Search This Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fool on the Hill sees politics 2016

I get older and, as they say, when you are young you are romantic and when you are old you are rheumatic.   But mostly I just observe stuff that nobody else seems to see or wants to admit.  Either I am dumb and dumber” or “the fool on the hill” Beatles: “But the fool on the hill / sees the sun going down/ and the eyes in his head/ see the world spinning ‘round.”

Take for example the oft-quoted opinion that Obama is a socialist. Or Bernie is socialist.  They may be, but they have defaulted to fascism.  Here’s proof.  Communism is government ownership of everything.  Capitalism is private ownership. Fascism, “National Socialsim”, lets private ownership occur but seeks to control enough vital industries to exert effective control of everyone. Obama doesn’t want pure socialism because if something went wrong, he owns it.  He’d get the blame.  Instead he lets the system continue while doubling the number of federal regulations in 7 years.  Then if something goes wrong (Obamacare), he can blame obstructionist Republicans, Bush, corporate interests or our past intolerance of Muslims.   If things go right, he takes credit. It’s a clever technique invented by the world's first teenager. You say, well, isn’t fascism anti-semitic?  No.  That was Nazism, a warped version of fascism in Germany.  Mussolini, inventor of fascism had a cabinet full of Jews.  The word fasci means group or bundle in Italian.  The practice of fascist politics is to divide people into groups and appeal to or blame each group. Sounds like Democrats to me.

Am I the only guy who likes SCOTUS balanced 4-4?  Seems wise and prudent that unless some law or case is overwhelmingly at odds with our constitution, then the Supremes should not change things.  Limited government.  Why do we have to have a strong, politically charged, and active Supreme Court?

I get so sick of people griping about how the campaign is negative and down in the gutter. Blame yourself. PACs do that because they know that is what the public loves and listens to.  Nobody can remember what Romney proposed for defense spending or what Obama preferred.  But everyone can tell you about how Romney put his dingy dog on top of the car and how Obama’s ears are big and he looked just like Satan in that movie about Jesus.  The guy who really understands this gutter sniping and how to use it is Donald Trump.  He reportedly won’t read anything longer than a page, hates issues, and would rather make up a derogatory name for you.  But it really sells, doesn’t it?

Here in Oklahoma we hear a constant rant about how there is no leadership in the state legislature concerning our massive budget hole.  I want to tell them, “It’s a legislature, Stupid.”  Lawmakers don’t run the agencies, they make new laws.  And so they posture and vote and give speeches to express a viewpoint.  Often that viewpoint is against change because that’s the viewpoint of most voters.  This is especially true of voters who are only half tuned in.  “Why can’t things be wonderful, like the way we dreamed about when we voted.”  Meanwhile, politicians are humans with a talent to keep people satisfied.  If I ran for office, I’d tick everyone off with my confrontational style and get only 10% of the vote.  You’d be indecisive or you’d cuss and have bad habits or you’d not be able to express yourself well and you wouldn’t’ win 50% either.  Let the people run who can garner a majority.  It’s called democracy.  Eventually what happens is the Governor and leadership caucus present a budget for a vote.  If it doesn’t pass, we have special session. You hear people bitch about how we need much more time to debate the budget.  Then we’d never get a budget.  The House and Senate have been nixing each other’s budget work all spring, and the opposition party votes everything down just so they can say the other guys don’t have any leadership on the budget.  But when the sine die deadline arrives, we will have an adult, responsible balanced budget.

One of the guys who really loves to rant about state spending is our school superintendent.  Due to the international price of oil and commodities, our energy industry is on the ropes and farm income is half what it was in 2014. This adds up to a large tax revenue shortfall for the state.  We try to protect our schools from the 15% shortfall so they get 4%.  You ought to hear our Superintendent howl.  We are going to have to slash sports and have the janitor teach shop! Someone asked if that meant a cut in administration and he received a hot answer about how Oklahoma has No Admin Expenses problems.  Really!  None in the entire state? So I do a little head math.  School spends $9000 per student.  A teacher makes $44,000 median income and has say, 22 students. That’s $2000 per student spent on teaching.  Where does the other $7000 go?  Bus tires? Football field chalk? Perhaps I should point out to our Super that if he had 149 teachers in the legislaure, we'd still have the massive budget problem due to international markets.

I’m just the fool on the hill talking to himself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who's Dumb?

Life Daily, a celebrity and lifestyle website, ranked the US Presidents by IQ.  Of course the IQ index was invented in 1905 and we don’t have scores for most Presidents.  Nonetheless, a group of “scholars” assessed IQ based on speeches written, etc.  Then the 44 were parceled into the smartest 19 and dumbest 25.  Of course Life Daily then published the list of The Dumbest 25, since, you know, we all hate politicians and you have to be really dumb to become President.  

And the dumbest was Ulysses Grant.  Excuse me, I’m trying to remember Grant.  Wasn’t he the only guy Lincoln could find who could defeat Robert E. Lee and destroy the army of Northern Virginia?  Wasn’t Grant the guy who won at Vicksburg, cutting the Confederacy into two along the Mississippi? Wasn’t he the President who stood up to Congressional Stalwarts who wanted to punish the South into submission after the war?  Grant noted that only 10% of Southerners had been slave owners and abolition had true believers there too—so the nation needed to heal. Yeah, that was the dummy Grant. It should be noted, however, that they rate his IQ as 120 whereas the average person is 100.

  Next came James Monroe.  What do we remember about him?  Monroe Doctrine that European powers should stay on their side of the pond or USA would stand in the way of their colonialism.  Pretty dumb guy, I guess. 

Then George W. Bush was third dumbest. Graduated upper third of his class at Harvard with an MBA. Won the Iraq war and handed it to Obama who couldn’t keep the aftermath from erupting into ISIS. By the way, Grant, Monroe and W. were so stupid they were elected two terms each. 

The rest of the dumb Prezes were  Bush 41, Ike, Zachary Taylor, Reagan, Hoover and in fact all the Republicans since TR.  Andrew Jackson, LBJ and Truman make the list. But the real shocker was George Washington. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Washington that self-made farmer who branched out his farming into the brewing business and is estimated as our richest President?  The guy who held the Revolution together?  President of the Constitutional Convention and two terms as our first Prez?  The guy who wisely refused to be king?  You know I think we need to elect more stupidity like this.  Most of these guys were two termers.

So who did these scholars think were smart?  Well, of course the usual suspects among the founders—Jefferson, Madison, Adams & son.  More recent geniuses were Obama, Clinton, Carter, JFK, FDR, and Wilson.  Does this tell us what their bias is?  Obama who couldn’t figure out how to deal with Republicans in Congress, among whom were such uncompromising firebrands like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner?.  Who else makes the smart list?  Well, John Tyler.  You remember William Henry Harrison’s slogan ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.’  When Harrison died, Tyler Too took over and couldn’t get along with Congress. He was very nearly our first impeached Prez. Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore were also listed.  Neither could figure out how to negotiate a deal to reduce or gradually eliminate slavery in the South.  Gave up, signed the Fugitive Slave Law and Missouri Compromise and went home after one term apiece. Then there was Rutherford Hayes.  Quick, give me a pithy quote from Rutherford Hayes!  Or well, then try Garfield.  How about Chester Arthur.

But then what must one expect from liberal scholars and celeb watchers?

Maybe we should elect a real dumbo like Ted Cruz.

Reviewing what I remembered about each of these Presidents reminds me of that story by Jerry Clower about how Yazoo City, Mississippi didn’t have money for a college but they still wanted everyone to think they were smart people.  So they hired a famous scholar to represent their city and got him a limo and driver to go around to other colleges and give lectures.  One day the famous scholar asked the limo driver what he thought. “Man, I have listened to your lecture so many times, I could give it myself!” So they traded places and the limo driver gave the lecture at the next town.  Then it came time for questions.  The smartest kid in the college stood up and asked, “Sir, if a dinosaur died in the late Triassic and was buried in a reducing environment under 4200 feet of sediments at 8000 psi of pressure and 300 degrees, what would be the pH of that dinosaur bone as it comes up in a core sample?”  A hush fell over the crowd and the limo driver said, “That is the stupidest question I have ever heard!  Why, that question is so dumb, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  I am going to have my limousine driver seated in the back of the room come up here and answer that question.”

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Trouble with Turkey in ISIS fight

Reap what you sow.  I guess the Turkish air force bombed the Kurds in Turkey because numerous suicide bombings in Turkey have taken place by Kurdish rebels who want an independent state. Because ISIS fights the Kurds also, USA is having a hard time getting the Turks to fight with us against ISIS.  The Assyrian Christians who are being massacred by ISIS say that the Kurds were the original persecutors of Christians on the Ninevah plain. Thus, US should not see the Kurds as any kind of allies, nor the Turks. It’s a little confused over there!

But let me see if I remember history. The Ottoman Turks conquered Asia Minor and with it came large minorities of Greek and Armenian Christians.  Ottomans went on to establish their empire over the Balkans.  Among their policies was to demand the first born males of all Christians, who were castrated and made eunuchs, forced converted to Islam and put into service of the government as slaves and soldiers.  This practice and many other abuses were, shall we say, poorly received by the indigent Christian population.  The horrors and atrocities of Turkish terrorism warfare were sometimes matched and countered by resistance leaders like Vlad of Wallacia, famous for impaling captives on spikes.  Eventually the Ottoman empire declined due to an economy that depended on slaves and subjugation, and the Christians of Europe began to win all the wars with the Turks.  Russians came over the Caucasus Mountains to attack the Ottomans and the Austro-Hungarians began to mop up the Balkans.  In 1877-78, the Russo-Turkish war ended in Russia claiming Caucasian Armenia.  In further conflicts in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia in 1895, many Muslims were forced to retreat to Turkey after they lost their lands in the Balkans.  Turks, who were used to treating Christians within their realm as dogs, really resented the Muslim Balkan refugees and began to think that Anatolia—Central Turkey--was their stronghold.  Trouble was, there were so many Armenians there.  When WW I broke out, the Ottomans saw the Christians as doubly subversive.  There were a group of Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul (Constantinople) who were rounded up and sent to eastern Asia Minor to the Armenian homeland and most were killed.  However, Christians weren’t the only minority in Anatolia.  There were also Kurds. 

The Ottomans decided they’d be better off if they were rid of the Armenians.  3 pashas (governors) of the eastern provinces were given a free hand to kill and take property.  And the Kurds were told they could do the same at will.  From 1915 to 1922 (there was a Turkish war of independence after WW I) about 1.5 million Armenians were massacred.  A common method was to march a village into the Syrian desert to the south and leave them to starve.  There was a governor of Allepo, a Muslim who was appalled at the genocide and he tried to save and alleviate the suffering with supplies.  To him it seemed illogical that a country would want to kill off its manpower.  Other Armenians were rounded up and shot and buried in mass graves.  Others were crucified.  Women were often made sex slaves in harems.  Children were sometimes force converted or sold into slavery throughout the empire.  Germans and Austrians on the scene, who were allied to the Ottomans during the war wrote about the horror but were mostly powerless to stop anything. Europe after the war, made a half-hearted attempt to prosecute the 3 pashas but couldn’t find enough paper-trail evidence to bring them to trial. Many Armenians who managed to survive through this holocaust have relocated to USA.

Because of Europe turning a blind eye to the Armenians, Hitler concluded he could do something similar to Jews.

Turkey in 1900 was 20% Christian.  Now it’s less than 1%. Fundamentalist Islam is growing. The country has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that there was ever an Armenian holocaust despite enormous evidence.

The Kurds, enlisted to do much of the dirty work, inherited much of what belonged to the Armenians in eastern Turkey.

Now the Turks have a problem with violent Kurds who want to secede.

It’s threatening the nice tourism and emigration business the Turks have with Europe.

Why is it so hard for me to say the Turks don’t deserve this?   

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lessons of the Tea Party

Due to protests by the colonies, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act on March 18, 1766.  The reason I mention this is that our public schools often fluff over this fact, making the Stamp Act the cause of the American Revolution because people didn’t want “taxation without representation.”  Not so.  The Stamp Act was ten years gone by 1776.  In 1773 the Boston Tea Party took place. It was a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, on December 16, 1773. This protest was in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773.  The Tea Act taxed tea from British colonies in India and didn’t allow colonists in N. America to trade with French, Dutch or any other country to buy tea. So it was at heart a protectionist legislation with the government getting a cut in the form of a tax. Because of the Tea Party, “Parliament responded in 1774 with the Coercive Acts, or Intolerable Acts, which, among other provisions, ended local self-government in Massachusetts and closed Boston's commerce. Colonists up and down the Thirteen Colonies in turn responded to the Coercive Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress, which petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts and coordinated colonial resistance to them. The crisis escalated, and eventually the American Revolutionary War began.”  (Wikipedia)

            Think of this from the standpoint of a British Member of Parliament.  They were trying to support British Empire jobs (British East India Co.) against what they saw as unfair trade. They were regulating the tea industry. And they were guarding the border against unfair, un-tariffed smugglers.  They built a “wall” and were making the colonists pay for it.

            Two lessons from this.  First, the “no taxation without representation” argument of the American Revolution was just a sideline issue and the Tea Party was a stunt that many, including John Adams and George Washington saw with disgust.  Unjust taxation appears buried in the Declaration of Independence as item 17 in the list of 27 grievances against the British Crown, “For imposing taxes upon us without our consent.” Interestingly enough, item 16 is, “For cutting our trade with all parts of the world.”  Apparently the loss of free trade was equally appalling.  The Declaration actually is a litany of abuses of power—depriving us of trial by jury, dissolving our Representatives, taking us beyond the seas to be tried, refusing to allow us to share Christianity with the natives, etc. So if you’ve been taught, as is common by liberals in public schools, that the Revolution was all about money, you’ve been taught wrong. With libs, it’s always about “who gets the money.”

            Secondly, what Donald and Hillary advocate, protectionism of products and jobs of our home country as compared with free trade of imports, is what the Boston Tea Party actually protested. The former Stamp Act that also required colonists to buy home-grown British products rather than cheaper imports, was a source of protest too.  The colonists were “free traders” to the hilt. Parliament suspected them as a den of smugglers and mixed breeds. In some sense Parliament was right.  Americans saw themselves as free men, capable of competing with anybody. Let the free trade begin. Let the immigrants come in.  Or as grievance # 7 against the king states, “He has endeavored to alter the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws of naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage the migrations hither, and raising conditions for the appropriation of lands.”

            I guess I’ve always enjoyed being of the Party of Lincoln, free men without shackles and regulation, welcoming other free men under the law, providing opportunity and free enterprise, and not headed by some jackass who wants to punish and avenge others, protect his fortune, control the markets and people, and divide us against each other by race and social status.  I love the 1930’s Norman Rockwell painting of the poor guy with the old leather coat standing up at a town meeting and given an attentive ear by all the rest of the citizens.  Those were Americans!  I care not for French Revolution avengers intent to guillotine the rich or the churchmen or any other person.  Not by Mussolini or Lenin righting wrongs for some class of people.  In this Easter season, I am reminded that when I was low, so low that I had no way of escape, it was not men who set me free, but I was set free by God. And when the truth has made you free, you shall be free indeed.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Milton Friedman

I was working on a Phd in Theoretical Nuclear Physics when Conservative economist Milton Friedman came for a teach-in on campus.  I’d read some of his articles and was a fan.  And taking advantage of all the scholarship while you have the opportunity to be in college is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss, right?  So I attended Friedman’s class.  I will never forget how he began his lecture. “If you lined up all the economists in the world end-to-end,” he said, “they wouldn’t reach a single conclusion.” Then after the laughter subsided, “But there is one thing almost every economist agrees on—free trade.  For when trade is restricted less commerce occurs and we are all poorer. Only dictators and politicians and unions don’t like free trade.”  Are you listening Donald Trump?

Conservative means free markets and free trade and less regulation.  Trump wants trade wars and never mentions what he’d do to reduce regulation.  Yet the doubling of the regulatory code during Obama is one of the main reasons business isn’t expanding much, jobs are scarce.  Hillary is in the same corner.  Support for NAFTA and TPP has about collapsed in the Democrat party.  The rank and file want to blame all their problems on “ferreners” and Wall Street guys.  Nice try, but do you know what would happen if we didn’t have public companies or international trade? 

Worse is the effect of a trade war.  The Great Depression became a great depression when an ordinary recession was not allowed to naturally re-expand due to the Hawley-Smoot Tariff which increased tax on average import from 17% to 62%.  The ‘ferreners’ retaliated and international commerce with USA dried up.  Hence Europe-- Nazi Germany and England and others—had a recession in 1931-1934 but recovered smartly while USA languished amid repeated bank failures.  Elect a Dem or a Trump and see what you get.

I found an answer to who is voting for Trump.  A college in Ohio ran some added exit poll questions.  Most telling was, “So you voted the Republican ballot.  But what do you regularly call yourself—Republican, Democrat or Independent.”  Answer was 64%R, 28%I, 8%D.  That fits with my crude calculations of 10% Dems crossing the line.  So it means that 36% Dems and Indies are selecting the Republican nominee.  Is that equivalent to shipping in 36% Social Democrats from Germany to choose the nominee? Are those guys going to then volunteer to work to elect down-ballot Republicans? I’d be stunned if they ever showed up.  There is a reason why parties have certain basic philosophies and structures you know.  If voters go into a booth and don’t know one sucker from another on the ballot, how do they vote?  They associate with parties and politics and the head candidate on the ballot.  Put a wild man like Trump on the top and watch the down-ballot candidates get trumped.

All of this is to say that the half-truth of the media about ‘the establishment’ is just so much melodrama.  Who says that Mitch McConnell can influence what Oklahoma voters choose?  Yet the media’s influence is maddening.  Once again it looks like a East Coast moderate/liberal is being forced upon a gullible public.  Will it matter if we get one who yells and has tantrumps and “has a tenuous relationship with the truth” or Monica’s boyfriend’s habitually lying wife.

I guess I’ll take truth, and Friedman free markets and free trade and true blue conservatism, not the fake kind.  Vote Cruz.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

unifying behind Trump

I’m reading Yahoo! Headlines.  “Farrah Abrahams 8 most outrageous moments”  “Bold and Beautiful Star’s boyfriend claims her son wants him killed.”  You know my guy, Ted Cruz, had to apologize profusely because he called Trump’s voters “low information”.  I actually think Ted was spot on with Trump’s never-before-voted crowd. “Roman Reigns returns to WWE Raw, attacks Triple H.”  “Planet of the Titans: Star Trek movie that never ran.” Cerebral stuff, these Yahoos read.

“Primary day: Another big Tuesday.”  Well finally a headline somewhat important.  But here’s the thing.  When you ask people who their state Rep or state Senator is, only 2 or 3 in 100 can tell you either name.  Those who can tell you both are less than a percent.  So when they get in the voting booth and see two names they don’t know, one with an R, the other with a D, who do they vote for?  They often know the politics of the President or Governor who heads the ticket and reason from there.  If the R’s have to support Trump with his ideas all over the map, do you know how hard it is going to be for down-the-ballot candidates?  Win or lose, Trump is a disaster for other Republicans—unless they can out cuss, out lip, out schlong him and draw attention for themselves. 

The problem for a State Senator or a small-town mayor is they can’t afford vast television time and radio interviews. They interview at Kiwanis and Rotary.  Low information voters don’t know them.  Ask people you know what important bill(s) your state Senator passed.  I’d guess well less than 1% can answer that.  But dumb Dems can vote for free stuff and dumb elephants vote limited government.  The headliner of the party needs to represent something significant. 

The TV and radio personalities are 24/7 Trump and Hillary.  Everybody gets excited over the Prez nominees. The women on the View are going to go to Canada if it’s Trump.  The R’s are seeing psychiatrists to get Prozac and worried about Hillary.  Buffett and I just want to invest in the company that makes Prozac.  Look, the only reason for a political party is for like-minded people to team together to elect someone with a like mind.  If politics comes down to Trump, he doesn’t need a team.  (Like that story that a Trump advisor roughed up a reporter. What! Trump has an advisor?) But everybody else does need a team.  If we who are activists are turned out to pasture, who’s going to walk houses and call on phones?  Who’s going to suggest bill ideas to our state Rep and notify our county commissioner of a bad bridge?  Is that low information dude, who only watches TV, going to do it?  Thus it is that a stern order from Trump that we “unify” will not inspire volunteer work.  He has to provide substantive issues that like-minded workers can get behind.  The trouble is, he doesn’t even bother with explanations.  Someone said Cruz asked Trump why he wrote 4 checks to Hillary recently.  And Trump just scowled, probably thinking, ‘with all  the women I write checks to, it’s easy to get carried away.’ 

Hillary is the perfect opponent.  Listen to this quote as she explained Obamacare, “No, we just can’t trust the American people to make those types of choices…Government has to make those types of choices for people.”  Really!  Some comedian said, “It’s like that awkward moment when you realize that terrorists used better security than the Secretary of State.”  So we’ve got the set-up.  We have the frustration in folks who hate Obama.  We just need a substantive guy to head our ticket.  Otherwise the low info yahoos go back to, “Macaulay Culkin is barely recognizable today.” Peter Buck discusses R.E.M.s breakup.” “Cindy Crawford and daughter, Kaia, are simply stunning in ‘Vogue Paris’.  “How to be a sex toy entrepreneur.” 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Like the Truth

After all the rioters at Trump rallies and the Trumpsters fighting them, they talk about who is trying to limit whose free speech.  And then there was the reporter, Fields, who was assaulted by the Trump campaign manager while trying to jockey for a question.  She worked for Breitbart, a Trump endorsing organization, who was just as embarrassed as Trump was and tried to bury the happenstance, until she filed charges.  Then she and the editor quit in protest.  Then, 3 days after Ben endorsed Trump, Trump threw him under the bus by refusing to step down from charges that he’d made about Ben being a child molester and psycho.  What’s the truth?

            “Don’t want nothing complicated, baby. Just want something simple— like the truth.” Isn’t that how that old song goes?  I sit back and remember New York vs. Zenger.  You can’t forget the names of the characters. 

1730, a new royal governor was appointed to New York, but took a year to get there. So the New Yorkers appointed an acting interim governor in Gov. Cosby’s absence.  Rip Van Dam (How’s that for a Dutchman!) was an old guy that held the interim job.  When Cosby got there, 1731, he demanded Van Dam hand over half the salary he had made. Van Dam didn’t give one and refused to turn over a penny.  Case went before Judge Lewis Morris who said Cosby has no right to Van Dam’s salary.  Cosby sacked Morris and when Morris tried to run for assemblyman, refused to count the votes.  Eventually a large group of people began to oppose the highhanded tactics of Cosby and they started a newspaper, The New York Weekly Journal, published by a German immigrant Johan Peter Zenger (How’s that for a German!) Each week, Zenger anonymously wrote a scathing editorial against Cosby.  Cosby sued for libel, got a second compliant judge to issue a warrant to arrest Zenger.  But the clever German slipped more editorials through a hole in the prison door to his wife, and the newspaper continued to publish.  Cosby disbarred all the lawyers who wanted represent Zenger.  Finally the opposition folks got James Hamilton, the original sharp “Philadelphia lawyer”, to represent Zenger pro bono. Cosby attempted to stack the jury, but the courts overruled.

All the speculation around the colonies was whether the New York government could prove that Zenger had even authored the articles in the paper. They were anonymous. But the day of court, Hamilton stunned the court by getting Zenger to freely admit he had written everything.  But, Hamilton noted, Zenger was still innocent.  He was merely telling the truth!  And when governors overstep their authority, it is the duty of ‘we the people’ to tell the truth on them.  But didn’t the strict libel laws of that day still make him guilty?  Hamilton argued ‘jury nullification’, that an unjust or misused law could be overruled by a jury voting to nullify it by their verdict.  Jurors cannot be held liable for their decisions. 

And so the jury unanimously said “not guilty”.  The court exploded in cheers.  The city set off cannonades for joy. Zenger was set free.  This case set the notion in the colonies that papers should be free to criticize government.  Thomas Paine wrote that Zenger case was like yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater. If you do it for mischief, you’re in the wrong.  But if there really is a fire,(the truth) you do a service.  Zenger led to guarantees of freedom of the press throughout the colonies and to its inclusion in the First Amendment. Paine argued Zenger’s truth test in Common Sense for replacing a tyrannical king with a republic.  Lewis Morris’s son went on the pen the preamble to the US Constitution, “We the People of the United States…”

Don’t want something complicated, baby.  Just want something simple like the truth!

HGTV and friends

We take a break from politics on the tube by watching HGTV and other building shows.  I find myself sympathizing with the designers and builders, not the clients. If I worked for somebody like that, I’d quit. Someday I propose a show where they review old episodes and people get to phone in votes for the jerkiest client.  I guess I understand this as a carpenter. We buy an old property, it’s like a crazy puzzle to see what kind of lemonade we can make out of a lemon.  The joy of creating useful space out of a fallen-down shack makes our day.  Not so, the recipients of design on HGTV.  They whine that an unfixed laundry drain they neglected for 15 years has now undermined their foundation. They bitch because the architect has to spend 10 grand to fix it rather than give them the spare bedroom.  They show houses full of unbelievable clutter “before” and designer-inspired redecorating after, and I want to ask the network, “did the crap come back out the day the cameras left?”

            Love It or List It pits a remodeling designer against a realtor who wants to relocate the clients.  After all the moaning and groaning the clients have to choose.  Now you tell me, if a world-class designer came to remodel your home while a super realtor looked for a new house for you, is this in any way not a win-win situation?  I’d be grins and gracious thanks from ear to ear.  Or eager collaborator.  But no, the recipients are such crabs, they should be on the menu at Red Lobster.  And if all goes well with the construction, they add more dreamy things to the wish list, with little regard to the building schedule, as if miracles are expected.  Reminds me of that old Nazi spoof: “Vee vunt the vorld, und vee want it now!”  Then comes the big choice to live with it or list it and you hear whispered conversation that never includes the obvious like, “How the heck do we afford to refinance?” or “let’s go back to the drawing board”  or “why don’t we ask the kids what they want to do”.  I’ve watched shows where they decided to love their old barn while the Taj Mahal waited and thought, “Can’t afford the Taj Mahal after this remodelling, can you.”  Or you have the infernal crabbing about how the designer had to concentrate on main floor only because a massive problem cropped up somewhere and I want to ask, “So why don’t you just add 5K to the budget.  Maxxed out?”

            Other shows have a family giving ultimatums to the builder that they have to move in—in 2 weeks because they are getting kicked out of their rental.  And the builder needs four weeks.  You know what a sensible person would do?  He’d check into a motel for two weeks and let the builder do a professional job rather than slap dash.  Don’t be a bozo.  I’ve had contractors who didn’t stay on the job, but still you have to work with them.

            Which brings up another weird observation.  Why do so many shows have some impossible deadline? “We’re going to remodel this kitchen over the weekend.” Really?  To what purpose?  And then they always show the clients trying their hand at demo by swinging sledge hammers at cabinetry.  I want to run into the house and say, “Look, amateurs swinging big hammers is highly dangerous.  Use a flat bar and do it carefully.  Those cabinets you successfully salvage can be used in the garage.”  Indeed, how many programs have I seen where they brag about being ‘green’ because they use bamboo or walk around on recycled corn stalks or some other silly thing while having demolished all kinds of cabinets and salvageable flooring and toilets to a 30 yard dumpster? Just recycle your stuff, dummy! 

            And then there are shows which I wonder about the purpose.  Tiny houses.  What advantage is there to building a stick built house on a flatbed trailer compared to spending the same $68,000 on a splendid fifth-wheel trailer with good resale value?  Who do you sell an old, tired Tiny House to?  Some hippie like Bernie Sanders before he got into politics? Unabomber? Flea Market Flip turns everything into some sort of weird coffee table.  How many odd coffee tables does the world need? And then there is the flipper who curses and screams at everyone who works for him.  Last episode will feature some guys coming to get him with a straitjacket.

            What seems to be completely out of popularity is landscaping.  I see interior remodelings that run in the six figures while leaving the exterior looking like something Elvis would stand in front of and sing In the Ghetto.  The kitchen has gorgeous gneiss counter tops (which they dub ‘granite’) and drawers that shut themselves and a Viking gas stove.  The outside of the house has evergreens trimmed into balls and cones.  You think this helps resale value?  Curb appeal is the first order of business when selling or even renting.

            And nobody, but nobody explains the theory or art behind the design techniques that look so good. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Trump math

            Since, they say, Trump is a billionaire, he is obviously capable of fixing the economy.  But you go to his webiite and see unbalanced finances much like Hillary’s.  Megyn Kelly put up a graphic in the last debate.  Trump claimed he could save $300B in “making deals” over Medicare drugs.  Alas, the entire amount Medicare spends for drugs is just $110B.  Even if the drug companies gave it free, you only save $110B. 

            It gets worse.  Trump wants to add spending of $25B on the border and the VA, $60B on Soc. Sec., $50B on Medicare, and $70B on defense.  Total is over $200B.  Where’s it going to come from?  With the budget already underwater by $500B, you can’t promise a balanced budget (also one of his claims) unless you find a way among all other categories to save a total of $700B.  But since entitlements are $2700B of the $3800B budget that leaves $1100B.  But then realize that $645B defense spending and a whole lot more like national parks, federal dams, and roads take the pile you can try to find savings to about $400B. Can you save $700B out of that $400B?   

The Tax Policy Center scores his tax cuts as costing $9.5T over ten years and others put it at $15T in increased debt. This guy even outdoes Obama!

            All politicians promise too  much, but Trump seems to make up policy as he goes along. If he does become the Republican nominee, you’ll need to learn new math.  I just don’t see a plan like this showing competence.

            Poll just showed Hillary leads him by 18 points.  But,the TV commentators say, Trump is bringing new people into the Republican party.  Let’s look at that claim.  If 40% of the public votes R, 40% votes D, 20% are Independents, it is often said that successful pols have to concentrate on the independents as a key to winning elections. Notice the fatal assumption—that an R automatically gets  40% base vote. Secondly, the independents vote half as often as partisans, so their 20% votes like 10.  Now suppose you fail to inspire your base and 1/10 of them don’t vote.  You have lost 4 points.  To make that much up among Independents, you’ll have go from 50% of Independent vote to 90%.  This is what happened to Romney in 2012.  He didn’t get enough enthusiasm of his base and couldn’t make it up among I’s. 

            Now consider this.  75% of people are registered.  In a Presidential year, only 67% of that 75% actually vote—about half the population decides the new Prez.  (2012:126M votes cast out of 242M adults over age 18) If your party is enthused and your candidacy turns them on and they are unified, you can swell the base by about 15%.  That is what Reagan did in 1980.  Polls showed Carter close but he didn’t turn out the vote and lost by 12%.
                So far Trump doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of support.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Remembering Nancy

What I remember about Nancy Reagan is how vicerally she was hated by the left.  They called her Queen Nancy simply because the Reagans reintroduced decorum into the White House functions.  State dinners replaced Fritz and Grits and Rockabilly music.  When she grew protective of Ronald’s travelling after his attempted assassination, consulting an astrologer at one point, the media gleefully howled about how she had given up Christianity.  When in 1994, five years after he’d been in office, they announced that he had beginnings of Alzheimers, apparently ABC began a high effort of investigative journalism to find evidence that RR had Alzheimers while in office.  This was related by George Stephanopoulos at the time of his funeral.  Evidently they couldn’t find anything.  I’ve never seen a sensational report on this.

            So why did the Reagan’s get to be so petulantly hated?  Why was ABC still trying to dig up dirt on them 15 years after he’d been in office?  William Safire of the NY Times wrote about this just after Reagan’s term.  He said that if you, as a member of an opposition party, can hold your head high while your opponent is in office, they are no threat.  That is, if you can continue to say, ‘we wuz right all along’, then your opponent is no big deal.  But there is nothing more embarrassing in politics than predicting a disastrous result of your opponent’s actions, and then having just the opposite occur.  And so Reagan came in with supply side economics and cut taxes, saying that the government would receive actually more revenue.  The Democrats predicted huge deficits.  Instead, revenue swelled, the deficits, engineered by the Democrat Congress, held steady.  Reagan said he was going to “get the government off the people’s backs” by deregulation.  Instead of creating chaos, as the Dems warned, it created an economic boom.  He built up the military and talked tough to the Soviets.  Dems predicted we’d lose every ally and cause Vietnams all over the world. Instead communism fell.  Reagan hung tough with arms negotiations in Iceland and a year later, Russia capitulated entirely.  The doubling of the GDP, the end of the cold war, the satisfied Americans with conservatism in the 80’s just made the Democrats wild with anger. Instead of the country being worn out by Reagan’s policies, by 1988 they elected George Bush by a landslide.  Only when Clinton completely rethought the Democrat ideals and was a centrist did the Dems win again, but it wasn’t satisfying to the ardent leftists.  I think it still haunts the Dems today who have gone way way left with Obama and his executive fiats, hold everything to be Bush’s fault.  Some of it is displaced hatred for Reagan.

            I think this is well worth remembering as they will inevitably review Nancy Reagan’s life. The journalists who grew up in the seventies amid the free drugs and free love hippies, found no utopia in Watergate. It ended in drug dependency and venereal disease and advocacy journalism that inadvertently spawned FOX News.  The President who just wanted to get us back to the things that had made our country exceptional and his wife who just wanted a Dolly Madison re-do of the White House and Just Say No to drugs, ended up changing the country for over a generation.  Their lives still echo today.