Confronting The Shutdown

Posted January 21, 2019 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

This past weekend, across America, fellow citizens marched for women’s rights.  Some marched under the banner “don’t take my rights away”, and others marched “for the right to take other women’s rights away”.  Very peculiar perspective for women not to see their common interests and instead, square off against each other.

Pro-life and Pro-choice prefer to fight each other rather than advocating for the myriad other ways women are not treated equally.  It is baffling to me why women cannot see the wisdom of uniting under a common banner.  By remaining separate women marches, women are reaffirming their division. “Together we stand, divided we fall”.  

From a logistics perspective, planning for the Women’s March began many months ago, well before the Trump Government Shutdown.  If one could push back the hands of time, the Women’s March planners’ focus might have been better placed on demanding the Government reopening aiding the home lives of thousands of women government employees and spouses.  The Women’s March could also have made clear that President Trump should never try this childish stunt again.  Women lost an opportunity to clearly show they were the only adults in the room.  Maybe next year.

President Trump proposed a path for reopening the government this weekend.  His proposal was naked hostage taking and then trying to negotiate a settlement where he keeps his prize.  This tactic may work in the New York building trades but it has no place running the government of the world’s richest country. 

By the time the Huns and Vandals reached the gates of Rome, Rome had already withered to a paper tiger.  President Trump is strangely on a similar path and even stranger, a path destine to NOT make America great again.

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Is Socialism A Real Fear?

Posted January 20, 2019 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: democratic socialism, economic growth, free speech, Germany, Healthcare, income inequality, social security, Uncategorized, universal healthcare

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Recently I got into a discussion with friends over what danger some of the new Democrat Congress members posed.  “Why that woman from New York wants free college education for everyone” one friend said.  “How is the country going to pay for it?”  The person added, “that woman wants to tax the rich to pay for it and that means we are going to have to pay more in taxes”.  Hmmm.

Where does one begin?

The friend making that statement probably lives in the 90th% income bracket which is about $150,000 in yearly income.  The couple probably have a pension, social security, and some income from investments.  They own a home and a vacation house.  They live comfortably but certainly not extravagantly.  Compared to average household income of $61,000, they are doing well.  So why the fear of free college?

My friend did not stop at having to pay higher taxes.  My friend quickly added, free college education would take the US to socialism.  And another friend said, “from socialism, communism was next.  And just look at Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba”  (I guess they had never visited China.)  Hmmm.

These two friends are both educated, well spoken, and otherwise reasonably charitable people.  From where could this disconnect from logic and reality come?  That’s a “foxy” question I think.

I wonder whether my two friends have thought why someone would advocate for free college education in the first place?  I wonder whether they realize that educated people are a resource just like rivers, roads, and electricity.  An educated work force drives prosperity.  In the US, unemployment, average income, and home ownership are all correlated to whether one has a college education or not.

Of course the likely reply would be, “I had to pay for my college education, so should the kids today”.  Hmmm.  I would quickly agree to that if there were options for kids to borrow at no interest the money to pay for their college education and depending upon what profession they chose or where they applied their college education, there were “forgiveness” provisions.  

In many respects, the free college education argument is a red herring with respect to the risks posed by socialistic regulations and laws.  And the connections between socialism and communism are faint if at all.  Socialism arises invariably to counter the excesses of capitalism.     Hmmm.

Most people are surprised to see how much in our daily lives is a form of socialism.  Public roads, libraries, and utilities are starters.  Social Security, the VA hospital system, and the host of consumer protection agencies are socialistic in nature.  All our discrimination laws, rent protection, and FHA loans in some way overcome excesses of unfettered capitalism and are a bit socialistic.

The question of why unfettered capitalism is not dangerous is deceptively difficult to answer.  Unfettered capitalism opens a world of possibilities for those who seek to succeed in business and accumulate wealth.   But given time, the entrepreneur becomes very wealthy and for most everyone else, life can become a little (or a lot) less good.  

In a wealthy country, like the US with abundant natural resources and protection from enemies by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, great wealth can be amassed though hard work and intelligence. Question… if all it took was hard work and intelligence, why would these entrepreneurs not go to the Sahara Desert or the North Pole and put their skills to work?  Capitalism’s success has a lot to do with the inherent natural resources, which in some way belong to everyone, and how these natural resources are harvested by the risk taking capitalist.  A hard working, risk taking socialist should be just as successful under similar circumstances, I would think.

But, one might ask, why aren’t socialist Venezuela and communist Cuba successful countries?

Does anyone think that if Venezuela or Cuba simply said “unfettered capitalism” is the way of the future, that life would change?  IMO, history has shown that all that would change is who the rich people were.  The poor would remain poor.  

There is no simple formula for accumulating national wealth.  Clearly abundant raw materials play a big role.  So does motivated entrepreneurs and an educated and skilled work force.  And, don’t forget “guns and butter”.  A country consumed with defending itself militarily will not have the time or ability to concentrate on economic development if it is preoccupied defending its borders.

With Venezuela and Cuba there is another factor which IMO outweigh all the others.  These countries lost their way when they cast aside “democracy”, rule of law, and free speech/free press.  Graft, corruption, and incompetent leader escape the natural consequences of their decisions when free speech and free press are suppressed.

One last observation.   Countries like Japan, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, or Canada all utilize more socialistic laws and regulations than the US.  None of these countries are teetering on the edge of communism.  And all these countries offer their citizens healthcare costs roughly 1/2 or less that the US with healthcare outcomes uniformly better.  Hmmm. 

Brexit and Trump

Posted January 18, 2019 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

This past week the British Parliament has shown observers how divisive politics can send a message of impotence.  The Prime Minister lost an important vote (seeking to ratify Prime Minister May’s Brexit conditions) by the largest margin in over 100 years and then survived a vote of “no confidence” comfortably.  The underlying message seems to be “leaving the EU was mandated by the English people (referendum in 2016), but the Government’s plan is not what the English people had in mind, and oh by the way, the Government has no better suggestion which the EU would likely accept,  and “crashing out” of the EU (no agreement) is unacceptable since a “no agreement” exit will clearly hurt the UK economically”

How could the British Government have gotten into this paradox?

Hmmm. What if the original supporters of Brexit told voters something that simply was not true and then appealed to nationalistic blindspots so that voters did not take Brexit  seriously and never considered the possibility of adverse consequences?

So, as in the US, British voters own Brexit good or bad.  In the US American voters own the fruits of President Donald Trump, good or bad.  The insanity of the current US Government partial shutdown demonstrates this point well.  Candidate Trump appealed to the xenophobic nature of many Americans and caste the undocumented immigration of Mexicans and Central Americans as a serious, monumental problem.  “Drugs, criminals, and terrorists are streaming across the border” the Candidate said, “ and I am going to fix it”.  Hmmm.

In the face of facts to the contrary, the President claimed there was a crisis (border crossing are at a ten year low), drugs are flowing across the border (true but an estimated 80% of drugs smuggled across the border come through authorized points of entry), and 2000 terrorists have been apprehended trying to enter the US (probably true but not over our southern border with Mexico), therefore, there is a need for a large wall to prevent unauthorized crossings as well as smuggling (even though most drugs pass through ports of entry and smugglers have shown walls don’t work perfectly (smugglers are building tunnels where ever they think best.

As with Brexit, the President painted a picture which is simply not true.  Now escalating the political disagreement by shutting down a portion of the government and arguing “it’s my way or the highway”, President Trump has lost any rationality to the issue of border security.

The path forward for the US partial shutdown is unclear. Politically, Democrats can not submit to this type of bully-ism since the President can try the same tactics on future issues.  Some say the President won’t back down either but when air traffic controllers or TSA agents do not man their posts, or IRS workers do the same, the impact of no air travel or no tax revenue collection will shake the country to its core.  Impeachment might sound more appropriate and a Senate conviction more possible.

For Brexit, the most favorable option to avoid the ugliness of leaving the EU might be another referendum.  Were British voters to vote to remain in the EU, the British Government could live to die another day.

For President Trump, 2020 is coming quickly.  Each day the shutdown continues, Trump’s chances for reelection shrink.  Each day the Republican Senate members sit on their hands and do not act as a separate and co-equal branch of Government, the more likely the Senate will shift to Democrat control.  Hmmm.

Essential Services

Posted January 15, 2019 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: affordable care act, Donald Trump, obamacare, Uncategorized

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Under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), employers must provide a basket of “essential women’s health services” including birth control (family planning) methods.  The Trump Administration, in an open nod to fundamentalist and evangelical religious groups, put forth new procedures which would allow employers, who claimed deeply held religious beliefs which prohibited birth control, to simply not provide this service to their employees.  The States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey filed suit and US District Judge has issued an order temporarily banning the Trump Administration from enforcing these new rules.  

Pundits predict this case will land shortly in the Supreme Court.

These “deeply held” religious views represent a theme running freely within conservative circles.  Cynically, IMO, this assertion serves as a “get out of jail” card for those wishing to discriminate or exert their personal beliefs beyond what is their right to free speech.  These arguments have politicized views that do not belong in the public square.

The judge ruled that the new guidelines would disadvantage far more than would be satisfied and the essential services played an important role in women’s health.

No problem with that obvious rationale. 

But what about the even more obvious aspect: 

  • Providing essential services does not in any way require the employer or any employee to use them. 
  • Almost as obvious, eliminating essential services hurts only the poor and most vulnerable because anyone with average or higher income can afford to obtain these essential services on the open market.

For those conservatives, claiming deeply held religious beliefs, to stand up and claim injury (to their beliefs) while professing to be christians, is hypocrisy at its best.

In The Moment

Posted January 9, 2019 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

A pundit recently described President Trump as devoid of even a thread of strategic thinking.  The President, the pundit said, was totally acting “in the moment”.  In other words, the President rises each day and sets about producing solutions to what he sees as a “problem”.  There is no chess like thinking where the President will make strategic moves today with the expectation that in the future, even the near future, his goals can be achieved. It’s today or never.

Early in President Trump’s first year in office, there were reports that he criticized his closest advisors for not having a list of daily “spotlight” attractions, that is issues that he could launch each day and gain the media spot light.  His purpose was to have Donald J Trump as the central story each day in every newspaper, periodical, or radio/TV presentation.  His dream, everyday Donald J Trump would be front and center, first in the hearts and minds of most Americans.  Hmmm.

Trump critics have pointed towards the China trade negotiations and leveled poor grades for Trumps tactics.  Add to that, Syria, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and the Paris Climate Accord for other examples.  And, if it is an award for the most ridiculous and baseless set of claims, none are any better than the Government shutdown over Trump’s insistence on building a wall between Mexico and the US.  How could anyone be so dumb and pick so many losing positions, one might ask.  Hmmm.

But, what if…

What if President Trump has never seen the Office of President as anything other than a tool for personal profit?  What if the President has constructed his life around capturing the public’s attention everyday and in doing so, rendered the public blind to the profiteering and personal wealth accumulation by his family and close advisors right in front of everyone?

What if the President’s real goals were to build IOU’s from a closed circle of supporters which once the President was again in the private sector, he could harvest the fruits of his labors?

There is no room to further believe that the self professed “smartest man in the room” has an “Office of the President” plan which would benefit all Americans.  Each day it becomes more reasonable to conjecture that Trump’s personal aggrandizement is at the core of President Trump’s motivations.

Hmmm.

The Tide Might Be Rising

Posted January 8, 2019 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tonight President Trump speaks to America from the Oval Office.  The President says his speech will outline his reasons for supporting a Government shutdown on the basis of insisting upon funding for a Mexican border wall.  Hmmm, pretty tall order.

The President is not a normal thinker like most of us are used to.  The President is more like a stealth killer who senses when his victim is weak and when it is wise for him to strike.  A member of Congress described the President’s strategy as “punch the other person in the nose, and the say, let’s negotiate”.   Holding American Government workers hostage is perfect for the “Donald”, just his type of competition where he can strike first and the recipient is left begging for mercy.  Tonight, however, Donald may have met his match.

The President has several outcomes he can work towards.  

  1. The President can declare, using his well worn set of unsupported assertions that the wall is necessary for nation security.  Great umbrella without any facts.
  2. The President can assert that terrorists are coming through the border like water through a sieve.  Even bolder and even without even more facts.
  3. Or, what?

The President is in a tough spot of his making.  Facts simply do not support his stated positions.  Further, his policies  have only  compounded the miseries and hardships on the border. But strangely, the only issue the President seems concerned about is that during his campaign he alleged there were criminals, rapists, and all sorts of bad people coming across the border.  Hmmm.

The President may pull out go his bag an amazing story on why a border wall is a good idea,  And for his base, that will sound particularly good.  For most, however, will think… liar, liar, pants on fire.

While the goal of living today to die another is an essential prescription for living a long life, the President is facing a rising group of people who can no longer say “I support the President”.  Quite simply, the President has no credibility.

News reports indicate that a growing number of Republicans in the House are likely to vote with Democrats on ending the Government shutdown.  The same is rumored for the Senate. 

Intellectually many have argued that President Trump deserved the room to govern.  These opinions were robust even in the face of accusation after accusation that Trump is more interested in his family’s wealth accumulation during his term and after than in what his record in office actually said.  Why more support?  

The President has bet so much on this border controversy and so few have actually stepped forward with clarinet calls for support that I wonder if the President has met his match.  The tide (of public opinion) just might be changing, going out as one might hope, and with the ongoing tide, the remnants of the Presidents first and only term.

VICE

Posted January 5, 2019 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, George W Bush, Uncategorized

Tags:

The movie, “VICE”, which was recently released, should be a must see movie.  The movie catalogues Vice President Dick Cheney’s abuse of executive power during George W Bush’s 8 years in office.  Those conservative Republicans who boosted Bush/Cheney into office can claim responsibility for

  • Afghanistan War, longest military conflict in US history
  • Iraq War, invasion of a sovereign country on trumped up, phony charges
  • Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, home of waterboarding and enhanced interrogation
  • “Black Sites”, CIA overseas torture site of kidnapped victims
  • Over $1 trillion in unfunded “War on Terror” spending

President Trump is following an unorthodox path making all decisions himself.  Unlimited executive power is dangerous in any ones hands but with sociopaths like Cheney and Trump, power is extremely dangerous and what will happen next is unpredictable. 

Directly below is a “Regaining the Center” post from December 16, 2008.  VICE has put this post’s views on the big screen.

Cheney’s Presidency

(Regaining the Center, December 16, 2008)

As historians sit poised to begin the detailed accounting of the Bush 43 years as President of the United States, they will find the real history in recounting who was the real power and who’s words, thoughts, and deeds were the moving force behind the Office of the President.  It would be none other than Dick Cheney.

A lot of people would have given credit to Karl Rove if the real power were not that of George W Bush himself.  To some extent Rove was a power, but his power was reserved for the gutter and the political favor business.  All important matters of State including security were the domain of Dick Cheney.  His shadow “White House” had its own intelligence effort and routed all important decision through the Office of the Vice President before letting them go on to “W”.  While Karl was waiting to trip you in the gutter, Dick waited in the dark alley way.

In recent interviews with ABC news, Cheney confirmed that he remained dead set against closing Guantanamo and had been (and still was) supportive of the enhanced interrogation techniques (read water boarding and disregard for the Geneva Convention) used by the CIA.  On the other hand, “W”, the man with no strong opinions, has recently expressed regret about Guantanamo and said he would like to see it closed.

Chaney is a modern day Captain Queeg who will stick to his beliefs until the end.  Were his beliefs a little more enlightened, that quality would be a mark of distinction and not a mark of shame.  The Cheney doctrine (the all powerful executive branch) has been shown to be both misguided and dangerous when left to real humans.  Maybe it would work with a benevolent (and wise) dictator but Dick Cheney was neither of those and “W” was too busy with jogging, biking, and having his picture taken to do the work to actually be the President.

As historians write, I hope there will be a special commission (later followed by a special prosecutor) working along side the historians.  Then history can record that a former President and his Vice President were charged and convicted of crimes against humanity and other specific crimes against the laws of the United States.