Running for the Republicans

So yesterday I posited the idea of running for the Democrats as a non-Democrat, and not in the Bernie Sanders kind of why.  I can’t say I’d do the same for the Republicans, at least not at this time.  The first reason is that the Democratic party has, at least locally, accepted the notion that they are a party in disarray.  They know this.  Second, I can get behind a lot of their social programs without accepting their economic ones.  The Republican party?  Yeah, not so much, and it might be because I came from them originally.  I’ve found I disagree with many of their social stances, and I’m opposed to their attempts to push the Christian religion as the basis for our government and policy decisions.  On paper, I agree with many of their stated goals, at least as far as limited government and fiscal spending go, but in reality I have found that they have no desire to actually abide by those ideals.  It’s not a sales thing, or a presentation of the platform, it’s that in many ways, they are actively working against their stated principles.  To me that’s a longer row to hoe.  I also think that, as a party, they are still unaware of just how broken they are – Even as they laud their victories in the last election, they fail to see that many of those victories were on the back of Trump’s platform, which ironically, was similar to President Obama’s.  Change.  The people aren’t happy with the status quo and they’re looking for options.

I don’t think politics will ever change, but it could be an interesting political landscape in the next few years.

What are we fighting for?

Editor’s Note:  I wrote this back about 3 months or so, ago.  I was going to add a paragraph or two about my Dad, which I might do as an extended piece, but I thought I would get it posted now, as it has spent far too much time on my “To Do” list.

 

 

As the debate about health care continues, with President Trump and many of his supporters leading the way to repeal the ACA despite the lack of a real plan of action to replace or repair what is left, I find myself considering what it is we hope to accomplish with our country, our government.  What do we consider important at the national level, as a nation?  To what use do we put that blunt instrument that is our federal government?  That our government has grown large and unwieldy, straining under its own massive weight is no surprise to us.  We know it is fat, and growing larger.  We know that is too large, too heavy to support.  The Fed has grown in size and weight, but accomplishes less and less despite its increase in size and resources.  Both corporations and private citizens have attached themselves to that bloated mass, feeding off its excess like a tick to a mangy dog.  And those very fat, very happy ticks, they don’t want anything to change with their host.  No, even if the overall health and state of the union should falter, do not change anything lest their meal ticket become endangered.

This piece isn’t an analysis of the government, however.  It isn’t here to discuss the wasted resources and corporate whore mongering that goes on in our nation’s capital.  This essay is here to ask a basic question of ourselves.  What is it do we want our government to do for us?  What freedom and pursuit of happiness are we defending with our military?  What justice do we purport to provide to those of our nation that are too broke to pursue our self-evident truths?  In a nation as rich as ours, in a land as large as ours, truly our government should be responsible for very few things at the Federal level.  It is rarely the best tool for the job.  Help keep the common law consistent.  Help keep our perspective on infrastructure.  Facilitate communication among the States and their people as a whole, these things a Federal Government can do.  I would suggest to you that central to all of these things is the People.  Whatsoever our government does, it should be in the most benefit to her people, to the support of the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness.  But what good is life, if we cannot enjoy it?  What good is liberty, if we cannot live it.  How can we have happiness if we are not healthy enough to pursue it?  People are the life’s blood of this country, the means be which everything is accomplished.  If our People are not healthy, how can our nation succeed?  We can educate ourselves, feed ourselves, defend ourselves- but only if we are healthy enough to do so.  In the past, collectively we have agreed that things like education, warfare, defense and trade are things we should spend our wealth on.  They are things that we considered integral to our nation, enough so to put into the Federal Government’s hands.  Why then, do we not consider our health such an asset, one worthy of our collective effort?  What else is worth fighting for if we don’t have our health?

 

A take on the healthcare plan

Economix had a fun tear down of the current plan put forth by the President and the GOP to replace the current ACA.  The author’s politics run counter to Trump’s and the far right, but he does a pretty good job of keeping it real from an economic standpoint.  He also points out that one of the big issues of repealing the ACA is how much of it was based on Republican ideas.  If you’re protesting your own ideas, your alternative options tend be even more limited and extreme.

One of the things he briefly touches on, but doesn’t really address, is that success is sometimes measured by how we failed less than previously.  Specifically I am speaking about the rise of costs and premiums, which continued to rise at rapid rates during the ACA, with many traditionally conservative states seeing the largest increases.  The success is that some of the increases were less than the increases seeing prior to the ACA.  That kind of measuring for success works in the short term, but if you’re measuring against a flood, either do something different or build a boat…
Another thing the author glosses over is the use of subsidies.  Although he points out that the Feds will subsidize the premium for the States, which he uses as an argument for why some states should have adopted the ACA, he ignores their premise for why they might have rejected it in the first place – It doesn’t matter whether the Federal government or the State government subsidizes the premium, it’s still a redistribution of wealth.  If you’re opposing the ACA, or any similar plan, because of your opposition to Taxation, any argument involving subsidies is going to fall flat.

Take the analysis for what it is, a visual breakdown of the shortcomings of the current and proposed plans, as well as a bit of insight as to why things might not be working as they could.  It’s a fun read and he lists his references, so if you disagree with a particular point, you can at least see what he based his argument on.

No Longer Economically Viable

There was this Michael Douglas movie back in the early 90’s- Falling Down, where an out of work defense worker spirals downward after he is let go by his company.  In their words, his skill set and position were no longer economically viable for the company to continue employing him.  In the 20 years since that film was made, in one variation or another, this has become an increasingly heard line.  Computers, AI, automation, efficiency, downsizing, up sizing, globalization – whatever the term, the reality for many is that their job is longer there, and probably won’t be in any human form as this trend continues.  As we continue to innovate and upgrade our technological capabilities, we have been able to downgrade our workforce.  We can do more with less, a lot less, and in many cases, those less no longer have to be human.  What happens when even many of our skilled trades no longer need to be staffed by a human agent?  What happens to our workforce, our population, our economy?  Corporations don’t have to pay robots and networks, and the increase in profits that they realize from the improved efficiency and lower labor costs will eventually be overtaken by the reality that their customer base is no longer employed.  Sure, as science, technology and society progress, there will be new vocations, new disciplines that will employ some people, but that come close to employing our growing population?  I don’t think so.  I think we will need to answer these questions, and sooner rather than later.  At a time when the United States cannot even bring itself to admit that their government and economy are anything but pure democracy and capitalism will now need to answer questions that make such things passe’ in comparison.  I am still young enough that, one way or another, I may live to see the answer to the question as completely relevant…

Accidental Success

I think this current administration may end up one of the more successful ones in history. Not because of great leadership, Trump is a lousy leader. And not because of his deft skills, I think he’s proving rather unqualified, so far.

No, it’s going to be great by accident, as a by product of him being himself. I may be wrong, President Trump has shown a penchant for learning on the job- right before he goes and shoots himself in the foot, but I digress.

One of the reasons I say this is President Trump’s relationship with the media, or lack there of. He has managed to insult and alienate most legitimate news sources, angering them and forcing them on the defensive. The media has enjoyed a fairly easy relationship with most recent presidents. They were courted, treated nicely. Trump has provided a rather rude awakening for them, and this is a very good thing. Surrounded by plenty of web sites willing to print false news to either benefit or disparage the current president and gain those oh so precious page views, the Press is now forced to go on the offensive, rooting out every story and making sure they have the facts right the first time. President Trump is under the magnifying lens of a group that hasn’t had to work very hard in generations – but they still remember how to do their jobs.

Why History?

Dave posted recently on one of the purposes of history.  Or rather, he pondered a little bit on the purposes and then went on to use history as a means of illustrating some observations he was making.  He looked at history, made note of some useful contexts related to what he was thinking about, and then used those historical points to explain himself.   I thought that worked out pretty well.  History is a great tool for understanding many things, it provides much needed context.  In today’s world, where context is ignored or manipulated in so many things, I have a very hard time of coming up with something more valuable than that.

When I was younger, around 9 or 10, history reinforced in me skepticism and mistrust of what I was taught.  Although I would not realize it for for another 15 or 20 years, I had a huge trust issue with anything resembling authority.  Not like James Dean, or your typical teenager, but more along the embodiment of, “Trust, but verify.”  Facts at face value were only the starting point, they had to be checked.  Context and subtext had to be explored, reasoning followed, motivations understood.  History was my lens, and my mechanism, for all of my social interactions with people.  Suffice to say, when I learned that Columbus did not actually discover America, as we had been taught since I was a wee lad of five, it was enough to send me into a fit of righteous indignation.  I laugh about it now, but I remember with a great deal of clarity, the feelings of anger and betrayal at realizing the teachers that I trusted would lie to me like that, especially since I could see no reason for doing so.  At that age I lacked perspective and the ability to distinguish subtleties, but still-  trust, but verify.

The New Economy by Emma Lazarus

Yesterday I got to thinking about the influence of a bad mustache on modern foreign policy.  The effect is dramatic, I think.  Today, I want to offer up an alternative to a good mustache gone bad.  It’s time for a little competition and some good marketing.

Emma Lazarus wrote a poem containing this very famous line,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Of course, many people know that this sits at the base of the Statue of Liberty as she greets all those who wish to enter our country via Ellis Island.  The United States has long been a country populated by those who, for various and storied reasons, left their former country of origin behind.  This land was, and still is, a nation of resources that these people tapped into to create a life, a country and a destination…

A destination you say?  Why yes, yes I did say.  Now stop interrupting me.  We call it the American Dream.  The idea that anyone can move to the United States and make of themselves what they will was, and is, a powerful aphrodisiac to all those people in other countries that were not satisfied with their lot.  More importantly, it was our single greatest marketing fete of the last three centuries.  Offer a person the hope of a better future, or, in some cases, a future at all, and they will suffer much to make that future come true.  More importantly, they’ll move…

A nation’s greatest resource is its people, for they are the ones that create new ways to utilize and exploit all other resources.  Take away a nation’s people and you have effectively crippled them, and made yourself stronger in the process.  Along the way, many nations, including ours, have forgotten this truth and the reasons for why we should be competing like no other for such a valuable resource.  This is where our marketing engine and our policies should combine to combat the likes of countries like Syria, China, Korea, etc.  Don’t like the oppressive policies of your homeland?  Tired of facing war, famine, torture, murder and worse at the hands of your government and fellow citizens?  Well, we have a deal for you.  We have schools, universities, health care and jobs that need people who want to work.  Commit to an education and a career and we can use somebody like you.  Need help leaving your country?  No problem, we can put you in touch with several organizations that can assist you in your travels to your new country.  And if you accidentally happen to pack some important information about your government in your sock, which is in your shoe, that is hidden in an uncomfortable and anatomically unlikely location?  No problem, we know just the people to had that off to.  Welcome to America!

 

*These ideas, and my expression of them, are a work in progress.  I have communicated, albeit poorly, the general idea of what I mean.  Now I need to work on fleshing it out.

 

Temujin Teaches 21st Century Diplomacy

A long time ago, on a continent some drive from here, there lived a guy with a bad mustache and a great mind for international relations.  He also had some fairly forward thinking ideas on resource management.  One of his better ones, to his mind, was the idea that since he needed more space to walk his horses, and the world had more land than it knew what to do with, so why not go out and make it part of his kingdom?  Now, the Americans wouldn’t go on to coin the term Manifest Destiny for hundreds of years, so you can see how ahead of his time this Temujin was. Downright brilliant, he’d say.

Now, as you can imagine, there were some other guys around, several of them with equally bad mustaches, who didn’t think too much of his genius and decided that resistance to annexation was a good idea.  After all, these guys had horses and dogs to walk, too.

You can see what a challenge this was to Temujin.  He was, after all, just a guy trying to live the dream, one small country at a time and all that.  The times being what they were, though, he decided for an enlightened approach.  So he sent out a messenger to tell the other men with bad mustaches that it would be best if they surrender.  For the good of the children, you see.  Naturally, they didn’t quite see it his way and politely refused.  The messenger, having delivered his message of peace, kindly returned to his lord, in pieces.  One could even say he was beside himself.  I guess he was no relation of Kissenger’s.

Naturally, Temujin viewed this act as a bit of downer.  Turns out the messenger was his 3rd wife’s nephew on her brother’s side, or so I’m told.  Very sad.  The challenge, as his Khanliness surmised, wasn’t the issue of how to respond to this action, but how to prevent this response in the future.  As I said, the world was full of land that it didn’t need and Temujin foresaw this becoming a regular issue as time, and his forces, marched on.  As I said before, a great mind.

So he leveled the city and killed everything related to it– Every man, woman, child and animal.  He then told all other men with mustaches that he would do the same to them and their cities should they refuse his generous offer of subjugation.  It seems the Khan did not believe in collective bargaining…and thus he became the first union buster, as well.  Very forward thinking.

Fast forward a little while and you can see how the Khan’s philosophy has shaped foreign relations today.  Every act demands a greater act of retaliation.  An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, but an eye for a whole man’s family and maybe he’ll think twice before going after the other eye.  It just makes sense, doesn’t it?  I’m sure you can see how this has worked out, especially given several examples from American history of the past 30 years or so.  Reagan and Libya, Bush and Iraq, Bush 2 w/ Afghanistan and Iraq, and now… Obama and Syria.

Tomorrow I want to expand on an alternative method.  I’m sure you’ll see that it isn’t an officially recognized method of diplomacy as taught by the Genghis Khan School for Diplomacy and So Can You!, but I think it might have a bit of merit.

 

Letting the past go

When I was a teenager it was a common practice to assume that nobody ever changed.  What I mean by this is, if somebody had stated an opinion on something a year ago, it was common knowledge that they still felt that way today.  Growth, evolution of thought and philosophy was not a big part of our world then.  I find that interesting because the crowd I ran with contained some very bright people.  Very flawed, each fighting our own demons, but bloody bright.

As time marched on, I personally was forced to move beyond my past.  I had to learn to let go of anger, of the depression that had gripped me since I was a kid.  In order to find some semblance of life, I had to change a lot of who I was on the inside.  Part of that change led me to an acceptance of change in others, to an understanding that they didn’t have to hold to the same beliefs for years or decades.  Mistakes are made, lessons are learned and people can grab on to new ideas and let go of those that are holding them back.  This concept in action didn’t really stand out to me, it was just a reflection of my own internal struggles to accept who I was.  I counted it as a normal part of life; a benefit of maturity, perhaps.  I think I was wrong…

For much of my life, I have observed that my country is deeply obsessed with the past.  You see that in politics, film, literature, the press and people themselves.  Terms such as “Golden Age”, “Gilded Age”, “Classic”, “Retro”,”Timeless” and “Back in the day” all refer to events far removed from the present.  But even more, they are substantive terms, words with weight to them, as if, somehow, what they represent should in some way be more valuable and significant than recent events.

Our politics demands that we review every spoken word and action of our representatives, yea even unto birth.  Should we find discrepancies that indicate change from a decade or two ago, their entire works are often challenged.  A flexible, intelligent mind is portrayed as weak and unable to hold conviction.  Our current authors are constantly held to a higher standard set forth by those long dead.  Great literary works cast a palpable shadow of today’s author, rendering them less than their talents deserve, especially if they have achieved commercial success.  Many of our actors face type cast roles, forever defined by their first crowning achievement.  More so, they find themselves unable to comment on serious public matters without facing considerable backlash from the public- ironic considering they often act as the face of American gravitas,  highlighting in their works that which is important to us internally.

Our nation is a nation of rebels, dissidents and failures- and of opportunists.  We came to a new country, forsake all that we knew, in order to reinvent ourselves and lift ourselves beyond our pasts.  We achieved that, as a people and as a nation, by freeing ourselves from our pasts, of learning from history, letting it guide us as we made decisions, but we refused to let our history define our future.  My how times have changed….