Friday, October 6, 2017

Is White Resentment Fixable?

How do we reach these 60 million + Americans who have given us this Trumpian chaos?  Is this what they intended?  Democrats could not reach them with logic, rationality and facts.  This was true of both Democratic diagnostics and solutions.  Are they in fact reachable?  Teachable? Persuadable?

Some clearly want to punish those of us who gave them and America our first black president.  They will continue to want to punish because their hate trumps everything else.  They hated that Obama, no drama Obama,  who calmly and rationally gave them some stability out of economic and foreign war chaos.  They hate that he succeeded on many metrics, though metrics mean nothing to them.  This breed of Trumpian is beyond reach. They want reversal of Obama's calming, stabilizing and tolerant policies purely out of spite and resentment for the success of others. 

I don't think so but as an optimist I am open to the possibility of some event or series of events that would move some of them to embrace an alternative to chaos.  As authoritarians is is unreasonable to assume that they find this chaos acceptable to their lives, which mainly is all they care about.  Authoritarians like control, as long as it is in their hands.  Surely, even on an emotional level they see the current situation as not in their hands.  They like predictability and don't like surprises.  Every day under Trump is a shocking surprise.

They bought the wall, immigration of only people like them, trade deals where their jobs stay here, control where they feel on top of the social order hierarchy or at least not losing out to those who don't look like them.  All sold to them on a purely emotional level with the practice of marketing/advertising my fellow Democrats never have comprehended.

So it seems reasonable that alternatives can be sold to them on an emotional level if Democrats can bring themselves to engaging people emotionally as well as rationally and intellectually. We'll never make urbanites or cosmopolitans out of them.  That is a lifestyle we embrace and is as foreign to those rural and exurbans as, say, Indonesia.  Or Africa.  We are going to have to meet them on their turf there in the red hinterlands.  They are not going to leave.  Those that are not indigenous rurals are there because they or their parents escaped to the pasturelands, woods and mountains in the stampede for the exists from school and housing integration in the adjacent cities.

They embraced their local main streets and mom and pop stores until saving a few pennies at Walmart became an option previously unavailable to them.  They quickly abandoned their neighbors' businesses because they are largely not about community (except a few indigenous locals who maintain that incredibly generous tradition).  They are about the American Dream, getting rich themselves and caring less about those who didn't/couldn't compete.  Sadly, few of them got rich; maybe the local car dealer and tractor dealer, but the rest just scraped by with that factory job.

But, then, with the votes and help of their Republican congressmen, those factories  passed out the pink slips and headed to the hinterlands.  They went overseas or merged with other corporations for greater efficiency, meaning, scaling back labor.  This included moving from union to right to work states so they could pay lower wages and benefits.  Or, no benefits.  So, like many of the exurbans who headed out of the nearby city, the factories headed out of town.  Pretty much the same mentality.

Now we have boarded up small town red America.  And they want to be saved.  Can't blame them.  They didn't go beyond or many didn't finish high school, so other than the trade they learned at the factory, they are without needed skills.  So, many resorted to opioids and some fraudulent disability support.  It is ironic they or their parents accused urban/minority persons of milking the welfare system but they now find themselves replicating that option.

Joe Biden is telling us that that manufacturing plant can be reopened out there in the hinterlands.  You've got to be kidding me.  So, by some magic Motorola, if they even exist anymore, will return from Bangladesh and reopen in say Canton, Ohio and save the Trumpian Cantonites?  Not on your life. The Cantonites are going to have to take charge of their economics and through some sort of community cooperative organization create a industry or two that fulfills some unmet need elsewhere in Ohio.  And many of these people would have to sell a house that is nearly paid off for a pittance and relocate and maybe rent to retrain or work in a new plant 300 miles away?  Really? And this is going to require a lot of help from the state and likely the federal governments to help them find the unmet needs for new products and services and provide financing.  All of which defies these Resentful's strong distaste for government "interference," because this is going to take some policies, rules and regulations.  Yes, and taxes, probably on others, mainly the non-Resentfuls and 1 % ers .   Or, pay them some kind of life sustaining stipend funded by others, mostly in Blue states, an idea that Joe Biden hates because people need the dignity of work for self respect.  As if they had any in the first place.

And all of this is going to have to be sold to them on a purely emotional basis appealing to their self interest, god forbid it is offered to anyone different from them.

So, good luck with that.  But optimists can always hope.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

How Do You Explain the Silence?

Have you noticed the silence?   Many among us don't talk about the not normal America.  Polite people convey the impression that life goes on as usual, though  these are far from usual times.  They avoid the unpleasantness of discussing the mood in America set by our political leadership,  if you're willing to call Trumpism leadership.

Every day from President Trump we observe and hear insults; blatant lies, exaggerations, support for violent, racist, misogyny,  threatening language, personal and group insults.  We see shock and disdain from other world leaders. Trumpism is  dismantling hard earned government protections for rights, safety and life giving support and security that  prior generations in some cases even gave their lives to secure for us.

Yet most around us are silent.  They do not speak of this dismantling of democracy and just plain social decency.  They appear not to either see nor hear the abuse, neglect and horrific treatment of so many around them.  They act as if life goes on; as if this is just a temporary aberration to be endured before normalcy is restored somehow, by somebody.

History had taught us that this has happened before.  Chroniclers have documented in detail how fascist regimes have slipped into power in such countries as Spain, Germany and Italy.  We have highly researched documentaries as to how the quiet people, the majority, stood idly by as rights were stripped of their neighbors and then, ultimately, them.  We know that the nice people just went about their lives without acknowledging what was happening to their societies, let alone objecting or in rare cases, resisting the authoritarian take over.  They remained silent because they were nice people.  Their silence destroyed their communities, lives and families.  Their silence was complicit with evil doing, death, destruction and immense suffering.  

I have family members who just won't speak or write about the transformation taking place right in front of them.  You do  too.  We have neighbors who continue to engage us with small talk as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening to their society.  Is it too painful for them to disclose their horror at what is happening to them, their families and neighbors?   Or is it just easier to remain oblivious, to avoid speaking of the unspeakable?

Most people I regularly engage with, both personally, in meetings and on the internet are eager to share their alarm, disdain and eagerness to confront, resist, speak against and voice their outrage at this amazing fascist transformation.   These are the people I choose to be with, to support and be supported by in this most trying of times.   But most around us behave like ignoring the evolving fascist state will somehow stem its relentless tide.

Look at what has happened in less than a year.  Trumpism promised a wall that would be paid for by our neighbor we're trying to keep out.  Trumpism promised to stop immigration from people displaced, their homes and lives ruined by others committing violence against them and their communities.
American citizens were urged by Trumpites to publicly display hatred for fellow citizens and to threaten them with violence if they got out of line.  They were lied to about the source of their economic pain and anxiety, those who looked different from them and lived in cities.  They were promised non-existent jobs and told this land was their land to prosper from, because they were of the right descent. They were told the Washington swamp was going to be drained and run like a business.  Instead, it was drained of expertise and commitment to do good and sent off to lay fallow. Trumpites are systematically sabotaging anything, education, environmental  protection, public spaces, consumer protections, civil rights, criminal justice. They were told great deals were going to be made with other governments to make things better for them, the Trumpites.  Instead, those government leaders were systematically insulted, dismissed as irrelevant and turned into opponents, if not enemies.  Now we face potential war, maybe nuclear war with a hostile North Korea we fought to a stalemate 65 years ago, led by a mad man no less deranged than our own  mad man.

Those of us choosing to resist in our own way know who our opponents are; the fellow fascists Trump has allied with and who are systematically dismantling not only our government but republican democracy itself.  They are operating openly and unashamedly. They are aided by a thoroughly corrupted Republican Party controlling Congress and most of our courts, who have chosen to retain power rather than retain democracy.  We can hopefully deal with them in the election booth in 2018, or at least blunt some of their abuse of power and neglect of democracy.

Those we have to worry about are the quiet ones.   We must call them out.  We must challenge their courage to speak and act.  Embarrass them if necessary.  Withdraw our friendship if necessary if they remain oblivious and gutless.  Confront them as necessary.  These are the people who speak, see and hear no evil.  They will bring down the American Experiment, not the Fascists they enable.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I Grieve For Houston

I cannot take my eyes off the weather channel and CNN coverage of the disaster besetting my beloved home for 45 years and the suffering of all my friends there with this massive catastrophe.
You may have noticed a press conference held by their respected mayor as the disaster unfolds.  Sylvester Turner, an excellent Democratic state representative and son of  Houston's Acres Homes community is calmly advising his fellow citizens of help forthcoming to save them from further harm with nearly 50 inches of rain in a period of a week, typically a years worth of rain for this tropical climate.  Sylvester is a Harvard educated black man who loves his diverse city.  His presentation is followed by information from Houston's Hispanic police and fire chiefs and Anglo Republican County Judge.  This is bipartisanship and multiculturalism at its very finest.  This is my beloved city where we raised and educated our four children.  I'm very proud of their bravery and resolve.

What was so impressive was how the Hispanic leaders smoothly switched from English to Spanish in their presentations, representative of the so very treasured multi-cultural environment that is Houston.  It will be very tough and very expensive but Houston will rebuild and once again prosper for its people because the residents there really show love to one another even under these most difficult circumstances.   It is a model for much of  a very racist and bigoted red  U.S.A.

But rebuilding will be challenging because it is at sea level or slightly above and decades of ignoring reality in its face regarding its primary industry, oil and gas as major contributors to the climate change have to be reconciled with jobs and prosperity.

This is the message I want to be heard by my Delaware friends.   Houston, for all its goodness ignored reality and science, though much of its industry is very science based.  It welcomed and actually ushered in the oil industry which has driven so much of our national economy.  Not unlike Delaware's welcoming of chemicals as the basis of its corporate economy.  Now both Houston and Wilmington face the challenge of both mitigating the local environmental damage but also the demise of these lucrative industries which provided prosperity and comfortable livelihoods for their citizens.

Further, Houston, in the interest of fulfilling the demands of an increasing population partaking of the prosperity, built residential and commercial properties with abandon.  In Houston's case, no zoning exists to protect and provide sensible design for communities both residential and commercial.  Yes, standards of construction and development exist, but were both loosely regulated by city and county government and often skirted for economic advantage for developers and builders.  Houston as also been known as a developers paradise.  Growth was its primary goal and boy howdy did it ever happen.

The result has been concrete where grass and soil should be to absorb water draining from gully washer rains this tropical climate produces.  Yes, bayous were engineered to mitigate drainage but the planners didn't or couldn't account for the massive growth this 4th largest American city experienced.  Houston began to experience flooding beyond normal expectations starting 30-40 years ago.  Planners simply couldn't/didn't account for all that explosive growth.  And planning was always skirted to foster growth.

Exxon and much of the oil and gas industry have understood the climate change impact their production of carbon for much of these 30-40 years, but covered it up.  The oil and gas industry is heavily populated with environmentalists; The Sierra Club and many other environmental groups are populated by informed oil and gas industry employees and have always been robustly active in Houston.   They  warned, but corporate America didn't listen and because of the prosperity created, much of the Houston area citizenry simply didn't want to hear the warnings.

Who can criticize this very human phenomenon ?  The conflict between commercial prosperity and more esoteric and sometimes futuristic consequences is an age old conundrum.  Crystal ball readers have and never will be as popular as those bearing gifts to enhance prosperity.  It simply is a human failing.  But one Houston and Delaware must confront.

Some of my fellow Delawareans have heard in recent days about AddicksBarker Reservoirs in Houston and the release of water cause more flooding during the current catastrophic flooding.  This is because there are now flaws in the structure of the dam threatening breakage of the walls.  Houston has been warned for several decades about this infrastructure problem in the hands of the Corps of Engineers.  The warnings have been ignored in the interest of growth and prosperity.

An environmental engineer by the name of Jim Blackburn has brought the science of this dam issue threatening hundreds of thousands of nearby residents for decades.  All of Houston's elected officials and county officials are well aware of Jim's science and systematic forewarning but have looked the other way because it will require massive investment to shore up the walls.  This means tax money and you know Americans and tax issues.  Anathema to even liberal political leaders who don't want to face the heat.  Yet another very human trait. But now Houston has to face up to the truth of  infrastructure spending or absence thereof.  

So, Delaware.  Be forewarned.  Here no one wants to talk about sea level rising, a climate change reality we face in a big way.  But we have to both talk about it, as well as toxic waste in our rivers and land from years of industrial pollution.  It is either face it now or face even more dire consequences as my beloved Houston is currently facing.   We owe it to future generations, though I realize this is a really vague, elusive concept.

Lessons to be learned from Houston's tragedy, both man made and made by nature.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

More Deplorable Than Many Imagined

60 + million of us imagined the deplorable situation America finds itself in because we had civics classes in school apparently many didn't, read history, talked to relatives who like some of us, experienced Nixon and Reagan and before them, the depression, fascism and WWII.   We are the people who think critically and understand republican democracy compared to authoritarianism.

The other 60+ million didn't and mostly still don't.  They really don't care about democracy.....they only care about their own small bubble.  That goes too for the few million Stein and Johnson voters who do not understand the give and take of democracy and also live in their own little bubbles and ultimately, gave us the Presidential choice of the first 60+ million above.  They live in their own authoritarian  mental space with a dose of greed and selfishness in the case of the libertarians.

So, here we are.  Yes, the deplorables were properly defined and are on the sidelines, if not the marching columns, cheering on the Nazi's, KKK'rs and Alt righters trying to move us to violence so they can vent their rage through these deviants. 

The Deplorable rage is about privilege and bigotry learned I guess from their parents and some peers.  Their rage is about their own failure to secure the economic future they envisioned when they mostly didn't educate themselves beyond high school thinking they didn't need to be more learned or more informed to succeed in life and career.

Life has not gone well for most of them and they are willing to bring down the grand American experiment and those of us who were engaged in trying to perfect and improve it to prove their power.  Theirs is the power to destroy, disrupt, reverse and build roadblocks to move forward.  They are the people of NO.  They are the people of me, not WE. 

We will defeat them with love, generosity and non-violence.  And when we finish, we'll lift them up and give them a chance strive for their dreams, if they have any.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Republicans:Where Have The Conservative Statesmen Gone?

Watching the shit storm in D.C. and having seen Dunkirk, the amazing film this week, I am reminded that conservatives once produced some great statesmen and women.  One thinks of Winston Churchill among them.

Churchill had the humility and pragmatism to reach out to the liberal icon Franklin Roosevelt for desperately needed help to save England  from the ravages of fascism from the Third Reich.  Roosevelt and America were more than reluctant to reengage in a European war given our horrific losses in WWI.  But Churchill was persuasive and persistent and FDR committed our nation to two nearly impossible military tasks in both the east and west.

Churchill was a classical politician with a huge ego and massive ambition.  But he swallowed some of that ego in asking for help because he was also a realist with the facts in front of him.  It was particularly galling for him as a very strident anti-socialist to have to reach out to a liberal who had some very pernicious socialist ideas.  But for his countrymen he put the personal aside and pleaded.

In doing so, Churchill became a hero of both the left and right, particularly as the tide turned from military disaster, such as Dunkirk to success in latter war years crossing from the the shores of Europe.

Now lets look at conservatives in America, embodied by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  Here they are doing their damnedest to defend  the first American Fascist President and explain him to us.  I don't need to explain Trump to my readers.  He and his fascist gang resorted to collaboration with Russia, hostile to the Democratic candidate who had the temerity to call Putin out on Ukraine and Syria and challenge his illegal interventions.   Ryan and McConnell are silent on this treasonous collaboration.

Ryan and McConnell were silent on the Trump gang's  overt racism, appeals to violence in political rallies, mysegeny, advocacy of sexual abuse and promises they knew he and they could not keep such as healthcare repeal.   They were silent when the Trump family brought their greedy pursuit of greater wealth into the White House with shameless self dealing, both immoral and illegal.

Ryan and McConnell's naked, shameful support for voter suppression and distortion of democratic processes to enable their power grab already showed compatibility with the Trump abuse of democracy.  Opportunistically they saw a collaboration with Trump would enhance their mutual ascent to greater power, wealth and influence at the expense of democracy and the needs of the people of America.  No thought of country or compassion for those just trying to make their way in life seeking some semblance of economic and social stability seems apparent.  They are in pursuit of their own power agenda and the rest of us be damned.  There seems nothing in either leader's character to suggest a commitment to justice or compassion.  Theirs is a commitment to some vague notion that small, minimal government services as somehow serving humanity in need of fair wages, healthcare, education and justice.  This is the current Republican Party of NO and REPEAL with a proud history of abolition of slavery and the Teddy Roosevelt era of populism and environmentalism.

Now they are discovering that reversing  what is left of our democratic protections and a fierce opposition to their dismantling of what is left of our social order is no easy task.  They have failed to produce legislation to dismantle the work of Barrack Obama and the Democratic Party in spite of insatiable hate for his and their successes in restoring a collapsed economy, reduction of a war machine drowning us in blood and debt and improvement of a tragic joke of a healthcare system.   Their resentment of America's first African American President is boundless and it is now displayed in all its ugliness.

Yet,  the opportunity to reveal whether statesmanship from them is even a remote possibility lies right in front of them if myopia doesn't prevent their recognizing it.   If they have the humility and pragmatism of one of their icons, Winston Churchill, they will reach out to Democrats to both rid our nation of the early forming cancer of fascism and begin to address the social, structural and economic problems in particular besetting their own ignorant base.

I am not hopeful they will rise to the task before them.   I can be open to the remote possibility of redemption of their past commitment to elevation of the wealthy and suppression of the non wealthy as somehow not worthy.  This seems to be based on a theological notion that the latter group do not deserve humane treatment because of defects in character as ordained by some creator somewhere.

Churchill put magical thinking and ideology aside to become one of our great Statesmen.  History and facts informed thinking seems beyond Ryan and McConnell's grasp.  Should their behavior continue, can we as a national survive this travesty?  Only in spite of them, not because of them.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We Must Initiate A National Reconciliation Summit

 Our nation is in crisis and jeopardy of fragmentation, or worse.  I propose that congress put a moratorium on all legislation and our national political leadership convene an extensive summit meeting to begin the process of reconciliation between left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberals and conservatives.  We simply cannot go on like this any longer.

Gridlock has evolved to near civil war.  Right now mostly a war of words, lawsuits, political contests and legislation.  It is taking us nowhere.  We have huge issues to resolve is we are to continue as a functioning democracy or at best, a facade of one.

These issues include what kind of economy we want going forward, how will that economy provide for productive, life sustaining employment for all needing to provide for themselves and families?  Do we want a federal system on some kind of loose confederation of states ?  What level of protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to we want going forward?  Is there a more fair system of raising funds for government services than the current taxation system?  How much safety net of social services do we want from our federal and state governments, if any?   How will the health and education of our populace be provided?  How do we guarantee equal treatment and equality of our citizens?  What are the duties of citizenship?  How do we protect religious liberty?

I propose that the first phase of the summit operate for at least 6 months along with the legislation moratorium, meeting daily with the goal of crafting a  Bill of Reconciliation to be ratified by both houses of congress and each state legislature dealing with the major issues dividing us, along the lines of the previous paragraph.

Initially the summit would be convened consisting of the Speaker of the House and Minority Leader, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders and  the Chairs of the Democratic and Republican Parties and a liberal and conservative from the sitting Supreme Court. This first phase would be moderated by co-moderators Obama and Bush, recent ex-Presidents.  Legislators would go home for 6 months (excepting crucial votes to keep government services running) and during this period run town hall Reconciliation sessions for input.

Their first order of business would be to settle on the issues to be reconciled.  Their next order of business would be agreement on a body of bipartisan solutions.

These solutions would then be debated and reconciled by a  convention of all sitting governors with a 2/3  affirmative vote or better.  This would be the second 6 months of the Reconciliation project.   The final Bill of Reconciliation would be referred to all state legislatures for ratification, again with a 2/3 affirmative vote or better.

Once these are ratified by state legislatures, it would have the force of the law of the land.   The final product might be voted on as a series of amendments to the Constitution though frankly I think a Constitutional Convention process should be avoided given the toxic atmosphere we are in now, which would bog the entire project down much like the ERA. And frankly,  this latter process would take years which in my opinion we do not have before total fragmentation occurs.

I know, I know. This all sounds like fantasy land, but isn't something like this idea worth a try to genuinely get a non-shouting conversation going to restore democracy in America and save our country and get it on a positive track?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Boards Of Directors Are A Problem, Not A Solution

America is experiencing organizational catastrophes causing much of our public distrust of them and one another.  This crisis is not exclusively owned by congress, political parties or government.   Among those organizations are boards of directors charged with running public universities, school districts, corporations of all kinds and  pension trust funds for public employees.  Look at the make up of most of them.  Middle aged and old white men.  Clearly representative of one very narrow demographic.

Let's examine some of their problems and some solutions to restore public confidence in institutions in America.
School boards are elected by a very narrow cohort of the population.  Candidates are often put forward by interest groups around board activity, policy and business.  These elections are often held at obscure times with candidates who are even more obscure even to a tiny share of the electorate who are motivated to vote in these elections. 25 of 46 states have cut their public education state funding from -24% to -.05 %.

Public university boards are mainly political appointments made by state executive administrations and governors.  These appointments are often rewards for campaign contributions and support.  Student loan debt in 2017 stands at around $1.4 billion with 44 million borrowers. 

Corporations boards are nominated by incumbent boards, founders and large investors and venture capitalists.  In 2016 American corporations were hoarding $1.9 trillion in cash and no one can explain why.  Corporations historically have been borrowers, but apparently the model has reversed.

Pension boards are most often appointed by elected officials such as governors and mayors in the case of public institutions. Moodys reports that state and local pension funds in 2016 are shortfalling by $7 trillion.

All of these institutions are is crisis.  School boards are rife with political factions causing divisive disagreements, education system ideological disputes, re-segregation and major funding crises.  University boards malfeasance has caused massive cost inflation, off the charts tuition and fee increases, massive student debt and obscene spending on stadiums and amenity facilities which have put research and faculty on the back burner.  Example, look at the new football stadiums.  Public corporations boards engage in self dealing, neglect of ethical oversight and massive ignoring of societal damage caused by their decisions.  Just look at the record of commercial banking during the '08-'09 collapse of the financial sector and the more recent example of abuse by Wells Fargo.    Pension funds at all levels are in crisis with terrible overestimation of investment returns and underestimation of  future funding requirements and allowance of raiding of their trust funds by associated government entities.  Just look at the state of Illinois and cities like Detroit and Dallas.

Solutions?  Certainly I am a layman when it comes to organizational finance.  But I've served on a couple of small corporate boards and several non profit boards and have at least a sense of potential solutions.  School boards need representation from teachers, students and parents they serve and a closer match to the community demographics.

Public university boards need student and faculty representation and less influence from alumni with respect to athletics and physical facilities and more with respect to academics and cost management to emphasize affordability.

Corporate boards need major regulatory reworking to increase representation of women, minorities and workers.  They also need greatly increased board responsibility and accountability regarding the impact the organization has on the community, including environmental and economic impact on their decisions and that of their management team.

Pension fund boards, particularly those serving public sector employees need much more fiscal and actuarial expertise.  They also need a balance of this expertise and employee/pensioner advocacy to assure sustainability and financial stability.

All these boards have some 'splainin to do.  Public schools are spending way less to educate way more kids; this makes little sense.  Public universities are driving many of these kids into a life time of financial struggle rather than financial improvement by being better educated.  Corporate boards are hoarding trillions of cash with record earnings while complaining about paying too many taxes and doing little to expand employment opportunities for the aforementioned kids.  Pension funds seem to offer a very unstable and potentially bleak future for those who work harder and longer than any other western nation citizen.

From the beginning to the end of life, these boards simply are failing America.  It is time to rethink them.