Saturday, November 19, 2016

Post Election Thoughts

I can't say I saw this coming.  I thought it was possible, as anybody did.  I knew Hillary is not an appealing figure.  She doesn't generate a lot of enthusiasm.  But at the end of the day I figured since all of the money and all of the power was behind her the rich wouldn't let her lose.  Even if they had to cheat.  It would seem our elections are fair.

I was planning to vote for Stein, but as Michigan tightened I decided to go for Hillary.  I thought it was pretty important that Trump not win, so if you are in a swing state you have to consider that.  We are at a critical point on the environment, or maybe we're beyond critical.  Yet Trump said he'd cancel the Paris climate agreement.  He wants more coal.  He'll likely ram through the Dakota access pipeline.  He's for the Keystone pipeline.

I said in 2012 that I think scientists understate the severity of the problem we face.  Unfortunately I think what we're seeing with Arctic ice, with glaciers, with global temperatures records, is bearing that out.  We're already heading towards the cliff.  The Paris agreement isn't going to prevent massive suffering, but it may buy us enough time to provide some mitigation.  Trump pledges to block even these modest measures.

The future seems pretty grim.  Along the way to climate disaster Trump has some other painful items in store.  Remember the debt ceiling battles of the past?  The sticking point for Republicans is they wanted to end Medicare.  Make no mistake about it.  They'll say "privatize Medicare" as if Medicare would still exist.  Medicare is a single payer health care system for the elderly.  You privatize it and it's no longer Medicare.  They'll provide vouchers, but not at the federal level as the federal government has enough clout to push back against corporate profit gouging patients and denying them coverage.  You send block grant money to the states, who are very easy to push around.  Profits will go through the roof, money spent on actual care will decline.  Your death panels will have arrived.

Trump wants to scale back the EPA.  Clean air and clean water will then be less regulated.  Apparently he trusts the "free markets" to take care of it.  Now when your kids start having poor brain function you won't know why.  Republicans have long wanted to reduce funding to NASA, as NASA data makes us aware of global warming.  Trump could help them succeed.  It's not enough that they do damage to the planet.  They want to make sure we lack knowledge about the details of the damage.

Obviously repealing Obama Care on day 1, as Trump has promised, is going to be a disaster for millions of Americans that now do have health care they would otherwise lack.

On the flip side some have argued that this is for the best.  With Hillary you're on a disastrous climate path, but you also have a progressive movement lulled to sleep under the delusion that we have someone on our side as President.  It was Obama trying to ram through TPP.  He's the one that has locked in the surveillance state and rescinded habeas corpus.  These are tools now being handed off to an authoritarian, as real progressives warned they would be eventually.  Maybe this galvinization of the left creates space for a true progressive movement, one that brings about the real, urgent change that can no longer be delayed.  That may happen.  If it doesn't Nov 8 could go down as the most important date in human history, the day we sealed our fate.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Why Such a Close Election?

The latest polling at realclearpolitics has Trump down to Clinton by 6.7 points.  If the election were today Trump might win 20 states.

Mondale won 1 state and lost to Reagan by 18 points.  Dukakis lost to Bush by almost 8 points and won 10 states.  Does this make sense?

I don't think it's especially controversial to say that Trump is the worst human being and candidate that has been nominated for President in my lifetime, at least in terms of his moral character and temperament.  I think it's pretty obvious he's incompetent, but some might debate that.  On the issues opinions will differ.  Overall on non-issue related categories he's unbelievably bad.

It truly seems unreal to me.  You have the genital grabbing, the inappropriate talk towards 10 year old girls, saying his accusers aren't attractive enough to be groped, admission of imposing himself on naked teenagers in a dressing room.  Hillary is running against a true monster.  A dangerous abusive sexual predator that should be locked up to protect women.

And yet he's doing better than Mondale, Dukakis, or McGovern.  He's going to win more than one state, which is more than some nominees could say.  How is he doing so well?

I think Democrats should think about this question right now.  If they can't put away a candidate like this, what does that say about them?

In my discussions with Trump supporters and in my own mind I can think of several reasons Trump gets this level of support.

1-Some just feel that strongly about the issues.  Abortion is one.  True, Trump may not be genuinely pro-life.  He probably doesn't even care about the issue.  But he'll nominate a pro-life Supreme Court justice anyway.  At least to please the base.  Hillary of course will not do that.  Some people continue to believe in trickle down economics.  He will cut taxes for corporations and wealthy people and a lot of people continue to believe this is how you improve an economy.  A lot of people think illegal immigration is a serious threat to their life and livelihood.

Progressives should think about it this way.  What if our candidate was the sexual predator?  What if we nominated Bill Clinton and the worst said of Clinton and his treatment of women was true?  But his opponent thought climate change was a liberal conspiracy, wanted to torture the children of terrorists, wanted to cut taxes for the wealthy, wanted to strengthen rulings like Citizen United to maintain the corporate control of government?  I'd probably vote for Clinton anyway.  I wouldn't degrade myself as Trump's supporters are doing and make excuses for the behavior (it's just locker room talk, people talk like this all the time, he's telling the truth now even though we have audio of him saying the opposite, he asked for forgiveness so we should let it go).  I would own it and just say the issues are too important.

2-Hillary is this bad of a candidate.  I don't think she's the monster she's portrayed to be.  But she is an insider.  So was Obama.  That doesn't have to mean she's a terrible person.  She might have simply concluded that there's no way to win without the support of billionaires, so you have to do their bidding to some degree or lose forever.  That may be what she and Obama concluded.  On the other hand they may genuinely be insiders that care more for the interests of the wealthy than ordinary people.  Regardless of what they think deep down they actually do the bidding of the wealthy first.  They do not punish bankers.  They do push trade deals the billionaires want.  Their tax increases on the wealthy are half measures.  Not even.  They have sustained for-profit health care, which is killing thousands of Americans every year.  They do it because the owners want it.  They go to war for reasons that have nothing to do with our national security, but really either the security of Israel or for the interests of money.  People are sick of this.  I know a Muslim that intends to vote for Trump and he says "I know Trump hates me and people of my religion, but I'm sick of the corrupt insider government we have here."  That's how tired people are of the cesspool Washington has become.

3-Citizens United.  Some billionaires want their tax cuts and regulation cuts, so they will pump money into elections to help Trump win.  This is part of the reason Hillary can't put Trump away.

4-Some people are really racist and misogynistic.  They don't even mind the revelations.

Personally there is one major issue that causes my support for Hillary to be very tepid.  I think she could provoke a nuclear war.  Russia is taking steps that indicate they fear this outcome.  Hillary is such a committed hawk, such a committed apologist for Israel's aims, that she's risking a nuclear confrontation.  Trump talks about getting along with Putin.  I think he's quite right about that.  We are the ones arming what was Al Qaeda in Syria.  We have played a critical role in provoking the devastation in Syria, which is all the more reason I think Americans have an obligation to help the refugees.  Sexual harassment is terrible.  But nuclear war is worse.  So there are going to be some on the left that might prefer Trump despite his unbelievable behavior towards women.  I'm not saying I'm in that camp.  I think Trump is even more dangerous with nukes at his disposal than Hillary.  But there are reasons Hillary is not trouncing him right now, and some reasons have merit in my view.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Marxist Business Consulting

What would you say you do?  Apparently the women in red is Ayn Rand.

In case you don't know the movie scene this references, it's here.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Election Thoughts

It's been kind of fun over the last few months fantasizing about Bernie actually winning the Democratic nomination.  Really it's like thinking about winning the lottery.  Not gonna happen, but indulging the fantasy is enjoyable sometimes.  But Jill Stein I think captured it well back in December.  There's just no way the Democratic establishment and the DNC are going to let that happen.

The DNC has certainly been in Hillary's corner, but I'm not sure it would have changed anything if they had been neutral.  Hillary gets plenty of corporate media support and that probably would have been enough.  Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, and other supposed liberal commentators I think would have gotten it done.  For Ellen Degeneres Hillary is the ONLY candidate running that has stood for equal rights for everyone (even though Hillary was against gay marriage and said so on Ellen's show in 2007 which could be contrasted with Bernie's record).  Here's Joy Behar on The View.  Bernie, why are you still harping on this Iraq war thing?  What's the big deal?  That reminded me of a question put to Lincoln Chafee about Hillary's Iraq war vote.  She said she was sorry.  Why isn't that good enough?  This is the way the corporate media frames these debates.

So it's Hillary for the D's even though every poll I've seen shows Bernie has a better chance of beating Trump.  And of course it could get even worse for Hillary as a recommendation to indict from the FBI could come at any moment.  That's how strong the oligarchy is.  The D's will put up a very weak candidate against Trump, and he is an extremely dangerous character.  We really could end up with a Trump presidency, which I think most establishment people understand is extremely risky.  But Bernie has this hostility to bankers and a desire to bring medical care to ordinary people at the expense of corporate profit.  This is unacceptable.  Profit is more important than keeping Trump away from the nuclear codes.

Hillary's email shenanigans would certainly be a serious problem for an ordinary person, but she's powerful so rules tend to not apply.  I don't see that her recklessness in securing secret and top secret information will be a problem for her.  What could be a problem though is other information that is revealed in the emails FBI investigators are reviewing.  It seems Hillary thought in establishing a private server she was going to prevent the world from seeing what she was up to.  Who knows what crimes she might discuss when she assumes nobody will see.  My feeling is there is something major there and the FBI is going to recommend an indictment.

It's not unlike the Whitewater investigation.  The accusations are the kind of thing that would be a big deal for an ordinary person, but not necessarily a powerful person.  While Whitewater itself didn't damage the Clintons the information revealed as a result of the Whitewater investigation did.  The same could happen here.

Whether the justice department actually follows through of course depends on the severity of the crime, the strength of the evidence, and the power of the Clinton's within the Democratic establishment.  But what I see from the D's is regardless of what happens they are going to go forward with a very unlikeable Hillary Clinton who is further wounded by this whole email problem.

The outcome seems bad no matter which way you slice it.  Trump could win.  Or alternatively Hillary could win despite everything.  People either decide her crimes don't matter or Trump is too dangerous.  Imagine what the midterms will look like for the Democrats with Hillary as president.  Liberals have a hard enough time getting out the vote under the relatively likeable Obama.  2018 could be a crazy Republican sweep.  We get another decade of gerrymandered districts as before among other problems.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why Power Hates Unions

I'm really just posting this image because I saw it a long time ago and later couldn't find it when I wanted to show someone.

But what the hell, let me just say a couple of words about the arguments you hear against unions all the time.

"Unions are corrupt!!"

All powerful organizations have corruption problems.  Corporations, government.  Why are unions so often singled out in this way?  The image above I think explains it.  But on the plus side unions are democratic.  So there is at least a check on corruption.  Corporations are tyrannies and governments often get captured and controlled by tyrannical corporations.  So corruption in these cases can be more difficult to deal with.

"I know a lazy guy that should have been fired but the union protected him."

When you aren't a slave and you have some power sometimes you do things that aren't great because you can.  This is not perfect, but the alternative is worse.

It's like a parent and child.  In most healthy families sometimes children act up.  Sometimes they don't do what they should.  They get away with it because their parents love them and aren't going to crush them.

Unhealthy families can be different.  For some families the children fear their parents and almost never disobey.  When they go to church and all are at strict attention, never acting out, one might look at that and think it is admirable.  But maybe it isn't.  Maybe it's better when there is a little more balance, a little more equality in the power relation.  The price of that equality is the children don't always do as they are told.  They don't always do the right thing.  But it's better this way.  It's worth the price.

Salary negotiations should be left to the free market.  That's why I oppose the fight for $15.  You should only make $15 if you can command that salary based on market demands for your skill set.

Organizing and fighting for $15 is a free market activity.  When Walmart wants to get a good price on paper towels they consolidate their purchasing power.  Workers are doing the same.  They are consolidating their labor in order to negotiate the best labor rate they can get.  If it's good enough for Walmart it should be good enough for workers.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ralph Nader on Tort Reform

A lot of people get pretty fired up about tort reform.  Our health care premiums and products cost so much more because of "frivolous lawsuits."  You know, people that pick up their lawn mowers to trim their bushes and get injured just run to the nearest ambulance chasing lawyer and get awarded millions of dollars.  This is why everything is so terrible.

We should ask ourselves who might benefit from these arguments by anecdote.  Who do you think wants to prevent an ordinary poorer person from having the tools necessary to push back against a powerful corporation that is guilty of negligence that has caused harm?  Who do you think doesn't like power shifted from the board room to a jury?  Who doesn't want to have to disclose what they knew about the dangers of their products?  Who doesn't want to have to spend a lot of engineering dollars improving products to make them safer?  Who do you think has a vested interest in getting you fired up about the need for tort reform?

Did you know that while insurance companies and their lobbyists claim that things like medical malpractice lawsuits give them no choice but to raise premiums dramatically these same companies refuse to allow the public to know how much they pay out in relation to the premiums they collect?  Did you know that in the cases where they have passed legislation that has limited your ability to sue or limited the amount you can collect in damages there is not a commensurate reduction in premiums or even slow down in the rate of premium increase?

Ralph Nader writes a pretty long but informative article you can read here if you are interested in these matters.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sanders vs the White Moderate

You have to respect conservatives.  They want more money in the pockets of the rich, they oppose democracy, they don't care about the environment.  And they are honest about it.  Someone like Sanders wants single payer health care, bold action on climate change, tax increases on the rich.  Sure, they oppose those things and always have.  You recognize them as your opponents, but it's not like they're stabbing you in the back.

But get ready when you start getting close to the point where you could actually implement policies that white moderates have pretended they like all along.  The white moderates flip and join the conservatives, showing that their true allegiance is to the establishment and monied interest all along.  If you were paying attention you already knew that, but if you weren't you might be surprised.

The naive might take Paul Krugman to be the kind of person that would like what Bernie offers.  And he does.  When it has no chance of being implemented.  When you get close he's switching sides.  Here's Glenn Greenwald's take down.  The so called liberal Washington Post editorial board.  Watch Cenk's take down.  Rachel Maddow?  She's covered Bernie positively somewhat, but she won't criticize Hillary in the way she criticizes Republicans when Hillary does what they do.  Watch a commentary here.  Ezra Klein, the NY Times editorial board.  You should see the CNN debate moderators and other debate moderators.  "Bernie, why have you flip flopped on guns?"  Then it's "Hillary admits her Iraq war vote was a mistake, why isn't that good enough?"

Should Bernie win tomorrow you'll see more of this from these white moderates.  They'll really start freaking out.  Don't be surprised, it's been this way forever.  Here's what ML King said in 1963 about these people:
"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."
Update:  A couple of more commentaries from Cenk.  This one contrasts the questions asked of Bernie at the town hall with those to Hillary.  This one reviews an interview done by CNN of Bernie supporter Susan Sarandon.  Both really interesting and revealing, especially for those that think there is some sort of liberal media.