Hillary Clinton: Will Her Economic Policies Follow Best Global Practices?

DDHillary Clinton’s search for an economic policy seems to forget the phrase used to caution investors: “Past results are not indicators of future success.” The world of her husband’s administration is long gone. The great goods of all economies are now commodities; volume produces wealth and flatlines jobs and wages. Apple, Monsanto (80% of world corn seed), American Water Supply (the largest water utility), Pepsico and Google are diverse examples of commodity enterprises operating in global markets that increase capital wealth with little increase in jobs; yet they are vital to economic growth.

Clinton’s advisers don’t seem to get this paradox: the modern economy is built on essential commodities that transfer wealth without the traditional means of adding value through labor and large workforces. In fact, work itself is becoming a commodity, priced by industry and region, in the same way as good and services.

Clinton economic panels ignore this reality. Yet the US economy is deeply entwined with monopolies by companies and by regions (China’s Pearl River zone, Foxconn; Vietnam, Indonesia, clothing; Brazil, agriculture; the big banks, cell, music and cable services; et al.). Working around the economic margins through taxes and fees will not restructure a system designed to vacuum up cash and maintain rock-bottom wages while the private sector shifts social costs to government.

But more importantly, her panels of economists overlook global best practices and opportunities! They agree and disagree about the wrong things! Models in several countries have successfully produced rapid growth and gains for the middle class in the last two decades (interrupted by the global recession) and continue to do so!

To cite four: China, Brazil, Botswana (per capita income, $17.1k, one of Africa’s highest!), and Mexico. Each country has structural issues, several confront major corruption and crime, but their political economies have increased wages and the size of the middle class by taking advantage of training, government partnerships, economic planning and global growth.

All four share two essential features: modifying social capital to invest heavily in health and education incentives, and protecting wages and investments for families by safety nets and identifying markets through planning with high-paying, sustainable jobs.

US politicians look at polls and avoid plans. The US creates international agreements, but lacks domestic strategy. The private sector and conservatives applaud the open market, but ignore its chaos and corruption, and see government as an adversary rather than a partner, a view contrary to the emerging global vision of government’s role in expanding national economies.

On taxes, Congress closes doors and opens loopholes. The controlling party of Congress wants to tell the sick they are unaffordable, the illiterate they are flawed, and to describe the jobs in which workers are stuck for decades as entry-level. Their proclamation of progress has no plan or specific details. We are deluding ourselves. Especially if we think only the market can pick winners and losers.

Successful models don’t debate ideas, abandon common sense, or solve blame. They don’t tilt policy to accelerate the flow of wealth to the rich while blaming others for the lack of virtues that supposedly cause income inequality and static wages. Successful models promote growth. They engage stakeholders and establish activities—real organizations and businesses supported by advanced knowledge and research, highlighted and included in state and regional plans, aided by federal policies that will innovate as markets expand.

This approach would give rebirth to America’s economy. Developing global models are driving micro (for families) and macro (for companies) growth and job expansion around the world (except Haiti, close to home). Here in the US, partisan calculations blot out the rich benefits of using the models’ far-reaching economic calculations.

Three Global Opportunities: Rails, Smartphone Operating Systems, Hydro and Solar Energy

Though it expands year over year, the US has abdicated the global rail market to China and Europe. It is a huge missed opportunity. Rail’s five main market segments (high-speed, mainline, freight, light rail, metro) include 150 or more sub-industries, among them electronics, safety, signaling, communications, maintenance, interiors, metallurgy, construction, power engines and assembly, and will have steady long-term growth, powered by the need to transport grain, coal, chemicals, automotive, intermodal freight and urban ridership.

But rail’s sustained, high-wage jobs are ceded to Canada (Bombardier), Germany (Siemens), and France (Alstom), among others. In a global market approaching a trillion dollars annually, two-thirds of rail revenues remain directly accessible to the US—orders are open and awarded to the best bids from competing global suppliers! Yet, as an example missing the present and future, the US share of the rail car market is only 5% and is not using its superior financing, technical and research knowledge, experience with large-scale projects and skilled workforces to compete for dominant share.

China holds two of the top three positions as manufacturers and suppliers of rolling stock equipment, positioned to take advantage of new sales: in the next ten years, Europe will replace 10,300 locomotives, and Africa’s demand for rolling stock will double.

Consider these recent global rail projects:

  • In Basque, a 172km high speed network in Spain between three regional capitals.
  • In Algiers, Africa’s second metro system carries 300,000 daily riders underground on a 9.2km line, with ten stations.
  • In Ankara, Turkey, three new lines, Kizilay-Cayyolu, 16 stations, 18km; Ulus-Kecioren, six stations, 7.9km; TBMM-Dikmen, five stations, 4.8km; 108 metro cars.
  • In Warsaw, a 19km route with 19 stations.
  • In Mexico City, North America’s second largest rapid transit, a new Gold Line, 24km with 18 stations.
  • In Brazil: Bidding a 511km high-speed line (with 90 km of tunnels!) with contracts for tracks, stations and infrastructure.
  • In Argentina, a 710km high-speed line, $4B.
  • The Trans-Asian Railway, a 14,000km main rail link between Singapore and Istanbul, with connections to Europe and Africa.

US companies received none of these bids or subcontracts, missing out on 80,000 to 250,000 new jobs. Nor do they recognize a key value of rail is its stable long-term growth through flexible and sustained mobility.

With rails, entrepreneurial opportunities exist in adhesives, sealants and fixings; cables, hoses and connectors; paint and protective coatings; electrification, power supply, lighting, electromechanical systems and drives; fire safety, detection and suppression; computer hardware and software, controls and monitoring systems, door systems, gangway systems, public address and alarm systems; track engineering and construction, track maintenance and repair; fare collection and ticketing; noise, shock and vibration control; heating and cooling systems and compressors; and wash plants—leaving aside the importance of locomotive, rail and passenger car design.

Research for innovation include sensors, computers and digital communications to collect, process and disseminate information to improve the rail safety, security and operations. Research also includes alternative fuels and energy sources, reducing life-cycle costs while increasing reliability of equipment and infrastructure assets, and maintenance.

Chinese high-speed train makers are increasingly selling their products to Western countries. Experts say the established European firms in the sector urgently need to develop strategies to counter the competition.

Chinese high-speed train makers are increasingly selling their products to Western countries. Experts say the established European firms in the sector urgently need to develop strategies to counter the competition.

In fact, the US is absent from rail and many economic niches.

Apple dominates the high end of the smartphone market, but opportunities exist and are expanding for inexpensive models, a market in which India and China lead with no US competition. The Indian smartphone market for phones under $200 grew 186 per cent in the first six months of 2014. Other developing countries hold the same market potential.

Recently, Google announced Android One, a standard operating system intended to become the first choice for millions of new customers globally. Continue reading Hillary Clinton: Will Her Economic Policies Follow Best Global Practices?

Stormy Monday, 2/9/15

StormyMondayFrantic efforts by the College Republicans chapter at Texas Tech continue as the little dweebs try to thwart Thursday’s scheduled speech by counterculture icon Angela Davis. The group has helpfully offered up alternative names like Condi Rice, Gwen Ifill and Mia Love. After all, they all look alike, right, College Republicans?

David Letterman’s producers are hunting down a fill-in for Thursday’s show following the announcement that scheduled guest Brian Williams has canceled. Williams previously shared with the Late Show audience his fanciful tale of taking ground fire while in a helicopter in Iraq, but of course is now taking time off from his NBC Nightly News gig to spend more time with the truth.

Nigeria’s presidential election was originally scheduled for next Saturday, but has been postponed until March 28 by the nation’s Independent National Electoral Commission, which cited security concerns over continuing Boko Haram violence. John Kerry described the US government as “deeply disappointed” by the postponement.

The marriage license obtained last year by star-crossed lovebirds Charles Manson and Afton Elaine Burton expired last week, but cheer up, fans of true romance. According to James McGrath, a photo editor who knows Burton, she’s intending to apply for a 90-day license and will make a husband out of Charlie yet. Manson is eligible for parole once again in 2027, by which time he’ll be a mere 723 years old.

European finance ministers gather in Brussels on Wednesday to brainstorm the question: “How do you solve a problem like Greece?” Angela Merkel will do the same on Thursday when she sits down with new Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who has emphatically rejected further austerity measures advocated by Germany and other EU members. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 2/9/15

Sunday Talks, 2/8/14

On ABC’s This Week, retired General John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, will discuss the battle with ISIS. Senator Ted Cruz (R-U-Krazy) will discuss the latest overseas developments, . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/8/14

Friday Talking Points [335] -- Live, From The Moon

FTP3NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams (or, as we affectionately refer to him, “BriWi”) was ruthlessly mocked online this week, after a war story he told turned out to be a complete fabrication. Our headline today refers to the funniest mockery we’ve yet seen on the subject, titled “That one live shot I did from the moon,” for no other reason than it makes a funny headline. We really have no news to report from the moon, although (as usual) there are quite a few bits of lunacy to report from the political world. As for BriWi, well, we’ll see what happens next. Perhaps it’s time to give Lester Holt a shot at the big chair? It’s a little hard to feel too sorry for BriWi, since he reportedly rakes in $10 million a year to read the news to America every night. Nice work if you can get it, eh? Or hold onto it, for that matter.

Speaking of jobs, there’s a new jobs report out and it has some pretty amazing good news. But we’ll have much more on that a bit later, down in the talking points.

Let’s get back to the lunacy, instead. Mitch McConnell is apparently unsatisfied with the concept of throwing fellow Republicans under a bus, as evidenced by a joke he just cracked (to be fair, Ted Cruz set himself up for this one):

McConnell noted that Cruz — the anti-Obamacare crusader who spearheaded the 2013 government shutdown, thereby earning the enmity of many fellow Republicans — had once proclaimed that he would throw himself in front of a moving train, if that’s what killing health reform would take.

“That idea has some merit to it,” a wry McConnell jabbed.

Heh. In other news from congressional Republicans, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina thinks there are too many onerous federal regulations, which deny him the freedom to eat food prepared by people who don’t wash their hands in the bathroom. Or something. It’s hard to tell, especially considering that he was complaining about a regulation which mandates restaurants put up a sign, which he would fix by creating a regulation to put up a different sign. No, really. Here’s the story:

Tillis said he was at a Starbucks in 2010 talking to a woman about regulations and where businesses should be allowed to opt out. His coffee companion challenged him, asking whether employees there should be required to wash their hands.

“As a matter of fact I think this is one where I think I can illustrate the point,” he recalled telling her. “I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says we don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom. The market will take care of that. It’s one example.”

Um, OK. If I ever meet Tillis, I don’t think I’ll be shaking his hand, that’s all I can say.

The media became obsessed with their new realization that there are a whole bunch of parents in this country who don’t want to vaccinate their kids (even though this has been going on for quite some time now). This exposed all sorts of looney-tunes behavior, but several were swift to point out that “anti-vaxxers” have been around since at least Thomas Jefferson’s time, so it’s really nothing new, just a continuation of prior lunacy. Several Republican presidential candidates added to the debate with their own special brand of moonbattery. Should be a fun primary season, if this is where we’re going to start!

Paul Ryan began constructing the 2016 Republican budget by immediately blowing a $100 billion hole in the deficit. Other Republicans went along for the ride, ignoring Republicans’ traditional anti-deficit stance. Must have been a full moon, or something.

Republicans in Congress celebrated Groundhog Day by imitating the movie of the same name. The House was busy repealing Obamacare, for the 56th time (no, that’s not an exaggeration), although it seems they were pretty lackluster in doing so. Perhaps after another 50 or so votes, they’ll have realized the pointlessness of their actions? Nancy Pelosi, in a great speech this week, memorably pointed out that Republicans are doing nothing short of baying at the moon with all these votes.

Over in the Senate, the bill to fund the Homeland Security Department (that the House had loaded up with all their “we’re angry with Obama over immigration” extremism) failed to pass (one Republican even crossed the aisle and voted with the Democrats, against the bill). And then it failed to pass again. And then it failed to pass a third time. Happy Groundhog week, everyone!

Susan Collins of Maine offered to strip out some of the extremist language from the bill (but leave the rest untouched), but Democrats quickly shot down that idea. Sooner or later, a “clean” bill will pass both houses, but we’ve got a lot more meaningless and futile votes to get through before we get to that point of sanity. John Boehner seems a bit delighted at the fact that Mitch McConnell is the one now taking the heat for congressional Republicans’ failure to put any sort of bill on Obama’s desk. Here he is, answering the question of whether he knew what McConnell’s endgame for the bill would be:

No. Listen, he’s got a tough job. He’s got a tough job over there, and I’ve got a tough job over here. God bless him and good luck. What can you say?

Empathy’s not Boehner’s strong suit, it seems, after being the number one Tea Party scapegoat for years. Now he’ll be able to offload some of that Tea Party angst onto McConnell, and he certainly doesn’t sound too unhappy at that prospect.

Let’s see, what else falls into the lunatic category this week? Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is once again contemplating nullification of federal law, this time not over the Ten Commandments (which got him removed from office previously), but over same-sex marriage. He’s leading the charge to just flat-out ignore federal rulings he doesn’t like (which he calls “judicial tyranny”) and have the Alabama judiciary chart their own course. You’d think knowing what was in the U.S. Constitution would be a requirement for such a position in any state, but apparently you’d be wrong.

House Republican Aaron Schock has been having a pretty miserable week. First, the Washington Post poked some fun at his office-decorating style (reminiscent of Downton Abbey), then ethical issues were raised over how the decorations were paid for, and finally one of his senior advisors was forced to resign. For being a racist. Think that’s too harsh a description? Well, you decide: it seems Benjamin Cole spent his spare time filming black people walking in front of his house in DC, and then commenting on Facebook that what he had witnessed were the “mating rituals” of animals who had escaped from the National Zoo. By week’s end, he was gone from that lovely Downton Abbey office.

Fox News, meanwhile, made an editorial decision to show the whole video of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive by the Islamic State. Does anyone really think they would have made the same decision if that had been an American military pilot?

That’s probably enough lunacy for one week’s time. Instead, we’ll end on a happy note here, with an update on marijuana reform news. Over 100 Native American tribes are now expressing interest in entering the marijuana business, now that the Justice Department has given them the legal green light to do so. Also, Ted Cruz, Republican presidential wannabe, admitted to smoking pot as a student. This news made barely a ripple politically, which just goes to show you how far we’ve come from Bill Clinton trying to have it both ways with his laughable “I didn’t inhale” stance, two decades ago. Now the public’s response is: “He smoked pot as a kid? Well, who didn’t?” Progress indeed. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [335] — Live, From The Moon

In Politics and Public Life, Do the Odds Favor the Cynics?

DDA cross-section of ideas and acts, global, national and local, haunt the negative and positive spaces of our lives, influencing our decisions and thoughts, our choices, our feelings about progress or defeat.

A good deal of America is engaged in cynicism, reducing complex issues to a short list that squares with a wish list of beliefs and desires.

Michelle Obama often is an object of choice by cynics, who find it easy to shave off the responsibilities she has as a mother and as a public figure married to the President from her duty to share her authentic self, which often flows into a space beyond what many expect. When disappointed, they assume an attitude of “I told you so” (smug about never mentioning what was told!) and then assume the imagined gross error that exists in their minds speaks for itself. Thus they retain in their hearts what they really wanted to believe in the first place—and forever more.

One common cause of cynical angst is First Family travel. Its critics make the small large, pride themselves as spending sentinels, pat themselves on the back with the shared disgust of those who feel being black and having a family and being President is just too much for anyone to accept. After all, if it were not for those 62 million votes, Barack Obama might well be unemployed and certainly not a world leader of note and renown.

Those people also feel John Boehner is perfectly capable of running things in the White House from his seat in the House, if they could just get Obama impeached and Joe Biden to step aside.

The suggestion of budget abuse by the First Lady for travel generally offers no details, and, as is usually the case, no logic braces the cynical foregone conclusions.

That Michele Obama has abused public money is ridiculous! American Presidents, First Ladies and their children (from Eisenhower to Obama) don’t ride Greyhounds. It is a point of national pride, and respect for the office, that America, no matter what the ideology or color of the President, provides first-class travel and top security (the same as other nations!) when the First Family travels.

Surely the cynics know this! What is their real motivation? What leads to the cheap shots that single out Mrs. Obama? Why is she so often the target of fact-free smears?

Have her accusers forgotten John Sununu, who flew to New York at taxpayers’ expense for a $300 haircut? Or the junkets of Congress? Here are two current examples, one about Tea Party fiscal fanatic Steve Pearce and the other involving former Congress member Michele Bachmann. Travel spending is replete with examples of abuse; the narrowed, unsupported focus of the cynical looking glass tells me something else is at work in their thinking.

Cynicism abounds in more difficult arenas as well. The complex problems of foreign and economic policy are being met, in the popular mind, with spreading cynicism. The array of forces circling the globe is being viewed with an inherent mistrust. Goals are reduced to simple measures, with success or defeat assigned to reflect ideology and personality. The cynics are consistent and confident as they engage in enlightenment by doubt.

Hence the craziness around vaccines: sound, sensible medical practice, a patriotic principle in the 1950s and 1960s, when whole towns turned out on vaccination days and nurses visited schools to end the scourge of polio and measles, whooping cough and other deadly diseases of childhood, is now a battle front over freedom. Vaccines have become a cause some parents are unwittingly willing to follow politicians and have their children die for, or at least experience the nasty conditions of measles they themselves avoided because their commie parents who voted for Eisenhower got them vaccinated. So along with Agenda 21, Executive Order 12333, the New World Order, and the Haitian earthquake, we can add vaccinations to the sinister exercise of power of Big Government, as California’s vaccination rates in wealthy areas fall behind South Sudan’s. Continue reading In Politics and Public Life, Do the Odds Favor the Cynics?

They'll Need a Bigger Clown Car

Grumpy2Grumpy: Well Mouse, like it or not, here we are only days into 2015 and the 2016 presidential election is already underway with Teapublican wannabes already busily making fools of themselves. Iowa has seen the clown car come and go already and the Koch network of secret donors has already been busy auditioning and grooming their favorites in Palm Springs, California. Palm Springs? Nothing says outreach to the unwashed masses like confabs in Palm Springs, I guess. But I digress.

Ordinarily these early (dare I say infantile) days of the four-year election cycle leave me absolutely grumpy, but this year I am actually giddy. I feel like a kid watching in awe as the circus parades into town. Of course no circus parade would be complete without a packed-to-the-roof clown car, and this year’s clown car is absolutely overstuffed. Some of the names are familiar, even infamous, while others send one running to the Google machine.

Comedians must be absolutely over the moon at the prospects ahead. The list of wannabes and potential wannabes is staggeringly large. Just look at the list of current and former governors who are currently thought to be lusting for top job in the US of A: Bush, Walker, Christie, Ehrlich, Gilmore, Palin, Kasich, Jindal, Huckabee, Pataki, Pence, Romney, Perry, Daniels, Scott, Snyder and Martinez. That’s 17 already packing the clown car even before we get to the likes of Herman (Pizza Godfather) Cain or John (The Stache) Bolton and Carly Fiorina, who have never been elected to any public office.

That brings us to a nice round number of 20 stuffed into that car. Surely that is enough, right? Wrong! The list goes on with the likes of Carson, Graham, Bachmann, Corker, Cruz, King, Paul, Trump, Rubio and Santorum.

Phew, I literally ran out of fingers and toes to count on, but I think that comes to 30 Teapublican wannabes. For the likes of former RNC head Michael Steele that adds up to an incredibly deep bench, but for comedians like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher it adds up to comedy gold.

Mouse: What can I say but “President Hillary, here she comes!” Never thought I’d see a woman as President in my lifetime.

Grumpy: It certainly may happen that Hillary is elected in 2016. In fact I would venture to say that if she runs she will win. But what if she doesn’t run or circumstances beyond anyone’s control intervene? Is Steele right? Is the Democratic bench really shallow?

Rachel Maddow seems to think Senator McCaskill would make an appealing general election candidate. Whether she could survive a primary campaign with her less than stellar liberal voting record remains in doubt. Even as she endorsed the idea Maddow injected a note of skepticism, given the Senator’s unfavorable reputation among more liberal Democrats.

Then there is Elizabeth Warren, she who refuses to run. Could she be persuaded if Hillary is out of the picture and could she appeal in the general election?

Another name that has been bandied about is Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Mostly he is thought of as a possible VP pick but his star certainly shines brightly in liberal circles. Being from the all-important Buckeye State certainly adds to his appeal for a ticket mate or even to head up a Democratic ticket.

Others that could be in the mix include Gavin Newsome, Joaquín Castro (or his twin brother Julián), Kirsten Gillibrand, or even (and I am going out a limb here) Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. I make no claim that this list is exhaustive and there are many others that could easily make it into the White House. Continue reading They’ll Need a Bigger Clown Car

Friday Talking Points [334] -- Sarah Palin, Under The Republican Bus

FTP3That headline certainly does promise a large amount of schadenfreude over the misfortunes of a certain former vice presidential nominee (and half-term governor of Alaska), doesn’t it? Well, that’ll all have to wait for the end of this column, where we will be supplanting our normal talking points section with a few choice conservative reviews of Sarah Palin’s recent speech in Iowa. But before we dive into this snarktastic dessert of vicious quips, we’ve first got to get through the meat and potatoes of the politics of the week.

The big news this morning was, of course, Mitt Romney flip-flopping on his presidential ambitions. “Just kidding!” Romney essentially told the world (forcing the Daily Beast to hastily run a retraction of their “Mitt’s Running!” story, amusingly enough). Anyone who had been looking forward to Mitt 3.0, out there telling us all how conservatives would solve poverty and the income gap by giving rich people raises is undoubtedly disappointed at the news. I mean, we all could have had so much fun during the campaign doing things like comparing our own houses to Mitt’s palatial spread in California, but now that rug has been yanked out from under us all. Oh, the disappointment!

Under the big circus tent that is now the United States Congress, Republicans followed up on their failure to pass a severe abortion bill by unexpectedly yanking their severe border security bill in the House. The bill, which even the infamous Draco would have been impressed with (one assumes), was deemed insufficiently severe by the uber-extremists on the immigration issue within the Republican House. Look for a moat full of alligators to be added to the next bill, in an effort to secure enough votes for passage, we suppose. Conservatives were even openly bragging about killing the bill, which only goes to confirm that they do not care about actual legislation, and consider their jobs to be nothing more than the sheerest of political posturing. Looks like a long two years, folks.

This lurch towards the Tea Party was also noticeable in the umpteenth Benghazi committee, which is now in danger of falling apart through sheer partisanship. John Boehner also came out and promised once again (as he did almost exactly a year ago) that the House would soon be voting — any day now! — on a Republican bill to replace the dreaded Obamacare. But if Republicans can’t even get behind a severe border security or anti-abortion bill, does anyone truly expect they’ll be able to do so on healthcare reform? Especially since they’ve been promising to do so for approximately six years now?

Let’s see… in other silliness, Michelle Obama appeared with her head uncovered in Saudi Arabia, which almost became fodder for another fake “scandal” whipped up by Republicans, except that it was quickly discovered that Laura Bush had previously done the same thing. Thankfully, this non-scandal ended before it really even got going.

In other news, while the media were breathlessly reporting the same big story they break every single winter (to wit: “It Snows In Wintertime! Who Knew?!?”), at risk of their own lives, a man was convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking government secrets to the media. He faces 80 years in federal prison, but the snow was so much more interesting to report on, so you may not have seen this story on your teevee.

There were bales (to coin a phrase) of marijuana news this week, it seemed, so we’ll just run through these items quickly. Three ex-Super Bowl champs wrote a heartfelt open letter to the NFL, urging the league to rethink its outdated marijuana policies. Marijuana was the fastest-growing industry in America last year (I commented on this news earlier in the week). Colorado is getting so much tax money from weed that they may be legally forced to refund some of it (prompting one enthusiast to reply: “I don’t care if they write me a check, or refund it in my taxes, or just give me a free joint next time I come in. The taxes are too high, and they should give it back”). The Denver airport, however, has banned marijuana-themed souvenirs for tourists from their stores, for reasons that surpass understanding. Jamaica is about to decriminalize marijuana and could move quickly to full legalization, now that the United States isn’t throwing its weight around internationally on the subject any more. Perhaps it’s time for Obama to pardon Tommy Chong? It would seem appropriate, at this point. And Paul Ollinger of the Huffington Post wrote the funniest article I’ve seen in a while, with a title that really needs no further explanation: “Apple’s $178 Billion in Cash Would Buy SO MUCH WEED.” Even the metric he uses in his calculations is hilarious, so check it out. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [334] — Sarah Palin, Under The Republican Bus

Media's Direct Reporting Omits Deep Background

DDGrowing frustration exists about the role of global media in sharing the truth and facts about politics. Even the media’s cherished idea of balance has taken a slant. The American media’s direct reporting omits deep backgrounds. In print and broadcast, anonymous sources are assigned the duty of representing an ideology and attacking those who disagree. In live reports, face time is more important than oral intelligence. And no news broadcast is complete without a YouTube clip.

What recent stories has the media missed and how have the omissions affected the country?

The biggest missing story is about the media itself: it has abandoned analysis. Instead of being shaped by insights and history, or by conflict and values, stories are “blocked.” They are packaged for immediacy rather than viable information, and immediacy has come to mean any story which zooms in on a crisis in the social order, a threat to well-being or life.

Blocking a story means it will be limited to reviewing events without examining causes; limited by sensationalism that ignores the mainstream; limited by the next big story without any follow-up on the previous big story. But the story’s limits always include speculation, no-rules chatter about what happens next. Speculation, and its inaccurate prophecies, unleashed fears and violations of logic and common sense, is featured without critical review. By offering speculation, media abandons the idea of wrong or right; its stories are blocked to show who is for and who is against.

For example, in one recent big story about Ebola, a deadly, contagious virus spreading in three West African countries, media helped generated mass fear and hysteria in America. Justified by media stories, rather than experience, experts and successful protocol, civil liberties went flying out of the window faster than domestic cases of the disease, amid calls for restricted travel to and from the region.

States demanded medical professionals be quarantined even when displaying no obvious symptoms of fever and coughing. Twice-a-day telephone monitoring was put in place for persons returning from countries experiencing the Ebola epidemic. Hours of hard news time were devoted to tracking each single potential threat as the source of an impeding holocaust. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bad-mouthed a nurse who had demonstrated the courage to travel to the medical front to fight the disease by caring for infected patients.

In the midst of the Ebola fear, Congress members proclaimed the likelihood of legions of Ebola-infected terrorists arriving in Mexico, walking like zombies across unsecured borders—yet so heavily monitored by manpower and technology that enforcement agents intercepted nearly 40,000 unescorted children last year. Many of the same Congress members who conjured a deadly and imminent link between terrorists and Ebola believed this undocumented children’s crusade also had come to destroy the American way of life, stain the American Promise, and end freedom as we know it—by busting public budgets and demanding the right to education. Continue reading Media’s Direct Reporting Omits Deep Background

Stormy Monday, 1/26/15

StormyMondayThe President wants to extend wilderness designation and concomitant environmental protections to millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move opposed by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans, who would prefer to drill the crap out of ANWR. Showcasing her famed policy chops and keen intellect, Murkowski commented, “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska.”

Speaking of negotiations with Iran, Republicans are hell-bent on screwing those up too. Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will conduct what it risibly describes as a “hearing” on the status of the negotiations. As Congress lurches toward additional sanctions, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the other day that such a move would “kill the joint plan of action that we adopted last year in Geneva.” In another odd development, Zarif has been summoned to explain to his nation’s parliament why he went for a “15-minute walk” with John Kerry in Geneva on January 14. Uh-oh…

“Winter Storm Juno” is bearing down on the Northeast, with blizzard conditions expected to affect up to 28 million people. Juno’s worst impact will last from Monday evening into Tuesday, with snowfall rates of two to four inches an hour and total accumulations of two feet or more forecast for some areas of New England. The suspiciously enthusiastic Henry Margusity, an Accuweather meteorologist, took to Twitter to announce, “It will be like a tidal wave of snow into New England tonight into Tuesday.”

Tuesday, the President will pass up a planned trip to the Taj Mahal and cut short his stay in India to head for Saudi Arabia for a meeting with its new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, our latest staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East. Salman succeeds his recently deceased brother Adbullah, our previous staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East.

The legendary Ernie Banks will be honored by a public memorial Wednesday at Chicago’s Daley Plaza. The statue of “Mr. Cub” at Wrigley Field will be moved to Daley Plaza for the occasion. Banks, 83, died Friday following a heart attack. Funeral arrangements are still pending. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/26/15

Soak the rich?

Grumpy2Mouse: What is that all about? How is simply asking the extremely wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes soaking them? How is asking those who have benefited the most from the past 30 years of economic policy to pay up soaking them?

Doesn’t the middle class deserve a break? A chance to share in the wealth of the country they help make great? And what about the poor? Don’t they deserve a break and a chance too?

How ridiculous did the Republicans look sitting there like statues during President Obama’s SOTU speech? They refused to applaud anything that would help the average American. I’m sure that was on orders from the Koch brothers.

Grumpy: Oh, don’t get me started on the Koch brothers. We’ll be here for a month before I finish my rant.

You are absolutely right about tax fairness. The conservative side likes to point out that the wealthy pay the majority of the taxes, but they never talk about whether those at the top are paying proportionally the same as the average middle-income workers pay. In some cases under today’s tax system, many of the wealthiest (I’m looking at you, Mitt) pay less than the doorman at their fancy Park Avenue digs or the mechanics that install their car elevators.

Mouse: I could speak for a month on Willard and his never-seen tax statements. I wonder what he’s hiding? Too many offshore bank accounts?

Grumpy: The Teapublicans didn’t always sit on their hands, though. Remember that moment when President Obama said he didn’t have to campaign for office anymore. Why, I think that brought a standing ovation.

Mouse: That was my favorite part of the SOTU. President Obama could beat the Republicans a third time. What a shame he doesn’t get to try. I bet Republican heads popped with a dry, dusty sound when they once again attempted to disrespect the President and didn’t succeed.

So, Grumpy, what do you think about two years of community college being paid for by the government? How many people currently stuck in low-wage jobs might have a glimmer of hope of improving their lives with a bit of education?

Grumpy:I have a couple of grandchildren who will soon be ready to take advantage of such a program. It will certainly give them a leg up whether they go on to a four-year college or not.

Of course the Teapublicans never saw an Obama idea that they like and they have been grumbling about this one since he first mentioned it before the SOTU. Grumbling is what they seem to do best. And they call me Grumpy! Meh!

Mouse: Teapublicans hate education. They hate to think anyone might be smarter than them. After all, it’s elitist to be educated, don’tcha know? And then of course someone who is educated is less likely to vote Republican. They know the only way they can stay in power is to keep people ignorant of what is happening in the world. Continue reading Soak the Rich?