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Zakaria is right: avoid “Trump derangement syndrome”

It is a sign of the times that I feel the need to state this: yes, I feel that Trump is grossly unqualified to be President of the United States on many levels: experience, deportment, attitude, maturity, humility, intellectual honesty, knowledge, etc. I completely agree with this assessment on Trump’s breathtaking ignorance.

And I am disgusted that so many (if not a plurality) voted for him. Yes, some of his voters are reasonably well off; many have done difficult to do things (run a successful business, be medical doctors, lawyers, military officers, etc.) But as far as this group: I feel that many of these people, while smart, spend most of their intellectual energy at their job and become intellectually lazy outside their job. I wonder if they would hire or promote someone who did not bother to learn the details of the job that they are doing it…and came in thinking that they could just “wing it”, as Trump appears to be doing.

But, I think that too many of Trump’s critics have gone too far. From Fareed Zakaria:

I didn’t really believe that there was such a thing as Trump Derangement Syndrome — hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment. It’s not that I didn’t notice the harsh, unyielding language against him — I’ve said a few tough things myself — but that throughout the campaign, Trump seemed to do things that justified it. Once elected, instead of calming down and acting presidential, he continued the stream of petty attacks, exaggerations and lies. His administration seemed marked by chaos and incompetence.

And then came the strike against Syria. On that issue, Trump appears to have listened carefully to his senior national security professionals, reversed his earlier positions, chosen a calibrated response and acted swiftly. I supported the strike and pointed out — in print and on air — that Trump was finally being presidential because the action “seems to reflect a belated recognition from Trump that he cannot simply put America first — that the president of the United States must act on behalf of broader interests and ideals.” On the whole, though, I was critical of Trump’s larger Syria policy, describing it as “incoherent.” My Post column was titled, “One missile strike is not a strategy.”

From the response on the left, you would have thought I had just endorsed Trump for pope. Otherwise thoughtful columnists described my views as “nonsense” and a sign that the media has “bent over backward” to support Trump. (Really?) One journalist declared on television, “If that guy could have sex with this cruise missile attack, I think he would do it.” A gaggle of former Obama speechwriters discussed how my comments were perhaps “the stupidest” of any given on the subject.

And I agree with him here, sort of. When I first learned of the Trump missile attack, I thought “this sure feels familiar; I could see most any President in my lifetime (except perhaps Jimmy Carter) doing something that at least appeared to be similar, at least superficially. Yes, Trump’s lack of deportment took away the benefit of the doubt that I gave to other Presidents (including Republicans). And I still wonder exactly what we did…it appears that the airfield was still operational, etc.

And oh my, when the generals (perhaps without seeking Trump’s approval) used that 21,000 lb. blast bomb which, to me, was a mere “weapons choice”. Comparing it to a small nuclear device was absurd.

And I’ll say this, just in case. IF Trump decides to seek a universal health care option (say, Medicaid for all) or IF Trump decides to embark on a genuine, conventionally financed infrastructure repair plan (unlikely to be an honest plan, IMHO, but IF), I’d want my members of Congress to work on a deal.

Don’t get me wrong: I’d be very surprised if it happens. Very surprised. But IF…

And let’s talk about that election. Yes, there was collusion with Russia and Russian hacking of the Clinton campaign and the DNC, though no hacking of the actual voting machines. And the Comey letter hurt; Clinton would have probably pulled it out without it.

But that isn’t ALL. First, the Clinton campaign was a disaster; they neglected key states. She is not good “from the podium” (she admitted to not being the natural politician that her husband is). She has a Gore like “Velcro” persona; EVERYTHING sticks to her, whether fair or not. So, IMHO, she screwed up.

And, in the interest of accuracy, fairness and planning: give The Devil his Due. Trump is an excellent con man and his get out the vote operation, armed by sophisticated data mining, was excellent. They knew who to target and how to target them.

But sadly, giving Trump even this much credit is taboo in some circles.

I like to think of it this way: suppose there is a football game where a team wins on a series of very bad calls by the officials. BUT, along the way, the losing team missed easy field goals and fumbled the ball away multiple times AND the other team came in very, very prepared. ALL of those factors (bad officiating, bad play by the losing team, superb play by the winning team) can ALL be true at the same time.

And I believe that an honest assessment on what Trump did *right* in the campaign is a necessary part of winning the next campaign.

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April 16, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republicans, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

Why your CEO approves of Trump

Yes, Trump’s approval ratings are in the high 30’s to mid 40’s; Gallup at 38.

It has dropped some.

But if you talk to many CEOs: well, Trump is doing great! Why? In their world, government regulations and overreach is keeping them from being as profitable as they think that they could be. So, fewer regulations, fewer worries about pollution controls (who cares about a bunch of stupid frogs and snails?)…and lower that tax rate!

Oh, you have things like this: Caterpillar might be in serious trouble for violating tax laws AND economic sanctions. But you see, Caterpillar has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders and if that means setting up some shady shell corporation in Switzerland to avoid those high US taxes, so be it. And if that corporation does business with a country that we have economic sanctions against, well….it is not against the letter of the law, unless…some of those US labeled parts gets mixed in with that Swiss batch…ooops! If we just got the government off of the backs of US corporations!!!

So Trump is doing great! Oh those safety net programs? Well, think of those that you actually know (not read about); those who grew up with you. Many of those who ended up on those safety net programs…really did make a bunch of dreadfully bad life decisions. So what are you going to do…continue to enable them?

Anyhow, they are just fine with Trump; they much prefer him to Obama. Oh…yeah, Trump might not know what he is doing and he might well tank the economy, start a war, etc. But that is long term; the in thing is to think short term.

This is what really matters at the moment:

April 4, 2017 Posted by | republicans, social/political | | Leave a comment

One reason why talking to Trump supporters is a waste of time

Check out this video: it is about 7 minutes:

Upshot: Trump is a winner with them because he says things that they want to hear, he confirms their current world view. The want someone who, at least in public, speaks like they do:

Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has written that, “When it comes to policy decisions … we are better off putting aside empathy and employing a combination of rational deliberation and a more distanced compassion.” I asked him what this means for political communication. He said that empathy, effectively, is a zero-sum game. Anyone who has to speak to multiple audiences at once faces a trade-off: A politician might tell you he cares about you — but if he also tells you that he cares about someone else, you no longer trust him. We demand of our leaders an unfair and impossible monogamy.

Trump implicitly understands this — which is why his us-versus-them rhetoric, while so appalling to much of the country, appeals to the small group of people he has identified as “us.” They’re not interested in hearing that he also cares about others. They want him all to themselves.

And the sad truth is, it works. For all the noise about his low approval ratings, he’s actually doing fine among Republicans, including those who once balked at his ascendance. They now sheepishly applaud as he translates that us-versus-them rhetoric into the policy equivalent: Rather than call Mexicans drug dealers and rapists, for instance, he calmly weaponizes the bureaucracy and announces a new office to prosecute crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, an almost nonexistent problem. His supporters are satisfied with his plan. His opponents are impressed with his “restraint.” Thus does a con artist slither over the lowest of bars.

Of course, the true Trump supporters are a relatively narrow slice of the country, hence the “below 40 percent” approval ratings at such an early stage of his administration.

Disclaimer: yes, one of the reasons I liked President Obama is that he tended to speak carefully and deliberately; he appeared to think things through. Those are qualities that I’d like to think that I have (though, in my case, that might be too much wishful thinking).

March 31, 2017 Posted by | political/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Empathy and Filibusters

New York Magazine has a couple of interesting articles.

The first one was about empathy in politics and how it really isn’t a winning message. Trump continues to play to his base; most every other president in my memory at least made a pretense of representing everyone.

Basically, the United States is not a liberal arts college; coming out for the rights of class X really, in and of itself, is not a winning message. And claiming to see many sides of an issue doesn’t work either; note how the right wing acted toward President Obama who FREQUENTLY praised law enforcement. Saying “well, you know, group Y might have a valid point” is a good way to get those not in group Y to be against you.

It is a sad state of affairs. But I do think that this state of affairs should be acknowledged and dealt with.

Think about it: much of the Clinton campaign was about attacking Trump’s attacks and deportment. That did NOT close the deal.

My guess: the Democrats can win again..but rather than say “oh, Trump and the Republicans are terrible because they did this boorish thing”, they will have to point out that Trump really pulled a big con; he made promises that he either had no chance of delivering on or no intention on delivering on.

Gorsuch nomination The Democrats got rolled on Garland. If they don’t retaliate, we’ll get rolled again. Right now it appears that we have 34 willing to filibuster; we need 7 more. Oh, Gorsuch will then be approved by a simple majority vote. But make no mistake about it if we don’t filibuster now, they will filibuster our next nominee. It is better to let the filibuster be nuked.

Pence and dining with a woman alone: This is comical. Ok, IF this is only a social policy and he is willing to have a working meal with a female professional, that’s fine. I think it is silly (disclaimer: I do stuff with female friends). I find it amusing that we have a “I won’t even eat with a female alone” person teamed up with Mr. “Grab them by the pussy.” Is this two sides of the same coin?

I couldn’t resist making a Carmen meme about this:

Workout notes

weights plus 2 miles on the treadmill, then leg weights.
Treadmill run: 2-2-2-2-2 (5.2-5.6), then 2-2-2-2-2 (6.7-7.1; 8:41 average). 2.05 miles in 20 minutes.
leg weights: goblet squats: 6 sets of 5: 5 with 50, last with 65. 100 meter walk on half the track between sets.
upper body weights:

rotator cuff, 5 sets of 10 pull ups: incline bench: 10 x 135, 5 x 150, 7 x 140 (strict), dumbbell military (standing): 10 x 50, 10 x 45, 10 x 45, rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110 machine.

March 31, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics/social, running, social/political, weight training | , | Leave a comment

Well, that was interesting…

The Republicans are trying to play things as if climate change is either a hoax, or that there is some question as to the human contribution. So, they are arranging to have a Congressional hearing which will feature the small percentage of scientists that disagree with the current consensus and try to play this as a “one scientist says, the other scientist says” type of thing, which it is not. So how should the mainstream scientists respond? Would boycotting be a better strategy?

Trump’s approval: is approaching where Nixon’s was when impeachment talk became more prominent.

Note: Nixon was at 38 percent disapproval among Republicans at the time.

Yes, I know, disapproval is not grounds for impeachment, and yes, no matter who is president, there are *always” voices that clamor for impeachment (and yes, I thought the idea of impeaching President Bush was ridiculous). So I’ll leave it to others who know more to tell me what high crime or misdemeanor President Trump committed (illegally benefiting from his office?) but let’s just say that I remain highly, highly skeptical. Now that he might say “the heck with it” and leave…who knows.

Workout notes:
Morning: 10K run in 1:04:30; hit 6 miles in 1:01:49. How it went: 10 minute warm up (every 2 minutes) then 8 x 2:30 at 6.7, 2:30 at 5.3 then 5 at various slow paces before I gave in and walked a bit. At least I got 8 repetitions as opposed to 6 last week.

Evening: exercise class; the steps were interesting.

March 30, 2017 Posted by | climate change, political/social, running, social/political | | Leave a comment

Health care: I can live with some inequality

Ok, we know that the House attempt to kill Obamacare went down in flames; you had the “Freedom Caucus” who did not want any sort of government involvement at versus some moderates who didn’t want to see so many kicked off of insurance.

So, were do we go from here? Some populists are actually ok with some sort of universal coverage (think: “Medicaid for all”). I do not think that the populists are really free market types who are opposed to a single payer type solution. It is more tribal than that:

I think that perhaps too many of them see others from their tribe as being unworthy slackers and losers. But will enough of them move past that? We shall see.

I wonder if there is a way to play to President Trump’s ego and need for adulation…let HIM be the one that “finally got it done” and got us something like universal health care.

So what would such a plan might look like?

I could see some sort of “basic health care for all” with the option of people either getting some extras on their own. I could live with that, provided the “extras” really were extra.

Example: you get cancer, you get good treatment; the full works.

But if you’ve reached the point where you are semi-conscious, have no realistic chance of pulling out of it, but you want to spend the last month of your life in a semi-conscious state, hooked up to machines …well…that you can have a private policy to pay for. If you want to spend your insurance premium money so you can die on silk sheets, go for it.

Workout notes 4 mile walk on dead legs.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | health care, politics/social, social/political, walking | | Leave a comment

I am almost sorry I didn’t vote for Trump

Ok, yes, I still consider Donald Trump to be an unqualified amateur who lacks the necessary deportment and humility to be President of the United States.
I fear that his recklessness will get us into a shooting war; that his ham-handedness will wreck our economy and heaven forbid what will happen when we get our first genuine crisis.

But, well, look at what is happening:

1. A Trump supporter in Chicago is whining about being…bullied? Uh, Trump is the quintessential bully. Oh, let me make it clear: I do NOT approve of threats and the like; if I saw someone vandalize their business, I’d report it to the police right away.

And for what it worth, I do business with companies that are run by Republicans all of the time; I go by things like customer service, how I am treated, how they treat their workers, etc.

But if others want to make choices with their dollars or to denounce their choice, well, that is just “freedom”, no? And remember that Trump bullies people all of the time.

2. Many Trump voters are…worried about losing their Obamacare and/or Medicaid. Seriously? Hey, Trump made much of his money via cons and stiffing contractors. And you thought that he’d tell the truth to you? OMG…I am dying with laughter:

An aim of Republican legislation is to reduce private premiums, but Ms. Sines’s son, who along with her other two grown children signed up for Medicaid under the expansion, has been warning that their coverage could be “in trouble,” she said. She cannot believe Mr. Trump would allow that to happen.

“I can’t imagine them not keeping it like it is now,” said Ms. Sines, who runs a group home for the elderly.

Mr. Waltimire said he hoped to return to the police force, and the health benefits it provides, this year. But with no guarantee of good health — he was injured in a fall in 2009 and has had circulatory problems ever since — he also hopes other options remain available.

“It’s kind of hard for me,” he said of having free government coverage. “I’ve always worked all my life. But like my counselor said, sometimes you just have to say thank you and move forward.”

3. And those who live in impoverished areas just KNOW that good jobs are coming back:

“I voted for Trump 100%,” says Barbara Puckett, a 55-year-old mom, who lives in the small and friendly town of Beattyville. “It’s the most hopeful I’ve been in a long time now that he’s in there.”
Trump won 81% of the vote in Beattyville. People here love that Trump doesn’t “sugarcoat” anything. They feel he understands them, even though he’s a billionaire.
“Donald Trump’s got all the money he’ll ever need,” says Steve Mays, judge-executive for the county and life-long Beattyville resident. The 49-year-old says he’s never been more excited about a president than he is now. “Trump will be a president for the common man.” [..]

“If you got a job here in Beattyville, you’re lucky,” says Amber Hayes, a bubbly 25-year-old mom of two, who also voted for Trump. She works at the county courthouse, but is paid by the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP), a form of welfare.
Coal, oil and tobacco made Beattyville a boom town in the 1800s and much of the 1900s. Locals like to bring up the fact that Lee County — where Beattyville is located — was the No. 1 oil-producing county east of the Mississippi at one time.
“Growing up in the ’70s? Yeah, this was the place to be,” says Chuck Caudhill, the general manager of the local paper, The Beattyville Enterprise. He calls the town the “gem of eastern Kentucky.”
Today, the town is a ghost of its former self. The vast majority of Beattyville residents get some form of government aid — 57% of households receive food stamps and 58% get disability payments from Social Security.
“I hope [Trump] don’t take the benefits away, but at the same time, I think that once more jobs come in a lot of people won’t need the benefits,” says Hayes, who currently receives about $500 a month from government assistance. She’s also on Obamacare.

Uh huh. I am sure that businesses are itching to set something up in this town. ROTFLMAO.

Hey if you vote for a known con artist, you are voting to get conned.

March 20, 2017 Posted by | economy, politics, politics/social, poverty, social/political | | 2 Comments

Understanding different types of Trump supporters

Yes, I admit that there are some Trump supporters that do fall into the “basket of deplorables”; there is no denying that. No, it isn’t half of them but it is certainly some of them.

I’ll focus on the more mainstream ones.

One group includes the poorly educated, “lower middle class to poor” Trump supporters. Yes, Trumpcare and many of Trump’s proposed economic policies will hurt them more than most. So what is going on? This appears to be the best explanation I’ve read.

This is my summary of the article: yes, the repeal of Obamacare and the cutting of safety-nets (including Medicaid) hurts them. Cutting “Meals on Wheels” hurts the elderly in the region as well.

But: what these people really want is for the long lost jobs to return; jobs with health insurance and retirement plans (both indirectly subsidized by the government in terms of tax breaks). Government run safety nets…those are yucky programs that “other people” rely on:

Why are economically struggling blue collar voters rejecting a party that offers to expand public safety net programs? The reality is that the bulk of needy white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one most well-employed voters still enjoy. […]

ike most of my neighbors I have a good job in the private sector. Ask my neighbors about the cost of the welfare programs they enjoy and you will be greeted by baffled stares. All that we have is “earned” and we perceive no need for government support. Nevertheless, taxpayers fund our retirement saving, health insurance, primary, secondary, and advanced education, daycare, commuter costs, and even our mortgages at a staggering public cost. Socialism for white people is all-enveloping, benevolent, invisible, and insulated by the nasty, deceptive notion that we have earned our benefits by our own hand.

My family’s generous health insurance costs about $20,000 a year, of which we pay only $4,000 in premiums. The rest is subsidized by taxpayers. You read that right. Like virtually everyone else on my block who isn’t old enough for Medicare or employed by the government, my family is covered by private health insurance subsidized by taxpayers at a stupendous public cost. Well over 90% of white households earning over the white median income (about $75,000) carried health insurance even before the Affordable Care Act. White socialism is nice if you can get it.

The article also describes the tax breaks we get for our pension plans.

When Democrats respond to job losses with an offer to expand the public safety net, blue collar voters cringe and rebel. They are not remotely interested in sharing the public social safety net experienced by minority groups and the poorest white families. Meanwhile well-employed and affluent voters, ensconced in their system of white socialism, leverage all the power at their disposal to block any dilution of their expensive public welfare benefits. Something has to break.

And so, Bernie like populism will flop with that group.

The business CEOs
I remember my days in the submarine Navy. Both the officers and the enlisted men came from the top of their respective groups, at least in terms of intelligence. As far as the officers I worked with: typically A engineering students in college who has done well in Nuclear Power school They were very hard workers (16-18 hours a day at sea, 12 or more in port) were typical, and they knew the technology (e. g. nuclear power plant) inside and out.

But with those hours and that focus…let’s just say there wasn’t time to focus on the finer points of social policy or macro economics; whatever matched their intuition sounded good.

Business CEOs are probably similar: very smart people who know their business and their industry inside and out…but probably not that interested in this that don’t directly relate to their business in the short term. Hence, to them, Trump indicates and end to the “class warfare” that Obama waged..finally…lower taxes and fewer regulations! So attitudes like this are probably common.

Oh, there are long term problems. For example, if income inequality gets to be so great that few people have disposable income left, who is going to buy their stuff? If regulations made businesses so unprofitable, why did CEO pay rise so steeply? What will happen if/when Trump either gets us in a war or a trade war?

But lots of 14-18 hour days doesn’t give one a lot of time to ponder things beyond their own narrow interest.

March 18, 2017 Posted by | political/social, politics, republicans, social/political | , | 1 Comment

And I waste my spring break….

I am just having too much fun on the internet.

Now THAT is my kind of toaster! (this is what this is making fun of: Kellyanne Conway, of couch kneeling fame, claimed that some microwaves have spy cameras)

Cheetocare My “friend” Carmen Johnson and my twitter buddy Diana Archer dubbed this health care train wreck “Cheetocare”. Roughly, it cuts taxes on the upper 2 percent in return for underfunding the Medicare trust fund and not expanding Medicaid …and ..in effect, kicking older people off of Obamacare by allowing the insurance companies to increase the multiplier from 3 times to 5 times (how much more an older person must pay for insurance). Here are some sources: New York Times, Vox, Vox on Medicaid.

If there is a silver lining, it is that poor, red, southern states will be hit the hardest with a “per-capita” Medicaid rating.

But, it is my guess that this bill will either crash and burn in the house or be DOA in the Senate. Even conservative outlets such as Newsmax and Breitbart are denouncing it as Ryan’s plan. In fact, Newsmax is actually proposing “Medicaid for all”; weaker than “Medicare for all” to be sure, but..well…when Newsmax moves somewhat close to what I can live with…these are strange times.

As far as the rest of the Trump agenda: well, lots of CEOs seem to like what they see. I get it: they spend a LOT of time on their own businesses and are pretty good on managing things on a short term basis. Of course if things get so bad that few have money to patronize their businesses…well, I suppose in their eyes, that is some theoretical construct that they don’t have time for now. Micro is their thing, not macro.

Upshot: don’t expect them to move away from Trump for all of Trump’s shortcomings.

Basketball notes: Fun NIT game in Champaign last night; another one in Normal tonight. I’ll write a complete report tomorrow.

Workout notes:
Treadmill run: 10 minute warm up (every 2 minutes), then 10 x 2:30 at 6.7, 2:30 at 5.3 recoveries. I had an extra break when the fire alarm went off (false alarm) so I did one 3 minute interval with a 2 minute rest to make up somewhat. 1:00:44 for 6 miles, 1:02:52 for 10K.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | health care, politics, politics/social, running, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

They lie and get away with it…healthcare, wire taps, etc.

First, here is Trump’s claim that President Obama released 122 prisoners from GITMO who returned to the battlefield. Uh, 113 of these were released by President Bush:

But none of this will matter to a Trump supporter.

What about Trump’s claim that he was “wiretapped by Obama”? Well, here is what they find convincing. I actually agree that an impartial investigation is called for; let’s see the evidence used for the relevant FISA warrants. But this article does have a useful list of good article about intercepted intelligence between Trump campaign officials and the Russians.

Here is a more thoughtful article about KremlinGate and what happened. Upshot: you don’t have right to privacy when discussing things with potential spies.

And we move to healthcare. Yes, the Republicans want to give the wealthiest another tax cut and repeal some of the unpopular things from Obamacare..but things that were necessary to make it work. And they want to allow companies to charge older people 5 times more (rather than just 3) and end out of pocked subsidies. My guess: Senate will filibuster and the Republicans will say “we tried” (while breathing a sigh of relief).

March 7, 2017 Posted by | health care, politics, politics/social, republicans, tax cuts | | Leave a comment