We are rushing toward a World War I-like calamity but in the nuclear age; two crazy men face off…

July 30, 2017

The news is so bad, so depressing, so scary, about all I do is read the headlines — every now and then going in for more detail.

If ever there was a bad time to have a crazy man at the helm of our nation it is now. We have a nuclear arms buildup something akin to the arms and  war ship building race between Germany and Britain leading up to World War I and the rivalries among nations with conflicting alliances that could blow up like a power keg set off by a spark.

North Korea is rattling is sabers and threatening to hit the U.S. We had been told until just recently that North Korea was several years away from being able to threaten us but now seemingly overnight the story has changed to they could possibly hit all or much of the U.S. mainland and may already have or are close to having the capability of arming missiles with nuclear warheads.

And I am sorry to say all you Trump supporters, whoever you may be, we have an incompetent fool as president who is in way, way over his head. He is certainly not a leader; he has created disarray in his own political party and daily, mostly in the wee hours, dashes off silly and threatening statements via Twitter.

There is another mad man at the helm in North Korea — Kim Jong whatever his name is. Both men deserve each other but none of us deserve them.

At the same time, with the U.S. weakened to the point of near impotence due to the lack of leadership, we have Iran going ahead with its nuclear missile program, and even our ally South Korea reversing its previous position and looking to build up a missile arsenal. And did not Trump suggest that Japan should build up a nuclear arsenal itself and not depend upon the U.S.? Imagine, the only nation to have ever suffered a nuclear attack, at our hands at that, having to resort to building up a nuclear defense program. Yeah that’s what we need nuclear proliferation.

And don’t even talk about domestic politics. While I can understand some sentiment for returning to more conservative values (although turning back the clock is out of the question and impossible), Trump is just making a mockery out of human decency.

He needs to be stopped. Impeached. Removed for being mentally incompetent, or something (and I do not mean violence).

This is not politics talking. I don’t care what your political philosophy is. This what we are going through, and if it continues it cannot have a good ending.

The only good ending is an end to the Trump administration.

Actually he seems to be losing power, not being able to get anyone of import on his side anymore. Maybe he will self destruct.

I can only hope.

Okay, this was somewhat of a rant. And I did not go into specifics. No time. I am at work, at my real job, just taking a break. Maybe later I’ll get specific. But if you follow the news you have to know what I mean.

The World War I analogy was something like if we strike North Korea then China will feel obligated to strike us. And there could be other such disastrous chains of events as well.

We are rushing toward a World War I-like calamity but in the nuclear age. It might not be survivable.

 

 

 

 

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As the spy vs. spy circus continues, America is ever more vulnerable to attack for its lack of leadership

April 1, 2017

If ever the United States was vulnerable to an attack it is now. We have an incompetent administration in Washington headed by an incompetent president who tries to cover up his inadequacy by middle-of-the-night tweets and threats to his enemies, who now include legislators within his own Republican Party.

His so-called cabinet and staff are busy infighting, and the whole crew from the boss on down is enmeshed in some bizarre Russian spy and election sabotage scandal and so far totally unsubstantiated allegations by President Donald Trump that the previous president, Barack Obama, was using the government to spy on and sabotage the Trump election campaign.

I mean no one ever did see McCarthy’s list of known communists (early 1950s) in the government that he talked about and through which he disrupted and ruined lives and careers before he was shown to be a mad man — and not to say there were not spies and treason then and now, but we need proof, proof that is specific and real and that is public. We are getting little to none of that so far.

It all seems a jumble to me, and possibly all blown out of proportion on all sides. So far all I can make out is that it is possible that in the process of trying to find out what the Russians were up to the Obama administration got some Trump campaign contacts with Russians, or contacts, innocent or not, involving people somehow connected to Trump in their nets.

It almost seems like that (and you have to be a baby boomer to get this maybe) funny cartoon that appeared in Mad Magazine, Spy v. Spy. Both sides were tripping all over each other. Or maybe it was like that episode on the television show MASH where two Keystone cop-style American intelligence types (Col. Flagg was one) were stepping over each other in a competition between our myriad of intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile the world goes on without the United States in the forefront. President Donald Trump is making us a second-rate country.

Instead of the United States leading the free world, it is now left up to maybe Germany (Great Britain being mired in its own self-inflicted Brexit problems), with maybe China as the leader of the not-free world and ISIS as leader of world terror.

If this crew can’t even get a bill through congress with GOP majorities in both houses and supposedly an electorate behind them (but not so much maybe), if they can’t handle something within, how in the heck could they handle something from without?

It is observed that crises often can bring a nation together but one has to wonder if that would hold true in the United States today with so much disunity and distrust and with no leadership to look up to or depend upon.

We must remember that Trump was elected by a minority via a quirk in our voting system known as the Electoral College. In reality he has no mandate. He may have hardcore supporters, but one wonders how long they can hold onto the myth that their man is some kind of wonder hero who can transcend politics and the realities of a complicated world. He just recently, by his own admission, discovered that the health care issue is complex.

p.s.

I wanted to say something about Trump’s directives that the U.S. do an about-face on climate change and environmental regulations. But that is part of the danger of extremism politics on the right and left. It’s regulation overkill vs. pragmatic and responsible stewardship of our planet — we have to come to common ground for survival.

(And I just want to add that I am definitely not a climate change denier. I defer to the consensus of the scientific community and I have read nothing to the effect that there is any real doubt that man-made actions are contributing to the change of climate and destruction of our atmosphere. However, I also know one can get carried away with it all. I live in California, and when we have a drought, the blame is put on man-induced climate change, and then when it is followed by an extremely wet cycle, same thing. Well that dry and wet cycle has been the pattern since I was born in 1949, and while I have not looked up the climate records, I’m fairly sure that cycle has been fairly consistent through the centuries.)

Also, giving the military a freer hand in our ongoing wars sounds good to a point, but do we really have any strategy? Allowing continuous loss of lives of both our soldiers and innocent civilians is criminal outside of a clear and convincing written out strategy that sets forth the purpose and goal of our actions. I mean civilians will be killed — war is hell.

While I realize the nature of our modern wars (since World War II) has changed, I still believe we should only fight wars when it is clearly a matter of self-defense or to put it another way, our nation’s survival (we were originally interested in the Middle East because that was our main oil supply point — we overthrew governments to protect it and keep the Soviets out — and we complain that the Russians today are meddling in our politics?), and when we do so, we should only fight to win. Our history shows endless stalemates cost us needless bloodshed and cost us money that could be used in a much more productive manner — providing healthcare for all?

I kind of thought that is (most of it) how Trump feels more or less, from what he said in the campaign. Problem is, most likely he does not know how to get there any better than anyone else. I should say he has not a clue.

 


So, the GOP is not lockstep behind Trump, that’s refreshing…

March 30, 2017

Building onto my just previous post, it is encouraging to see that the Republican Party, who seemed to have made a strange and dangerous choice in choosing Donald Trump, who holds no identifiable ideology nor has any history in governing, and who is obviously ignorant of a wide variety of public policy issues (it just has not been his world), as their standard-bearer, seems to now have the guts to challenge Trump.

At the same time, it is encouraging to see Trump fight back.

The ultra conservatives and the moderates within the GOP, for diametrically opposed reasons, defeated the president’s anti-Obamacare bill, and now Trump has warned the party and challenged the conservatives, saying that if their obstructions to his agenda persist the party will suffer.

Meanwhile, I am not sure what the Democratic Party strategy is or should be at this point. It could play the just say no game that the GOP has done to it for the last eight years or it could take advantage of the rift in their rival party and try to work with moderates.

But, whatever the case, it is refreshing to see that congress is feeling pressure from constituents, perhaps other than the usual lobbyists — like they might actually be reacting to real public opinion. We will see.

My previous post follows:

About President Trump’s inability to broker a deal on healthcare and make good his promise to do away with Obamacare:

It may be simply a matter of it being a lot easier to make deals in the world of business and real estate where one uses appeals to the greediness of others than the world of public policy where the goal is (or should be) to actually help people and evenly distribute services.

Also, it may be that people who decry wasteful government spending don’t find anything that benefits themselves personally — Obamacare? — wasteful. It’s just that stuff that goes to other people.

Mr. Trump is what we always knew he was: a huckster.

The Wall Street Journal is saying that despite the cries that he would be like Mussolini or Hitler (I was among that crowd), our system of checks and balances have so far prevented that.

Well, at least there is something hopeful.

It is going to be a long four years, though, if it lasts that long.


Return to waterboarding? Kill terrorists’ families? Modeling the terrorists would be self-defeating…

March 7, 2016

Donald Trump says we can’t be timid about using torture as a weapon because our enemies are not and because we shy away from going there  (or continuing to waterboard as we have in the past) we are not winning the war on terror. And since we are facing something called Islamic terrorism, he says we must ban all Muslims from the country. He says a lot of other things along those lines, such as we should kill members of terrorists’ families

Using his logic we could not have won World War II. The Japanese and Germans tortured and killed some prisoners of war. The Germans executed six million Jews and others Hitler claimed were of an inferior race and a menace to society. But the U.S. and the allies did not resort to a policy of such barbaric actions as those of the axis powers (not to say that there were no isolated instances of prisoner mistreatment or even summary execution).

Fortunately those in charge at the time, such as President Franklin Roosevelt (a Democrat) and Gen. Eisenhower (supreme allied commander and eventually a Republican president of the United States), did not have us become what we were trying to defeat.

War is hell. That is true. And you do things in war you would not do otherwise. But if you give up your morality, your principles, and your soul, then you have lost anyway.

Add to that, once you go down the road of the barbarians, any of their ilk that we catch and detain will just have more reason to hate and will have reason to seek revenge. We would hardly be able to argue our way was better.

In fact, the only way we could ever really prevail in this war on terrorism is to defeat the existing enemies but at the same time convince their potential replacements that our civilized ways are better. If we must become the enemy to defeat the enemy we will have lost everything  and would likely never gain it back.

The only somewhat defensible excuse to use torture would be to gain information that would save lives and only in an instance when there was no other way to gain that information, but that is hypothetical and I think the evidence is that torture only forces a response, if anything, with no guarantee that the response is accurate or helpful. In fact, the response could be misleading.

I have always thought that we have laws that forbid us from using physical torture, but that we would be best to not talk too much about the whole thing. Our enemies should be kept guessing. It’s the unknown that un-nerves people. Ah but yes, our enemies know we have rules and morals. But then again, when captured and isolated away from their comrades, and all alone, well really, what do they know?

Various non-violent methods of subterfuge can be used to effectively elicit information. Our own courts have ruled that police can lie to suspects in order to trick them into divulging information.

I mean if you are vicious enough you could probably beat a confession out of anyone to most anything — just make it stop! But is the “confession” true? If not, what good is it?

Trump of course is only parroting things one might hear on the street.

We need tough but intelligent leaders, not reactionaries out of the gutter.

p.s.

Trump goes back and forth. Says one thing to one audience and then tones it down to another and then claims he never said something at all. But I have heard him say clearly more than once he wants to bring back waterboarding and other rough treatment (torture) and make it legal. A lot of people probably think that way. I don’t and hope that the power remains with the civilized in this nation. And really, it is unsettling that we even have to consider whether we should use torture or uncivilized tactics such as murdering the families of our enemies.


If I were running for president…

July 2, 2015

If I were running for president I would concentrate on domestic issues but I would not ignore foreign policy since it always impacts domestic issues.

But I would call for a vast improvement of our infrastructure, including our existing bridges and highways, as well as the development of high-speed rail.

But infrastructure also takes in technology. We need free wifi (that is free to the public in general) everywhere. We need to overhaul our electric grid (we are really vulnerable to outages due to an outmoded system).

Public education needs to be completely revamped from first grade up through college. Actually it seems we are doing rather well at the pre-school level, except if there is anywhere that children are not attending pre-school then that certainly has to change. Children know more in pre-school now than I did when I was in second grade I think (and no I am not just slow).

There is far too much repetition in public school, especially I think when one moves from high school to college. I mean why do we study the same things all over again for the first two years? And why do college freshmen wind up taking remedial math and English?

Simply throwing money at education in and of itself is not a solution, but it does take money to improve things nonetheless. What we need is more local control and more local financing, with financing comes control. Localities not able to raise money because of a low tax base should be able to apply for federal block grants that can be spent at their own discretion, with some amount of oversight of course. But under the present system we end up hiring an administrator for each title in the federal education code. I’ve harped on this example before, but I have heard other people in other areas say the same thing:

When I went through high school we had a principal and a vice principal and that was our administration. And at that I think we had one too many. I mean we never saw the principal. But a few short years later I returned as a local newspaper reporter only to find that at a school, at that time, that had an enrollment about the same size as when I had attended, several more administrators had been added. Each one was responsible for a certain section or title of the federal education code from which funding was derived.

I think it is possible that the traditional system of grades one through twelve is outmoded. Experiments have been tried, and I don’t know what the long-term successes of those experiments have been, but basically students should be allowed to move forward at their own pace.

And of course we have to have the latest computer technology available at all levels at all schools. You have to be computer savvy from a young age. Like it or not that is just a fact of life in this world now. At the same time we should not leave good old reading from a real book behind — you need a mix of the old and new.

We seem to have a conflict these days over the meaning or reason for education. Some people see it as merely job training. We have come to be a society that values quick money over everything else, and then we wonder why we are not all happy.

Actually job training and education are too separate things, except they can be and ought to be melded together.

But I still believe that those who do not prefer or know they are not cut out for the so-called professional world should be diverted (through their own choice of course) into a path that stresses vocational training, while still continuing a general all-around education.

And before I get off the subject of education, here’s something we don’t seem to teach or teach well or long enough in school: personal finance. So many young people and not-so-young people would not be in trouble today if they understood personal finance. I get offers every day for credit cards that in the fine print say they would charge me exorbitant interest rates.

No, much better to save your money and put it out to interest that comes back to you.

I know. You don’t have any money to save. That’s the lie so many of us used as an excuse to skip the pain.

I’ll repeat my favorite line from one of those nauseating flim-flam infomercials concerning how to handle your finances: “watch what the poor people do and don’t do it!” Nauseating but so true.

Next:

I would simplify if not do away with the income tax. Probably simplification is the more practical route. The complex and arcane tax code is a boon to tax preparers and tax lawyers who make their living from it  and corporations who get out of paying taxes, but it counteracts the benefit it is supposed to create for our government and puts the average taxpayer at a disadvantage.

In short, taxes need to be lower, and then if they were lower there would be less of a need for loopholes, and with fewer loopholes there should be more revenue.

Of course through the pressure of lobbyists representing the various industries we try to design an economy around various tax incentives, otherwise known as loopholes. But for our society in general I think that is mostly counter productive.

I would not be opposed to some form of national sales tax. But I would exempt such basic items as food, that is non-prepared food. The sales tax seems more logical and practical in that if there is a lot of money flowing through the economy it can be tapped for doing the things government needs to do and when there is not we just have to put some things off till better days.

As far as the social safety net is concerned, we definitely need to maintain that. It is both a moral and practical requirement. But at the same time we need to expand work opportunities to combat chronic unemployment.

And can I just say something about cheap imports? Yes I know that in this global economy we need a mix of imports and exports but why can’t we have more jobs by making more stuff here at home? I mean I ordered a toy truck through the mail for my grandson. When I got the thing it was a piece of junk from overseas. I’d gladly pay a little more for something sturdy and made in America. And by the same token, we need to be competing on the high end with nations like Germany. You can either make a name for yourself by offering cheap products or quality products, I’ll take quality every time.

Next:

Law and order. I am all for it. But it is apparent we need to revamp our law enforcement training and we need to create friendly community policing in all locales where the police are the friends of the people whom they are charged with protecting and serving. The common enemy of the police and the citizenry should be the criminals and they need to join together to do that.Yes, that might take increased funding. Localities need to take responsibility for that with the help of block grants from state and federal governments. But too much state and federal funding has made local government weak. Local government needs to take control but with that comes financial obligations.

A major problem is that the state and federal governments place mandates on local government which the local governments cannot afford and then they give up their sovereignty by taking money from the higher levels of government — money comes with strings attached. I would seek to do away with mandates that are not funded by the same government who enacted them, period. (I realize much of this is not in reach through the direct powers of the president, but the president can set the tone and propose legislation that makes these things possible.)

And on the foreign policy side, all I can say for now is that we just cannot afford to be in a constant state of war. We must keep up our defenses and otherwise choose our battles.

Since World War II or since Korea we have had a long run of no-win wars and it has cost us dearly. Stop the madness.

One more thing:

I think all males, females optional, should serve a short stint in the National Guard or reserves, and that we should otherwise maintain our professional military. And I would maintain a rather large military, keeps us safe and adds more jobs. Having everyone serve instills a sense of shared sacrifice and instills patriotism and at the same time serves as a sort of check on overdoing things on the military side when everyone is vulnerable to be called up for war.

P.s.

When it comes to local government I can see the argument that state and federal funding, especially for things like schools, is vital in order to equalize opportunities between rich and poor areas, but unless we just wanted to do away with everything but the federal government we have to maintain a sense of responsibility at the lower levels. Joint ventures that don’t require all partners to be responsible with their finances get into trouble — the European Union has Greece whose government up and admitted some time ago that it had been understating its indebtedness (while borrowing more) and Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, has put everyone on notice it cannot pay its debts (and when did Puerto Rico realize that?).

 


We need different thinking for the presidency and quiet but firm resolve in foreign policy…

February 8, 2015

It seems the Republican Party might have the best chance to win the 2016 election if for no other reason than the electorate might feel it’s just time for a change of parties. That certainly was the case in the congressional elections.

But a self-described right-wing but decidedly non-Rush Limburger Cheese-like radio talker I often listen to seems to be in a quandary. He thinks Obama is ruining the country but at the same time he thinks the economy is really doing well. And while he spends a lot of time promoting the idea of putting a Republican in the White House to improve the economy, among other things, when confronted with the fact a Democrat has been in there for going on two terms and the economy is improving he shifts to the notion, well the president really has no effect anyway.

Kind of like the blowhards who talk politics and run down one side and then when confronted with the fact that their guy did the same thing or worse says: “Oh I don’t care; they’re all a bunch of liars and crooks anyway.”

(But I don’t mean the talk show host is a blowhard. Actually he comes across as intelligent and quite level headed and certainly not bombastic.)

That aside, we need some new thinking and a new approach.

Yeah, I think often economics just happens and it runs in cycles — boom and bust. But of course the government sets policies that certainly have an effect good and bad — and I think that talk show host was saying much the same thing. We can agree on that.

One problem in these economic reports, besides the fact I and most people don’t totally understand them, is that what is good for one sector is not necessarily good for another. What is good for business is not necessarily good for workers. What is good for big business is not always good for small business. What is good for energy producers is not always good for other producers. You get the picture I’m sure.

But a big problem is that we are in a major social transition. Kind of like the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century — I guess this is the post industrial revolution (although we have to have industry, so I don’t know how to square all that).

The whole way we do business and produce products and distribute wealth is going through a radical change (and I am not referring to the notion of redistribution of wealth, although our long-standing tax policies are just that).

Yeah, I wouldn’t mind going back to what seemed a simpler place and time, but we are not going to. And besides in that simpler place in time I had a heck of a time finding work. The good old days in some ways are only the good old days in memory.

But we need a restructuring in lifestyle and education and future job training. If we don’t restructure we will devolve into chaos.

President Obama has proposed free community college (free to the student not the taxpayers). But that to me seems like it just makes community colleges a continuation of high school — instead of four years of high school, six years. I wonder if high school should actually be trimmed to three years or less, but with more intensive instruction, with on emphasis on basics we all need.

And why do four-year institutions end up teaching high school level English and math?

If we are to remain competitive in the world, we need to demand more of our students and demand that they (and their parents) make decisions about their future earlier.

After high school, you either head to vocational training or academic pursuits. Yeah, it’s a free country, and you can wander the highways and byways, or kick around town, but why do the rest of us have to support you?

And these days, employment prospects may require more of a mix of academic and vocational training, so the whole structure of education may need to be changed.

(I knew a guy whose father worked his whole life in the paper mill industry, and then this guy went into that and worked many years. Then when his mill closed he applied for a job at another one in another state but flunked the application process because he did not know how to figure weights and measures in the metric system. He was not stupid, and he really should have done his homework before applying, but at the same time, he should have already had all this ground into him in high school and even grade school.)

The business, education (public and private), and governmental sectors should work together in all of this.

While we don’t want to elect someone president who has no concept or interest in foreign affairs, we do need one who can look more homeward than one who is on a mission to right all wrongs in the world.

And while we need a person who can look homeward, we also need one who is willing to stand up to the bullies of the world, not with George W. like bravado, but with quiet resolve, letting actions speak louder than words. We also need someone who is not foolish enough to draw lines in the sand, only to back off, or someone who does not telegraph our military intentions (on eventual withdrawal) to our enemies.

No one comes to mind right now.

President Obama deserves to get due appreciation. The economy by many measures is reported to be on the upswing and has been improving throughout his tenure, part of that of course due to the natural cycle of business.

And the worst thing the Republicans can seem to criticize him for is trying to provide health care for everyone in a way that does not clog emergency rooms and require those with insurance to pay so much for those without (whether Obamacare fills the bill remains to be seen).

Oh, and they don’t like his executive end run on immigration but they can’t seem to offer anything in return except to say there is an immigration problem.

And did anyone ever think maybe we just need to take another look at our immigration standards? I mean shouldn’t anyone who is healthy enough and who has the ability to get employment be eligible for citizenship, as long as he or she demonstrates commitment to the USA and is able to pass the standard citizenship tests that require more knowledge than most of our native born?

(Of course there still may need to be quotas of some sort to insure we have room for additional citizens, but we should not favor those of one country over another.)

A  jumble here I know. Just some thoughts.

———–

And NBC anchor Brian Williams is taking some time off. Maybe he’ll write a book. A fiction novel.

 

 

 

 


Homelessness is a problem and concern for all of us; without family you could be on the street…

December 9, 2014

They were talking about the homeless being thrown out of a camp called “The Jungle” the other night on a San Francisco Bay Area talk show (one of the few liberal talk shows left on radio). The camp is in San Jose. The talk was of throwing people out who had no place to go.

And if you really think about it, the plight of the homeless is closer to home than many of us would prefer to imagine. So many people are about one paycheck away from being homeless. And if you don’t have family to turn to — what would you do? Well you’d be homeless no doubt.

Here’s the deal: people are homeless for all kinds of reasons. Some are mentally disturbed — well a lot are. Many are alcohol and drug addicts. Many have troubles with the law. Some are runaways. Some are just down and out. And perhaps some souls just want to live that way.

Maybe it’s not against the law to be homeless — although back in the old days it was — remember the vagrancy laws? — but it ought to be against the law to create a public health hazard, a nuisance, and a threat to people who have homes.

I am familiar with the situation in the city in which I live and the plight of at least one person, whose name I will not use. She lived in a modest apartment near a creek. The homeless at some point made their camps down along that creek. Then the police moved them out of there. So what did they do? They started hanging out at a low-cost apartment complex adjacent to that creek. They slept on the sidewalks in front of that apartment. They hassled and even threatened the residents. The woman I mentioned feared for her safety and left. The police did respond to calls, but they can’t stand guard 24-7. And of course the slum lords are no help.

And you have to ask yourself: where do these people go to the bathroom? Or more specifically, where do they relieve themselves of their bodily wastes? Well, does a bear go doo doo in the woods?

The strange thing about some of these homeless people is that although they have to scrounge for food, many of them have pets. But that is another story.

As colorful as some of the homeless may be, overall they cause a blight on the community.

I think it is society’s responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. And on that account, it seems we are falling short. I for one would favor camps and shelters for them funded by the public. But of course there would have to be rules, and those who could do productive work should be put to work and given some kind of training.

Years ago I believe at least one county in California (Sacramento ) tried to make living in a county shelter a requirement for public assistance (for those without shelter already) but was thwarted by at court decision that held people could not be forced to live somewhere.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to live anywhere either. But if you choose to live out in the wild then you have to also respect the rights of the rest of society.

And back to the precarious situation of being one paycheck away from homelessness. People ought to realize how important family is. And as a nation we should rededicate ourselves to the proposition of strong families. I think that in the name of personal freedom and instant gratification there has been too much thinking about self and not about us.

Individuals should be responsible for themselves, and families should be responsible for their own, and then society as a whole should be responsible for its members, but in that order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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