Posts tagged ‘California’

Harvey Weinstein, GMOs, Fire, and Living in Ignorance

ca. 2000 — Man Putting Fingers in Ears — Image by © Duncan Smith/Corbis

Are you sick to death of media coverage of Harvey Weinstein? The DIC (Dotard in Charge) has taken a sledge hammer to our democracy, and we get more coverage of Harvey and his perversions? The story here is not how Harvey raped (alleged) or exposed himself, but how his power and influence had others just turn away. See Donald Trump. NBC’s behavior about the story is despicable as they tried to kill it after pressure from Weinstein lawyers. Says something about news as entertainment and profit. People in Hollywood are just shocked and you know that they are shocked because now they can afford to be.

Hollywood is not the only place where who you know makes your career, it is just the most visible one, and with lots of beautiful women, there is going to be sexual abuse where someone in power abuses their power. Again see Donald Trump. The truly sad think is how many looked away because their career depended on it. There are lots of talented people, so who gets the shot, who gets the major role, who gets the promotion. We would like to pretend it is all on merit, but who you know is more important in many cases that your raw talent. So we are set up for abuse. Again see the DIC. Kiss his ass and you are his friend. It is the human condition and we just need to be braver at calling it out.

I have always thought the public outcry about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) is a bunch of pseudo science. Let’s face it, plants and animals modify their genes in nature all the time. They are called mutations. But a scientist does it to make a plant more hearty or healthy and we have Frankenstein. So you see non-GMO on packages because like the people who think vaccinations cause autism, people have a false sense understanding of science and nature. Now sure, there can be problems, but here is a story of survival of my favorite fruit, the banana. It is being wiped out world-wide by a fungus so scientists are trying to produce a more fungus resistant strain. Come on people, like everything else, its gray. Of course humans don’t like gray, they like black and white for simple minded decision making. Once again see the DIC in action. But that is not how our universe works. I would bet those folks in wine country would like to see some more fire resistant trees developed.

The fire here in California is probably the way of our future. We are having another Red Flag* day today and I got the message, have a bag packed with your getaway stuff so you can be out of here in 1 minute or less. Think about the essentials, a couple changes of cloths, passports, medicine, shaving kit, spare glasses, and a checklist for other critical stuff if you have time. This story in the WaPo is just harrowing and you think this will not happen to you, but I live in the forest and if Santa Rosa can burn down, well just wow. But the one thing about local news (Sacramento) was that most stations were just terrible at covering it. But when they finally focused, it was only for the big shots of flames. Now that the fire is semi-under control, well, on to other things. But the real story is the aftermath and how we recover. The real learning is there. But there is a car chase on I-5 so our gaze deflects… Oh, and think about it, California is a rich state and the damage was extensive with over 2500 homes just gone, schools gone, businesses gone, and this is very minor compared to Puerto Rico.  This President makes me ill.

Finally, we come to the sledge hammer wielding of the DIC fulfilling his “campaign promises” to destroy America. I wrote about them yesterday. Primarily we are talking about his assault on Obamacare and Iran, and nukes in general. On that latter case, the NYT had an excellent piece fact checking what he told us about Iran and nukes and how badly flawed the narrative was (untrue). Here is the WaPo on his subsidies claim as bailouts (four Pinocchios). I have no doubt he believes this stuff, but it is all wrong. How can you have effective policy based upon false assumptions about cause of problems? Or if you want to stay awake at night, think about how you have the facts wrong about Iraq, and totally misunderstand North Korea and have an effective nuclear deterrent policy. The sad thing is most Republicans are in the same boat as the block research and data that might show them the light. We are being lead by Dumb (the Republican Party) and Dumber (the DIC). Sleep well tonight.

*Red Flag means temperatures are warm, humidity is very low, and winds are high making any fire that gets started basically uncontrollable.

If There Were a God, I Would Think He is Trying to Tell Us Something

Devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Houston, and now massively destructive fires in California.  So when’s the big quake? I don’t want to point this out, but the pain and suffering is spread around between both partisan sides of the political spectrum.  The only constant through all of this is the President of the United States, who a minority of the people elected and then shit happened.  Could this be a sign?

Of course all of this could look benign compared to what could happen if the Dotard In Charge (DIC) starts a war on the Korean Peninsula, withdraws from the Iran agreement, hastening their nuclear program, kills Obamacare so millions are once again left without healthcare (oh, they have access, they just can’t afford that access), while his EPA Chief allows the raping of the environment again, all, of course, in the name of reducing regulations and letting the market place work.  There is nature’s fury, and then there is man made damage caused by the DIC put in place by ignorant and ill informed voters, and enabled by power hungry Republicans. If I believed in God, maybe a sacrifice, say the DIC himself, would appease him.

Speaking of God, the other day I was sitting in my truck in the grocery store parking lot waiting for she who must not be mentioned here to get her coffee (we were on our way to the big city to get my Lupron shot for my prostate cancer, maybe another sign), when a nice young lady tapped on my window and asked my about my decal on my truck (a fish sign with legs and the words Darwin written across it).  She said in these troubled times (no shit) she was using her religion to try to comfort people.  She asked directly if I was an atheist, which I said yes, and she asked why.  You try to answer that in 10 words or less.  She asked if something had happened to me to reject God.  I thought about saying I think he has rejected us, but I did not.

I did try to explain to her that being an atheist does not mean, even in these times, that I do not have both spirituality and hope.  Isn’t life a gift enough without a fairy godfather?  But I also explained to her that I respected her faith and would never try to change that.  Atheism is not a religion, and I do not need converts, it is just my personal observation.  I know that faith and religion greatly helps some people and who the hell am I to try to take that away.  The nice thing about this encounter was that she was not trying to proselyze me, but to offer encouragement to someone who she thought may need it.  Her way was through her religious beliefs and some of the wisdoms she found in her Bible.

I bring all this up because when shit happens, people mostly seem to come together and try to help each other whether they are gay, transsexual, immigrant, conservative, liberal, black, white, atheist, Christian, Muslim, well, you get the gist.  God is not a player in that we want to help each other because it is innate in the human condition.  One person who was standing in the dust and ash of what was left of everything they owned, said, you can either stand here and grieve or help others.  What we should learn from these disasters is that either God doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t give a shit.  Either way we are left to our own devices and what I have seen is that those devices in most people are something to be proud of.

In this world we live in, a lot of us define ourselves by our possessions so when we have a devastating loss, well, we are devastated.  And then we seem to be able to rise above it.  And the lesson in a world created right now by the DIC and Republicans is, they have it wrong, we are all in this together and shit happens.  It has nothing to do with how hard we work, or what or who we believe in,  We live in a world where chaos is becoming more prevalent because of man’s selfish actions.  Time to maybe understand we really are our brother’s keeper.  And that my friends, from an atheist.

One other thing as I watch disaster, man-made in action.  A Republican was being interviewed by Andrea Mitchell about what is coming out about the DIC, the meeting where he wanted to know why we weren’t expanding our nuclear stockpile, the shock of those around him, the fucking moron comment by Rex Tillerson, and the tweet storm.  This guy tried to normalize it as well this happens in all administrations and needs to be kept behind closed doors.  No it doesn’t you Little Dotard (LD).  This is not normal.

In the same vein, on CNN they were discussing NBC’s reporting of the above and the DICs tweet this morning:

Some pundit when asked about the DIC’s threat to revoke the license on NBC because he does not like the story, said he was probably joking, to which the host, who had a clue, said president don’t joke about attacking the fundamental value to our democracy of the free press, and the pundit replied, well this is the new normal.  NO IT IS NOT YOU MORON! This is absolutely abnormal and it is how we lose democracy if you start defining it as normal.  We have to understand that our democracy is under attack from the Oval Office and we had better start coming together to fight it because the Republicans are normalizing it.

Monday Morning Blitz

As a Califorian, I got up this morning to Cheeto-Head’s (I am sorry.  I learned early at life that respect is not given, it is earned. Enough said) claim that he is thinking of cutting off all federal funds to my state and that we were out of control.

President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold federal funds from “out of control” California if the state declares itself a sanctuary state.

“If we have to, we’ll defund,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl. “We give tremendous amounts of money to California, California in many ways is out of control, as you know.” Sacramento Bee

First of all, out of control?  Based upon what data?  “Violent crimes increased in California in 2015 and across the nation in the last year but continue to remain well below historic peaks, according to FBI data released Monday” (San Jose Mercury).  Try to focus on the fact the California is the sixth largest economy in the world with a $2.4 trillion dollar GDP.  Oh, and for every dollar sent in in federal taxes, California only gets back  $0.78.  Of the 50 states, California is rated #46th on dependency.  Yeah we are a mess Cheeto Head.

But of course the issue is sanctuary cities and California claiming it would be a sanctuary state.  What that means is that California would restrict state and local law enforcement, including school police and security departments, from using their own resources to aid federal authorities in immigration enforcement.  They are doing that for a reason.  It helps crime fighting.  Here is Cheeto Head:

“I think it’s ridiculous. Sanctuary cities, as you know, I’m very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime, there’s a lot of problems.”

Ah but those alternate facts don’t hold up to inspection: “But is that really true? Despite popular accounts, decades of research actually shows that immigrants – whether legal or illegal – tend to have lower crime rates.  Now, our new research shows that designating a city as a sanctuary has no statistically significant effect on crime.” Then of course there are many police chiefs who have recognized that when policing involves enforcement of immigration laws, cooperation with the community suffers.  And finally of course is the Constitutional issue of whether you can force the state to enforce federal laws. Many think the 10th amendment to the Constitution, which reserves power to the states, would not allow Trump to defund.

Now this is just one of many instances where Cheeto-Head’s ignorance is leading him to policies that are counterproductive.  When the federal government is doing stupid things or more likely doing nothing at all, the states, where real people live and work, have to take matters into their own hands.  Recognizing reality instead of alternate reality, California has enacted laws about end of life treatment (probably soon to be under attack from the theocracy in Washington), marijuana access (probably also next up for federal attack) and enforcement, climate change, and about immigrants.

Recognizing the reality of undocumented workers, and their critical nature to our economy, “California has enacted several protective measures for the undocumented: the Trust Act, lawful driver’s licenses, basic employment rights and non-discriminatory access to higher education,” Brown said in his State of the State. ‘We may be called upon to defend those laws and defend them we will.'”

So bring it on Cheeto Head.  If you are successful, you will kill the goose that lays the golden egg.  But we here in California will fight you tooth and nail and if necessary many of our homes will become sanctuary homes.  It is just one in a long line of stupid things you are doing these days because you have spent too much time with alternate facts.

Ashamed to be an American

But proud to be a Californian: Sacramento congregations pledge to shelter undocumented immigrants from raids. Now when I travel I will sew a California flag on my backpack.  At least in California we have not turned into the hate filled and immoral place much of the rest of the country is becoming.  Note I exclude here all the mayors of sanctuary cities that have stood up to this bully from Boston to Santa Fe.  Mayors, people who really have to make the cities work and take care of their people, know the real score and that all of this hate and fear generated by Trump and his gang of bullies is senseless.  Worse it is counter productive. It is scapegoating on a national scale while ignoring real fixes.

I love our Constitution and living within the ideological constructs of that great document and the principles our Founders enshrined in it (Yes, I actually have read the Federalist Papers and understand the arguments).  Donald Trump swore to defend the Constitution and it is clear he has neither read it or understands it.  We have an Administration who is shredding it in the worst way possible.  Those morons (is the word still offensive because I can find no better one?) who wear their Make America Great Hats and really are all about a White Aryan Nation, are destroying what made America great.  The latest abomination is of course The Great Negotiator’s (TGN) Executive Order on refugees.  People who have already passed “extreme” vetting are being stopped at the airports and detained.  Only Christians need apply (they have preference.  See anything unConstitutional here?)  Talk about cruel and unusual.  It is so embarrassing to say you are American these days.  I do not want to travel abroad because I am so ashamed.  Maybe we could call it an apology trip.

Think about the ban for a moment.  They banned anyone from countries we bombed and made their existence impossible.  They banned anyone from countries where many helped our military and now need a safe haven.  They banned anyone from places where only a fool would not be a refugee.  And in the name of what?  More safe shopping?  They did not ban people from countries where most of our attackers came from.  It is a dangerous world and we helped make it more dangerous and the least we can do is give people hope and a safe refuge, to be a beacon of liberty and freedom.  Now we shun them like a gated community.  All inside have special privileges.  All outside, well who cares.  They deserved their fates by not being inside.  That is who we are becoming. I wonder if TGN has read the Declaration of Independence and understands what “all men” really means or what responsibilities that statement holds us to?  No of course not.

I find what Trump and his cronies stand for un-American and immoral.  No he is not my president and no I will not follow him or show him any respect. I will not tolerate those among us who still try to legitimize him.  I will work diligently to undermine him in any way I can.  We used to be a country who shared our wealth and provided a place where anyone can succeed.  Now we shun anyone who is not Christian and pretend that we deserve our wealth while everyone else is not worthy of the same chance.  Donald Trump and his supporters disgust me.  We really do have to go into the streets.  What he has done is illegal and it cannot stand.  And we have to quit tolerating those among us who justify this abomination.  They are the real threat to America. Oh, and I thank whoever I am a Californian where as a state we will resist him and be an example for the rest of the nation.  If this is what makes us “exceptional” I want no part.

Oh, I forgot one thing:  Fuck Donald Trump and the horse he rode in on!  Shame on the people who voted for him.  We are seeing Nazi Germany being recreated in the United States through the ignorance of our citizens.


It would appear that the Founders were infinitely wise when they structured our government as a representative democracy with the House being more responsive to voter mood swings (elected every 2-years), and the Senate putting a brake on emotional outbursts (elected every 6-years).  I say that based upon the result in Columbia on the vote for peace.  It failed because, well and understandably so, a small minority wanted retribution.  And only a small minority voted (38%). Emotion rules.  The lessons of Bishop Tutu and South Africa was lost on them, or could I throw in the Palestein-Israeli conflict?  It is kind of like a marriage argument in many ways.  You have to move on, if you want to move on.

As a really good article in the NYT pointed out, referendums are almost never a good idea:

The voters of the world have had quite a year: They rejected Colombia’s peace deal; split Britain from the European Union; endorsed a Thai Constitution that curtails democracy; and, in Hungary, backed the government’s plan to restrict refugees, but without the necessary turnout for a valid result.

…Though such votes are portrayed as popular governance in its purest form, studies have found that they often subvert democracy rather than serve it. They tend to be volatile, turning not just on the merits of the decision but also on unrelated political swings or even, as may have happened in Colombia, on the weather. Voters must make their decisions with relatively little information, forcing them to rely on political messaging — which puts power in the hands of political elites rather than those of voters.

We see that so much in California.  There are 17 ballot initiatives on the California ballot this year and the commercials have already started.  Now for the most part these commercials give misinformation a good name because in general they are outright lies.  They take a complex issue and try to roll it up into some simple  solution that would be a disaster.  As the above referenced article put it:

Voters face a problem in any referendum: They need to distill difficult policy choices down to a simple yes or no, and predict the outcome of decisions so complex that even experts might spend years struggling to understand them.

And as the article pointed out, uninformed voters are easily manipulated and it puts those with money and power in the drivers seat. If you look at third party voting this year as a protest vote, you begin to see how uninformed they are.  If you look at the planks of these third parties most would not vote for them if they understood them.  Here in California I will have to wait for my official voter’s guide to understand what is really going on, and then check about three or four trusted sources before I make my choice on them.  Do you suppose most people do that?  Rhetorical.  

What it does reflect is an abdication of power and responsiblity by our legislative bodies.  Let the people speak, without due consideration and loaded with charged emotions, is a disaster.  We elect our legislators to be deliberative.  To debate the pros and cons, to evaluate possible blow back.  So when it is thrown to the people it means they either are being obstructed by lobbyists or are political cowards.  Sadly on many issues, legislatures are behind the popular opinions.  That is why it took a court order to give gays their rights.

I think the lesson here is simply that direct democracy is a shortcut when government becomes dysfunctional, whether through obstructionism we have seen in our Congress by Republicans, hence the Donald Trump phenomenon, or when they are political cowards and want the people to speak.  But as the founders wisely understood, the people speak with many tongues depending on the direction of the wind and the political narrative of the day.  It is no way to run a government.

Only in California

It is quite possible that come November in California the final two candidates for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat will be two Democrats.  Huh you say?  On the down ballot elections, the two top vote getters regardless of party get on the final ballot.  In this state it is likely to be two women, both minorities, and both Democrats.  One is a Hispanic, the other is black.  Both don’t buy into Republican nonsense about small government (meaning government that makes rules to benefit Republicans).

It is kind of interesting in a way.  It pits Northern California against Southern California in a battle of regions (if it happens).  The idea is that instead of two party’s playing to their bases to get elected, the candidates must appeal to a broad spectrum of California voters and the two that do get in the runoff in November.  It is the idea that we quit letting the radicals of either party pick our choices.

It would be interesting if we tried something like this in presidential politics.  Then the whole discussion of third parties would be moot.  You run and if you ended up with the top two vote counts across he nation, you are on the November ballot.  Probably still be Trump and Hillary, but we wouldn’t have all those third parties doing their best to be spoilers.  Maybe in my next life they will do that and sooner or later, when we have got our sanity back, the top two will probably be Democrats too.

I have no idea how it will work out on Tuesday here in California, but the thing that warms my heart is that at least here we have seen the light.  Republicans won’t even get on the ballot.  They represent fringe ideas that have failed us and we need to be moving forward.  So onward.

Some Economic Thoughts

First, here in California there appears to be a deal to move the minimum wage to $15/hr by 2022.  On the face of it, that seems fairly reasonable.  The headlines went something like this:

  • Hourly wage would increase to $15 an hour by 2022
  • Announcement comes days after November ballot measure qualifies
  • Business groups call plan ‘reckless’

Now I will be the first one to say that people should earn a living wage, and if that includes price increases for the rest of us, so be it.  One has to wonder what business groups think is a fair wage, slavery?  But there is a point to consider.  A living wage in San Francisco is different from a living wage in Fresno.  In other words for small businesses the impact could be large in some low income areas.  Will it cost jobs?  Maybe, but one has to consider the overall impact.  In this particular bill the Governor has some flexibility to suspend the raises in bad economic times, and those companies with less than 25 employees get a little extra time.

But all in all we ought to try it.  The trouble with ‘Business groups’ and conservatives in general is they don’t want to try anything, and by doing this through the legislative process instead of the ballot measure, this allows for legislative adjustments later.  It is called moving forward and trying to help all working people, not saying no to any change because it hurts your perceived bottom line.  It’s called progress.

Meanwhile in the Trade arena there were two good pieces yesterday on a rational approach to trade policy.  One was by Neil Irwin which I highly recommend.  He did an excellent job of explaining the complexities of trade policy to understand the pros and cons of each deal. Economists will quibble about some details here, but it is a good overview.  The other was one by Paul Krugman who gave a higher level argument that it is irrational to just say no to trade deals.  When you got done, you are asking, so what is the metric I should use to understand these things.  I think I have an answer to that.

Our biggest problem, besides global warming, is growing economic inequality.  It is not a natural phenomenon, but one aided and abetted by policy.  Money attracts more money (it takes money to make money) but how those gains are shared is where policy comes in.  Denmark, Sweden, and Finland all have about the same inequality before taxes as we do, but tax policy redistributes those gains more equitably throughout their society.  So it’s a choice.

Looking at trade policy, one could apply the same metric:  Does it increase economic inequality or does it share the gains across all Americans?  Trade policies, as Neil Irwin pointed out, impact many things including foreign affairs so they are not going away.  But in the past while they increased our GDP, that increase went to corporations and the wealthy with cost being born by middle class wage earnings.  The latest one (TPP) was negotiated by corporations so we should not expect it to be any different.  The challenge is to either adjust the trade agreement to more equitably spread its benefits or use other policies such as tax law to accomplish the same thing.  Onward.

When you are angry and you want simple answers to complex problems, well, you are more than likely to make things much, much worse.


Cause and Effect

In an article in my local paper about Trump supporters here in California was this:

Trump’s donors are impressed that he turned his father’s fortune into a bigger fortune, that political action committees don’t give him money, and, in the most overused term of the campaign, that he is “authentic.” They regard Barack Obama’s presidency as a disaster and think Hillary Clinton is dishonest.

So let’s take it apart.   It has been estimated that if he took his inheritance and just invested it in the stock market he might be wealthier than he is today (Slate).  Second running a microeconomy (a business) is not even close to running a macroeconomy which business people never get.  If one business does better than all the rest, on the whole, the economy suffers.  The honest part is that he is not subject to the whim of PACs, but he has used his influence and money all his life to bend the political will, so what’s the difference?  Authentic?  Oh really?  Which Trump?

Finally we have the view that Barack Obama’s presidency is a disaster (I will get to Hillary in a moment).  What is the metric upon which you base that?  If you look at macroeconomic measures, the stock market, the deficit, unemployment, considering where we came from under Republicans just like Trump, Barack has been widely successful.  If you are bemoaning dysfunctional government, you only have to look at your last Republican vote in 2014.  And income inequality?  That started under your hero Ronald Reagan and accelerated under your last President George Bush.  The real problem with the Obama Presidency is that he spent too much time trying to make government work when the Republican Party was focused on making his Presidency fail.

Hillary and dishonesty?  Yes she has change her positions on many things over the years and one could say she sails political winds.  But she has been a consistent Democrat.  Can you say the same thing about Donald Trump?  He was for abortion before he was against it.  He was for single payer healthcare before he was against it.  He was a Democrat before he was a Republican.  Are you people smoking something?  You want lower taxes and the debt taken care of right?  Have you added up the numbers on his tax plan?

I have no idea what these people are thinking because the dots don’t connect.  I think it may be that they really don’t think that much about our problems and they just want them fixed and the system is totally dysfunctional so let’s bring in someone who does not play by the rules and shake it up.  That is all well and good, but you have to have a plan and policies that might actually do that, and we don’t really know what Donald Trump believes.  What was that Judy Collins song, Send in the Clowns?

The Right to Die Decision in California

My local paper, the Sacramento Bee, sends me emails to update me on the headlines they are working on.  Yes I read almost all my papers on line these days.  Here was how the Bee framed the news that Governor Brown had sign the bill:

Jerry Brown Signs Doctor Assisted Suicide Bill

California governor considers ‘what I would want in the face of my own death’

Brown spoke with his doctors, Catholic bishop

Bill a blow to Catholic Church, victory for assisted-death advocates

Now here is the interesting part, “Bill a blow to Catholic Church, victory for assisted-death advocates.”  Why is it a blow to the Catholic Church?  Is it because they cannot use government to enforce their religious beliefs on the rest of us?  Are we not a nation that believes in religious freedom?  Does that not also mean we have to be tolerant of other beliefs or there is no religious freedom?  Is not legislating morality, especially when it comes to our personal choices that affect only us, not robbing us of what it means to have a choice?

Nothing in this bill forces anyone to have a doctor help them die if they are terminal with less than six months to live.  So Catholics are free to practice their religion and die only naturally if they choose.  Isn’t that real proof of your beliefs, to live them out even when it is hard?  What good is a faith if it is enforced by government so that you have no choice?

In many ways this is the same argument for abortions.  Nothing in our laws forces anyone to get one.  But once we legislate our religious beliefs, what is a religion, but tyranny?  The fact that we can choose and excercise our own moral dictates is what makes us human and what makes us unique in our striving.  If we have to be “good”, what does being good really mean if we have no choice. 

Real freedom is a society that leaves most of life’s basic choices up to us as individuals.  The measure of our worth is how we make those choices.  To use government or religious prejudice to make others conform to your beliefs, does not secure your beliefs, but makes one wonder if they are worthy of following.  And in the end, if that final choice is ours, then most of us feel comfortable living with the consequences.  

Otherwise, we are just along for the ride and in the end we have lost our final dignity that makes us human, to make our final choice and live with those consequences.

Out of the Darkness

Here in California Governor Brown signed the Doctor Assisted Suicide Bill today with these remarks:

“I have discussed this matter with a Catholic Bishop, two of my own doctors and former classmates and friends who take varied, contradictory and nuanced positions,” Brown wrote. “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”

“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

Thank you Governor.  It should be our personal choice and thank you Brittany Maynard for your brave death to highlight this issue and to give us the choice to control our own destinies when we face no good options.

Read more here: