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      Capitalism leads to actions only a self-destructive wastrel would want, but does so pure rationality. Think of rationality as being of two types: Means-ends and internal-coherent. Means-ends rationality says: “I want to get to Point A. How do I do that?” Or, “I want to grow a garden so I can eat food. What are […]
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She did it again… and again

If we lose in November, we have people like Digby to thank.

Two times today, she posted about what she imagines to be the typical Trump voter. Naturally, racism played heavily into this image. I’m not linking to them. To be fair, she’s not the only one who does this. Paul Krugman and many, many others do it too.

I’m not going to deny that there are certain Trump supporters who are definitely racists. But she is completely missing the point. Or is she reinforcing it?

Whatever it is she and other lefties think they’re doing, I would advise them to STOP. DOING. IT.

I will spell it out: There are many people on the left and right who are very unhappy with the way government has been run since the financial crisis hit in 2008. But as soon as they open their mouths to lodge a protest or complaint, the left rolls out this meme that they MUST be racists.

That makes people who are already angry even angrier. Because what if their complaints are legitimate? You are giving them no where to complain and making them feel like they can’t get their point across.

That’s why they are turning to people like Trump. He’s promising to not shush them up. He’s going to give them a voice. And the thing that Fox News has been pounding into its viewers’ heads is that political correctness is wrong. That doesn’t mean racism isn’t wrong. What is wrong is for one group of people to use race as a tool to stifle dissenting voices.

I don’t happen to agree with Fox News that it’s Ok to be a racist ignoramus but it is certainly more than ok to make your grievances known without having to feel like you’ve become an instant bigot overnight when you celebrated the Civil Rights movement in your youth.

This is what the talking points arm of the Democratic party has been doing. They are turning a lot of people into instant bigots. It’s guilt by association. It’s not going to work. In fact, it is going to make the typical Trump supporter even more determined to shove it up your ass. Not all of Trump’s supporters are going to the rallies for the policies. They’re going for the empowerment. They’re going because it confounds and pisses off liberals. The more you lose your shit over them going and pointing out the racism, the more pumped they get about their candidate because the goal is to make you angry and it is working.

No, it is not rational, but it is very human.

Now, there are a lot more women in this country than there are african americans or hispanic people or any other group you can name. Women are NOT a minority and they shouldn’t be a “special interest” group. They are the majority of citizens in this country and the fact that so many of us are underpaid compared to men and that our issues and concerns are so downplayed on Op/Ed pages and in Congress should be a cause for general alarm. Because when the majority of people in our country are treated like second class citizens, that means it holds down all of the people who are dependent on them. Sexism is definitely a huge problem. But if the left keeps accusing everyone on the other side of the aisle as racists, then that means that they in turn will accuse everyone on our side of using a <fill in the blank> card whenever we want to shut down debate.

It will backfire on Hillary Clinton.

The typical Trump supporter is not as insecure as the typical lefty about being called names. We’ve been calling them stupid, uneducated, low-information, hicks and bigots for a long time. And some of that is definitely true. But they have Fox in their corner where typical Clintonistas have, well, absolutely nobody in the media. It’s a very lopsided situation. If you go after the typical Trump guy, he won’t give a shit. His cheering section will just keep going.

On the other hand, if even one little thing Trump says has even a tenth of a nanoparticle of credibility with respect to Hillary and her supporters, the New York Times is going to be all over it. She has no cheering section. That is no exaggeration. We’re it. Well, us, a few other blogs and some very determined people on Twitter.

Ok, nevermind. Just do it your way. The jini’s already out of the bottle. Keep it up. Force them to turn the card business around on us.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

 

Easter and Climbing the Water Tower Again

f4ce18d14c5f7ec0e66468729b7bccdaHappy Easter to those of you who celebrate it. I gave up Easter for Lent. Just kidding. I like chocolate rabbits and marshmallow peeps as much as the next person.

Easter is the only holiday that Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate, but they don’t call it Easter, because that’s a pagan word for a pagan holiday. (They say that like it’s a *bad* thing.) JW’s call it the Memorial. It’s not even held on Easter from what I can recall, because that would make it too much like Easter.

Basically, everyone passes around bread and wine but no one partakes except the 144,000. That means almost no one partakes. So, from a kid’s point of view, the whole holiday consists of yet another tedious talk followed by fruitless exercise in passing stuff around that no one eats. Don’t ask. It’s complicated. Basically, it comes down to JWs internally saying to themselves “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”, which I find pointless. Most JWs I know are plenty worthy but they don’t know it because they’ve been taught to undervalue themselves. Annnnnyway, there are no Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts or anything fun or memorable for children so, in that respect, it’s just like every other holiday/non-holiday for  JW kids except for the passing of bread and wine around for no discernable reason. You know, boring and miserable.

I’m just going to stick to the neolithic traditions and celebrate spring. Maybe burn a sacrificial goat or something, I dunno. So hard to burn goats in your back yards these days. The neighbors complain.

But seriously, go collect and bedeck your house with fresh flowers and forsythia and have a nice day.

Which god or goddesses are you celebrating today?

************************************************************

Moving on to things I am not celebrating, I saw this tweet from Paul Krugman in my twitter stream yesterday:

Jann Wenner , is right. OK to support Sanders, not OK to channel right-wing smears

 

Exactly.

Look, Bernie lovers, I love Bernie too. No, seriously, I do. I’m glad he ran this year and his message is resonating with a lot of people.

But sometimes, I wonder if the people he is resonating with the most are the ones who will never ever vote for a woman regardless of party. Or they spend way too much time believing stuff about Clinton that they knew wasn’t true back in 2008. There were 8 long years between primary seasons, long enough for people who have some bone to pick with the Clintons to plant seeds that are now coming to fruition. And sometimes, all they have to do is borrow the mind tricks and oppositional research from the other party.

The number one mind trick is sowing distrust. That works on any candidate. This one should be easy to refute with Clinton though. Here’s how it goes:

1.) Add up all the vast amounts of money spent on investigating Hillary since 1993. Include all of the special prosecutors, the billing records “scandal”, Whitewater, congressional testimonies, Libya and email servers. How much money has been spent on trying to pin something, ANYTHING on this woman? How many millions of taxpayer dollars?

2.) What did they eventually nail her on? Spoiler alert: nothing.

3.) Ask yourself how many other candidates who have run between 1992 and 2016 have had to go through that? For example, how many congressional hearings has Barack Obama had to go through? We know that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were invited to testify before the 9/11 commission, which if there was ever a reason to force presidents to testify before a special commission, that would be it, and they refused. Ask yourself if Hillary Clinton could have refused such a request under similar circumstances.

4.) Then repeat after me: “When your enemies can’t control you, they control what others think about you”. 

If you want to vote for the best candidate we’ve had for decades, you will need to learn to live with this constant chatter in the background about her culpability for *something* for the duration of her presidency. That’s just a given. It doesn’t matter that she’s as clean as a whistle.

If you can’t deal with the chatter, then you will necessarily have to settle for a candidate who is less well qualified to be president.

All of the rest of the objections to her are based on her record or distortions of her record. Frankly, I find the left to want a degree of purity in their candidates so as to make them ineffective as presidents. Presidents who are that far above it all so don’t want to get their hands dirty that they don’t do the work necessary to get things done, like meeting with congressional leaders and making very hard choices that might piss off their constituents later. Every politician, even down to the lowly elected school board member is eventually faced with a decision that is going to make a voter unhappy down the road. I’ve been there. I’m just glad my decisions were as small as promoting the construction of an expensive high school instead of whether or not to give a president my consent to go to war if he felt it was necessary whether or not *I* felt it was necessary.

And as an Iraq War opponent,  I too was disappointed with Clinton’s vote. I was also disappointed with John Kerry’s vote and John Edwards’ vote. So, you know, if you campaigned for those two guys and voted for them without too much trouble, you shouldn’t have a problem with doing the same for Hillary. That’s being rational. If you’re still struggling with Hillary over it but not the two Johns, and you know who you are, then maybe you’re not being rational.

Many of us have been political junkies for most of our lives and the things the left accuses Hillary of seem, well, hyperbolic doesn’t seem hyperbolic enough. You’d think that the Clintons single handedly plunged African Americans into poverty and caused the great recession of 2008. As you get older, you start to realize that it’s rarely that simple. It’s more like a thousand tiny pebbles dislodged until there is an avalanche. Sometimes, these pebbles were dislodged with the best of intentions but were based on modeling that didn’t account for other factors, like the other party deciding to pick that moment in history to mutate.

The Clintons were the first couple in the White House that had to deal with the movement conservatives and their “take no prisoners burn the government to the ground” tactics. It’s no surprise that they were taken off guard and had to make some very uncomfortable compromises. But I see evidence that Hillary has learned from her experiences. Others should have learned from what happened to the Clintons but have either capitulated completely or have been buried by their opposition. What is their excuse?

Bottom line, there is no politician in the country who is as close to perfection as Jesus and look what the Romans did to him. It took 400 years to rehabilitate Jesus’s reputation in the Roman Empire. By that time, he had been deified and the emphasis of his story was on resurrection. Jesus historians find that he was only a charismatic champion equality and the poor, who lead an unauthorized march into Jerusalem to hold a (mostly) peaceful rally at the Temple. In other words, Jesus lead Occupy Temple Mount. For that, he was turned over by his own people, the Sanhedrin, to the Romans. They knew exactly what was going to happen to him.

Forty years later, the Romans sieged and sacked the city, destroyed the temple and forced everyone into exile. That went well. Didn’t see that coming.Who could have predicted?

So, you know, don’t cooperate with your enemy is the lesson for today.

 

Re: Christie

I am not at all surprised that New Jersey is experiencing financial difficulties:

April’s income tax revenues from the state’s wealthiest residents are far less than expected, and the overall shortfall for the current fiscal year is $800 million below the Christie administration’s projections.

From a first hand perspective, I lived through Pharmageddon from 2007-2013 when lab after lab shut down, transferring a tiny fraction of the workforce to Cambridge, MA and leaving tens of thousands of highly skilled, well paid STEM professionals to rot in the vast suburban jungle between New York City and Philadelphia.  (Don’t believe me, you congressional lurkers out there?  Go look up the NJDOL stats for those years.  When you’re done cringing in horror at the waste of human and tax resources, you can tell those Pharma lobbyists to f^&* off the next time they whine that they just can’t find good help anymore and need to import from Asia.)

Of course, it wasn’t all Christie’s fault.  He wasn’t elected until 2009 (no, I didn’t vote for him.  I voted for Chris Daggett).  By then, the merry axmen in the executive suites were already hacking away at families and careers with abandon.  Living in New Jersey ain’t cheap and it gets damn near impossible when you lose your $100K salary to be replaced by a measly $2000/month in unemployment.  Someone besides me should see the link between the hemorrhaging of highly paid jobs and NJ’s fiscal problems.

Just think of all the tax revenue that was lost when Christie couldn’t be bothered to stop the carnage.  That’s tens of thousands of well paid jobs, *poof!*, gone in a flash.  Deval Patrick didn’t seem to have trouble attracting that (vastly reduced) pool of jobs, did he?  By the way, did those biotechs in Cambridge who promised to hire in order to get tax breaks actually hire all the people they said they would?  And why didn’t Christie try to make a deal with the pharmas to keep them in the state?  Was he just too busy putting his political adversaries in thumb screws?  Was he having too much fun killing infrastructure projects and slashing the NJ Transit budget in order to give hard earned NJ tax dollars to developers of a white elephant in the Meadowlands?

Anyway, Paul Krugman should stop wondering about why people are so enamored with Christie.  Well, some of us weren’t but then we weren’t taken in by Obama either and for roughly the same reasons.  Both politicians coasted to victory by playing on the emotions of the electorate.  In Christie’s case, he says what he thinks everyone is thinking.  Or at least he’s not afraid to verbally abuse the defenseless.  He gives his supporters status by picking on someone down the totem pole, separating them from their fellow citizens.  In Obama’s case, he was all about appealing to the aspirations of the insecure.  He called them “the creative class”, gave them status and separated them from their natural allies.  He made some vulnerable democrats feel all warm and gooey.  Yes, we can.

So, what can we learn from Christie and Obama?  My guess is that when it comes to politics, it’s best to be a cold blooded voter and ask very directly and persistently, “What have you done for ME lately?”  And when those pols start going for the emotional jugular to tell them to talk to the hand and walk away.

 

Krugman and I differ on Obamacare

This is sad.  I really like Paul.  We agree on so many things.  He’s one of the few people who is getting a clue about the myth of structural unemployment.

But with Obamacare, he’s hopeless.

I think it has to do with his own social isolation.  He lives in Princeton surrounded by some of the most successful individuals in the world.  Of course, all around him is the detritus of 6 years of dismantling of the R&D industry.  He only has to cross Route 1 to visit the now shuttered lab where I worked for 15 years. Some of the smartest people I know are having a really hard time figuring out what just happened to them.  But it’s unlikely that Krugman knows many of them, or any of the less accomplished people I know.

Here’s the part of Paul’s latest Conscience of a Liberal post on Obamacare that I resent most:

The current state of public opinion on health reform is really peculiar. If you’ve been following the issue at all closely, you know that the Affordable Care Act is one of the great comeback stories of public policy: after a terrible start, it has dramatically exceeded expectations. But hardly anyone seems to know that.

It’s easy to understand how that happens for Fox-watchers and Rush-listeners, who are fed a steady diet of supposed Obamacare disaster stories.

Um, I HATE Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.  I consider them to be on the same par as pneumonic plague.  They spread misinformation quickly and the effect is always malignant.  I don’t watch cable news of any kind and I don’t listen to Rush.  So, where could I have possibly gotten the crazy idea that Obamacare is a disaster waiting to happen??

Maybe it’s from my own data and observations.  Maybe it’s because the plans are not so great for the price.  Maybe it’s because some of us could afford the lousy premiums if we could get a subsidy but our incomes are too low to qualify (could someone please explain how that even makes sense??).  Maybe it’s the persistent feeling that Obamacare is leading to a less secure job market.  Maybe it’s because for some of us, it’s a choice between cashing in some of our IRA and facing a steep tax penalty to pay for our premiums or being forced into Medicaid where the state may collect our estates from our heirs when we are dead.  There are a million reasons why Obamacare might not be working so well for the rest of us, 40 million approximately.  If Obamacare is only reaching 7 million new subscribers, doesn’t that leave most of the 47 million uninsured still uninsured?

Here’s my take on Obamacare: It’s full of poison pills.  There’s just enough in it to help people with pre-existing conditions and some self-employed people to thrill the cockles of the liberal’s heart.  For everyone else, cost controls are not in place, there are no mechanisms to force competing carriers in a local market to cooperate with each other leaving the unsuspecting facing steep out of network costs, the unemployed are still mostly not covered (and they can’t afford the premiums anyway without a subsidy) and to get any kind of public option, aka Medicaid, you have to give up nearly everything you own and have spent your whole life working for.

This is not a good plan, Paul.  Most people do not live in Princeton or NYC.  They live ordinary lives with ordinary wages and this plan seems to have bypassed many of them.  Obamacare was cobbled together by a chief executive who seemed to want to wag his penis around instead of actually pushing for a well crafted piece of legislation.  Then it was severely compromised by Congress, first by Republicans who are malignant narcissists and then by Democrats who repeatedly sold out their constituents in a desperate attempt to prop up a guy who was not ready to be president.  Why the push to ram this extremely flawed piece of legislation through so quickly?  Why was it more important to save Obama’s ass than to ask him to do a good job?  Why aren’t enough liberals asking those questions?

Don’t insult us, Paul, especially those of us who are die-hard liberals who find the right wing utterly repugnant.  It’s not going to make Obamacare better and won’t help the party.  It reminds me of the days when anyone who saw through Obama in 2008 was called a racist.  It’s not fair and it’s beneath you.

I wouldn’t count on complacency

Krugman wrote a post on The Political Economy of Permanent Stagnation pointing out that the economy just plods along with high unemployment and sluggishness and people are just getting used to it:

But won’t there be an ever-growing demand from the public for action? Actually, that’s not at all clear. While there is growing “austerity fatigue” in Europe, and this might provoke a crisis, the overwhelming result from U.S. political studies is that the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election. In other words, high unemployment could become accepted as the new normal, politically as well as in economic analysis.

I guess what I’m saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.

Given that I am sort of *living* the rude awakening from the American Dream and see many people in similar distressing circumstances, I can tell Krugman that there is definitely not complacency out here.  There’s anger, bitterness and resentment.  The resentment is not because we want to be rich or have two or three nice Lexus SUVs and a Pied a Terre in Lower Manhattan.  It’s that some of us can’t afford rent on a small row house in a 70 year old affordable housing development and pay for a health insurance policy on an exchange.

The administration should not get complacent and assume that the great unwashed masses out here have no idea what a raw deal they’re getting with Obamacare.  I am quite surprised at the number of people making a lousy $11/hour at their less than full time jobs who know better than some bloggers exactly how much they’re going to have to pay in taxes and penalties if they can’t afford a policy. I’ve met young healthy guys who can’t afford a doctor and physical therapist to treat their possibly dislocated, inflamed shoulders that they use every day to dig trenches.  They know exactly how the bonus class is screwing them.

All they need is a charismatic, take-no-prisoners, energetic politician to speak for them and there will be plenty of change.  That’s why the moneyed elite will fight back tooth and nail and smear any such politician who challenges it.  That’s why we have Obama.

They’re going to try to run a woman next time.  The Republican campaign against modernity will make her extremely attractive.  I don’t think it will be Hillary for the same reason that Krugman feels that stagnation is something we have gotten used to.  Hillary’s best chance was 2008. Her policy wonkiness, knowledge of the executive branch and vision would have been well suited to tackling the financial collapse and turning back the worst of the Bush policies.  That’s why she didn’t get the nomination in 2008.  The moneyed class didn’t want experience, knowledge and competency.

By the time 2016 rolls around, Republican policies will be more firmly set and it’s going to take someone who is bold enough to shake the foundations to really make a difference and roll back 16 years of stingy conservatism and bad financial and business decisions.  Can she do it?  Sure she could.  But the forces who kept her out in 2008 will either make her kiss their rings, in which case, she’d be useless to us, or they’re going to try to take her out again.  If the establishment Democratic party starts pushing her as their nominee genuinely, I’d have to question how much she’s been co-opted.  She’d almost have to run against her own party.  I haven’t seen that yet and given what a loyal Dem she is, don’t expect to.

Anyway, my point is that there’s plenty of discontent.  The people in charge might want to seriously consider what they’re doing.  The people I’ve been talking to are majorly pissed off right now at their prospects and we’re talking about manual labor all the way to the most educated among us.  A whole swath of Americans of all socio-economic levels are just waiting for a sign.  At this point, I don’t know if it’s going to come from the right or the left but when it happens, it’s going to be big.

One other thing: The bonus class shouldn’t sit on its laurels after the Voting Rights Act was gutted last week.  The discontent has spread so wide now that it is no longer confined to the generational poor and minority voters.

O-care

Paul Krugman’s latest column is about the mess of our national health care system.  He makes a good point about how social insurance programs make us freer people, allowing us to change jobs and start new enterprises without the fear of economic catastrophe.  But I’m not sure the so-called “jahb creators” care about economic catastrophes that happen to ordinary people.  To them, the only thing that counts is success.

I’ve got to admire Paul’s sunny optimism about Obamacare but, frankly, I think it’s a pretty fricking bad piece of legislation that didn’t rein in health care costs, locked us into a decidedly UN-free marketplace  with zero competition, and was only achieved by throwing women’s right to an abortion under a bus.  So, you know, there’s that.  I don’t particularly like Obama’s method of getting universal healthcare.

It beats me why he didn’t take his own state of Hawaii as a model for healthcare where employers can choose from several tiers of coverage for their employees, from basic coverage to more swank.  Oh, wait, that sounds more like what Hillary proposed during the 90s.  You know, the system that everyone whined was too complicated?

At this point, I would take even a basic plan.  My COBRA coverage runs out at the end of this month. I can’t complain about my insurance provider, except for the outrageous premium, even with group rates.  The coverage was superb. That’s what my French company negotiated for us. But getting insurance on the open market is fairly terrifying.  I will be looking into CHIP programs for the kid.  It’s going to be an adventure.  Spending hours and days trying to justify my need after the decades I spent as a hard-working taxpayer is not how I want to spend my time.

Nothing new under the sun

From Bring Up The Bodies, the second book about the life of Thomas Cromwell by author Hillary Mantel:

“In March [1536], Parliament knocks back his [Thomas Cromwell’s] new poor law.  It was too much for the Commons to digest that rich men might have some duty to the poor. If you get fat, as some men do who profit from the wool trade, you have some responsibility to the men turned off their land, the laborers without labor, the sowers without a field. England needs roads, forts, harbors, bridges.  Men need work.  It’s a shame seeing them begging their bread, when honest labor could keep the realm secure.  Can we not put them together, the hands and the tasks?

But Parliament cannot see how it is the State’s job to create work.  Are not these matters in God’s hands, and is not poverty and dereliction part of his eternal order?  To everything there is a season- a time to starve and a time to thieve.  If rain falls six months solid and rots the grain in the fields, there must be Providence in it.  God knows his trade. It is an outrage to the rich and enterprising to suggest that they should pay an income tax only to put bread in the mouths of the work shy. And if Secretary Cromwell argues that famine provokes criminality, well, are there not hangmen enough?

The King himself comes to the Commons to argue for the law.  He wants to be Henry the Beloved, a father to his people, a shepherd to his flock. But the Commons sit stoney faced on their benches and stare him out. The wreckage of the measure is comprehensive. “It is ended up as an Act for the Whipping of Beggars”, Richard Rich says.  “It is more against the poor than for them.”

And with the newest proposal by Republican Representative Steve Pearce to test the pee of the unemployed for illegal drugs, the whipping of beggars never goes out of style.

Paul Krugman argues that there is some kind of psychological need to impose austerity, a moral imperative of sorts.  More likely, the wealthy have found a convenient way to convince politicians to project the blame for spilling the milk onto the table itself.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  This is the way of the powerful.  They do not want to worry about the lives of others.  That’s what makes power so appealing.  So, knowing that, our problem is not how we convince the powerful to think beneficently and empathetically towards other people.  Power makes them immune from such supplications.  Our problem is to convince ordinary people that there is power in sheer numbers.  The media has been very good at promoting learned helplessness.  That’s where they excel.  What we need is a movement that counteracts that message.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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