.

So enter Flint Michigan where the Republican governor appointed an emergency administrator to overrule all elected officials and fix its finances.  Fix in conservative terms meaning no new taxes and cut everything.  The “smart” move was to move the water supply from a secure and clean source to the local river that would save millions.  The only problem is that the water was highly contaminated.  Citizens and concerned scientists raised the issues and pointed out the elevated levels of lead in children which will lead to irreparable brain damage.
Now comes the interesting part.  Once the problem was raised, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) went on a rampage to discredit the findings and to belittle the studies showing the problem.  It turned out that concerned citizens were in fact right, so why would an agency that is dedicated to science play lap dog to a Republican governor.  The governor, Rick Synder, made this amazing statement after finally under pressure firing the head of the MDEQ:

“I understand there can be disagreements within the scientific community,” Snyder said. “That is why I have directed both the departments of environmental quality and health and human services to invite every external scientist who has worked on this issue to be our partners in helping us to improve Flint water.” (From the Guardian)

Not really.  He talks as though scientific data is politics instead of, well data.  And in this case the science of environmental pollution is well established along with the tests to measure it.  So here is the question:  When doubts were raised, why did not the MDEQ do its job, find the water unsuitable, and return to the original water supply?  Because it was an inconvenient truth and the illogical path they have established to deny global warming is leaking into other inconvenient truths and it puts us all at risk.  If Governor Synder was a trained engineer or scientist, this would have been a no-brainer, but he is not. He is an ideological Republican and so the facts have to fit what he wants to believe, not what is.  You should be very afraid because Governor Synder is just the tip of the iceberg and is evidence by the whole Republican candidate field for President.

Yes folks, scientist can disagree, but these can be resolved by reviewing the data and further testing if the scientific method is followed, but as in the tobacco industry’s hiding of the cancer data on smoking and as we have found, Exon’s attempt to bury the facts around global warming, money drives pseudo science and for an electorate who lacks a decent education in science, this can easily fool them.  The trouble is Mother Nature cannot be fooled and reality will be what it is even if that reality is inconvenient.  Maybe it is time to bring back critical thinking and put science back where it belongs.

Another Name for the News

News, that stuff about what is happening.  But what is news and what is noise? That is the critical question we need to examine after I listened to the two big topics this morning that I don’t consider news.  First there was the kid that ran off to Mexico with his mother because his parole might be revoke.  I should be angry about the whole think since I lost a daughter to a drunk driver, but I find this something you might find in Parade Magazine.  You know, that insert into the Sunday paper with fluff news, and this was fluff news.  There is nothing to be learned here except people love to hate the wealthy, and in this case for a good reason.  Oh, and drunks are drunks and they will be again.  He should have gone to prison.

The other “big news” was that the Donald thinks Hillary is making a big mistake bringing Bill into the campaign.  Who cares what the Donald thinks? Will this help or hurt Hillary? It’s called mental masturbation. Is this news or just the interminable coverage of things Donald says that have nothing to do with policy or what he might actually do as president?    The latter and once again, there is no there, there.  Bill either will or won’t help her campaign, but what does that have to do with what matters, what her policies are as opposed to the Donald’s?  Nothing, tells us nothing, and totally wastes every one’s time.  

So back to my original point.  Since News, at least the cable version, as we know it today, is no longer news, but some sorry excuse for a rumor mill, what shall we call it?  Oh, I know, “As the World Turns”.  No wait, that was already taken by a legitimate soap opera. How about the Follies?  You know, it’s time for the Follies. It’s the 5 o’clock Follies.  It is the 24/7 Follies.  I actually think that about covers it.  At least when we finally call it what it is you won’t have any expectation you will learn anything.

A Double Edged Warning

How many of you are even aware of the major flooding in Northern England?  So the first warning is that our news has become focused on our own navel.  We know more about nonsense Donald Trump spouts which is total fiction, than we know about what is happening in the world.  The second warning is that we are so focused inward that the hard lessons they are learning are lost on us, and we will have to create our own wheel when the time comes.

The Brits have little problem in recognizing global warming and the changes it brings in severe weather patterns.  So there is very little political flack (from morons in the Republican Party) in connecting the dots and saying this is a sign of things to come and we have have to invest in flood defenses.  See any of that in the U.S.?  We have had state governments in the South ban use of global warming predictions on sea level rises to plan developments.  

That is where we have gone.  We don’t learn from others because we are oblivious to what is happening elsewhere.  That is a result of dumbing us down so one ideology can still make sense.  Can you guess which one?

Policing, At Least in Chicago

I made a joke on Facebook the other day. I said something to the effect that all you needed to know about the gun happy police in Chicago was to have watched the movie The Fugitive. Of course the movie was fiction and the police were depicted as gun happy pursuers as a narrative device to advance the plot. Police aren’t really that ready to shoot first and ask questions later, right?  

Well the prosecuted came back from the grand jury on the Tamir Rice killing with no indictment which was an indictment of the whole system of policing, at least in Chicago.  The Tamir Rice killing was a prime example of shoot first and then ask questions later.  And it is not an isolated case.  This weekend on a domestic disturbance, two people were killed, and one they admit was an accident. The lesson here is the police are the problem.

In the specific case of Tamir Rice, maybe nothing illegal was done.  Maybe a kid with what look like a gun waving it around are the protocols for using deadly force.  If that is the case, then the protocols and the whole definition of policing is totally our of whack in Chicago. The prosecutor could have said that there was questionable doubt about whether deadly force was or was not appropriate, but there is no questionable doubt that policing and the approach to this incident was inappropriate.

How did we get to the point where the motto changed for “Protect and Defend” to “Shoot Now and Ask Questions Later”? Somewhere in there it got away from public service and became us against them.  The police became a closed knit brotherhood and protects its family more that it protects the citizens who pay the bills.  It’s not working with the community for public safety, it is a war zone where shooting first is the rule of survival.

What to do about it?  Well at least in Chicago they get that it starts at the top.  Goodbye mayor.  But the real problem is an attitude that is pervasive throughout the police force.  Their allegiance is to their bother cops, not to the community they serve.  Their job first and foremost is to defuse.  Second, only use deadly force when there is no other choice.  That means risk taking and apparently as the Tamir Rice killing demonstrates, they are unwilling to take the risk of trying to defuse before killing.  That change may require a whole new police force because once an attitude like that becomes part of the fabric of being a policeman, you may need whole new fabric.

Of course there will be training, but if lower level management still tolerates the protect your own above all else, nothing will change.  The real change has to come when they see the community as part of their own.  That will require having the community and the police work together to become a team again.  Right now I don’t see that as both sides are withdrawing into themselves.  But that is what it really going to take.  Police as part of the community, and the community as part of the police.

Politics (Policies) as Usual

And you are wondering why nothing ever changes, or if you are tuned into reality, why it keeps getting worse.  Let’s start with the Republicans.  Paul Krugman had an op-Ed this morning about what the Republicans were offering, and it is George Bush on steroids.  I believe I have mentioned that many times before in this blog.  I think more and more are getting it as Ross Dothan wrote a column yesterday claiming that our “liberal” system is failing (when did we ever have a liberal system?) where most of the 500+ commenters asked, so where are any new ideas from Republican’s.  So what about Democrats, meaning Hillary?

Well things don’t get much better there as she promised no tax increases on the Middle Class (okay) but then includes those making $250,000 in the middle class.  That is actually the top 5% of wage earners. We are going to pay for government by only taxing the top 5%? Now I am not a communist.  I don’t believe that we should level incomes or that capitalism is not a viable system.  But we Americans have to get real.  There is no free ride and if you want a great country, you have to pay for it.  And no, we can not just hang the burden on the rich.  So here is the reality:

  • Capitalism is a great system, but it has to be moderated so that the rich and powerful don’t control the system
  • That leads to the fact that regulations are not bad and we need to be focused on smart government, not small government.  Note that the rich game government in their favor
  • The best way to create a really innovative culture (see Norway) is to provide a good safety net for risk.  That means:
    • Government funded healthcare
    • Government retirement system (a more robust Social Security)
    • Government subsidized (almost entirely) advanced education
  • We have to invest in our infrastructure to prepare for both global warming and the coming global market place
  • And here comes the biggie:  We all have to chip in to pay for it

There is no free ride and that is what the Republicans and some Democrats are selling you.  You want a first class country, we all have to help pay for it.  That is the vision of Bernie Sander’s, I believe.  Hillary may get it, but she wants to move the deck chairs around on the Titanic so no one gets excited.  Of course the Republicans simply want to take the Titanic and ram it into icebergs.  The 1% all have life vests.

My point is simple.  Unless we understand this basic concept, we get what we pay for, we are going to be wallowing in the mess we are currently in for many years.  On the plus side, if we made these investments, a guaranteed retirement plan based on what you pay in, healthcare that follows you for life and is not a financial burden, and education to all those capable, we will be a more productive and rich society where more of us share in the wealth and further grow the economy.  Until we are willing to embrace this simple fact, and instead of running around looking for a free ride through lower taxes (non-existent flow down), lower taxes, and less government spending as an end goal, we are going to be running in place.  Actually we are moving backwards if anyone has noticed.

Or to ask the question a different way:  Does anybody out there in the political world treat us like we are adults?

Thank God!

Statement of a man standing in debris of tornado in the Dallas area where a dead child was found thanking God for sparing him.  Shouldn’t we also thank God for the death and destruction if he saved this guy?  It is amazing to me how much denial and faulty logic is applied to hold on to the belief that there is some fairy godfather in the sky that makes your life special.