Archive for April 2017

The White House Correspondents’ Dinners, The Real One and the Not One

While Cheeto-Head was up in Pennsylvania doing his best interpretation of Hitler to a crowd of sycophants and idiots, the media was gathering in two places to have a little fun.  First some thoughts on the Pennsylvania rally.  What president in his first 100 days is out giving a campaign speech full of lies to his base? Adolph Hitler. See, he his the same guy you elected, full of hate and lies, working diligently to tear down democracy by going after the free press.  I watched some of the rally and was filled with hate and divisiveness.  I was filled with a sense of revulsion for my fellow Americans in Pennsylvania.  Somehow in my little mind, I did not think that was what a president was supposed to do.  Yes we have entered a different era.  Of course he did his best to undermine the free press and (getting ahead of myself) as Samantha Bee pointed out about the Press:

“You basically get paid to stand in a cage while a geriatric orangutan and his pet mob scream at you. It’s like a reverse zoo, but you carry on.”

Meanwhile there were two White House Correspondents Dinners, the official one and Samantha Bee’s Not the WH Correspondence Dinner and I watched both (oh the miracle of DVR).  I am not sure who got roasted more, Cheeto-Head or the media itself, which is fair because their endless coverage of him in the campaign without fact checking him and using competing pundits got him elected.  Policy and facts did not matter anymore, just outlandishness.  What was nice about the Pennsylvania rally was that it reminded you this presidency is not normal and what a true pig he really is.  But I get distracted.  Here is Hasan’s full speech:


Hasan Minhaj did a splendid job at the real dinner as he spent most of his time on the press itself.  He started by saying the obvious:

“This event is about celebrating the First Amendment and free speech. Free speech is the foundation of an open and liberal democracy from college campuses to the White House. Only in America can a first generation Indian American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the President.”

Then he got real:

“I would say it is an honor to do this, but that would be an alternative fact. It is not. No one one wanted to do this so of course it falls in the hands of an immigrant. That’s how it always goes down.”

My favorite was when he made fun of the endless viewer polling CNN (and MSNBC) do.  “If you think attacking Korea is a good idea, text 1.”  As he asked are they trying to get us to give them the news?  Both he and Samantha Bee decried the nonsense of shouting pundits that has taken the place of real news and informed analysis (He said/she said news) and here is their take:

Hasan Minhaj:

“Don [Don Lemon of CNN Tonight], every time I watch your show, I feel like I’m watching a reality TV show. ‘CNN Tonight’ should just be called ‘Wait a second! Now hold on! Stop yelling at each!’ with Don Lemon.”

Samantha Bee:

“With so much excellent reporting out there, why do 96 percent of Americans believe the media should be strung up by its own bowels?” she asked. “I don’t know — maybe because when they turn on the TV looking for news, all they can find are journalists trying to referee a pack of well-coiffed message robots shouting at each other all day from increasingly tiny boxes.”

And I think that gets to the heart of our problems today.  We are not looking for the truth through carefully researched journalism, but a mud wrestling contest, winner has the best costume.  Ratings are king if some cloths are ripped off.  Samantha made the point most effectively by quoting Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide and then making the point that they had effectively turned news into a sporting event (news as entertainment):

“There’s no truth or falsehood in sports. There’s just winners and losers, and people giving 110 percent because sports thinks that’s a number. The difference is, on CNN, the cheerleaders get paid.”

His barbs at MSNBC and CNN were well deserved:

“MSNBC is here tonight. And I’m glad you guys are here. That way if I’m bombing, Brian Williams will describe it as stunning.”

— “MSNBC. It’s hard to trust you guys when you send so many mixed messages. On the one hand you tell us the prison industrial complex is the problem, and then you air five straight hours of ‘Lockup.’ You can’t be mad at corporations profiting off of minorities in prison when you’re a corporation profiting off of minorities in prison.”

— “I had a lot more MSNBC jokes, but I don’t want to just ramble on, otherwise I might get a show on MSNBC.”

“CNN is here, baby. You guys got some really weird trust issues with the public. I’m not going to call you fake news, but everything isn’t breaking news. You can’t go to DEFCON-1 just because Sanjay Gupta found a new moisturizer.”

Yes, the press was on trial here and mostly they were (TV media) guilty as charged.  Maybe they learned something, I just don’t know.  We know Cheeto-Head is a disaster for this country, but last night was a reflection on how we got an ignorant racist misogynist for a president and sadly news and the way it is presented is a large part of the problem.  But they are also our only hope.  Samantha wondered why CNN, who has many great journalists, would just stop with the reality show and let them do their job.  Hasan probably summed it up best and maybe we need to hear it from a 2nd generation immigrant Muslim who does really appreciate what America should be and was about (here is the only copy of a video I could find and it was on twitter and I could not find the embed code):

Even though Mr. Minhaj said he had been told not to mock Mr. Trump or his administration in absentia, he felt he had a duty to “get on this stage and make fun of the president.”

“But the president didn’t show up,” Mr. Minhaj said. “Because Donald Trump doesn’t care about free speech. The man who tweets everything that enters his head refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.”

A few hours from now, Mr. Minhaj said, “Donald Trump will be tweeting about how bad Nicki Minaj bombed at this dinner. And he’ll be doing it completely sober. And that’s his right. And I’m proud that all of us are here tonight to defend that right, even if the man in the White House never would.”

After thanking the White House Correspondents’ Association, and thanking Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein “for inspiring a generation of journalists,” Mr. Minhaj concluded by saying, “I would like to thank Donald Trump for inspiring the next.”

Finally, I would like to leave with Woodward’s comments about what journalism is about:  Trying to find the best obtainable version of the truth we can.  We have a large portion of our citizenship who does not have a clue what that means.  A nobel endeavor and they are our only hope against ignorance and fascism on display in Pennsylvania that same night. A lot of things that needed to be said to powerful people was said.  I only hope they were listening.

True Wisdom

I have to share this because I found it so full of all the wisdoms of life:  Karen Rinaldi, (It’s Great to) Suck at Something.  I will not say much except I suck at yoga, golf, and surfing (to mention a few) but there is always another pose, another swing, and another wave.  As I get older I suck at more and more things and enjoy doing them more and more. Her quote about failing and mediocrity that teaches you about empathy is so true and while elites may be smarter, but not necessarily wiser.

“By exposing ourselves to the experience of trying and failing we might develop more empathy. If we succeed in shifting from snap judgments to patience, maybe we could be a little more helpful to one another — and a whole lot more understanding.”

And one last thing.  Read it and laugh.  Even better, click on comments and die laughing.  You will find yourself in there somewhere and all of us have something to share about sucking.  For a few moments feel one again with the great mass of humanity.

100 Days, I Would If I Could

That would be feeling sorry for Cheeto-Head. This job as president he finds hard and well, he had more fun when he was a carefree real estate developer welshing on payments to contractors.  Here is a statement I dearly love:

“I love my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life,” Trump said. “I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a . . . I’m a details-oriented person. I think you’d say that, but I do miss my old life. I like to work so that’s not a problem but this is actually more work.”

The press is focusing on “I thought it would be easier,” but what tells you all you want to know is the, “I’m a details-oriented person.”  He simply is totally lacking in details. Talk about a lack of self awareness.  If he were a details person, he would have known way more than he knows and would understand that almost everything he promised to do, could not get done.  Oh, and should not get done either.  I guess he thought he could just say, make it so, and Congress would oblige.  There is a lesson here to voters that I learned about most generals as a young captain in the Air Force.  They are surrounded by people who create a false reality of their greatness.  Donald Trump is having his bubble burst.

The part I could feel bad about is how he thought a Republican Congress was a benefit, that they would tow whatever line he threw to them.  Had he really been a detailed guy he would not be depending on them to come up with the details, but would have drafted plans with the details in them.  Of course Obama learned that was a mistake too, because if Congress does not think it is their own idea, they don’t like it either.  But in the details are facts that would inform Cheeto-Head of the wrongness of his ideas.  But the boys and girls in the Republican Party are not detail people either.  Oh and don’t give me Paul Ryan and his budgets. Asterisks are not details.  They have been so busy tearing down everything that might work in the last eight years, they have no idea how to build something that might.

And here is the really sad thing that Cheeto-Head has not grasped:  None of Congresses ideas will work either.  We have a whole Republican Party who wants to do stuff like tax cuts for the wealthy, fix Obamacare, bring back coal, enslave women, get rid of the minimum wage, give people the religious freedom to discriminate in the public square, do away with environmental rules and safety in the workplace rules, and limit voting to only people who would vote for them.  Really that is what they want to do.  Blaming others is really fun and easy, but when you start passing laws that hurt the people who got you there, sooner or later they will figure it out.

The really important thing for Cheeto-Head to figure out is that having a Republican majority means they will never agree on anything.  You have the boys and girls who are gerrymandered in and don’t care who they hurt, and you have the boys and girls who have to care because their districts could swing.  And these people don’t compromise.  So nothing is going to come out of a Republican Congress that could possibly get by the Senate.  We actually should be very thankful for that.

How long will he last in the job?  Well if he does not get us in a war, I always thought he would turn everything over to Pence this summer sometime.  There is that Russian thing and we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop (while Republicans madly scramble to put a pillow under it so we won’t hear it.  There will be no wall because Republicans will never pay for it.  There will be no tax cut (because the Democrats can filibuster).  There probably won’t be an infrastructure bill because again, Republicans won’t pay for it.  So why not quit a la Sarah Pallin? The only real threat is that he finds war making fun and then we are in deep kimchi.  But the chickens will come home to roast on that one too so give or take a couple million people dying, he probably will get tired of that too.  I see him retiring to a sound booth with canned cheering for the rest of his life.

Our Brains Are Being Fried

Have you noticed that if you listen to the daily news on the cable shows, they keep trying to justify what Cheeto-Head does as somehow crafty or intentional to keep everyone off balance.  Then you watch (if you watch MSNBC) Rachel, Lawrence, or Joy take it apart and show it for what it is, irrational floundering.  The latest is that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is being taking to task for not staying on message with the State Department, meanwhile Cheeto-Head threatens war on the Korean Peninsula.  Say what?  And the media legitimizes this by saying no one really believes his bluster anymore so it is okay.  Really?

Today he said he found the presidency surprisingly hard.  Again, really?  He wanted to be king or maybe James T. Kirk (although Kirk had way more humanity than Cheeto-Head) saying, “Make it so Scotty.”  The wall has to be built —sometime.  NAFTA must be repealed and now it just needs to be renegotiated (that could be good or bad).  China is a currency manipulator and now no they are not.  Now with all this back tracking, would you think his followers would be upset?  Nope.

Republicans claim they are going to reform healthcare to make it more affordable and keep the good stuff, and then they propose marketplace solutions that basically guts required coverage, and will raise rates for those who need it most, not mention the 20 or so million who will lose health care altogether.  Then Cheeto-Head promises tax reform and then floats a 1-page plan that is basically a massive tax cut for the wealthy.  Would you now think his followers would be upset? Nope.

So the first thing you can say is that his followers brains already are fried*.  Oh, he is down today in Atlanta talking to the NRA.  Yep, we need more guns and a federal concealed carry law that will let some nut job from a red state carry into your state.  He needs their cheers and applause while he legitimizes killing thousands each year.  But much of our press and pundits have fried brains also.  They keep allowing people who try to rationalize what is going on talk as though they are making sense, and when he does even modestly normal things, they say he is learning the job.  The fact that he governs on the basis of fake news and ignorance is just normal now, hence our own brains are being fried.

What scares me the most is that we were moving toward a global society.  The European Union was the model, with an excellent safety net and the freedom to move beyond borders for jobs, culture, and change.  It had its problems, especially in the Euro.  But our diversity was considered a strength instead of a threat.  And tolerance was a virtue.  “The world is going America’s way,” Fareed Zakaria wrote in 2008. “Countries are becoming more open, market friendly and democratic.”  What I think happened was economic inequality that created a whole class that did not see any of the benefits and were ripe for withdrawing into themselves. The elites in both parties were benefiting and the many only saw stagnation. As R.R. Reno wrote today in a gigantic attempt to legitimize Cheeto-Head which is basically change terrifies us and we must withdraw:

Most commentators struggle to explain Mr. Trump’s electoral success, because they assume he has no coherent political philosophy.  This is myopic [or insightful].  As a public figure, Mr. Trump has articulated a consistent message that speaks to a fundamental political challenge facing the 21st-century West:  We must affirm nationalism and fight globalism.

Read nationalism as intolerance.  R.R. Reno is trying to legitimize Cheeto-Head as the new Republican instead of the demagogue he is.  The responses (comments) to this nonsense were priceless. But he and another writer today, Pankaj Mishra both pointed out something Democrats should be aware of in their failure this election. Pankaj called it:

Extravagant promises by ruling elites, and their unexamined assumptions, are at least partly to blame for this moral breakdown in the world’s most powerful country. In 2011, for instance, Mr. Obama had claimed, “We are perfectly poised to make the 21st century again the American Century.” But such onward-and-upward narratives seemed to mock the suffering, despair and frustration exposed in different ways by Black Lives Matter or the white Rust-Belt proletariat. Mr. Obama, who recently accepted a very lucrative speaking engagement on Wall Street, now looks like just one of the fortunate members of historically depressed minorities who mistake their own upward mobility for collective advance.

R.R. Reno called it thusly: “Globalism poses a threat to the future of democracy because it disenfranchises the vast majority and empowers a technocratic elite.”  Reno and Mishra called out the elite that I would call the establishment that has not recognized the real problem, economic inequality and are too tied to the status quo. Reno actually thinks Cheeto-Head represents the future of the Republican Party in recognizing the need to withdraw as an answer to stagnation caused by all the benefits going to a few.  I think he is full of shit. But they both nailed that the elites who did run our country were totally out of touch with the real malaise in the country that was not getting better.

Cheeto-Head just became the person who could manipulate badly misinformed and ignorant people.  I do not sympathize with middle America as many journalists want us to by “understanding their plight”.  Their choice was moronic.  I strongly recommend that you read these two editorials and especially the comments.  My recommendation is to select the reader choices on the comments.  I will leave you with two that deal Reno’s op-ed and with Cheeto-Head’s voters.  Reno’s Op-Ed:

Stop justifying Trump. Please stop. Also please stop justifying xenophobic response to your fears of being left behind in a progressive world. “Patriotic Solidarity” is one of the dumbest euphemisms for nationalism. Tell me one period of history where nationalism ended well vs global openness.

You can’t because it doesn’t.  The world is constantly changing – Buckley (unintellectual hack- if you cut through his affected manner and vocabulary you get vapid thoughts) and conservatives can’t deal with change- it frightens you.

“Why can’t we keep doing the same thing instead of being bothered by the fight for equal rights by women, people of color, gays, and foreigners?”

Suck it up and realize your ideas are being left behind – sorry, it’s called progress – it’s what created vaccines, airplanes, and the iPhone. Every time you benefit from technology realize conservative thought would have never imagined changing from the squalid state humanity has been in for most of history.

On Trump voters (he nailed it):

“John Q. Public is not stupid.” As a gross generalization, this is probably correct. But the quintessential Trump voter – the beaten-down, marginalized, fatalistic, repeatedly-conned, non-urban, usually white, working class voter – is frequently incurious, gullible, defiantly ignorant, or under-informed (or two or more of the foregoing). This tends to produce the same results — in terms of who gets elected and the poor quality of resulting public policy — as actual “stupidity.” Am I an “elitist” for pointing this out? I suppose that I am.

Yeah, me too, but nobody has fried my brain yet.

Democrats, Tyranny, and Keystone Cops

First on Democrats.  No this has nothing to do with tyranny.  Democrats could never achieve the level of coordination and cooperation to bring about tyranny.  That would be Republicans.  No, Democrats are having a hard time deciding who they are and what they should stand for.  The latest is that they should concentrate on economics and be more flexible on cultural issues.  Now I have weighed in on what that economic stand should be, Progressives policies that recognize that economic inequality is the real issue that is a threat to our Constitution and democracy.

So should Democrats win back the white middle class by going soft on cultural issues?  By cultural issues I am speaking of abortion, gay and lesbian rights, transgender rights, religion in politics, immigration reform, and Black Lives Matters.  The argument is once again to move right except on economics.  Lets be Republican Lite on cultural issues while middle America catches up, and progressive on economic issues.  And of course we have the Howard Dean wing of the party who wants to be Republican Lite on economics.

On cultural issues, the intolerance is born out of ignorance and religion.  Most culturally conservative views ignore science and depend upon religious intolerance.  Let’s just take a woman’s right to choose.  Here is a very good argument that economic equality depends on a woman’s right to choose. Note that most arguments from right and the misinformed are really about their right to discriminate or legislate their religious values on the rest of us (women, gays, lesbians, transgenders).  Now here is the critical difference.  Republicans and conservatives want to limit you choices.  Democrats want your options open.

In a woman’s right to choose, Democrats simply say you have the right to believe what want and treat your body accordingly.  You can have that abortion or not.  Republicans and conservatives want a law that says they will make that decision for you.  Democrats should be lite on that?  The same argument can be applied to gays, lesbians, and transexuals.  We should be lite on their rights as Americans and human beings because someone’s religion doesn’t like it?

Let’s look at global warming and coal.  We have Democrats from coal states who resist attempts to rein in global warming.  Should we have big tent and just say there are differing opinions about global warming?  Sounds like we are becoming science challenged Republicans.  How about immigration.  I think on this one there is room to compromise if the compromise is based upon reality.  Obviously a wall is an abomination.

If we want to solve the Muslim extremist policy, we need to resettle Muslims who are looking for a better life, not force them into war zones.  If we want labor that most Americans won’t do, we need a border policy that allows easy flow of labor back and forth and allows people more economic freedom.  How we get there could be debated, but those are the facts.  Democrats should not tolerate the hate all brown people the underlies Cheeto-Head’s immigration policy.

So, the bottom line is that being a Progressive on economics makes you a progressive on all the other cultural issues.  It is about personal freedom, and not the one that Republicans demand, the personal freedom to discriminate.  So no, it is time that Democrats finally become a party that stands for the 21st century values and not be pulled back into the 19th century where Republicans and most middle American seem to reside.

Okay, second item is basically the Keystone Cop drama we are watching in the White House and Congress.  Would you be ashamed to come up with a tax plan on one sheet of paper?  Would you bring out Voodoo economics again, and totally junk offsets?  The balanced budget party doesn’t care about the deficit anymore (unless you believe the magic asterisks about dynamic scoring)?  Oh, and they have a health care reform bill?  One that if it gets the necessary votes in the House, will never get by the Senate? If it is not revenue neutral it is subject to the filibuster. Then there is the whole Senate going to the White House for a security briefing on North Korea which was nothing more than a photo op.  Who is in charge?  Oh, I think we know.

Meanwhile Cheeto-Head is outraged about the Ninth Circuit Court which has upheld the Constitution once again on his sanctuary city Executive Order to deny them the funds they deserve.  So he is going to break them up.  Where have we heard this before?  Was it Venezuela or some banana republic as the first step to tyranny?  Consolidating executive power and defanging the judiciary should scare everyone.  The Ninth could be wrong, but there is a whole judicial system to sort this out.  The man has no idea how government works.

So here we are, the Democrats having a hard time figuring out who they are and maybe falling back on old pandering politics instead of finding a way forward based upon a vision of who we should be.  Meanwhile the White House and Republicans are running amok.  Cheeto-Head keeps pinging off the walls and changing his mind, while hating anyone who disagrees with him.  House Republicans are living in La La Land, raping health care and so divided they will never get there.  As Talking Head’s David Byrne once sang, “How did I get here?”

 

Zombie Ideas

They’re back!  Magic tax cuts that actually balance the budget (Laffer Curve) and a Republican healthcare plan that provides more choice instead of actually paying for more care.  Both are zombie ideas.  The ideas have no life left in them because they have never worked, but Republicans keep resurrecting them and the zombies arise again to eat your brain.

Okay, healthcare.  It’s not free so the only question is do you believe that government must provide healthcare (note:  Not access to, but actual healthcare) as a right of every citizen whether they can afford it or not.  Most Republicans don’t and that is just the end of it.  They also have this crazy idea that the market place can provide more choice at cheaper rates than government health insurance.  This is a crazy idea because no country in the world does it, and we tried to do it for 50 years and were unsuccessful.  Oh, and let’s not forget that during this time Medicare has done it cheaper than the private sector.

But Republicans have another problem.  People want it.  They want their kids to be on till they are 26.  They want existing conditions covered, and they want (when they actually have to use it) plans that covered most things.  So sure you can have choice and young heathy people can get really cheap plans.  The rest of us are going to get gouged.  Here is the deal, and it is not ideology, it is arithmetic.  The only way to cover most people and make their plans affordable is to have a giant insurance pool.  Everyone has to pay in like automobile insurance.  Republicans simply aren’t going there.  Bottom line, there is no Republican repeal and replace Obamacare that will be better (except if you are rich or healthy).  It really is that simple.

So they will claim its better, with more choice, and everyone will have access to healthcare and it will be anything but better.  Sure you will have more choice if you are healthy or wealthy and sure you will have access, you just can’t afford that access.  Deregulation across state lines and removing requirements to actually cover fully typical  illnesses and injuries is not going to make it affordable for those who most need it.  You have to pay for what you want. Choice actually giving us viable choices is a zombie idea that has been around forever and keeps rising from the dead.

WAIT!  Tax cuts to save the economy!  When did that ever work?  Ronald Reagan did it and the deficit got out of hand.  He then raised taxes. George Bush 2 did it and the deficit got out of hand and where were the jobs?  George Bush 1 actually called the idea that cutting taxes will be fully funded by growth and tax revenue Voodoo Economics.  Just ask the folks in Kansas how that has worked out.  But here we go again with “dynamic scoring” and note they said that there would not be offsets*.  Just the magic assumptions about growth that no one thinks is realistic is going to pay for everything.  So here we go again with supply side economics on steroids and it has never ever worked.

Oh, and bullshit on the 15% max tax on business is just that.  The big guys don’t pay that now.  If it meant that everyone paid that, it might work, but it is just a massive giveaway.  And bring back into the country off-shored profits so they can now be taxed at a low rate or in a holiday most probably won’t create jobs.  It might just do the opposite and create investment for more automation.

If there were tons of pent-up demand (not just wanting stuff, but having the cash to buy it), it would certainly spur the economy.  But that is not where we are.  Most of the 99% are scraping to get by, kids going into debt to go to college, and retirement savings are non-existent.  So this is a giant give-away program (mostly for rich “job creators”) and we get nothing in return like an investment in infrastructure or our work force.  Here we go again.  The zombies just can’t be killed.

Republicans DO NOT HAVE SOLUTIONS FOR OUR FUTURE!  And there is no free ride.  Now we are recycling old ideas that have failed and never worked.  But ideology over common sense is what they are bringing us.  Economic inequality on steroids.

 

Another One of Those Flashing Lights We Are Ignoring

From the Atlantic Daily email:

The French Election: Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and her independent centrist counterpart Emmanuel Macron advanced to the second round of the French presidential election yesterday. As neither Macron nor Le Pen is from a major party, the vote looks like a clear rejection of the political establishment; it also marks the decline of the French Socialist Party, whose candidate trailed far behind the winners. As the country prepares for the next round, Macron is expected to win by far—yet in expanding her populist party’s influence, Le Pen has already succeeded.

Let’s see, the establishment was rejected in Britain in the Brexit vote, the establishment (both Republicans and Democrats) was rejected in selecting that nitwit Cheeto-Head in the United States, and now the French have rejected their political establishment in both their runoff candidates.  There is something going on here and it is not what you think. It is economic malaise across the board.  The sad thing is that Brexit and Cheeto-Head were elected to attack the wrong targets, change and immigrants.  That is what Marine Le Pen is also running on, but the French may be way smarter than we are.  We will see in a couple of weeks.

Here is what I think, no, know what is going on.  Our economic system does not work for most of us anymore.  It has nothing to do with immigrants, or rapid change, sending jobs overseas.  Okay, they do cause problems, but easily fixable, and yet not much will change.  As long as the wealthy keep sucking up all the air in the room, nothing is going to get better.  That is what establishment politics has missed.

There is a reason for that. I will borrow here from Upton Sinclair via Paul Krugman, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” They are all part of the system that profits from wealth accumulation.  So they can’t imagine that our economic system throughout the world today is the problem.  They just want to tweak the system, which is why establishment politicians are being roundly rejected.  Nothing changes.

Anybody remember French economist Thomas Piketty?  Back in 2014 he was all the rage when he pointed out that our economics of wealth accumulation is maybe a natural outcome of capitalism and it usually leads to the decline and fall of empires.  He was attacked from all sides.  See Upton Sinclair’s wisdom above.  But Piketty’s data holds and we continue to concentrate wealth.  The chasm between the super rich and the working class is obscene.  There is no coincidence that the two most pressing threats to our survivability, global warming (because it is changing the climate and upsetting economies everywhere) and increasing economic inequality are both disparaged by Republicans.  They got theirs.

Yesterday, or was it Sunday, anyway I blog about what the Democratic Party needed to resolve, what are they really about.  Well the warning lights are on and flashing.  People are turning away from political establishments for new solutions to their problems because nothing ever changed.  The stage was set for the hucksters, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, and Marine Le Pine, selling their fear, hate, and isolationism.  But they are not looking at the real issue, reinventing our capitalist system to more fairly distribute the bounty.  And that has to be the core of the Democratic platform.

That will be a tough message because the moderates do not want to hear it.  That is the Howard Dean crowd, and actually most of the establishment Democratic Party.  Hillary was the classic example. Even President Obama was an establishment Democrat when it came to economics.  None of them really wanted to take on a runaway economic system.  Bernie did and then he got slammed by Black Lives Matter about not considering their interests.  His first reaction was the same as mine, that economic inequality and making the system fairer includes blacks, women, gays, you name it.  But he was a savvy enough politician to try to bring them in.  But it is interest group pandering that gets us nowhere and generally doesn’t really change anything.

The theme that will create a new Democratic party is to recognize that economic inequality is the mother of all the other inequalities.  To start to share the wealth of our economy with all those that participate creates spending.  To do this means taking on the whole establishment.  But if you are seeing all the flashing lights, the establishment is being resoundly rejected.  We don’t need a more tweaked and refined establishment with better tactics and talking points.  They need to recognize that there is a new message altogether and start reforming capitalism.  If they don’t, it will not be pretty.  Brexit and Cheeto-Head were just the beginning.

What The Democratic Party Should Become

There has been some confusion on who is the Democratic Party and what they Stand For.  In the “Unity Tour” road trip that DNC chairmen Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders were on, the DNC got booed and Bernie clearly identified himself as an Independent.  Joy Reed of MSNBC had an interesting segment on Saturday about what and who the Democratic Party should be.  In the Georgia race that Jon Ossoff, the Democrat may just have a shot, Bernie was asked if Ossoff was a Progressive and he kind of took a pass which he took back later.  But that really encapsulates the issue, who should be the face of the Democratic Party and just because they can win, will they support Progressive policies? Joe Manchin comes to mind on that one. Why we call him a Democrat is beyond me.

So if we are having a Unity Tour, what are we unifying around.  Note that Keith Ellison and Bernie were in Omaha Nebraska supporting a Mayoral candidate who has been wishy-washy on pro-choice.  Say what?  Right now all we can tell is that Bernie has a large following and Perez is using that to get face time.  But we are still left with what and who are Democrats.  Where is the rallying them that defines our vision? In the discussion that followed on Joy’s show she had four panelists, Howard Dean, establishment Democrat and former DNC Chairman, L. Joy Williams, President of the Brooklyn NAACP,  Krystal Ball, Senior Fellow at the New Leaders Council (and ex-MSNBC pundit), and  Marcus Farrell, former director of African outreach in the Bernie Sanders Campaign.

Bernie has said something I agree with:  “Our job is to radically transform the Democratic Party. …It can’t be just symbolic, it has got to be real. …It has got to be that those ideas are allowed to become the dominant theme of the Democratic Party, and that’s the chice that Democrats are going to have to make.”  I agree with him because right now the Democrats are defined across the board from conservative to progressive and nobody knows that means or what that foretells for a plan for the future. Joy asked what I think was a revealing question when she asked if Bernie is holding the Democratic Party hostage, keeping his supporters independent until the Democratic Party buys into his ideas?

My thought is yeah!  What we have been has failed miserably.  You can talk all day about tactics and strategy, but at the end of the day, what is the message?  I still don’t know, but I do know what Bernie stands for.  Krystal made the point that Bernie focused is on economic issues and how that rang across party lines. Krystal argued that we can be a party that is more diverse on cultural issues, and will have to be if we want a 50-state strategy (doesn’t mean we jettison diversity and rights), but progressive economics is where we draw the line.  Both representatives of black communities argued that we need more outreach to black communities if we expect them to vote.  Hmm.  Exactly what does outreach mean?  Howard wanted to keep people in the Party who are economically moderate.  I think this is the failure of the Democratic Party to think this way.  We are so big tent, we stand for nothing.

So what would I recommend?  It is always about the money.  Bernie has a vision for the future that I think rings across all partisan lines.  We need a healthy safety net much as Europe has to free Americans to be more innovative and productive.  Our vision should be a nation where the free market still offerors the competitive edge to many solutions, but for those left behind by large rapid shifts in technology and markets, they are protected.  I believe Howard Dean represents the economic moderates who  have truly hurt the party.  Krystal represented her point of view well when she pointed out that the Democratic Party had become controlled by Wall Street and Bernie represented that clean break.  After all, where is the stock market today and where are the well paying jobs?  Economic inequality is the issue and Progressivism is the only ideology that takes it on.

Okay, on the black thing, I am still angry that they did not get out and vote. In my mind, if you don’t vote, you simply don’t matter.  That is the one way you can change the world and to fail to do that makes you irrelevant.  Black Lives Matters further angered me by demanding what Bernie was going to do for them during the election (the economic justice he was campaigning on wasn’t enough) and I was thinking the real issue is you getting out the vote.  See Ferguson, Mo.  There was a clear difference.

Trying to understand where they were coming from, I found this article by a black man, Jack Brewer, who voted for Trump.  While he makes excellent points about why he and the black community were less than enthused about Hillary, and was tired of the status quo in black communities, Trump had absolutely no policies, was a lying, ignorant human being and you threw the nations fate into his hands, a proven racist.  Here is his logic as he explains it:

Of course, the internet recorded Donald Trump’s history of racial discrimination and his divisive tone toward women. But, what transcended that was Trump’s anti-establishment stance. That has finally taken the wool from over the eyes of many African-Americans — including myself — in relation to the Clinton family, media and the establishment.

It’s been hard to face the facts on how our underserved black lives have gotten worse, not better under our beloved President Obama. The undeniable truth about the Clintons has been disappointing to many because they’ve prided themselves on improving the lives of African-Americans for decades, even as their incarceration policies crippled our communities at its core.

When I finally got into the ballot booth and checked away at local, state and national Democrats on my ballot, I chose a different route for president. I voted for the hundreds of thousands and black non-violent criminals incarcerated as a result of the mandatory minimums. I voted for a more transparent system of deploying aid to underserved countries. I voted for the dream of seeing black millennial and general unemployment rates reach the levels of other races in America. I voted for the hope that entitlements will put accountability measures in place in order to keep low income black parents involved in their kids education as well as help spur job creation over well fare in some cases. I voted for a hope of making black America great again too. I voted for an end of 30 years of establishment rule in America.

I voted for President Donald Trump, with hopes that God frees his mind of the bias and division long enough to do great things for blacks and all the citizens of our great nation.

I guess I see his point about Democrats and the status quo, but Trump? He voted against the status quo and what he got was the dumber crueler version of the status quo. If blacks want to see change, they need to quit asking what Presidential candidates will do for them, but become a voting force in local elections.  Their real salvation is in their hands.  We can fight against voter suppression and outright racism, but to change the real environment where they live, they have to vote.

So where does that leave us?  I think Krystal has it about right, but I will need to read her book to tell.  The key element is to understand that our belief in wall street as the bellweather of the economy and the source of economic wisdom is over.  Balanced budgets and debt have to be evaluated in terms of the economic circumstances not as absolute good or absolute bads.  That for capitalism to thrive for all of us, we need a much better safety net (guaranteed education, health care, retirement system).  Sorry Howard, we can’t afford not to do these things.  Economic “moderates” are the problem.  Bernie got that.

As far as the cultural issues, I think we can’t give an inch on the rights of blacks, gays or whoever.  Certainly we have to have a plan to move the ball forward for blacks because Jack Brewer made some excellent points.  Abortion to me is not about birth control, but individual freedom to make a choice about your own body.   While I understand that maybe we have to be more flexible in Red states, how do you be flexible about whether we enslave women or not?  How do you be flexible about global warming in coal states?  How do you be more flexible about gays, and transsexuals?  Aren’t they people with the same basic rights as the rest of us?  Religion has no place in government and there is no compromise there.  Religious freedom does not mean the right discriminate.

So flexible maybe, but clear lines of where that flexibility ends. That I think is the only way to define the Party or Bernie is right to stay Independent.  I will join him if they don’t learn the lessons of the last election.  It’s about the economy stupid.  We get economic inequality right, we get science and reinstate rational governing, and all the rest will fall in place.

The State of Man/Sunday Morning

We have been overrun by the crass.  The President is the shinning example, but his whole Administration reeks of mediocrity and driven by corporations and the profit motive.  Ah, the great god, Money.  We even look now at universities to be the training ground  of corporate innovative life.  If it doesn’t have a perceived marketable skill, why take the course is the prevalent attitude.  David Brooks wrote to some extent about the mindless crassness of our present decline of civilization and actually blamed it on the universities.  Many of his readers took him to task on that one*.  David does a great job of sensing society’s ills, but when it comes to cause and effect, he has a real problem with cause as he cannot see that the Great Republican take over was a long road of worshiping acquisition and dumbing us all down.

But I came across this little article about the Cassini spacecraft that has been out there circling Saturn and expanding our knowledge of the cosmos:

Cassini spacecraft is about to begin its great cosmic swan dive.

On Saturday morning, the spacecraft, which has been circling Saturn and its environs for the last 13 years, will skim over the hazes of Titan, the ringed planet’s biggest moon. Like a heavy hand, Titan’s gravity will reach out and pull Cassini onto a new path, downward into the narrow gap between Saturn and its innermost ring, where no human artifact has ever gone.

Cassini will penetrate that formerly inviolate space not once but 22 times, about once a week until Sept. 15, when it will crash into Saturn and be incinerated. This summer then is the last hurrah of sorts for Cassini and the team that has guided it all these years.Now we have extended our reach.

…Nothing Cassini has done or found so far has moved the markets back here on Earth. It moved only our souls, our minds and our imaginations. It made us freer and bigger by showing how little we know and how much more room there is to expand our thoughts and dreams. How little of nature’s repertoire we have even guessed at.

And the last part, that last paragraph really does define the human soul.  We are a society based upon acquisition and measure accomplishment in $.  And it is such a hollow existence when we were given these marvelous minds to think critically and find our place in the cosmos.  Instead we dumb ourselves down fighting for slices of the pie and cutting budgets of the things that are really important to us to fund tax cuts for “the job creators”.  After all, the market loves tax cuts, right?

We, as a human society, could do so much more and yet we elected a man and a party who eschews science and rational thought.  They have solutions to all our problems that are “Great!” and really, really “Big!” Yet they have nothing to do with cause and effect.  Watch sadly as religious freedom gets redefined as the right to impose one’s views on another.  Almost all of our problems are easily solvable, or at least we know the solution, but we are so frightened by change that we imagine the “good old days” and try to create a world where learning stopped.  In order to embrace the solutions of the Trump administration one has to kill about half of his/her brain cells.

Classic example was Jeff Sessions decrying that, “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,”  Hmm.  First that island in the Pacific is a state with a Federal District Court.  Second, you would not think you would have to explain to an Attorney General about the three branches of government and how the courts have a role in adjudicating Constitutionality.  Third, Sessions voted for the judge’s confirmation and he was confirmed 94-0.  Sessions is just an example of a little piss-ant racist tyrant that is part of the whole Trump phenomenon.  Remember that Sessions coud not be confirmed as a federal judge because of his racism.  Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii called Attorney General Sessions comments “dangerous and ignorant.”  I would up her one and call Jeff Sessions himself dangerous and ignorant.  But that goes to the whole Trump Administration.

Voting is going on today in France and we will see if fear, ignorance, and stupidity will rule Europe too.  It is like we lost our brains or our understanding of the human condition or the advance of human civilization.  We won’t know the outcome until after the runoff elections, but the French mercifully do this in an eleven-day period, including the runoffs.  Hopefully they will put a stop to our right-wing slide back into the dark ages.  If they don’t, I fear for our future.  Well actually I already fear for our future as the damage Cheeto-Head has already done may not be repairable.

One last thing in the interest of rational thought. President Cheeto-Head has signed another meaningless executive order on H-1B  visas that allow us to bring in foreign, well-educated workers.  He wants us to hire Americans first, but there are claims that it is those very H-1B visas that fuel our innovative tech world and this could be devastating.  There is truth on both sides but don’t expect the Cheeto-Heads to do the right thing.  The Economic Policy Institute has put together a good paper on what reforms are really needed so that Americans do not lose their jobs to lower waged H-1B applicants, and that were there are really hard to fill jobs, the H-1Bs can fill those jobs at competitive salaries.  It is common sense, but expect the Tech Industry to fight it because they want lower salaries.  It is always about the money, not what is right. And that is what we have become.  Protecting the powerful and wealthy.  Nothing else matters.  Not quite how I would choose to describe Americanism.

*One response to David’s analysis of our slipping Western civilization:  “So let me get this straight. Millions of Americans worship at the altar of Trump because of how they were taught western civilization? The premise is absurd. First – I doubt most trump voters could identify the “cradle of civilization” let alone tell you the two rivers that form it. Critical inquiry and a more broad historical analysis of western civilization are hardly to blame. The blames lies with decades of your fellow republicans gutting education so that most Americans have never taken a western civ class let alone a good old civics class. These same Americans love to shout how they are the true patriots without having a clue about how our democracy works. Just look no further than the current fool of a president. No – you own this Mr Brooks. Trump is in office due to the willful ignorance of the American populace. It’s precisely the outcome the GOP created from their decades long smear campaign against education, secularism, scientific inquiry and rational thinking.”

The Sleaze Factor

It is almost funny that the morons who supported Trump and for that matter still do, wanted him to drain the swamp.  You know, make great decisions based upon good business judgement.  That tells you one thing about these morons, and I do not use the word morons lightly, they have no idea what a sleaze factor there is in many business dealings.  The latest is the moral corruption at Fox News, but the real story is about deals to benefit each other that is exactly what the morons did not want and then they elected the biggest lying deal maker around for President.  There is a reason the visitor logs at the White House will no longer be for public consumption.

Cheeto-Head himself is a mass of conflicts of interest and moral depravity.  If he could debase women as we saw him do on the campaign trail, could not the morons connect the dots to other principles like honesty, integrity, and the best interest of the country (not his best interests).  Foreign Affairs magazine came out with an article (The Plot Against American Foreign Policy:  Can the Liberal Order Survive? by G. John Ikenberry) about Trump and his new approach to foreign affairs which is totally frightening, but they had this to say about the man that I kind of think sums it up and gets to the sleaze factor:

Trump’s challenge to the liberal order is all the more dangerous because it comes with a casual disrespect for the norms and values of liberal democracy itself.  The president has questioned the legitimacy of federal judges, attacked the press, and shown little regard for the Constitution or the rule of law.  Facts. evidence, scientific Knowledge, due diligence, reasoned discourse – the essential elements of democratic political life – are disparaged daily.  One must look long and hard to find any utterances by Trump about the virtues of the nation’s political traditions, the genius of the Founding Fathers, or the great struggles and accomplishments of liberal democracy.

I won’t bore you with the sleaze that is actually happening as some of our journalists are starting to identify behavior that is questionable at best (Campaign/Inauguration donations that are poorly camoflouged attempts to buy favors, loans and realistate purchaws that make no sense, and the profiteering in Russia that probably resulted in the Trump boys and girls laundering of money, etc.).  Rachel Maddow exposed both the sleaze of Trump and his conflicts of interest for those who care to really look:

Finally Roger Cohen gave us a look into the new normal if we just look away from what is going on.  It is a fictional look at the future with business everything and sleaze just part of business.   Here is a taste:

President Ivanka Trump (“Keep America Greater Than Ever!”) had been elected in a landslide in 2024 after her father’s two-term presidency. She cut a glittering figure at the Florida festivities. Throughout 2026 she had earned praise for resisting family pressure to “modernize” the Declaration of Independence. To substitute “the pursuit of the deal” for the “pursuit of happiness” as one of the “unalienable rights” would, she suggested, “perhaps not be that great of an idea.”

Her father was irked — he had also wanted to sub the bit about all men being created equal — and went into a sulk. But then he had become particularly irritable since stepping down. The Trump Library had flopped; he could think of only one book to put in it. His weight had ballooned. He was still kvetching about Obamacare, and bad hombres, and the fact that despite his best efforts he had been unable to start World War III. President Ivanka Trump tried to console him, but of course she was busy.

Yes I think that is where we are.  It is all out there to see and so many simply refuse to see it.