Archive for August 2019

Call Me A Globalist Or Maybe A Cosmopolitan

August 27, 2019

In a New York Times Sunday magazine article featuring Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Hawley declares the world is divided by “Cosmopolitans and everyone else”.  The “C-group” of course come from the coasts, according to Hawley, mostly the northeast and certain big cities on the west coast.  The “C-group” are at home in world settings and simply do not think about what’s best for the average American.  Hmmm.

IMO, Hawley’s observation is accurate to the extent that most cosmopolitans are comfortable thinking of themselves as citizens of the globe and some (but not all) cosmopolitans think they know what’s best for average Americans.  Hawley could have gone further and said, “many of the rest do not feel comfortable traveling to a land of different customs and languages”.  Hawley could have said that many of the rest do not know or appreciate the hopes and desires of other Americans populating the “rest”.  Hawley (and his speech writers) could have… but are more concerned with carving a unique persona for Senator Hawley, one that would enhance his advancement in conservative Republican land.

I am proud to be a globalist (and I suppose that means I am a cosmopolitan too).  Considering the globe populated with other normal, albeit different, humans is a safer, not to mention saner, mind set than thinking that everyone who is different is defective.  It is far easier to attempt to understand someone from another country if one has some knowledge and appreciation of that country’s history, language, and customs.

Leaders through out history have tried to picture opponents as something different.  If the opponent lived in another country (or came from another country), the ordinary person is extremely susceptible to characterization which paints a picture of someone unfit and dangerous to society.  Hmmm.

Isolationists, nationalists, and those who reject and demonize globalism are dangerous to us all.  Many of them cite outsourcing of jobs as the sin of globalism.  Hmmm.  To be sure, outsourcing of jobs has caused great harm to individual workers but it is unrealistic to think a capitalist will voluntarily help displaced workers.  In fact it is far more likely a cosmopolitan will sense the excesses of capitalism than an isolationist or nationalist.

Globalism brings fruits of more beneficial trade, freer travel and expression of views, and in the end, a safer world.  When we know the other person, seek to trade with them, and personally experience the benefit, the world is safer.

Wharton Withdraws Degree?

August 24, 2019

Do you think it is possible that University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance would withdraw the degree previously awarded to Donald Trump.  Wharton might have to refund the donation Fred Trump gave on behalf of his son.  Hmmm.   But isn’t the image of a first class business school worth more than Fred Trump’s money?

Donald Trump, now President of the United States, has made a cock-up of both the US and the world economy in such a short time.  If the job was about screwing things up, President Trump would be a great face for the Wharton School.  Sadly, it appears the President has no clue as to what helps or hurts the economy.  Consequently, the world economy is trending poorly and the potential for political fallout in traditional US allies is a real possibility.  Unstable foreign governments is not good news.

  • The President and his advisors (including Republican Congress members) were gleeful in passing an unfunded tax cut.  Just watch the economy explode the President said.  So far the only things that have exploded are the national debt and the cash reserves of the US’ largest corporations.  Now if the economy is entering a recessionary period, tax policy is a tool no longer in the drawer.

 

  • Oh, but the Fed could lower interest rates and thereby stimulate the economy.  Hmmm.  This traditional tool is a bit limited since interest rates are already at historically low level.  And if the Fed did lower interest rates by 100 basis points as the President has demanded, what will the Fed do if the recession is severe?

 

  • But the economic gun that continues to shoot President Trump in his foot every day, without him seeming to recognize the source of this pain, is the President’s trade policies and his infatuation with tariffs.  “Trade wars are easy to win”, our President has said.  Hmmm.  The President seems oblivious to the consequences of imposing tariffs unilaterally both on the trading partner and on his own economy ( that is, higher taxes for US citizens and less spending pwoer).  Talking tough is easy, acting smart seems beyond the President’s reach.

 

The world economy expands for some period and then contracts.  Think about cars.  There are just so many cars people can buy and at some point people decide to wait a year or two before replacing the car they own now.  As a recession begins, people cut back on all sorts of spending “a little”.  Traditionally, government stimulates the economy (lower taxes, lower interest rates, and sometimes increased government spending) and gently slows the recession.  Where are the tools for President Trump?

Tariffs have spooked many businesses and caused their executives (globally) to be caution on new investment and spending.  As the global economy contracts, sooner or later so will the US.  But what will our President do?  My bet is he is preparing a list of others to blame.

Wharton may not be seriously considering withdraw Trump’s degree.  But they should.  In the process they could release his college academic record and the rest of us could see what a weak student he was.  That might explain why President Trump has made so many bone headed economic decisions.  

Healthcare’s Inconvenient Truth

August 20, 2019

Democrats have been trying to make “healthcare” the 2020 Presidential election campaign theme.  “Medicare for All” and “Public Option” have been packaged as the banner the party should hoist against President Trump.  But for many, these words evoke fears of what they might be giving up if the Government is asked to provide healthcare for all residents.

To be sure there is no guarantee that an expanded “Medicare” healthcare system would provide trouble free healthcare for all.  Maybe the question should be “would Medicare for All be worse than the patchwork of private insurers currently providing healthcare”?  And, if America is such an exceptional country as so many conservative proclaim, why would it be that 20 or so other countries including Germany, France, the UK, Canada, and Japan provide excellent healthcare for all the residents at half the cost per person than the US?

In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report, the average cost of healthcare coverage for a family of four was $22,900 per year.  Think about that.  The minimum wage of $7.50 yields and annual income before taxes of $15,600, and the proposed $15 per hour yields $31,200 (after paying healthcare insurance cost, where’s food and lodging costs?).

The Kaiser Family Foundation report also said the $22,900 cost had increased 56% from 2008! Do you know anyone who pay has increased 56% in 10 years?

There are clearly three issues with US healthcare,

  • what’s covered (like pre-existing conditions), 
  • who’s covered (universal coverage or only if one can afford insurance), and
  • cost (can someone afford the premiums, co-pays, and deductibles).  

Until the cost is addressed, what’s covered and who’s covered will drive up uninsured Emergency Room usage (which ironically drives up the overall healthcare costs further).

In a few words, healthcare is about providing healthcare services at world class cost, qualify, and availability.  That should be a banner all Democrats could run under.

Discrimination versus 1st Amendment

August 17, 2019

There runs deeply within American lore that everyone should be free to do what they wish.  I should be able to start my own business, hire whomever I want (presumably the best workers), and conduct my business by my own entrepreneurial methods.  This is the essence of a free economy and unfettered capitalism.

Not surprisingly this unfettered notion ran into problems right away.  Owning property immediately limits where one can conduct ones business.  One can’t operate a business on someone else’s property.  Over the years, Americans agreed that hiring workers could not include workers younger than a certain age or owners could not require workers to work more than a fixed amount of hours per week.  Entrepreneurs objected but in the end society agreed these were just limitations which applied to everyone, that is the rules disadvantaged no specific business.

Along comes a fleet of anti-discriminatory laws and regulations designed to even the playing field amongst those seeking employment.  If someone had orange skin color, purple hair, and three arms but could drive a truck, make a pizza, or pack a carton, their physical condition could not be used to “discriminate” against them in a hiring process.

Now the Trump Administration (through the Department of Labor) is pandering to the worst traits of the religious right (which includes mainstream Catholic affiliated businesses, evangelicals, or any other business which claims to possess deeply held religious views).  In the name of deeply held religious beliefs, the Trump puppets want to allow these religious affiliated businesses the option of not hiring or firing, otherwise perfectly qualified candidates or employees if these religious organizations disagreed with perfectly legal job candidate practices or beliefs.  

For example, the Sisters of the Poor would not need to employ a fully competent accountant if the accountant was gay, was in a same sex marriage, or was active in the pro-choice movement.  These “deeply held religious views” could include prejudicial views on race, religion, or ethnicity too.  And there is not much to separate these reason for discrimination from political party loyalty.

Beyond the crass political calculations, the Government move ignores a basic understanding of the 1st Amendment.  The Constitution guarantees the right of each citizen to practice a religion of their choice.  No mandated Government religion, full stop.  No Government law banning the practice of any religion, full stop.

The 1st Amendment, however, does not convey the right for free religious expression to infringe or violate another person’s similar right to practice their religion or to not practice any religion at all.

The Catholic Church through its affiliated businesses can hold any view on sex, gender, or personal choice and only needed to explain this hypocrisy to its members.  When, however, the affiliate enters the public square, the affiliate must be bound to meet the laws and regulations applicable to everyone else.

Amendment XIV  (passed in 1868)

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Irrationality Of Our Modern View Of The Second Amendment

August 12, 2019

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

What is the modern day equivalent of a Militia?  Does Militia mean National Guard, State Police, or the local sheriff or police officer?  If not, does it mean armed citizens coming together for some collective reason.  Would the Hells Angels or The Pagans quality?  Or could a modern day militia also be armed white or black supremacist groups?

Hmmm.

 

  • How far from the original single shot musket can the term “arms” be applied?
  • If bearing arms is for self protection, why do we also need local and State police?
  • If it is legal to outlaw soft point bullets or extra heavy solid bullets, why would it be ok to allow military style automatic and semi-automatic rifles which can injure victims just as severely?
  • What is the rational for private citizens to bear arms more powerful than that of local police?
  • For better or worse, the Supreme Court has ruled that every citizen has the right to bear arms and cities and States have no right to prevent gun ownership.  The Supreme Court did allow that reasonable controls on gun use and possession were possible.  What is reasonable was not detailed.
  • The legislative power to place reasonable controls on gun ownership and use lies with Congress.  Why is it Congress refuses to act?  Could it be the lack of action is related to NRA and weapon makers lobbying activity?  Could it simply be that the NRA and weapons companies have bought legislators loyalty?
  • Following the two most recent mass shootings (Dayton and El Paso), the NRA has once again objected to any meaningful “background” checks.  The NRA says it objects to rules that make it harder for “law abiding” citizens from buying or owning a gun.  Hmmm.  Why can’t law abiding citizens drive a car, pilot a plane, or practicing law without restrictive rules?  
  • Possessing military style assault weapons enables the possessor to kill or seriously injure many  others, far more than the assailant could accomplish with a baseball bat, knife, or single shot weapon in the same amount of time.  Commonsense calls out that mental illness, person rage, or provocation can lead to far more killing than if one was unarmed (or carrying single shot or limited shot weapons).  

Why is it not reasonable to hold that

  • Assault weapons have no place in society except in “well regulated” army units. 
  • Assault weapons should be outlawed and existing assault weapons should be confiscated or donated to authorize and regulated “gun sport clubs”.  (Like in former private clubs where ones liquor was kept under lock until the next time someone visited the club, AR-15s could be held for the next time the owner visited the gun club.) 

As our President has offered, if assault weapons owners did not think this proposal was reasonable, they could to move to another country with no assault weapon restriction… Hmmm, maybe a self respecting third world country.   

What Do You Think Of Your Guy Now

August 10, 2019

Recently I was talking with a friend, a catholic conservative who said he had just purchased a copy of the Mueller Report.  My friend wanted read for himself what the report really said.  He thought since there was no collusion found (ie no crime), there could be no obstruction of justice.  He wondered why there had been an investigation at all.  Hmmm.

I told him that I had also read the entire report and said that IMO, “if” Part I of the Mueller report had been about anticompetitive activity charges against an American corporation and similar evidence was presented (company employees meeting and talking with competitors in a way similar to the manner Trump’s campaign workers had met with Russians), there would have been indictments and a strong likelihood that the CEO would also be charged.

The Mueller Report II is even clearer on the subject of obstruction of justice.  Here the President is documented in numerous occasions attempting to stall or outrightly stop Mueller’s investigation.  My friend can read this and decide for himself.

I changed the subject and asked “what do you think of your guy now”?

Shockingly, my friend responded that he liked the President.  Sure he didn’t think the tweets and some of Trump’s rhetoric was good, but overall the President was doing a very good job.  My friend really like Trump’s Supreme Court appointments but was not quick to name other pluses.

I thought but did not say, “forget about Mueller’s Report and think about…”

  • Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.  Global warming not an issue?
  • Ending US involvement in the Trans Pacific Partnership and how it could be usefulness now in confronting China?
  • Renegotiating NAFTA II by threatening to just walk away.  Do you think Americans would like higher prices?
  • Opening trade wars on two fronts (China, Europe).  Oops, I forgot tariffs on India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and Canada too.
  • Personal Diplomacy with North Korea.  How has that worked out?  Hmmm, no other President thought it was a good idea. What’s different now?
  • Abandoning the Iranian Nuclear Deal.  Why withdraw when six other countries including Russia and China were content to remain in the deal?  
  • Relaxed Automobile Fuel Economy standards.  Why do this when the industry did not insist and global warming is becoming more real every day?
  • Tax Cut for the Wealthy.  Why lower taxes and reward the richest, and at the same time, put the increased budget deficit on the credit card (national debt)
  • Fiscal Responsibility. No effort to run a balanced budge government.  Willing to let future generation pay off the debt or live with the consequences of debt.

I doubt my friend has thought much about any of these observations.  I doubt my friend has connected these dots and recognized the “go it alone” standard President Trump is showing the world.  In other words, cooperation is not necessary.  Building upon this, the natural consequence will be a global slowing of economies and higher prices in the US.  Additionally, authoritarian leaders are encouraged when America casts aside its moral authority and leadership.  This picture is not very pretty.

I doubt my friend has considered the consequences of a President who has no allegiance to facts and truth.  Nor do I think my friend has considered the damage to national institutions the turn over in key government officials will have on US stability in crisis in the future.

I doubt my friend has thought very much about “his guy” at all.

Soft Targets

August 6, 2019

The three recent mass shootings (Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio) involving “soft targets” (open festival, shopping mall, Walmart parking lot) beg the question (again),  “what should we do”? 

Thoughts and prayers have not cut it in the past, and tougher background checks, while worthwhile in their own sense, the lack of tough background checks does not seem to have been a factor in these recent shootings.  What can our brave Congress members do?

Taking a page from the Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, a popular recommendation was to train and arm school teachers.  The reasoning seemed to be that potential shooters would be weary of taking on an armed 10th grade home economics teacher.  Hmmm.

Following the Florida logic, it looks like Mall greeters, cashiers, and shelf stockers as well as members of entertainment groups will need to become armed and carry openly.  Hmmm.

There is, of course, no silver bullet solution for mass shootings.  These are complex events and no general solution may exist.  There are, however, plenty of steps that could be taken that will reduce the frequency and severity of mass shootings that do take place. 

The most obvious of all the steps is “outlawing and confiscating” all military style assault weapons, full stop.

Semi- (easy to be made full) automatic weapons have no place unregulated in a civil society.  Background checks, more robust domestic mental health programs, and more restrictions on open and concealed carry would help too.  Thoughts and prayers don’t cut it, however.