Archive for May 2017

Roger Cohen Goes Off the Rails

I read Roger Cohen frequently and greatly enjoy his insights, but this one had me stumped.  He is describing a woman who can no longer communicate with her father, a stalwart Trump supporter:

Hegge approached me in distress. She’s frustrated that she can’t even get to a point of departure for a reasoned discussion with her dad, a strong supporter of President Trump. “What can I do? We can’t even agree on a reality to discuss or a source we both accept,” she said. Like many Trump voters, her father is convinced there’s a liberal plot to sabotage the president.

And that about describes it from a person who lives in Trump country, we have two different realities.  But here is the thing.  There is only one reality. There are not two sets of facts and what she is expressing is the wall Trumpees have built to insulate themselves from the observable world.  But Roger then gives us some both sides do it nonsense.

This is the chasm to which Fox News, Republican debunking of reason and science, herd-reinforcing social media algorithms, liberal arrogance, rightist bigotry, and an economy of growing inequality have ushered us.

Well maybe some, but still is liberal arrogance part of actually having the facts?  They are out there, they are easy to find, and critical thinking clears the air.  Trump supporters don’t bother or seek out “alternate facts”

There are hateful racists among Trump supporters; there are also many decent, thoughtful, anxious, patriotic Americans who felt they were losing some part of their country’s essence. The liberal complacency that holds that these people simply need to be “educated” is self-defeating. If that’s what the Democratic Party exudes — coastal complacency — it will lose, just like Ms. Clinton did last year.

As Abe Streep, a journalist and writer based in Montana, put it to me: “Nobody’s ever been convinced by being made to feel stupid.”

Then he counsels we have to hear them out.  “America needs the conversations it’s not having. They start, for both sides, with listening. The alternative is bloody confrontation.”  Okay, I get that we do have to understand their pain.  I get that technological entrepreneur  America is out of touch with Middle America.  I get that just educating everyone is not going to solve the problems of economic inequality and that the system is rigged.  But Trump, a guy who thinks global warming is fiction, thinks more tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs, whose idea of healthcare is throwing 23 million off it and reducing coverage, who thinks nationalism and tossing our most basic values and replacing them with economic ones will make the world a safer place/

Sadly Roger does not live in the world I do.  He ought to try to “listen” where he will quickly find out that is all your allowed to do in Trump world.  Your opinions are a plot against nature.  He still assumes rational thought and facts work.  Maybe for a few, but not many.  One writer wrote this to Rogers over simplistic solution:

…As one of the “arrogant coastal elites,” I know my thoughts would fall on deaf ears if I were thrust into a Trump crowd. Which has the corrosive effect of silencing my true ideas, resulting in the total walling off of two groups of Americans.

Is it as bad as the Civil War, whose commemorative aspect launched the Memorial Day holiday? There are some days I think so, imagining a northerner attempting to explain to a southerner why he or she condemned slavery.

Today, “slavery” has morphed into two different views of reality. I have a hard time believing a democracy can survive such a radical schism. It’s real, it was present in the past election, and it’s not going away. I agree with Hillary Clinton in her speech at Wellesley, that “free societies lose” when two sides disagree as to what constitutes facts. She might have lost the election with her elitism, but she sure nailed the problem.

Alternate views of reality are a very new phenomenon, and scary as hell. I used to laugh when hearing the old saw, “you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.”
I don’t laugh any more because that’s what we’re dealing with.

I actually think Roger has this only half right.  The problem was not listening, but listening too much. While Democrats were too “arrogant” in their failure to really understand that for a large portion of our population, the system is badly broken and tweaking was not going to solve their problems, the real problem is that we as a society tolerated an alternate reality not just generated by the Right Wing, talk radio, FOX news, or by conservative think tanks.  The mainstream media was the biggest facilitator of this propaganda.

Remember when the talking heads would present climate change deniers in the same light as scientists in a he said/she said presentation.  Remember when John Oliver made fun of that by having one climate denier and 97 climate scientists debate him (97% of scientists now believe in Climate Change).  That was the tip of the iceberg, and that is just the beginning.  The media has been a big part of this, and I am not talking about FOX which is simply a propaganda arm of the conservatives.  I am talking about mainstream news. When we have facts and instead we get two spinning political strategists, it creates the false impression of two realities.

So the answer is to push back.  While we should listen to their concerns, you have to push back with the facts.  There are only one set.  Where we should be intolerant and “arrogant” is not tolerating lies and misrepresentations.  Note, we are having this present “discussion” about back channel communications that the Right is presenting as normal.  That is bullshit.  Even John McCain gets that.  The media could refute that instead of letting politicos argue, but they don’t.

Sadly we have let this get out of hand and now facts are simply chosen to meet ideological needs (Do you believe climate change is real?  Text 3 for yes and 4 for no). But as one wise politico once said, facts have a well-known liberal bias.  It is time to stand up for them because the intolerance is coming from the other side.


Memorial Day

Baseball, barbecue, and the unofficial beginning of summer.  Memorial weekend is that 3-day get away to the beginning of warm weather activities.  It is also a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May.  Some complain we get the two mixed up or even forget the official meaning of the day.  I myself struggle with the meaning of the day.

My experience with death in war is from Vietnam.  There are few left from WWII, a few more from Korea, but probably the greatest number with living experience is in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria.  We each bring back memories from our own era which colors our emotions on Memorial Day, and I try to remember that is not just our war dead, but dying while serving the country in our armed forces.

I am conflicted because I know that serving in the armed forces may not have been a sacrifice at all.  It might have been a career path freely chosen.  You might be 18, out of high school and with no other viable alternatives.  You might have been just looking for adventure.  It might be a way to get the training or college you could not afford.  You might have been swept up in the draft. You might be hooked on the adrenalin rush of combat, or the feeling of purpose and meaning working as a unit with clear meaningful goals.  There are many reasons why serving in the armed forces was little more than self-serving.  Of course, you might also have joined up because you did want to serve you country.  Regardless of the path, there you are.

And if you are one of those we celebrate at Memorial Day, you did not come home.  What is the meaning in that?  Was it valor and sacrifice for your country or was it simply a life not fulfilled in a fruitless cause?  Is it both? Were you fighting for freedom and liberty, or were you a pawn in some political power play?  For the war I am most familiar with, there is a lesson for me on Memorial Day from the Vietnam War Memorial.  58,000 names of people who did not see their grandchildren, fall in love again, or grow old watching a sunset.  And the question for me on Memorial Day was, was it worth it?  Is it ever worth it? And the lesson is simply that if you ask men and women to be put in harm’s way, it better not be for flag waving or bluster, but a last resort to preserving peace and freedom.

I don’t think most can grasp that as a leader if you have not yourself served.  I certainly don’t think our current Commander-in-Chief has a clue and that makes him very dangerous. When he goes to lay the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I am appalled since he never sacrificed anything.  He is about posture and bluster and that is what gets kids killed, for vanity.  He is the king of the nationalistic flag wavers and all the wrong reasons for using military force.

I worry that while we should honor those who lost their lives in the armed forces, we tend to glorify war as a recruiting ploy, politicians out waving the flag. While many may find the following analogy repugnant, nonetheless, honoring war dead is a less extreme example than martyring a terrorist bomber.  We can argue about ends and morality, but we are still valuing death in pursuit of a cause as a noble pursuit.  And finally, are those that opposed war or took risks and paid the price serving their fellow man any less worthy of remembering than those who did it in the armed services (See Ken Burns and Lynn Novick)?

So yes, I am conflicted.  For a multitude of reasons many of us found ourselves in the armed services, and each of us pulled up our socks, put on our boots, did the job, and some of us did not come home.  There is no fairness or justice in it.  It was a roll of the dice. And the ultimate question is was it worth it?

So back to my beginning on this Memorial Day where most Americans are just out celebrating life in the warm sun, with friends and family, maybe barbecuing roast beast of some sort.  That is what I am going to do. Maybe that is what this day should be if we really want to honor those who have died serving this country, a celebration of life.  Then when we ask our citizens to make that ultimate sacrifice, we know what we are asking of them and it had better be for something damn important.

UPDATE:  In order to understand the price warriors, all warriors have paid, I strong recommend you play the videos in this link.  At some level this better than anything I have seen reaches into what war does to us.

The Flag is Burning

Not one I recognize.  Not even one I admire anymore.  Remember that “Shining City on the Hill”.  It has become that lean-to in the dump. Sure there are lots of manicured castles around, but that is just for the special folk as the rest of us see a stagnant and backward nation.  Do I hyperbolize?  Let me recount:

  • We elected a leader that is ignorant of history, admires brutal dictators, denies science, cannot speak in full sentences, and is a narcissist on steroids (See any of my last 200 blogs and the references therein)
  • Our President thinks nothing of hawking his wares from the White House and thumbs his nose at conflict of interest charges basically sending the message that rules are only for the little people
  • A Vice-President so incompetent and clueless that he would create a theocracy if he could, but he sounds nice
  • During a state visit of the President of Turkey who our very own Village Idiot In Charge (VIIC) congratulated when through corruption won an election to severely limit democracy, protestors in Washington were beaten up by Turkish thugs and we ignore it
  • His own disregard for the first freedom of speech through his attack on journalists and implicitly inciting violence on them bore fruit in Montana were the candidate attack a journalist.  Oh, and he got elected
  • While is Saudi Arabia one of the VIIC Minions (VIMs) noted that there was not one protest on any of the motorcade routes.  No, I am not kidding.  They love police states
  • The VIIC actually tweeted that the Pope was a humble man, much like himself
  • The VIIC in Brussels pushed his way to the front of the pack and then took up one of his famous Presidential looks that reminds you of a 7-year old trying to look important
  • The VIIC refused to make a decision on the Paris Climate Accord, which is code for coming home and then denying science to make his base happy and take part in destroying the planet for our children
  • The VIMs, specifically the Attorney General, is bringing back of the glory days of the War on Drugs of the 1980s where we filled our prisons with non-violent offenders and had more prisons than schools, which by the way are more expensive than colleges to operate
  • The VIMs, specifically the Chief of the EPA, has decided to replace scientist with industry lackys to rule on environmental protections.  Love Canal here we come.
  • The VIMs released a budget that slashes everything that helps Americans to afford tax cuts for the wealthy
  • The VIMs want to slash the corporate tax rate based on the lie that we pay more corporate taxes than anyone.  Just the little guys do.  The really big guys pay nothing and the average is 14% which is less than half what the published rate is.
  • The VIMs, specifically the Secretary of Education, wants to transfer the control of education loans to treasury where it can be managed as a revenue source for government instead of a program to help those in need afford education
  • The VIIC seems to want to restart the war in the middle east, except we will just be smarter this time, right?
  • The VIMs released and passed a healthcare plan that lowers premiums for the young and healthy, but won’t cover much, pushes 23 million off healthcare, and could raise rates by 800% for the sick and elderly
  • Finally in the great example of the new cruelty of this administration and the “we are definitely not all in this together,” was Ben Carson, another VIM who explained that poverty was a state of mind.  It is the responsibility argument that allows you to blame the victim.  People are poor because the deserve it, and she was raped because she was provocative

On the VIIC’s latest trip, he gave a speech in Saudi Arabia where he said we don’t care about human values (we are not going to tell you how to live or what to do), and changing our foreign policy toward democracy and freedom and putting business first.  He went to NATO and did not affirm Article 5, an attack on one is an attack on all, the very basis of NATO and with Russian encroachment increasing.  Meanwhile his son-in-law is under investigation for trying to set up a back channel communication, and National Security Advisor tried to normalize it without mentioning the whole idea was totally alien to back channel communications in that it was designed to take our intelligence agencies out of the loop.

So here we are.  And we are here because we are too tolerant and kind.  Yes tolerance is a virtue and so is kindness.  But who knew our democracy was so fragile that with one election we set out to destroy everything good about America?  So there is a place for kindness and tolerance, but not when it comes to our basic values.  The base of the Republican Party should have been slapped back again and again by Moderate Republicans (or real Republicans), Democrats, and the media.  Instead we gave them a pass to practice by being tolerant of their intolerance.  Hopefully we have learned something.  If we haven’t it really is all over.

Move Along Folks, Nothing to See

I am talking about the purported meetings of Jared Kushner with the Russians to set up back channel secret communications.  Listening to Republicans this morning is truly mind boggling.  While Intelligence experts have their hair on fire, our Republican Senators and Congressmen are trying to say this is no big deal.  Again, stop and think if this was Hillary.  The mobs with pitch forks would be everywhere, and instead of chanting lock her up, would be demanding burning her at the stake.  The Village Idiot Minions (VIMs) do this and they try to make you look the other way.

The apologies run on two themes, the first is that back channel communication is nothing new.  No it is not, but not like this.  First, it is the context of numerous contacts with the Russian both during the campaign and during the transition and while the Russians were identified as interfering in the election.

Second, why lie about these meetings or hide them from getting your security clearance? Third, back channel communications are set up with careful planning including our intelligence agencies.  Fourth, no one has ever said let’s use the Russian encrypted communications through the Russian Embassy.  There is a good reason for that, people who visit the Russian Embassy are surveiled.  You think they would know that.

The second apology tactic goes like this:  It is quite possible the VIMs wanted to trade relief of sanctions on help with the Syrian War. They were just inexperienced on how these things are done. Sounds reasonable until you think about it.  The latest sanctions were for interfering with our election, and those before that were for Russian incursion into Ukraine and Crimea.  So have those things been mitigated?  So we don’t care anymore if you will go after ISIS in Syria?  That make no sense at all.

Finally, you hear the line, this is a distraction and we fine upstanding Republicans want to get on with our agenda to make America great again.  Would that be their plan for healthcare that dumps 23 million Americans out of healthcare coverage?  Or would that be their budget that cuts almost every important program in America including cancer research (near and dear to my heart/prostate)?  Would that be the massive cuts for the wealthy while those middle American morons who voted for the VIIC get the shaft?  I believe it would.

I think they know their goose is cooked.  There is just too much out there that needs to be looked at.  None of this makes any sense instead you sense there is something (money and connections that tie back to the Russians) out there they need to manage with the Russians out of the light of day.  And just asking for back channel secret communications puts you at risk of blackmail as the Russians could threaten to expose it.

So something very bad is starting to unravel. Republicans who sold their soul to their agenda desperately are trying to make it go away.  But there is no going away anymore.  Hopefully America is seen just how bankrupt they are.  If not, well shit! There is no hope.

WTF!!! Or Maybe We Should Call This WTF Fridays

Oh how Fridays now deliver.  Used to be slow news day, but thanks to our intelligence community that is watching the nation on fire and seeing Congress move at glacial speed or obstructing what is really going on, we are getting the Friday night news flash.  This one is amazing from several different angles.  First, the leak is that Jared Kushner was meeting with the Russians to set up back channel secret communications (covert communications) channels between the White House and the Russians.  Secret from our own intelligence agencies in the Russian Embassy.  Secret for what is the operative question?

Now before you start with all the excuses about how this is just Trump being Trump or this is just inexperience, what would the Republicans have done if this was Hillary?  There were seven Congressional Committees on Benghazi and it was all nonsense.  Enough said.  The hypocrisy is boundless.  There is now real fire, fuck the smoke.

The second thing you want to think about is the source of this leak, the actual interception of communications with the Russians.  By leaking this they burned this intelligence source (the Russians will change their methods).  So this was so important that someone was willing to risk it.  Why now?  Maybe the fear that this information was getting buried?  Whoever did this is taking a hell of risk for our country.  This should alert you to the fact that we are only scratching the surface.

Now the apologists in the press are trying to paint this as inexperience or maybe an innocent attempt to try to establish communications with Russia to ease tensions that our intelligence community might resist (for very good reasons).  Try to remember that these are the Russians who tried and were successful at swaying the American Election (see the latest Comey stuff).  These Russians are Syria’s best friend.  They want to re-establish their control over Eastern Europe through stoking nationalism in the United States and Europe.  They want to set up the same conditions that brought us WWI and WWII.

I know what this is about.  You know what this is about.  It is about how the need for cash over the years in Trump’s many failed business adventures that has allowed the Russians to get their hooks into the Trump organization through loans that benefited both, laundering money for one, and providing cash flow when American financial institutions would not touch him with a 10-foot pole.  For the VIIC (Village Idiot in Charge) this is just business.  But the Russians understand this is about policy and a way to sway American policies to their favor.

There is no innocence here.  The VIIC was in Europe playing to the Russian tune to the consternation of European leaders and our real friends.  Trump wanted to conduct business without prying eyes.  The business is counter to our and the free world’s interests.  He does not care, but our intelligence world does.  So again the smoke machines are out there pumping out the smoke, but the fire alarms that detect heat are going off and the fire engines are responding.  In this case the Senate just got a giant kick in their butt and they are responding with subpoenas.  You think this is not a major focus of the Special Counsel?

So the as Shakespeare once said, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”*  And in that is the real danger.  While the dogs of investigation now have the scent, and havoc seems everywhere, the President has the power to “let slip the dogs of war” as he gets cornered in his lies about his finances and his Russian connections.  The Republicans have let us get here and the facts are obvious, but not proven.  The leakers are trying to save us before we go too far. The people who claim to  love freedom so much have mortgaged it for their ideology.  By the end of summer we will either have a new president, redo election, or a war nobody wants.  Again, thank you Republicans.  It is has been a long road of lies and misinformation that allows the chaos we see around us.  Yes they are evil.

*Julius Caesar

Oh Good Lord!

The Village Idiot in Charge (VIIC) is running amok in Europe and pissing everyone off.  Does the man understand the history of World War I and II?  Rhetorical.  He does not and neither do most of his supporters.  Nationalism is the road to war and empowering Russia.  When the VIIC failed to overtly say he stands behind Article 5 of NATO (an attack on one is an attack on all), it was a Russian wet dream. It undermines NATO.  Then he goes and offends just about everyone.  The video of him pushing aside (ala Diana Ross of the Supremes) a European leader to get up front tells you exactly who he is.

He is stupid, arrogant, and a grave danger to the country.  How do you apologize to the citizens of the world for this abomination or the ignorant fools who voted for him?  I don’t know but I am not proud to be an American under this kind of leadership.

Hillary came out swinging today at the commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley.

I think Hillary killed it “…a full fledged assault on truth and reason.”  put a face on what the VIIC is doing to this country.  My thought as I watched this is where is Barack?  These are not normal times and all I can say is all hands on deck, tradition be damned.

In the Russia news, the follow the money strategy is focusing in on Jared Kushner.  That was no surprise as last week it was a close advisor of the VIIC who was a person of interest.  Who else?  For the VIIC you are starting to see what he is really about (himself).  Nationalism to him is me first, I got mine, screw you.  We see that in his approach to Europe and his short-sighted profit motive to be friends with the Russians.  What do we care if Vlad takes over Eastern Europe again?  Where is the profit and loss?  In Saudi, the message was do what you want with women or minority rights, we don’t care as long as it does not impact the bottom line.  That is not the America where I am a citizen.

Meantime in the country we have the same thing going on.  We are going to run the government like a business and what that means is the business of tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts for everyone else. Did you see this morning that VIIC minions wants to transfer student loans($1 Trillion) from the agency that cares (or is supposed to) about educating our nation, to the Treasury Department as a revenue stream on the backs of our kids.  That is the new America we live in.

Finally in healthcare we have a disaster for a “repeal and replace.”  It won’t pass and what they will do is not do the things that will fix the problems with Obamacare, but continue to sabotage it to make the medical markets smaller and more costly so they can blame the failure of Obamacare on a bad idea (death spiral) instead of their hand in its demise and failure to take the steps necessary to fix it.  Middle America doesn’t get it yet, but they will.

In the meantime we had Montana morons cheering the attack on a journalist and believe me,  listening to and seeing the journalist, no one will believe he attack the candidate.  While the Republicans poored money into this campaign, the Democratic Party was once again very late to the party.  That is the new America we live in and I want to move.  No actually I want to move all the morons who reject science, knowledge, data, our fundamental beliefs to Montana or South Carolina where they can all simmer together in their stupidity and see what percolates up.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend.  Memories may be all we have left.

More Random Thoughts – Potpourri

I watched most of the hearings in the House Intelligence Committee and it is clear to the casual observer that there is clearly fire where there is smoke and while they were all dancing around it, invoking privileged conversations, it was obvious that was has been reported is true. It is clear there is something rotten in the Trump administration.  Not that the Republicans did not try to produce more smoke so you could not see if there was a fire.  It was almost shameful.  One Republican knuckle head actually tried to say that when Obama conferred with Medvedev, President of Russia back in the day (two heads of state), it was the same thing.  Nothing here folks, look away, or Obama is the bigger traitor.  I wonder when this kind of moronic spinning will finally start to hurt them?

The VIIC (Village Idiot in Charge) and his village idiot minions (VIMs) released his budget yesterday and it is a horror show unless you are a very rich person.  Of course all the cuts and give aways to the rich will be paid for by amazing economic growth that no one has seen since Eisenhower.  In other words it is a pack of lies and really smoke and mirrors to cut everything that we do to help our fellow citizens survive so that rich people can have further tax cuts.  Did you get the name of it?  The New Foundations for American Greatness. George Orwell be still your beating heart.  Ayn Rand would be orgasmic. I thought we learned austerity does not really help the economy? Oh well.

The Budget Office also scored the Trumpcare Plan and it was as expected.  There is no Republican solution to healthcare with a market based system if you want to cover as many people as possible and make it affordable while keeping the good stuff from Obamacare.  It really is that simple.

Thomas Friedman served up an interesting view of degenerating middle America with this conclusion:

The big divide in America is not between the coasts and the interior. It’s between strong communities and weak communities. You can find weak ones along the coast and thriving ones in Appalachia, and vice versa. It’s community, stupid — not geography.

The story was of communities that from local advocacy, learned how to thrive and innovate their economic base and those that did not.  I am not sure it is as simple as that, but my thoughts went elsewhere here.  The picture of those failing communities were of lost jobs and then stagnation, turning to a drug epidemic.  This is kind of foreign to my being, the idea that communities are so stagnate.  I was a military brat when I grew up moving about every three years.  College was expected, and when I graduated, the nation was my plaything.  Now granted I went into the Air Force and left Maryland to go to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, but had I not been in the Vietnam era and a military career been my choice, I still would have looked at the country as the job market.

When things go south at home, I did not have a home.  Time to move on.  So with that kind of mentality, it is hard for me to understand the desperation of the young at least.  But I fear the story is more complicated than Tom paints it.  What about the old or the young who do not want to move and new industries do not come in to reinvigorate their communities?  Local community action might not be enough.  I think another story might be told that people on the coast are more mobile and maybe educated.

I also think about my experience getting she who must not be mentioned here a new car.  Now she has had her old car for 11 years so we were amazed at the technology changes.  And then it dawned on us, lease a car for 3 years because the technology changes are accelerating.  In other words just finance 3 years of use instead of the life of the car and upgrade again.  So how does that transfer to jobs?  My answer is that the job market will also change in the same fashion and what is technological savvy today, will be obsolete tomorrow.  While service industries might be static or stable in one area (teachers, nurses, hospitals, police, fire, etc.), there has to be a driving business community to which they serve the workers.  So what does that tell us?

I think two things.  First, jobs are going to come and go and government will have to play a role, counter to Republican inhumanness, where the community is not close to a university that can leverage a changing job market.  Second, the world of secure jobs for most of us, except service industries is over.  The work force will have to be a learning community as technology changes the whole environment of work.  So once again, what about those that are not capable? The Republican solution is leave them to die in the ditch.  Government has a role to play here providing easy and affordable access to education and a safety net for those who get left behind.  Think truck drivers when we go to driverless trucks and that is just scratching the surface.

One final thing this morning as I am on a train to SF and a visit to the Legion of Honor to see the Monet exhibit.  The Russia thing:  I have said it before and apparently they are finally catching on.  Follow the Money.  It has always been about the money and how the VIIC got his financing over the years as Russia was sinking their claws into him.  I see him gone by late summer.  The media has finally figured this out and it is only a matter of time.  Republican equivocating and obstruction is just disgusting.  I am hoping that they can also show Pious Pence lied about what he knew about Flynn.  Then does it go to Paul Ryan or will the nation finally realize we need a do over, a special election for President?  Maybe a two month thing (and please don’t run Hillary again).  I dream.

Note:  I have not mentioned the bombing in Manchester because I am not sure what to say.  I almost ignore it because there is nothing to say.  It is sad, tragic, and mindless.  It is also a police issue because this is the kind of threat we will be facing in the future.  It is just nut jobs and rooting them out is everyone’s responsibility. Reading about it is just too sad and I think we learn nothing when we hover on the nut job who thought taking innocent children had any meaning.

Rational Thinking

Does it matter anymore?  The issues we face are nuanced and grey.  Where one can find an absolute principle, another might find a yes, but.  And those looking for an absolute principle don’t care about the yes, buts.  It is clear to me we have an unhinged President who hates democracy.  His Secretary of State just gave a press conference in Saudi Arabia and banned the U.S. Media.  Is there a plot by the press to get the president as many think, or are the facts just inconvenient for them?  Well I know the answer to that, but so do Trump supporters.  That is the most depressing thing going on right now.  If you can find that sliver of truth, nobody cares.  Rational thought does not count for anything.

So in the interest of those of us who still care about making sense and having policy that are not based upon ideology, but on the reality we live in and actual results, here are things to think about:

  • Healthcare – Fact:  People like the benefits that Obamacare has brought them and want to keep them, just with lower affordable rates.  Fact:  As the VIIC (Village Idiot in Charge) attacks Obamacare and threatens to destroy it, the markets get less stable and Obamacare becomes less viable. Fact:  Republicans have no way to fix it with market place solutions.  Covering more people and lowering rates can be done only by expanding the pools of people who pay in.  So the choice is simple.  Either you move to left and embrace a single payer system, or you move to the right, bring the market place back in, cancel many of the benefits of Obamacare and cover far fewer people.  That’s it.  All the rest is smoke and mirrors.  See the rest of the world and compare it to our history with health insurance for data and facts.
  • Corporate Taxes – Fact: Large corporations are not over taxed.  While it is true that the published rates are some of the highest in the world, the effective rates (after all those loopholes) is almost half that and many large corporations pay zero taxes.  Do we need real reform to spread out the burden more effectively?  Sure.  Do we think the Republican’s tax reform ideas will do that?  Not a chance.  Here is the economic policy institute crunching the actual numbers.

  • Jobs – Fact:  The president has proposed tax cuts and deregulation to solve our jobs problem and get the economy moving.  The reality is that this has never helped anyone but the wealthy.  As E. J. Dionne pointed out in an op-ed this morning hoping the Pope would counsel the VIIC:

Francis, after all, has explicitly condemned “trickle-down” economics as a system that “has never been confirmed by the facts” and “expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” Capitalism, as he sees it, “tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits.” He added that “whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market.”

Further, in places like Utah, the issue is lack of workers and really the need for more immigrants for many jobs.  So how again are tax cuts and removing regulations going to help?  Oh those fact things.

  • Global Warming – Fact:  The earth is warming and it is now happening faster than anyone thought.  But that goes against Trumpism ideology that man could have had anything to do with it so we ignore it.  Science is just another opinion.

Okay I think I have made my point.  Because we are ignoring facts and data we are doing almost everything wrong and making them worse.  Additionally we have a moral and ethically challenged administration that is restocking the swamp. not draining it.  We seem to have a national motto right now, fuck humanity, what is good for business is good for the U.S.

I don’t think that will serve us very well, but making rational arguments to point out the flaws in Trumpism seems to fall of deaf ears.  Okay, maybe I have some things wrong or maybe there is an element of truth to some of the complaints.  But where we are right now, compromise or nuanced plans to deal with these issues are not possible because they fail an ideological test from the right.  And make no mistake, this is all coming from the right.  I fear we will have to see massive failure before these ideas are cast aside.

One more depressing thought.  The VIIC is in the Middle East lining up with the Sunnis against the Shiites.  We seem to be overlooking the moral depravity of the Saudi government and their treatment of women as inconsequential to good business.  As the ship sinks, the VIIC is going to wag the dog and the safe bet is he will pick Iran as our foe instead of North Korea, because the short term damage would be less.

Yeah, I get that Iran is a bad player, but there society is much more aligned with the West and is changing.  Aligning ourselves with the very nation that imports radical Muslim extremism (Wahhadism) seems like we are pick the worst of two sides.  Why are we picking sides at all.  Why are we not working for peace instead of further arming the Saudis and making the Iranians feel even more threatened?

See what I mean by nuance?  Right now the people in charge are incapable of nuance.  We are living in a very dangerous place where irrationality is driving the train.  There can be no other way to see it.

Trump America

I was having a lovely day wine tasting when the ignorance and stupidity of Trump America raised its ugly head.  I was sitting sipping some wine outside a lovely winery when an acquaintance sat down next to me so we chit chatted for a few minutes and it turns out he has worked for a firm or with a firm I consult for.  I mentioned the Request for Proposal for the prototype border wall, and he launch into maybe we won’t need it since it would seem Trump’s rhetoric had scared many away and they would not be going to school tuition free and stealing our tax dollars.  Now none of that is true and is easily fact-checked on the web if you go to reliable sources.  But their minds are not up for changing.  Facts, real facts do not matter.

There are loans dedicated to undocumented immigrants to help them, but understand who we are talking about, Dreamers.  These are kids who know no other home and they just want to productive Americans.  Again a little work on the internet and you can educate yourself, but they just want to believe somebody is getting a better deal than they are.  They want to hate.

I tried to change the direction by saying what we really need is an immigration system where workers (especially farm workers) can come into the country fairly simply and leave again.  He stated that was already the system we have and they just need to get their green cards an we would have no problem in the fields.  I said that was not the case .  He lives in a different world than I do.

My point is simple.  We live with people who actually believe that somehow immigrants are stealing from them.  Somehow they were not getting their fair share and immigrants are the root of our problem, getting some kind of free ride..  And facts or the gray areas just don’t make any difference.  That is the Trump America we live in.  It is so much easier to blame someone who is different, than to see the humanity in their striving.  And in good Christian America, we are slapping the hand reaching out for help.

Was Vietnam Winnable?

That is the title for an op-ed in the NYT arguing it was. The author wrote and based his argument on American strategy and the North Vietnamese’s papers at the time.  Since this is a war that consumed me as a young man, and finally found me flying reconnaissance missions in the early 70’s there, I found it hard to read.  There are a lot of deep emotions in my and many of my fellow countrymen who were also consumed by this war.  I have a gut reaction to these arguments that they are nonsense, that we did not understand the war in any social or cultural sense, and the war was bound to fail.  So reading through this was hard.  It was one of those things you have to force yourself to do.

His argument was about strategy and he provided 3-things we could have done. “The most momentous blunder was the decision of the American ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, to foment the coup that overthrew Ngo Dinh Diem, which wrecked the South Vietnamese security apparatus and led North Vietnam to initiate a huge invasion of the South.” My thought here is most Americans will not remember this history.  Diem was Catholic in a Buddhist country and he was becoming ever more totalitarian and divisive making the country ungovernable.  We were propping him up.  So you don’t remove him and create a police state like North Korea?

Another mistake was Johnson’s decision to not insert American ground forces into Laos to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a move that would have transformed the war and reduced the need for American forces.” I flew in these “friendly skies” almost daily tracking the flow of war materials into the South, and we bombed it all the time.  Laos was a forbidding country where if you were shot down, they did not take prisoners.  So we just throw troops at it and we would not get bogged down in another war in Laos?  This makes little sense to me.  If we learned anything, the Vietnamese were resourceful. They would have found another way.

Finally the author argued that we needed to change the conversation about the war in the U.S. to support it so there was not so much resistance at home. I would argue here that the reality of the killing being presented on TV in a country that had no impact our national security made that idea inoperative.  Here is his argument:

During 1967, White House advisers and foreign leaders repeatedly urged Johnson to change course, to tell the American public why the United States was in Vietnam and what it was trying to achieve. But Johnson could not bring himself to do it, even as he increasingly recognized the damaging consequences of his silence. “If history indicts us for Vietnam,” Johnson admitted in the fall, “it will be for fighting a war without trying to stir up patriotism.”

Stir up patriotism?  We lost the war and Vietnam is now a good friend and trading partner, offsetting Chinese influence in the area. what are you talking about?  The war was for nothing.

I found this kind of thinking a tutorial on how we get into wars we don’t belong in.  First of all, why did we fight there?  The author never made the point of why 58,000 Americans and over 3 million Vietnamese had to die.  What was our strategic interest?  What have been the consequences of our losing it?  This just use better tactics approach to war is what got us in major problems in the Middle East.  Wars are not tactics on a game board.  They are about cultural and social issues that if not understood, undermine our whole endeavor.  That is the key to our failures in the Middle East and was the key to losing a war we could not win in Vietnam.

Finally, I would argue, define winnable?  How many killed, how much destroyed, and how long will the invading round-eye be resisted in a gorilla war and resented as an imperialist?  These are things he never addresses.  But the answer to all this is in the fact that Vietnam today is a good trading partner and they have forgiven us, so what again was the need to win this war? There are a lot of us out here who fought that war and know this is the nonsense that will continue getting Americans killed for ego and vanity.  Winning for winning.  The reader comments are what makes my day and here are three of my favorites:

AW:  “It’s slightly bizarre that the author of this piece does not so much as mention the question whether the US had the right to intervene in a civil war on the other side of the earth. We killed three million Vietnamese, lost 58,000 of our own people, dropped a greater tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than were dropped in all of World War II, dropped colossal amounts of Agent Orange, which killed thousands and is still making people sick, dropped an immense tonnage of bombs on Laos and Cambodia, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leading in the latter case directly to the genocide of Pol Pot, and the murder of 1.7 million people, and this author is sorry we didn’t go further. This is a pretty good definition of moral idiocy.”

Doc Kevorian: “We DID “win” the Vietnam War. Ten years after the fall of Saigon, all of our war aims were achieved. The new Vietnam is stable, prosperous, and is our staunch ally against China. Most amazingly, the Vietnamese people have forgiven us for what we did to them. That’s victory, but it shows how stupid and pointless the war was. I served two tours there, 1966-67, and 1970 and am a disabled veteran.”

mancuroc: “If the US had won the war, Vietnam would have been a good trading partner to the United States and its people would have been friendly to the Americans.

Oh, wait……”

I could not have said it better.