Archive for February 2016

Yeah James Kwak!

I follow James on the Baseline Scenario. He was an economist and now a lawyer who writes this blog sometimes with Simon Johnson another economist I highly respect.  They have written to really good books on the economy, 13 Bankers (the Financial crisis), and White House Burning on the debt.  They are very level-headed economists/now lawyer who have been writing common sense about our economy and quite frankly, explaining complicated economic issues for years.  Well today James came out with this that kind of surprised me.  He is for Bernie.  Here is his reasoning and I am printing it in total.  I guess I am not the only one:

I’ve written various generally supportive things about Bernie Sanders, but I hadn’t actually decided whether I preferred him or Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. I’ve been concerned about the electability thing, as well as the effectiveness thing. (I haven’t given money to either candidate because of a promise I made when neither lifted a finger to help Larry Lessig get into the debates.) But I’m voting for Sanders.

Obviously, I prefer Sanders’s positions on the big issues. Government-funded health care for everyone, universal pre-K education, affordable higher education for everyone, mandatory family and medical leave, a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on people like me—what’s not to like? I have concerns about some things around the edges, like ripping up existing trade agreements (I won’t call them free trade agreements, because they are often far from it), but there has not been a serious candidate in my lifetime with such a bold and progressive vision for America.

Clinton, by contrast, stands for . . . what again? She is running as the pragmatic defender of the Clinton-Obama status quo—which is to say, slightly to the right of the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party. Her message is basically this: I’m the only serious person in this race; it’s me, or the sack of Rome by the barbarians and one thousand years of darkness. And so, the Clinton side’s case boils down to saying, sure, we want the same things Sanders wants (lower inequality, higher wages for working people, affordable health care for everyone), but Sanders’s ideas are naïve, or impractical, or arithmetically challenged, or, worst of all, not acceptable to Paul Ryan.

So let me say a few words about that.

Do you remember Ronald Reagan? (OK, many of you don’t, but bear with me.) He ran for president in 1976 and 1980 promising lots of unrealistic-sounding things. In 1980, he said he was going to increase military spending, make government smaller, cut taxes, and balance the budget. I was eleven years old and I knew that didn’t add up. The Republican Establishment, which was still pretty strong in those days (not the punch line it is today), poked fun at him from every direction. George H. W. Bush called Reagan’s proposals “voodoo economics.” And it was nonsense: you can’t increase spending, cut taxes, and reduce deficits.

But Reagan won, and won, and won again. And even though his numbers didn’t add up, and even though he never had a majority in the House, he made huge gains for his cause. He passed one of the largest tax cuts in history and eventually reduced the top tax rate from 70% to 28%. He accelerated the deregulation movement begun under President Carter and began limiting non-defense discretionary spending; ever since then, increasing spending on domestic priorities has been an uphill struggle. He increased the size of the military. He never balanced the budget, but that was a feature, not a bug: the deficits he created only helped conservatives in the long term by creating additional pressure to limit and cut entitlement spending.

Reagan was also good for the Republican Party and for the conservative movement. He gave the party an identity it had been lacking since the Eisenhower years, one that appealed to the broad set of constituencies that has given the GOP a majority in the each house of Congress for most of the past twenty-two years. Since Reagan, every Republican presidential candidate (until Trump, perhaps) has had to pledge to continue the Reagan Revolution. No one did a better job (although many conservatives are mad about it) than George W. Bush, who slashed taxes, invaded the Middle East, and ran up deficits even further, creating the increasingly bipartisan clamor to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Now, I’m not predicting that Bernie Sanders will be as successful as Ronald Reagan. My point is just this: it’s the vision that matters, not the fine details of the campaign proposals. I have no problem with “left-leaning economists” or whoever pointing out flaws in Sanders’s proposals. By all means, let’s try to make them better. But if we want to move our party and our country in a certain direction, we have to start off by aiming in that direction.

Real change will take more than one or two presidential terms. Counting from Reagan’s first run, it’s taken the conservatives more than forty years, and they still have a long way to go. And even if Sanders turns out to be Reagan in 1976 rather than Reagan in 1980, it’s still the long-term direction of change that matters.

Thank you James.  I have been trying to say this and it has been going out into the void.  Nice to know there is someone else out here with me (bolding is mine).  If we want change, then we really do want change not some “practical” form of it that means nothing and goes nowhere.

By the way, there is a link in the original post to a letter by Gerald Friedman sent to Paul Krugman of his criticism of Professor Friedman’s analysis of Sander’s healthcare plan.  It makes fun reading.  It would appear my hero, Paul may have been too quick to the draw and even I have written to him on his biased and blind support of Hillary.  Feel the Bern Paul.

A Reckoning

Across all political spectrums (disregarding racism) what most of us would like to see is a just world where if you work hard you get ahead, innovation and brilliance are justly rewarded, and quite frankly, if you abuse the system you are justly punished.  It’s the how we get there is the big question.  But most of us agree that we need an economy that works for all of us.  Whether you think austerity works (then you’re brain-dead) or you think we really do need to do something major about economic inequality, we are all looking for economic growth.  Economist will tell us that if we can grow economically with more commerce, buying and selling, making things, then we will all profit (assuming the profits are shared equitably). But as Shakespeare once told us in Hamlet, “Aye, there’s the rub.”

There is a canary in the coal mine and it is global warming.  It is trying to tell us something profound.  It says unrestrained growth is going to end us as a species.  Now you can say we can in fact get a handle on carbon emissions and greatly reduce the threat, and theoretically we can, but so far we aren’t because economic interests and denial trump.  But that is just the tip of the iceberg.  The basic question is can we have continued unrestrained population and economic growth without putting the whole planet in jeopardy?  Is our whole economic edifice based upon growth that cannot be sustained without finally bleeding Mother Earth dry?

I don’t know the answer to that question but sooner rather than later we need to face it.  I am not talking about population control or other measures to limit our impact, I am asking a basic question about whether improvements in the quality of our lives can continue without totally destroying the planet we live on?  And I guess I really am asking whether there is a limit to population growth and in limiting that growth do we limit our potential to economically gain?  Said more simply, is there a way to use Mother Earth’s resources and continue to advance as a people in a way that sustains the planet?

We have the argument between the left and the right about the best way to grow the economy and make the world a better place, but we never ever discuss whether, regardless of who is right, does both approaches drive us off a cliff.  I want to have that discussion.  And here is what I want to leave you with:  Do you really think conservatives would consider that since they think the market place solves all problems and it just could be that the way the market place solves problems, through greed and exploitation, or just simply expanding business, might just be the problem.  Maybe humans have to enter the equation and decide what kind of growth instead of the market place.  You tell me.

The Oscars

No, I am certainly not a movie critic, but I know good acting and we have an amazing amount of talent that brings wonderful stories to us these days.  Sadly I have not seen many of them, but I have seen The Martian, Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, and will see Trumbo probably today.  I have not seen Revenant so I will withhold judgement and talk only about the ones I have seen.  There is a thread here in those three movies.  They are about us as Americans.  They put some of the best and the worst of us on display.

My favorite is The Martian.  I can watch that movie over and over again (and do).  It makes me laugh and cry, but what I loved most about this movie is that it is about what makes us unique as the human species.  It is about hope, not giving up, and faith, not in some magical being, but in our ability to us our intellect to solve problems.  It is about making the impossible possible one step at a time.  There is not an ounce of greed in it.  It is about what makes us human that if harnessed could be what saves us.

Bridge of Spies was a movie about American values, our most cherished beliefs in our Constitution.  It was about the Trump era in many ways.  Tom Hanks plays a lawyer that actually understands our most basic values and tries to defend them against calls on patriotism to throw them away.  It is also about the human experience and probably why Mark Rylance won best supporting actor.  It is nice to vilify the bad guy, but it is not that simple.  And it was a story about a great American who stood tall for our American values in a way that makes flag wavers like just about any politician disgusting.

Spotlight* to me hit the nail on the head on the sorry state of our affairs today.  On the surface it pointed out the truly evilness of the Catholic Church who lost all moral high ground in a system of child abuse where the Church became more important than the values it exposes, but underneath was a story of journalism so necessary to this country, the obstacles it faces, and what really good journalism looks like.  We would not have Donald Trump or even more broadly a Tea Party controlled Republican Party if that kind of journalism existed at any of the major networks.  But they have become profit centers when in-depth reporting costs too much and we all get dumbed down.  You know, “The Place for Politics”.  Somewhere in there should be the word “Unexamined”.  I like to think of this movie as an ensemble movie because the cast worked so well together to tell the story.

I could probably spend a whole blog talking about how the church and it’s good old boy club swept what should have been extreme moral outrage under the rug.  But that is just one example of what I call the “establishment” that affects not just our religious life, but our political and social life.  So while it was an important story about the importance of real journalism in our American life, it was also a tale about how we corrupt ourselves with echo chambers and a lack of real self-examination.

There were many more important stories told and my appetite for them is certainly wetted, but what makes me really hopeful is that so many really meaningful movies made it to the top.  I just hope many people see them and it makes them stop and think.  Mad Max is nice for its effects, but does it really tell a story about us today that makes us better people?  Actually I don’t know because I haven’t seen it yet, so maybe this is a good place to stop.

*There was one more subplot in this movie that rang a bell with me.  The truth about the church and their systematic enabling of child predators was out there for years, but it never got serious coverage.  That to me is also the state of our economy or just about any other political truth.  The general population believes what is convenient for them to believe while the truth is right under their noses and they are shocked, shocked, shocked, I tell you, when reality finally burst their bubble.  Global Warming anyone? Flow down doesn’t work? War on Drugs is a failure? Our Cuba policy? Mass incarceration as a cure for crime? Gay marriage? Oh, the list goes on forever.

Fareed, the Center, And not Getting It

Here is the thrust of Fareed Zakaria on the need to get back to the  political middle:

Across Europe, governments that occupy the center ground find themselves struggling against energized ideological movements from right and left. Centrists are under siege in the United States as well. Hillary Clinton faces the most serious left-wing challenge to a mainstream Democrat in decades. On the Republican side, the moderates have mostly collapsed.

…Why are centrists so vulnerable? The reality is that these moderate politicians have actually performed well in recent decades. Look at the challenges they have faced: the end of the Cold War, the integration of Eastern Europe, wars in the Balkans, the rise of economic competitors, the Asian economic crisis, 9/11, the global financial crisis. Western governments have steered their countries through these difficult times with skill while maintaining peace, growing economies and adapting to a new technological age.

The problem is that although they may be competent, centrists are dull, practical types. And there is always a search for romance in politics. Even amid centrist success, there are still enough problems to galvanize the romantics who believe the answer is a revolution. For Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), it is a revolution from the left; for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), it is one from the right; and Donald Trump almost magically mixes and matches the furies of both ends of the spectrum.

…But what is happening is political paralysis. The radicals and romantics might not have the power to overturn the centrist consensus, but they can place it under relentless pressure. Cameron will spend the next months consumed with opposing the forces of the “Brexit.” In the United States, the country and its political leaders have spent months debating fantasies. Meanwhile, there is no discussion of the important issues and the actual, plausible policy options to deal with them — regarding the global economic slowdown, massive infrastructure deficits, growing inequality and climate change, among others.

Oh come on Fareed.  The problem has nothing to do with dull, practical types and Bernie Sander’s is not just the opposite side of the coin from Ted Cruz.  First of all,  I understand your argument about moderation has served us well in the past, but we are not there any more.  And for most of us, things don’t look too hunky dory today with wage stagnation and ever-increasing economic and political inequality.  The economy and political middle you want to restore doesn’t exist anymore and we really do have to worry about deflation and depression.  So how do you restore an economy that no longer works for the middle class worker?

Let’s see, Ted wants a very revolutionary exclusive conservative America where religion counts for everything and espouses  extreme economic policies that have failed.  Bernie wants to help people get an education and medical care that most other countries provide and he is the extreme left?  What Fareed really fails to see is how far the “middle” has moved to the right and the struggle to find a middle just pulls us further right.  And he also fails to recognize that it takes two sides to make a middle and the right has no intention of compromising with anything.  Hillary is the reasonable middle and it has failed us with Barack.

We are never going to have that discussion of important issues because the right has already closed the door to that discussion.  They live in an alternate reality. It is not fantasy to envision a better tomorrow that other countries have, but it is fantasy to think there will ever be meaningful discussions with the Republican Party of today or that there is a middle they will accept. Wake up Fareed.  The world where the middle had a voice has been overcome by the inequality in incomes and political power and it is only the revolutionary who are going to restore it.

Sunday Morning Surprises

Sunday mornings are brutal for me.  I fast two days a week (Sunday and Monday) which includes a lemon/maple syrup/cayenne pepper drink 5 times a day and nothing else.  I usually make Sunday my weight lifting day because on Monday their is a fall off in strength and endurance.  So I start the morning with my drink, knee exercises, balancing exercises, bicycling on a stationary bike, core (crunches and leg lifts), stretching,  followed by a weight lifting routine.  No it is not fun and the best part of it is having it behind me.  Let’s face it, I enjoy eating and there will be none of that enjoyment for two days.  So on Sundays to take my mind off my torture sessions, I record and then watch CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.  Mostly I agree with him or learn something (other than that “Place for Politics” where it is the Donald Trump Show 24/7).

So this morning Fareed started off with how the world is splintering into left and right while our world has prospered in the middle, and the left and right are pie in the sky.  He is basically making an argument for the middle.  I will get to that in a few minutes in my next blog  because I think he fundamentally misses what is driving this splintering. It is not equivalent on both sides and there are real problems.  But here was the surprise.  

His first guest was Michael Hayden, ex-leader of NSA and the CIA, to talk about the government argument with Apple over unlocking their phones.  Here is where I got smacked up the side of my head.  I have opinions about General Hayden that are not favorable.  This comes mostly from his stance on torture.  So I was only listening with half an ear when to my great surprise, he is making great sense.

First he said he is not going to get into the privacy issue because he is no expert, he is a security guy.  Wow.  That is a level of self-awareness and humbleness I did not expect.  Then he said from a security point of view he kind of supported Apple’s position.  Say what?  On the security level, yes this would be helpful in this case, but it would weaken cyber security in general and this would be a bigger issue.  

He had sympathy with the argument that this is a one time event in this case, but then noted that other law enforcement agencies were waiting in line if Apple could be forced to do this.  He noted that according to Jim Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (and one I know has lied to Congress on the torture and surveillance issues) has stated that cyber threats are much more a threat to the United States than terrorism.  An then General Hayden pointed out that weakening our cyber security weakens it across the board and makes us much more vulnerable to this kinds of attacks.  So it is a trade off.

Wow, and double wow.  Not what I expected.  And then he said something that really surprised me because I had thought about this myself.  What happens if we legislate a back door into our U.S. made phones, would that make a phone made elsewhere that caters to those of us who don’t want the government into our phones illegal?  Would not a whole industry of security spring up to put our U.S. phone manufacturers at risk?  Yes, of course they would.  

Now my point here is not to argue about the Apple/Government battle.  I have already done so elsewhere.  My point is that on this Sunday morning I learned something really important for about the 100th time.  You still need to listen because no matter what you think you know, you don’t.  I guess that is what makes me a Progressive.  I am willing to listen and change my mind either about the person or the issue.  What Fareed misses in his both sides argument is that Republican no longer care about listening.  But I will attack that after I go finish the last leg of my torture, the weights.

Democrats, Democrats, Democrats

Well the picture in South Carolina is not pretty.  Yes Mrs. Clinton won by a landslide, but the vote was down from 2008.  This does not bode well for Democrats.  I hate to draw conclusions from the South since it is about 40 years behind the rest of us, but I think the writing is on the wall.  Bernie did not get out the youth vote.  There was not a voter revolution and while blacks overwhelmingly supported Mrs. Clinton, what would you have expected?  This is kind of business as usual and that is the last thing you want to hear about this election.

The real problem with this country is Republicans and politics as usual.  As long as Congress does not change, nothing changes.  For many of us, South Carolina’s results say what we are going to get is politics as usual.  If the pundits are right and the South pretty much goes for Hillary, the game is up for Bernie, and sadly for a change in our status quo.  I am not saying Hillary could not try to make ground breaking change as Bernie has already dragged her to the left.  What I am saying is without a candidate that breaks all records for turn out, it is four more years of Republican obstructionism.

The black vote in the south has been a fickle vote.  While reliably democratic, they have not come out in the numbers to be a force to be reckoned with.  In off year election they have left their state to the mercy of the Tea Party.  In my little mind, Bernie offered a message that could unite black and white voters, not around race which has never got us anywhere, but about inequality in general.  That this message did not resound down there says we haven’t learned much yet.  

Bernie without a doubt is problematic as a candidate.  He is old, white, Jewish, a social democrat, lacks foreign policy experience, and does not resonate with people in the south.  But the hope was that the message of economic inequality and having the deck stacked against the average man would get voters to wake up this time, to understand that not coming out to vote gave away the game and put the Republicans in charge.  Looking at the numbers in South Carolina, that does not appear to be the case.  

Super Tuesday could be brutal for Bernie and for Democrats if the vote is down because most people sense it is another vote in futility.  If Hillary is the nominee and if she can’t generate any excitement except in the black south and older white women, we are going to see Obama 2.0 in her presidency.  At least we can say we got a woman and a black man president while we turned our state and federal legislatures over to conservatives bent on destroying progress.  

Sorry.  I wanted to see a much closer contest with some real excitement from Democrats.  What I am feeling is business as usual and Hillary is a problematic.  With real excitement going into the convention, it could be 2008 again where you could believe in change* and more importantly understand that just electing a president would not do that.  I think if things turn to a Hillary landslide in the primaries and she falls back on playing it safe, many young Democrats will be disillusioned.   

*Here is an analysis you won’t hear anywhere else so maybe it is dead wrong.  But while I believe that Barack Obama was a decent human being who fought hard for what he believed in, I believe history will see his election as a giant missed opportunity for progress.  We had a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress and we squandered it.  President Obama’s part in this was that he badly misjudge the opposition and did not have a firm idea where he wanted to take the country.  Democrats in Congress were to timid and too moderate.  Yes we were focused on the nightmare the Republicans left us with, but even in that, we failed to make change.  Let’s take them one at a time.

We all know about the Republican leadership’s plan to make his presidency a failed one.  That meant a scorched earth policy.  Agree to nothing.  Meanwhile Barack’s failure was his basic decency.  He really believed that they gave a crap about the country and they could work together.  That was his Achilles heal that the Republicans exploited relentlessly.  And he was slow to learn from that.  Add to that, that unlike the Republicans, he thought everything was negotiable, that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, and he almost gave away the farm trying to find that middle. We were saved by the intransigence of the Republicans.

Now you can argue, and quite successfully, that he did get quite a lot done in that environment.  And that in itself is an amazing accomplishment.  I would agree.  But the end result was demoralized Democrats who failed to show up at the polls because in the end, the system was getting more unfair.  And Democrats in Congress were no better.  Their Achilles heal was the filibuster in the Senate.  Again they were slow to see the real nature of the Republicans and failed to reform it so we could make some progress.  Traditionalist prevailed.  And notheing changed and Democrats, especially young people, said why bother.  

So we are where we are today with many understanding that the system has become dysfunctional and the only way to change that is to vote for untraditional candidates we hope will change the establishment, both the Republican and Democratic establishment.  But sadly, at least in my mind, that opportunity is slipping away again.  Hope I am wrong. 

Republican Follies

Well Christie has jumped in with Trump. Looking for a VP slot maybe?  Recognizing the obvious?  And if you are going to go down in flames, at least have fodder for a book and the conservative media talk circuit.  Here is the part I find interesting:  What happened to all those Republicans who could not vote for Trump?  Well the people have spoken and the people who spoke turned out to be a nativist racist mob, but hey, they vote so what can a Republican do?  And in that group the longer he hangs on and they hear his unConstitutional babble, the more normal it seems to them. A win is a win right?  I wonder if Nazi Germany felt the same way going down their road to Hitler.

But wait!  Marco pulled up his socks! He pointed out what a mean and hypocritical businessman Trump has been.  Like this is news to who?  Well, the nativist racist mob that supports either one of them.  So they threw personal mud balls at each other and that is where the campaign on the Republican side is.  Marco did point out that Trump’s economic plan did not add up and that he has no plan after repealing Obamacare.  Again another surprise?  Trump doesn’t have any plans but to build a wall and hurl censored words at ex-President Vicente Fox of Mexico.  This is tough negotiation with foreign leaders?

But Marco has a great point, but it is the kettle calling the pot black.  What is Marco’s economic plan? Same budget busting tax cuts, along with no idea what to do after repealing the horendous Obamacare that none of them can show with data that it is horendous.  In the Republican world of these “strong” candidates, doing standup and feeding the mob insults and saying things nice people don’t usually say substitutes for leadership and real policy ideas. But hey, it is entertaining and that is what matters right? 

Republicans are stuck with their Holy Trinity, small government, low taxes (for the wealthy), and little regulation.  Tell that to the people of Flint Michigan.  It looks like they may have to call in big government after their little responsible government run like a business with little regulation poisoned them.  Oh well.  So Republicans really have nothing to run on.  As some wise pundits have pointed out, the Republican’s wealthy benefactors believe all this nonsense, but the little guy who is supporting Trump doesn’t.  Too bad when they rejected all the Trinity stuff, they didn’t reject racism, nativitism, hate and fear along with it.  You’ve got this disenfranchised group of white people rejecting the traditional candidates, but they are doing it with pitchforks and torches.

So that is where we are today.  I turned on the “news” yesterday while exercising and sure enough it was 45 minutes of straight Donald Trump at a rally insulting people.  That was follow by about 30 minutes of a Marco Rubio event with him insulting Trump.  This is not news it is The Housewives of Washington D.C., except most of the women on the Housewives shows are more clever and bitchy.

 Oh, and if you are wondering how these guys could possibly rise to the top of the heap, ask yourself why we get them 24/7 masquerading as news.  I went to Al Jazeera where I could actually find out what was going on in my own country.  So now you are up to date on the Republican side.  Tomorrow after South Carolina and before Super Tuesday I will give you my Democratic update.

David Brooks Making Sense

David wrote a piece this morning in the NYT about how dysfunctional our political system has become.  As he described it,

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

While he mentions the Tea Party, he never mentions Republicans specifically and while his whole argument mentions politicians and Congress or the Senate, he still hews to the both sides do it argument (“but not exclusive to the right”).  In the latest form of obstructionism by Republicans he describes it as,

We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. 

The Senate?  It is Republicans pure and simple.  They don’t care about democracy, if they can’t get their way, they stop all government.  His analysis that the rise of Trump and other (who?) outsiders (Bernie may be a social democrat, but he is a senator in the Senate) is correctly diagnosed as frustration by the people who want to see government work again.  But he, like the media, have failed to put their finger on the problem preferring the “not exclusive to the right” which totally misdiagnosises the problem and gives us a Trump instead of a Congress willing to legislate and compromise.

While those of us who pay attention understand that Democrats may have their flaws and nut jobs, Republicans are the real issue here and failing to point that out is why we have Donald Trump.  The both sides do it argument has badly misinformed most of our electorate and we are seeing the results.  I will leave you with what one commenter  on Mr. Brooks’ op-Ed summed up:

” The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist.” Welcome to the party, Mr. Brooks. Better late than never, I suppose. What strikes me most here is “Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years.” Actually, the disaster we enjoy now began with the GOP’s sainted Ronald Reagan. 

From his tiny bubbling brook (think the Mississippi River rising in Minnesota) came the rushing tide of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Pat Buchanan, W’s complete failure (led by Dick Cheney), culminating in today’s nightmare of Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, the now-departed John Boehner and the cast of 17 clowns clamoring to be your party’s presidential nominee. Your Republican Congress has spent the last seven years in a non-stop campaign to de-legitimize the black president. 

See, for just a few particulars: “one-term president;” the birther movement; Joe “you lie!” Wilson’s racist dog-whistle at President Obama’s very first SOTU address; Boehner’s invitation to Bibi. The cult of “antipolitics” is now loose in the land. You lament “trampling customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making.” The serial votes to repeal the ACA. Ted “Canadian Club” Cruz shuttering the government. Sarah Palin. Repealing voting rights. Gerrymandering. McConnell’s defiance of the Constitution. “We the people” are infected with the Right’s gangrenous spread. That you’re now on board is small comfort. Welcome.

Cause and Effect

In an article in my local paper about Trump supporters here in California was this:

Trump’s donors are impressed that he turned his father’s fortune into a bigger fortune, that political action committees don’t give him money, and, in the most overused term of the campaign, that he is “authentic.” They regard Barack Obama’s presidency as a disaster and think Hillary Clinton is dishonest.

So let’s take it apart.   It has been estimated that if he took his inheritance and just invested it in the stock market he might be wealthier than he is today (Slate).  Second running a microeconomy (a business) is not even close to running a macroeconomy which business people never get.  If one business does better than all the rest, on the whole, the economy suffers.  The honest part is that he is not subject to the whim of PACs, but he has used his influence and money all his life to bend the political will, so what’s the difference?  Authentic?  Oh really?  Which Trump?

Finally we have the view that Barack Obama’s presidency is a disaster (I will get to Hillary in a moment).  What is the metric upon which you base that?  If you look at macroeconomic measures, the stock market, the deficit, unemployment, considering where we came from under Republicans just like Trump, Barack has been widely successful.  If you are bemoaning dysfunctional government, you only have to look at your last Republican vote in 2014.  And income inequality?  That started under your hero Ronald Reagan and accelerated under your last President George Bush.  The real problem with the Obama Presidency is that he spent too much time trying to make government work when the Republican Party was focused on making his Presidency fail.

Hillary and dishonesty?  Yes she has change her positions on many things over the years and one could say she sails political winds.  But she has been a consistent Democrat.  Can you say the same thing about Donald Trump?  He was for abortion before he was against it.  He was for single payer healthcare before he was against it.  He was a Democrat before he was a Republican.  Are you people smoking something?  You want lower taxes and the debt taken care of right?  Have you added up the numbers on his tax plan?

I have no idea what these people are thinking because the dots don’t connect.  I think it may be that they really don’t think that much about our problems and they just want them fixed and the system is totally dysfunctional so let’s bring in someone who does not play by the rules and shake it up.  That is all well and good, but you have to have a plan and policies that might actually do that, and we don’t really know what Donald Trump believes.  What was that Judy Collins song, Send in the Clowns?

Real News and the Loss of a National Treasure

Do you know the four films nominated for documentaries at the Oscars?  Did you know that there is a hydroponic farm in Half Moon Bay that may be showing the world how to grow food that could feed the world in the future on very small plots of land? Did you hear a really great analysis of the Apple versus the FBI fight on privacy?  Did you know there is a big election in Iran and what the issues are?  Did you get a real look into the Flint Michigan water issue and what is really not being done?  How is the ceasefire going in Syria?  The progress of getting food and water into starving towns?No?

These are just a few of the stories on Al Jazeera America that tell us what is really going on in America and the world.  It is called  real news.  I can not believe we are going to lose our only access to real news on the 30th of April.  But we are the greatest country in the world right.  I think I will change channels and see if Donald Trump farted.