I remember the raw exuberance of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the days when mass protests generated thousands of followers who met in the streets to march and . . . → Read More: The State of the Art of Revolution
I remember the raw exuberance of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the days when mass protests generated thousands of followers who met in the streets to march and . . . → Read More: The State of the Art of Revolution
The creepy things are starting to creep into the Republican campaigns; the things so ugly and wrong they shut us down and leave us dispirited. How can Democrats find a path to victory through . . . → Read More: The Creepy Things
“Keep It Stupid” is the media meme for all of the announced Presidential campaigns. Hillary walks into a fast food operation in Maumee, Ohio and a Fox host . . . → Read More: In US Politics, Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?
Hillary 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:
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.
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?
The situation of our time
The confusion and crime is in the global circular firing squad which is supposed to function for political sanity. The one that insists everybody should be in, especially, its titular leader, the United States. US President Barack Obama is in disfavor because he won’t spend the dollars or spin the wheel to keep the rigged roulette scheme turning out jackpots that widen the gap between rich and poor. A host of non-state conflicts see refugee populations growing, education disrupted for a generation of children, possessions lost, security and community dashed as civilians become the targets of violence financed by unseen sources.
Its secret fountain of supply is a global slosh of wealth that creeps into the mean to spread death and violence. Despite the intent of good works, wealth, even at its best, misplaces priorities.
Take Bill Gates. Ever in search of the perfect, waterless, composting, energy generating, germ-free toilet, he roams the world while an entire continent, Africa, does not manufacture medical supplies or drugs or infection control gowns—all important basic weapons needed to confront immediate, recurring threats of diseases with more devastating consequences to the social fabric that the lack of sewers in rural villages.*
I agree with his foundation’s statement that “Food and water tainted with fecal matter result in 1.5 million child deaths every year.” But many of those deaths can be prevented through education programs, combining sanitation with another top priority, learning, and getting effective results. Sanitation education would cover a wider range of habits and health conditions, for an even greater impact.
The Ebola outbreak highlights the extreme difference in priorities related to global health. Ebola is killing health professionals, daily diminishing the ranks of Africa’s skilled caregivers, not quickly trained or easily replaced, all for the want of simple infection protection gear—gloves, booties, gowns, masks. All imported.
A continent that is the home of many major contagious infections doesn’t have a stockpile infection gowns or a plant to met this basic need to save lives and reduce the spread of death among civilians and key personnel. Continue reading Surround and Surrender
Along with Republican obstructionism, add another wedge-based, ideological power tool: reductionism. Reduce every incident of the magnitude of the world’s greatest tragedies to a simple formula of failure and lay them neatly at the President’s feet.
In the Republican playbook, reductionism is a call to action; it focuses on President Obama as the enemy-in-chief; at once inept and over-reaching, an indecisive President making too many decisions, a weak President who has preserved America’s peace, a budget-cutter who spends too much, a President who ignores Congress after spending an entire term seeking a Grand Bargain with the Republican Speaker; an international leader who has squandered America’s leverage even as his policies of international sanctions are working; a leader who doesn’t understand and stifles businesses and finance, even as his Justice Department settles a civil case against a global behemoth of a bank for violations of the laws of business practices, settling for $7 billion, $2.5 billion of which will go to assist mortgage holders, with $180 million used to build affordable housing, the first time fees from government penalties will go to taxpayers.
Reduction presents a simple fact as it engages in massive distortions of the truth. True, no President in history has experienced or overseen the kind of humanitarian crisis involving children along the US southern border as Obama has, but no President has improved the US image as a beacon of hope to attract a pilgrim’s journey of thousands of children threatened by death and violence, by sexual exploitation by national gangs of drug thugs who hold power through force and intimidation in several Central American nations.
Reductionism ignores causes and settles on blame. Often without more than the appearance of evidence based on circumstances and without proof.
Reductionism is the exception that denies it’s the exception; it makes victims out of people who are then blamed as victims. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both the leadership and the people: health care costs are rising—Obama’s fault—yet lazy workers are waiting on a handout—healthcare is affordable if you are willing to work.
Can’t find a job? Your fault. Obama’s fault.
Other reasons? Nope. The above sums it up. Well, add too many taxes on business, too much noise about higher wages, fears of inflation, too much regulation in every business sector, too much interference in what should be the rights of the states.
Reductionism works best in an atmosphere of anger. Much of the racial opposition to Obama has been reduced to anger, anger waiting to attach itself to a cause that supports its cherished conclusions of power, privilege and competence. Reductionism docks with that anger. Both are then gravity-fed by high-pressure blame. Continue reading Republican Obstruction Gives Way to Reduction
With every lurid allegation and wheezing harrumph over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the circumstances of his captivity and release being debunked, Republicans are left to stand around looking not just damn foolish, but hypocritical and heartless. That’s not a novelty, of course; they’ve been doing it pretty much forever. Sgt. Berhdahl is simply the latest excuse for GOP poutrage spun out of whole cloth. On the brighter side, at least Republicans are spending so much time hyperventilating about him that they’ve hardly had time to keep grinding the stubs of their ax handles over Benghazi, the IRS, Syria, and whatever other pseudo-scandals have slipped my mind at the moment. Small mercies. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies on the Bergdahl release before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
Any remaining unexploded Republican heads will probably explode today as direct talks begin in Geneva between officials of the US and Iran, as efforts continue to reach a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program by July. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns leads the US delegation.
The results of an internal audit on the VA’s hospital scheduling issues were released this morning. The details were heartbreaking and infuriating. Over 57,000 vets have been awaiting initial appointments for more than 90 days, and 64,000 enrollees over the past decade have never got an appointment. Also today, the House Veterans Affairs Committee hears testimony from the office of the VA’s Inspector General and representatives from the GAO. Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson has vowed swift reform.
Hillary Clinton, who says in an interview with Diane Sawyer airing tonight that she won’t announce her presidential plans until 2015, is kicking off a national book tour this week, during which she’ll be asked by every local media figure and every autograph-seeking fan at every stop in every city whether she intends to run in ’16. She’ll also be campaigning for a variety of Democrats, each of whom will ask her whether she intends to run in ’16.
The President kicks off the week with an expansion of the “Pay As You Earn” program and other executive modifications to student loans, while urging Congress to take legislative action. Presumably, he won’t be holding his breath about the latter. The President hosts a Monday event at the White House, with Dr. Jill Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in attendance.
On Tuesday, the focus on education cost and quality continues with the “President’s first-ever Tumblr Q&A” at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. The event will be moderated by Tumblr founder David Karp. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/9/14
In talking about a prospective Hillary Clinton candidacy, he mentioned the incident with Bill. The incident Newt Gingrich tried to impeach Bill for, Rand Paul reframed and called Bill’s involvement an act of “violence.” “Violence”? “The kind we should all be opposed to,” Rand Paul said.
So how did Rand Paul, who said “we should all oppose” sexual “violence” vote on the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the Senate last year? He voted “no”.
It seems some violence he doesn’t oppose. Here’s why, in his own words: “The legislation would increase benefits available under VAWA to specifically include victims of stalking and ‘cyber-stalking,’ as well as same-sex couples, and illegal immigrants who are victims of any sort of violence.”
It seems he doesn’t oppose the “violence” of GOP elected members of Congress, which, if framed from the same time period as President Clinton, includes inappropriate activities with pages and staffers’ wives, and more.
In 2004, Rep. Robert Sherman (PA) admitted a five-year affair with a staff member who had locked herself in the bathroom of his apartment and called 911 saying he tried to choke her. No charges were filed, but she later sued and won a non-disclosed settlement. The GOP leadership supported Sherman for re-election and so did Rick Santorum, who made a robo-call on his behalf.
2007 brought us Larry Craig (ID) and the bathroom toe tapping at the airport (considered a sign of solicitation for anonymous same-sex encounters) and Joseph McDade (PA), accused of flashing two women on a Florida beach in front of several eye witnesses. He reportedly fondled himself as he followed one.
In 2010, Congress member Mark Jackson (IN) admitted to having an extra-marital affair with a married woman hired to prepare weekly audio tapes of Rep. Jackson’s views on family values. When he resigned from Congress, he said in his statement, “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff.”
An earlier post I wrote on Rep. Scott Desjarlais (TN) covers Congress’ biggest stud: a doctor who had multiple affairs with hospital staff and even patients. An anti-abortion politician whose wife had an abortion as a result of his affairs.
Rand Paul is silent against the long-trending epidemic of inappropriate forms of sexual contact that plague his party. At the state and local levels, it often involves children. For safety’s sake, I omitted the stories and facts.
In fact, the Speaker, John Boehner, first won his seat after he beat Rep. Buz Lukens in a Republican primary. Lukens had been found guilty of paying a 16-year-old $40 for sex, and refused to resign from his Congress.
And of course, by Rand Paul’s own words, he’s open to cyber-stalking and sexual violence against gays and undocumented residents; this violence is okay—since it caused him to vote “no”.
But Rand Paul, who offers Hillary fake concern that doesn’t jibe with his politics or actions, gives a second reason for opposing VAWA and bringing his policy bona fides into question. Again, in his own words: “mandatory arrest laws can actually aggravate further domestic violence.” Continue reading Rand Paul’s Vicarious Politics
Tomorrow, Virginians choose one of milquetoast Clintonista Terry McAuliffe or Tobacco Belt Taliban Ken Cuccinelli to succeed Bob McDonnell in the Executive Mansion. The Democrat’s lead in the polls still holds, though a low projected voter turnout suggests Cuccinelli could pull off an upset with a sufficiently large turnout of irate Teabaggers and/or plain old Republican electoral tampering. Two Obamas, two Clintons and a Biden have been campaigning on McAuliffe’s behalf, while Cuccinelli’s audiences have, deservedly, been talked at by the likes of Marco Rubio, Reince Priebus, Rick Santorum, the Duggars and Rand Paul.
Speaking of Rand Paul, expect more fun this week centering on his weakness for “borrowing” words and ideas without attribution or shame. If a few more examples of the Senator’s plagiarism turn up, he could be forced to issue a major “clarifying” statement to try and muddy the waters. If it comes to that, I hereby offer him a preliminary draft that he’s welcome to pass off as his own: “I am not a crook and I have not yet begun to fight, or to remember the Maine. It’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times, it’s been a date which will live in infamy, but I have nothing to fear but fear itself and I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. Now, watch this drive and read my lips: no new taxes. For the rich, anyway. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what it can do for me. So long, and thanks for all the fish, and good night and good luck, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are. Oh, and would somebody please tear down this wall?”
Voters in 11 Colorado counties get a chance to weigh in tomorrow on whether they want to secede from the state. One of these rural (meaning Republican) counties would supposedly become part of Wyoming, while the other 10 would form a new state called North Colorado or Brigadoon or something.
Chris Christie is the odds-on favorite to win another gubernatorial term in New Jersey tomorrow, so certain of victory that he spent part of Saturday afternoon indulging in one of his favorite activities, publicly belittling a constituent. Christie wagged his finger in the face of teacher Melissa Tomlinson, who says he told her, “I’m tired of you people.” A Christie staffer later disputed the quote, so you just know Tomlinson described it accurately. Once safely sworn in for another term, Christie will immediately forget about New Jersey and turn his attention to a presidential run.
Boston’s mayoral election is also happening tomorrow, with last-minute polls still showing a tight race between Democrats Martin Walsh and John Connolly, and a significant number of voters still undecided. New York City, by contrast, will shock nobody by electing Bill de Blasio to succeed Michael Bloomberg; a poll released this morning shows the Democrat leading GOP opponent Joe Lhota by 41 points. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/4/13
My erstwhile hometown North Miami was supposed to elect a new mayor on May 14, but no winner has yet emerged, ballots are still being recounted, and the air is thick with innuendo and accusations of skullduggery. So far, nothing unusual for a Florida election, but this particular election has expanded the frontiers of weirdness in other ways.
Candidate Anna Pierre, who likes to refer to herself as a princess and who once had a hit song in her native Haiti, claimed that someone placed voodoo artifacts – “candles, food and dolls with pins stuck in them” – outside the door of her campaign headquarters on Easter Sunday. She also filed a complaint with police over the alleged theft of 50 campaign signs, and claimed that she had received phone calls telling her to abandon her candidacy.
The malevolence arrayed against her could only be countered with some sort of godsend, and she got one in the form of what she called “a spiritual endorsement” from none other than Jesus Christ. In spite of that, she finished dead last in the field of seven candidates. While she didn’t publicly express disappointment that Christ’s backing had failed to secure her a win, Pierre had plenty to say about other topics on her Facebook page:
I do, as it happens, but I confess to admiring Pierre’s deep commitment to the truth, which actually prompted her to revise her post midway through:
So is she bitter about her defeat? It’s actually a little hard to tell, but the caps do hint at some degree of discomfiture:
Pierre generously left her dozens of supporters with one potential consolation, at least:
Well, maybe. If a grilled cheese sandwich with a fuzzy image of the Virgin Mary on it can fetch $28,000 on eBay, I suppose anything’s possible. Despite Pierre’s difficulties, she’s had it easier than at least one of her rivals, who got punched in the mouth:
Candidates Kevin Burns and Lucie Tondreau came in first and second, respectively, and will advance to a June 4 runoff, but first, a recount is underway at the behest of third-place finisher Joseph Smith, who, like Marcellus, believes that votes have gone missing. Marcellus contends that 746 absentee ballots have vanished, although election officials claim there was a simple clerical error and that no votes have disappeared.
Assuming the recount finds nothing nefarious, will the runoff result in a clear winner? It’s Florida, of course, so nothing is guaranteed, but if neither James Baker nor David Boies is spotted in the vicinity over the next few weeks, I’ll take it as a good sign.
TWO: Boy Wonder
Next time around, North Miami might want to consider emulating Dorset, Minnesota, which chooses its mayor by drawing a name from a hat. The current mayor, Robert “Bobbie” Tufts, seems to have a firm though surprisingly small hand on the municipal tiller. Tufts is four years old, but don’t for a second underestimate him:
Tufts’ one-year term is up in August, when the 22 citizens of Dorset will meet again to draw another name. What’s next for Hizzoner? Fishing, dancing and singing, probably. It’s a pity he can’t be persuaded to relocate to South Florida, but he probably wants to finish kindergarten first.
THREE: Dark Horse’s Ass?
Republicans face a difficult choice for the 2016 presidential election: go with a lackluster but known commodity (Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee) or nominate a callow, intemperate know-nothing who will spend most of the campaign trying to keep his or her feet out of his or her mouth (Rand Paul, Kathy McMorris Rodgers, Bobby Jindal). Personally, I think their dream candidate is already waiting noisily in the wings. He’s a Southerner, he’ll be a young-but-not-too-young 48 in ’16, he’s as dumb as a jar of paint thinner, and his views on a wide variety of issues are shaped by a caustic combination of appalling bigotry, misinformation, arrogance, rudeness, spite, and a complete inability to show remorse. Like I said, a dream GOP presidential candidate. His name is Stacey Campfield.
The state Senator from Tennessee has “graced” this column several times in the past, first for getting banned from Nashville’s Bistro at the Bijou because its owner, Martha Boggs, found his blatant homophobia objectionable. She described Campfield as “an embarrassment to the state” and noted: “He’s really gone from being stupid to dangerous.” More recently, I commented on Campfield’s outrageous scheme to slash TANF benefits to families whose kids perform unsatisfactorily in school, a saga that ended (for now) with Campfield putting a hold on his bill shortly after being bested in a battle of wits with an eight-year-old girl.
Campfield’s newest political performance art happening was inspired by the University of Tennessee’s first annual Sex Week. He was scandalized – scandalized! – by reports of louche and lascivious activities at the event, including: “A lesbian bondage expert and a campus-wide condom scavenger hunt…”
Why, even the names of some of the events seemed calculated to drive uptight conservatives sprinting for the fainting couch:
But even Campfield realizes he can’t just clamber up on a soapbox and scream about how icky sex is, so when university president Joe DiPietro appeared at a Senate subcommittee hearing last Thursday, Campfield resorted to the dependable tactic of using “fiscal responsibility” as a fig leaf for his mutated version of Victorian social conservatism, maintaining:
Campfield also took the opportunity to pout about a list of guest speakers at the university over a three-year period, a roster he claimed consisted mostly of “a whole lot of ‘left.'”
In other Campfield news this week, a 2008 Democratic candidate for the state House had a libel suit against Campfield thrown out, but has filed notice of appeal:
The suit was tossed by a – surprise! – Republican judge on the grounds that Campfield didn’t know that what he posted was false. Appeal or not, Campfield blithely continues to use his blog to offend, insult and demean, as he did with an April 21 post entitled “Here comes Feinstein again,” which consisted of a cutaway graphic of an “assault pressure cooker” with sarcastic captions describing its component parts; the bottom handle is a “tactical pistol grip,” the top handle a “folding stock,” and the body of the cooker itself is described as “evil, black.”
Campfield followed up this laugh riot with an appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live, where he commented:
If you think that’s a knee-slapper, just wait until Campfield’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Continue reading Take Five (Stool for Scandal edition)