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Thoughts on Events the Week of November 6

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on November 19, 2017

Elections: The Sleeping Beauties and the dumb blondes finally awoke and turned out for an election, and it bespoke good news for Democrats. In 2016, 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. In this election, women began asking themselves what were they thinking?

This was particularly evident in Virginia, where Democrats won all the way down the ticket, in large measure due to turnout of suburban women. Candidates, a majority of them women, ousted pasty white guys from the legislature who had demeaned them during the last election cycle. What a difference a year makes.

The most important, practical implications of Tuesday’s elections are these: Trump’s base of old, uneducated, rural pasty white guys still holds, but they are alone in their loyalty. The election of Trump and the actions of the Republican-controlled legislature has really pissed women off to the point of action. It’s long, long overdue.

Finally, I expect Republican “tax reform” is dead. I doubt a bill will even get to the floor of either chamber. First, it is a screwing and voters won’t stand for it. Second, every Republican legislator in any even remotely competitive state or district, will be loath to continue to vote the way he has been up to now, seeing where it got his Republican colleagues Tuesday.

Guns: I know, I know, I swore not to write again about gun murder until I had something positive upon which to comment, but this loathsome asshole in Texas who murdered 26 innocent church goers with an assault weapon demands comment and condemnation.

How did this sick twist ever get his hands on a pop gun, let alone an AR-47? No rational human being not in the business of selling guns should want to see this happen.

Unlike other gun control advocates who say they don’t want to interfere with your Second Amendment rights, I say fuck your Second Amendment rights, as you interpret them. I want to see the number of guns in America reduced by 95% at a minimum. We have five percent of the world’s population and almost 50% of the worlds privately owned guns. Do the math.

Gun advocates say the answer to our gun violence is more guns with which to protect ourselves, which is insane. Every gun we add increases the probability of gun violence, not reduce it. This is obvious on its face. We have all the guns and we have all the gun violence.

Gun advocates say if we take away their guns only criminals will have guns, but that’s not true. If we take away privately owned guns, some hardened criminals will have guns, but so will the police.

However, as a compromise, I would be willing to live with just taking away assault weapons and instituting background checks, but both must be robust. Background checks must include gun shows and private gun sales. It must be properly managed, not the leaky sieve that let the Texas monster get his hands on one because the Army discharged him for bad conduct and forgot to tell anyone else he was crazy and dangerous, not to mention a violent felon. Jesus!

Football: While other top 10 teams were being upset (including the chronically overrated Notre Dame, who if it never wins another game will be too soon for me, and Georgia, who I thought the committee raised to the #1 spot a little prematurely), the Oklahoma Sooners left TCU for dead in the first half – 38-14 – and spent the second half practicing their running game and giving backups some practice.

I wasn’t completely sanguine with this second half decision. Teams need to learn first that when a team is down is the time to step on their neck. To do otherwise can throw you off rhythm and give the other team hope simultaneously.

But, hey, they proved to everyone, most especially the committee, that they can score at will on anybody, and to the Heisman committee who should get the trophy.

Status of the States: Alabama gets the cup, because: Roy Moore. Need I say more?

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of October 30

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on November 19, 2017

“Tax Reform”: Contrary to the claims of a graduated system, the tax code has become more and more favorable to the already rich over time. The reason our tax laws favor the wealthy, and why they are almost impossible to reform, is that politicians want them to be.

We use taxes to raise the money to run our government. We also use taxes to influence public policy, such as tax breaks for companies to convert to clean energy. Politicians, on the other hand, use taxes as the quid pro quo for the money donors invest in their election campaigns. If the tax code was simple and straight, politicians couldn’t indulge in such shenanigans.

In addition to growing inequality, another effect of tax law degradation, has been less and less revenue raised compared to our actual expenditures. In 2016, our revenues covered only 85% of our spending and we borrowed the other 15%. Try spending 15% more each year than you earn and see how fast you get into significant financial doo doo.

It wasn’t always this bad. Except in extraordinary circumstances, such as the Great Depression and World War II, for instance, we used to try much harder to keep revenues and expenditures in balance, and we used to pay more in taxes than we do now to do so.

Most people were comfortable with paying more taxes because the system seemed fair and most people’s incomes were rising, so though they were paying more taxes, they still had more money.

Then, in 1980, President Ronald Reagan told us that greed is good, and since then, high earners and corporations have been grabbing all the money they can, and scheming to pay less and less in taxes, at the expense of salaried employees and lower income workers.

The results of this trend are easy to see. Incomes are obscenely unequal, and politicians have no incentive to correct them; on the contrary. Wages have stagnated and workers are losing buying power, so they don’t want to raise taxes and are resentful for having to pay what they do.

Given this history, it is ludicrous to think that meaningful tax reform will come out of this Congress. It is equally ludicrous to think that if a tax bill is passed, it will be any fairer than today’s code. Most ludicrous of all is to think that this president, the ultimate grabber in every meaning of the term, is going to do anything but lower his own taxes and nothing that would increase them.

The new tax code draft is already less popular than Congress’ Repeal and Replace bill, and apparently the scoring predicts that there will be a tax increase for about a third of Americans, all middle and lower class workers, of course. The rich will make out like bandits, which, come to think of it, they are.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the tax bill. My guess is that the Republican controlled Congress will pass some kind of tax cut bill, regardless of logic, because many Republican donors have threatened not to donate any more unless they do. (For all I know, Democratic donors may have done the same. Both parties suckle on fat cats’ teats.)

But I also think that the bill could be a tipping point for populist allegiances. You would that that eventually, people are going to figure out that they are being screwed like a tied goat (though it hasn’t happened to Kansans yet).

Football: The Oklahoma Sooners beat Texas Tech 49 to 27, covering the spread of 20 ½ points, but it didn’t feel like that kind of an easy win. Early on, it felt more like a competitive tennis match, with each side holding serve. Tech scored first, then OU, then Tech, then OU and so on. The first six possessions resulted in six straight back and forth touchdowns, painful, frustrating evidence of OU’s defensive deficiencies. At the end of the first quarter, Tech was up 20-14. (Tech missed its first PAT and went chasing that point all night.)

OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ initial plan was to rush only three down linemen, but it wasn’t working, so he switched back to mainly a four down lineman set. Gravity returned and OU outscored the Red Raiders 35-7 over the second and third quarters. OU could have scored another touchdown in the scoreless fourth quarter, but Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was raised right, and he had the team take a knee instead.

Running back Abdul Adams was back on the field after missing three games to injury. He looks to be the best of a good stable to me, but Rodney Anderson was the featured back against Tech and he performed very well.

I’m very disappointed how our defense is playing, and I dread the thought of shootouts with Big XII opponents such as TCU and the Oklahoma Aggies, both of whom have more powerful passing offenses than Tech. Fortunately, we have a better one, and a ground game to go with it. But such games are always risky.

The Dallas Cowboys also won this weekend, beating the Redskins (don’t change your name, Washington) by two touchdowns in a miserable, heavy rain, 33 to 19. Two takeaways from this game are worth a comment.

First, Dallas showed a pass rush, which has been sorely lacking for years. If it continues, it will help the suspect defensive backfield a lot.

Second, when you are playing in miserable conditions, it is an advantage to have a reliable back you can feed the ball and get first downs without turnovers. The Cowboys have such a back and they used him correctly Sunday. Zeke Elliot carried the ball 33 times and 150 yards, which is a 4.5 yard average for those not doing the math. You can eat up a lot of clock picking up 4.5 yards per down.

Dallas Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman was calling the game and said Elliot’s work reminded him of Emmitt Smith’s in such games. I was thinking exactly the same thing, remembering Aikman feeding Smith the ball and occasionally throwing a lethal pass when the defense cheated up to try to stop Smith. Those were the days.

Status of the States: Alabama gets the cup this week, partly on spec. I’ve given Alabama the cup previously just because it gave us Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, perhaps the least fit of Ponzi Don’s cabinet appointments, which is really saying something. It wouldn’t be fair to give it to Alabama for the same reason again. However, I’m giving it to Alabama this time because Sessions was caught up in some lies about his contacts with Russia (which had been obvious to anyone paying attention, but are now corroborated by sworn testimony). My guess is Session’s behavior will make Alabama even more deserving of the cup again soon.

Sudden thought: I’ve been to Russia. Does that qualify me to be in Trump’s cabinet?

Thoughts on Events the Week of October 23

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on November 4, 2017

Indictment: Sir Winston Churchill, writing about his experiences as a young British military officer, said that “Nothing focuses the mind like being shot at without result.”

John Corn of Mother Jones Magazine riffed on that theme, saying “Nothing cuts through distractions like an indictment.” Indictments are real, official and serious as a heart attack.

It was announced at the end of the week that sealed indictments have been filed in court and should be opened and served next week. I welcome this. It will be interesting to see who gets Mueller’s first indictment, and the repercussions.

A budget outline: Sloshing on through the molasses of President Trump’s legal issues and distractions, the Republicans presented a budget outline. A budget is necessary in order to push through “tax reform” with 51 Republicans votes via reconciliation, which is the only prayer in Hell they have to do it.

To say that Republicans are eager to pass a “tax reform” bill is a gross understatement. They say they must pass “tax reform,” because they promised their voters they would. In this, “tax reform” resembles Repeal and Replace Obamacare. That is, Republicans promised they would do it, but it is such a bad idea that they are meeting heavy resistance to getting it done.

The budget outline would decrease total spending by around $1.4 trillion dollars, and it will increase the national debt by at least that much and probably many times more.  For a Party that promises to be fiscally conservative, this prospect doesn’t sit well with many Republican legislators.

This budget includes deep, deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, programs extremely popular with, well, just about everyone. In addition, it eliminates very popular middle class tax breaks as well.

Let’s stop here for a moment and recognize that the Republican’s “tax reform” bill isn’t reform at all. It isn’t even a tax bill. It is a tax cut bill. Its sole purpose is to give very rich people a whole lot of money.

Why, you might ask, would Republicans accept a truly cruel and irresponsible budget for the purpose of getting through a fraudulent and irresponsible tax cut? Spoiler alert: It has absolutely nothing to do with their promising one to their base. They are flat out lying about that. Nor do Republican legislators believe that giving rich people more money will drive economic expansion. That’s a debunked canard.

The reason Republicans want this huge giveaway to the rich is because rich people are the donors from whom they get the money to get re-elected. These donors have invested a ton of money on these Republicans and they want a good return on their investment. This is how Republicans pay them back with our money. I will have more thoughts on taxes after we see an actual bill.

Football: The Oklahoma Sooners beat Texas Tech 49 to 27, covering the spread of 20 ½ points, but it didn’t feel like that kind of an easy win. Early on, it felt more like a competitive tennis match, with each side holding serve. Tech scored first, then OU, then Tech, then OU and so on. The first six possessions resulted in six straight back and forth touchdowns, painful, frustrating evidence of OU’s defensive deficiencies. At the end of the first quarter, Tech was up 20-14. (Tech missed its first PAT and went chasing that point all night.)

OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ initial plan was to rush only three down linemen, but it wasn’t working, so he switched back to mainly a four down lineman set. Gravity returned and OU outscored the Red Raiders 35-7 over the second and third quarters. OU could have scored another touchdown in the scoreless fourth quarter, but Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was raised right, and he had the team take a knee instead.

Running back Abdul Adams was back on the field after missing three games to injury. He looks to be the best of a good stable to me, but Rodney Anderson was the featured back against Tech and he performed very well.

I’m very disappointed how our defense is playing, and I dread the thought of shootouts with Big XII opponents such as TCU and the Oklahoma Aggies, both of whom have more powerful passing offenses than Tech. Fortunately, we have a better one, and a ground game to go with it. But such games are always risky.

The Dallas Cowboys also won this weekend, beating the Redskins (don’t change your name, Washington) by two touchdowns in a miserable, heavy rain, 33 to 19. Two takeaways from this game are worth a comment.

First, Dallas showed a pass rush, which has been sorely lacking for years. If it continues, it will help the suspect defensive backfield a lot.

Second, when you are playing in miserable conditions, it is an advantage to have a reliable back you can feed the ball and get first downs without turnovers. The Cowboys have such a back and they used him correctly Sunday. Zeke Elliot carried the ball 33 times and 150 yards, which is a 4.5 yard average for those not doing the math. You can eat up a lot of clock picking up 4.5 yards per down.

Dallas Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman was calling the game and said Elliot’s work reminded him of Emmitt Smith’s in such games. I was thinking exactly the same thing, remembering Aikman feeding Smith the ball and occasionally throwing a lethal pass when the defense cheated up to try to stop Smith. Those were the days.

Status of the States: Alabama gets the cup this week, partly on spec. I’ve given Alabama the cup previously just because it gave us Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, perhaps the least fit of Ponzi Don’s cabinet appointments, which is really saying something. It wouldn’t be fair to give it to Alabama for the same reason again. However, I’m giving it to Alabama this time because Sessions was caught up in some lies about his contacts with Russia (which had been obvious to anyone paying attention, but are now corroborated by sworn testimony). My guess is Session’s behavior will make Alabama even more deserving of the cup again soon.

Sudden thought: I’ve been to Russia. Does that qualify me to be in Trump’s cabinet?

Thoughts on Events the Week of October 16

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on October 29, 2017

Who’s deadest?: This week, after four American soldiers were shot and killed in an ambush in Niger, the government and the media debated what is the best way to console the families of those who have been killed in our perpetual wars.  President Trump said he sends the best sympathy letters and makes the best and most phone calls to gold star families of any president ever. Others disagree.

If we really want to honor the lives of our soldiers, my recommendation is that we don’t send them into our unnecessary battles in the first place. To me, the president who sends the fewest letters and makes the fewest phone calls – ideally none – wins.

And what in the hell were these soldiers doing in Niger in the first place?  Did you know they were there? I didn’t.  Yet we learned this week that we have troops there and all over the place without anyone’s having mentioned it to the American people, let alone its having been authorized by Congress, unless you count some panicked, overreaction legislation enacted immediately 9/11, so long ago that children born then now have driver’s licenses, or even stationed in Afghanistan.

The truth is that we don’t know what is going on with our military, and yet we are now spending more than $700 billion on it every year and giving war surplus materiel to municipal police departments. We don’t know who our friends are, or our enemies. We don’t know what the hell we are doing or where we are going. It’s long past time to stop and think, or vice versa.

Harvey Weinstein: Actually, I don’t give a damn about Weinstein’s personal life, though apparently the legal system should. But the recent news about Bill O’Reilly and him has me wondering how Clarence Thomas got to be on the Supreme Court, not to mention President Trump, after doing the same sort of things Thomas  did to Anita Hill.

Thomas’ nomination was sent by the Senate Judiciary Committee to the full Senate on a tie vote (7-7), without a recommendation, and he was approved by a vote of 52-48, not a ringing endorsement. It is a steep drop off from Thurgood Marshall to Clarence Thomas, unquestionably the least qualified Supreme since Reconstruction.

I wonder what the Senate thinks about its consent of Thomas today. A couple of the Senators on the Republican controlled Judiciary Committee at the time – Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch – are still around. Let’s ask them.

Sudden Thought: It seems an interesting coincidence, or maybe not, that just as our younger generations seem less interested in privacy, our security systems are being compromised all over the place. I regret the more cavalier attitude toward privacy; I still value mine. But I don’t mind the breakdown in security so much. The government keeps too many secrets anyway.

Football: It is never fun when my beloved Oklahoma Sooners play Kansas State in football. They always give us a tough, nail-biting time. I cannot remember a game, even when we win, that has been easy and fun, and I cannot forget a couple of times when we lost to them that were particularly miserable. Bill Snyder, KSU’s excellent coach always seems to get his team especially fired up for Oklahoma.

We beat KSU on the road in Manhattan, KS this week: 42 to 35. KSU played well and led most of the game, but we pulled it out in the last seven seconds. Actually, we were in position to win it with a field goal, but ended up getting a touchdown instead. And, it wouldn’t have been so squeaky if it hadn’t been for an unusual turnover – a long snap way over the punter’s head that gave KSU an easy score.

Our defense played miserably again. Things will have to change there. Oddly, even with the defense stinking up the place, I never thought we would lose the game, our offense was playing that well. I was confident Baker Mayfield just wouldn’t let it happen, and he didn’t, scoring four touchdowns – two by air and two by land.

The Dallas Cowboy win over the San Francisco 49ers was anything but a nail-biter. Dallas won 40 to 3, or something like that; I didn’t even bother to go back and check. Ezekiel Elliot ran for 219 yards, and when you can run the ball like that, you are going to win the game. The 49ers didn’t have enough time with the ball to score 40 points, even if they could.

Status of the States: I have no specific beef with any worst state this week, but, have you noticed how the worst states are so heavily over-represented in the Trump administration? A coincidence? I think not. It’s like Trump knew exactly where to go to find the worst, least qualified people to fill his posts.

Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions is from Alabama, and the least qualified member of the cabinet. He is a truly odious bigot, xenophobe and homophobe…just the man you want to run a Justice Department.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is from Texas. His appointment was a cruel joke at this expense, and he’s too stupid to get it. During his short-lived campaign, he promised to eliminate the Energy Department.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is from Oklahoma. He is a sworn enemy of the EPA, and sued it more than a dozen times to dilute its efforts to protect the environment, as Attorney General of that state.

Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, was a congressperson from Kansas. Even a Republican – Rand Paul – voted against his nomination (Pompeo’s actually said to be pretty smart.)

From South Carolina, come both Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget – who wants to cut every welfare program and give the money to rich people; and Nikki Haley, who is U.S.  Ambassador to the United Nations. (Actually, Haley seems, at least, to be trying to do a good job.

Compared to this lot, Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake from Arizona, my own personal state, look not so bad.

Thoughts on Events the Week of November 4

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on October 4, 2017

Obamacare: The Senate failed, again, with its latest, and let’s hope last, attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare with a plan that doesn’t do anything the Republican president promised it would. You can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it Melania.

Although the whole process seemed like utter chaos, it follows a predictable pattern. Important social progress begins small and under vicious attack from reactionary forces, but as its value becomes recognized, it is accepted, grows in popularity and expands. (Republicans are right about this part.)

Would it be too much to ask now for Republicans to work with Democrats and improve the existing legislation? Two items will make it safer, better and less expensive:

  1. Strengthen the mandate. Require participation from everyone, or make the penalty the same as the cost of the insurance. This will spread the risk (the whole point of insurance), increase the revenue and reduce the average cost per patient.
  2. Enable the government to negotiate prescription drug prices, which is presently prohibited by law – thank you President Bush, you moron. It’s like telling Walmart it can’t charge less than other retailers because, well, it just can’t.

Everyone complains about rising drug prices (I’ve certainly seen me do it). The U.S. government is the biggest purchaser of prescription drugs in the world. How much lower would drug prices be if the biggest customer could use its leverage? Even Ponzi Don could negotiate this deal.

There; that should do it. Though, there are a lot more improvements that could be, and should be made, such as allowing insurance companies to sell health insurance across state lines, a Republican idea I’m fine with. Why do we need 50 insurance regulating agencies rather than just one anyway, other than to inflate state bureaucratic payrolls?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Ponzi Don is mad at this sorry guy because he says McConnell can’t get anything done, which is utterly laughable. McConnell is the only one who has gotten anything done; Ponzi should be kissing McConnell’s shoes.

Ponzi’s only “win” is the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. But if McConnell hadn’t abused the Constitution egregiously, that Justice would have been appointed by President Obama, as the Constitution intended, and it wouldn’t have been Gorsuch.

Kurds: The autonomous region of majority Kurds in Northern Iraq voted to leave Iraq and become an independent country, and I wish them well. Almost everyone except the Kurds opposes this, including the United States government.

Our opposition is disingenuous, short-sighted and stupid. First, this split is inevitable. It was inevitable even before President George W. Bush lied us into invading Iraq in 2003. Iraq is not a country. It is a triptych cobbled together by Europeans without appreciation of the polar likes – Sunnis and Shiites – they were trying to unite.

Second, the Kurds are our only true Muslim friends in the region. We should support them in every way we can. They have supported us in every way, even our misadventures. This is amazing when you consider that we have betrayed their trust more than once, most egregiously by President George H.W. Bush. What has that family got against the Kurds, anyway?

Iraq doesn’t want to give up the oil under Kurdish soil. But the Kurds owe Iraq nothing. They were persecuted mercilessly under Hussein.

Countries neighboring Iraq with Kurdish minorities are afraid their Kurds will start agitating for more autonomy. Could happen, depending on how they are being treated where they are. Dishes such as independence can become very popular, to wit:

“A patron while dining at Crewe,

found an elephant dong in his stew.

Said the waiter, “Don’t shout

and wave it about

or the others will all want one, too.”

 

Our position is more proof, as if more is needed, that the U.S. will support the status quo, no matter how untenable the status quo may be, in the name of stability.

Women Drivers: Saudi Arabia’s monarchy made the streets of Riyadh less safe this week, by allowing women to drive. Just kidding. This hidebound, ultra-conservative nation is the last to allow women this privilege. At this rate of progress they may stop stoning women for adultery soon.

Football: The Dallas Cowboys played on Monday night in Phoenix and beat the Arizona Cardinals by 11 points – 28 to a 17.  The game was tougher than the score might indicate. All of Dallas’ best offensive players made a great play. DeMarcus Lawrence was a beast on defense.

The Cowboys’ Achilles heel has been its defensive backfield. Bad drafts, bad acquisitions and bad luck have kept Dallas scrambling back there. This year, reasoning there were lots of good defensive backs in the draft, Dallas did a house cleaning, and let a number of their backs go. I agree with many of their decisions – Carr was not worth the investment in him, Clayborn didn’t pan out like I thought he would, etc. – but it was risky.

The Cowboys did get a couple of good backs recently, and had a good draft for them this year, too. But that injury bug has kept biting, with the result on Monday night, Dallas was fielding a defensive backfield with a lot of talent and promise but not a lot of experience.

This caused some serious scrambling, but the young and the backup players responded. What they lacked in experience they made up for with effort and energy. It wasn’t a work of art nor an art of war, but it was enough to win. Cowboy management should be pleased. I was.

Sudden Thought: Let me get this straight. If I buy a ticket for an NFL game (I checked on tickets for the Cardinals v. Cowboys game Monday night. The only ones I could afford cost $115 each), and if any of the players take a knee in protest during the National Anthem, then I should walk out of the stadium without even seeing the kick-off. I watched on TV instead.

More Football: Sunday, the Cowboys lost 35 to 30 at home to a much improved Los Angeles Rams football team, and looked very ordinary doing it. The defensive deficiencies were exposed. The vaunted offensive line couldn’t protect Dallas’ quarterback Dak Prescott, who is having a sophomore slump.  If you score 30 points, you ought to win an NFL game, but the Cowboys didn’t even look like a playoff team today. Have I mentioned recently that I don’t think much of Dallas’ coaching staff?

The Oklahoma Sooners had an open date this weekend. I watched some of some Big XII games, but didn’t see much of interest.

Status of the States: or, who was Moore Strange? Alabama, the most recently enshrined worst state, took the cup for its Republican primary. Voters chose between a candidate who is completely corrupt and one who is completely crazy. Alabama chose crazy (in Louisiana or New Jersey, it might have gone the other way).

 

The oddest thing about this contest, however, was that Luther Strange was marketed as the “establishment” candidate, and was supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (and President Ponzi Don, but that’s a Carol for another Christmas). What the hell was the Republican Party thinking supporting either one of these miscreants, let alone calling Strange an establishment candidate? He’s crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

Thoughts on Events the Week of September 18

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 25, 2017

The un-UN: President Donald Trump went to the UN General Assembly meeting and spewed petulant nonsense. Surely, there has been no bigger fool on the world stage since Yasser Arafat.

Ponzi Don squandered his opportunity to lead the UN – an organization dearly in need of reform – in a better direction. Instead, he called out a number of nations, most particularly North Korea and Iran, and showered them with foolish, empty threats, which is not an ideal negotiating strategy.

Each of these adversaries responded in their own way, which made them seem in much better command of their situations than our blustering, bloviating president.

Ponzi threatened to destroy North Korea, which is not only nonsense, but disconcerting to our close allies in the region. Then, he intimated that he might withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, the most important, unprecedented agreement since the Soviet arms limitation treaties of that era.

If Ponzi were to do tear up the deal, which he won’t, the U.S. would be isolating itself further into the international wilderness. It is not the Iran agreement, but Ponzi Don who is an embarrassment to the United States.

So much for bipartisan agreements: No sooner had Ponzi Don made a deal with Democrats and had moved closer to another on Dreamers, than he joined the chorus of Republican (only) legislators in their latest, smarmy attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare with a sack of bull shit and call it cream puffs. Perhaps he realizes replace is the only way to steal enough money from the poor and middle classes to give a tax cut to the rich.

The recent attempts to replace and Repeal Obamacare differ from the 60 or so attempts before Republicans took control of the Congress and the presidency, in that the post-election variety have specific points, all of them hugely unpopular with everyone but the rich donors who are the only ones to benefit from this legislation via tax cuts on their wealth.

Republicans have this skunk by the tail, which is spraying them directly in the face, yet they are determined not to let go. Perhaps if this latest attempt fails, Republicans will throw and their hands and engage in work to improve Obamacare, and get used to the idea of working with Democrats again, and vice versa. But I’m not optimistic. I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said man clings to nothing so tightly as a bad deal. Repeal and replace is a model example.

Iran: If Ponzi Don’s presidency has a theme at all, it is to erase anything that has President Obama’s name on it, which jerks off his bigoted base. Many good ideas have met this fate, and more are endangered, including at present, the Iran nuclear deal.

Since World War II, nations have tried to limit proliferation of nuclear weapons. Few have made any progress, yet President Obama succeeded in persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for relief from sanctions, and win-win if ever there was one. This, as Vice President Biden might say, is a big f#$%&@ deal, and Ponzi Don wants to screw with it.

Football, et al: Ponzi Don insinuated himself vulgarly and stupidly into the news of professional sports players (mostly, but not only blacks) kneeling during the National Anthem in protest against treatment of blacks by police, and society in general. In doing this, Ponzi displayed gross ignorance of:

  1. The First Amendment, the most important paragraph in the English language, which protects speech. This shouldn’t surprise us. Ponzi doesn’t know, or care, about our Constitution, which he has sworn to preserve and protect.
  2. His base are big professional sports fans. (Many of them have an unhealthy identification with their teams. Wife beatings spike when fans’ football teams lose, having little else in their lives to enjoy.) They may love Ponzi, but not as much as they love their teams.
  3. Players are much more popular and influential than Ponzi, and are rich enough not to care a fig what he says or does. These players are not Kim Jung Un, but national sports heroes.
  4. Owners may support, and even donate to Ponzi, but whose investments depend on their players and fans. They’re not about to offend either one by going along with Ponzi on this.

Did I mention Ponzi Don is a bigot?

No college team can get sky high up for every game in what has become a season of at least 11 games. “Every fair from fair sometimes declines,” and so it was with my Oklahoma Sooners Saturday, who beat Baylor with a lackluster effort – 49 to 41. (Am I a Chinaman or what? I just called 49 points a lackluster performance. Well, it was.)

Baylor was easy not to take seriously; they were 0-3, and looked bad getting there. But Baylor played lights out against the Sooners and gave OU a hell of a fight. I was impressed by some of their players.

It will be interesting to see if they collapse after their hard fault but ultimately unsuccessful effort, or if they will continue to improve over the season. If the latter, they will win some conference games.

The Dallas Cowboy don’t play until Monday night, right down the road in Phoenix against the Arizona Cardinals, so I have no thoughts about the game until next Sunday’s blog.

Sudden Thought: I looked out the window during the Autumnal Equinox, and the world was still there. I was not surprised nor disappointed.

Status of the States: I can’t think of anything any of the worst states did that stands out from the rest, so it’s a tie.

Thoughts on Events the Week of September 11

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 21, 2017

Ironic end to the end of the American Century?: It could be argued – I know; I’ve seen me do it – that we have been stuck in a (grid) locked Port-a-Potty since the beginning of the 21st Century. Said another way, The American Century, as Henry Luce dubbed it, may have ended right on schedule.

First, we elected a high functioning moron president in 2000, the worst in history, pending a final grade for Donald Trump. George W. Bush began immediately to ruin ours and the world’s economies and was largely successful.

In 2001, we suffered the 9/11 terrorist attacks (did you see Bush, sitting like a dunce on an elementary school stool when he got the news?), and promptly lost our minds.

Bush responded to 9/11 by exploiting our fears rather than quieting them; adding another layer to our already bloated security apparatus; invading Iraq, an innocent bystander (admittedly a rare occurrence with Hussein); and screwed up the entire Middle East by taking our country back to the Crusade of 1095 CE, as any moronic born again Christian might do.

Meanwhile, the legislative branch was completely unnerved by 9/11 and voters’ reaction to Bush’s fear mongering, and hid behind the bushes, so to speak. Congress has abrogated and/or abused its responsibilities ever since.

In 2008, we elected a sane and intelligent president, who managed to right the sinking economic ship and did what no other president had succeeded in doing since Harry S. Truman first tried in the 1940s – enact a working model toward universal, single payer healthcare. Though based on a Republican plan introduced in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, Republicans fought it tooth and nail for a year and a half, and have tried to repeal it more than half a hundred times ever since, in lieu of actually governing.

In fact, the Republican legislators opposed everything President Obama proposed for eight years, regardless of its merits. If it offended their principles, they opposed it, naturally. If it was a good idea, they still opposed it. If it was their own idea and Obama supported it, they immediately opposed it. Republicans put the country in utter gridlock, even after the country elected Obama to a second term.

Then in 2016, we elected Donald Trump, a known charlatan, unreliable and possibly corrupt businessman, a narcissist, and soon to be recognized as a sociopath, who ran on a campaign of bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, insults and a ridiculous wall. He not only won, improbably, but carried both houses of Congress with him.

Trump began immediately to dismantle everything Obama had done by executive authority with his own. Again, there was no regard given to merit. If Obama did it, it had to be undone, no matter what. (If Trump undoes Obama’s Iranian nuclear treaty, it will be the biggest mistake of his presidency, which is really saying something.) He also placed a Secretary in each cabinet department whose views are inimical to that department.

Oddly, even with one party in control of the White House and Congress, the gridlock did not cease. It turned out that Republicans are effective at blind opposition, but couldn’t govern the country across the street with a green light.

This failure to govern is due to three problems. First, Republicans have crappy, mean-spirited, unpopular ideas helping no one but wealthy donors. Second, during eight years of reflexive opposition, Republicans smeared and demonized some really good ideas, and now they are stuck with having to oppose them still. Finally, Republicans are splintered into factions along the spectrum of bad to worse to worst. They couldn’t agree on gravity.

So, here we are in 2017, with a president so unprincipled and unconcerned with the common good that he would sign any bill without even reading it if it would get him a “win” (When did we start thinking a governance as a zero sum game? Somewhere between 1980 and 1992, I think.), and a Republican Congress that passes gas, but can’t pass a bill.

And then, astoundingly, this president improbably does something that hasn’t been done since before Denny Hastert went to jail (Google Hastert and the “Hastert Rule”). Seeing that he won’t get a “win” with only Republicans, he gets together with some Democrats and knocks one out in an evening.

We can speculate as to Trump’s motives. I know; I’ve seen me do it. (See a reprise of my thoughts on his motives from last week’s blog, below this article.) But an intelligent agreement was reached on an ostensibly bipartisan basis. Ryan and McConnell arguably “lost,” but they were defending the indefensible, so screw them.

Lo and behold, it appears we are going to have another agreement regarding the Dreamers. This one should be easier, as helping the Dreamers is almost universally liked by Americans. Not to do so seems unfair, unjust, illogical and offends our sense of values.

Trump adamantly proposed sending all the Dreamers back home during the campaign. But, of course, he is a pathological liar without a principle in his body, so he will agree with anything to get a “win,” regardless of his previous positions. Like I said, easy peasy.

Could this be the re-start of an idea that has been out of favor for more than a decade: legislating on a bi-partisan basis? Maybe; but maybe not. On the one hand, we have a president who will sign a piece of toilet paper if there appears to be a bill on it. But on the other hand, we have some issues coming up on which the parties’ principles are truly at odds. It will be more difficult going forward. We’ll see. But, we have been reminded of the basic principles of representative government. Wouldn’t it be nice if it caught on again?

Excerpt from last week’s Blog on possible motives for
Trump’s Deal with Democrats

“In this case, there are a number of possible motives. Most likely, Ponzi had a tee-off time and didn’t want to miss it, so he took the quick out. Possibly, he was pissed at Republican Congressional leadership for being so incompetent. Possibly, he decided he could work better with Democrats than Republicans because the Republicans are go divided they can’t agree on gravity. And just possibly, the meeting lasted so long that, with Ponzi’s short attention span, he lost track of which position was held by which Party and took a (wrong) guess.”

Cassini: This week, the astounding voyage of the spacecraft sent to explore Saturn almost 20 years ago, and fully 1.4 billion kilometers away, came to its end when it was deliberately plunged into the planet to take its final pictures before burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere.

When the Cassini-Huygens space probe was launched toward Saturn in October, 1997, the scope and audacity of the plan exceeded science fiction, but the program accomplished more than could ever have been hoped. It was an engineering marvel, and a monument to human ingenuity.

Sudden Thought: Have you noticed that all the late model cars seem to have a vestigial dorsal fin near the rear of their top, just above the rear window? Maybe some of their forebears were fish.

Football: I didn’t watch as much football as I hoped to this weekend. My Oklahoma Sooners played Tulane, such a mismatch that it wasn’t even carried on television, only pay-per-view. I was not going to pay money to watch lions eat Christians, so while I was able to read the box score and get the storyline – OU started sluggishly, but pulled away steadily throughout the game – I have not seen a single image from the game, which OU won 56-14.

That evening, OU’s football nemesis Texas took #4 USC to the brink in a double overtime loss – 27-24, in what was the best game of the weekend. Their freshman quarterback – Sam Ehlinger – and their defense looked unexpectedly good. They have improved significantly since their first game loss to Maryland, damn it.

The Dallas Cowboy game was too painful to watch, so I stopped watching it. It was as poorly as I have seen them play in a couple of years. The Denver Broncos exposed their injuries and suspensions masterfully. (It would be nice if the Cowboys could keep more of their players out of the NFL penalty box.) Dallas had no apparent game plan, they couldn’t cover anybody and they couldn’t tackle anybody. They looked ready to lose from the kick-off.

I did enjoy seeing the Falcons dismantle Green Bay, but it was cold comfort Sunday.

Status of the States: Arizona, my own personal state, gets the cup this week. On sites in Arizona, Motel 6 employees, it was reported, ratted out guests they thought might be illegals to ICE. This was done without the chain’s approval. Questionable customer service.

 

“Hillbilly Elegy,” by J.D. Vance

Posted in Reviews - of books, mostly by EloiSVM42 on September 16, 2017

For the same reason I studied Bernard Lewis to understand Islam and how its extreme elements came to be, I read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance to understand the people who voted for President Trump in numbers large enough, and in just the right places, for him to win the election. I reasoned hillbillies and many of Trump’s voters are basically one and the same…and I was right.

An elegy is a lament for the dead, technically in the form of a poem. Vance, a self-described hillbilly, doesn’t say they are dead, but he suggests they are doomed, economically at least, by their own hand absent significant changes.

The term “Hillbilly” originally applied to descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants – Calvinist Protestant dissenters – who migrated to America in the 1700s and settled mostly in the back woods of Greater Appalachia.

Vance’s description of the hillbilly culture pretty much matches up with my own, admittedly stereotypical view of them: uneducated, backward, rural, misogynistic, blame everyone but themselves, pessimistic, extremely conservative and LAZY.

I wasn’t expecting this last one at all. I thought these to be people who want to work, but just can’t find jobs. Vance says hillbillies may say they want a job, but don’t really, and even if they do, they are unwilling to do what is required to get and hold one. In other words, they’re almost unemployable.

Vance observes that hillbilly men draw “strict lines between work acceptable to men and acceptable to women.” It’s clear what “women’s work” is, but not clear what’s acceptable for men. “Apparently, not paid employment,” Vance writes.

As a result, the hillbilly population is rife with unemployment, poverty, ignorance, broken homes, drug addiction and violence out of proportion to other populations. Although Hillary was stupid to say it, these are deplorable people.

To make his case, Vance serves up his own family as typical of the breed. His father came and went; his mother, a slut and hopeless drug addict, ran through “husbands” at such a pace that Vance had difficulty keeping up with their first names, as well as his own last one. His maternal grandparents were uneducated, violent, vulgar and profane, but at least they loved him. He credits them for saving him from a hillbilly’s fate.

Most of Vance’s family members have killed someone, or tried to, including in the case of his grandparents, each other. Vance’s uncle thinks of the family as normal, but admits, “They go from zero to murderous in a fucking heartbeat.”

Judged on this scale, Vance’s family has somewhat celebrity status. One of his forebears – Jim Vance – killed Asa McCoy, which ignited the Hatfield and McCoy feud. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatfield%E2%80%93McCoy_feud)

Similar to the migration of southern blacks to find work in northern cities, hillbillies began migrating from Appalachia in the same general direction, to find work in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. The out-migration was so great along U.S. Route 23 that it is called the “Hillbilly Highway.”

Vance grew up in Jackson, Kentucky, a rural town in the county of Breathitt, in the southeastern part of the state. Breathitt County (also formally the name of the town) was a place of such violence (much of it due to feuds) that it became known as “Bloody Breathitt,” and the feds came in to clean it up.

During the migration, Vance’s grandparents moved to Middletown, Ohio along with so many others from his home state that it was called “Middletucky.” The grandparents moved not for economic opportunity, but to avoid an underage pregnancy scandal and certain honor killing.

The migrating hillbillies were able at first to find good paying jobs that didn’t require much education, and the work became progressively easier as manufacturing technology advanced. A significant economic spread developed between the income and opportunities of those who left Appalachia and those who stayed behind, but the culture remains the same in both places.

Inevitably, things reached a tipping point when manufacturing technology advanced to the point very little labor was needed in the plants, and the work could be done in other countries with similar labor skills at much lower labor cost. The jobs disappeared, and both the Appalachian hillbillies and the transplanted ones are back in the same boat, as unprepared to compete as ever. Vance calls them “relics of American industrial glory.”

(Note: Middletown was the home of A. K. Steel, which was the employment anchor of the town. But A. K. Steel jobs declined along with the rest of the steel industry in the U.S., and though there is still a plant in Middletown, there are very few employees. Today, without the A. K. Steel jobs, Middletown is the center of opioid addiction in Ohio.)

The bleak history of Appalachia is pretty well understood, but the migration story was new to me. Put together, they explain how Trump voters came to be and how they came to be where they could nudge the election to Trump, though Vance opines that “Hillbilly” describes much of America’s white middle class today.

Interestingly, Vance goes easy on hillbillies on the Obama-racism issue. He says hillbillies didn’t hate him because he is black, but because they knew that he is simply above them. They knew he had done it right.”

Hillbillies bought into Donald Trump and vulgar rhetoric and impossible conspiracies because they are simply not able to compete and resistant to becoming so, and they have to blame others for this.

Vance believes about hillbillies that “you can’t believe these things [conspiracy theories] and participate meaningfully in society,” but hillbillies did participate meaningfully, at least to the extent that they showed up and voted overwhelmingly for Trump. It’s those who stayed home who failed the citizenship test. Sadly, hillbillies picked precisely the wrong man to address their problems. So, maybe Vance is right about the “meaningfully” part. Hillbillies aren’t going to participate in any meaningful way economically any time soon.

Hillbilly Elegy, informs our understanding of what went on in 2016. However, the mystery of J.D. Vance himself remains. By any measure, Vance, for all his affinity/distain for hillbillies, simply does not fit the picture.

Vance was smart enough to get accepted at Ohio State University. He was smart enough to realize how unprepared he was for the broader world, so he joined the Marine Corp to catch up before matriculating at OSU. He was smart enough to graduate from Yale Law School. He is obviously an extreme outlier from the culture in which he lived.

That said, Vance can’t be the only one. There must be more potential in the people of this community. We need to find ways to nurture it. In the meantime, I cannot respect them, or even sympathize with them. Respect for determined ignorance and violence is just not in me. But I can emphasize with them better now and realize there are more resources in the Appalachian Mountains than just coal.

Vance is surely right that there is no magic solution, no single government program to rescue this group from its status. It will take many approaches, a long time and a lot of money. But education would be a good place to start.

Thoughts on Events the Week of September 4

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 12, 2017

That’s our boy: President Trump pulled the Oval Office rug out from under Republican Congressional leadership not once but twice this week, begging questions, such as: what the hell he is thinking? Is he thinking? Does he even know how to think? To answer these questions, we must discern his motives.

First, as forecast, Ponzi pretended to repeal DACA, but delayed implementation for six months, giving Congress time to come up with a legislative solution. A not unreasonable approach, but one that allows him to claim to have done something, yet pushes all the responsibility somewhere else. Classic Ponzi.

You’ll notice, Ponzi Don didn’t even make the announcement himself. He sent Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to do the dirty work, which was also actually not a bad move. Sessions is the biggest xenophobe in Washington, so he probably had a boner behind the lectern while delivering the news. (Note: this is the same Ponzi who denied Catholic Sean Spicer from meeting the Pope, but let Sessions deliver the DACA bad news.)

Shortly thereafter, however, Ponzi pulled the rug out from Republicans in all branches by saying that if Congress wouldn’t fix DACA, he would, begging the question: what does that even mean?

Was there a motive? I don’t know. Maybe even Ponzi realized he had done something, finally, that didn’t sit well with pretty much anyone, even some reasonably sane members of his own base, so he had to backtrack.

Weirder yet, in a meeting with Congressional leaders of both parties to discuss the possibility of addressing three pressing issues – hurricane relief, a continuing resolution and debt ceiling increase – Ponzi stunned his fellow Republican leaders, and especially his Secretary of the Treasury, who he cut off in mid-sentence, and sided with the Democrats on all points. (The may have needed to clean the Oval Office rug after that one; surely more than one Republican present peed on it in surprise.)

In this case, there are a number of possible motives. Most likely, Ponzi had a tee-off time and didn’t want to miss it, so he took the quick out. Possibly, he was pissed at Republican Congressional leadership for being so incompetent; they are. Possibly, he decided he could work better with Democrats than Republicans because the Republicans are so divided they can’t agree on gravity. And just possibly, the meeting lasted so long that, with Ponzi’s short attention span, he lost track of which position was held by which Party and took a (wrong) guess.

Football: My beloved Oklahoma Sooners achieved a “quality win” against Ohio State in Columbus Saturday by score of 31-16.

“Quality win” in this case is a euphemism for OU opened up a big can of whup-ass on the Buckeyes in OSU’s stadium in front of 109,000 of their loyal fans. Well, there were 109,000 when the game started. By the end, there were only a couple dozen.

So, OU outscored Ohio State by more than two touchdowns, which covered the spread, since Ohio State was favored by seven and a half points!

I thought OU could win this game, but I also thought they could lose it. Make no mistake: these are two excellent teams from great programs. The hype obviously favored the #2 ranked Buckeyes over the #5 ranked Sooners, but the logic just didn’t add up.

OSU’s quarterback J.T. Barrett and OU’s quarterback Baker Mayfield had similar stats during their first games this season, over admittedly overmatched foes, but Mayfield only played for one half last week! Fine as Barrett is, the Sooners have the better quarterback, perhaps the best in college football, and OSU’s weak spot is their defensive secondary. It made sense Mayfield would light it up, and he did.

In Dallas Sunday night, my also beloved Cowboys beat the New York Giants, 19-3 in a mostly defensive battle, which is a good thing. Dallas’s defense has question marks, but they looked pretty good this night. Dak Prescott looked like he was experiencing some Sophomore Blues (Zeek Elliott did not), being frequently a little off target. Perhaps the game indicates Dallas can stay in them based on defense if the need should arrive.

Status of the States: When OU and Dallas win in the same weekend, I don’t pay much attention to states’ sorry governance. Besides, there was a hurricane to follow, again.

Coming Attractions: I wasn’t able to finish my review of Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance. Almost finished. This week for sure.

Thoughts on Events the Week of August 28

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on September 6, 2017

Our Dreamers: I say our Dreamers, because these approximately 800,000 young men and women, boys and girls who were brought here by their parents, who entered the U.S. illegally, are about as American as it is possible to be. Like the children on the Mayflower, they arrived with their parents to our shores without citizenship so their parents could begin a new life, and they have lived here for years, peacefully.

President Obama, through executive order – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – has allowed Dreamers to stay, and since DACA came into force, Dreamers have also lived securely and productively. They have gone to school, gotten jobs, paid taxes, served in the military and otherwise improved themselves.  On the whole, they have become model citizens. (One Dreamer even perished saving others during Hurricane Harvey.)

President Donald J. Trump wants to send all the Dreamers home, though they are already living in the only home they have known, some for many years. He has been tormenting Dreamers, and titillating his xenophobic base, about this since during the campaign. He will announce his “decision” next week.

As of this writing, the reporting is that Ponzi will announce an end to DACA, with a six month delay to give Congress an opportunity to act. That way, he will be able to declare it a campaign promise fulfilled and stick Congress with the responsibility. This may work, but it leaves these DACA children dangling.

Sometimes I criticize Ponzi Don for his heartless or selfish or incompetent actions, and sometimes I just want to smack him upside the head. This is one of those times.

North Korea: North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jung Un keeps working on nuclear weapons capability and insulting Ponzi Don, while Ponzi keeps threatening to use our nuclear capability and insulting Un, like a couple of childish schoolyard bullies, each without the slightest intention of actually fighting. It’s ludicrous.

Think about it. We all know what is going to happen here. Out of the few really lousy choices, we are going to live with a nuclear armed North Korea, just as we live with a nuclear armed Pakistan, unless or until China can be persuaded to do something about it.

Football: My beloved Oklahoma Sooners looked stronger than a bear’s breath beating UTEP, an admittedly overmatched foe, in Norman. But the Sooners looked crisp in execution at least two deep, boding well for the future. New Sooner Head Coach Lincoln Riley played lots of people, which was really smart, in my view. The game against Ohio State in Columbus next weekend should be a dilly.

But there was arguably a better football story coming out of Dallas, regarding my also beloved Cowboys. The teams cancelled the scheduled game between Dallas and Houston so the Texans could return to Houston to be with their families during Hurricane Harvey.

Ever the marketing and promotion genius, Cowboy owner Jerry Jones turned Thursday evening into a telethon to raise money for Harvey relief, throwing in a million dollars from the Cowboy organization (a real million dollars, Ponzi Don, not a specious promise), and raised another $1.3 million in call-in contributions. (The Jones family had already thrown in a $100,000 on their own.)

This shows why Dallas is America’s team, why Jones is the best NFL owner, why Texas is Texas, and why Ponzi Don is such a failure. (I just threw that last one in gratuitously.)

On the downside of Big XII college football, the University of Texas Longhorns looked like a dog’s dinner losing to Maryland 51-41. (But who’s counting? Answer: Sooner fans!) It will be a somber week in Dallas and Austin, I expect.

Status of the States: Texas is the worst state for putting such a sorry football team on the field, but also the best state, along with all the other states, for how it, and we, are responding to Hurricane Harvey.

Coming Attractions: This week, a review of Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.