Archive for March 2016

John Kasich and Blah, Blah, Blah

I was working at my computer yesterday with the TV on in the background and their was an extended interview by Chuck Todd with John Kasich.  If I had not been busy with the work I was doing, I would have turned it off, but I am glad I didn’t.  Kasich is going to save us by just applying common sense to government and having the right attitude.  It was vote for me because you like me and “I will do good things for you, you know, common sense things like reducing regulations especially on small business.  You know, those businesses that employ your kids and even you.  They are the wellspring of jobs in America and I will work to reduce government’s burden on them.” I am paraphrasing here.

Wow, John showed concern and really gets that we need to get our economy going.  Really?  And just what will he get rid of, minimum wage or a requirement that you have health insurance through your employer?  I have no clue and neither does anyone else.  It is pure bullshit.  He was so in love with himself and he was just going to go out and solve every problem, well, because he has a good heart.  Let’s see that good heart slashed women’s healthcare funds and would like to ban a women’s right to choose. He wants to “uberizing government”.  By the way, that is what we did with healthcare and we have the most expensive system in the world with only middle of the road results.  Say John, where do you stand on global warming or economic inequality?  Do you really think more tax cuts are going to solve economic inequality?

It was pure love me as a personality and candidate and trust that I have your best interest at heart.  Oh, and don’t forget I have God at my back.  That is the part that should really scare you.  I want a leader he sees the complexity of issues, understands that there are hard trade offs, sometimes you may be wrong and you have to listen and carefully evaluate outcomes.  That would not be Kasich.  He is just a wonderful guy and we do not need to worry our pretty little heads about details because, well it’s God’s plan.

Speaking of God, the Supreme Court Conservative Four are morons.  As Linda Greenhouse reported today in the NYT in her analysis of the courts hearing of the case to shield nonprofit religious organizations from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to include birth control in employer health care plans pointed out, they seem clueless about the precedent they could set. As Ms. Greenberg noted:

… so the threshold question in the Zubik case is whether the religious nonprofits are substantially burdened by the requirement that they inform the government of their objection to covering contraception. Their claim is that as a matter of religious doctrine, informing the government is the first link in a chain of events that makes them complicit in the sin of contraception.

If you buy that, then any sincerely held belief can be the same as a religious belief, and as such, can then be used to avoid federal law:

Really? Any belief counts, as long as it’s sincere? Any belief, no matter the consequences to third parties who don’t share the belief? Given judges’ extreme diffidence about questioning the basis for any religious belief, that’s a not-implausible reading of a statute that only the much-missed Justice John Paul Stevens had the nerve to call unconstitutional. In a concurring opinion 19 years ago, Justice Stevens said that because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gave churches “a legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain,” the law amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. “This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion,” he wrote then, “is forbidden by the First Amendment.”

This whole case is a result of their stupidity and ignorance in the Hobby Lobby case.  They are assuming religion is what they are familiar with, you know, acceptable religion, but that is the slippery slope.  I think Linda had it dead on about what they are about, “getting the Supreme Court to interpret the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to mean anything they say it means.”  And that is what you get with conservatives running America. Religious freedom is quite alright as long as it is a religion we approve.  This election really is very important.  That 9th Justice is going to be critical. 

The ISIS Strategy

We hear a lot about how President Obama does not have a clear strategy for defeating ISIS.  I would agree, but I understand the problem.  I will put it this way:  Say we defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, then what?  It is the ‘then what’ that is so hard.  If you don’t fill the vacuum and put something in place that removes the hopelessness that creates ISIS recruits, you are just clearing the decks for round 2.  

Now I have opined that they only real way to deal with Islamic terrorists is for the Islamic community to soundly reject them as part of their religion.  By soundly I mean root them out, throw them out, turn them in, cut off their support structures.  That would be the most effective way, working with Western governments, to stem the tide of terrorism.  Of course Western governments would also have to find a better way to integrate these Muslims into their societies.  Their will always be outliers, like the San Bernadino attack, but if their were an active and loud repudiation of these acts from most of Islam, it might just have made them stop and think.

But back to the war in the Middle East.  Republicans are telling us they will be much tougher offering war crimes as a solution.  Bernie wants to avoid entanglement, and Hillary, if her past tells us anything, wants a more aggressive approach. All, except the Republican War crimes (bomb them till the glow, torture everyone) might have short term benefits, but that is not the question.  The question is what then?  What comes after?

In Iraq there was no al Qaeda, we created them by putting in a Shiite government and exiling all the Sunnis.  When we recognized our mistake, the damage was done.  The issue is whether Shiites and Sunnis can work together.  So far the question has been answered as a firm no.  And as long as their are warring parties vying for control, the opening for the next al Qaeda, ISIS, or whatever is there.  The real question is how do you bring a 5th century theocracy into the 21st century, with a basic understanding of humane rights, tolerance, and Justice not defined as retribution?

If I had the answer to that one, I would not be sitting on top of a hill in the middle of a vineyard in Apple Hill.  I would be beating down doors to get someone to listen to me.  There must be an answer because the blow back from the on-going strife in Europe and the spread of ISIS to other countries is simply not acceptable.  One thing is for sure, continuing to arm them is a major mistake.  I frankly don’t have much hope for the Middle East for many years to come as you see riots in Pakistan protesting the death by hanging of a murderer who killed a government official who criticized blasphemy laws.

In America, well most of America, we take religious tolerance for granted.  But even here we have a tendency to backslide if we are not careful.  See states trying to pass anti-gay laws or refusing to follow the law giving them equal rights.  We evolved during the Elightenment to take religion our of government.  It may be another three or four hundred years before East Asia gets there or they simply kill each other off.  So if our end game is to be involved over there for another three or four hundred years while they learn the lessons of the West, good luck with that.  Now you see why an ISIS strategy is so hard.  

Some Economic Thoughts

First, here in California there appears to be a deal to move the minimum wage to $15/hr by 2022.  On the face of it, that seems fairly reasonable.  The headlines went something like this:

  • Hourly wage would increase to $15 an hour by 2022
  • Announcement comes days after November ballot measure qualifies
  • Business groups call plan ‘reckless’

Now I will be the first one to say that people should earn a living wage, and if that includes price increases for the rest of us, so be it.  One has to wonder what business groups think is a fair wage, slavery?  But there is a point to consider.  A living wage in San Francisco is different from a living wage in Fresno.  In other words for small businesses the impact could be large in some low income areas.  Will it cost jobs?  Maybe, but one has to consider the overall impact.  In this particular bill the Governor has some flexibility to suspend the raises in bad economic times, and those companies with less than 25 employees get a little extra time.

But all in all we ought to try it.  The trouble with ‘Business groups’ and conservatives in general is they don’t want to try anything, and by doing this through the legislative process instead of the ballot measure, this allows for legislative adjustments later.  It is called moving forward and trying to help all working people, not saying no to any change because it hurts your perceived bottom line.  It’s called progress.

Meanwhile in the Trade arena there were two good pieces yesterday on a rational approach to trade policy.  One was by Neil Irwin which I highly recommend.  He did an excellent job of explaining the complexities of trade policy to understand the pros and cons of each deal. Economists will quibble about some details here, but it is a good overview.  The other was one by Paul Krugman who gave a higher level argument that it is irrational to just say no to trade deals.  When you got done, you are asking, so what is the metric I should use to understand these things.  I think I have an answer to that.

Our biggest problem, besides global warming, is growing economic inequality.  It is not a natural phenomenon, but one aided and abetted by policy.  Money attracts more money (it takes money to make money) but how those gains are shared is where policy comes in.  Denmark, Sweden, and Finland all have about the same inequality before taxes as we do, but tax policy redistributes those gains more equitably throughout their society.  So it’s a choice.

Looking at trade policy, one could apply the same metric:  Does it increase economic inequality or does it share the gains across all Americans?  Trade policies, as Neil Irwin pointed out, impact many things including foreign affairs so they are not going away.  But in the past while they increased our GDP, that increase went to corporations and the wealthy with cost being born by middle class wage earnings.  The latest one (TPP) was negotiated by corporations so we should not expect it to be any different.  The challenge is to either adjust the trade agreement to more equitably spread its benefits or use other policies such as tax law to accomplish the same thing.  Onward.

When you are angry and you want simple answers to complex problems, well, you are more than likely to make things much, much worse.


Gazing at Your Navel

It was a fun weekend watching the media, Republicans, and even Democrats explain the rise of Trump.  So before I comment on their “reasons”, let just say that Donald Trump has used racism, nativism, xenophobia, fear and hate to lure a populist crowd who are unhappy with politics in America that has not served them (the White Mob).  But he has no rational polices or plans, he has exposed his lack of real understanding of foreign affairs, and his domestic policies other than building a wall are figments of his imagination.  So not to get ahead of myself, but you have to ask, okay, you are angry and mad, so why go with a lunatic who trashes the Constitution and incites violence and hate?

And that is the real question.  How are people attracted to someone so loathsome with authoritarian tendencies?  Said another way, how did America get so dumbed down that this man is appealing to them?

Let’s start with the press.  Generally they are unapologetic for the 24/7 coverage of Donald Trump which they have provided him, seemingly blind to the reality that if you say it enough, people will think it is true.  But the press decries he was the news!  So saying what is outrageous is news!  One thoughtful reporter this weekend pointed out that the press did not have a partisan (left or right) bias, but a conflict bias.  It is viewership driven in corporate media and Trump raised viewership and in doing so, hijacked all news coverage.

But when he was spewing a lie every 5 minutes, couldn’t they have fact checked him?  While some pundits who are appalled at his rise have pointed this out, media coverage seems to still let him spew his bile without any aggressive fact checking whatsoever, and some have noted, at this point his followers so distrust the media the they are impervious to fact checking anyway.  They are drunk on rebellion.

Meanwhile why did the press write him off and miss his impact in this election?  The press’s explanation for this is that news media has concentrated itself in pundit land and there were not real reporters out in the field interviewing real people instead of incestuous punditry babbling.  Okay, there was a real populist outcry that politics was not serving them and they missed it because they have cut their staffs to maximize profits, but why Trump and not Bernie?

Well, I will get to that, but next I want to laugh a little at the Republicans.  They are screwed.  Now they say they should have been more attuned to their White Mob who they were ignoring. As a great article this morning  in the NYT tells us:

In dozens of interviews, Republican lawmakers, donors, activists and others described — some with resignation, some with anger — a party that paved the way for a Trump-like figure to steal its base, as it lost touch with less affluent voters and misunderstood their growing anguish.

The trouble with this analysis is that the Republican Party elite are in denial about how to help them.  You have the “real” conservatives just thinking more of the same small government, less regulations, and low taxes for the job creators will work if we just do it harder.  But what the White Mob is telling them is that not only does it not work, but they like big government when it comes to things that benefit them.  What I call the Republican trinity (small government, less regulations, low taxes) does not serve them at all. And that is why Republicans say if Donald Trump is elected, the Republican Party will no longer be the party they recongnize.  In short, their philosophy, no their religion, has failed the middle class.  From the same NYT article:

They have to come to terms with what they created,” said Laura Ingraham, a conservative activist and talk-radio host. “They’ll talk about everything except the fact that their policies are unpopular.”

Not just unpopular Laura, they don’t work. Republicans have no answers. So how do Democrats explain the Trump phenomenon, and in particular why they haven’t come over to the Democratic side?

Democrats, and rightly so, focus on the racism, nativism, misogyny, and xenophobia that the Republican Party has whipped up for years to harness this base. It is somebody else’s fault our policies aren’t working.  This hate and blame politics is simply not transferable to the Democratic Party.

But there is another factor at work that Democrats do not want to admit.  There are Democrats and Republican who could go either way with Bernie or the Donald.  That is about establishment politics that have failed the middle class in the country.  Now again Bernie has actual plans, and the Donald, well he is very smart, just ask him.  So what is up with this anti-intellectual approach to hating the establishment that drives them to trump besides blame and hate?

And that brings us back to the basic question, with neither side in touch with the real anger in America or a failing country (70% now say we are on the wrong path), why do a large portion of the public swing toward an authoritarian hate monger with no real plans that survive scrutiny?  That is the real question and one they all dodge.  The media/pundits love to tell us the base is angry as though that is a justification for being mindless, but why are they so irrational that their choice is a disaster?  More importantly why doesn’t the media criticize that choice?

Nobody to my knowledge is answering that question so I will take a shot at it.  First, everything the White Mob has supported has failed with Republicans.  Republican ideology which has held sway in this country does not work for anyone but rich people and they now get that.  Democrats have enabled Republican ideology by compromising away what they stand for and no longer represent the middle class either.  Okay, so far we have the basic ingredients for change, but back to the basic question, why irrational and self-destructive change?

I believe the answer to that lies in two places.  The major part is the strategy of the Republican Party to dumb us down through think tanks, conservative media, and Fox News which has had a total disdain for rational thought or fact checking (selective fact checking), and corporate media that through its need for viewership and market share went along with this. That was where he said/she said media coverage came from that rewarded the loudest shouter and was fearful to offend the crazies for losing access.

They abrogated their role of news as getting the facts so news became pick your opinion. The greatest example of this was their coverage of global warming where the science has never been in question (just how severe) and yet they presented it as “differing opinions” to not offend science deniers.  Apply this to policy discussion and you see where facts no longer mattered, just opinions.  Clean coal anyone? See how the energy companies used similar tactics of big tobacco to deny global warming.  It was the same approach for justifying Republican policies in general.  Critical thinking went out the window.

The major way that Republicans could control and command the White Mob was to blame everyone else for the failure of their economic policies.  They used their large megaphone provided by our media to vilifying government, the poor, others to include blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, whoever.  And they so vilified the press that facts no longer mattered.

Welcome to the White Mob and Trump supporters who are now totally immune from facts, rational discourse, or critical thinking.  To a very minor extent Democrats helped them because their  strategy of accommodation and compromise never drew clear lines to differentiate themselves from the Republican Party.

So, if I am right, the real question is how do we fix this.  How do we make media responsive to facts as opposed to viewership and market share drivers.  The very soul of participatory democracy is an informed electorate who can use critical thinking skills and that is the very opposite of what we are seeing.  How do we get a responsible media back that reports facts and gives us real news and analysis?  I am not concerned about the Donald.  He, along with the Republican Party are self destructing.

But if we are going to move forward to discussing real policy issues based on facts and rational analysis, we are going to have to do something about corporate media where the profit motive has once again led us astray. Oh, and don’t expect them to do any soul searching.  After justifying Bush’s thrust into Iraq, they could find no fault with their coverage.

The Democrats’ Last Chance

This really could be it, this election.  Not winning it, because I doubt that is an issue anymore for Democrats, but really changing anything. I don’t really think Hillary or those who want to work inside the system can.  I think she is too much a part of that system.  She was probably the right choice in 2008 and the wrong choice in 2016.  And she totally misses why young people love Bernie and why when and if the Democrats fail, they will lose them forever.  But I get ahead of myself.

Let’s face it.  I am an old guy and women love to tell me I don’t get Hillary  because I judge Hillary with a different metric that is not fair. Older women are very angry about how they have been treated in their lives, the double standard, and they see Hillary as their avatar.  So if you are against Hillary you don’t respect what they have had to put up with, how hard fought their gains have been, how Hillary has been their beacon.  Maybe that is true, but I don’t care.  It is not about who gets the merit badge, it is about who really speaks for tomorrow.  More importantly, it’s about who can get us to tomorrow.  Hillary is part of the establishment and if Bernie and I are right, the establishment is the problem.

I have argued that the Democratic establishment has failed us.  In trying to be reasonable, they have lost ground.  Without firm principles, they have no principles.  If what they can get is good enough, they are lost.  They have let the other side set the agenda and they have slowly been pulled into the abyss.  It is why young people feel no special obligation towards Democrats.  The Establishment has proven to sell them out every time.  In a McClatchy News article the other night, they had this to say about the establishment:

What is the establishment? Nationally, eight in 10 people told a McClatchy-Morning Consult poll this month it includes members of Congress. Similar numbers cited the Democratic and Republican parties, political donors, Wall Street bankers and the mainstream media.

They split on whether Trump, a billionaire real estate developer who’s thrived in the New York business world, was part of the establishment, but seven in 10 said Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton was.

The article went on to accurately describe what we all know, the establishment is about who plays the game for money and access, who has the access, who are the winners, and the establishment is seen as THE problem, defining what serves them as what is good for the country.  And I, Bernie, and apparently Matt Taibbi see Hillary as the ultimate member of the establishment.  Matt wrote an amazing article describing why Rolling Stone had endorsed Hillary, why they were wrong and should maybe listen to young people, and I think he nailed it.  Then he nailed why young people may be right about Bernie and why the caution and thinking conservative with Hillary could be a path to the ultimate failure.  I will give you some of his better passages, but the article is well worth reading:

The new Democratic version of idealism came in a package called “transactional politics.” It was about getting the best deal possible given the political realities, which we were led to believe were hopelessly stacked against the hopes and dreams of the young.

In fact, it was during Bill Clinton’s presidency that D.C. pundits first began complaining about a thing they called “purity.” This was code for any politician who stood too much on principle. The American Prospect in 1995 derisively described it as an “unwillingness to share the burden of morally ambiguous compromise.” Sometimes you had to budge a little for the sake of progress.

Jann describes this in the context of saluting the value of “incremental politics” and solutions that “stand a chance of working.” The implication is that even when young people believe in the right things, they often don’t realize what it takes to get things done.

But I think they do understand. Young people have repudiated the campaign of Hillary Clinton in overwhelming and historic fashion, with Bernie Sanders winning under-30 voters by consistently absurd margins, as high as 80 to 85 percent in many states. He has done less well with young African-American voters, but even there he’s seen some gains as time has gone on. And the energy coming from the pre-middle-aged has little to do with an inability to appreciate political reality.

Instead, the millions of young voters that are rejecting Hillary’s campaign this year are making a carefully reasoned, even reluctant calculation about the limits of the insider politics both she and her husband have represented.

For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.

And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.

Taibbi took us through the history of what I would call the Democratic failures, and did it so much better than I could, drawing a clear distinctive line between “progress” and progressives that Hillary and her supporters do not get.  The idea that we can change the system with establishment politics is just not viable and not believable to most young people, or to me.  A return to establishment politics with a more seasoned negotiator just won’t work.  Young people get that and they reject it. And here is the huge mistake Democrats are making:  The future is those young voters and to give us Obama 3.0 could turn them off from politics forever.  As Matt put it:

Young people don’t see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can’t even see it anymore.

Today in Wisconsin after his win in Washington, Bernie gave a barn burner of a speech about what could and should be.  It was not about political possibilities given Republican obstructionism, but what we should do, not worrying about polls, focus groups, or middle America. He just spoke what is obvious to most of us. It was a refreshing for me to listen to him and be an American again, dream big, and fight for what is right, not settle for what won’t really fix anything, or address the underlying problem itself, money in politics and establishment politics to serve that master. You go Bernie.

Economic Inequality

So what’s the big deal?  Capitalism is built on the idea that better ideas get rewarded better.  So the system is built on economic inequality.  With Communism, everybody gets treated the same in terms of goods and services, is a failed system. We know it does not work. So what is Bernie yapping about? And don’t most European nations have the same economic inequality as we have here (Yes, but before taxes.  They use the tax code to level the system)?

Well, it is fairly straight forward.  First the facts.  Sure capitalists need proper reward to incentivize their risk.  And the idea that any of us can be rich if we just are able to capitalize on the right idea drives the economy.  But just how much economic inequality is tolerable before we have slaves and Pharaohs?   Well, as Bernie keeps tell us:  “America now has more wealth and income inequality than any major developed country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is wider than at any time since the 1920s.”  The top 1% is taking home over 22% of the entire pre-taxed income:

Then Bernie tells us:  “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.”  Again here is the data to back that up:

So what’s the problem, they spend it right?  That would be trickle down and no they do not.  Or where they spend it does not invest and create jobs (the financial sector). As more and more wealth accumulates with the wealthy, there is less and less for everyone else.  Now there are a couple of things to think about here.  If more and more of the gains in our economy go to the wealthy, and the rest of us have little to show for it, who spends all that growing income to fire up the economy?  That may be one reason why we see recoveries from recessions much slower than they use to be.  Secondly, if you are going to invest your gains, would you invest in America where wages and demand is slowly growing if at all, or in growing economies in the rest of the world?

Okay fine.  But I would argue one other really bad impact of economic inequality.  Capitalists hate being capitalists.  They fight and compete for the better mouse trap and that is what keeps the system innovating and capital flowing to better ideas right?  That’s the theory, but in reality businesses really don’t like risk, so they maneuver to reduce the business risk by eliminating the competition through trade mark and intellectual property laws, utilizing their size to price competitors out of the market, or control the flow of information about their product (cigarette companies, petroleum companies), or they use their influence to control laws and regulations that favor them.  And now we enter the world of money in politics.

Economic inequality coupled with a political system that thrives on donations to exist, and you have a train wreck.  Money is power in such a system, our system.  That is why the voters are not going to change the system.  That is why the White Mob was created.  If money in politics can influence votes on major issues, and can control both the flow of information and local elections, then money is power.  As more and more wealth is accumulated with few and fewer people, so does influence and power in our political system.

So a system that protects economic inequality at the expense of the 99% is what we would expect, and it is what we got.  Did you see Democrats protecting the Paycheck Lending firms in Florida?  Did you see Democrats talking about “clean coal”?  Did you see Democrats tell you that 2nd Amendment  fantasy rights have to be protected?  That is money in politics.  We expect that from Republicans, well because they created the White Mob to feed red meat to keep them voting Republican when their real benefactors are the 1%, but Democrats?

So the only conclusion is that as economic inequality keeps growing, so does the dysfunction in our economy and in our political system.  You can draw your own conclusion about whether you think this system can be fixed with a Hillary who will work within the system to fix it, or a Bernie who requires a voter revolution to fix it, but fix it we must or what you are witnessing on the Republican side is just the beginning.

Being Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the Dark Ages

That might be what we could entitle the times we live in.  Of course the most obvious example is ISIS and their plan for a religious kingdom enslaving women as sex slaves.  Everybody wear a beard, wear dowdy clothes, and believe exactly the same things.  Right out of the 5th Century.  But closer to home we have Republicans who have not only taken us back to the sandbox (your mother wears combat boots!), but have a dogmatic belief system, and want to enslave women.  You think I jest?

The sandbox thing I don’t need to repeat.  Pick up a paper or turn on the news and somebody is kicking sand into someone else’s eyes.  It is quite embarassing to be a Republican right now or for that matter an American if these guys represent our country.  Although I am not against a “hot” First Lady, I actually thought we got one with Michelle Obama.  Issues?  What issues?  But that is the point of all the sexual and other mud slinging.  Oh, and getting 24/7 news focus.  For God’s sake don’t saying boring things about policy that would wreck our economy or involve us in a trade war or real war, not to mention how we will control women’s bodies.  The news channels will fall asleep.

Then there is everybody has to have the same faith, conservative dogma.  That would be global warming does not exist, except it does; gay marriage is an affront to their social values; more religion in government and less science and data; abortion should be abolished, government, all government is bad; trickle down in the form of low taxes to the wealthy works, except it never has; all government regulations are bad; balanced budgets paid for by raping entitlement programs; and of course fear, fear of terrorists, fear of Mexicans, fear of Democrats is their prime motivator.  If you don’t hold those, you are not a true conservative, which with Donald all over the map is why they claim he is not a true conservative.

But wait!  One of the candidates has done his best to restrict women’s family planning and reproductive health care in his state and that would be “moderate” Governor Kasich.  The other government official, Senator Ted Cruz, tried to shut down the government to control women’s bodies.  As for the Donald, who knows?  He has been all over the map.  Meanwhile out in the States our Republican governors are out there doing their best at resurrecting the Middle Ages.  Governor Scott in Florida just sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood Clinics where abortions are performed.  They already don’t fund the abortions, but now they can cut off funding to reproductive health and family planning.

Meanwhile in Georgia and North Carolina they are passing laws to make it okay to fire someone based upon their sexual preference.  Oh, it is all under the guise of protecting our young daughters from fake women, but the reality is they are trying to turn back tolerance, plain and simple. These are bills that allow discrimination based upon religion. Governor Pence in Indiana just signed a bill to limit reasons for an abortion (no longer just up to the mother) and make sure the fetal tissue cannot be used for research.  He signed it while praying.  ISIS has nothing on us.  Overt or covert slavery, pick your poison.

So there you have it in a nutshell.  Republicans have been trying to drag us back to the Dark Ages and if they can’t get that stuff passed, they block anything that might move us forward.  And you though ISIS was scary.

David Brooks Friday

It is my favorite time, David Brooks Friday.  And today’s op-Ed was a doozy.  Basically David has accepted now that the Republican Party has blown up and he is, well, giddy about new beginnings:

This is a wonderful moment to be a conservative. For decades now the Republican Party has been groaning under the Reagan orthodoxy, which was right for the 1980s but has become increasingly obsolete. The Reagan worldview was based on the idea that a rising economic tide would lift all boats. But that’s clearly no longer true.

Now David is basically saying that Ronnie brought us clarity, but that model no longer works, and Republicans have to go through a crash before they can reboot.  Of course it’s nonsense.  Ronnie had a failed model and rising economic tide never lifted all boats and his mantra that government is the problem was catastrophic for the challenges we faced.  So we are in basic denial that conservative economic ideology never worked, except of course for the 1%.

Now David goes through this methodolog about how we hold on to old models, the model fails, and finally patching does not work, and then there is a new model:

 There’s a period of normal science when everybody embraces a paradigm that seems to be working. Then there’s a period of model drift: As years go by, anomalies accumulate and the model begins to seem creaky and flawed.

…Then there’s a model crisis, when the whole thing collapses. Attempts to patch up the model fail. Everybody is in anguish, but nobody knows what to do.

That’s where the Republican Party is right now. 

He points out the Trump is the lynch pin, but Trump has no new ideas and so is the final cog in the crash.  Then there is the new beginnings:

At that point the G.O.P. will enter what Kuhn called the revolution phase. During these moments you get a proliferation of competing approaches, a willingness to try anything. People ask different questions, speak a different language, congregate around a new paradigm that is incommensurate with the last.

Heard any new ideas from Republicans?  Actually we have heard new ideas, but they have all been in the Democratic Party.  Conservatism has simply failed and Ronald Reagan who swept in its “great” ideas were actually a great con game that promised everyone a free ride (cut taxes and money will just flow), and the con is over.  The rich in this giant pyramid scheme did quite well and the rest of us were left holding the bag. The White Mob is now revolting.  Now they have to find a new con, Trump is the latest variation, and that will fail too.  

Understand where and what the Republicans have been up to.  We have a large White Mob who is intellectually bankrupt because they created it to maintain their failed model.  So it won’t reinvent itself.  It may just have to go back to moderation instead of obstructionism or what we these days call moderate Democrats.  Big ideas have big consequences and moderation is sometimes an important element in social change because of unintended consequences.  But Republicans have been about killing all big ideas and maintaining the status quo.  In doing that they killed rational debate, science, and data in their thought processes.  There is no rising from the ashes for this crowd and we should not mourn them.

Oh, and David, just become a Democrat.  There is plenty of debate and division to maintain the two party system.

The Cartoon World We Live in

If you are not terrified that one of the Republican clowns might actually get to be President after watching their response to the bombings in Brussels, you might want to consider how Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republicans in the “tame” Senate has turned over approval of our next Supreme Court Justice to the NRA.

Oh, and on a lighter note Marsha Blackburn, Republican from Tennessee heading the House special committee on the investigation of the use of fetal tissue, (you remember where Republicans accused Planned Parenthood of selling the tissue and then all the investigations absolved them), is in a witch hunt to get the names of all scientists involved in fetal tissue.  Another blacklist?  Are they going to set back research and the cure for debilitating diseases for years?  Not to worry, other countries are getting ahead of us so there will be a cure to debilitating diseases if you immigrate.  And worst of all there are people out there who would and do vote for these people.

And no this is not both sides do it.  These are Republican idiots who the people in America put in charge of our Congress.  And like handing the keys of the new car over to a 12-year old, they are in the process of wrecking the car and everything in their path.  If you don’t like the direction the country is going in, look in the mirror.  Somebody put these clowns in charge of Congress and the one thing I know is that it was not me.  And if you vote Republican you are complicit. They run in packs. See who in desperation is endorsing the nut-job Cruz.

I think the most offending thing I heard was the Donald saying we need to torture these terrorists to get the facts.  Here is something I really know something about.  I was trained to resist torture.  I debriefed people who were tortured.  It doesn’t work for intelligence.  Sooner or later you will tell them anything they want to hear, not necessarily the truth mind you.  And anyone anticipating torture can be trained to resist it.  To fabricate lies believable enough to send them on a wild goose chase while real damage is done.  Anyone suggesting torture works is a fool. They are also morally depraved.

Oh, and Jeb endorses Ted Cruz who is Donald Trump only smarter so he knows he is lying to you.  He knows the President can’t patrol Muslim neighborhoods because he does not have that Constitutional Authority.  And he knows that instead of assimilating and accepting Muslims into our culture,  isolating them would result in more disaffected people, not more security.  So why does he make up this stuff?  Meanwhile the last man standing Kasich sounds normal until you talk to him about economics and he is off balancing budgets, uberizing government, and causing another Great Depression.

But wait!  Paul Ryan admitted he was wrong about poor people!  They really are not looking for a hammock and most really are hard working people (who need their safety nets).  Is that a glimmer of hope in Republican madness?  Of course not.  His plans for the country have not changed one iota.  Tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by gutting the things that help the poor.  It is not what they say, it is what they do. It turns out that in the end 99% of us really are in the 47% in their minds.

Yes Virginia, there is evil in the world and it goes by two names, Republican and Conservatives.  We need to drive a stake through their itty-bitty hearts if we can find them, their hearts that is.

Those Amazing Republicans

In Europe when the experts are asked why are Muslim European communities so much more involved in sending fighters to Syria and homegrown terrorist activities, the experts’ answers are very consistent:  European communities in central Europe have done a terrible job of integrating and assimilating Muslims.  They have marginalized and isolated Muslim communities where Muslim unemployment dwarfs unemployment in rest of their communities.  So what is the Republican response in this country to the Brussels attack?  Short answer:  Measures that will marginalize and isolate Muslims in this country.  All right guys!  Good to see you are still fact challenged and doing things that would make things worse not better. Consistency in government is a good thing right?