Friday, May 22, 2020

Covid Shows Flaws In Our Trade Policy

WTO sees "ugly" trade plunge worse than in financial crisisThe advent of the horrific Covid nightmare clearly illustrates major flaws in our dependence on foreign nations for critical needs in our society that relate to our health and very person survival.  There are clearly innumerable products that need to be available and made domestically to assure immediate supply in order to both save and preserve life.  Certainly these include products used in healthcare such as  life saving equipment, medications and tools/materials used by hospitals and medical care givers, likewise, products and foods vital to maintaining health and life.  This list likely includes all kinds of products used in industrial accidents and natural disaster that cannot wait for overseas production or shipment. 

I'm not nearly smart or informed enough to provide a comprehensive list of these; such a list needs to be created by a national commission staffed with people from numerous professional fields and disciplines.  I do not need to recount the life saving items in short supply at the advent and still today through the course of this awful pandemic. They are obvious.

We do have by law certain items maintained in strategic national reserves such as petroleum related products, certain critical metal products such as uranium, food products such as wheat, rice and corn, weapons and armaments related to national defense as well as medical supplies and pharmaceutical products.

But our stockpile list needs to be modified to include maintaining ongoing domestic production of items absolutely necessary to address events such as national disasters and pandemics to assure rapid availability of production to address needs during crises and replenishment of a revamped list of stockpile inventories.

We might even take a page out of the Russian book and seriously look at their policies of stockpiling vital food items in the event of famine crises we might never anticipate. 

This would mean modifying our trade policies requiring companies undertaking offshore production of goods vital to preservation of life in the USA to simultaneously produce a given portion of those foods in domestic location as a condition of their license to operate in the USA. 

Clearly we do not need to face dependence on vital life preserving products from nations either unable to supply those goods or hostile to our need for them in a crisis environment.

Let's make rethinking both our trade and stockpile a top priority for the next Administration.  And let us build in safeguards on maintaining well thought out stockpile minimums to avoid the whims of partisan
budget hawks as we experienced with Tea Party Republicans during President Obama's administration which is now causing massive loss of life and jeopardized health with their failure to heed stockpile replenishment requests from the Obama administration and incompetence from the current catastrophe called the Trump administration.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Trumpites Studied: Aggressive Authoritarians

A recently republished study on the characteristics of Trump supporters/voters by K. Norman Smith and Eric Hanley of Kansas University provided a very clear understanding of the type of persons finding Donald Trump's leadership appealing.  They and other sociologists identify these people as Aggressive Authoritarians.  Their study contrasts them from other more benign authoritarian personalities classified by psychologists.

Below is an Abstract of their study.

No Access
Recently released data from the 2016 American National Election Study allow us to offer a multifaceted profile of white voters who voted for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election. We find that Trump’s supporters voted for him mainly because they share his prejudices, not because they’re financially stressed. It’s true, as exit polls showed, that voters without four-year college degrees were likelier than average to support Trump. But millions of these voters—who are often stereotyped as “the white working class”—opposed Trump because they oppose his prejudices. These prejudices, meanwhile, have a definite structure, which we argue should be called authoritarian: negatively, they target minorities and women; and positively, they favor domineering and intolerant leaders who are uninhibited about their biases. Multivariate logistic regression shows that, once we take these biases into account, demographic factors (age, education, etc.) lose their explanatory power. The electorate, in short, is deeply divided. Nearly 75% of Trump supporters count themselves among his enthusiastic supporters, and even “mild” Trump voters are much closer in their attitudes to Trump’s enthusiasts than they are to non-Trump voters. Polarization is profound, and may be growing.

Smith's and Hanley's work is supported by numerous other studies on this very topic from around academia across the globe.  This includes studies from U.of Manitoba, U. of Aukland, U. of Southern Denmark, U. of Akron, Harvard, Cambridge, U. of Chicago, Stanford, Princeton and Oxford.  It is also supported by studies published by Gallup and the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 

Think about this in your own experience among your Trump supporting family and friends.  Seems to speak truth to me.  Those same characteristics  are exhibited by  those I know and now do my best to avoid.  Why do I shun them?  Because their views are toxic to me and the values I try to espouse.  Life is difficult enough without  this poison.  These people are antithetical to everything I think our very flawed society and democracy is attempting to advance for humanity.  The European academics who have studied these types of people initiated their work to try to understand how much of Europe embraced fascism.  Their work is an attempt to avoid repeating these same mistakes. 

Authoritarian figures are not foreign to American society as seen in our history.  These are not your bread a butter kinds of conservatives we liberals once were able to make common cause with to solve societal problems.  They are brutal, cruel and unforgiving of opposition.  We are seeing it now in their refusal to follow difficult but reasonable social norms to spare others of Covid 19 infection and possible death.  They advocate the value of the economy over human life.  Economies can be restored.  Life cannot.

So, I choose to both resist the policies now being advanced by both D.J. Trump and the Republican Party. He has shaped it into a White Nationalist party. I'll remove these people from my life, wary of the harm they wish to visit on my society, country and me. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Wishing A Field Of Bluebonnets For All Of You

Each year of all my years in Texas when the Bluebonnets bloomed in the spring, I had the urge to go and lay down in that field, feel their beauty and gaze in to the blue sky overhead.  A couple of times, riding my bike in the country, I did exactly that.  The feeling then and the memory now is exhilarating. That is how I feel too about all the people over my 83 years who have touched my very good and happy life. 

So far, in the Corona crisis we are all experiencing, I am well.  In fact, with a new workout regime, feeling better than I've felt in years.  But, with the uncertainty of this, maybe the most difficult time each of us have ever faced, I wanted to share my appreciation of each and every one of you .

Facebook and personal friends alike, many being in both categories, I want to thank you for being in my life.  And I wish for each of you a future healthy life.

Whether you have been among those who shared with me a close personal friendship, shared with me my journey through school, college and the military, or in friendship through my 46 years of my first love. I'm grateful for you.

If we labored together through a journey through and out of the Catholic church, thank you for being there for me.  If we parented together in our early years of marriage, I so appreciate you.   If our relationship was around social activism and political reform, being in the trenches with you was so gratifying, through success and failure.  We dealt together with uncertainty then as we do now and reinforced one another.

If our relationship was around career and professional and business pursuits, you provided such amazing inspiration to me.  If we engaged together in our neighborhood and community, thank you for being there for me.

Should we have connected a result of my new life with the second great love of my life in the past 13 years of personal and geographic adventure, you'll never know how much support and enrichment I've gained from our being together.

Each of you have provided me love, affection, respect, sometimes harsh truth and the certainty that I have not been alone in this journey.  I hope I have been able to give back to you in the same way you were so generous in your support for me.

Wishing each and all of you a fruitful and satisfying journey. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Repubicans Have Abandoned Democracy Part V

The earliest expression of the concept of the free press conveyed  in pre-America were the pamphleteers, so well represented by Thomas Paine.  The concept was codified in the Constitution as a key component of a functioning democracy.

Our free press, with all its flaws, misuses, and inaccuracies has saved our democracy over the generations on countless occasions. Truth and facts are durable and  more often than not survive numerous attempts at subverting them in our history.

The current era of Trump lies, distortions and suppression of truth and facts in favor of his fiction is, in my view, the most threatening assault on our free press.  Sadly, early coverage of his fascist rallies in the name of opaque journalism laid the groundwork for his abuse of a free press.  Remember those scenes at his rallies where he ridiculed the press present to cover his events, causing his audiences to erupt in mindless jeering and threatening behaviors toward those journalists?  Remember his calling their work "fake news?"

This was only the beginning of his assault on free speech.   As his campaign ensued he banned some journalists and outlets from his campaign coverage because they had the temerity to be critical of him, or worse, report the truth of what he and his admirers were saying or doing.  The latter press work became the object of his wrath as soon as he was elected.

His spin-meisters populating his press staff immediately began promulgating outright untruths on such matters as the size of his inauguration crowds.  Photographic evidence of their small size were rejected at fake news.  Press spokespersons began a turnover in personnel unprecedented in Presidential history because of their being called out by our free press as liars and fabricators.

Little opinion media is needed in the Trump era as all the media has to report is Trump's own words, more often than not expressed in over 15,000 statements in a little over three years fact checked as outright untruths.  He is largely doing the media's work for them as a result of his compulsive need for public attention.  Tragically, his untruths as related to the current pandemic crisis is creating more than distrust and consternation; it is resulting in putting people in danger of losing their lives.  His lies are documented as having caused at least one death due to improper use of a medication recklessly  mischaracterized by Trump in a public statement.  Countless Lupus patients have been denied this life saving mediction as a result of shortages of this same medicine caused by his statement.

The suppression of factual and truthful reporting soon resulted in the abandonment of White House press briefings as a routine.  This too is unprecedented.

His early pronouncements about creating a "state media," a technique used for generations by dictators and authoritarian rulers around the globe are truly bone chilling. Trump is also on record threatening licenses of broadcast outlets airing statements critical of him.   This is a complete outrage.

The fact is that our free press has provided invaluable insight into his criminal background, abuse of power and use of government action to enrich his family. It is the only source of factual information on what he is doing to our democracy.  This has been an unequaled period of frank disclosure about public crimes committed by Trump and his allies dedicated to dismantling both our government and our democracy to enrich the already rich.

Up to this very moment, Trump has turned press briefings of the Corona Virus pandemic into campaign events led by Trump expounding on untruths regarding the extent of the crisis and infection rates,  untruths about testing regimes, untruths about vaccine initiatives and untruths about the incompetent Federal response to getting this pandemic under control.

So, thank you New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, McClatchy News Services, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC as well as, yes, some in the news division of Fox News for shining your light on the most anti-democracy President in our history.  Thank you, the investigative reporters at work out there risking your careers in bringing the truth to an often ungrateful America.  Some of you too have given your lives in delivering the truth and we as a nation owe you our support and to the degree possible, protection.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Republicans Have Abandoned Democracy Part IV

One of the hallmarks of Republicanism in the modern era is their persistent and pervasive effort to suppress the voting rights of minorities, soon to be a majority of citizens.  This endeavor is sometimes bluntly concealed in an insistence that it really just to suppress the "Democrat" vote, thinking this somehow absolves them of the crime of voter interference of persons of color, though blatantly admitting to the suppression part.  They also masquerade these practices as measures to protect voting rights.  Their history is clear in opposing legislation to assure voting rights and undermining its implementation.

This takes the form of passing legislation requiring a voter ID, with the rationale of protecting against a nearly non-existent problem of imposters trying to vote in someone else's name.  The result is denying very poor, or mobility challenged or remotely rural voters from both access to these ID's and their right to vote.  This initiative started about 20 years ago at the state level and is rampant in denying millions their voting rights.

Another technique is to purge voter rolls, as if they want to clear the voter rolls of ineligible voters who have long since moved out of the jurisdiction or passed on.  It is true, many voters fail to inform their voting departments of a move or family death.  But there is ample evidence that such database updating seems to be focused on minority neighborhoods or persons with Hispanic names.  The net result is voters showing up to vote to find their names removed from the rolls and their vote denied, excepting perhaps a provisional ballot only counted in a very close election.

Other measures to suppress votes is to move or remove polling sites in heavily populated minority neighborhoods.  This has been observed in 2018 and 2019 elections.  This is routinely practiced in Republican dominated voting jurisdictions.  A further iteration of this is to limit the number of voting booths/machines at these same minority polling places, causing long waits for people often with hourly wage employment and very limited time to depart work to cast a vote.

These same voters are often denied extended voting time frames such as so called early voting available in more voter encouraging jurisdictions.  And restricted absentee voting rules and regulations designed to limit rather than encourage voting by elderly and disabled voters.

Likewise, vote discouraging Republicans practice limiting voter registration opportunities to more affluent neighborhoods and vigorously oppose legislation to simplify registration with such opportunities as same day registration and automatic voter registration when the qualifying age is reached.  Similarly, even motor voter registration created under a Democratic President is deliberately sabotaged with complex bureaucracy and deliberately inconveniencing license appliers with long lines or onerous documentation requirements as well as conveniently losing or failing to process applications is commonly practiced.

Further, there is ample evidence of non-government interference with minority voting.  I have seen with my own eyes vote suppression flyer sheets circulated in minority neighborhoods giving the wrong dates for election day.  Harassment of voters waiting in line.  Intimidation of voters at polling sites.  These techniques are particularly rampant in areas of strong Tea Party organization.  Yes, the Tea Party is an adjunct to the Republican party and strongly encouraged.

These common practices of  voter suppression are systematic with both Republican voting policy makers, Republican election officials and those leading their local party organizations.  It is decidedly un-American and even worse, undemocratic.  Republicans, you own this behavior.

This is systematic and deliberate undermining the rights of others also entitled to the privilege you asshole Republicans think you and you alone are granted by your brilliance and success.  I reject you who call yourselves Republicans.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Republicans Have Abandoned Democracy Part III

Republicans have abandoned a key element found in our amazing Constitution.....the separation of powers..  They have been at this change since the debates found in the Federalist papers posited by those who leaned toward continuing the role of a King as the ultimate authority in government.  Authoritarian dictators grasp all of the governing powers, Executive, Judicial and Legislative.

The Federalist Society has for decades argued for a change in our governance they call a Unitary Executive, giving the Executive branch authority over both our judiciary and legislative branches.  You've heard the argument; the President is above the law.  It was frequently argued during the Nixon administration.  It is even more prevalent today with Attorney General Barr being its most vocal proponent.

The concept of three coequal government branches is unique to the USA and is largely credited with our success or at least continuation as a functioning democratic republic.  Yet even Republicans in the majority of our Legislative bodies have, since the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader McConnell supported their Republican Executive's power grab by diminishing their own legislative initiatives in favor of inaction while also supporting the nomination of extremist conservative jurists in judicial appointments. Bipartisanship as a working norm has virtually disappeared in favor of the activist comportment of the Executive and inactivist comportment of your legislators and unjust judicial rulings in support of this abuse of our Constitution by extremist jurists.

So you say, so what?  It doesn't effect my life or family.  Oh, yes it does.  As a result of Republican led legislative gridlock, legislation impacting your protections from an abusive employer, protections from abuses by companies providing you vital services such as safe food, drugs, health services, banking, investment services and fair prices have significantly eroded since the 1960's .   Free public education has been steadily de-funded by both federal and state governing administrations.  But it is important to note that the separation of powers under our system have carefully guarded the separation of duties of our States from federal intrusion.  Public education and the administration of elections and the taxation by our local jurisdictions are prime examples of that separation advocated by both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives.  It is only when the rights of minorities are impeded unfairly by states that federal law can intervene or augment funding to protect the rights of all citizens.

Civil and voting rights have been neglected over several decades of Republican administrations due to the absence of legislative action and funding.  Even your very public protections from violence such as mass shootings are the result of stonewalling legislative action and failure to live up to legislators oaths to protect you and your family.

Republicans, aided by Trumpites have recently grossly violated the rights of local municipalities by both cutting funding to them and injecting federal immigration authorities in to the removal of undocumented immigrants in those local jurisdictions who  have chosen to offer humane protections to them, in the absence of a coherent federal policy on immigration.  This is happening in your neighborhood right now.

So, those of you who say "Fuck politics, I'm ignoring it," are simply committing malfeasance of your own responsibilities as a citizen and provider for your family and permitting a fascist, authoritarian President Trump and his legislator toadies to screw you and yours.  

Republicans have abandoned both the concept of co-equal and separate governing branches solely to advance their own power, not our rights as citizens protected by our Constitution. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Republicans Have Abandoned Democracy Part II

Our system as a democratic republic has been deeply dismantled by the Republican Party and President Donald Trump.  Those of you who claim allegiance to this Party as a voter clearly have no concept of the damage your leaders have done.  All you care about is your tax rate.  You have not raised your voice in objection to the abandonment of the rule of law and practice of norms required to maintain a democracy.  Here’s what you have endorsed and now personally own.

You have abandoned the norm of bipartisanship in governance.  You have enabled the idea of “to the victor go the spoils” rather than humbly and practically enabling the functioning of a Loyal Opposition to share in power and legislation. America, get this truth.....we would not have this democracy if our founders had not managed to put aside arrogance and egos and strike compromise in order to create our Constitution.  This is historic fact.  There were as many ideas about how our democratic experiment should work as there were with the many founders. 

You have accepted the idea that when you win an election majority,  you have earned the right to absolute domination of your right wing policies and the minority Party has completely lost its role in power sharing and ability to strike compromises.  Ironically, you accuse left wing advocates of authoritarian rule.  

This unprecedented Republican policy is embodied in Leader McConnell’s pronouncement at Obama’s election that his mission and that of his party was to make him a one term president.  This meant and was implemented by a policy of blocking as many of his legislative initiatives as possible.  The most egregious example was his blocking of Obama’s Supreme Court nomination hearings.  He shut the process down completely.   And Speaker Ryan began the process of trying to dismantle, rather than improve Democratic and President Obama initiatives such as the Affordable Care Act.  Endless resolutions to end it ensued for years. You and your leaders are responsible for the very gridlock you claim to abhor.

A close examination of the recent Democratic administrations of both Wm. J. Clinton and Barrack Obama reveals repeated efforts at striking bipartisan deals on legislation and inclusion of both Republicans and conservatism in their Executive Administrations as well as an openness to both Republican and conservative Judicial appointments.  Examples: Clinton’s “Third Way” budget policy and movement to smaller government; Obama’s adoption of Republican created and tested healthcare reform.  Both supported Republican and conservative jurists to bench appointments.

Why should I care about this?  It does not affect my daily life, so what? 
There is nothing in the Constitution requiring bipartisanship.  But, from the successful adoption of a protracted effort to adopt our Constitution, our founders found it necessary to compromise personal ideologies in order to successfully create our great democratic experiment.  This became a necessary norm to successfully govern a nation with many differing political beliefs and ideas.   It has proven to be necessary in order to perform even the most rudimentary tasks of governance for 250 years.  It has resulted in our democracy lasting so far 250 years. 

But bi-partisanship began eroding with the advent of the Republican Tea Party in the early 2000’s, progressing to near total gridlock under the Ryan and McConnell leaderships of both houses. 

This affects your daily life with such matters as the wages your earn guided by neglected minimum wage standards and the treatment you receive from your employer, your health insurance premium and co-pay increases or your inability to access healthcare via Medicaid,  the stability of your Social Security insurance system you pay into every payday, federal assistance to your public school district to improve your child’s education, the tuition you pay  for your child’s higher education, the many services you receive from Federal sources and the tax rate you pay.  And the security you enjoy resulting from our relationships with other nations and adversaries around the world.   These are just a few examples of the impact of the disappearance of bi-partisanship.  

Until you begin to understand the rudiments of both norms and the rule of law necessary to maintain democracy,  you will continue to lead us into the authoritarian governing model you and your ignorant leader Donald Trump have now taken us to.  You will hear more from me about your clueless (or is it intentional?) march into fascism now recognized by most social and political scholars.