Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category.

Alabama

Happy days are here again… Really? Are we not reading way too much into this. Write-ins decided the race. Half the state wanted Roy Moore a guy who is an alleged pedophile, and has made statements so antithetical to our basic understanding of personnel freedom and rights that he was off the spectrum. Roy Moore was the epitome of theocracy and yet Democrats squeaked one? Now happy days are here again? The reason a Democrat won was not on the issues. It was on the abhorrent nature of Roy Moore. What we learned is there are limits, but they are already off the charts.

I listened to Chris Hayes on MSNBC get it totally wrong and of all things was set straight by an old retired Republican. Chris was launching on this was all about Trump as though all Democrats have to do is run against Trump. The ex-Moderate Republican stopped him and pointed out this was about not Trump, but just maybe the rejection of the degradation of the Republican Party which they had brought upon themselves. Trump is not the problem, but a reflection of the problem that the Party with no values now represents. Yes, he actually said that.

Wiser words could not have been spoken. While all the happy days are here again nonsense was going on, the House Intelligence (oxymoron) Committee was grilling Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about a witch hunt that there is bias in the Trump-Russia investigation. If you are a Democrat you should not be allowed within 100 miles of investigating anything Republican. By the way, there was no evidence of actual bias impacting the investigation, just wild accusations that since some FBI personnel were Hillary supporters or they did not like Trump, the whole investigation should be stopped.

Um, does anyone remember the leaks out of the FBI against Hillary during the election? Do we think FBI Director Comey was a Hillary fan? Does anyone remember that Special Counsel Mueller is a Republican? Should judges be selected on their party allegiance? Should jurists be asked their party affiliation? Oh, and if you are awake, isn’t it a Republican led investigation of Trump in Congress that has by all accounts failed? No, Trump is not the root problem, he is just the manifestation of what has become of this Republican Party that seeks power through any methods necessary. At least Alabama voters did reject that.

And let me ask you this, what were the issues in Alabama? What does Democrat Doug Jones stand for. Or was that less important than Roy Moore was a pervert? Rhetorical. So a Democratic win may not change anything, especially if as some media outlets are saying, it is reach across the aisle time. Mitch and even Donald called him to congratulate him because they might need him for their failed agenda. If Democrats go down that road of once again being Republican lite, what have we gained except a seat at the captain’s table on the Titanic? That is how we got here.

I guess what concerns me most is that the country is going in the wrong direction. While President DFF is a danger to the country and is doing untold damage destroying agencies that protected American citizens, he is not the real problem, the Republican agenda is. He is just their bag man, maybe a less effective one after this. That agenda is not only a disastrous economic plan (see the Tax Gut), but it really does look to starve the beast, greatly reducing Medicare and Social Security, while increasing economic inequality. And what is a response from the Democrats for jobs and a way forward to bring back our infrastructure, fight global warming, and address economic inequality? Be against Trump?

I guess what I am trying to say is that had the Republicans run Luther Strange, who clearly dropped investigations to help the sitting governor in order to buy his appointment, he would have won hands down. Trump is right when he said he was right about Moore. His cravenness at then supporting Moore was just a reflection of the total Republican demise. Nothing has fundamentally changed that will move this country in a different direction. Maybe that is all you can expect in the deep South, but we will know we are out of the woods if some young progressive Democrats with fresh ideas to try to solve our problems get elected 2018, then maybe I will start singing happy days are here again.

There is a little good news here in that momentum for Democrats is important. Also we may have seen the start of the real civil war in Republican circles. Clearly one lesson is that all politics are local, within some boundaries. One Alabamian told us that the abortion issue was really not all that important to Alabamians, but healthcare was.

The Party, or more simply what Democrats stand for has to have some basis. Donald Trump is for cheaper, better healthcare, but the issue is what is the plan? To Doug Jones’ credit, he did not cave on the abortion issue, and he will be a vote against destroying Obamacare (which may already have a stake in its heart in the fine print of the tax gut. Thank you Susan Collins). But what is the Democratic healthcare plan or vision? Obamacare was a Rube Goldberg approach. Now what? Fix it?  How and what is the end goal?

To gain traction, government and Democrats has to be effective. If Democrats can win in 2018, they have to be for effective policies that not only thwart Donald Trump, but move the country forward. It is that vision thing. That was the failure and lesson of the Obama Administration. The economy crashed under the Republicans and then they were successful at limiting Obama’s effectiveness in repairing it, which he did manage to do, while blaming Democrats. See the election in 2010 after the Republicans were decimated in 2008. Democrats were not smart enough to understand the battle and effectively push back. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have some great ideas and what Democrats need to do is to put those ideas in play in the next election.

One last thing. There is this narrative rising up again about listening to the other side and working together. Depends on what you mean. Clearly in the last election establishment Democrats were tone deaf about what was going on in middle America and had to some extent become part of the problem. So listening to understand their problems is important. But that is where it ends.

Solutions come from facts, data, science, and innovation. Listening to someone tell you global warming does not exist, or when corporations are flush with money, a tax cut is just what we need, that the market place will solve healthcare, and we need more drilling in our National Parks is futile. It is futile because they do not care about facts, data, science, or innovation. Facts don’t matter, that is what we have learned. Listening to this nonsense legitimizes their lies and makes facts appear political. We have to be able to see the difference and many do not. Try to focus on their whole concept of Fake News. How do you listen to that?

The critical example is that there are not two sides to most of these issues once we consider the facts. In their race to the bottom, the Republican Party learned from the Tobacco companies on how to obfuscate science and data for their greed and political ideology. They created whole think tanks to do just that and the media fell right in line trying to be fair and balanced presenting both sides as viable points of view when the science and data were clear. They refused their responsibility to be honest brokers of facts, not opinions.

Alabama, listening to Roy Moore voters equivocate about their support and disbelief in the pervert he is, tells you how easy people can lie to themselves to believe what they want to believe. It is time to stop the lying and start the tough love. Part of that is to understand their concerns, but not tolerate their misbegotten ideas that don’t stand the test of reason and facts. No Virginia, the world is not flat and that is not a valid alternative opinion. More to the point, no Virginia, the world was not created 4000 years ago. We evolve over millions of years. The science is certain. To say otherwise is religious mystic nonsense.

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?

Thinking Outside the Box

Let’s forget about Trump or how the Republicans are doing their best to undermine our constitutional democracy for a few minutes. Let’s forget that for the average citizen, who does not read or inform themselves, conservatives are trying to make the Mueller investigation look like a partisan witch hunt, which the last time I looked we have a Republican House, Senate, Supreme Court, and Presidency, and Mueller himself and a lot of the FBI were strongly Republican. Let’s forget that the Republican Party is now supporting a pedophile for the Senate in Alabama because that would be better than a Democrat*. Let’s forget that the President looks and acts deranged, lies continuously, and is attacking the one thing democracy depends upon, the free press and its institutions.

Let’s just all take a deep breath and turn our gaze to the fires in Southern California. America burning. Oh, wait! It is just Southern California so who cares, right? I mean after all the tax bill the Senate passed made sure those left leaning, gay embracing, global warming nuts could not deduct their losses from their tax bill in the future. Who do we think that was aimed at? Gives a whole new meaning to partisanship*. And remember these new fires are right after the devastating ones in wine country last month. The question I have here after I finally quit shooting political arrows at Republicans, is simply this: How doe we adjust to this new climate reality?

This is where the engineer in me takes over and politics falls aside. It is how most of us wished government would work. Money, special and vested interests will never let that happen, but lets just pretend for a second that this is a problem we need to solve. In my life as an engineer, project and program manager, that was the job. Find solutions and get buy in. So let’s just assume for a minute that there are not Democrats and Republicans and we are just about finding solutions and getting buy in. In my little engineer brain I see devastating fires in the west, and hurricanes in the east, and you know what? No one has suggested we should build smarter.

Our whole system of doing business and vested interests say replace in kind. But those structures just blew down (Puerto Rico or went up in flames (California). What if we said stick houses (timber construction) is foolish in these high threat areas? What if we said centralized power systems and overhead power lines are too fragile? One thing you see in burned out areas is destruction and yet a standing fireplace chimney. Hmm. What if we limited building in high fire threat areas to concrete, masonry, and stone that is much more fire resistant? Sure you still have extremely high heat fires, but the structure might be able to stand it. What if we made power distribution underground and more local through alternate energy sources? What if we made new developments include fire standoff distances (fire breaks) as part of the development, to be able to isolate neighborhoods and allow firemen to set up defendable lines?

No, I do not know what I am talking about and I am brainstorming, but solutions are out there, and the job is to start the conversation and get knowledgeable people together like firemen, engineers, insurers, and scientists. Note I did not say politicians, but in the end, that is inevitable because the timber industry would mobilize their lobbyists, and developers would be appalled at the regulations that increase their costs, and oh my god, big government is taking away our rights, yada, yada, yada.

But if we want to survive and adapt, that is what is necessary. Now in this discussion, do you see any parallels to every other thing that is a mess today? The solutions are out there and in many cases we know what they are, but dogma, ignorance, vested interested, and big money hold us back. I will ask you this though, before you launch with both sides do it or I just wish they would stop their partisan bickering, which side is trying to stop the flow of information and taint science?

Conservatives have a real problem here, because they don’t want to solve the problem, they want to restore what was. For them the problem is change. But Mother Nature and what we have done to her isn’t going to let that happen. Restoring in kind and getting back to the good old days when white people ruled isn’t going to work. Let’s go back to me as an engineer. My job was always go fix it, make it happen, figure it out. Our problem today is we haven’t decided to fix anything and that is what the fight is about. One side wants to hold on to the old, another side wants to move forward. And we are at a stalemate because voters are not paying attention. Funny how Mother Nature can get your attention though. Holding still is not an option, and to do so is to ensure our demise.

The conservatives see solutions of old, tax cutting for the economy, restoring religious (their religious) morals to family and marriage, holding on to power structures and entitlements (white people) of old. But those ideas are increasing economic inequality, denying science, the rights to our fellow citizens, and not recognizing the melting pot we are today that is our strength. If we don’t evolve and start to “brainstorm” for a new way forward, we really are going to fail as a species or at least get passed by by those that do. Things are happening very fast now and conservatives are no longer viable in a world in which we need to adapt to reality very quickly. Isn’t it interesting that climate and nature instead of science and rational thought had to rub our noses in change to maybe wake us up to all the other things we have not been adapting to?

*One of my favorite bullshit arguments or platitudes you hear all the time is that both sides do it and partisanship just needs to be reigned in so we can get solutions. The implicit assumption here is there is parity on both sides for the partisanship. Take a look at Alabama where a pedophile is more acceptable than a Democrat (see the Governor’s support of Roy Moore), and you realize that Republicans have taken partisanship off the deep end. Morality can be sacrifice to the ends of power. Al Franken is pushed out and Roy Moore is blessed. Where exactly is the parity there?

There is another side to this argument and that is that religion destroys your brain. These are “moral evangelical Christians” and yet this has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. This is a crass ends justify the means argument that doesn’t stand the test of examination, and that is why religion eats your brain. You see Roy’s opponent, Doug Jones is a “baby killer”. Let’s see, the government can own women’s bodies, and their god aborts more babies (miscarriages, god’s abortions) than ever done in a clinic, and a rational discussion might reduce the need for abortions, but Doug Jones is a “baby killer”. But they can’t have that rational discussion because they check their brains at the door of blind faith. Maybe that is the whole point of religion, or at least theirs, they don’t have to think. See Jim Jones on how that one works out.

What If They Do Nothing and Other Friday WTF Topics

Let’s start with Eugene Robinson’s thoughts this morning on what if we find out what most of us already know (Trump and family colluded with the Russians) and Congress (Republicans) does nothing? We are certainly seeing the Senate and House investigations breaking down as Republicans are basically rushing through or trying to shut it down. Don Jr. claims a bogus attorney-client privilege and the Republicans do nothing. We see Republicans trying to defame a Republican, Bob Mueller, to head off what they know is coming. We see Republicans throw morality and ethics in the trash to hold on to the Senate and elect Roy Moore. So would not suspect they will get the indictments, and say flawed process and do nothing?

I am not sanguine here. Eugene isn’t either, but holds out for 2018 and removing Republicans from Congress*. I sit here watching what is going on in Alabama and I wonder if that would really happen. The Republicans tried to kill Obamacare, a wildly unpopular idea, and it was only prevented by one vote. The Republicans just passed a wildly unpopular tax cut and still Republicans hold sway in states like Alabama. Senior Senators like Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley state their distaste for middle class workers, and nothing changes.  You have to say WTF!

Meanwhile in global warming La La Land, the latest studies (who cares about science?) show that if you include conditions in the upper atmosphere, the models are way too optimistic.  It is going to be much, much worse.  California is burning down and the pictures are devastating.  Where do Republicans think this is going?  God’s will?  Good thing the Dutch didn’t think their floods were God’s will and the same can be said for the Corps of Engineers and the flood protection measures installed throughout the nation.  Maybe a monster storm will hit Alabama. Maybe then they might wake up. Based upon the latest from there, the storm is more likely to be blamed on homosexuals.

On the economy, yes it is humming along, but no different than in the Obama era and the most you can say for the Trump administration is that they have not screwed it up yet, but they are trying.  David Ignatius, wrote an interesting piece this morning on how the world is surging, and asks the question, why a tax cut now?  This is the time to pay down the deficit and invest in infrastructure.

Reading all this good news, one has a nagging sense that “we should not let a good recovery go to waste,” as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde put it in a recent speech at Harvard. “Repair the roof while the sun is shining,” she urged….

U.S. companies aren’t investing in new plants and equipment at the same levels as some Asian and European competitors, and few economists think that’s because of high taxes. One telling statistic: The United States has been the worst at reducing inequality of all high-income countries, a recent Peterson Institute report noted. The new tax bill could make that problem worse.

Boosting U.S. demand by increasing workers’ real wages would make this recovery as powerful at home as it seems to be abroad. If we’re really talking about making America great again, rebuilding middle-class incomes is where to start.

So a tax cut is going to do that?  Never has, yet if we take Alabama as an example, we need more religion in our government and then things will just be fine.  I don’t remember the Bible mentioned in Econ 101.  As David noted above, giving people good jobs (think infrastructure and projects to protect us from global warming would bring all those underemployed out of the shadows and provide the demand necessary to goad business to invest.  But we get a tax cut. And people vote Republican.

Now, I have always thought that not all Republicans are evil (they are), and some are just fiscal conservatives and want to be careful (not the balance the budget nuts, but reasonable debt).  There is a gene that makes some of us fearful and that has help us survive as a species when those who want to leap off a cliff to see if they can fly have been held back by their conservatism.  But that conservatism is now eschewing science and try to go backwards, not be careful.  They are creating doubt in science and the free press to dumb down the nation (See Alabama).  They are pushing voter suppression in the false claim of voter fraud, to turn us into a single party nation.  We do need to be one, just not Republican.

Okay, but what happened to those fiscal conservatives as the latest tax bill blows up the deficit.  Don’t they believe the data.  Don’t they hear Republicans already queuing up to cut Social Security and Medicare?  Really? WTF. Meanwhile the President is starting to slur his speech and making less sense than he ever made with reports from the White House that he is losing the little grip he has on reality, and his lying is increasing.  So we need to protect him even more and enable him?

I think we have gone mad.  You see evil irresponsible actions from the Republicans, the party of family values.  You see obvious bumps in the road ahead, some deadly drop offs, and the nation ignores them.  Puerto Rico is still starving and dying and we, supposedly the strongest and wealthiest nation in the world do nothing.  And now you can’t blame Democrats.  How this Republican government stuff working out for you.  Corporations need not respond.  Until pain is felt across the nation, sanity will reign.  I am a guy with advance stage prostate cancer, meaning it is not curable.  I am just hoping in my life time I see the evilness around us, Donald Trump and the Republicans pulled out of power.  That could keep me going for years.

*Have the Democrats learned anything?  No.  Nancy Pelosi knee jerk reaction to protect Congressman Conyers from sexual harassment allegations had to be walked back showing she doesn’t get it.  She and her buddy Steny Hoyer were against the vote for impeachment in the House this week, and almost 60 Congressmen voted for impeachment.  “Now is not the time to consider articles of impeachment”  If not now, when?  It is just a sign that the old guard has to go and that is hope in 2018 and 2020, that new young progressive minds will push out the old guard.  Then it will be a long road back to repair all the damage.

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.