Hodgepodge

This just in:  I woke up this morning…inspired and yet mired.  There is just so much I want to get on the table that I find myself lacking direction.  So, I’ll throw stuff out there in no particular order.

Let’s start with a video of me doing my morning exercise…

Now a couple of political points…

Trump cancelled the security clearance of former CIA director Brennan.  Now, Brennan doesn’t need this clearance but the rationale is what concerns me.  Trump is doing this because Brennan is a political enemy.  Trump also listed several others that he was threatening.  In short, Trump is using his position to attack those that speak out against him.  What’s next?  IRS audits if you speak out against him?

A Republican Congressman this morning criticised Trump’s tariffs and the Brennan issue.  He then went on to say how happy he was about the great economy and rise in wages caused by the tax cut.  So, when it comes to something he had a hand in…nothing but good news…except the tax cut is doing nothing for wages.

For some reason, Trump calling Omarosa a “Dog” is still bothering me.  If my neighbor referred to anyone that way, I’d be disappointed in that person.  For the president to do this, knowing he is under fire for being a misogynistic racist shows a complete lack of understanding his place in the world.

Trump’s need to strike back at anyone that opposes him (instead of doing his job) reminds me of this…

And finally, I like good news and I like Reddit.  Here is a subreddit called “good news.”  People go here to post news that is actually good.  Check it out.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

 

 

 

 

 

A world without Trump

This just in:  Trump just posted a tweet calling a black woman, “A dog.”

I’m sorry, but if you are okay with this…then I’m just going to walk away.  I’m not going to try and change your mind.  I’ll leave you to yourself.

And when I turn away…what do I find?

 
Time to save the world.
Up, up and away…
Jim

Trump’s Fake Patriotism

This just in:  “Patriotism” is an idea one holds in their head and thus, is subject to interpretation.  What I think it is will differ from your thoughts and neither of us need be wrong.

So, he are my opinions about patriotism.

I think it is patriotic to be proud of your country.  We put a man on the moon.  I’m proud of that.

I don’t think it’s patriotic to be proud of bad actions by your country.  We are enabling hate and discrimination on an increasingly regular basis.  This makes me feel ashamed.  Saying so, does not make me less patriotic.

Avoiding paying your taxes is unpatriotic if you do so in a way that is illegal.  I think it is equally unpatriotic to side with a person that does this by saying, for example, “Manafort is being treated unfairly.”

Establishing a school for the underprivileged is patriotic.  So is donating your time to a charitable cause.

Obstructing an investigation into attacks on the very bedrock of our democracy (voting) is not patriotic. So is enabling that obstruction.

Taking a knee at an NFL game during the National Anthem to protest race discrimination is one of the most patriotic and brave things a person can do.  This is an action approved by the Constitution and draws attention to “hate” in our country with the hope that we will recognize it and eventually, overcome it.

Calling NFL players “unpatriotic” for taking a knee is “intellectually juvenile.” We all grew up in schools that had rival schools.  School spirit demanded we cheered for our team.  Then, we grew up.  We actually moved into neighborhoods where our rivals were from.  We saw they were just like us.  The rivalry, upon closer examination, was just a figment of our imaginations created to make things more fun.

Singing the National Anthem and standing at attention, and saluting the flag and being proud to be an American ….these are all patriotic things but…if you decide to not do them, you are free to do so…because you are an American.

Fostering hate in our country…unpatriotic.

Destroying our national resources to benefit a few…unpatriotic.

Collecting taxes and borrowing money to enrich the already, very rich..unpatriotic.

Calling immigration a threat instead of a blessing…unpatriotic.

Aligning our country with the worst dictators in today’s world…unpatriotic.

Accepting that tens of millions of Americans live in poverty so that we can enrich the very few…unpatriotic.

Weakening the longest and most successful military alliance in history thus making all Americans less safe (NATO) is unpatriotic.

Taking an oath to defend the Constitution and then making a mockery of it’s main tenets such as Freedom of Speech…unpatriotic.

Lying to Congress…unpatriotic.

This list goes on and on in my mind…maybe not yours.

In short…I think Trump is possibly the most unpatriotic person I could imagine…and yet, he’s the president.

He calls the kneeling NFL players patriotic for the same reason a homophobic person teases a gay person.  Trump knows he is a traitor and fears that you might notice.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

Old White Males are the problem

This just in:  I’m an old, white, male.  For that, I apologize.  Anyway, I got up this morning with two thoughts in my mind: (1) Rep. Collins got caught doing something wrong that is not related to his being a Republican and (2) While we all have flaws, one political party seems to have institutionalized those flaws.

Let’s get started.

I suppose we are all flawed in one way or another.  I like this idea.  If we were all perfect, I think the world would be a very boring place.  This is especially true for me as I view life to be valued as a journey rather than a destination.

Every now and then, I drive from San Francisco to Bakersfield.  I can drive as fast as I want.  The traffic is rarely a problem.  There is gas and food along the way if I need it.  But…it is the most boring trip anyone can make.  There is absolutely nothing to see along the way.  Wait, that’s not quite true.  There is a lot to see; its just that everything you see is exactly like everything that you just saw.

I’d much rather drive by some trees or a tall building or a river.  I would much rather have each scene be different from the one before.

I think you get my point.  Flaws make us interesting and thus, life is more interesting.

Still, we don’t have to accept everyone’s flaws; especially if those flaws affect us as individuals.

Our politicians, being people, have flaws.  Their flaws seem to be bigger or more impactful than say, the guy that packed your groceries.  I’m not sure if this is because they are in the public eye and the flaws are thus magnified or…did their flaws drive them to seek positions of power where they could further exploit the benefits they gain from their flaws.

Probably a bit of both.

Some flaws seem to be fairly standardized.  Men seem to be the ones most likely to have some sort of sex scandal.  I don’t think this is related to political party.  In fact, I try to avoid jumping on a “stomp him in the ground” bandwagon when a person from the opposition party gets caught in some sexual impropriety.  Both sides have this issue and neither side supports it.

Greed is another flaw that seems to be more of a man-thing.  Greed itself is not a crime but feeding this need with illegal activities is.  There are laws to stop some actions because “helping oneself hurts others.”  You can get rich by inventing an anti-gravity machine and feed your greed.  You can’t get rich by stealing from your neighbor.

As usual, I’m rambling a bit to get to my point.  I do this because my point only takes shape in my head as I write.  Thanks for the patients.

The point is…I jump on Trump and the Republican Party all the time.  I don’t do this because they are old, white, males with all of their flaws.  I do this because they have institutionalized the practice of self-enrichment at the expense of those that put them in office.

Trump has affairs.  I don’t care.  He’ll eventually pay a price for that.

Congressman Collins gets caught inside trading.  I don’t care.  He’ll eventually pay a price for that.

Congress passes a tax law that benefits those few billionaires that are funding their campaigns and thus, lower the quality of life for the rest of the country and future generations.  I have a problem with this.

Congress protects a president that is ruining the economy, our foreign relations and the environment so that he won’t turn on them and cause them to lose their jobs.  I have a problem with this.

Congress tells me that “thoughts and prayers” are the best way to solve gun violence because the NRA is paying them to say that…I have a problem with that.

Trump and the Republican Congress has institutionalized a culture of corruption.

Yes, everyone has flaws and you can go back in history and find corruption everywhere.

But never have we seen our government act as if there were no “American Public” to serve and see their positions as an opportunity to satisfy their every whim.

Just for fun…Here is a list of recent presidents with my short description…

  • Trump – Mobster
  • Obama – Smart but naive ( I would vote for him again)
  • Second Bush – Nice but gullible
  • Clinton – Shady
  • First Bush – Great American (I would vote for him again)
  • Reagan – Strong, resolute (I would vote for him again)
  • Carter – Too nice
  • Ford – no opinion
  • Nixon – Fearful

Enough rambling for the day.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

The Company Trump Keeps

This just in: “A man is known by the company he keeps.” – Aesop

Let’s pretend that we don’t know Donald Trump.  We have never heard of him and have not seen him in action.

All that we know is that he is in a position to surround himself with whomever he wants…and we know the company he keeps.

What would we think?

Here is a list of some of the company he keeps…

In New York, a city thick with lawyers, Trump hires Michael Cohen.  A self-described “fixer”, Cohen has been described as a mob-boss type lawyer.  He saw his job as fixing Trump messes.  For example, he’s the guy that set up fake corporations to funnel money to women that Trump had affairs with.  He is currently being investigated for Tax Fraud.  He also is being investigated for selling access to Trump once he became president.

Michael Flynn was picked by Trump to be his National Security Advisor.  Flynn lasted about 2.3 Scaramuccis (23 days).  He was fired after it had been discovered that he lied to congress.  Before taking office, he was seen at a table an event in Russia where he was seated with Putin.

Rex Tillerson was Trump’s first Secretary of State.  While he did nothing illegal, he spent his career in Big Oil and was awarded Russian Order of Friendship from Putin.

Paul Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager for about 5 months (15 Scaramuccis).  Manafort was a lobbyist with most of his fingers in Russian related dealings.  He is currently on trial for Tax Evasion, amongst a number of other crimes.

Wilbur Ross, is the current Secretary of Commerce.  Yesterday’s news brought out an article in Forbes describing a grifter scheme that Ross used to steal about $120 million from clients of his investment firm.  Note:  He denies this and has not been proven guilty or even formally charged.

Rick Perry is the Secretary of Energy.  As a presidential candidate, Perry said he would eliminate this agency.

Betsy DeVos is the Secretary of Education.  She is a mega-millionaire and major campaign contributor for Trump.  She is a fan of privatized education and is widely seen as grossly unqualified for the job.

Scott Pruitt was ousted as Trump’s administration of the Environmental Protection agency.  Not only did Pruitt work tirelessly to end environmental protections, he left office while being investigated for nearly a dozen different questionable practices.

While Trump has publicly criticized a number of world leaders, let’s look at a list of those he has praised.

About the Leader of North Korea:

“If you can do that at 27-years-old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that can do that,” Trump added. “So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.”

He appears to admire Putin, one many consider the greatest military threat to the world today

He claims to have a great relationship with China’s Xi Jinping, who is the greatest economic threat to the United States and is currently responding to Trump’s tariffs, tit-for-tat.

He is an admirer of Turkey’s Erdogen, a man that may have staged his own coup in order to facilitate a “cleansing” of his military.  This is the guy that came to the United States and had his private guards beat up some Americans.

He is friendly with Duerte, the leader of the Philippines.  This is the guy that has authorized the killing of people believed to be dealing drugs.  This is not a “trial then guilty then shoot” type thing.  It’s more of a “shoot as soon as you suspect” type thing.

In short, the world leaders that Trump admires are the very same that the United States typically spends a great deal of effort protecting the world from.

I can’t really find someone on the other side of the isle for Trump.  There is no Ghandi out there that thinks Trump is great.

So…if this was all you know about Trump…how would you judge him?

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

Team Work

This just in:  There seems to be a rise of Democratic Socialists which is being fought by Republicans as “Socialism!”  Note, many of these same Republicans claim they would rather be Russian than vote Democrat.  Go Figure.

Abraham Lincoln said, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”

Socialism definition: “A range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and workers’ self-management of the means of production as well as the political theories and movements associated with them.

Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.

Now, with that foundation, let’s ask ourselves…”Are we now a socialist country?’

You might answer “No!”  After all, refineries, airlines and local markets are not owned by “the people”.  If I owned a farm, it would be my farm, not the community’s farm.  GM, while publicly owned, it not owned by the people in general; rather it is owned by the people that bought shares.

So, there is a lot of evidence that we are not a Socialist country.  And, I might add, that I am not hearing any politician suggest that we should become a Socialist country.

However, we already are, to an extent, a Democratic Socialist country.  Our military is owned by the people.  Our roads are owned by the people.  Our fire departments and police are owned by the people.  In fact, take a look at our annual budget.  We collect from the people to spend on the people.  That’s it.

Take a look at the budget for 2015 (below).  This is all about us collecting money to do exactly what Abraham Lincoln said (above).

This is all Socialism to some extent.  We collect money and then do together what we cannot do as well ourselves.

We can quibble over the exact “word” to use to describe this but remember, it is what it is and using a word ending in “ism” does not make it bad.

This brings me to my point:  The United States needs to have universal healthcare.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done.  Done tell me that something every, other industrialized nation has accomplished is “too hard” for Americans.

I heard yesterday where the number of people over 65 declaring bankruptcy has tripled since 1990.  Most of this is attributed to healthcare related issues.

We can solve this.  Our taxes will go up but our out-of-pocket costs will actually go down.  No longer would people have to lose everything because a loved one got cancer in their later years and they spent every penny they had to spend just one more day with that loved one.

Republicans are against this because: (1) its not their idea and (2) they are corrupt and accept money to vote against it.

Democrats seem to be on the fence.  Some like it and some don’t.  Those that don’t like it fear backlash of raising taxes to pay for it.  They don’t believe the average person would understand that taxes will go up but medical expenses would go away completely.

In the end, we can take the Republican Path or that of Abraham Lincoln.  We can “Go it alone” or we can “Work together.”

I’m with Abe.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

My Biggest Trump Disappointment

This just in:  There are all kinds of things about Trump that I have a problem with.  However, the biggest disappointment of all…may surprise you.

Let’s start with the runners up; those things that disappointment but are not the single biggest disappointment.

  1. Healthcare is essentially back to pre-Obamacare.  I can’t believe that I’m still hearing “We, the greatest country in the history of the world, are unable to put in place a healthcare system that little countries like Norway have.”
  2. It’s a little bothering that we seem to be trying to break up NATO.  Not too big a deal as everyone realizes that this is a “Trump” thing and will pass soon enough.
  3. The Republican Tax Cuts benefited nearly no one except the very, very rich.  We are borrowing trillions to pass along to the already rich.
  4. Corruption seems to have become acceptable in the White House cabinet.
  5. Trump appears to be working in the service of Russia.  The Republican party seems to be complicit in that they turn their head or actually enable him.
  6. The current environmental strategy of our government was written by a coal baron.  We have set the stage for massive exploitation of our nation’s natural wealth.  Yesterday introduced a rollback of gas mileage standards.  This increases our fuel costs, harms the environment and benefits only those who depend on fossil fuels for wealth…like Russia.
  7. We have backed away from every single international trading deal.
  8. Trump has made racism and religious extremism acceptable.
  9. The national debt is skyrocketing faster than it has in the history of our country.
  10. Russia is interfering in our elections and I can’t tell if we are doing something about this or if the White House thinks its a hoax.
  11. Education seems to have become a bad idea.
  12. Immigration, one of our greatest legacies, has become a “hate word”.
  13. The world now thinks the United States is on the decline.  They may be right.  Countries that once depended on us are making plans for a future without us.
  14. China, North Korea, Iran and Russia are all growing problems that Trumps claims to have solved by saying, “I have great relations with these people.”

So there you have it…the runners up.

What is the big winner?  What is my biggest disappointment with Trump?

It’s knowing that people I know, people I grew up with, people I once respected…find ways to support Trump.

It’s not that we are on different sides of the abortion issue or gun rights.  It’s that they watch him do one thing on television and then hear him later deny that it happened….and they agree with him that it didn’t happen.

The gymnastics Trump supporters go through to stay attached to this damaged president is very telling.  It makes me think less of them.  I don’t want to but I can’t help but watch them and think, “Have you lost your mind?”

Alas…

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

 

 

My Eeyore Moment

This just in:  Yesterday, the GDP was reported at 4% which is a very high number.  It reflects how strong our economy was last quarter.  I think it’s fine to celebrate, however, I’m thinking this is going to be short-lived.

Here is why…

First: Growth depends on productivity.  A major part of productivity is labor.  The United States is out of labor.  Once we dropped below 5% unemployment, everyone that wants a job has a job.  I work with companies that are outgrowing their current capacities.  For the last couple of years, the one thing that is holding them back is the lack of available labor.  This is a very real thing.

We have some solutions to this.  We can stop deporting so much labor.  We can allow more labor to immigrate.  We can invest in automation.  We are doing the exact opposite of the first two and the third one is a long term fix in that it won’t help us out in the near term.

Second:  Our deficit is out of control.  Yes, if we grow at 5% we may be able to slow this somewhat, however, this is extremely unlikely.  We are paying more and more interest as we borrow more and more money.  Why are we borrowing so much?  Did we increase spending?  No, we decreased income by cutting taxes.  We can feel like we have more money when we cut taxes but what we are really doing is borrowing more money so we feel richer.

Third: Inflation is starting to go up.  Interest rates are also going up as the FED tries to put a lid on inflation.  Inflation makes our dollars less valuable and higher interest makes products (like housing) more expensive.  In short,  we are becoming poorer without changing the amount of money we are holding.

Fourth:  Tariffs are creating a global trade war.  All you need to know about tariffs is that they raise the prices of things you buy.  If you want a Toyota and we put a 25% tariff on Toyotas, then that car will cost you 25% more.

Fifth:  Housing is unaffordable.  When this happens, no one is buying a house.  Hosing construction contributes to the GDP.  When people have a house, they buy big ticket items like sofas and ovens.  When they don’t buy houses, they don’t buy these other things as well.

Sixth:  Wages are oddly stagnant.  Typically, coming out of a recession, wages lag by a few months.  This means once the economy gets going again, wages eventually go up.  We came out of a recession 9 years ago and yet, wages are still stagnant.  Keep in mind, the middle class makes up 2/3 of our economy.  When they have less buying power, the economy slows down.

So there you have it.  I really, really hope that I’m wrong.  I want a chicken in every pot.

But I’m not.

Those that disagree with me simply because we just had a 4% GDP growth rate are the same people that look out the window and say, “There is no Global Warming because it’s cloudy outside right now.”

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

I wish I was wrong more often

This just in:  I see no reason to expect that I am either right or wrong more often than the average person.  However, there are times that I wish I was wrong more often than I am; especially when it comes to this blog.

Being wrong is not really a bad thing.  To discover that I’m wrong is the same as learning something new.  I like to think I can change my mind and accept a perspective that I had not previously held.

Take climate change for example.  I believe in it.  I didn’t do any math but other have and the experts emerged from their “room of math and climate analysis” and declared, “It’s happening and we did it!”

Suppose this same group met again and reviewed their math and then emerged and said, “We forgot to carry the 3!  There is no climate change!”

This would make me change my mind.

Like climate change, I depend on experts to help me to take a side on an issue.  Take Pi, for example.  It’s an irrational number in that it’s digits go on forever without repeating.  I believe this because someone smarter than me did the math.

I said Trump’s tax breaks for the rich would not stimulate the economy.  I wanted to be wrong.  I want 5% growth rate and lots of well paying jobs.  History, however, teaches a different lesson about tax cuts.  History says there will be a brief spurt and then…nothing.  That is what we are seeing now.

I want Trickle-Down-Economics to work.  If the rich have more money, I want them to create high paying jobs.  Alas…this is a failure as well.  This Trump policy is the most disproven economic theory I know of and it is playing out just like the economic experts said it would.  A flop.

I wish it was a fact that separating immigrant parents from their kids is a morally just solution.  Alas…it’s not and I’m once again correct that we should be condemning it.

I wish I was wrong when I said Trump’s tariffs would start a trade war and result in a loss of jobs and higher prices here at home.  Once again…I was, unfortunately correct.

I wish I was wrong when I say that racists and evangelicals are basically the same thing.  But, I’m not.  What’s the difference between hating Muslims and hating non-whites?

I wish Trump was super clever and was actually toying with Putin in Helsinki.  I wish he truly was the “toughest ever” on Russia.  However, I’m not wrong.  Trump is not a smart man.  He is a Putin puppet.

I wish Trump had solved the North Korea threat.  But instead…he just got taken for a ride by Kim-Jong-Waterbrain.

I wish we didn’t need NATO because Trump is certainly trying to end it.  But we do.

Now….what about my assertion that Trump is a money launderer?  Well…I think we’ll see about that pretty soon.

Yes, over the years, I have made mistakes on my blog.  The title “View From The Cheap Seats” is meant to indicate that I’m not always posting an academic White Paper but rather … I’m just telling you what I believe.

Most of my posts over the last year have been trashing Trump and the Republican Party.  I don’t do this because they are on the “other team”.  I do it because they are wrong; at least in my mind.

My mind…feel free to change it.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

My Recipe for Fascist Pie

This just inFascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.

That sounds way more familiar than it should.  The question of the day is “How did we get here?”

The following is my own recipe for Fascist Pie

Ingredients…

  • 1 Cup of sifted, unlimited, anonymous, campaign contributions
  • 2 Handfuls of a gullible population
  • 1 tablespoon of greed
  • 1/2 Pound of propaganda machine
  • A dash of racism
  • 1 stick of Russia funded NRA
  • 3 chopped Evangelicals
  • A dash of anti-fact
  • 1 Orange (comb-over is optional)

Mix all of these together and them plop them into an oven set on “FEAR”.  Cook for one decade.

In short…you can’t make a pie with just an orange.  There are a lot of reasons we are becoming a Fascist nation and only one of them is named Trump.

Unlimited campaign contributions are probably the main ingredients here.  However, all this money would have no impact if we didn’t have a political party that willingly takes the bribes and then does the bidding of those that paid them, instead of those that voted for them.  This is a symbiotic relationship.  Citizens United would not exist without the Republican Party and they would not exist without unlimited finances from special interests.

Greed tells the Koch brothers that they need more money.  Greed of Republicans make them willing to take Koch money to pass a tax law that harms our economy. Greed makes Republicans take Russian money, via the NRA, and then not address gun control

Racism, along with Evangelicals are the special spices of this mix.  Both want America to return to some imagined White, Christian nation.  They don’t know it but they are acting as if a White, Christian, Fascist nation is what they prefer.

To keep the population at bay, they must be fed a steady diet of “don’t look behind that curtain in the corner.”  Fox News and the NRA provide this mis-direction.  For example:  If there is a mass shooting by a white guy…”send thoughts and prayers”.  If there is a mass shooting by a non-white then “Terrorism strikes the homeland.”  This sustains the racist and evangelical votes.  Trump tariffs are starting to hurt the economy so, let’s do a show about an ugly dog contest at a county fair.

Gullibility is hard to under-estimate.  Here are 2 examples.  (1)George Bush is president and the gas prices are high.  Fox News reports that the president has no control over gas prices.  Then, Obama is president and gas prices are high.  Now Fox News reports that these high prices are the president’s fault. (2) Obama, the candidate, said he would meet with North Korea without preconditions.  Fox News blasted relentlessly for this.  Trump then says the same thing and Fox News praises him as a man of action.  In both of these instances, the gullible watched Fox News and nodded in agreement.

Note:  If you have not read 1984 in the last 10 years, I recommend you have another go at it.

The orange, Trump, is the cherry on top of the pie.  That pie would exist without him but it would not be nearly as perfect.  Trump is without shame.  He has a complete disregard for any facts that don’t suit him.  For example, right now, his new plan is to act as if Russia did interfere but what they really want is for Democrats to win.  Now, in front of the world, Putin said in Helsinki that he wanted Trump to win.  Today, the White House transcripts and video of Putin saying that have be wiped clean of Putin’s statement.  We all saw it but Trump is acting like it never happened.  Fox News will back him up on this and the gullible will nod in agreement.

The result is a big fat heaping of Fascism Pie.  If you don’t like it and would prefer something else…then change the ingredients.  Vote in November.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim