Archive for November 2016

Did Not Get the Memo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Passing of the Flag

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

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

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

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

So when the Donald tweeted:

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

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

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

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

The State of the State

I seldom watch the news anymore as it is worthless.  If you turned on the 24/7 news yesterday morning they had a shooter at Ohio State with claims of multiple shooters.  By the afternoon it turned out it was one guy with a car and a knife and while he hurt 11 people, the whole episode lasted about 1 minute.  So why does news report wild speculation and rumor?  Welcome to infotainment and the state of our television news media today.  In the same breath you might ask why we elected Donald Trump, and the answer would be the same, infotainment.

Watching this post-election, oh what should I call it, follies, I am thinking Alice in Wonderland had nothing on us.  A convicted criminal (General Petraeus) is being considered for Secretary of Defense.  But Hillary needs to be jailed.  The guy for Secretary of Human Health and Services, Tom Price, has led a charge against Obamacare.  Oh what a caring individual. And of course they have no plan to replace it because without maximizing insurers, it doesn’t work and we can’t pay for it.  The press is camped outside the Trump tower watching the beauty contest and reporting on the Soap Opera instead of really evaluating what these people stand for and are they qualified to do the job.

And that is the most astounding thing, they are not qualified.  Most are ideologues that take positions based on their ideology, not the facts.  Do you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I was in high school and I lived in Virginia at Langley AFB.  My Dad was a Colonel in the AF and he advised me to have a survival kit in my school locker.  That is how close we were to a nuclear war.  According to historians, President Kennedy put together an executive committee to decide the right action and they argued for weeks finally settling on the blockade that ended the whole thing.  But now we know that had we attacked Cuba, the Russians had given their launch crews the order to fire all their missiles.  That what was being argued and we were that close and now we have impulsive President Trump who does not care about facts.

The media keeps trying to normalize him with arguments about how we are past the election and he does now seem to be more presidential, except the facts don’t support that.  Read his tweets about the 1 million illegal votes and you understand that he is not in touch with reality.  First he wins the vote, then he questions its legitimacy, then claims the recount in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are bogus, which is it?  Meanwhile the press continues to legitimize this whole thing by calling a white supremacist movement the alt-right as though if you sanitize the words, you sanitize their meaning.  Actually, I think Alice in Wonderland is too subtle.  Maybe George Orwell’s 1984.

I can’t imagine anything competent or workable will come out of this band of, no not rivals, ideologues.  If you do not have the facts at hand, or only the facts that serves your ideology, you are unlikely to come up with a policy that really works, except for the few you really serve.  I don’t know what else to tell you.  We keep watching these follies and pretending these are normal folks and one has to ask, have we lost our minds?

Let’s Not Reinvent History – Cuba

Fidel Castro was a tyrant and a communist who denied basic rights and imprisoned many people, some killed.  On the other hand did you know that prior to the reign of Fidel, the country was under the leadership of Fulgencio Batista:

Batista suspended the 1940 Constitution and revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor Cubans. Batista’s increasingly corrupt and repressive government then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba’s commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with the American Mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana, and with large US-based multinationals who were awarded lucrative contracts. To quell the growing discontent amongst the populace—which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and demonstrations—Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions; ultimately killing anywhere from hundreds to 20,000 people. For several years until 1959, the Batista government received financial, military, and logistical support from the United States.

It was economic inequality run wild and corrupt business interests and the United States was propping it up.  I guess flow down did not work then either.  So along comes Fidel who sees corruption everywhere and has had enough of that kind of capitalism.  I also believe he believed in communism as an answer to helping all the people.  But like all leaders, somewhere along the way he got lost in ego and power and did not let Cuba evolve.  But in the meantime Cuba did some things you don’t hear much about. Here is from Guardian:

Thanks to universal and free education and healthcare, however, Cuba boasts first-world levels of literacy and life expectancy. The comandante made sure the state reached the poorest, a commitment denied to many slum-dwellers across Latin America.

Idealism sparkles in places such as Havana’s institute for the blind where Lisbet, a young doctor, works marathon shifts. “We see every single one of the patients. It’s our job and how we contribute to the revolution and humankind.”

And from the Daily News about Fidel’s absolute dedication to racial equality:

The South African racial justice hero Nelson Mandela, who was released from prison and went on to become the country’s first black leader, traveled to Cuba in 1991 to personally thank Fidel Castro and the Cuban people for their support in fighting apartheid and colonialism. Through the turning of the last century, Cuba remained a significant presence in Africa, providing medical assistance and trying to strengthen diplomatic bonds.

Did you know that more Cuban doctors responded to the Ebola crisis than from any other country? The downside was  material scarcity. For ordinary Cubans things tend to be either in short supply, such as transport, housing and food, or prohibitively expensive, such as soap, books and clothes. Castro blamed the hardship on the US embargo, a longstanding, vindictive stranglehold which cost the economy billions. However, most analysts and many Cubans say botched central planning and stifling controls were even more ruinous.

Despite overtures to the United States and encouragement of micro businesses since then, the state still controls the lion’s share of the economy and pays an average monthly wage of less than $20. This has forced many to hustle extra income however they can, including prostitution and low-level corruption. The lucky ones earn hard currency through tourism jobs or receive dollars from relatives in Florida. (Most of this was borrowed from the Guardian although I cut and pasted from different sections of the article).

So as we celebrate Fidel’s demise, remember that he rescued people from the grips of out of control cronyism aided and abetted by the United States and he tried to find a better way.  There is an analogy to our country today where economic inequality is also getting out of control, the wealthy have been put in charge, their man in the White House, and they refuse to evolve their politics to deal with reality.  Instead of turning to communism we are turning to extreme capitalism.  Of course no one will admit there is an analogy to Cuba only on the capitalism side here.

The most amazing thing to me is not to see the lessons here, that good government for the people is a balance of the two, each controlling and balancing the other so merit still works, and people have an honest chance to be recognized for their merit.  But all that will be swept aside as we pay attention to Florida Cubans who many are descendants of the wealthy that benefited from Batista and got out just in time.  My guess is not much will change till Raul, Fidel’s brother dies and then leadership transfers out of the family hands.  It is anybody’s guess what Trump will do.  Probably build another hotel and reinstitute the good times (for rich mobsters) when Batista was alive.

Hacking the vote, NOT!

The Clinton campaign held out little hope of success in any of the three states, and said it had seen no “actionable evidence” of vote hacking that might taint the results or otherwise provide new grounds for challenging Donald J. Trump’s victory. But it suggested it was going along with the recount effort to assure supporters that it was doing everything possible to verify that hacking by Russia or other irregularities had not affected the results.” (NYT)

The critical words here are “hacking by Russia or other irregularities.”  Other irregularities are the real issues and like the economic pain in the country and a failure to provide and campaign on a coherent economic message, the Clinton folks are missing the big picture again.  This is not about Russia, it is about who got thrown off voter lists, who had to cast provisional votes, and what votes got thrown out for technicalities that should have been counted.  I doubt it would change the election, but it could, but the real issue is to identify these attempts at voter suppression and prepare us for future votes and prevent them.

I think Clinton lost because she failed to identify the true central theme in this election, voter disgust at politics as usual and establishment politics, and a focus on Trump the man instead of a broad economic vision from her many proposals.  I don’t think the dysfunction of the Washington she is comfortable with ever sunk in.  And as I have opined before she was doomed from the beginning.  But here is an opportunity to look at the results, verify them, and no matter how it turns out, verify the legitimacy of this election.  But like everything else really important, the Clintonites are late to the party.  Wonder what the focus groups say?

By George I Think They’ve Got it!

I just read an editorial in the NYT and it basically tells the story of this last election and the Democrat’s failure without all the misdirection.  I will quote liberally here, but really, go read it (Can Senate Democrats Save the Party).  Schumer sounds like he got it (Could I be wrong about him?):

“When you lose the way we lost, you can’t blink, you can’t look away,” says Mr. Schumer, who has been in touch with Mr. Trump over the past two weeks. “Above all, our economic message was not sharp enough, was not bold enough, was not strong enough. All those blue collar voters who voted for Donald Trump, even many who had voted for Obama, they thought he was the change agent.”

Leaders of both parties missed middle-class voters’ determination this year to blow up a political establishment that had failed to improve their lives, the “primal scream on the part of a lot of voters who are disenchanted with the status quo,” in the words of David Axelrod, an architect of President Obama’s 2008 call for change. That scream emanated early on from passionate supporters of Bernie Sanders’s calls for revolution, against which Hillary Clinton, for all her experience (indeed, in part because of it), seemed an emblem of the status quo.

…Sexism and racial bigotry obviously played roles in her defeat. But far greater problems were her strategists’ bet that a coalition of minority voters and white Democratic stalwarts would deliver a landslide and her failure to crystallize a broad economic vision from among her many proposals for helping working-class voters regardless of race — the kind of message Mr. Obama was able to send. Her characterization of a swath of Mr. Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” and “irredeemable” didn’t help.

To avert a future of increasingly factional politics, the United States needs at least one major party with a message that transcends the boundaries of race and class…Democrats are now in search of their own unifying message, as they sort through the wreckage of 2016. “The party started looking at people through interest group coalitions, and we thought, ‘If we talk to them all in different ways, that will be enough to cobble together an election coalition,’ ” Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona says. “But I think there is a common interest in our economic policies between the laid-off white worker in Flint, the African-American and the Latino in Phoenix.”

The strategy that seems to be coming together is that Schumer will lead the Democrats in negotiating in good faith on issues that might help America and the working poor, but not cave “on core questions like our values and ideals.”  As the NYT puts it and I think is the perfect strategy:

Mr. Schumer vows to block all efforts to kill Obamacare, or gut Dodd-Frank financial regulation. “We’re not going to undo it, period. And I have the votes.” And the Democrats are sure to resist ideas they abhor — a far-right Supreme Court nominee, or efforts to undermine environmental protections. Yet other issues in which both sides and the larger public have an interest, like infrastructure, could offer room for collaboration.

…Negotiating in this spirit could help Democrats shape Mr. Trump’s amorphous ideas into useful legislation. If he resists, he’ll supply Democrats with an argument to take to the heartland, as well as the coasts, and claim the loyalty of Americans who deserve hope, regardless of race.

Let’s hope this time the Democrats really did learn something.

Running the Country Like a Business

Where to start?  Oh, I know, Betsy DeVoss, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education.  Her family wealth came from founding the multi-level marketing titan Amway.  Multi-level marketing is another word for pyramid scheme.  Her brother Erik Prince founded the private-security firm Blackwater USA. You know, privatizing our military under Bush and all the scandals that ensued.  But hey, it is good business.

As for Betsy herself, she is a long-time Republican donor and school reform activist, serving as chairwoman of the American Federation for Children.  And don’t forget she is a big voucher person for even religious schools so her goal in life is to undermine public schools in favor of the wealthy. Make no mistake, this is taking money from Public schools to subsidize private ones, and you can be sure because the voucher won’t cover the full cost, the poor will suffer. And don’t forget she wans to deregulate all schools and that has not worked well.  Needless to say, she does not support the common core.  And then there is the money she gave to a group that is pushing to bring back child labor.   We just need to teach everything according to Republican ideology.

Nikki Haley was put up for our representative to the UN. Haley has never served in federal government. She also lacks obvious foreign policy experience, and little is known about her stance on contentious topics such as how to end the war in Syria. Like other Republicans, Haley opposed the Iran nuclear deal, which is widely supported by most of the international community.  In 2015, Haley was one of several governors who asked the State Department not to resettle Syrian refugees in their states, citing a “lack of historical and verifiable intelligence” on their identities.  Well she is better than John Bolton who everybody hates.

Secretary of Defense is up between Romney and Giuliani.  Romney would be a giant improvement over Giuliani, but my guess is the ex-Mayor of New York who could never stop saying 9/11 and knows nothing about the Department of Defense just might get it.  There are many wonderfully patriotic and dedicated people who work at the Department of Defense and this is kind of a slap in the face to bring this ego driven liar (she is ill) to head the agency.

Then there is the billionaire he is considering for Commerce.  Say this is really change, putting the wealthy in charge.  Now they don’t have to control government by buying votes, they actually are the government.  You have to wonder what white Americans without a college education were thinking?  And now enter Paul Krugman from yesterday to tell us they weren’t thinking at all.

Any claim that changed policy positions will win elections assumes that the public will hear about those positions. How is that supposed to happen, when most of the news media simply refuse to cover policy substance? Remember, over the course of the 2016 campaign, the three network news shows devoted a total of 35 minutes combined to policy issues — all policy issues. Meanwhile, they devoted 125 minutes to Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

Beyond this, the fact is that Democrats have already been pursuing policies that are much better for the white working class than anything the other party has to offer. Yet this has brought no political reward.

In other words, facts don’t matter.  Trump lied through his teeth about bringing back coal and jobs and when he fails many of us assume there will be a reckoning.  Professor Krugman questions that assumption:

The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics — some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn’t) and anger on the part of the less educated at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them.

That is a scary thought.  Progressives like myself think this win by Trump could finally turn the page away from conservatives as we watch the failure  assumption that businessmen (and billionaires) know anything about governing, the lies told during the campaign become obvious, and campaign promises that can’t be filled aren’t. Right now Trump has announced he will defund NASA’s earth science studies (global warming) because he does not want to further “politicized science”.  Meanwhile Florida is starting to flood and some real estate financiers see a collapse of shoreline property cause a recession worse than we saw in 2008.

What I find so interesting is that for the most part he is putting zillionaire ideologues into power that have little understanding or empathy for the common white class (or any color class) working man and woman.  They will put their competitive ideology in place whether it is public schools or economic opportunity with no real understanding that the playing field is not level. To make the giant leap that if you are rich you are smart, and could a government that is not anything like the micro economy of a business is just ludicrous.  But that is where we are.  Hopefully the failure of this approach will finally wake America, but if we believe Professor Krugman, they are in a very deep sleep.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM LIGHTNER VINEYARDS

img_1147

It truly is a blessing to live where I live and have all my friends and family.  I wish the same to all of you.  No politics today, just enjoy each others company.  This trip on this planet is finite. Help someone in need.

 

 

The Bubble Democrats Live In

From the NYT this morning:

In a sign of the discord gripping the party, President Obama’s loyalists, uneasy with the progressive Mr. Ellison, have begun casting about for an alternative, according to multiple Democratic officials close to the president.The battle pits the titans of the Democratic Party against one another, with Mr. Obama’s camp at odds with figures like Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Democratic leader, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

They are still in La La land about where the party needs to go and how much their strategy has hurt the Party.  While Democrats in the West Wing add up all their wins, we all watch while the Donald gets ready to dismantle them and they fail to see that they are part of the problem.  They are not leading anyone any more and the country is crying out for new leadership. The article goes on to tell us:

Some Democrats, in Mr. Obama’s orbit and beyond, say that elevating Mr. Ellison would amount to handing the party to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s primary race opponent, and his liberal followers.
Mr. Ellison was a high-profile backer of Mr. Sanders’s presidential campaign, and Mr. Sanders has been rallying support for Mr. Ellison’s D.N.C. bid. Already a polarizing figure among Democrats, he ignited new controversy this week by saying the party needed to “go beyond identity politics.”

Exactly you knitwits.  The Party from my old fat white guy perspective has totally failed and has handed the country over to a nut job that will do untold damage.  Old thinking is just not going to cut it with all the new young voters who won’t vote if you bring in more of the same.  Whether they get it or not, the Democratic Party is ceasing to exist in most states as they have lost state house after state house, not to mention the Presidency, Senate, and House.  Exactly what kind of a wakeup call do those guys need. Now I can buy into the argument that you can’t be a part time lead of the DNC, but whoever it is better be progressive or we are just going to move in a failing direction again.

I think they need to remember they brought us Debbie Wasserman Schultz and she was a disaster.  The DNC needs a new younger, and Progressive face if you want to move the Democratic Party off loser status.  Maybe Congressman Ellison is not perfect, but don’t bring out the old dogs or you send a giant message, it’s still your Daddy’s party of loser politics.  We want the Democratic Party to stand for something, not be compromised by the establishment.  

What They Get Wrong

Michelle Rhee, a Democrat, was interviewed by Donald Trump for the job of Cabinet Secretary for Education.  She removed her name from contention and made this statement:

“Interestingly many colleagues warned me against doing so,” Rhee said of the potential to serve in a Trump administration. “They are wrong. Mr. Trump won the election. Our job as Americans is to want him to succeed. Wishing for his failure would be wanting the failure of our millions of American children who desperately need a better education.”

Actually Michelle misses the point totally.  What we don’t want to do is legitimize how he won the election as he left the country a very dangerous place.  It is amazing to me they do not get this. And the big question for Michelle is, succeed at what exactly?