Skip to content

FROM LOATHING TO ADMIRATION

FROM LOATHING TO ADMIRATION

Professor Kennedy in her blog today ponders the future of the Republican Party in view of its shrinking voter base, demographics favoring the Democratic Party, disenchanted Republicans of the Steve Schmidt variety etc. She invited commentary and the following, slightly edited, was my response.

The question is not whether the Republican Party (especially as now constituted) will win but whether it will survive given the demographics. I have predicted for years that this party if unreformed is destined to descend back into the Whigdom from which it arose, but it may not. It may just go away, as have others.

Voter suppression and low turnout of its opposition party (with help from Russians, the Kochs, Mercers and the inane holding of Citizens United) are delaying the day of reckoning, but with millions of new voting millennials every election, many of whom are Bernie-loving leftish and activist thinkers, the die is cast even if turnout is poor in view of their activism and turn to the left, a turn perhaps further than I as a slightly left of center voter would like to go.

Younger voters are tired of Republican excuses (trickledown, tax giveaways etc.) for enrichment of the already rich at the expense of the rest of us, and I agree with them. They rightly see that government is not the problem but rather the brigands who are running it under the pretext that what they are doing and not doing is in the public interest.

It is no accident that government is trusted in a poll for “happiest nations” and that the government-trusting nations of Sweden, Norway and Denmark are among the top five, none of which is surprising, but Republicans have done a good job here in poisoning the atmosphere that government is bad and Wall Street is good as officially set forth by Reagan’s announcement years ago that “government is the problem” while simultaneously using the power of government to fire air controllers and bust unions.
Republicans took that ball and ran with it (see the subsequent flurry of “right to work” laws at state levels), but not because they really thought that government in the abstract was “bad.” The design was to put government down so that their campaign contributors could steal the peoples’ trove via privatization, following the lead of Putin, a communist, who is pretending to favor a private enterprise system so that he and his oligarchs can steal the Russian people blind.

The good news is that political transformation is coming, assuming we survive the democracy and budget-busting antics of the current administration. Our political D-Day is coming this November, and we are well-advised to storm the beaches (aka polls) and install non-brigands who will increase our measurable happiness index by governing so well that the new consensus will be that “government is good,” and perhaps even that government service is, as Madison and Jefferson saw it, “noble,” which I think all would agree would amount to a considerable transformation from present sentiment in re “politicians,” i.e., from loathing to admiration.   GERALD      E

Advertisements

DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY’S NEWS TOMORROW

DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY’S NEWS TOMORROW

Years from now when we look back at day before yesterday’s news we may have little to say about how Kim handed Trump his head on a plate in Singapore and a lot to say about a federal judge’s approval of an 85 billion dollar merger of AT&T and Time Warner, a finding which clipped the wings of anti-trust regulators as they face several other large mergers and acquisitions awaiting approval, such as Comcast’s planned bid for merger with 21st Century Fox, CVS’s acquisition of Aetna and others sure to arise given the precedent set day before yesterday. It is also noteworthy that the court approved the AT&T-Time Warner merger day before yesterday without conditions, another green light for new merger and acquisition activity, an activity hardly in need of further stimulation.

The court in announcing its approval without conditions found that the Justice Department failed to provide sufficient proof that the deal would harm competition or consumers and told a packed courtroom that the government’s economic analysis “rested on improper notions.” The court also warned the government not to seek a stay on the merger if it brings an appeal since under the merger agreement AT&T must close its deal with Time Warner by June 20 or pay a penalty of $500 million, which the court said would be “manifestly unjust” to AT&T’s shareholders and the business community.

DOJ’s expert economist says that Americans could be paying an extra $571 million a year for TV if AT&T and Time Warner merge, and that seems to me to do harm to consumers. As for AT&T’s obligation to pay a penalty under the terms of an agreement the two parties made in anticipation of merger, they are big boys with deep pockets and I am sure their lawyers can work out a compromise should the DOJ seek a stay and appeal the district court’s finding, and I cannot see how the DOJ’s legal tactics should be bound to the terms of a contract to which it is not privy.

In any event, even if AT&T were to pay Time Warner a $500 million penalty it would be a one-shot deal, whereas the cost to American consumers could be more than that and payable year after year. To be candid (and I did not hear the evidence), I think the court is overstepping its bounds in advising the DOJ not to seek a stay and appeal, especially since on appeal the appellate court may send the case back with instructions to the same district court judge who advised against stay and appeal, which could create a rather sticky situation.

Companies who wish to merge with or acquire other companies in the same business are said to be engaging in a horizontal activity; such companies when they wish to merge or acquire other companies in different businesses are said to be engaging in a vertical activity. The AT&T – Time Warner merger is a vertical activity and I don’t know how far this merger mania can go in uniting disparate or even similar businesses if restraint and regulation are to be a thing of the past.

Thus shall we have ping pong ball corporations merging with AI corporations? Pharmaceutical companies with Burger King? Are harm to consumers and higher prices the only criteria for refusal to allow mergers and acquisitions, whether vertical or horizontal? At the rate accelerating mergers and acquisitions are being proposed are we ultimately headed for ONE CORPORATION, with branches and subsidiaries, which will control all commerce, finance, production, distribution etc.? If so, how can such a leviathan aggregation of power coexist within a democracy where “all sovereignty rests with the people?” I foresee civil commotion at best.

Perhaps I’m worrying too far in advance of such a possibility but with the merger and acquisition mania at fever pitch and little regulatory restraint perhaps I’m not, since prices are regulated by competition and if there is no competition, guess what happens to prices? To do > Communicate with your members of Congress, set forth your concerns of ultimate monopoly, and agitate for changes in the Sherman Anti-Trust and Clayton Acts so that we can cut such a possibility off at the pass. A continuation of our democracy, tattered as it is from current political attacks, may depend upon it.     GERALD       E

 

TRUMP, KIM AND SINGAPORE

TRUMP, KIM AND SINGAPORE

The Singapore meeting between Trump and Kim is history ending in a preliminary agreement to negotiate which will hopefully lead to a later substantive agreement to be signed. As of now, nothing of substance is in black and white and we may be years away from such an agreement, if ever it comes to pass. Neither signatory to the preliminary and non-binding agreement to negotiate can be trusted; one is a murderous dictator and the other is a wannabe dictator full of himself in his quest for a Nobel. Both are demonstrable liars.

The foregoing is hard fact, not Pollyanna fancy. Trump is using his usual superlatives in describing his exploits by telling us that the North Korean leadership can be trusted, that he would “love” to have Kim visit the White House, and that peace in our time is on hand. The undercurrent we are led to consider is that North Korea is a good nation-state the victim of American saber-rattling and sanctions and had to go the nuclear route as an expression of its sovereignty in securing its borders. Now, presumably, due to the diplomatic prowess of these two leaders, we are to start anew (as though the Korean War did not happen and as though North Korea is not a hard left communist country led by a murderous cabal) and “promise to be good from now on.” The past is to be thrown down an Orwellian “memory hole.” Anybody conversant with real politic who swallows that line and that the moon is made of green cheese, well, I have this bridge. . .

Trump lost the battle of Singapore in the first instance when he agreed to meet with Kim, thus validating Kim’s importance as a world leader, a leader who more than once has bragged about nuclear-tipped missiles he could land on Guam or Hawaii or anywhere in the continental United States. Instead of basking in his narcissistic limelight, Trump should have quietly dispatched his secretary of state and diplomatic experts to handle the preliminary chore of agreeing to talk agreement, but his narcissistic desire for headlines and the Nobel intervened and he took it upon himself to gobble up the TV cameras for an agreement to talk about an agreement.

Trump now says that Kim is interested in denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that monitoring will assure the world that his regime does in fact denuclearize, that in return he has told Kim that he will end the “war games” played by American troops in South Korea and overflights from Guam. He specifically and repeatedly stated in such connection that such war games and overflights were “very expensive,” as though that has anything to do with saving the planet from nuclear catastrophe, and as though he is concerned with enormous expense in view of his signature on a recent catastrophic tax bill that gave some two trillion dollars to the rich and corporate class – speaking of “very expensive.”

So what happened in Singapore beyond the photo-ops, reversible promises, and pledges to negotiate further down the line? I hope, a lot, but the proof of the pudding is in the pudding, and I have little faith in the pudding chefs in Singapore’s kitchen. However, sometimes miracles happen, even with bumbling amateurs, so let’s hope this is one such time.     GERALD        E

WHICH GEORGE?

WHICH GEORGE?

When citizens say they “love” their country they do not mean love in the sense of adoration; they rather mean that they have great respect and affection for what their country stands for, how it is organized to treat its people and others, its norms of political and economic conduct toward each and all of its people etc., all of which when compounded translates into a steadfast and resolute desire to defend one’s country from those who would destroy such norms and conduct “from all enemies, foreign or domestic.” This, loosely and perhaps incompletely stated, can be called “patriotism.”

Thus one is a “patriot” if he/she defends his/her country and what it stands for and defends it “from all enemies, foreign or domestic,” and a bad citizen or even traitor if he/she does not. History is replete with stories of wartime traitors such as Major Andre (who was hung) and Benedict Arnold (who was not, rather escaping to England and living out his life there). Arnold had friends in high places and was a friend and confidant of George Washington, but a traitor to the American cause during the Revolution. Apparently he did not agree with the post-Enlightenment language of the Declaration of Independence crafted by Jefferson, but pretended to in order to carry out his traitorous intentions.

The name Benedict Arnold will forever live in infamy as a latter day Judas Iscariot, and rightly so. Though I do not know his evil purpose, it must have had something to do with the acquisition of power via subversion of the Revolution and his subsequent appointment by King George to oversee the defeated colonies in dictatorial fashion. If so, then Arnold, like our present day wannabe part time president, was acquisition of all power – a situation we have seen through the ages with monarchs and individuals ranging from Attila through monarchies through such latter day exponents as Hitler, Stalin et al.

The foregoing is a thumbnail sketch of citizen-state tension and how it is resolved in a democracy, but what if we have a bad citizen, or worse, a traitor already in power? What if we have a self-appointed Benedict Arnold, illegitimately elected, with support from our enemies, who is in the process of grabbing all power with the aid and support of a political party whose members were elected in a post-Enlightenment atmosphere but whose failure to support the founding principles of our democracy under the cover of “politics as usual” amounts to aiding and supporting the domestic overthrow of our democracy?

How do we patriots respond to the current domestic attempts by Trump (who through ignorance, design or in concert with Putin) to subvert the Constitution and overthrow our democracy while covering such an evil plan with potshots at our allies, threats of tariffs and wars on the international level, etc.? The temptation is to agitate for a counter revolution against such political terrorism from domestic sources but I think that premature since, while our democracy is teetering, I think it will last long enough to see what happens this November. We will see then whether the polity favors one of two Georges, either George Washington or King George.

To those who think this essay overstates the issue and is designed to alarm, that’s what the Romanovs thought about Lenin and his Bolsheviks, who grabbed power and ended the Romanov dynasty by murdering every member of the Romanov dynasty, man, woman and child, leaving no one to be alarmed. I will not be voting for a dictator or anyone who helps him or her become one under the auspices of any political party; I will be voting for those who will defend our democracy which, as I often write, is one of the last few things left worth dying for.      GERALD        E

 

 

 

 

ADVENTURES IN SINGAPORE

ADVENTURES IN SINGAPORE

Today Kim and Trump have arrived in Singapore for what the media has described as “historic talks.” I disagree. Both are amateurs, and amateurs don’t have “historic talks,” even with the advice of experts in the field of foreign relations, whom both Kim and Trump as narcissists will ignore rather than share the spotlight. Kim can have his disagreeable domestic advisers shot for treason, and (so far) Trump can only disparage or fire his expert help.

Kim is a dictator and Trump is a wannabe dictator; Kim has won his objective of just having a meeting with Trump (which validates his importance) and Trump, as usual, cares only about the appearance rather than the substantive result of such “historic talks” in his narcissistic haze and is angling for a me-me-me Nobel Peace Prize.  (Can’t let Obama get one without being matched, you know.) Everything, including nuclear war, must take a back seat to me-me-me in Trump’s twisted otherworld of terminal narcissism.

Unduly cynical in view of the enormous stakes involved, Gerald E? I wish I were, but my experience with our illegitimate, corrupt and lying president over the past 18 months tells me it is time to speak truth to power whatever the setting, and that a good argument can be made that the bigger the stakes the more reason to speak up, hence this commentary.

Trump, again as usual (see the G-7 Quebec Conference), is making threats in advance of the “historic talks” to the effect that this is “a one-shot deal” for Kim. Such threats may have already poisoned the possibility of success of the “talks,” and while Trump will call it a tactic, he fails to recognize that he is talking down to a fellow narcissist – a no-no in Kim’s otherworld. Narcissists do not cotton to intimidation, and if the “historic talks” fail or are drawn out interminably, it may well be such pre-talk intimidation from Trump that did the trick. Thanks, Don. . .

Let’s take a look at a few of these “experts” and newsmen who are accompanying Trump on this historic mission, since that tells us what ammunition Trump expects to have at hand as a show of force. He has his “War at all costs” stern and hairy-faced John Bolton along, presumably to instill fear into Kim that a military strike is just around the corner if he does not accede to all of Trump’s demands. He has Hannity along to broadcast to Fox World what a consummate diplomat Trump proved to be and how (whatever the outcome) Trump’s skills deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for having blunted Kim’s threat to world peace with his contribution (in propaganda reminiscent to that of Goebbels in lauding der fuehrer in another day). Oh, and incidentally, Dennis Rodman is expected to be in Singapore, perhaps to lend his diplomatic expertise to the show.

With all the foregoing, I hope I am wrong. The stakes are indeed high. I hope Trump (whatever his tactics and other shortcomings) does succeed in these talks leading to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. While I have faint hope for his success, miracles do happen, and let’s all hope for the sake of humanity that the “historic talks” are “historic” and that a miracle happens in Singapore.     GERALD      E

TRUMP AND G-6, G-7 and G-8

TRUMP AND G-6, G-7 and G-8

I am quite concerned about Trump’s upcoming trip to the G-7 conference and use the G-6, G-7 and G-8 terms advisedly, to wit: G-6 if the group kicks us out or Trump decides to withdraw, G-7 if they don’t and Trump decides to remain in it, and G-8 if nothing happens and Russia is readmitted, as recommended by Trump in a proposal that is DOA with the rest of our allies in the group. Russia was kicked out of the group upon Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, an act of aggression that still rankles among members of that group who continue to demand that Putin leave that peninsula and eastern Ukraine.

Apparently such acts of aggression are meaningless to Trump what with his endorsement of Russian readmission to the (currently) G-7 group, and whether such endorsement springs out of ignorance, headline grabbing, a desire to sew discord and confusion among our allies, or some really deep stuff Putin has hanging over his head, and I do mean deep, deep enough to engender Trump’s apparent treason which he covers with bluster and bravado and which Republicans do nothing about, I am not privy.

NATO was formed as a countervailing force to stop Russian aggression in Europe. Trump has engaged in putdowns galore of NATO and has been very friendly with Putin for no discernible policy reason, finally culminating in his proposal for Russian readmission to the group that Putin be in effect rewarded for his aggression in the Crimea and Ukraine, and with the Baltic States next on Putin’s menu if he and Trump can pull this coup off in a game in which Trump runs blocking back for Putin’s grabs in Europe and elsewhere.

We have a Captain Ahab steering our ship of state and Obama is his “Great White Whale.” He may or may not be a racist but he knows racism sells and, being primarily a salesman, is peddling this nonsense to the gullible for political purposes. He is a man with an addled state of mind who knows little and has no interest in learning. He cavorts with China, Russia and now even North Korea while taking potshots at our allies (especially Macron, Merkel and May) via trade wars and personal insult with the seeming intent to cover up the massive corruption in his administration and his deep collusion with Russian interests in his election, an election result that Clapper now says would not have happened but for such Russian interference. He continues to follow Bannon’s admittedly Leninist view of “deconstruction of the administrative state,” which is shorthand for destruction of American democracy, our most important asset held in common and one of the last few things we have left worth dying for.

Trump is not running the country through any coherent policy scheme (other than further enriching the rich and impoverishing the rest of us) but is rather floating along with day to day – by the seat of your pants edicts via tweeted insults, punitive and selective tariffs, pardon photo-ops etc. etc. etc. He has to go  or we and our democracy have to go, one or the other, and his removal should be a bipartisan exercise if Republicans choose to live up to the traditions of some of their ethical leaders such as Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Ford. What is your response to this challenge, Republicans? Are you statesmen and women or are you pipsqueaks willing to watch our democracy go down the drain? Your call.     GERALD         E

THE LABOR NOOSE TIGHTENS

THE LABOR NOOSE TIGHTENS

Yesterday I saw a Detroit newspaper headline to the effect that the Republicans in the Michigan State Legislature had ended the prevailing wage law that required a “prevailing wage” be paid to workers on public projects. Prevailing wages are typically living wages and the wages this legislature is inviting to be paid are not going to be living wages – guaranteed – since private contractors bidding on state projects such as roads, bridges and buildings will take advantage of this new anti-labor law as an opportunity to increase profits with lowered bids and, thus armed with legislative edict, will employ lots of chicanery and pretense in cutting their workers’ wages to increase their relative slice of the pie. Republicans in the Michigan legislature have thus picked winners and losers; their campaign-contributing contractors win and laboring men and women lose, among others and even all of us, as we shall see.

Republicans in the legislature say that removal of the prevailing wage schedule for public projects will save the taxpayers money, and of course that may be true, but following such logic to its dry end, let’s just reinstitute slavery by legislative edict calling for nothing as a wage scale for work on public projects, which would save taxpayers even more money. Alternatively, why stop at minimum wage (aka starvation wage) levels on our trek downward in dehumanizing wage scales when not only the current atrocity here under discussion is applicable in addition to the recent Republican labor-hating adoption of a grossly misnamed “right to work” law – and in the Land of Reuther! In an ideal world, both such disgusting laws masquerading as being in the public interest should be repealed post haste and without further discussion.

Republicans have thus ventured into the land of what economists call “externalities,” or roughly speaking, unexpected consequences, with their thoughtless removal of prevailing wage scales on public projects. Workers who have been accustomed to a prevailing wage as opposed to the drastic reduction in their wages sure to come have mortgages, car payments, insurance  premiums and myriad other expenses based on their current wage scales, scales that banks, mortgage companies and others depended upon for lending to such workers. They must now brace themselves for late payments, mortgage foreclosures and even bankruptcies along with other vendors who will be stiffed in Chapter 7 proceedings. Neighborhood merchants and grocery chains will note a decrease in demand from such underpaid workers and aggregate demand (the sole arbiter and determinant of economic growth) will be stifled as GDP takes a hit which, along with other such GOP legislative atrocities, brings recession into view.

Note to Republicans in the Michigan legislature > You picked a lot more losers than you thought, losers that include banks, mortgage companies, lumberyards, grocery stores, tax revenues to government et al., not to mention the effects of the billions of dollars in lost GDP and aggregate demand, which underpin our defense against recession. Brilliant move! Thanks for nothing!     GERALD      E