Archive for the ‘Connecting the Dots’ Category.

Two Reflections of the Country that Tells Us Everything

There were two stories this morning that tell you really where we are and all you need to know about why America does not work anymore. The first is a story about the upcoming election in Alabama where the real issues got lost in the Roy Moore saga. But the real issues show what a mess “Red” Alabama is. Here are a few facts from the article:

  • In Halleyville Alabama the one and only hospital in the country is set to close for lack of funds
  • 17 percent of Alabamians live in poverty — the fifth-highest rate in the country
  • The state’s violence-wracked prisons are jammed to 159 percent of their intended capacity.
  • With budget troubles a chronic fact of life, spending on Medicaid, which has not been expanded, lags.
  • Standardized test scores are among the nation’s lowest.
  • Heart disease and diabetes are endemic.
  • Last year, Marion, a rural city in central Alabama, suffered a tuberculosis outbreak so severe that its incidence rate was worse than that of many developing countries
  • The infant mortality rate for 2016 rose to 9.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, the highest rate the state has seen since 2008. (The national rate was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015, the most recent year for which federal data is available.)
  • The mortality rate was more than twice as high for black infants as white ones, and in some parts of the state, like Perry or Pickens Counties, the rate was 25.6 and 30.3.
  • Minimum wage is $7.25/hour, not enough to pay rent or feed a family
  • Areas like Huntsville depend on federal spending for our rocket and missile programs yet they support Republicans slashing the budget
  • Even with major companies like Airbus, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundia, and Honda relocating there for low wages and few regulations, Alabama’s median household income lagged the national median by about $7,800. Today, Alabama lags behind the national median by more than $11,000.

Yep, a Red state paradise and yet these issues went undiscussed and they are leaning to voting for someone who will continue that trend above, making America great again. What a cesspool. Yeah, I pay high taxes in California. It is worth every penny.

The second on is the story of how Susan Collins got duped into voting for the tax bill by Republicans “willing to compromise.” As the NYT tells us:

A couple of weeks ago, Collins made a classic Collins deal. It tried to split the difference between Democratic and Republican positions….Collins said that she would vote for the recent Senate tax bill so long as Republicans leaders promised to pass other legislation — in the near future — that would reduce the bill’s knock-on damage to health care programs.

She laid out three conditions. She wanted her colleagues to pass two separate bills that would shore up insurance markets for people who weren’t covered through their job. And she wanted congressional leaders to promise to undo the Medicare cuts automatically triggered by the deficit increase from the tax cut.

Her colleagues assured her they would pass the bills she wanted — not immediately but soon after the tax bill had passed. Collins decided that was good enough, and on Dec. 2, she became one of 51 yes votes on the tax bill.

Now she is being screwed. They got their bill and now Ryan is making attacks on Medicare to fund the shortfalls in funding for the tax bill (the goal all along), and the house Republicans are thumbing their nose at her other conditions. She looks like an idiot and may pay a very heavy price for that vote at the polls. But that is not the point. The point is that is what compromise with Republicans looks like. It took President Obama eight long years to figure that out as he tried to work with them and the foolish press kept calling for them to have drinks together. That is the lesson to all those who claim we just need a middle road and both sides need to work together. There is no both sides and this is what compromise looks like with one of their own.

So there in two stories tells you everything about a Red America. It is headed for the dumper, and yet so many Americans listening to Fox news or talk radio are clueless. But there it is exposed in all its glory. Alabama, the armpit of the nation, and Republican values on full display. Will anyone notice? But hey, Alabama has football. That counts for something, right? Oh wait, more brain-damaged kids, the perfect voter for Republican politics.

Make America Great Again!

And apparently the way to do that according to President DFF and his followers is to make “America First”. So what does that all mean? Democrats tried the line we were already great, but it did not really sell in the election. People know we are in trouble. President DFF said this:

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.”

What does that mean? How does that make us great? Well in Trumpese and to the hoards of blamers, it means we won’t be ripped off by the rest of the world, which is an easy target for our economic woes. So if you understand that meaning, making America great again means restoring economic wealth to the middle class, who by the way, were never wealthy, but better off with more opportunities in past years, and rich in terms of the rest of the world. So making America great again is measured in dollars. How do we use America’s power and influence to accumulate more wealth is really what this means (and this assumes that this wealth will flow down to the middle class). Remember colonialism? Same goal.

Rex Tillerson has further defined this in terms of other countries:

“We just kind of lost track of how we were doing, and I think things have gotten out of balance,… If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we’ve come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

Again in Trumpese this means we will happily deal with the devil to advance our national interests defined as short-term economic interests. This is what will make America great again if we quit caring about freedom, democracy, human rights, minority and women’s rights, and just focus on making ourselves wealthy. It would be springtime in America according to President DFF and the Trumpets.

I understand how and why President DFF would believe this. He ran a business that was based on screwing the interests of others to make his money (if he is not in debt up to his eyeballs with the Russians). He was never into win-win, but win-lose. So he defines success as being the king of win-lose. So do the Trumpets that follow him. They want their piece of the pie and screw everyone else. That is how you succeed in their little minds. Is that how you make America Great Again?

Now, we are assuming, or they are, that their view of the economic pie and how economics works is correct and if you follow President DFF’s economic policies, things will get better. Stiff other countries, build a wall, give tax cuts to the wealthy, cancel trade agreements, ignore the environment, on our debt, get rid of regulations that rein in corporations and businesses, and we will be back on top. Oh and let’s not forget re-establishing white people as the dominant force in America. I would argue just the opposite, but that is not what this blog is about. It is about what makes America Great and how Trump and the Trumpets have it disastrously wrong.

What makes America great is not our money, but our values and our struggle to get those values right. When one stops and really thinks (something too rare these days) about our basic values, you are forced to read what our Founders struggled with. They weren’t just writing a document to lay out a government, they were making a basic statement about the nature of man, humanity, and what are our most precious goals, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments primary purpose was to secure those rights for each and every one of us.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

There it is. That is what makes America great, that we have a government and a people who are trying to achieve that lofty ideal. We had a civil war to correct a major problem with the compromise of those ideals, and it wasn’t until the 20th century that we gave women the right to vote. We are still struggling with race and misogyny as we see in todays events, but we are struggling to get it right. We have finally recognized gays are people too with rights. Yeah, it is messy, but what makes America great is our melting pot, and trying to understand all people have “certain unalienable rights”, to achieve their potential.

Even Ronald Reagan got this one. Remember the “Shinning City on a hill?”

‘I’ve spoken of the Shining City all my political life. …In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.'”

It was the gated community of the Trumps and the Trumpets. What he got wrong was that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” which Republicans have run wild with in actually stifling the rights of the middle class to enhance the rights of corporations and the market place. He missed entirely that the Founders established governmentfor the sole purpose to protect those rights of individuals. That life means economic security, that liberty means a level playing field for all of us, and freedom means our right to choose without infringing on the rights of others.

And here is my other argument. We were economically wealthy because we did secure those rights as government played an active role in leveling the playing field for everyone. And we were a beacon to the world where a man or woman, according to his/her abilities could achieve their potential. We have lost that edge because corporations and business now are more important than the people. We now measure ourselves by economic gain, not in how we treat humanity.

And here is what I see of the Shining City on the Hill: It is being bypassed by most of Europe because we thought that the freedom of the market place over people s rights would secure life, liberty, and justice through wealth, but for most of us it just enslaves us. Capitalism is merely a tool of our economic system, not a god. We have sacrificed the good of the people in the false belief that unfettered capitalism  will make us great. We live in a complex world where rights of the individual are now competing with the common good. It is a delicate balance tilted bady to corporations. It’s messy, but that is what made us great, understanding that balance and working hard to get there. We threw all that away with Donald Trump and the Republicans.

Not only will the selfish desire to only consider our financial interests in every interaction we conduct, whether within the United States or internationally backfire in terms of our economic interests, but it burns down the Shining City on the Hill. It will dim and become a cinder, burned out by greed. The world will no longer look to America as the noble experiment where there is hope, but the noble experiment that failed. If great is defined in terms of short-term gains and wealth, the 1% of America is not just great, but fantastic. So faired the aristocracy of old.

But if it defined in terms of equal opportunity for all, tolerance, and equality, or said as the Founders did, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, we have fallen on our asses. To “Make America Great Again” will not be achieved by being selfish, but by being magnanimous as a beacon for mankind. See President DFF or the Trumpets being magnanimous?

The Delegitimization of the American Government

Remember back in 2016 when the election was really about a loss of faith in establishment politics and our government. Democrats foolishly ignored all the signs and picked a candidate that did not excite the general public as another establishment hack. Still she would have been far better than the disaster-in-charge we have today. When Bernie got submarine by the Democratic establishment, people either stupidly voted third-party (stupidly because your vote did not count) or super stupidly switch to Trump because they thought Trump represent real change, not a misogynist, lying, racist, ignorant fool, which he was and is.

But the point here is that America had lost their faith in American institutions and the political process. With President DFF, they are getting a double dose of that, at least for those who still have not had their brains fried by Sean Hannity and Fox News. The latest blunder with Jerusalem will undoubtably result in the death of many people, and quite possibly a terrorist attack on America. Just a drop in the bucket of his misdeeds and destruction of this country. But we can get through President DFF if and only if Congress remains a strong advocate for our Constitution. That is in question as Republicans cravenly defend President DFF and undermine the investigation into his Russian connections. Oh, and dare I mention supporting the election of a pedophile to Congress. What’s one more pervert if he votes Republican?

But don’t take my word for it. See the WaPo:

Republican activists and lawmakers are engaged in a multi-front attack on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of possible connections between associates of President Trump and Russian agents, trying to stop or curtail the investigation as it moves further into Trump’s inner circle….Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity, one of the president’s informal advisers as well as one of his most vociferous defenders, on Tuesday night called Mueller “a disgrace to the American justice system’’ and said his team is “corrupt, abusively biased and political.’’…Accusations of bias against Mueller from conservatives have become commonplace in the public debate about the president and the Russia probe, and Republicans are expected to grill FBI Director Christopher A. Wray about those matters when he testifies Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee.

It is clear that instead of following the investigation, they are trying to delegitimize the FBI. It solves the short-term goal of protecting a sexual pervert in the highest office, but further destroys American’s faith in their government. And of course they are pushing false narratives which further erodes democracy.

Several conservative lawmakers held a news conference Wednesday demanding more details of how the FBI proceeded last year in its probes of Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email and Russian election interference.

It is misdirection and bull shit. We know Hillary mishandled emails, but there was no criminal intent to aid and abet anyone. Not so with President DFF. If the massive evidence we have already seen of lies, changing stories, and interactions with Russians is a giant flashing light, nothing is. Consider if the shoe where on the other foot and Hillary was President and all this came out. She would have been impeached by now. But the hypocrisy and craven desire to expand their power and agenda, damn their moral responsibilities (See Roy Moore), t is the real danger.

People were, back in 2016, either revolting by voting for a moron, or not voting at all (that includes all you third-party fools*). But if the facts and the credibility of the FBI are politicized for the benefit of the Republicans, they may find that there could be more than just a revolt at the polls, which they are already engaged in trying to rig through voter suppression. We are entering dangerous times where the arrogance of power may be the seeds of real revolution and violence. Unless Republicans finally recognize their responsibility under the Constitution to find the facts, they may be sowing the seeds of a real revolution in America. The anger is palatable.

*Why are third party voters fools?  Afterall they were voting their conscience right?  It is quite simple.  One of two people was going to be President of the United States in the last election and to not make a choice was the ultimate in irresponsibility as a citizen.  It would be different if a third party candidate is polling 20-30%, but in this case, the choice was clear and by not making it, third party voters abrogatted their responsiblity as an American citizen.  We are living with that abrogation today.

MY GOD! Charles Dickens’ Scrooge Was a Modern Day Republican

Last night we were looking for anything to watch on TV and came across A Christmas Carol or called these days, Scrooge. After watching the Saturday Morning Massacre, the Tax Bill Vote in the Senate, how wealth was being transferred to the wealthy, and the add-ons just made it worse for the poor working slob, I was in a mood for some holiday distraction. So this seemed like the perfect distraction.  It was the Patrick Stewart Version (1999).  Just as an aside, I think my favorites are George C. Scott in 1984 and Albert Finney in 1970 (Musical), but I get distracted.

Here we have Ebenezer Scrooge who has turned his back on everything except wealth accumulation. Sound familiar?  Remember in the story where the two portly gentlemen are trying to get a donation from Scrooge?

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

…“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.” “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.” “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

Now think about it.  Republican ideology is that if you are poor you only have yourself to blame because you are either undisciplined or lazy and helping the poor and desperate just encourages them (hammocks anyone?).  The Saturday Morning Massacre was about just that, taking money and benefits the poor need desperately so the rich can get richer.  And now they want to go after Medicare and Social Security (See yesterday’s blog). Screw the poor and those who are in need.  It is Scrooge at his worst.

But Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased business partner said it best and it was how we should hold Republicans accountable:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

  “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

So let’s build a wall to keep people who want a better life out.  Let’s cut their healthcare and old age pensions because the wealthy have worked hard for theirs.  Let’s kill the inheritance tax so wealthy children get even wealthier. Let’s sow hate and division throughout the nation so we can hold on to power and increase economic inequality. Let’s ignore evil in the white house for our agenda of making the wealthy wealthier.   Let’s kill democracy by attacking the free press and our judicial system.  Let’s cast doubt about our institutions so that only what we tell the rabble can be believed.  And all in the interest of business and wealth accumulation.  Bah Humbug. Scrooge at his worst.

So who is Bob Cratchit in this tale?  He is the American middle class, at the mercy of flow down and since the aim of Scrooge (and corporations) is to maximize profits, how do you think he fairs?  Without healthcare for Tim, he is going to die.  What do you think is going to happen to the 14 million or so that are going to get pushed off their healthcare as unaffordable after the Saturday Morning Massacre?  “And the Union workhouses!” demanded Scrooge, “Are they still in operation?”

The three ghosts that come to visit Scrooge are reality.  They take Scrooge out of his bubble to see the world as it really is.  Oh, but we would have three ghosts for Republicans, but they stay in their bubble of flow down, undeserving poor, denying climate change, or the reality that as Marley said so well, ““Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.”  But their business is business and what is good for business, not humans, and they actually believe all the rest will take care of itself.  Do not notice the bodies in the doorway, the people dying of opioids, starving children in America, or our kids burden by the debt of loans for higher education.

The two portly gentlemen who were asking for a contribution to try to help the poor are the Democrats.  They are still begging from Republicans instead of challenging them as the ghosts did.  At the end of this tale, Dickens gives us a happy ending where Scrooge re-recognizes his humanity and connection to the rest of humanity around him.  Not so with the Republicans.

Who knew Dickens’ politics of the 19th century would be the politics of the 21st Century?  You cannot watch this tale and not notice the parallels.  And we have learned nothing. Right now ”Bah Humbug” is winning out over, “and God bless every one”.  Maybe the Three Ghosts will show in 2018.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

For a change of pace, I want to write about the movie Three Billboards starring Francis McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell among others as the cast was a mile deep. My daughter Serena had seen the opening in London and gone to the cast party afterwards and met Ms. McDormand who told her to call her Fran. So I knew I was going to like it.

This is a movie you can’t put away. I saw it Thursday and I am still thinking about it. You all remember Ms. McDormand from Fargo if nothing else. In this one she plays a steely eyed woman bent on getting revenge for her daughters rape and murder by goading the police by erecting three billboards to remind them that nothing has happened. I won’t give you much more of the plot than that, because you have to experience it yourself. There are so many twist and turns, but the one constant is violence, anger, and hate on a certain level. If you think this is going to be a revenge flick, think again.

The first thing you think of as you get into it is police brutality and racism. There is a level of ignorance, and ignorant meanness. But instead of making you want to get even (although you will in parts), it makes you want to stop and think about what is going on and most importantly, does the anger, hatred, and violence just beget more anger, hatred, and violence? In today’s world does that not really ring close to home.?

Woody Harrelson, is absolutely stunning in the part he plays. I think the one thing you can say for his character is that he has accepted the reality around him and he makes accommodations. He really is connected to his reality and seems to embrace it. When you get right down to it, but you don’t think about it at the time, Sheriff Willoughby is probably more grounded in life than all the rest around him. Deputy Dixon is a son of a bitch and yet in the end, you may find him redeemable. It is a wonderful performance by Sam Rockwell. Throughout Francis McDormand as Mildred is tough as nails, but in the end, well, you will see. There are academy award performances from all of them but forgetting the awards, I got lost in their characters which is the highest compliment I can give an actor.

In the end you are left to work out the ending yourself. As a red blooded American, I like tidy endings with all things tied up. But it wasn’t and now I think I understand that that was the point. Hello reality, there are not tidy endings in life. Things are messy and some things are never going to get resolved. Are you going to go around angry begetting anger or are you going to accept the reality around you, and maybe forgive. There may be more return on your investment in that latter path than any other. I think that is what the movie was about, but like all good art, I am still thinking about it. You ought to also.

Econ 101 for Republicans

Republican economic theory (theology?) relies on two beliefs or tenants. The first is that if you cut taxes there will be new investment by businesses and corporations, and with that, jobs and wage growth. The second is that this increased economic activity will actually grow the treasury’s coffers, paying for themselves. This effect when applied to the impacts of a tax cut is called dynamic scoring. See, the tax cut will cost x, but the result will be y additional income to the treasury or so the theory goes. The first one could be true in certain circumstances and the second one is demonstrably false. But that is what their whole approach to the economy is made up of. Oh sure fewer regulations, but that is really a subset of the first tenant and when you add the secondary costs, like damage to environment, death and dismemberment, and loss of rights for workers, the cost are usually more than the benefits.

Let’s go after the first tenant, cutting taxes creates jobs and stimulates the economy. Well there are times when that actually helps, not as much as actual increases in government spending (a tax cut has the same effect on balance sheet of the Treasury as increased government spending), but it helps and it can be faster than government spending. Economic theory and practice have shown us that after a recession or even during one, with high unemployment, making money available to corporations and businesses in the form of a tax cut does stimulate growth. It is a tool Republicans favor because they don’t believe in direct government spending in things we need like infrastructure and R&D, and want to give it to corporations and businesses (and people) to decide for themselves.

Two things you need to ask yourself here. First are we coming out of a recession, and how high is unemployment? The answer which conservative economist Bruce Bartlett gave us the other day was neither apply as corporations are already awash in record profits, and the unemployment numbers tell us we are almost at full employment. Second, one thing we know for sure is money given to the middle and lower classes is generally spent, while money given to wealthy is much less effective. Where was the emphasis in the current tax bill? Oh, the wealthy. There are great debates about whether direct spending by government is far more effective in these times to create real demand through jobs and wages. But we have some empirical data from Governor Brownback and the Kansas experience where they slashed taxes, little change in jobs or wages, and the state went into massive debt, defunding education to help balance the books.

The bottom line on the first tenant, is that if used judiciously at the appropriate time in the economy (not now) it might help. But considering the infrastructures needs across the country, the money would have a much higher multiplication factor (return on investment; every $1 spent creates say $1.5 of increased activity in the economy), and we would create jobs, higher wages, and invest in our future. The money they are going to spend paying off their wealthy donors, in other words, is going into a big hole.

Okay, tenant number two, that cutting taxes pays for itself (dynamic scoring) is fairly straight forward, it has never worked. Oh sure there might me some increased revenue if the tax cuts were properly targeted to the middle class, but nowhere near the income to make up for the spending. “Assessing the House version of the plan and accounting for the economic growth its tax cuts would induce, the analysts found that growth would offset only about 12 percent of the plan’s cost over the first decade. After an initial economic boost, bigger deficits and rising interest rates would drag on the economy.” Here is another well research source that can find no pay for itself effect in Vanity Fair. But hey, get it from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation and note they still used very optimistic growth rates.

So there you have it. Or as conservative economist Bruce Bartlett said, “…virtually everything Republicans say about taxes today is hogwash.” So we are going to take a big hit. Get ready. And what is next? This from Paul Ryan in the NYT this morning:

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other Republicans are beginning to express their big dreams publicly, vowing that next year they will move on to changes in Medicare and Social Security. President Trump told a Missouri rally last week, “We’re going to go into welfare reform.”

That’s right. When the numbers don’t add up and the Treasury starts going in the red, they will all of a sudden care about the deficit again and go after the programs that we need most. Maybe that was their game all along. We are in for hard times ahead, but as I told my son who works in the school district in San Diego and is afraid the new tax bill that eliminated his tax deduction for interest on loans and cut the deduction for state and local taxes that school districts depend on could bankrupt him, Conservatism is like cancer. The treatment to cure it if it can be cured almost kills us. That is where we are at. The great Kansas Experiment has moved to the national stage, and we will see the same results. Think you might get out and vote in 2018?

Watching the Republicans Rape America

The Republicans were in a feeding frenzy last night. All of a sudden they found themselves at an all night buffet where they could gorge themselves on all the goodies they ever wanted. I am talking about the Senate passage of the Tax Bill last night. I watched it on CSPAN and I am still sick this morning. Even if you did not know what was in it, and most Republicans or anybody else does not because they were writing it on the fly, it was a scene of pure chaos and bad government. One could not even read the hand written mark ups. And Republicans were adding their favorite pet project to a bill that will change everyone’s lives and not one hearing, not one real examination of the results. And make no mistake. It was a mass transfer of wealth to wealthy while gutting government.

But a feeding frenzy it was. I watch as Ted Cruz entered an amendment to expand tax free savings plans for college to a tax free savings plan for private schools. How is that paid for? By cutting money for public schools. Who benefits? Rich kids who go to private schools. Who suffers? Kids who can’t afford those schools. It took Mike Pence to come in and break a tie vote on the amendment (50-50) (even some Republicans could not stomach this one) to pass it. I watched as Democrats entered amendments to try to bring some sanity to the process by trying to take out the free pass to drill in the arctic wildlife refuge, reduce the reduction in corporate tax cuts to make it not cost $1.5 trillion, make the tax cuts for the middle class permanent, all to fail at the hands of the Republicans.

And now what they have nobody knows except it is dreadful. It rapes America. Republicans have been dying for years to cut Medicare and Medicaid and in this bill they got the tools to do just that, “Pay as you go” which when all the magic asterisks do not add up (and they won’t), they can gut the programs that help the old and poor to pay for their massive tax cuts. It was a brutal rape of everything America stands for and there is so much in this bill that has nothing to do with tax reform/cuts that nobody even knows is there yet. Now you can bet they will be in a rush for a reconciliation bill with the House Republicans so people don’t find out how bad it is until it is signed by the Moron in Chief. Gotta hurry because his days are numbered.

It was a sad, sad day for America. Republicans, except Bob Corker, showed they are nothing but bought fools. Don’t give me John McCain and his regular order. If he stood for anything, last night was a time for a no vote. Don’t give me Lindsey Graham, he is a kook to he is normal (comments about the President right after the election and now) or Susan Collins, who “cares about the sick” and then let them gut Obamacare (Yep that is in it too). They all voted to rape America and steal from the poor to pay off the wealthy. The party has no morals and what we saw was the very worst of America bought by capitalism. Government does not control capitalism, capitalism controls America. That is what Republican government now represent.

Democrats fought a noble battle, offering amendment after amendment to show the hypocrisy and depravity of the Republicans and those Republicans rose to the bait voting each one down. They now have the sledge hammer they need to bring down the Republicans. They need to wield it. I am sure I am one of the few who watched the debacle last night. People in America have forgotten that freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is hard work. But I can guarantee you one thing. This one will hurt and hurt badly. There is no flow down, and as the fools that voted this Republican nightmare into office start to suffer (it will be a slow burn), maybe for once, they will see the problem. Voting third party when they don’t have a chance, has consequences.

Last night I watched the verification of what I have been saying for years. The Republican Party of “old” does not exist and the one we have left is evil. I watched the failure of democracy as the majority of Americans are against this bill. I watch the greed of capitalism at its very worst where government became its tool. And now there is no doubt in my mind any more, Republicans and those who vote for them are evil. We must root this evil out of our country if we have any hope for the future.

Let’s Not Talk Politics on Facebook While the Country Slip Slides Away

If yesterday did not convince you we are losing our country and what made America great, nothing will. We have a psychopath as a president as Harvard psychiatrist Lance Dodes told us last night on Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, who slips in and out of his psychopathy based upon the stress he is under. As E.J. Dionne told us this morning:

We are so inured to the chaos and the lying that characterize Trump’s presidency that we see each outrage as little more than another passing episode on an ongoing cable news drama…We’d like to think that the United States is also a nation of decency, tolerance and respect. We can’t make this claim while Trump is president…At the moment, political power in our elected branches (and, in effect, in the Supreme Court) is held by Republicans and conservatives. They are using Trump to push through outlandish policies on taxes and health care. They are lauding Trump’s executive orders that scuttle regulations safeguarding consumers, workers and the environment. They are ecstatic about his filling the judiciary with his, and their, allies. Progressives cannot be asked to pretend this isn’t happening. We’re a long way from a “truce.”

Yeah, we should just listen and both sides get along, except one side is destroying the country they claim to so love. Let’s just review. The President promoted a Muslim phobic and racist video, unsubstantiated and quite probably violated the privacy of a minor, and it is quite clear at this point the President is a racist. See “good people on both sides”. He is accused by 14 women of sexual assault/rape and is supporting a child molester from Alabama for the Senate. He is fantasizing that he did not utter the “Grab her …..” words and seems to forget he owned up to it on TV and apologized.  He wants to revisit Obama’s birthplace, invent the war on Christmas, lies pathologically about the tax cut plan, and as E.J. noted above, is destroying the agencies that protect us under the guise of removing regulations that hinder business.  THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO SO WE AREN’T SLAVES!

Democracy itself is at stake here along with our fundamental principles.  The man is despicable, pathological, and the Republican have become his parrot.  As E.J. pointed out:

Great nations and proud democracies fall when their systems become so corrupted that the decay is not even noticed — or the rot is written off as a normal part of politics.

President Trump has created exactly such a crisis. He has not done it alone. The corrosion of norms and values began long before he propelled the nation past the edge, and his own party is broadly complicit in enabling his attacks on truth, decency and democratic values.

So the next time you decide to tolerate that friend or relative that sides with a psychotic lunatic, or tells both sides are the problem, GET IN THEIR FACE! The nation is going down the drain as we watch and if you think trying to “see both sides” is helping, well you are part of the problem.  Republicans have become a cancer on Democracy in their ideological zeal to enact and agenda that favors only the rich, and they hit bottom with President DFF.  Now we have to take it back and tolerating ignorance and stupidity only aids and abets them.

Oh, and they are going to pass the Tax Cut Bill and when you find out all the stuff that is in there, you wonder why Americans continue to support the Republican Party or how they could justify electing the Moron in Chief.  It is time to take them on, whether they are family or friend.  The stakes have just gotten to high.

The World We Live In

How did we get here? Garrison Keillor* gave us this this morning:

The greatest absurdity of our time is You Know Whom, which goes without saying but I will anyway. What his election showed is that a considerable number of people, in order to demonstrate their frustration with the world as it is, are willing to drive their car, with their children in the back seat, over a cliff, smash the radiator, bust an axle and walk away feeling good about themselves. No other president in modern times has been held in contempt by a preponderance of people from the moment he said, “So help me, God.” The playboy blather, the smirk of privilege, the stunning contempt for factual truth — how can the country come together when the president has nothing in common with 98 percent of the rest of us?

I have no answer and I have a hard time with that 46.4% of voters that drove the car over the cliff. Why would you want to be brought together with them? We see where one right-wing nut group tried to create a false story about Roy Moore to discredit the very media we depend on to see what is really going. As the evidence piles up, Alabama is the shinning example of how people are totally out of touch with reality and facts. But out of touch does not really describe it. What seems more in play here is their ability to deny the obvious, to pathologically believe what they want to believe that in the end, will do us all great harm. The Bible as the law giver instead of the Constitution? Oh, and whose interpretation of that contradictory mess of fables? We are insane.

This has always troubled me as a man who tries to operate, no matter how uncomfortable, on facts and data. I would love to believe that salt is good for you, and sugar, especially in ice cream, is health food. But they are not, and if I do not take appropriate measures on consumption, not only will I be a blimp, I will go down in flames long before I am ready. In the same vein, I would love to believe that if we cut taxes, the economy would take off, the treasury coffers would fill up with all the new activity, and wages would all rise. Trouble is, that is not what happens. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the deficit balloons. We know that for a fact, but here we are with a tax bill that may pass that is an abomination. Let’s take away a tax deduction on interest paid on student loans, tax college endowment funds, and remove the deduction for teachers buying school supplies so we can give away money to the wealthy? That is only scratching the surface. How did we get to this insanity?

I have a theory. No surprise there. It has to do with the fact that in the Western World, we are more religious than any other nation. Note how well religion on a national scale has worked for Muslim nations. Yet that seems to be the way we are moving if you listen to Roy Moore or many Republicans. And my theory is simple: If you can suspend your disbelief to believe religion and their nonsense stories as fact, it is a short trip to denying anything you don’t want to believe. I watched Bill Maher’s Religulous again last night and in doing that, voting for President DFF became quite understandable. I strongly recommend you watch this movie again (showing on HBO or maybe Showtime). Try to remove the brainwashing you have had all your life about religion and think Trump. Then all of a sudden you get it.

Maher points out that what people assume as fact, is of course not fact, but hearsay. He points out (and he leaves no religion untouched) that many of their beliefs are nonsense (talking snake), and in my favorite scene points out to worshippers that the whole Joseph/Mary/Virgin birth is a later telling of an earlier pagan version (actually about 32 of them) and the same can be said for the resurrection. They simply don’t believe it. It also says something about them not really examining their religion, which of course is the whole point of faith. So why is that?

Because they need it. They need to believe, so they do. But watching grown men, otherwise intelligent, ignoring their intelligence and skepticism on religion is revealing in the time of Trump who pumps out false narrative after false narrative that is quickly accepted by his followers. Maher, in one of what I think is the most revealing segments (because most of the movie is confronting people in a nice way with their illogic and can be uncomfortable), is with a small trucker congregation at a truck stop church. He says the following:

I think that being without faith is something that is a luxury for people who are fortunate enough to have a fortunate life. You know you go to prison and you hear a guy say, “You know what buddy, I got nothing but Jesus in here.” I can completely understand that. I think not having faith is a luxury some times. You are in a foxhole you probably have a lot of faith. So I get that, but you guys aren’t dumb.You are smart people. How can smart people, how can they believe in a talking snake, people live to 900 years old, and the virgin birth, you know, that is my question.

Now there it is. How can they believe that stuff or worse, a fairy godfather that guides your life when everthing around us tells us that is not true. How can they believe the lies that President DFF puts out? How do they quickly discount real news labeled by him “fake”?

Because they need to and that trumps everything else. In some ways religion has poisoned our minds to rational thinking. We have been indoctrinated from birth in faith-based believing and it is no surprise that in modern times we can once again be thrust into the dark ages by a Donald Trump in an instant, because people are afraid and they need to believe there is a savior. And in that logic comes all the atrocities we have seen throughout history caused by religion, and those President DFF and Republicans are now perpetuating on America and our values.

You know, religion may be a part of us that allowed us to survive in almost impossible situations, not giving up hope, and progressing as a civilization.  For some, it still does, but it could also be what brings us down in a modern world where the opportunities for us to destroy ourselves when we delude ourselves have never been so easy.  Maybe religion has become a dangerous drug. But God Bless America.

*Now he is out for allegations for improper behavior.  Are Men the devil? See yesterdays blog.  Oh let’s wait until we find out what really happened. Certainly we are flawed.

Why Trump Won

Fareed Zakaria, who I think is one of the best journalist out there, and there are a lot of good ones, reporting on CNN in a special, Why Trump Won, I think nailed it. This is not a new show and I think it aired back in August, but I finally saw it last night. So I will cut to the chase on this one. As Fareed pointed out Donald Trump was the perfect storm when the circumstances were perfect for the perfect storm.

And for you Hillary fans, an interview with Nate Silvers basically pointed out that Comey cost her the election. Her lead was 6 points and then a week before the election he comes out with his letter, and her lead was cut to 3 points, then in the margin of allowing the electoral college to elected the one with a smaller vote count. So it certainly cost her the election. But, and here is the thing, it should have never been that close. As we entered the 2016 election, Hillary was not a good choice and Fareed makes that point by showing how Democrats had lost the working middle class as they had become the party that represented the professional class. Hillary was also the perfect storm in that she epitomized the Democrats aloof view of the working class.

The head of the Democratic Party in Ohio was sending memos to the Hillary campaign about the pain and anger out there in Ohio and they were being ignored. Meanwhile Trump was filling that vacuum with vague promises of bringing their jobs back and representing them as an outsider and it was selling like hotcakes. All lies of course, but that seem to have made little difference. In middle America’s state of anger and frustration. Race and blaming was working well and Trump was the master salesman as Hillary made his point of the out of touch aloof politician. Fareed even made the point that Hillary actually had policies that would help them, but they were throwing over establishment Washington, clearly a Washington they no longer trusted.

That should have been the message loud and clear when Bernie came so close. Many said it was not rigged (this is me not Fareed), but of course it was. They had already anointed Hillary and the Democratic Party was lined up against that upstart Bernie when he was actually the only one with a message that resonated. It was noted that many discouraged Democrats turned to Trump after Bernie was finally beaten. There is another statistic that Fareed pointed out that should have told Democrats they were in big trouble. In a usual election the undecided voters are around 6%. In 2016 it was double that. Again, looking at who Donald Trump was, it should not have been close and that tells you that Democrats had lost their message and their messenger was the wrong person.

Now no one (who is rational) will argue that Hillary would not have made an excellent President, but in a way her defeat, while devastating to the short-term interests of the country, was probably inevitable as the Democrats had lost touch with the people it most needs to help. Even with good intentions, we would have seen more gridlock and both sides do it instead of a clear distinction between the two parties we are getting now (although establishment Democrats still seem to have not got the message). Sooner or later Democrats were going to have this “come to Jesus” moment and maybe sooner is better. It would appear at the grass-roots at least they are regrouping and refocusing.

So in a nutshell, Trump was the perfect lynch mob leader as establishment politics have failed middle America, but have worked fine for those of us in the professional class, and the banking class, the professional class represented by establishment Democrats, the banking class represented by establishment Republicans. Trump came along and lied through his teeth that he was an outsider who represented them when in fact, if they ever figure it out, he was all in with Wall Street. Hillary sadly, came across as just what the working middle class was mutinying against, establishment elitism, or “let me explain it to you Alice” (Jacky Gleason from the Honeymooners). The fact that she actually had policies to help them was irrelevant.

My own personal observation at Trump rallies was an America I found despicable. Hillary’s deplorables, which of course they were. They had thrown out their brains and the level of anger and hate was palpable. As Fareed pointed out they were the part of America most disenfranchised by the world economy and their reaction was anger, blame, racism, and hate. And Trump was the master at stoking that. It is no coincidence that this was dominate by those without a college education. They were the losers in the economy we have built. Sadly when the elected Trump, they doubled down on their losing. In case they haven’t noticed, there are no jobs, and Wall Street is back big time.

Having said that, we do have to pull them up, not by false lies Donald Trump pumped out there, but with a real plan to get them back into the economy and give them jobs and a future. Unless you haven’t figured that out, it is not by giving more tax cuts to the wealthy, or quite frankly to most of us. It will be by creating jobs by investing in infrastructure, alternate energy, helping middle America get off their addiction to opioids, making college affordable, and making fundamental changes to the economy that let’s them share in the bounty. Oh, and give them a safety net they can depend on until we can restore the middle class. FDR did it, and now we have to, because middle America really is in a depression that led to the rise of a moron like Donald Trump.

Fareed ended his program by saying we are waiting for a leader that can cross the divide between the two tribes. But Fareed is one of those too invested in the way the economy works today, instead of the reality that capitalism has to be brought to heel for all of us to share. To my ear, Bernie got closest to that ideal. Let’s not lose that momentum. Progressivism is the only way forward and only government working with industry is going to solve the problem of the declining middle class. It is time to bring back ideas again instead of blame and hate. It has not worked out well so far and maybe middle America is starting to figure that out. Now we need to get out there with a plan that gives them hope, not the same old, same old or from Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, SSDD, Same Shit, Different Day. That is how middle America saw the establishment in 2016. The Democrats failed to head the message and ran an establishment candidate, and all the rest is history.