Maybe the U.S. should have a parliamentary system

December 3, 2017

National Review is a partisan publication in support of Republicans, which before the election of Donald Trump had the guts to warn its readers of the dangers of Trump but after the election backed down. What would its founder the late Bill Buckley Jr. have thought or written about it all? While often I did not agree with him and I often could not completely follow his eloquent but dense wording, in writing or speech (the man who knew too much), I admired the way he expressed himself.

But maybe the National Review is gaining some of it courage back. I like the way one writer closed his essay:

“The Republicans are very lucky that the only practical alternative to them at the moment is the Democrats. The Democrats are lucky in precisely the same way.”

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/454300/republicans-tax-bill-congresss-downward-spiral

And that is the problem we face in the United States. We have tweedle dum and tweedle dee to choose from. Republicans or Democrats.

While it may not be accurate at the moment to say that both political parties are in reality clones of each other what with the Democrats seeming to have to some extent taken a hard turn to the left (über liberal) and the Republicans to the right (almost fascist like), nonetheless neither party seems to offer the majority of the populace what it wants or neither party works to represent the unrepresented.

So I’ll get to the point here:

We might be better off with a parliamentary system and to model it after the one in the mother country Great Britain.

In so many ways it seems they have more of a democracy than we do. Remember, even though the 13 original American colonies broke away from the monarchy of England, what they really wanted was to have “the rights of Englishmen”.

My admittedly limited but at least general reading of history tells me that much of the freedom we have as American citizens has its origins in the rise of the merchant class which today we might refer to as the middle class. Of course the tenets of democracy go way back before that, but I think what we think we should have is what the colonists thought they were entitled to: the rights of Englishmen.

Now of course England is not free of political shenanigans and intrigues and corruption but it seems to me that it has a more open and representative government that provides access to minority political parties with its parliamentary system.

Instead of the imperial presidency we have wound up with in the United States they have a prime minister chosen among the ranks of the parliament (their congress).

If you want to see democracy in action just watch a weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions when the prime minister must stand — literally stand — before the House of Commons and answer questions and defend her or his own policies. Can you imagine Donald Trump doing that? You can watch this event on YouTube or C-Span.

(Well Trump might do it but he would quickly get into a childish name calling fight and he would not address the actual subjects or be able to articulate his positions, to the extent he really had any.)

And the biggie here is that in order to get elected and to form a government with its attendant ministers (cabinet posts) a prime minister candidate is often forced to form a coalition among disparate parties in order to get enough votes, thus giving more representation to the populace as a whole. And the prime minister can be booted out at any time if she or he fails to sustain the support of the House of Commons.

I hope I did not go past my knowledge level of the whole thing, but I think I was reasonably accurate.

(I do have a BA degree in political science from the California State University of Chico but my concentration was on American politics and law and these days I work as a truck driver — go figure.)

Oh, and one more thing: if you watch the prime minister’s questions you will see or hear articulate people from all societal levels. That’s refreshing. We here in the United States suffer from too many inarticulate people who either cannot express themselves or try to hide behind muddled communication. This robs us all of the ability to both understand what they mean and to be able to counter it if need be.

Across the pond they know their English. Well, after all, they are in England.

And back to the imperial presidency in the U.S. where the president can order up war on his own (even if he is not supposed to be able to) or issue executive orders bypassing the people’s’ representatives or hide behind the protection of the fortress of the White House, rather than be forced to come out of Number 10 Downing Street like the English prime minister to answer questions from parliament.

Ironically, England or Great Britain still has a monarchy in place but it is ceremonial these days for the most part — kind of the glue that keeps society together.

We in the U.S. are not supposed to have a king or queen. But the presidents of the modern era seem to be expected to be monarchs.

Not sure that I made a good case for having a parliamentary  system. And it would be nearly impossible I imagine to change things, amending our constitution and all.

But nevertheless I question whether we have the democracy we claim to have.

However I love my country. And I think we would all fare better if people paid more attention and more people voted and held our politicians accountable.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is prosperity just around the corner with new tax overhaul? We’ll see…

December 2, 2017

Tax stories, like budget stories, make my head swim. Unless they are written in broad generalities they are too hard to follow. I used to think it was my automatic aversion to math, but no, not really. The problem is that the math is often, as W once said, “fuzzy”. And often it amounts to mixing apples and oranges and making unsupported assumptions on the effect of taxes and tax cuts and anticipated revenues.

That said, the U.S. Senate in the wee hours this morning finally passed what is reported to be a bill that would create the largest tax overhaul in decades. The House of Representatives has already passed its version of the tax overhaul bill and the two will have to be reconciled before going to the president for his signature — which he will sign because it is the Republican plan and he is nominally a Republican and it would be his first legislative victory since gaining office a year ago.

(And I have to ask how come in my grade school and then high school civics instruction they never said anything about each house coming up with its own version of a bill and then melding them together in a something called “reconciliation”?)

After all the reporting and all the hype and all the criticism (primarily from Democrats but Republicans too) of the bill, I imagine most ordinary people (forget the non-ordinary ones) just might be curious to know what it means to them. If they are like me (but of course one is really like me), probably nothing or not much. I’ll get back to that.

The reporting and editorial opining has gone like this:

If you are in support of the legislation it will reduce the corporate tax rate and thus enable businesses to make more investments right here in the good ol’ USA and thus create more jobs for hard-working Americans. It will also reduce taxes on the middle class (at least for a time, but this qualification is left out of the touting). Since almost everyone who does not self-identity themselves as rich or who is obviously not in abject poverty identifies with the middle class, even if no one actually knows the strict requirements for being in that group (income level), politicians always say they are fighting for the middle class. Sounds good to those not up to that level because it gives them hope for the benefits they will get if they ever make it.

If you do not support the legislation, it is a giveaway to the rich and is supported on the backs of those down the income ladder. It also contradicts the Republicans’ claim to be against deficit spending because it greatly adds to the deficit because when you reduce revenue you have a hard time paying for the things government does, thus requiring the borrowing of money and of course that greatly adds to the cost of things because you then have to pay interest on that borrowed money (as if I had to explain that).

The Republicans claim that the shortfalls in revenue will be offset by increased production of businesses and the tax revenue from that all made possible by the business tax cuts. Sounds reasonable, if unprovable. To my knowledge no one has proved that to be the case, if in fact one could prove it. There are too many variables in all of that. But it does have a certain appeal.

President Ronald Reagan is always credited by conservatives with creating an economic boom by cutting taxes. But if you read the history on that it indicates that he cut taxes at one point and then later, through various bits of legislation, raised them again. Apparently it was discovered that the only way the government can keep going (and despite the fact everyone rails against the government, without it we have chaos and no defense against those who would do us in), it has to have revenue — it cannot borrow without raising some revenue on its own.

And this is key: a long-running strategy by conservatives to kill social programs is to “starve the beast”, as the tactic is called, that is instead of directly voting against them and thus alienating some possible voters or creating public outrage, they simply cut the funding source, often through behind-the-scenes maneuvers in bill writing.

I think I only took one college-level economics course, and that was from a budding young teacher at a night class, but I still think he was right on when he opined that the economy is cyclical and the government has only a little effect on it and cannot directly control it.

(Communist and other ultra-socialist regimes have tried to control economies and it has met with disastrous results.)

Oh, and I said I would get back to something. So what does the tax bill or what would the proposed legislation mean to me or you?

Since I doubt very many rich, rich people read this (but if you do, thanks for reading), I will address this to most working people (and they may hate me for this). Most working people are not terribly affected by taxes, that is to say, yes, the withholding you can see on your pay stub does take a big bite out of your wages, but most people end up getting a lot or even all of that back when they file their income taxes. They don’t claim as many dependents as they are allowed to and thus end up loaning money, at no interest, to Uncle Sam, and then get paid back after the first of the year. So really, unless they just constantly stare at that check stub they don’t notice the tax bite really. And if they are smart they stash a lot of their earnings (as much as they think they can) into a tax-deferred 401-K retirement plan or some such other vehicle. There are of course other investment strategies too. And I did not claim that I myself always did this — I said “if they are smart”.

Elections have consequences. That should be apparent with Donald Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling both houses of congress.

I think the best strategy for the Democrats now would be to let it ride (as if they had a choice) and see if prosperity is just around the corner. If not, they will be there to pick up the pieces.

 

 

 

 

 


The Garrison Keillor mystery: one day you’re a respected entertainer, the next banished from memory, kind of scary, like 1984…

December 1, 2017

So it is inappropriate to touch a woman’s back (if you are a man). Garrison Keillor got fired for that? I mean context is important here. But as of now, as far as I know, we have very little of that. Like Will Rogers all I know is what I read in the papers (or on the internet now). The following paragraph out of the on-line site of Variety is all I know:

“I put my hand on a woman’s bare back,” he told the paper. “I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it. We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

So, there is your context. Really? There has to be more. If not, a great injustice has been done because a highly talented man, who had retired for the most part, has had a whole lifetime of work tarnished by the sexual predator brand.

Minnesota Public Radio is erasing his work from their memory. No more Prairie Home Companion or other works from him will be broadcast, reruns or otherwise.

Maybe there is more. Maybe that is why Keillor has said nothing more (that I know of) publicly. Or maybe he figures why legitimize the whole episode by going on about it? And why should he have to answer “when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife” type questions.

But I for one would like to know the answer. He is a public figure. I feel I have a right to know. Somehow I find it chilling that a large corporation or public entity like MPR can just suddenly announce a person is persona non grata without explanation and then proceed to eliminate his work from their memory. Sounds like something out of the old Soviet Union or Orwell’s 1984.

And maybe there is more and maybe Keillor would just as soon not have it all displayed.

Either way I find the mystery chilling indeed.

p.s.

You don’t have to have known of his work or like it to feel a little creeped out by the whole episode.

It has also occurred to me that in my lifetime I have encountered what I call “touchy-feely” persons and it at times can be annoying or even creepy.

 


A woman is shot dead in San Francisco by illegal alien who keeps coming back, but ‘accidents happen’…

December 1, 2017

I love San Francisco. I was born there. I like to visit there. And if I wanted to be flip about the bombshell verdict Thursday acquitting an illegal alien, who had been deported several times and was facing his sixth deportation hearing, of murder and manslaughter after he fired a gun that resulted in the death of a woman who happened be walking by arm and arm with her father, I might say something like: “gee it’s nice to know that the next time I go to the city and I accidentally kill someone when I was just taking pot shots at sea lions they’ll let me off, after, all accidents do happen”.

As a matter of fact, one of the defense attorneys actually was quoted as saying just that — “accidents happen”. Pretty blasé about the whole thing I’d say.

The only person who actually knows for sure how it went down was the defendant.

But his story changed at various junctures when talking to police. He found the semi-automatic pistol under a cloth under a seat and he accidentally fired it. He was taking a pot shot at a sea lion.

He was convicted only on a single count of being a felon in possession of a gun.

My wish is that they just send him back to Mexico. He is in the country illegally. What’s the problem? He has already served more than two years in prison in the U.S.

San Francisco in a sanctuary city, and that is one of the reasons he was still here when the incident occurred. Local law enforcement does not just turn over illegal aliens to federal authorities. And I won’t go into all that at this time, except to say maybe they ought to rethink all that. I’d like to think the safety of U.S. citizens is paramount. But as I read it, San Francisco authorities said they will turn him over with a proper warrant. So get it and get him out of here, please.

The prosecution called it murder and claimed he had intent. But even if it was an accident the elements of both voluntarily manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter seemed to be present.  But I did not actually see or hear the evidence or sit through the trial as the jury did.

But I feel a little less safe walking the streets of San Francisco.

The everyone-carry-a-gun crowd should not make too much of this — I mean most of them are probably part of the blame-it-on-the-illegals crowd too. But even though the incident shows the dangers of letting illegals in and not enforcing immigration laws, it just as much demonstrates the danger of people carrying guns in public places.

p.s.

A further twist to all of this is that the murder weapon, a semi-automatic pistol, was reported as missing from a federal law enforcement officer’s car. Guns always present a clear and present danger.

 

 

 

 

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Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer and so many others convicted without trial; a victory for women but a danger for men, women too

November 29, 2017

Slept a little late after a night shift and then read the morning news that TV pretty boy Matt Lauer was fired from the Today Show over sexual misconduct charges. Okay. But then I read that — this just in — Garrison Keillor was just let go from Minnesota Public Radio — he being the host of the nationally broadcast and highly successful Prarie Home Companion — a kind of high-brow version of the Grand Ol’ Opry (at least that was my take on it), from which he had retired. He still did stuff on radio though.

I’ve used the term already as have others: it’s a sea change in attitudes toward charges of sexual harassment.

If you are high-profile and you get charged, without any right to face your accusers in a court of law or other such hearing you can be dismissed.

The same rule does not necessarily apply to politicians, or all of them anyway, some. That is because it just takes a personnel department or CEO or board of directors to summarily let someone go. You’re gone.

President Trump, his current effort to change his own story and apology for sexual misconduct notwithstanding, is harder to fire. He’d have to be impeached. He might be eventually, but I doubt over the sex issue (but then who knows in this new environment?).

My concern now is for those at the slightly to way lower level, who may not have the severance packages and lawyers. A man could lose his job and family over a she said, he said issue, over something that may have never happened but is a cover for some other issue. Yes, I am fairly sure all these women cannot be lying and in fact I am fairly sure almost none of them are, save the odd opportunist

Sexual harassment is horrendous and should not, should never have, be or been tolerated.

But we men need to be concerned. Women need to be concerned too.

It could all come back around to bite them somehow, although I would hope not.

Apparently social media with its ability to instantly reach the mass market and its free access to everyone has made all this possible.

Strangely, women have had immense power through the ages. Read the literature. They had to be careful how they used it.

Now follow me here. The reason we drank weak and flat and tasteless beer in the United States for decades (before microbrews went back to the future) was that back in the 1930s brewers decided to mass market beer, which had been brewed locally and consumed primarily by men in the men’s domain of taverns. It was thought that if they toned the stuff down more women might like to drink it. The power of the market.

And that market power combined with social media has empowered women today, that and the bravery of the initial women who stepped forward and risked their careers. Anita Hill has to wonder where was her support when she tried to shed light on Clarence Thomas.

It is a brave new world.


Whatever the point of the tax bill Trump strays away from it; parties matched in meaningless death struggle…

November 29, 2017

President Trump is trying to somehow use the North Korean missile launch Tuesday as leverage to get the Democrats to go along with the current tax bill, something like if you don’t support it then you obviously don’t support defense. I’m sure I don’t follow his connection (I am not aware that our military is starved for missile defense funding). But in a talk to reporters he also brought up funding for the wall on the Mexican border and something about illegals and criminals streaming over the border (again a little hazy on that). Off script, Trump talks in run-on sentences, full of non sequiturs, and limited on modifiers beyond good and better and huge, and in which one subject is hard to distinguish from the other (well I tend to write long sentences sometimes).

But we all know his peculiarities.

It seems impossible now to know what a new federal tax law would look like but from what I can gather it is mainly a scheme to give permanent tax breaks to large corporations but only temporary tax breaks to middle-income earners, and, if you can believe it, actually raise taxes on lower-income earners and reduce revenues for programs needed by the neediest.

Only Republicans could come up with that, and even many of them probably are not excited or proud of it but they feel pressure to do something, to get something passed to show how they are rescuing us all from the suffering under President Obama, that is the suffering they claim there has been (didn’t notice it).

In reality both the House and Senate versions (the House one already passed) from what I can understand are a crazy quilt of various provisions to favor various political donors but not necessarily to help the populace as a whole.

I often wonder why they say there is a need to lower the corporate tax rate when at the same time we are informed that many large corporations pay little to no taxes due to the deductions they take advantage of.

Probably a lot of wise middle-income Americans take advantage of deductions too and would be better off if they left well enough alone.

And then there is the proposed provision to eliminate mandatory health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which of course is a poison pill. I mean even though the Republican majority has had years to dump Obamacare, which they claim the public wants them to do, they have not been able to do it. Why? turns out people want health care coverage — go figure. So they take the backdoor but nonetheless transparent method of eliminating the mandate, thus starving the program of the premiums it needs to sustain itself. Oh, and did the Republicans ever come up with a replacement for Obamacare? no.

One problem Republicans face is that even of those constituents who identify themselves as Republicans not all think alike and not all are in the same income group or social status and not all workers and business people have the same needs. It’s complicated.

I’m thinking why not simplify matters?

Why not drastically simplify how the federal government collects its revenue?

Just an idea:

Lower and simplify the income tax for everyone — a universal rate. Or eliminate the income tax entirely.

Replace or augment the income tax with a consumption tax. When times are good and people can afford it, there will be a lot of spending for consumer goods and the government, our government, will benefit from extra revenue. When times are bad, the government, our government, will be forced to tighten its belt, but at least won’t be such a burden on the economy, to the extent it actually is.

Along with this, why not replace our professional politicians who spend so much of their time kowtowing to the Gods of the K Street lobbyists with citizen office holders who have other jobs or are retired? I know, it’s a full circle, then they would be beholding to the money of special interests because who could afford to be a part-time office holder? And the entrenched bureaucracy would fill the vacuum created by only part-time legislators. But it would be nice to see a congress who served out of civic duty as so many small town city councils and community school board’s do.

Also, we are held in the gridlock of the Democratic and Republican parties locked in a death struggle due to our particular federal set up. Right now rather than work things out the opposing sides operate more on meaningless winner take all victories of one over the other, rather than a coherent ideology or program going forward. Winning is the goal. But winning what?

p.s.

I realize that many politicians are just trying to do what they think is right but the environment in which they work is not good or conducive to doing right.

 

 

 

 

 


Society as a whole hopefully will deal with sexual misconduct; by the way Sen. Franken, you sound pathetic…

November 28, 2017

NOTE: I’d rather write on another subject but this is so much easier than, say, the tax bill, which is incomprehensible, as I am sure it is meant to be in order to hide the favoritism to the big donors. I’ll try to give it more study, for what it’s worth.


I wish Al Franken would just go away. Listening to Sen. Franken all day apologizing for his sexual transgressions, the ones he does not seem to have a good memory of but nonetheless admits to (did I get that right?), I just had to write something. I don’t know exactly how many times the senator has apologized but on the radio news they repeat the same sound bite so many times. It seems as if he spent all day in front of the classroom declaring: “I have been a bad boy and I promise not to grab females by the butt every time I get the chance anymore”.

Do I think he should resign?

If I were him I would, except the damage has already been done. He sounded pathetic in his deep, tired voice. It was embarrassing to listen to. And now I just thought to save what dignity he might have left he should have apologized and done the honorable thing and resigned. Who knows? He might have then got tons of cards and letters (well emails) from his constituents (and others) begging him to stay, including from women. I mean he is said to have pushed the women’s rights agenda. I guess I think the people of Minnesota should have a chance to decide his fate, just like the Roy Moore partisans in Alabama say that senatorial candidate should have (that is let Alabamians decide the fate of that accused molester).

As bad as sexual harassment is, we all have to admit what is really happening is a sea change in society’s tolerance of boys will be boys. I am not sure if this is a good example, but all my life I heard it joked about how women going to Italy (and other places, but Italy especially) had to beware that when they walked down the street they might get pinched). Where was the outrage? I know, that is in a foreign country but women too have mentioned it casually without rancor or disapproval.

We all know that even in this country construction workers are supposed to shower women with cat calls as they walk by on the street.

Men like to look (leer?) at women and they have imaginations (so do women). But there is a difference between thinking and acting and maybe that is the dividing line.

(A few years ago a woman television reporter was manhandled, and I think it is accurate to describe it as raped, in a crowd in Cairo, Egypt. Obviously that is way over the dividing line.)

Actual physical sexual attack (and that can include butt pinching or grabbing) and/or extortion by bosses or co-workers against women using sex as the vehicle is of course wrong and always has been and the light has now been shed on it so no one can pretend he does not see.

The most effective way to deal with the problem will be the censure of society itself, outside of litigation and laws and regulations and required classes and commissions and endless political grandstanding where unfortunately even among some feminists it seems at times okay if my guy does it but not the other side’s guy.

I don’t prefer the notion that government or the courts should take the lead in forcing better behaviors (the right to sue notwithstanding)  — that seems chilling to me. It’s better that society itself opens its eyes and forces the bad seeds out with its own reproof.

p.s.

How did the late Sen. Edward Kennedy get away with all of his bad sexual behavior? Times have changed.

Also, back to Franken. I guess he does not remember all that he did because it was just a habit.