The Flint Primary

Posted February 6, 2016 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2016 Presidential election, african americans, Democratic Party, GOP, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Actually there is no official “Flint (Michigan)” Primary. There probably should be but it is highly doubtful that anything good would come of it. Flint is a poster child for so much. A Flint Primary would be about a city that won’t take care of itself, a State which is blindly following a “no new tax, no spend” formula, and a Federal Government Agency which is running on autopilot with controls set firmly on neutral.

The Flint story tied to beginnings of the auto industry, its growth, and now its decline. Over the years, automobiles were good to Flint and the city became home to several auto parts and assembly plants each employing thousands. Flint also became home to the top notch engineering school, “General Motors Institute” (now named the Kettering University after Charles Kettering, inventor and GM executive). One would think that there would be no dearth of technical knowledge in Flint.

In the 80s and 90s, the production of automobiles began to drop in Flint as newer assembly plants were build elsewhere. With the drop in production came a drop in employment. Executives and skilled tradesmen move away to other jobs while the less skilled remained behind. Soon poverty and unemployment were rampant.

A few years ago, the city leaders decided to reduce costs by changing the source of its drinking water. The officials selected the Flint River over the previous supplier, Detroit Water, and restarted its own water treatment plant. City officials were told that the Flint River water needed to be treated in a certain manner in order to prevent the untreated water from corroding existing pipes. If the existing pipes corroded, there would be discoloration of the water and even worse the release of lead from the pipes into the water.

No treatment was implemented and soon the water discolored and lead began to accumulate.

General Motors noticed the change fairly quickly and began treating the water used in its plants itself. Why? Because the water was corroding expensive equipment. Hmmm.

Citizens complained and State agencies reviewed the matter and made their own recommendations. None were implemented.

After about 18 months, the EPA became involved and determined that lead pollution existed and provided the State with a set of recommendations. Nothing happened as a result. No State action, no EPA follow up.

About 2 years after the switch to Flint water, the dire situation became front page news. Now there is more activity on who did what and whose to blame, than acton. Flint citizens are still drinking bottled water.

A Flint Primary might reveal residents who were content to grumble, and who wanted be taken care of rather than taking care of themselves. The largely African American population accepted their fate as it it were a by-product of a war effort.

The Flint educated and more wealthy citizens immediately switched to bottled water and installed home filters, and nothing more. Leading businesses like General Motors took care of themselves and went on about their business. Flint elected officials worried about getting elected again and not the water.

State officials were content to follow Governor Rick Scott’s fiscal restraint agenda. No new taxes and reduction is State services. To be fair, Detroit was bankrupt and presented a huge fiscal mess, Flint just didn’t rate that high. And, the Federal EPA was far more concerned with super fund sites and global warming, a shameful excuse.

A Flint Primary would allow voters to register their demands for immediate action on a basic life requirement, clean water. The primary could make the unemployed voices clear that they wanted jobs so they could pay for the water, and by the way they demanded the water be lead free. The Flint Primary could vote out the incompetent and callous Flint officials who had allowed what they knew health-wise as clearly wrong to persist.

The Flint Primary could also shine a bright light upon the “no new taxes” advocates who are happy to hold the line on taxes by reducing necessary government services. “No new taxes” may be defensible but only under conditions where existing services are made much more productive (or eliminated) so that funds could be applied to those essential services. In Michigan as in most other “no new taxes” States, there is little effort to ensure essential services continue, or to consider the need for necessary infrastructure repair and maintenance.

The Flint Primary could do so much. Given the history off Flint resident’s complacency, I can’t help but wonder, however, how many Flint residents would show up to vote.

Wall Street Money?

Posted February 5, 2016 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2016 Presidential election, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Citizens United, Condi Rice, Democratic Party, financial industry, foreign affairs, GOP, Hillary Clinton, income inequality, Koch Brothers, Lobbyists, Republican Party, Uncategorized, Wall Street

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are going toe to toe for the Democrat Presidential nomination. One of Sanders’ stump speech trademarks is Clinton’s acceptance of $675,000 for speeches given to Wall Street firms. Last night she called him on it and asked what exactly did this money do to change her views on policies? Hillary asked whether Bernie had a specific charge or was he just trying to “smear” her reputation? Hmmm.

Three hundred thousand plus does seem like a lot of money for an hours work. But is it?

Access to someone like Hillary, especially if she should become President would be “priceless”. And for these large banks, $325,000 is not too much money considering what they spend on lobbying anyways. And Hillary is not a new recipient, former Secretary of States Powell and Rice both have received large honorariums.  So, is Bernie pointing out a naked attempt to influence a public figure and potential President, or is he just pointing out a questionable practice?

More probable these firms were willing to spend these large sums of money because Clinton (and former senior Government officials) had both fresh insight and direct knowledge of happenings around the world, including developments in foreign capitals. Hillary also had insight into thinking within the White House and the Administration’s view of the domestic economy. For global financial firms in the business of advising clients around the world, information such as Clinton might have is critically important.

Sanders makes a point of saying he has not accepted Wall Street money and has gone further, saying he has no “Super Pac” money either. Sanders emphasizes his campaign money comes from small donations by average Americans. The implication is that he will be immune to special interest pressure. Hmmm.

From an appearance perspective, Hillary might wish she had not accepted these paid speaking engagements.  Sanders appears to have hit an awakening feeling that income inequality and general dissatisfaction with the American Dream is tied to Wall Street. In the general election, Wall Street money will not be an issue since if it isn’t Wall Street, its big oil, the NRA, or maybe even the Koch brothers. The Democrat primary, however, is another question.

Wall Street money is like salt and water. Too much is lethal while not enough is deadly too. Clinton can’t deny these paid speeches and can only minimize the damage to her campaign. Regardless, should Hillary become President, Wall Street will be only one of many potential special interests trying to reach her.

With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporations are “people” and as such have a first amendment right to donate money to politicians. The issue remains whether free speech demands a kick back for the money donated. We shall see no matter who is elected President.  The Supreme Court doesn’t seem so supreme in this light, however.

Experience Versus Judgement

Posted February 4, 2016 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized, Politics, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Conservatives, GOP, congress, 2016 Presidential election, marco rubio, Bernie Sanders, obamacare, George W Bush

The 2016 Presidential primary process is drenching Americans in rich rhetoric which leaves one scratching ones head thinking, “what did he/she just say?” The candidates, or more correctly their strategists and speech writers, have distilled everything down to a 10 second, hopefully highly memorable sound bite. Hmmm.

The President is called the chief executive. I can’t remember one, Democrat or Republican, who has actually acted as the country’s top executive, Instead the vast array of Departments, Agencies, and the Military seem to operate on their own agendas which call first for survival and only later for delivery of services. They are the civil service crowd, immune from dismissal except in severe situations. Any senior official has long ago learned it is better to “go along and get along”.

The Presidency has instead morphed into an auxiliary legislative branch proposing new regulations or laws, or issuing a veto to thwart laws originating in Congress. The Presidency has reinforced its roll in setting foreign policy (with the advice and consent of Congress).

So where does “experience and judgement” fit in?

Does being a State Governor or corporate leader prepare one better than being a former member of Congress? Supporters of Donald Trump, Carli Fiorina, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush certain think so. The politics of corporate life, however, are completely different from that involved with a President and Congress. Further the whole idea of profit motive is totally missing from Government (at all levels).

Experience can also refer to age and life lessons gained over time. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who occupy different points on the progressive axis, would stress this type of experience as a plus for them. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, on the other hand, represent the “fresh, new faces” who bring the theme its time to change forward. Hmmm.

Judgement is not so straight forward. One could say George W Bush exercised poor judgement when he allow the Iraq invasion and occupation to take place. Unfortunately the only proof of this is history. At the time the country and Congress was only too willing to surrender commonsense and due diligence to the elusive fear of terrorists and the warmth of patriotism. History, however, has coldly shown the foolishness of Bush’s “judgement”.

As we listen to the current crop of would be Presidents one would do well to look beyond just experience and judgement. Neither may be relevant. One might better judge the candidates upon their stand alone intelligence, their emotional maturity, and their apparent executive skills (like problem solving, prioritization, and strategic thinking).

One might ask, how can I make these judgements?

It won’t be easy because 150 million voters can’t get one on one with each of the candidates. In addition, each serious candidate has a backroom full of script writers and strategists parsing each and every issue. (That’s why these campaigns need so much money!). But here’s a place to begin.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and ask them to assess these personal characteristics for each candidate. Then, write or simply go to the Facebook page of each of the major television networks and repeat this request. If enough people were to make this type of request, it might alter the line of questioning to something far more substantive.

I am not going to hold my breath waiting for the news media to ask substantive questions rather than colorful, headline grabbing ones. I will probably look to the candidates’ policy platforms and make a judgement on whether these policies, if enacted, would be good for America.

Barack Obama, when elected, had a long list of proposed policies, Affordable Care Act being the only noteworthy one enacted. President Obama has faced his last six year a “just say no” Congress. History is likely to record Obama, brought the nation back from near depression, did not do anything “stupid”, and steered the ship of State bravely and safely. That might be the best we can expect from his successor given the divided nature of America.

How many of the candidates, Democrat or Republican, do you think can steer the ship of State bravely and safely?

Feel The Bern – Universal Healthcare

Posted February 3, 2016 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2016 Presidential election, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Party, democratic socialism, GOP, Hillary Clinton, obamacare, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized, universal healthcare

The odds may be that Hillary Clinton will be the Democrat Presidential standard bearer come November. Never the less Bernie Sanders should be expected to give her a run for our money and perform a national good service in the process.  For America the Clinton-Sanders contest will be best chance in years (maybe ever) to “feel the bern” about Universal Healthcare.

Sanders, who calls himself a “democrat socialist”, has already begun to talk about the absurdity of our current healthcare system (costs and not everyone is covered) and in his efforts to calm fears of socialism points out in clear and unambiguous terms why the American “private enterprise” healthcare delivery system is antiquated, not to mention unaffordable

Sanders speaks of nothing new. Anyone who has read about healthcare knows that most of the developed countries around the world have healthcare outcomes as good or better than the US. In addition to excellent health outcomes, other countries offer full resident coverage and as a nation, spend one half or less than the US. These are staggering statistics.

In the past when someone raised this comparison, the public was told universal healthcare is socialism (and socialism is not the American way). Sanders presents a wise, grandfatherly image and tells Americans what they should have been able to figure out themselves, and not offend them. Hmmm.

Even if Sanders does not win the nomination, the more light he can throw upon the inherent unfairness of American healthcare and the stupidity of paying so much more than is necessary, could plant the seeds of change.

The irony might be that the GOP could propose a universal system to replace Obamacare and offer Americans a real reason to vote for them. For a party which can’t leave women alone to make their own reproductive health decisions or deal with a comprehensive immigration reform or show interest in something other than tax cuts for the wealthy, promoting universal healthcare… hmmm, not likely.

Iowa, Oh, Iowa

Posted February 2, 2016 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2016 Presidential election, ben carson, congress, Conservatives, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, jeb bush, john kasich, marco rubio, Politics, Republican Party, Ted Cruz, Uncategorized

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The Iowa caucuses have come and gone. The results provided the last nail in Martin O’Malley and Mike Huckabee’s campaigns and both suspended their efforts. For the rest, the race continues.  Who were the winners and the losers?

Ted Cruze appears the nominal Republican winner, and was quick to tell everyone that. Donald Trump actually came close to the closing poll numbers but a strong close by Cruze left Trump in second. Marco Rubio got his desired “strong third place” finish and spoke as if the nomination was practically in reach.

The top three finishers captured about 3/4ths of the votes and adding the 9% for Carson, everyone else was a loser, at least as Iowa stands.

On the Democrat side, for all intense purposes, the caucuses produced a tie. Clinton may have won by a few votes and may have snagged the delegate lead but the win was far from convincing. Bernie Sanders appealed broadly to the under thirty crowd, even though he was the oldest candidate in both parties.

Pundits will spin these results for days (until New Hampshire next Tuesday). For the GOP, evangelicals who voted for Cruz and Carson, will come to realize this segment does not reflect a national cross section.  More importantly, no GOP candidate received more than 28% of the vote, hardly a mandate for any of the positions each candidate has outlined.

The strength of Sanders, however, should send a strong message to both parties. Younger voters see the critical issues facing America differently than the “established” Washington politicians. Universal healthcare, college education without huge debt, and tighter Wall Street controls are issues of “fairness”. In the riches country on earth, instead of fairness, younger voters hear the watch words “American Dream is yours if you can afford it”.

(Regrettably, how to pay for healthcare and college education, or what might be the consequences of tighter Wall Street controls has largely been left unsaid.)

Sanders compact with younger voters is more than just about fairness. Sanders speaks “genuine” also. You may not like what he is saying but you are clear his message is un-nuanced.

In the greater picture, Iowa is a small State not representative of the country as a whole. Cruz’ victory is most likely meaningless on the larger US scale. For New Hampshire, Cruz is a cypher. The curious questions will involve Trump, Rubio, Bush, Kasich, and Christie.  Will any of these candidates begin the trek back toward the center?

For Clinton, it will be all about adjusting expectations and trying to lose by less than current poll numbers suggest. Hillary must not forget that her candidacy is about breadth, depth, and experience. She should do well with women and immigrants along with rank and file Democrats (once she defeats Sanders). It is not time for Clinton to change colors again like a chameleon.

Is Chris Clueless?

Posted February 1, 2016 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2016 Presidential election, Barack Obama, Chris Mathews, Donald Trump, GOP, MSNBC, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

MSNBC host Chris Mathews is known for his breathless style of combative interviews. “Hardball” is the place where Chris performs.  Mathews talks through his guest’s answer, especially if the guest is not echoing what Chris has just said. While there isn’t a partisan issue that Chris doesn’t take up, Mathews just lives for election time and the chance to paint the colors red and blue on everyone who breaths.

In the past, Hardball was the marque MSNBC show. Today, however, Hardball must take a back seat to Rachael Maddow and Morning Joe (with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski). Never the less, Mathews is a student of politics and is uninhibited in sharing his views with any audience.

Like most other commentators, Chris has been taken aback by the antics of Donald Trump. How could he say that and get away with it?  And just as most commentators, Mathews is switching his story on Trump’s electability.

Today on Morning Joe, Chris shared that there was something special about Trump’s strategies. Mathews thought Trump’s main strength was his ability to make his supporters feel good!!!???

Likening Trump to Reagan, Mathews said that Trump supporters while dissatisfied with Washington, President Obama, and maybe the prospects of getting a larger slice of the American Dream, supporters were really hearing Trump’s message, “Making America Great Again”. Hmmm.

In an odd way, Mathews may actually be analyzing Trump’s overall campaign strategy correctly. Trump gets the audience’s attention by slamming this group or that one. Forget about America’s history of welcoming immigrants and tolerating multiple religions, Trump is ready to demean these minorities knowingly feeding many other American’s secret beliefs. To complete the sale, Trump offers his audiences the “hope” that life will get better with a President Trump.

“I’m smart, a very good business man, and wildly successful” (Trump says), all things his supporters are not. But it is these characteristics that make the slogan “Make America Great Again” believable.

Mathews may deserve some credit for articulating correctly Trump’s overall game plan. But Chris seemed clueless just gushing over the “Trump-ster’s” ability to make people feel good about the country. To be sure, had Donald Trump been able to garner his same level of support without calling Mexican “rapists” or calling for sealing our borders to all Muslims, there very well may have been reason to believe this stroke of genius might translate into a truly great President.

I wonder why Mathews does not see or hear the “Pied Piper”playing?

Trumbo Not Trump

Posted January 31, 2016 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2016 Presidential election, Barack Obama, congress, Constitution, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, GOP, house of representatives, HUAC, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Dalton Trumbo is a name most people might not recognize. Trumbo the movie, however, will be a movie many will remember. This memorability, hopefully, will be tied to disgust over the shameful past associated with the Congress’ “House Un-American Committee”.

HUAC is a testimony to wanton disregard for the individual protections embodied in the Constitution. Regrettably, HUAC is written indelibly into our past. Or is it?

Dalton Trumbo was a prolific (and successful) Hollywood screen writer in the late 40s and 50s, just as the cold war began. Trumbo had been a member of the Communist Party and was an unashamed believer in socialism. Following World War II and the great fear which the axis “Communism versus Capitalism” was generating, the US political stage was set for hypocrisy, demagoguery, and self serving fear mongering.

And on this stage many including Richard Nixon, Joe McCarthy, and in the Hollywood world, Hedda Hopper and John Wayne, all danced to tunes designed to reinforce fear, and maintain status quo.

HUAC used subpoena powers to accuse Americans from all sorts of backgrounds with the famous question, “are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party”. Those subpoenaed were ask to “name names” when in fact the names were already known.

HUAC goal seemed to be characterizing certain fellow Americans as somehow untrustworthy if not outrightly a danger to the greater country. There were even proposals that these “communists” be rounded up and put in interment camps. Hmmm.

Slowly Americans grew resistant to the constant fear mongering and began to see both the injustice and the outright lies which HUAC was spreading. Screen writers like Trumbo, writers like Arther Miller, and entertainers like Pete Sieger were once again recognized for their talents and not their past (legal) political affiliations. A great sigh could almost be heard across America as the 60s broke.

And now, a relatively short time later, we are seeing and hearing the use of fear and convenient Constitutional ignorance return. As in the past, fear provides a political crutch to many who seek a greater role in governance. To be sure they seek “governance” their way with Constitutional adherence optional.

Donald Trump has offered the most polished and effective populist rhetoric, but he has been closely followed by the rest of the GOP field. For at least part of the American voter segment, Trump’s tirades work. Draped in the American flag, these Americans cheer when Trump promises to deny basic Constitutional protections to many Americans simply based upon religion or ethnicity.

Trumbo, the movie, shows us the problem is not with the hypocritical, demagogical, fear mongering politicians, rather it is with a weak and unthinking public. The time is approaching when Americans can muster strength from just thinking, and reject the HUAC past.   When Americans visit the voting booth, they can speak loudly and clearly.

Hmmm.


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