Replacing Trump isn’t gonna fix “the problem”

In this great article in the Atlantic, on How the Government Lost its Mind, author Deborah Pearlstein describes how we’ve built a government unable to cope with a pandemic, and suggests how we can fix it. Core to her observations is the point that over time, we’ve failed to preserve the “tools essential to enlightened governance”. In my own words, the government has gotten stupid. Tellingly, she claims that this problem preceded Trump, and “cannot be fixed solely by his removal”. Ouch; that got my attention.

A major assertion is that, over time, “Congress has delegated increasing amounts of regulatory authority to expert executive-branch agencies”, and it’s become easier for those agencies to get packed with unqualified political-appointees. She also points to the sharp politicization of the federal courts, where extremist organizations “have become influential players in championing alternative channels of legal professionalization, up to and including the selection of judges to the federal bench”. So you have hacks and chumps running the business of governing.

In the article, the author suggests several concrete steps to re-establishing a working government, and it’s well worth a read. But as a “final step”, she points out that a fundamental problem is that the electorate itself is tragically ignorant. For example, recent surveys reveal nearly “75 percent of respondents could not name the three branches of the federal government at all. As long as ours is a representative government, this staggering degree of basic incapacity will be represented among our elected officials and their staff. Part of the correction here will require improved civic education in elementary and secondary schools; one in five states, for example, currently has no civics requirement for graduation at all.”

Newsom goes for PC cred, at cost of lives

Commiefornia Governor Gavin Newsom bans people singing in churches, but not thousands of people screaming at protests.  Why?  Churches aren’t Politically-Correct enough, therefore aren’t protected by the First Amendment, but protests are, and it’s all about PC cred for him. The churches SHOULD sue him.  Or better yet, he should grow a pair and ban all large gatherings.  But that’s not gonna happen; better to make the lefties happy and kill a few people.

White antagonists continue to infiltrate BLM protests - TheGrio ...

Resentment – is this what drives politics today?

In this article by Roberto Stefan and Jonathan Wilmot in Foreign Policy, the case is made that resentment of rural populations vs urban “elite” is what creates the tribalism that drives today’s politics, and populism. And they claim that if we simply vote Trump or other populists out of office, those we vote out will be replaced by others. Others who give voice to the growing economic divide.

Us vs Them

By itself, there’s nothing new about the concept of us vs. them politics, with the differences being economic well-being. And it’s not new that “progressive” America forms an archipelago of cities, scattered across the East and the West coasts. You can drive from NYC to LA and not leave Trump country. But explaining this with “liberal vs. “conservative” misses the mark.

They write that while much attention has focused on differences in values between progressive cosmopolitanism and provincial conservativism, the fact remains that conservative values, at least on matters of lifestyle and religion, are either stable or in decline. This makes the populist insurgency an anomaly, for a constant cannot explain a change. What has changed is the level of economic and wealth inequality between regions. This creates resentment and that drives the populist movement.

The combination of rising urban wealth with government neglect for peripheral regions has fueled populist resentment by combining material hardship with a sense of injustice. While prosperous cities were bailed out, poorer regions have been subject to death by a thousand cuts as government belt-tightening has slashed local budgets and starved regions of capital investment. Rural citizens are expected to pay for things like repairing burned out cities, like the recent request from Minneapolis for $500M to repair damage done by looters who were enabled by the incompetent Minneapolis government. Trump denied the request; I wonder how many rural votes he won around the country with that?

One solution is obvious, the government should reinvest in rural American infrastructure and develop policies which do more than make urban Americans rich.

Trump’s coronavirus propaganda

In a recent article in the Atlantic, McKay Coppins calls out President Cheeto-head’s disinformation campaign, designed to hide the number of people he’s responsible for killing.  He points out that on February 28, Donald Trump stood before a crowd of supporters in South Carolina and told them to pay no attention to the growing warnings of a coronavirus outbreak in America. The press was “in hysteria mode,” the president said. The Democrats were playing politics. This new virus was nothing compared with the seasonal flu—and anyone who said otherwise was just trying to hurt him. “This is their new hoax,” Trump proclaimed.  Six weeks later, the coronavirus has killed more than 25,000 Americans, the U.S. economy has been crippled—and Trump is recasting himself as a pandemic prophet.  More recently, Trump said “I knew it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”  “I knew everything,” he reiterated a couple of weeks later. Asked to assess his response to the virus, he says, “I’d rate it at 10.”  Whoa.  I’d encourage you to look at what Taiwan did and when they did it.  Surely, it shows that we have a 2nd rate federal government and a train wreck of a chief executive.

Why we don’t trust our elected officials

It’s no secret why Americans don’t trust our politicians, and like them less than cockroaches.  This New York Times article explains how the $2 trillion stimulus relief bill just passed includes a provision that’s likely to give a $170 billion tax break to the top 1% of taxpayers.  Specifically, real estate speculators like Donald Trump and his henchman Jared Kushner.  Even without this giveaway, we subsidize the ultra-rich.  Portions of Trump’s 1995 tax return published by The Times showed nearly $916 million in losses, which could have permitted him to avoid paying any federal income taxes for almost two decades.  This new rule is judged to be the 2nd biggest tax giveaway in the $2 trillion legislation.

San Fran is 7th Worst City in the World

According to this Forbes article, San Francisco is the 7th worst city in the world in which to live (and the worst in the Americas).  Not a big surprise, even the SF Examiner recognizes its poopiness, by exclaiming “Yes, our glorious city is recognized the world over as the premier defecation destination”.  Thanks to the homeless/drug problem and the cost of lodging, Oracle is moving its annual conference from SF.  It’s too bad because there are a lot of natural beauty and cultural aspects of the city to like.  But I’m in no hurry to go there anymore.2321902561_5c8cf65c92_kFWIW, according to the article, Montreal is the best city in the Americas.  Gotta love those Canucks.

 

Who Can Pardon Rapists and Murderers?

The answer to the question is:  a politician.  For some reason I can’t understand, we give state governors the right to pardon anyone they like, for any reason they like.  This is insane!

I think it’s pretty well accepted that politicians aren’t any wiser than the general public, or fairer, or more honest.  Heck, look at this case, where a governor pardons a killer in exchange for money, and a child rapist because he figures he was smarter than 12 jurors.  Or look at the partisanship in the Trump impeachment; there’s not a shred of honesty involved in half the politicians!  A politician’s only special skill is the skill to be elected.  Why then should we allow state governors or cheeto-head presidents to let criminals out of jail?  It’s crazy.  There should be some oversight, like a parole board.  I’m not suggesting that they aren’t capable people; most are.  So is my postal carrier, the local librarian, and the guy who put in my new septic tank.  But why should we trust any governor or president to do this very special thing?

trust

Media Bias

In a search for sources of unbiased news, I stumbled upon this really interesting site, which attempts to categorize news sources by two useful attributes:  degree of actual news reporting, and left/right bias.  It’s a great chart; check it out.

2019-11-23_9-34-34

This cartoon symbolizes one of the biases … liberal vs. whatever-passes-for-conservative these days.  I think we all understand the concept, though I doubt many would agree on the way their favorite media site is classified.  Last week, a conservative friend of mine declared that the National Review is fair and unbiased.  (It’s not).

The other dimension of bias is the degree which a media site provides actual news reporting vs. analysis/opinion.   Some of us simply want the news, and some of us want someone to interpret it for us so we know what to think.  The authors of this book would argue that most citizen/voters get their opinions from the tribe they identify with, so they need media sources that deliver opinions vs. news/facts.  I flatter myself by claiming that I can form my own opinions, so I’m seeking sources that report only facts/news.  Having said that, people much smarter than me do some amazing analysis, so AFTER I vet their left/right biases, I’ll occasionally seek them out.

Trying PBS for news for now.  Analysis sources are hit or miss.

 

 

 

Has the News Overtaken Reality?

In this excellent article in The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman writes that “for a certain segment of the population, the news has come to fill up more and more time – and, more subtly, to occupy centre stage in our subjective sense of reality, so that the world of national politics and international crises can feel more important, even more truly real, than the concrete immediacy of our families, neighbourhoods and workplaces. It’s not simply that we spend too many hours glued to screens. It’s that for some of us, at least, they have altered our way of being in the world such that the news is no longer one aspect of the backdrop to our lives, but the main drama.”

bnews

I highly recommend the entire article, but here are some snippets:  He writes “To live with a part of your mind perpetually in the world of the news, exposed to an entire planet’s worth of mendacity and suffering, railing against events too vast for any individual to alter, is to feel what Greenfield, author of the book Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, calls “a low-grade sense of panic and loss of control”, so normal it has come to feel routine … Perhaps you have felt that ridiculous yet discernible pressure, on social media, to emit an official opinion about every natural disaster, celebrity death or Trump administration policy announcement, as if each of us were the ambassador of a small nation, from whom silence might be interpreted as callous lack of concern.”

He correctly observes that news isn’t reality; it distorts our views of reality.  He writes that “A functioning public sphere also depends on collective access to a shared body of facts about reality, to serve as the stable ground on which to hash out our differences of opinion. But with such an enormous surplus of information, filtered on the basis of what compels each user’s attention, that shared basis of facts is soon eroded. Meanwhile, the algorithms of social media invisibly sort us into ever more separate communities of ever more similar people, so that even if you are discussing, say, movies or sport, you’re increasingly likely to be doing so with those who share your political affiliations; the more you engage with politics, the more everything becomes political – and, research suggests, the harder it becomes to understand your political opponents as fully human. This is a situation ripe for exploitation by demagogues, who understand that their power consists in turning the whole of life into a battleground divided along political lines, thereby maximising their domination of public attention.”  Demagogues?  Trump?

Finally, “This raises a possibility alien to news addicts, committed political activists and journalists alike: that we might owe it not only to our sanity, but also to the world at large, to find a way to put the news back in its place.”

 

 

 

 

Why We Can’t Solve Homelessness

According to this article, the vast majority of people being pushed out onto the streets by America’s growing urban economies do not need dedicated social workers or intensive medication regimes. They simply need higher incomes and lower housing costs. The article goes on to claim that “The biggest hindrance to solving homelessness is that city residents keep demanding the least effective policies.”  Such as criminalizing panhandling and bulldozing tent encampments.

Alarmingly, the article finally states that “the only way to address the crisis is through a concerted — and costly — expansion of government assistance. And yet, even as homelessness becomes a defining feature of urban growth, no city in America can afford to meaningfully address it. Before the 1980s, most of the responsibility for low-income housing, rental assistance and mental health treatment fell on the federal government.  Since then, though, these costs have been systematically handed over to cities. And there are no signs that it’s going to get better. The economy is creating new homeless people faster than cities can house them.”

The entire article, and links to supporting articles, are worth reading, but IMO the key point being made is that homelessness can’t be solved at the local level.  In our local community, it’s clear that this is true.  So I have to ask, where is the federal or even state leadership?

Homeless Camp in Santa Cruz

Homeless camp in Santa Cruz, Winter/Spring 2019