Despite political rhetoric, neither Trump nor Clinton could do without Wall Street, Goldman Sachs it seems…

November 30, 2016

I posted this earlier but I should have led with this quote or paraphrase from — well I forget who, possibly one of President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks or candidates — I’ll try to find out. But he said:

The Great Recession was caused by the government (both Democrats and Republicans) pushing for easy money to home buyers, the greed of Wall Street, and borrowers (the home buyers) taking on more debt than they could handle.

I can agree with that. There is a price for easy money.


Could not find the name for sure or the exact quote I heard on NPR but I think it was from Steven Mnuchin, a financier with a long history at Goldman Sachs in his past, and a hedge funder who made money buying failed mortgages in the Great Recession and going heavy on foreclosures it has been charged. But he is said to be more of a pragmatist than and ideologue and that he has donated to both the Democrats and Republicans. He has been selected by Trump to be Secretary of the Treasury.

At any rate it will be interesting to see what Trump and his team can do. In the news of course is a supposed deal to save some of those Carrier jobs from going to Mexico.


And back to my original version of this post:

I think I made more than one post during the presidential campaign noting Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street at the same time she was campaigning in the fashion of representing the public as a whole rather than Wall Street or the investment bankers.

And of course Donald Trump played that up big too.

But now, and I suppose it should be no surprise, the billionaire president-elect is turning to some Wall streeters, especially the infamous Goldman Sachs firm, to fill some cabinet posts and for advice.

So not too surprisingly, after reportedly being locked out of the Washington power circle under Obama and since the Great Recession for which it took much blame, it looks as if it will be back to business as usual with Wall Street playing prominently, or did it ever not? I notice Obama never did make the bankers pay for their mistakes like he promised he would.

I don’t have much to add except in our society money rules.

p.s.

And by the way, the notion that there was greed all the way around in the Great Recession is not a novel one — old news of course. I think bad policy by the government, greed by the lenders, and unrealistic thinking and general ignorance in money matters by the general public and the normal boom and bust cycle of a capitalist economy were the causes.

Advertisements

I don’t approve of flag burning but I think the issue is a distraction…

November 30, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump suggests that it ought to be illegal to burn the American flag and that people who do should perhaps be jailed and even lose their citizenship. I guess he tweeted this. That is how he incites things. It can work at least two ways: one he can distract attention away from other issues, such as his conflict of interest in his business holdings he has thus far refused to get his hands off of, even as he gets ready to assume the office of the most powerful person in the world — a myriad of decisions he might make could be affected by how good they are for his bottom line. Two: he tweets maybe to — and speaking of flags — run things up the flagpole, test the waters of public opinion.

Another sneaky thing he seems to be doing is sending out his campaign manager now special aide Kellyanne Conway to criticize her own boss in public, chastising him for even considering Mitt Romney for a cabinet post (Secretary of State it has been suggested) when Romney refused to endorse Trump and even called Trump a “phony”. But now the word is that Conway got the okay from Trump himself to criticize Trump himself.

In using the new technology of twitter, Trump really in a way is just using the old tool of some past presidents, the bully pulpit — going around congress (or the establishment; I know he is not president yet) and directly to the people and even around the press.

That’s another thing. Trump has discovered that in this new cyber world, the established or mainstream press no longer has a lock on the news or dissemination of information. In fact, this past presidential campaign has proven the press can be distracted or almost held at bay by being forced to lap up everything a candidate says in daily tweets or one liners on the campaign trail.

Trump also was able to use his celebrity as a distraction to save having to actually go into any detail on substantive issues.

This is not good. This is just fact. But then again, it is really up to the consumer of news to be discriminating and turn away from the simplicity of tweets or news coverage as celebrity coverage and seek out sources with some established credibility.

And back to the flag burning issue. This is a distraction. On a scale of one to ten, flag burning should be pretty low. Would I burn the American flag in protest? No. Do I think it is proper to do so? No. Do I think people ought to be punished for doing so? No. For one thing the Supreme Court has held it is protected under freedom of expression. I can accept that, even if I would not choose to use that form of expression. For another thing, don’t we have more pressing issues at this time?

Not necessarily in this order, but: The economy, terrorism, health care (must we be in limbo about where we are to get our coverage? we only live once for a limited time), wars in the Middle East, climate change (only flat earthers can think it is a hoax), and the list goes on, with flag burning way down near the bottom I would think. I mean how often do you encounter it?

But Trump no doubt sees flag burning as a handy hot-button issue or wedge issue to manipulate people and use people by having them fight among one another, all the better to distract from his own plans or lack thereof.

On the other hand, Trump and anyone who is opposed to allowing the protest burning of the American flag can be sincere. It is said that Richard Nixon was incensed and puzzled at anti-Vientnam War protestors. He had grown up thinking that one supported his own country and had served honorably in World War II in the pacific theater. I can’t say what was in his head, but I am fairly sure he supported the First Amendment and its protections of free speech but probably thought one could express dissatisfaction without degrading the very symbol of the nation in which we live and that is considered the leading democracy in the world.

In his presidential campaigning Nixon used what was called the concept of the silent majority, who were supposedly the god fearing, patriotic working people against the rabble of college students and draft dodgers. And in reality it was a culture change too, in which young people didn’t just automatically go to war because if their country called them it must be just.

(But people don’t always fit into nice neat categories and those war protestors and flag burners had parents, many of whom might have been classified as being part of the silent majority. Eventually that majority agreed with the protestors — except maybe for the flag burning.)

Whatever, Trump has successfully tapped into Nixon’s silent majority. And he has also picked up the so-called “white nationalists” (KKK, neo-nazis, ect.). I don’t lump the latter in with my perception of the silent majority, but the two are sometimes hard to completely separate, some of those prejudices seep upward into the higher classes or maybe they go both ways.

Before the Trump victory, I like so many others assumed the Democrats would win but I thought even if it looked as if the Republican Party had self-destructed it would come back from near death and rise again. Well, of course the situation is reversed.

We need rival political parties. I wished we had more than two but we at least need two major parties.

I’m not even sure Trump is mentally stable. If not, he would not be the first American president to be considered a little bonkers . But let’s hope people around him can keep some kind of stability and let’s hope the Democratic Party can find itself. Abandoning people who had supported it in the past did not work.


A professor suggests truck driving requires little judgment…

November 27, 2016

Note: The real message, if any, here has less to do with truck driving than respect for and the value of human work. We are headed into a brave new world of sorts, way beyond the industrial revolution, in which we are so clever we can put all of ourselves out of a job. And then what?


Using a quote by itself can be misleading due to overall context of what someone said or wrote — I covered that in a recent post concerning something about journalism, but the following was an insult to me:

“Long-haul truck driving is a great example, where there isn’t much judgment involved and it’s a fairly controlled environment,” Kaplan said.

I’m a long-haul truck driver. Well I hope that guy doesn’t get run over by a truck or that he himself does not cause a collision by doing that diagonal run-in-front-of-a-big-rig maneuver (so common now), almost under its bumper to make the interstate exit at the last minute (or maybe I don’t).

I’m not even going to bother checking back to see who this guy is —  just some college professor.

Actually, looking at the context, he was suggesting that driving over interstates between towns might be work most susceptible to being replaced by autonomous (driverless) trucks. I think it was suggested in the article that what might happen is that human drivers might still navigate in towns and in and out of warehouses and such. He was just saying that what he considered relatively low-skilled jobs (thanks a lot) will be, or are the first replaced by the newest technology.

Well I have news for Mr. Professor, even though I think there is a problem or danger in it, so-called “artificial intelligence” is replacing a lot of what had thought to have been highly-cerebral jobs, requiring much education.

But back to that quote about long-haul trucking not requiring much judgment. On its face that is absurd. Actually, the reality is that judgment is the main thing required in trucking these days. Trucks used to be a lot harder to learn how to drive and just a lot harder to drive period. I got into it all after they had become much easier and they have become even easier since I entered 21 years ago.

But the rest of the story is that drivers must use judgment in so many things they do all day long — how to make schedules, which are erratic and change at a whim (most of it is not fixed-route driving), and how to make it fit into hours-of-service regulations and where to find a legal parking place before your legal hours run out and what to do when held at a place and your hours run out but you are not allowed to stay at the shipper or receiver (I just saw a sign the other day that said even if my hours of service were done I could not stay and would be charged with trespass), and how to drive through bad weather and decide when it is just too bad, and how to find places for which one is often given wrong directions to, and how to deal with motorists who constantly want to drive under your truck bumpers, and even how to deal with some other truck drivers who are not so careful as you are, and how to deal with unreasonable customers or shippers and receivers (fortunately not all are) who you don’t dare get on the bad side of and how to decide what to do about that warning light on the dash that might mean nothing or just that something needs looked at soon or that it means stop now or the engine will blow up (and the lights are not always specific on the problem), and if you do put yourself out of commission, what happens to the load and where will you sleep? And what if you weigh your truck down the road and you are overweight? Do you try to go back to the shipper and use up your limited time or do you hope you burn off enough fuel (which you have to make a calculation based on miles and fuel consumption) before you get to the state scale and risk getting a super-expensive citation that goes on your record? Yeah I’ve just touched on a few of the judgments long-haulers make every day, every hour.

Of course if the truck drives itself then no problem, except the driver then has no job and can’t contribute to the economy.

Now, Mr. Professor, I actually graduated from college myself. And although I would prefer a real human professor, there are robots programmed with artificial intelligence and there are such things as recordings of lectures that can be played on television and on the internet, greatly reducing the need for professors, and only having to be updated from time to time.

We can all be replaced.

Isn’t it wonderful? Look at all the free time we’ll have. I’m not sure who pays us then or how we will all figure out how to divvy up the finite resources of our good earth without the system in which we earn tokens by what we contribute (or in some families by what others have contributed).

But you can’t stop progress. I’m not sure why. I just know you can’t.

But just what is the meaning of life and what is the value of work? I think the value of work goes way beyond dollars and cents. And just how healthy are we going to be when none of us has to work?

p.s.

So I did go back and find the article from which I lifted the quote that insulted my job (and it is an informative one, I must admit):

 

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-fi-automated-trucks-labor-20160924/

 


Castro dead; he was a dictator of the left who replaced a dictator of the right…

November 26, 2016

So finally Fidel Castro of Cuba is dead. He was a dictator of the political left persuasion who replaced a dictator of the political right. He was a major world figure if for no other reason than he brought the two world super powers of the early 1960s, The United States of America and the Soviet Union, to the brink of nuclear war over the placement of soviet nuclear missiles just 90 miles off the shores of the USA.

I should know more about Castro, who was 90, than I do, although I have seen images of him, often smoking a cigar, and have heard and read some things about him nearly all my life.

I think I was in fifth grade when he took power in 1959 and my memory was that our teacher seemed to think it was a good thing. He soon turned Cuba into a communist test case (I don’t have any reason to believe my teacher was a commie, it was just thought by many that he might free the Cuban people from tyranny — seems like they were wrong). By most accounts I think the test case failed. The nation spent the next half century impoverished. Did life get better for anyone? I don’t know really. Perhaps it is difficult for communism to thrive in a predominantly capitalist world. I know the capitalist world of which I am part was always fearful it could not survive in a world where communism was spreading — and by spreading I mean more by outside force than a natural will of people. And that is why we had the Cold War.

Recently, the Obama administration moved to normalize relations with Cuba and lift trade restrictions that were a vestige of the Cold War, a tactic that was meant to force Cuba out of its communism and punish it for trying to spread communism throughout Latin America and even Africa.

President-elect Donald Trump has previously indicated he would slow that process down and leave restrictions on.

Okay, I did not intend to write a news story here or a recap of Castro history, I just wanted to comment on the death of Castro. It’s a big thing in world politics.

When I have more time and when I have reviewed all the stories I might write more. But for now I will say that democratic (small d) government is preferable to dictatorships, but when people want to hold on to what they have or are fearful or want to get what they don’t have, they move to dictatorship, to a strong man.

Castro’s predecessor was and army officer who protected the wealthy. Castro came in under the banner of empowering the poor. But I think maybe he mainly empowered his elite inner circle.

It is said that Cuba has good medical care. I don’t really know about that, except the nation offered the George W. Bush administration help in the Katrina disaster, which it turned down, no doubt partly in embarrassment at its own ineptness in a crisis.

(They say the right-wing, fascist dictator Mussolini of Italy made the trains run on time).

And enough people are so dissatisfied with the status quo in the U.S., on the right and left, that we have wound up with what is perceived to be a strongman headed into the White House.

God save us, and say hello to Fidel (or send him south, whatever).

 


Trump like Nixon feels above the law; is his nod to climate change really a brush off to those with concerns?

November 26, 2016

I almost could not believe at first that President-Elect Donald Trump pulled a Richard Nixon and claimed that if the president does something then it is not illegal but apparently he did in an exclusive New York Times interview. He was being asked about conflicts of interest he will have as president while still having vast business holdings. Trump appears heavily resistant to putting his holdings into some kind of blind trust or to liquidating assets as other presidents have done.

You can read the quote yourself in the Time’s transcript. I could not really tell what he meant for sure, if anything. Trump has his special way of being evasive and equivocal, or just seemingly to make positions up on the fly, all the better for changing one’s mind or claiming he never said what he seemed to have said later or to just plain obfuscate (Hillary Clinton just talked like a lawyer when caught in a difficult spot; Trump is the consummate salesman — people know what he is doing and buy anyway). I mean if you read the full transcript of his interview as I just did before writing this I am sure you will see what I mean, if you don’t already from just listening to him all these months.

For Nixon it was supposedly that “got you moment” in the famous David Frost interviews with the out-of-office, disgraced president who resigned after members of his own Republican Party gave him the word they were ready to proceed with impeachment as a result of revelations in the Watergate scandal.

Maybe I need to see the actual Nixon interview segment in whole, but it is as if he was so caught up in his own emotions of being above the law that in a weak moment he just blurted it out and then maybe realized what he had just proclaimed. Are we not taught that even the president is not above the law?

(But then there is the notion that presidents by virtue of their role have such an awesome responsibility for the security of the nation that there can be instances where they can do things that otherwise might be considered illegal. But that would be in the interests of national security not just politics. Nixon’s plumbers were engaged in the age-old game of dirty politics. And in Trump’s case, I can’t see how getting an unfair advantage in business dealings as leader of the free world qualifies as national security. And there is the so-called emoluments clause in the Constitution that some think would or should forbid Trump from profiting from his foreign business dealings.)

Nixon in one sense was not above the law being as he was forced out of office but he did escape punishment, other than being forced out. His successor pardoned him. Of course if President Gerald Ford had not issued the pardon and Nixon would have subsequently been tried and convicted and maybe jailed, the U.S. would have seemed no better than your average banana republic.

But now we have the wildly unpredictable, erratic Trump.

I am trying to be cautiously optimistic but I have severe doubts.

To me it seems as if he is holding the nation hostage.

The only thing more amazing about how few in the political establishment seem to stand up to him is how some who have stood up to him have wilted and come crawling back — Mitt Romney (being considered for Secretary of State, along with others), Nikki R. Haley (Gov. of South Carolina, selected by Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to the UN). Both heavily criticized Trump in the primaries and warned he was unfit to be president.

Lest they be flattered by his attention now, it might be he just wants both of them out of active political life and on his side.

For their part, though, they may figure they can do more good on the inside and maybe, hopefully, head off some of the otherwise bad influences from Trumpland.

(So maybe characterizing them as “crawling back” was unfair.)

If you read that transcript in the Times you will see someone who seems to have no deep convictions or who has heretofore given little thought to issues of the day with the only one bright spot being that he appears to be and in fact claims to be “open minded”.

But one caustic Obama critic I heard on a late night right-wing political talk show claimed that when Trump told the Times that he was “open minded” about the causes of climate change, most notably man’s contribution to it, he actually was giving them the “brush off”. She said it was just like when you are offered a dinner date you don’t want and say you will get back with your answer after you check your calendar.

I don’t know, but I do know that trying to get a straight answer out of Trump is as hard or harder than with any politician. Even when he disavows hate groups, such as the KKK, it sounds less than sincere — kind of pro forma, or blasé as if just pro forma for insistent reporters and kind of wink, wink, nod, nod (keep up your support boys; there’s no such thing as bad support).

 

 

 


Much to be thankful for — Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2016

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

By the time anyone reads this they will have probably already ate their Thanksgiving dinner and maybe it will be just a memory — a good one I hope.

And then again, I know that there are those who cannot afford a Thanksgiving dinner. But I am always hearing about the dinners that are put on for them, so I hope that anyone in that category is able to take part in that.

My late wife once or twice helped served dinners for the underprivileged as I guess we call them. Good for her. And My sister I know has done some volunteer work in that regard. Good for her.

What have I done? Well, I have paid my taxes and I do not begrudge some of that money going to the less fortunate.

You see, I was not born rich, and I have not reached great heights (at least in the sense of dollars) in my work as an adult. But nonetheless I have much to be thankful for. I won’t go on about that.

All I really wanted to say is Happy Thanksgiving to all!

And thanks to anyone who has bothered to read my blog.

 

 


On just ending regulations on a willy-nilly basis…

November 22, 2016

Republicans, that is Republicans primarily, always want to end regulations — they are law and order but they want to end all regulations — excuse me, all unnecessary regulations on business.

(Regulations on human behavior and individual rights, well that’s another story.)

This is not novel but President-Elect Donald Trump has announced that among his priorities on “Day one” in the White House will be that for every one new regulation two old ones must be eliminated.

How simplistic and nonsensical can you get? I mean this assumes that there are regulations that are unnecessary, I mean unnecessary on their face. Then why were they put on the books in the first place? Many people must have thought they were necessary.

We know that under-regulation on banks led to the 2008 Great Recession. And we can thank a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who in his then new “centrist approach” went on the deregulate-the-banks bandwagon.

Trump says that over-regulation is impeding the production of energy.

Oklahoma has an unusual epidemic of earthquakes as the result of the relatively new development of the fracking method of extracting oil. But attempts to curb this process meet with resistance because oil is a vital source of energy and dollars. And when there is a conflict between public safety and dollars, dollars often win out.

(There has to be a middle ground.)

And I hope this is not in bad taste but a story just developing within the last 24 hours as I am writing this is a terrible school bus tragedy in Chattanooga, Tennessee in which at least five children died. It is speculated had they had seat belts they might have survived. But the powers that be there have resisted mandatory seat belts on school buses because of the cost — unnecessary regulation?

On the other hand, I will agree that there of course can be such thing as unnecessary regulations and regulations should be reviewed from time to time.

But politicians ought to give the pubic more credit and ought to do their homework and figure out some logic here. Just willy-nilly ending regulations is not the way to go.

To be fair, perhaps Mr. Trump really meant (we are always left with figuring out the real meaning) not just an arbitrary erasure of regulations.

But to my mind the threat to end two regulations for every new one is a form of political blackmail from the hands-off business side against the more careful environmentally and safety conscious side. Don’t try to regulate us or we’ll just eliminate regulations altogether. The Art of the Deal?

Most of the fight on regulations is over those on business. People who stand to earn money on something that is beset with regulation will always be blind to science and other safety considerations, whether they be safety belts for school buses or safety practices in coal mines or regulations on lenders.

Trump says that over-regulation is stymieing the development of energy. I imagine regulations always impede progress to some extent but again there must have been a reason behind the regulations in the first place.