“It’s a disaster. … We will either renegotiate it, or we will break it. Because, you know, every agreement has an end. … Every agreement has to be fair. Every agreement has a defraud clause. We’re being defrauded by all these countries.”

– Trump talking about NAFTA during an interview on 60 Minutes in 2015

So, here we are 4 years later and not only has Trump made good on his promise by renegotiating a deal, he went so far as to replace NAFTA all together with a new agreement called the USMCA.

Hooray!
…really?
Yeah, why not? Remember what he said? NAFTA was a disaster.
…in what way?
Uh… it’s bad for America!
…and the USMCA fixes that?

And so that’s the kind of vague conversations I’ve been finding since the glorious “renegotiation”. But not being easily satisfied with cheesy rhetoric I decided to so some research… and to no surprise I found my suspicions confirmed… The changes are so minimal that it’s ludicrous to think it was even worth changing the name of the agreement. USMCA is in fact a slightly edited revision of NAFTA.

Of course to be celebrated as a heroic dragon-slayer, people would have to believe the evil NAFTA dragon was utterly defeated and replaced and so the name at least had to be changed to support that illusion. And so Trump proceeded to rename the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Apparently, this created some dispute about which country should appear first in the acronym. In Canada, the agreement is officially recognized as CUSMA. LOL! Well, we didn’t have THAT problem when we were calling it NAFTA (which BTW, is also easier to say)

But enough of the nit-picking let’s get to the actual differences shall we?

I’ll start with the difference that isn’t. A history of lawsuits under NAFTA that seemed to favor the Canadians was driving a lot of the Trump assault on NAFTA. It was the source of all that talk about being defrauded and it was most likely the dragon that Trump’s sponsors wanted him to slay.

The name of this dragon is the “dispute process”, the part of NAFTA that has by far been the biggest complaint south of the Canadian border. So what did Trump do for us there?

Apparently, nothing.

Of course Trump himself won’t mention it but it’s clear that he lost that negotiation to Trudeau. The dispute process remains in place exactly as it was under NAFTA. So really, this isn’t a difference at all, but I mention it for the same reason all the other reports do, because more than any other aspect of NAFTA, that WAS the dragon to slay.

But still, a few differences were made. I may as well list them all because it’s not much…

Dairy: Canada has agreed to ease restrictions on it’s dairy market and allow American farmers to export about $560 million worth of dairy.
So, I dunno… I’m guessing this is good for our dairy farmers, right? Anyone else? Should we just wait and see if anything happens?

Automotive: Companies can now qualify for zero tariffs if 75% of their vehicles’ components are manufactured in the US, Canada or Mexico. Under NAFTA that figure was 62%
OK, so an existing regulation get’s increased by 7%, the Mexican factories get 7% more work and the U.S. consumers get dick.

But wait, Trump had another card up his sleeve…
30% of vehicle production must be done by workers earning an average production wage of at least $16/hr.

OK, I see the angle here. Not a bad idea. In fact it gives credence to the previous point as well. It’s curious because I’ve been advocating this strategy for a while, but the response I keep getting back is that old rant about a one world government. Seriously… every time. So I’m surprised to see this come out of the Trump team.

To explain… Trump has written a heavy-weight regulation that will force all the factories on the continent to flatten their pay, so everyone gets the same… in all three countries. [ALERT: MARXIST IDEA] Yes, I know, and maybe it’s a slippery slope to communism… but let’s suspend that for the moment so I can explain how this idea can work.

If you lay a regulation on one company and not the other. The later will gain competitive advantage. This is what can make a regulation unfair. But if you put it on both companies the competition stays level, or at least – unaffected. This is what this regulation will do for all of the business that can be captured by the other regulation that was just increased by 7%.

So, yes it’s a step closer to a world government and it’s a step toward Marxism, but fire is another dangerous place and yet it’s good sometimes to step toward a fire to get warm.

In any case, I’m going to give Trump a nod for this one… as one would give to a barnyard pig that miraculously cooked and served a chicken dinner.

As for me personally, I’m not sure what impact all this will have. The cars and the truck I have are made from parts that mostly come from North America as per NAFTA, including the Honda Civic that I am leasing, much of which was assembled in Mexico. I’m guessing my next lease will be affected by the higher cost of labor in Mexico, which I expect will drive the price up.

Currently, the hourly wage in Mexico was $3.41 for parts and $7.34 for assembly. In the U.S. and in Canada the wage for both is $20.

So by setting everyone to $16 the USMCA will increase the cost of assembly in Mexico by 54% and for parts the cost will increase by 78%. so yeah, from my personal position as an American consumer, it’s probably not such a good deal, but I feel worse for the American (and Canadian) auto-worker who will now be exposed to a potential 10% drop in wages. For them, I’d say, not a good deal at all. Zooming way out to the pontifications of Marx, sure – it seems Americans and Canadians are taking a glancing hit for the benefit of pulling the Mexicans out of the mud. The global-humanist perspective wins on this deal.

Even so… there is one other perspective I want to mention here… By pulling the Mexicans out of the mud we could be lessening their reasons for migrating to the U.S. which I personally think is a good approach to that particular issue, though in this case, I don’t think the difference will be all that significant since Mexicans working at Honda are probably not the ones making a run for the U.S. I dunno… one step at a time? More communism maybe?

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

The third and the ONLY other difference the USMCA makes is a deal on intellectual property… The regulation of ideas. So corporations that own patents can monopolize the market for longer, law enforcement officers in any of the three countries can stop “suspected” counterfeit (I’m not sure yet to what extent or if this infringes upon our 4th amendment rights as Americans) And of course there will be harsher punishments for pirated movies and satellite/cabel signal theft.

How does this affect me? I’m not sure yet. One thing I can say is that I’m approaching that age where I’m going to need medicine for whatever ailments are around the corner. I have always kept an eye on supply-chains outside the jurisdiction of U.S. commercial law because out there, you can get therapeutics at near cost. Typically an OTC therapeutic will cost 300% more in the U.S. because that’s the markup over the cost that we are forced to pay for. Now with the USMCA we can expect the market in Mexico and Canada to also be forced to pay homage to big-pharma or suffer. NOW where am I going to go to get my medicine without getting shafted for it?

Oh and before anyone gets into that “big-pharma needs to pay for innovation” argument – just… don’t. I’ve already been through the whole analysis on this. In fact, don’t listen to me – just have a look for yourself at the stock indices for big-parma… You will not find evidence of starving innovators. At the very least we can certainly say they don’t NEED more time than they already have to monopolize and gouge.

So these are the changes… the rest of the 300+ pages of agreements and regulations that make up NAFTA are left unscathed.

So let’s tally those changes up…

  • dispute process – No change. Trudeau and Canada wins.
  • dairy exports – US dairy farmers can export more milk to Canada where the consumers probably won’t buy it anyway. US wins (sort of maybe IF your a dairy farmer).
  • automotive – global communist strategy for labor. Auto workers in Mexico win. US consumers take a hit, US auto workers take a bigger hit.
  • intellectual property – big-pharma wins… Trump learns that his IQ is not based on the intellectual property he owns.
  • name change – Trump wins big with his base. If he can just rename everything he can probably convince his base that he’s changed everything.

In summary it looks like Trump gave Americans a worse deal than NAFTA. But it’s probably not a big deal for Trump since his static 30% base probably won’t be paying any attention to the details like I just did and any such concerns such as mine can easily be out-gunned by a simple tweet from the king to his loyal subjects saying something like “I just slayed the dragon. hooray for me!” But I write anyway because there’s the other 60% that might actually be interested in reality.

USAToday published an opinion on 7/5/2019 by Gary Varvel, entitled “The real reason why the left was against Donald Trump’s July 4 speech“.

As you can imagine, this is a right-wing reaction to the agitation in the media regarding Trump’s decision to break a long-standing tradition by inserting himself into the ceremonies with a presidential speech, accompanied with a show of military might. The op-ed open with these two sentences, leaving no room for doubt.

Now we know why the Democrats were so upset about President Trump speaking on the Fourth of July. It was not because it was political or partisan. It was patriotic and that is what annoys the left the most.

I guess I don’t find this sentiment surprising. Mostly because I’ve already heard it (a million times) but I always figured it for rhetoric, something people don’t really believe in but they say it anyway as an insult or a joke. But lately I’ve become more convinced that people often do believe this shit. So let me just point something out here…

A lot of Americans are interested in making their beloved country even greater than it already is. That being said, it should be noted that this often requires we acknowledge faults or inefficiencies so that we know what to change. The problem arises when other people don’t want to change; and maybe they have good reason for that but it’s no excuse for casting these acknowledgements as insults or attacks on America. Anyone who has ever been coached in order to improve their personal performance knows that acknowledging “what you’re doing wrong” is a crucial part of that coaching. Imagine if every time a coach points out a fault, the athlete cries out “You HATE me!”. Sounds silly doesn’t it? And no, the coach doesn’t hate you or he wouldn’t be investing his time to help you.

Now imagine a small group of fans in the bleachers standing up and chanting the athletes name and screaming at the coach to leave him alone because he’s “already perfect”. Sadly, this is what some people call patriotism… an overt praise for something for which all faults are dismissed. As you can imagine, anyone who might be annoyed with the efforts to subvert improvement would be accused of hating patriotism. And that is exactly what Gary Varvel is doing.

At least it’s not as bad as it is in places like North Korea where patriotism is actually mandated. I wonder if Gary feels the same way about the North Koreans who defect, which isn’t very patriotic. At least here we have the option to challenge the status-quo… we just have to put up with the insults from loose rattle-heads like Gary Varvel and their stupid accusations of anti-patriotism.

So Gary… I have a suggestion for making America greater than ever… Let’s stop calling every effort to make America better an attack on patriotism because in reality, nothing can be further from the truth.

23. June 2019 · Categories: Analysis, Politics · Tags:

One of the great American ironies is the fierce dedication and support that self-described adversaries of socialism have for our most predominate socialist systems.

Indications of this dedication and support appear in the traffic streams of bumper stickers as tributes to various “thin lines” that protect the people from all the dangers that threaten them. A blue line representing the police, a red line representing the firefighters, yellow for dispatchers, search and rescue, green for the border patrol and/or the military.

Naturally, the first image that comes to mind are the men and women that risk their lives to serve that purpose, not so much the systems that provide the means to do it.

But the fact remains… The systems that provide the means are a big part of what makes the lines work and they are almost entirely socialist systems.

As always, the reason for a socialist solution can be explained simply by looking at the capitalist bottom line… There’s really no profit in safeguarding the people from the dangers that threaten them. If a working mother struggling to pay rent is under assault, who is going to pay the police to protect her? If a retired couple living of an anemic retirement account find themselves engulfed in flames, who is going to pay the fire fighters to rescue them? Just try drawing up a business plan for any of that. Capitalism is great for consumer markets but there’s a good reason why emergences in America have been handled by socialist systems for over a century now.

So as the 2020 elections draw near and the Trump campaign starts using socialism as a derogatory term to criticize his opponents and invoke a Pavlov response at his rallies, it may be worth remembering how much of what keeps America safe ARE in fact the very successful socialist systems that we’ve been depending on for generations.

 

Antifa is a subject that often comes up in discussions with my right-leaning friends. To me it often seems like a “go-to” when they need something they think is associated with the left and is easy to demonize. Despite our political differences, my friends and I do consider each other decent people; it’s just that we’re sucked up into conflicting narratives and this of course explains the argument. They are appealing to my sense of decency to see the glaring dangers of the left. It’s usually pretty easy for me to brush off the argument because Antifa isn’t a critical component of any of the political movements I support but sometimes I still hear the arguments in my head the next day. Sort of that low-level nag that compels me to write opinions like this.

So my first question is… How “left” is Antifa, really? My considerable assessment, according to how I define the “left” as being socially inclusive, is that they are indeed much further left than the white supremacists that exclude all other races. But that’s a relation between two sides of a demonstration I don’t participate in. As for myself, I’m too inclusive to even stand in defiance of the most insipid expressions of bigotry and hatred, which technically puts Antifa to my right.

My second question is just how dangerous are they? My honest assessment is that I really don’t know. They obviously have an inclination to violence but their ire seems limited to fascism, not every religion, race and nationality that isn’t theirs, so we can safely say that whatever danger Antifa presents it isn’t nearly as wide-spread as the danger posed by white supremacists. So far it seems you would have to commit a wanton act of bigotry to draw any fire from Antifa, in which case you’re kinda getting what you deserve. We can’t say that about white supremacists who have a history of attacking innocent people not for what they do but for who they are. I think that’s a significant difference.

It may also be worth noting that many people who show up to protest fascism have no intention of inciting violence and in the absence of any such directive, those who do incite violence, do so on their own individual will, not the will of an organization. That being said, I hesitate to keep score but when it comes to loose cannons, there’s a bigger pattern that makes it difficult to suggest the left, even with Antifa, is even close to being as violent as the right. According to a 2016 Anti-Defamation League report, domestic extremists of all kinds have killed at least 372 people in the United States. Of those deaths, approximately 74% were at the hands of right-wing extremists, about 24% of the victims were killed by domestic Islamic extremists (also right-wing), and remaining 2% were killed by left-wing extremists, none of which had anything to do with Antifa.

So, I’m not really seeing Antifa as the glaring left-wing danger that my friends would have me believe, but of course that encourages them to break out the conspiracy theories. Recently, in one such discussion it was suggested that Antifa is organized by communists, funded by demon-barrons like George Soros AND is functionally a modern equivalent to the Brownshirts of Nazi Germany. Now, I wouldn’t be so dismissive about Antifa if I thought any of that was true but I can’t seem to find any evidence that Antifa is funded by Soros or guided by communists and when I ask them for any such evidence they never have a response other than to insist it’s out there.

Brownshirts? Really? Brownshirts were regimented and directed by chain of command stemming from Hitler himself – they operated as a functional component of his political movement. Antifa, by contrast, is more of a socio-cultural trend made up of autonomous subcultures like skinheads. They don’t pledge to ANY political movement, probably because they are entirely reactionary… their only agenda is to troll fascists. At one point, one of my friends tried a logical question… “How do they know when and where to meet if they aren’t organized?” So I rhetorically asked him if he’s ever heard of social media.

I wasn’t always this secure in my dismissive opinion about Antifa and I was perhaps more sensitive to what my friends were suggesting when I was having this conversation a year ago. I was worried that Antifa would give the left a bad name. But after the 2018 mid-term elections I’ve noticed how mobilized the more constructive arms of the left have become in response to Trump and the rise of American fascism. I’ve noticed that there is no prevailing association between Antifa and the left-wing political machine outside of sharing an opinion about fascism. Indeed, it’s become quite clear that the ONLY people who associate Antifa with left-wing politics are those firmly planted in the conspiracy delusions of the alt-right and those people were never going to see left-wing politics in any other light anyway, so no loss there.

The world war that fascism started and ultimately lost is still in living memory which may explain why fascism is still considered by Americans across the spectrum as a bad thing, so you really don’t have to be involved in left-wing politics to be anti-fascist. The question is whether or not you think violence and intimidation is an appropriate way to express your opposition to fascism.

Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary… at least not yet. The rise of fascism that we see today has yet to reach the point of shutting down democracy and killing racial minorities like it did in Europe in 80 years ago. And in the U.S. where Donald Trump has become a correlation to fascism, his lack of popularity outside of his dedicated 30% is an indication that fascism, at least under Trump, is inhibited by a much larger body of Americans looking for something more sensible.

Of course, one could point out that the Nazis were also opposed by a majority at first, so we should be vigilant nevertheless and perhaps that’s the one value that Antifa DOES give us… the reminder that if fascism does continue to rise, not all Americans are going to take it sitting down and it won’t always be kids in black hoodies either… the alt-right should understand that. If fascism rises to any significant level, so too will the resistance, even if it means full-scale war as it did in the 40’s, God forbid.

 

 

12. May 2019 · Categories: Tenents

I am not opposed to capital punishment in cases where a person has been found guilty of murder and cannot claim any defensible reason for the action. But I refuse to support the use of cruelty in the process.

The state, being a representation of the people’s will, should not lower itself to the level of the criminal by instituting a vindictive, eye-for-eye system of emotional satisfaction. It is my opinion that doing so would establish the state and the people represented as being no better than the criminal.

The state that I want to be associated with is a civilized state that can execute an irreconcilable murderer in the quickest and most humane way possible, simply as a means of eliminating the logical problem of a murderous person living in our midst. This function has absolutely no need for excessive cruelty.

Good people have always been able to recognize this concept which has been embodied in legal systems since at least 1689 when the phrase “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” was added to the English Bill of Rights

excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;

…and a century later adapted, almost verbatim, by the American Bill of Rights, specifically, in the 8th Amendment.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

To the millions of Americans who seem to have a problem accepting this legal and moral standing because they think criminals “deserve” the worst, I suggest they turn to Jesus for guidance.

 

 

15. April 2019 · Categories: Analysis, Law, Politics

In 1991, William Lynn a minister in Alabama was murdered in his home. His wife was badly injured but survived. One of the two people convicted of murdering William Lynn was Christopher Price who is now on death row, scheduled for execution and the subject of a controversial decision by the Supreme Court. The controversy started when Price asked for an alternative method of execution.

The State of Alabama is claiming that Price missed the deadline for choosing to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia instead of the state’s default, three-chemical injection which can subject the inmate to excruciating pain.

A federal district court in Alabama halted the execution on Thursday, citing “new evidence”. Of course we don’t know what that evidence is yet but it seems at this point I can’t seen any other reason other than possible discrepancies in Alabama’s claim. It doesn’t help that on that same day at 9:00 PM, Alabama officials asked the Supreme Court to overrule the district court order so they could proceed with the execution anyway. That’s when Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Beyers issued a request to stay the execution until after the court has a chance to meet in the morning and discuss the lower court decision before overruling it.

The New York Times reported today on that decision by the 5-member, conservative, Supreme Court majority to deny that request and green light the execution.

Maybe this all seems like a big fuss over something as trivial as whether or not a convicted murderer gets to choose the method in which he is executed. Or maybe this story is more about the deliberate choice the state is making to execute someone in the most painful way they can. If that’s case, this is a huge deal because we are talking about the line that separates civilized people from barbarians.

Here’s what the New York Times reported…

Justice Breyer’s dissent reflects that things have quickly gotten ugly at the court since the replacement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was a moderating force in capital cases, with the more conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The divide between the two sides has hardened in recent weeks, with conservative justices growing increasingly frustrated over what they considered excessive delays in carrying out executions. The liberal justices have in turn accused the majority of reckless haste that could give rise to executions so painful as to amount to torture.

So, the conservative judges are basically saying they’re getting tired of these delays… Well… Is it not their JOB to deal with these things? If they can’t handle it or simply can’t be bothered then shouldn’t that mean it’s time for them to retire?

Or is this actually about vengeance? It turns out that the contention within the court itself was already enough to expire the Alabama death warrant, necessitating a re-issue and a new execution date, possibly delaying the execution by another 30 days. The reaction by some clearly exposes a vindictive streak in the community that I hope isn’t affecting the bench.

The article quotes Attorney General Steven T. Marshall following the event.

“Tonight, in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn was deprived of justice,” Attorney General Steven T. Marshall said. “They were, in effect, revictimized by a killer trying to evade his just punishment.”

I realize that many people are inclined to focus on the crime but the perpetrator in this case HAS been removed from society and is in prison waiting to be executed. Does it really matter if the execution is delayed for a few hours, or days or even weeks? Do these delays really amount to a “revictimization”? I don’t think so and I find it disturbing that people are so ready to call a frustrated demand for vengeance a “revictimization”.

Of course this could all be solved very easily, Execute Price with nitrogen hypoxia. Done. The execution would not have been delayed and the courts would not have even been involved. But Alabama doesn’t want to execute him that way – Alabama wants to execute him the more painful way. That is the ONLY reason why it ever got to the courts.

Indeed, the concern the conservatives apparently don’t want to hear is nothing less than a founding principal of our western culture. Institutionalized in Common Law, adapted into the English Bill of Rights and again into the U.S. Constitution as part of the 8th Amendment, the idea that for centuries has been held as the line between barbarians and civil society… that a justice system not be allowed to inflict cruel and unusual punishment. There’s literally no valid reason to rush the execution if this civil right is still in question.

Yes, the court could have delayed the execution – (the inmate isn’t going anywhere). Yes, the court could have met in person to discuss the matter in a constitutional context. Yes, Alabama could have found another, less painful method of execution. None of these things would have reversed the conviction or cancelled the punishment, neither would they have been difficult to do or costly to afford. So exactly what excuse does that leave? Clearly, if the state is willing to take this to the Supreme Court *something* is functioning as a driving motivation. It’s sad to realize that the closest thing to a logical excuse for such haste is the type of vengeance so overtly pronounced in Attorney General Steven T. Marshall’s quote.

So this is where I really want to make some clear distinctions. A justice system can serve one of two purposes. It can enforce the law or it can satisfy the vindictive. Granted, some law-enforcing decisions can also be vengeance for some, but should vengeance ever be the primary motive, much less to the point of breaking the law?

It makes logical sense to execute those who have committed heinous crimes, especially if it’s been a pattern for them because of the risk they pose to society. But I think a civil society really needs to understand the magnitude of taking a human life. One such society might insure that every alternative be considered first, execution last. One such society might also understand the sobriety of the task and not to celebrate it, exploit it or be impetuous with it because you’re to old and tired to do your job as a Supreme Court Justice for a constitutional republic.

This is a letter to Jeff Katz, a radio personality in North Carolina who recently broadcasted his opinions on WBTabout a children’s storybook about two gay penguins.

Hi Jeff – I just happened to catch your show about gay penguins yesterday.

You said that this story of the two male penguins was a way of teaching young children that because male penguins take care of the eggs that they are gay. I just wanted to say that you could save yourself some embarrassment if you understood that sometimes people just write stories – it’s called fiction. Even small children can figure that one out.

You say that the story is used to “indoctrinate” our children. Well, here is why I support these types of stories: Young children sometimes have parents who are “different” and it’s good that these types of stories can help them deal with that without thinking that their parents are evil. Of course, I’m sure you believe all gay people are sinful, because that’s what you were indoctrinated with and that’s fine, to each their illusion, but my point is this; why not allow the children of gay parents some form of consolation? Sometimes, that’s all a story is.

At the same time, most normal children will simply read or hear the story and think nothing of it. I know this because my wife and I have brought up two children of our own and we never felt it necessary to shield them from the existence of gay people. Today they are young adults who enjoy very normal heterosexual relationships. Of course they do. Parents whom they admired inspired them, a much stronger force than a storybook.

I can’t help but think that you might lack the same confidence in your own children; perhaps you think a story is all it would take to make them gay. I never felt that way with my children. Maybe inside you’re only a nudge away from being gay yourself – that would explain your fear of the “militant gay movement” and your fear of your own children turning gay.

– a listener who isn’t scared of gay people.

21. March 2019 · Categories: Analysis · Tags: ,
Recently, USAToday produced a webpage titled Trump Nation that presents the opinions of 103 Trump supporters. It’s a rather well-done multi-media exhibition complete with photographs and , audio recordings but as I read through these 103 opinions I noticed a lot of redundancy. So, I wrote a short program to extract the opinions and from that compile a data model for easier analysis and this is what I found.
None of the 103 Americans interviewed mentioned any specific law, policy or evidence proving an actual problem. Neither did any of them mention any specific actions taken by their chosen candidate in the past to suggest his qualification. All the respondents remained vague, hopeful and subjective.
Out of these vague, “touchy-feely” arguments a small number of generalized themes and assumptions appear as the basis for their support.
  • 26 of the respondents suggested that Trump is a straight talker and cited that as a reason for supporting him.
  • 24 cited his career as a businessman as a clear reason to support him.
  • 21 indicated their support was in part due to his position as an outsider.
  • 20 mentioned their utter distaste for Hillary Clinton as a good enough reason to vote for Trump.
These are the most common themes across all the respondents in this particular study. There were a few other themes that I was surprised to see so few people mention such as putting America first, a major theme in Trump’s campaign and yet only 14 out of 103 respondents mentioned that. Another one is bringing back jobs, another major theme in the Trump campaign and yet only ten respondents mentioned it. Even more surprisingly, border-security was only mentioned by ten of the 103 respondents and making America great again was only mentioned eight times. That’s not much more than the seven respondents that had negative things to say about immigrants or the six that had negative things to say about Muslims.
 
So from the opinions of these 103 Americans we can see that although racist issues and the promise of a “greater America” ARE indeed factors they are nevertheless outweighed by a prevailing sentiment that people are just sick and tired of politicians. While I can understand that sentiment I am appalled by the inability of these 103 Americans to improve the situation by learning how to elect better politicians.
To demonstrate what I mean I’m going to respond to the most common points made by these 103 Americans.

Trump the Straight-Talker

First thing I want to ask is why is there so much evidence to the contrary? Why is he being investigated for so many things that would suggest he isn’t so honest, such as issuing hush money and obstructing justice? Is that not fair because the investigation is still in progress and nothing has been proven yet? OK fine, what about the fact that he still refuses to reveal his tax returns? Saying that he’s not legally obligated to disclose his personal taxes does nothing to change the fact that he is obviously hiding something. The excuse he came up with during his campaign was that his taxes are being audited. Well that was two years ago, which I’m sure is long enough to wrap up an audit or at least identify the case or get some kind of confirmation from ANYONE that his taxes really are being audited, but we got nothing, which really leaves no other option but to assume he was lying about that. Not enough? OK, what about his campaign promise that he would never cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Don’t remember that? See if this jogs your memory… Trump promising no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid
And yet… in his latest budget proposal he is cutting $200 billion from Medicare. There is no legal loopholes for Trumpian excuses here. This is empirical evidence which couldn’t possibly be any more direct or obvious. He is very clearly breaking his campaign promise. Now sometimes this happens when a president promises something, tries to make it happen but fails. But Trump’s promise not to cut Medicare should not have been a challenge; the program is overwhelmingly supported by the American people and their representatives. Slashing the budget for Medicare was not a failure to preserve it, it was a conscientious decision to attack it and in so doing he did in fact break his promise. This is not the hallmark of a honest man.
One might say, well, ALL politicians lie, but remember, two of the most common reasons these 103 Americans came up with for supporting Trump is that he is NOT a politician and that he IS an honest man. Could have fooled me. In fact he’s breaking records by amassing a collection of more proven lies than any politician so far ever recorded. It’s because of this unprecedented disregard for the truth that the New York Times has been maintaining a record of his lies since his inauguration. NYT: List of Trump’s Lies.
Another aspect of this straight-talker illusion is based on the recently increased intolerance for being politically-correct. Five of the respondents mentioned this directly. Honestly, I don’t know what the problem is here. We used to call it being civil or just having good manners, but now there seems to be this impression that being civil somehow interferes with getting things done or with being honest. There IS a way to be honest and civil at the same time… It’s called tact… which is something Trump obviously doesn’t have.
Gary Johnson, 26 said “we need to be less politically correct and get to the source of problems without beating around the bush as much.” Well Gary, maybe you could provide an real example instead of a baseless generalization.
Joshua Grad, 27 takes it even further by calling political correctness a “disease” that “has caused a lot of arguments, fights, disagreements, and a lot of destruction and decay throughout the entire country.” Again, no examples but that doesn’t stop Joshua from going even further by stating how he loves “the fact that, of all the candidates, Republican and Democrat, [Trump] came on and he was rude, he was vulgar, he got his point right across, but he did not do it in a nice friendly way. I’ve had too many politicians that are nice and fluffy, I want someone who will say ‘Naah, you take that and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.’
Josh, this sounds to me like what you want is a rude nasty tyrant. Your one chance to make your opinion known to the entire USA Today audience and you waste it on praising the president for being rude and vulgar and expressing a desire to see a president shove his own agenda in the face of the American people whether they want it or not. Yes, that’s called a tyrant.
Overall, I think the of lack of substance to support these opinions about Trump being a straight-talker, paired with the prevalence of that theme among supporters provides a very strong indication that what we are seeing here are people that are either brain-washed or they have other reasons for supporting Trump that they don’t feel they can justify so they reach for “cover” reasons which don’t always make sense. As for the honesty they insist comes from Trump, I’m pretty dang certain it’s more about the fact that Trump is just saying things they like to hear and calling it the truth is more about endorsing the statement for what they say and much less about whether they’re true or not.

Trump the Businessman

Yes, Trump is a businessman but… does that really qualify him to be a president? There are two parts to this question. First, what kind of businessman is he and second, is experience in business really that important to the job of a president?

There are so many types of businessmen out there that qualifying a candidate on that basis alone is like qualifying him on the basis that he has two hands and two feet. While some businessmen are innovators like Henry Ford and Bill Gates who built large companies and created lots of jobs, other businessmen are back alley drug dealers, crime bosses, dog walkers and baby sitters. It’s ALL business. In fact every American with a job, a budget and a checking account is in a sense a businessman. Every kid who ever sat at a lemonade stand is in effect a businessman. So just calling yourself a businessman really doesn’t say much.

So, what kind of businessman is Donald J. Trump? Well, all wisecracks about his ethics aside, he is what I would call an investor. This is arguably the easiest kind of business. It doesn’t require any significant skill or talent, but it does require money and luck. Of course it helps to know what you’re doing when you invest because you increase your odds of success. This is why they say it’s always better to invest in what you know. But it’s not 100% necessary because it’s always possible to invest in a lottery ticket and win. By contrast no amount of money or luck will help an idiot invent a better mousetrap and build a successful company around it. This is why there are relatively few founders like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs compared to people who leverage their success in one thing, such as rap music, to become successful investors like Snoop Dog and Kayne West or like the second-generation Kardashians, Hiltons and Trumps (including Donny J. himself) who got their seed money through inheritance.

So while I’m not saying Trump lacks sufficient skill and talent I am saying that we really can’t rule that out based entirely on his status as a businessman, especially when it comes to the challenges of government. This of course leads to the second consideration; Is business experience even relevant to the job? My simple answer is no and this is based on the simple premise that our government is not a business – it’s a republic. It’s a shame that more Americans don’t realize that. Even worse, there’s a tendency for people to mentally disconnect the democracy that underlies the republic, leaving what they see as an aloof government. 

Over recent years, there has indeed been an upswell of resentment toward this “aloof” government and its politicians and a businessman is a cultural icon that in many ways symbolizes the “outside” alternative. Some of this comes from the fact that so many Americans are businessmen, so there’s a sense of commonality. But also, in the ideological world, businessmen represent the leaders of the private sector, which is being hailed by many as being more capable of efficient solutions than the government. This perspective is largely based on the idea that in the business world, competition encourages efficiency and performance and in government there *is* no competition so logic dictates the government would be less efficient. But there’s a huge flaw in this logic. The assumption that there is no competition in government is flat wrong.

You wouldn’t think this would be so hard to see in an age where politics is so dominated by election races and partisan arguments. In fact it’s exactly the competition between political opponents that often make government proceedings more inefficient and this underlies the fundamental difference between business and government which is enough to change the effects of competition. This fundamental difference is that business is typically a homogenous enterprise driven by one thing above all else; profit. This makes business decisions relatively easy as the bottom-line practically makes the decisions for us. On the other hand, a representative republic like ours is heterogeneous, there is no bottom line and differences can’t be reconciled on the dollar with simple math.

There is however a field of expertise that deals directly with the challenges of government… it’s called law and there’s a reason why around the world the most common candidates for government office are experts in law, not experts in business.

For those who are still not convinced. Let me also point out that transparency only exists in the public sector. That means that in government we see all the ugliness and the competition between politicians will make sure of it. On the other hand, in the private sector, the ugliness is none of our business. So just because we see more ugliness in government doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also exist in the private sector. With the private sector being so… private, it’s hard to make meaningful comparisons but there are some clues out there, such as the debt statistics.

So it’s not surprising that these 103 Trump supporters would expose such misconceptions as a basis for their support. But it’s concerning because we are all sharing the same republic and until voters start wising up, they will continue to elect bad politicians and perpetuate their frustrations.

I for one am not as sick and tired of bad politicians as I am the people who keep voting for them

 

 

 

 

 

02. February 2019 · Categories: Politics · Tags: ,

Recently, a friend told me that things will get better… “They’re going to be rough for a while…” he said, but in the long run things will be better. I knew he was referring to the path that he thinks Trump has put us on… something I call the MAGA delusion. I don’t know what hard evidence he has to make this assessment, Honestly, I think he’s just hoping. His statement was so broad that there wasn’t really anything to grab, so I just nodded my head. It’s always good to hope. I could have asked for more detail on what he meant but I knew he would have picked from an endless list of stories in the expanding folklore of political rhetoric and I’m tired of chasing these stories down to the red herrings, misinterpretations and false claims that they so often prove to be.

In the meantime, back in Chicago, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just pushed the Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight for the first time since 1953. For those who don’t know, the Doomsday Clock is a symbol of scientific concern about the future of humanity. The closer the minute hand gets to midnight, the closer they think we are to our own demise as a species.

Of course, this clock is an abstract of collective opinion. An intentional consensus on risk and repercussion. So take it for what it is.

Now my friend has repeatedly stated that science is “just another religion” which of course makes it easy for him to marginalize, or even dismiss scientific concerns.

This is a fundamental difference between us. While he insists that scientists make claims about the truth, which I agree is a religious practice, I understand science to be a practice of approximation. So when a scientific theory is disrupted by new evidence, my friend qualifies that as a discredit… a case where the scientists claiming the truth were proven wrong, so why would we trust anything else they have to say? But from my perspective, viewing scientific theory as approximation, a disrupted theory is perfectly normal. It just means science is improving its approximation based on new discoveries, a sign that science it’s is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.

So for me, navigating across an ocean of emotional rants, half-baked conclusions, ingrained prejudices, insults and rhetoric the collective voice of scientific concern is the closest thing we to a North Star. I guess that’s why I’m more concerned about Trump’s idiotic stunts with nuclear powers around the world and his spitefully destructive policies on the environment (two things which the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists cite as the major reasons for the most critical alarm they’ve issued in over 60 years) than I am about… immigration.

I just wish more of the people I share this planet with were better educated.

For two years I have been responding to enthusiastic ovations for Trump’s economic “policies” with the sobering reminder that there’s a significant latency between establishing economic policy and the effect it might have on the actual economy. The economy Trump keeps claiming credit for has far more to do with the policies set during Obama’s terms than anything Trump has actually done since then. Economic policies can’t change the economy in one presidential term anymore than a 600,000 tonne ship can stop on a dime. I really wish people would start understanding this. Because that misunderstanding drives politics and it opens up the opportunities for politicians like Trump to play the confidence game. I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned this to the same people and they never accept it. But sure enough, now that the economy has had a chance to digest Trump’s line-crossing policies, we can see it starting to choke. I expect the ovations will soon subside and I won’t feel so compelled to respond to them.

Of course, Trump’s assault on existing norms isn’t just limited to economic policy. What happens is that economic performance is so easy to measure, it makes it a popular focus for administrations riding on bull markets; in a sense saying, “look what WE can do!”. The media reacts to that and the economy becomes the fixture of focus. But there are much larger ships out there. One of which happens to be the environment. On this ship, policies can take decades to have their effects which makes it hard for any four-year administration to measure and claim credit for improvements so the concern turns into a fringe issue.

This is unfortunate for a short-sighted culture obsessed with immediate returns because the environment over-rules everything else, including the economy that ultimately depends on things like natural resources. If this ship is headed for disaster there won’t be anything a culture, realizing too late, can do to reverse its course before throwing everything else into chaos. The lesson we need to learn here is that if we wait to actually see the icebergs it will already be too late to avoid hitting them.

And this is where Trump has been a far greater threat to the entire human race than any of his followers are willing to consider – because it’s not just a matter of steering the ship through a roll-back of environmental regulations, it’s also the fact that Trump is intentionally taking down the radars and early-warning systems that we need to see far enough ahead to avoid disaster.

Two years ago after Trump took office, Scientific American published an exposé of some of his earliest assaults, including orders to the scientific community within the government to basically keep quiet. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under direct orders from Trump, e-mailed staff to inform them that they may no longer discuss agency research or departmental restrictions with anyone outside of the agency—including news media.

The USDA has also dictated that their in-house research office, the Agricultural Research Service, would no longer release any “public-facing documents” including but not limited to “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds and social media content.”

A year later, Time Magazine published an article on the condition of the EPA website, which until Trump came along functioned as a feature of government transparency and public education. It was a view of the iceberg fields we can’t see yet. But since Trump took control, mentions of climate change have been removed and language that so much as hints climate change has been tweaked to avoid the suggestion.

So, it’s hard for me not to ask the question… Why? Staying quiet about existing research doesn’t save any money, so why do it? Why would anyone intentionally blindfold the American people unless they intend to do something bad they don’t want people to see, such as risking the lives of millions if not billions of people for the sake of personal gain.