Disaster!!

Donald Trump's isn't very articulate. He has a hard time finding ways to criticize things he doesn't like. Consequently, he has to rely on his favorite word: Disaster.

Donald Trump said that things were a disaster fourteen times in his second Presidential debate. He said it about these things:

Inner cities

Obamacare

Single payer

Obamacare

Obamacare

Iraq

Hillary's tax plan

Hillary's Senate record

Hillary's Secretary of State record

Allepo

NAFTA

Inner cities

Hillary's Senate record

The economy

My Case for Hillary

Here are the points I want to discuss:

- Her judgment about Syria as a reason not to vote for Hillary

- That she should be in jail because she feels she is above the law

- That she won’t do anything good

Hillary was the prime mover in the implementation of SCHIP. That program has, since the nineties kept about 8 million kids in health insurance and thereby given them access to doctors. What does her determination to create that say about her judgement?

Syria is an insanely difficult problem. The alliances and consequences are complicated beyond explanation. As I understand it, the main flaw imputed to Hillary is that she preferred a policy of helping Syrian rebels in their effort to overthrow their dictator, Bashir al Assad. This guy has been a horrible problem forever. Among many other things, he used chemical weapons on his own citizens. He is a monster and a serious impediment to peace in the region.

Now, it’s apparent that 1) those rebels failed to overthrow Assad, and 2) absolutely no one has any idea how to actually solve the problem there. With a half dozen governments actively causing trouble, it is very difficult for me to see how Hillary could hold singular responsibility for any of it. This is a chess game with a lot of players. 

Perhaps, only ‘perhaps’, she was wrong to choose the path of eliminating Assad. However, there were a lot of paths tried. She did, in fact, try to work with Syria to bring it to the table. She did, in fact, work with Iran to try to quell Assad’s violence. She did a lot of stuff and none of it worked. I have never actually read (and I just spent twenty minutes reminding myself) of anyone who had a solid alternative that she rejected.

But, more to the point. If one is going to pick an issue on which to base a decision about Hillary, why choose Syria over SCHIP? In Syria, 400k people have been killed. In America, at any moment, eight million kids have access to health care. In Syria, she was presented with an intractable problem that no one has been able to solve, including her. For health care, she was presented with an intractable problem and she found a way to help millions of children.

While I don’t think anyone should be judged on the outcome of a single project, choosing the most impossible one doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. I prefer to look at the overall person. In this case, suppressing Iran’s nuclear program, international women’s rights and climate change, a lifetime of devotion to moving the ball forward on many women’s and social issues seem to paint  a more complete picture that is a more approbate basis for a decision.

The notion that Hillary is a criminal that would be in jail if the government was not corrupt is a favorite trope on the right. The basic premise is that she has, for the last twenty five years (!) cheated the system by somehow slipping past indictment after indictment. While I would, were it true, sincerely believe that this represents a level of cunning genius and capability that increases my desire for her to be running the show, it’s simply not true.

To begin with, she hasn’t committed any crimes. None. Nada. Not one. She has been at the brutal end of investigation for all those twenty five years, usually with highly biased investigators. None of them has ever found evidence of any crimes. 

While it is true that they continued to talk as if they had found proof, they are lying. James Comey, Republican head of the FBI and well-known Clinton hater, said it best, “Nothing she has done rises to the level of a crime.” “No prosecutor would bring a case.” “No crime was committed.” (These are paraphrases. I don’t have the patience to look up the exact language.)

And that’s just the latest. Do you really think she killed Vince Foster? Do you really think that she stole money but somehow the years of Whitewater investigations never found it? Read THIS article for a review of the viciousness and falseness of these attacks.

All of which is to say, if Hillary deserved to be in jail, she would be or, at least, I would know about it. Instead, what I have learned in my decades of following her and being a hobbyist interested in politics and political controversy is that the truth is literally the opposite. Contrary to being a shady character, Hillary is a person of such high integrity and rectitude that decades of effort by her enemies to prove her a criminal has failed.

It’s true, though, that we live in hopeless times. Lately, I’ve been thinking that one of the weirdest things is that having the biggest army no longer really gets us anything. It makes me think of antibiotic resistance. In the first half of the last century, both our military and antibiotics literally changed the world in every way imaginable. Now, it is frequent that people die because they are attacked by something for which antibiotics do not work. Now, it is frequent that people are killed by political violence for which our army does not work.

It hits America at its very core. This country is defined by two things: Money and Violence. Sure, people like to talk about the rule of law but not when it’s black kids getting shot by police. They like to talk about the resilience of the population but that’s utter bullshit. America knows how to make money and it knows how to defeat Hitler.

So, we find ourselves in an era when the real problems (in addition antibiotic resistance) are climate change, international economic inequality (also known as terrorism), the growth of religious fundamentalism (also known as the American political system), and a bunch of other things that are simply not solved by either guns or money. There is a broad and deep sense of pessimistic ennui among our fellow citizens.

So, they say that Hillary is not Bernie. She’s not an agent of change. She’s a pawn of the banks. She’s part of the power structure. She’s not going to do anything good. But there is absolutely no factual basis for believing such a thing. When I say “absolutely”, I’m not being rhetorical.

Certainly Hillary will face tough obstacles to accomplishment. But, so did Barack Obama. As everyone knows, the Republican leadership of Congress met on the day of his inauguration to make an agreement that they would never cooperate with anything he wanted to do, regardless of its virtue. Regardless, it turned out, if it was a plan that they had, themselves, proposed.

Yet, health care is available to tens of millions of people and America is measurable healthier because of it. We have an international agreement to control carbon emissions that includes both the other big countries and those in the third world. We have record job and economic growth. He was a prime mover in equality for gay people. He reopened relations with Cuba. He did a bunch of things to improve education. He got banks out of the student loan business. He got financial regulation (Dodd Frank) implemented. (You can read about this HERE.)

Barack Obama was a newcomer on the political scene when he was elected. While he said a lot of nice stuff, he had no real record of doing anything novel. We just believed him. And, it was easy. He is a preternaturally charismatic person and he is truly brilliant.

It’s a little harder with Hillary because she is a nerd, and not just a regular nerd, but an ultra-nerd. A nerd who always invests whatever time it takes to make sure that she knows more than anyone else. (Not 'appears' to know more, but actually knows more. She was famous in the State Department for knowing more than her briefers about almost everything.)

Unfortunately, nerds are aware of the complexity of everything. So, when Hillary speaks, she has to choose her words very, very carefully to find just the right phrasing that connects the insane amount of information correctly. This makes her less fluid and therefore less believable than both of the brilliant but non-nerdy men who preceded her, Bill and Barack. They are able to elide the details. She is not.

Hillary, on the other hand, does have a real record of doing stuff. SCHIP is one thing. Sanctions that brought Iraq to the table are another. She invented health care reform when it was a forgotten history lesson. She coined the phrase “Women’s rights are human rights” and, had the insight to force her way to China to say it at a time when the notion of a woman doing such a thing was an innovation in itself.

In both the Senate and the State Department, she was known for being a remarkably effective person at getting things done. She was known for being able to apply her superpower nerdiness to figure out ways to change plans to appeal to more people and thereby bring more support to bear. She was known for being friendly and effective in converting enemies into supporters of the causes she pursued. She is, in short, known for being a person who, first and foremost, is able to get things done.

The only question then is whether she wants to do anything good. For that, you have to decide if working to extend free public education through local college is a good thing. Or, if you think that trying to make it so that every home in America can be powered by clean energy is a good thing or that adding a half a billion (!) solar panels to the economy counts as good. (Her energy program is amazing. You can read about it HERE.) Or criminal justice reform, or revising the tax code so that employers are encouraged to have profit sharing, or improvements in child care options, or, well, let’s just say, she has a lot of ideas for things that, in my opinion, are really good things.

Combined with her lifelong commitment to things that are consistent with my values and her proven record of accomplishing such things, it seems to me a little too easy to join the pessimistic zeitgeist and to apply it to this remarkable, brilliant woman.

I will conclude by noting one other thing about Hillary that makes me want her to be my President. She is known, in actual, personal fact, to be a lovely person. She is said to, by everyone who knows her, to be a very warm and caring person with a good sense of humor and a sincere interest in the people around her. As Secretary of State, she often brought the cake to celebrate co-workers’ birthdays. (Name another chief executive who does that.) The people that know her love her. The reason is that she’s a person whose fundamental personality includes taking care of the people around her, caring about their opinions and wanting to nurture them. That is, the reason is that she exhibits some of the best virtues that exemplify the feminine perspective.

There are many reasons that I support Hillary with a fervor and love that I have applied to none of the other candidates that I have supported in the past. Her experience is unparalleled. Her brilliance is unmatched. Her knowledge and ability to turn that into productive plans and strategies is as good or better than any public figure I’ve ever known.

But the biggest reason is that she is a woman. I am tired of aggression as the primary public cause. I’m tired of a country lead by testosterone and an inclination toward dominance. I am tired of leaders who consider caring to be weakness. I am tired of competition and quick solutions. 

I know Hillary has flaws. I know that she is more of a power-broker than she appears. I know that she will have to kick ass, probably do more war and do a lot of things that I wish she didn’t. But I also know that her fundamental view is different than even the second loveliest President of my life, Barack Obama. She is a woman. She collaborates first.

I want that with a deeply held emotional need that is hard to express. It’s not true that our problems are all caused by men. But enough of them are that I want to give a woman a chance. That is change I can believe in.

Why not a $50 dollar minimum wage?

Because Republicans don't care if people starve while working full time. I would absolutely raise the minimum wage to a level that a person can live a decent life.

It is my opinion that a business owner who pays less than a decent living wage is stealing from each employee. In most cases, they are also stealing from society, too, since we have to deal with feeding, jailing, etc, for people who are desperate.

It is my opinion that any business that cannot afford to pay its employees a decent living wage is a failed business by definition. I see no reason why a failed business owner should remain in business.

And before you tell me that nobody would go into business if they had to pay a decent living wage, I will tell you that it is my opinion that 1) you don't have enough faith in the greediness of American entrepreneurs, and 2) If stuff needs to be done, it will be done.

I would also tax the use of robots (in a broad, general sense of automated systems) in a way that insured that no business owner was encouraged to use fewer people than appropriate. I would use the proceeds of those taxes to support people who could not get a job with, you guessed it, a decent living stipend.

Yes. I am a liberal. You might call me a socialist. I believe that work is the important part of the capitalist system, not management. I believe that the application of capital in my country has to serve the people.

I believe a person who extracts a penny of profit while he has a single worker on food stamps should be taxed until the situation is changed, either by the worker making more or the profiteer being replaced with someone who values America and Americans more than his or her own greed.

On the Occasion Where The Donald Changed His Mind

Dear Trumpsters,

Don't you finally see that he is just using you now that he revealed that he was playing you for a fool by pretending to be a birther?

I mean, he had you and your friends saying really goofy stuff about Obama's heritage, fighting vociferously against the Kenyan threat, and he didn't really believe it. He must have been laughing at how sincerely the rubes bought that bit of social manipulation. I know I was.

How did it feel when, with absolutely no new evidence, he said, "He's an American. I was just jerking you around." And then everyone on Earth laughed and wrote articles about the use of the word "lie" in the media.

Hillary never humiliated me like that. Never treated me like a fool.

Sincerely,
A Supporter of the Decent Candidate

An Exchange on Immigration and Terrorism

The person quoted below found me in a Facebook post by a right-winger I know. After some back and forth, I finally convinced him to discuss the topic at hand. He wrote a very nice essay explaining his view in rebuttal to my assertion that 'borders are mainly useful for deciding who to hate'. (He is not a native english speaker and included no paragraph breaks. I separated the sentences in the quotation below for readability.)

Says he.

"This all idea is upsetting to me.

"I grew up in Germany during a time when we did have a wall to keep people in! Any wall works both way...

"But we must have people respect the laws that will protected them once they are in the country.

"From my perspective the reason for illegal immigration is a lack of opportunity in their own countries.

"The best answer would be to create more jobs in Central America.

"I am involved in a project in Tanzania where we provide loans to farmers and educate them in financial management and farming techniques.

"The project has been going on for 10 years and has grown to 40 villages now.

"Most exciting to me is that we have save several thousand children from malnutrition and death and that the life expectancy of people in villages we are active in has grown from 51 to over 60 years!! That is bring in hope and a future for people.

"That is what we need to do an a larger scale in Central America.

"That will stop the problem.

"The terror issue to me is an issue of the conflict of civilizations - there is a book by that same title by a navy strategic think tank guy from back in the late nineties.

"He predicted the great powers to be the christian north west and the islamic east.

"Turkey being the leading power in the islamic bloc.

"I have spend a good deal of time in the middle east and Africa and done a fair amount of business in with Muslims and people of other religious groups.

"You have to understand that as a Christian in the Middle East, you are at fault, regardless of what happened, because you should not be here and if you were not here, what ever happened would not have happened.

"Logical! These civilizations are not compatible and living in the same place is very difficult, because you do need a common set of laws and that means you need to have a common set of fundamental values - and we don't.

"Singapore does a good job of creating a multi religious environment, but they are brutal enforces of law and order; the rest of the world is not good at making this work.

"And as long as we have a competition between the believes living in the same country will lead to conflict.

"Don't get me wrong, I have gained a number of very good friends in the Arab world who are muslims, but the best way for us to live is that they live where they live and I live where I live and we get to gather every so often and enjoy each other and discuss our differences.

"It would be foolish to live in the same place, because we would not be able to agree on who's rules to follow.

"I like them they like me, but let's not move in together."

To which I replied.

"I deeply appreciate your notes here. It is, I think, the first time a person from the right has actually responded to the idea, rather than calling me names. THank you.

"We agree on immigration, at least I think we do. I would expand on your observation to include legal immigration as well. People rarely leave their home if they are comfortable there.

"Your perspective on terrorism is illuminating. I suppose the difference between us is that I do not accept the notion that people with different values cannot live together. I don't disagree entirely. I cannot share space with an ax murderer. But, I am inclined to think that there are values that are intrinsic to being human that can serve as a foundation for sharing a society.

"I note, for example, that the American melting pot easily contains lots of Moslems, Jews and Christians in close proximity. In many places, environmentalists living next to oil barens. Here in Minnesota, we have a large contingent of Hmong people mostly living comfortably among big, blond people of Scandinavian descent. (The office suite next to mine at work has just such a group of tiny people. No problems at all.)

"But there certainly are value systems that seek to dominate in ways that make it difficult for others to cohabit. Fundamentally, our disagreement lies in the response to that fact. Yours is that "it would be foolish to live in the same place". Mine is that we must live in the same place and find a way. This is, at its foundation, where you and I differ.

"But I do not to disagree with the problems of unlike value systems sharing a society. In France, they are having terrible problems, substantially, in my opinion, because their value system requires submission to French culture. But in America, the problem is different and it doesn't have anything to do with Moslems. Moslems in America live with the American value system perfectly well. In American, the value system that is aggressive and intolerant is Christianity.

"And that brings me back around to the topic of immigration. America is not troubled by immigrants. Mexican immigrants, with and without papers, are great people. In general, they work hard, take care of their families, and contribute to society in a thousand ways. I literally do not know of an immigrant population that, generally speaking, fits your concern about disparate values.

"The one group that I argue is causing a problem in your context comprises native born Americans, the Christian right-wing. They are the people who want to pass laws based on their religion, who want to ignore the American value of inclusiveness by refusing to do business with people that see things differently, etc. The problem that you worry about is not immigration or borders, it is people with different values and they show up without immigrating.

"So, what do borders do for this problem. We started, after all, with my claim that borders are a way to decide who to hate. I think you have made a good case that I overgeneralize about right-wing people. Clearly your view of borders is to protect you from those nasty, middle-eastern Moslems based on a legitimate theory that their value system and ours cannot share the same society, not because you hate them.

"But, I also think that I am right for many (I believe almost all) of your co-right-wingers. Almost always, the conversation about immigration on the right starts with Mexicans and they do not, in any way, fit your theory. Their value systems are 100% compatible with ours. Without you theory of incompatible cultures, I cannot see any reason except racial hatred."




Noam Chomsky on Lesser Evil Voting

Voting according to your conscience is an unconscionable thing to do. Act according to your conscience when there are not bad consequences for other people. A pacifist who allows many people to be murdered because he won't kill is a monster. A voter who votes against Hillary in principle knowing that Trump will abuse millions of Moslems is a monster.

Says Noam Chomskey, political philsopher,

"Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites. [...]

"[B]y dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve."


Leave the Primaries Alone

I see people talking about reforming the primary process to be "simpler and more accountable", "uniform primaries", etc. I disagree. These people want to turn an interesting process that tests the abilities of the candidates and their organizations on many levels into the equivalent of education's high stakes testing.

Contrary to the opinion of the losers, the Nevada process showed us, for example, that Hillary runs a team that covers the details and plans carefully. It showed that Bernie and his campaign were not up to the task. That's important information for voters.

Caucuses show a campaign's ability to reach out in a small-ball, emotional context. The sequence of conventions and their negotiations show the power and savvy of the candidate. These are all important.

Primaries replace this complexity with a single, uniform (and fairly boring) test. Money plays an outsize role because of advertising. So do special interest organizations who can muster volunteers. They, too, have their place but to change it all into a monoculture would be bad.

Super delegates enrich the situation, too. They actually represent one more primary challenge for the candidates. It takes entirely different skills and characteristics to appeal to professional politicians. The stated purpose is to prevent a Trumpian disaster, but they also represent the judgment of the seasoned people who really know how politics works.

I do not think the primary system is broken at all. It fulfills many needs.


Distracted driving is "Pure Death"


No. Pure death is a bullet to the head. Drinking cyanide.

Distracted driving is highly diluted death. I know because I know of millions of people who are not dead yet and probably never will be.

They say it is as bad as drunk driving, another activity that is wildly overrated as deadly. Though I assiduously avoid it, my few experiences with staggering home in a car have resulted in zero deaths. My old friend and desperate alcoholic Al Spinnabella only drove drunk. To the best of my knowledge, he never killed or hurt himself or anyone else.

To be clear, I do not drive drunk and I do not text while driving. Both clearly increase risk for little reward.

But, talking on the phone is almost as bad. I do that all the time. I know it increases risk but the reward is high. You might feel that way about listening to music. I do about listening to books.

Everything lives on a spectrum of risk. Driving a car is extremely dangerous compared to watching television. But the reward for driving is high.

I am in favor of analyzing risks so that they can be mitigated but I am not in favor of trying to control behavior. Not only doesn’t it never work but the unintended consequences are usually appalling. Making cars safer has had infinitely more benefit that all of the reductions in blood alcohol level, increases in penalties and social opprobrium put together. It will be the same for distracted driving.

Here’s the other thing. It’s so not-close to “pure death” that people continue to do it. In fact, everyone who’s not a nanny-state advocate knows it's not even terribly dangerous. I have been hearing about this for years and am still alive and so is just about everyone else.

The annual death rate for automobiles is 10.7 per 100k (about 33k per year, less than unintentional poisoning) and the number of people admitted to the hospital for auto injuries is 50 per 100k. To accumulate those injuries and deaths, Americans drove three trillion miles in 2015 (it’s up almost six percent so far for ’16).

Which is to say that 350 million people spent (apparently) all day every day in a car and only .0005 of them (.05%) were hurt more than a sprain (non-hospital injury). Those ~90k that got killed or hospitalized represent 1.2 billion (13.7k/driver, I leave out the fact that not all were drivers) miles of driving. That means that we got over 2.99 trillion miles without death despite all the distracted and drunken driving.

Again, I’m not saying that people should do things in cars to increase the risk to themselves or anyone else. What I’m saying is that the alarm presented on the Diane Rehm show is overblown. I read today that New York is working on an implied consent law that would force you to show your phone to a cop to prove you weren’t texting (the article calls it a ‘textalizer’) in the same way that getting a drivers license obligates you to blow for the cop if they want.

Given the level of hysteria that goodie-goodies are working up, we can imagine (and why not?) roadblocks that check both your drunk status but also your phone.

And all this for activities that I believe with perfect certainty are much less dangerous than having a couple of kids in the car between the ages of two and five. There, of course, the benefit of allowing the risky activity is very high so we don’t care.


UC Davis Pepper Spray Campus Police

It was one of the nastiest events of its period. A bunch of students hosed down with pepper spray at University of California in Davis.

It was an appalling event. Anyone who is trying to figure out if they would allow their child or student to attend the place should consider it. It was an obviously peaceful protest and the campus police were obviously out of control. This suggests a world of irresponsible management at UC Davis.

Take a look and see if you don't agree that the campus police were doing being abusive when they pepper sprayed these peaceful protesters.



http://tqwhite.org?3FCB0F

Revolution

Personally I don't like the dichotomy being expressed by some Hillary fans claiming to support "evolutionary" over "revolutionary". It supports the Bernie Bros claim that she's into the status quo and "incrementalism." It's counterproductive.

It's also not true that Bernie promises something fundamentally different than Hillary does. They both seek to achieve the same goals. She wants to remove money from politics. She wants college to be affordable. She wants to prevent the financial industry from harming society or the people in it. I cannot think of a single Bernie goal she doesn't hope to pursue.

What she doesn't do is call people enemies and frauds. She doesn't speak in language of destruction and anger. She talks about planning, information and thoughtful policy. Considering where our country is today, that is the real revolution.

Bernie is, in fact, moving in the direction of the main political perspective. The entire Republican party speaks of enemies and destruction. They talk about groups of people who are bad. For the R's it's Moslems and Mexicans. For Bernie, it's "the business of Wall Street is fraud." Like theirs, his entire political strategy is dogma. The same five ideas repeated again and again and again and again. If you don't buy into them as expressed, you are reviled.

Viewed from the meta-perspective of how they want to operate to address the country's problems, Bernie and the R's have much the same strategy, albeit with very different goals. Hillary, different from the mainstream politicians and talking heads, is the revolutionary. She's the one who proposes respect. Respect for knowledge, expertise, collaboration and the political process.

So, this idea that Hillary represents a marginal, incremental approach is just wrong. She emphatically rejects the dogmatic, ideological and bitter strategy of the past - of Bernie and the R's.

She presents a new way of doing things - being smart, adaptable and collaborative. That's my kind of revolution.