Sunday, January 29, 2012
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Like Lincoln, this man from Springfield, Illinois came to his office with a very clear intention. Lincoln's bedrock conviction was it was his primary job to preserve the union. He knew there were powerful forces he would not be able to control, mostly spewing forth from the volcanic emotions underlying the fight between slave states and abolitionists. But he was determined to save the union despite all that. He said to the slave states the decision to tear apart the union was their's to make. Lincoln did not want to separate; he admonished the slavers not to destroy the marriage, which he believed, despite all their differences could still be saved. Even after those frothing slavery advocates in Charleston pounded Fort Sumter into submission and the union forces had to withdraw, even after two years of bloody, bitter battles, Lincoln said, "If I could save the union by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; if I could save the Union by freeing none of the slaves, I would do it; if I could save the union by freeing some of the slaves and leaving others in bondage, I would do that."
In the end, he chose the last option. His famous Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves only in territory in rebellion against the federal government. Slaves in the border states, like Maryland, Kentucky and Tennessee were not freed. Even at the moment of what is often remembered as Lincoln's boldest move, he compromised.
Lincoln had to have war forced on him, and ultimately it was and he had to react.
Obama came to Washington with the same determination to compromise, to get past the passions and divisions of the two sides and to unite through reason. His favorite phrase is E Pluribus Unum, which appears on our paper currency, one out of many.
But, like Lincoln, Obama had to be pounded over the head with the intransigence of his opposition. Jim DeMint, the Republican, called his effort to deal with the economic crisis, "The worst piece of economic legislation Congress has considered in a hundred years." Not since the creation of the income tax, "has the United States seriously entertained a policy so comprehensively hostile to economic freedom or so arrogantly indifferent to economic reality."
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, when asked whether he would support a bill which might mitigate the financial crisis asked why he should be asked to support a bill which might help re elect Obama. As if it would be non sensical for him to support something which might help the economy, help his own nation, if that solution also helped Obama.
Six conservatives met with Obama for dinner at George Will's house, a week before his Inauguration. They must have felt quite important. After all, here was the President of the United States coming calling to have dinner with them. Their opinions must matter in the highest reaches of government. One can only imagine the patter and the repartee and the warm feelings of self importance among these "opinion makers."
Before his first term was half old, Will described Obama as a "floundering naif," who advocates Lenin-Socialism. Charles Krauthammer, also at the dinner, described Obama as "sanctimonious, demogogic, self-righteous and arrogant"--now there is a clear case of "takes-one-to-know-one"--another guest (Kudlow someone) accused him of being a "crony capitalist," and someone else (named Michael Barone) came up with the cute Republican marketing phrase, "Gangster Government," and another said Obama was the "whiniest president ever."
But the most withering line, predictably, came from one of the smartest, most psychopathic conservatives, Peggy Noonan: "He is not a devil, an alien, a socialist,"--see how cleverly she sets this up--I am more reasonable and less hyperbolic than my conservative brethren. I am clear eyed and can see the essential core of the man. She proclaimed: "He is a loser."
Remember that scene from My Fair Lady, where the sophisticated linguist analyzes the central guest at the party, Liza Doolittle, who is a flower girl dressed up as a lady and this analyst divines she is no lady at all, but a fraud. Of course, she is masquerading, but the analyst gets what she is entirely wrong. He thinks she is not less than what she pretends to be, but more--she is a princess! Such is the judgment of the sophisticates of the court.
But what this really reminds me of is the time Lincoln took his secretary of war down to the rooming house where the diminutive general in command of the Union Army, George McCellan, was staying. The general remained in his upstairs room and did not deign to come down to speak with the President, or his secretary of War. He left them there with their hats in their hands until they finally realized he was not coming down. So he showed them.
That's how important George McCellan thought he was. People cheered George McCellan when he rode by on his great stallion. They stood up and cheered when he entered a room. He was a very important man.
Few American school children or their parents even know his name today.
The same, I dearly hope, will be true of these self important, oh so clever detractors. Peggy Noonan has never had a shot fired at her in anger and has never bet her job on a stealth operation by Navy SEALS carried out at night half a world away. She, like George Will, is the essence of a sissy--people who are oh so good with words, but cannot hit a fast ball, not to mention a curve. Nobody much, outside Washington, or devotees of Sunday talk shows knows who George Will or Peggy Noonan are--a blessing there. And certainly, 10 years from now, nobody even insider Washington will know who these dessicated authorities are.
I knew people like this in high school. There were boys who knew my record as a varsity wrestler and knew my statistics, how many take downs, how many pins, things I never bothered to record, never cared about. They followed me around with advice. They were important, they thought, because they analyzed my performance. They knew things I did not know.
But I knew a different sort of thing: What it felt like to step out on the mat, heart pounding, facing the hundred forty pounds of testosterone driven animosity across the mat.
And, remember one more thing about Peggy's loser: The night before the Osama Bin Laden take down, he delivered a cool-as-you-like comedy routine for all the professional talkers at the National Press Club.
Who you calling a loser, chump?
Friday, January 27, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Like Curt Schilling before him, Tim Thomas the stellar goal tender for the Boston Bruins is a Boston hero. Like Curt Schilling he is a multimillionaire. As Mitt Romney would say, neither pro athlete has to apologize for his wealth because they earned it.
One may argue even if the free market is willing to pay Schilling $8 million and Thomas $6 million neither is a heart surgeon, and there's something out of whack here, but that is semi free market, monopoly twisted capitalism. Neither broke any laws pulling in their millions.
But Tim Thomas, like Schilling before him, is angry. He's angry because that socialist in the White House wants to give money to the undeserving and because Obama thinks government can and should do some good whereas Tim Thomas thinks government already does too much and wants to take some of his money and give it away to the undeserving.
Now, you might ask, why should anyone care what Tim Thomas or Curt Schiling think about politics or economics or financial fairness. They are professional athletes and we do not watch them because we are interested in their philosophy of economy.
Thomas refused to go to the White House to meet Obama because of his sense of outrage.
He joins the angry rich.
There may have been a time when the rich were smug.
There was probably a time when the rich felt themselves fortunate, chosen even, but they lived their lives of leisure and indulgence with smiles, cognizant of their own good fortune.
Here, in America, the rich are the angry ones.
I got mine fair and square and I want to keep it. Nobody gave me anything. I had to fight for everything I got and I didn't ask anyone for help.
Of course, in the case of professional athletes, there was a lot of infrastructure, from the roads to the stadium to the stadium itself, to the support for college programs where they were nurtured, to the public access to airways which supported the vast sums of wealth made available for their success.
But these angry rich see themselves as living off the grid, above the grid. They owe nothing to anyone, because they had to work hard.
I hear this from doctors not infrequently.
I worked hard in smelly organic chemistry labs for years in college and medical school while my classmates partied.
Of course, those labs, those schools were supported by government grants and the opportunity to work hard at Harvard or NYU or Vanderbilt was supported by their parents, so the coaching that made them good was given them by others, whether family or community.
But these guys are still angry and entitled.
Talk about an entitlement program. Talk about a sense of you owed it to me.
Well, then, you are talking about Republicans.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
"There was something bracing about the way he did it--his passion, his humor, his intolerance of stupidity, his preference for leaving an honest mess for others to clean up rather than a tidy lie for them to admire." --Michael Lewis, of Bill James in Moneyball.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
As I noted last time, I admit to being untrained in economics, but that does not mean I know less about what drives our economy than professional economists. This is sadly true because of the sad nature of the dismal science, which is all conjecture and bias and precious little science.
The scientific method requires hypothesis, test (experiment), conclusion, reassessment when the next experiment gets done. The economist, whether he is the cluelss Milton Friedman or the more informed Paul Krugman, has to stop after the first step. His version of experiment, testing is, at best, a mathematical model.
Because the model involves math, it intimidates everyone but other economists, so it is often accepted as truth.
But if you want to learn something about the real economy, log on to the New York Times of 1/22/12, Sunday, and read the article "How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work."
The central story here is how Steve Jobs suddenly decided he wanted stratch proof glass screens on his iPhone because he had carried the plastic screen iPhone in his pocket and the screen was scratched by his keys. And he wanted the change NOW. So his minions scurried off to China, where the factory had a dormitory filled with workers who were roused from sleep, given a biscuit and a cup of tea and they started churning out the new phones with the new glass screens overnight and Mr. Jobs had his glass screen iPhone.
This is supposed to demonstrate that: 1/ Chinese workers are more flexible and 2/ Diligent 3/ Skilled and 4/ Dedicated than American workers. Those Chinese workers in that factory will never be displaced by American workers. Steve Jobs loved them. His successors at Apple love them.
But the question you have to ask yourself is, how important was it that iPhone had a new glass screen overnight? If American workers had come in the next Monday, after they'd had a weekend at their kids soccer games, hunting or fishing, and they'd got those glass screens into the iPhones, say a week or two later, how much market share would iPhone and Apple have lost?
Here in Hampton, New Hampshire, I was astonished when I first arrived in 2008, and discovered the laundramat closed down at 3 PM on Saturday, as did the barber shops and many of the stores. It was like when I was a kid in Bethesda, Maryland and everything closed down at 1 PM on Saturday and nothing was open on Sunday, which was God's day, and you were supposed to be in church and not worshiping at the palace of Mammon on Sunday.
But you know, we all managed to plan a little and to get our shopping done and that meant we played ball on Saturday and Sunday rather than shopping. I doubt we bought any less; we just planned our shopping in advance.
I could be wrong.
By the time I left Bethesda, I could have my hair cut at 7 AM, Sunday morning by the Vietnamese barber, but, you know, if he had not been open then, I would have gone in on a Monday.
Anyway, this is all a digression, I understand.
A man I know who got rich making dress shirts for executives told me about the factory he had in Arizona. He lived in Maryland, but his factory was in Arizona and ultimately, he discovered he could make the shirts at a factory in China, pay for the shirts to be shipped back to the USA and he still could get the same quality workmanship and shirt for ninety-seven cents less per shirt and when you're selling hundreds of thousands of shirts to Brooks Brothers every year, that savings becomes significant.
But when you really questionned this guy, in a friendly, non judgmental way, what became evident was what really attracted him was he owed nothing to the workers in China. When he got his shirts from China, he sent the cloth in and out came the shirts and he paid the factory owner and he had no more cares than how to get the shirts back to the USA and sell them.
He did not want to be the father of the people who made the shirts. When he complained about "regulations" in the USA, he was talking about inspections to be sure the factory didn't go up in flames, and negotiations over pensions for the workers, and taxes he paid for the workman's comensation insurance, and taxes he paid for the employer's share of worker's taxes and the money he spent on medical insurance for his workers, which any year could rise enough to wipe out any profit margin.
"I just wanted to get a shirt out of a factory," he said. "I didn't want to adopt 400 children."
For this same reason, American companies now "outsource" or contract out lots of tasks and work to people who have a contract, but are not on their payroll. You do a specific task, and I pay you a set fee and I have no more responsibity to you or for you.
This is a far cry from the man in Georgia who kept his broom factory open, making specialty brooms because he had 30 workers who had worked for him for 30 years and he felt he owed them a job. And it's a far cry from the partner in the real estate development firm who kept the firm open after he and his two partners struck it so rich on a single deal that his two partners promptly retired, but he felt he had to keep the firm open because 12 people depended on him for their jobs. His partners were living the lives of country squires in Hunt Country in Virginia, while he went in to the office every day and worried about health insurance costs for his employees.
The fact is, that sort of paternal feeling of the CEO of the company who feels he owes his workers and his country something is becoming quaint and has been rejected as sentimental.
The company is run for the guys who own it, which, even in a publicly owned company like Apple, means Steve Jobs and a few others, who make hundres of millions while the Chinese factory workers live in dormatories.
Is this right?
Wrong question. That's the way it is, under current law and under current American values.
But it reveals the big lie in what the Republicans have been saying, that it's "Regulations" that is keeping American companies from creating jobs for American workers.
Regulations have nothing to do with it. You can say, well regulations which require factory owners to deal with unions are government regulation, and regulations which require the factory not burn down or poison the workers or the river next to it are regulations and regulations which take the form of taxes are government's heavy lash. But the fact is, American factory owners are willing to bear all that to make cars in America because it's still cheaper than trying to do it in Asia, and when it stops being cheaper, those jobs will vanish.
Fact is, making a product can happen anywhere and with current modes of transport, the other side of the world is just fine--the product is as close to you as your nearest Walmart.
American jobs will have to be done here only for those things where proximity matters.
You can out source the reading of an X ray to a doctor in India--and many if not most hospitals have already done this. You go to the emergency room after a brick has fallen on your head and the CT they do there is read in India, by a radiologist who doesn't even have to be roused from bed. He's already awake because it's 3 PM in India. But the neurologist who examines you, the IV tech who starts your intravenous line, the nurse who gives you your medication, those folks cannot be in India.
What's making American workers lose out to Chinese workers is a lot bigger than any set of government regulations. The Republicans are just looking for a scapegoat which will benefit their own election ambitions, and they've found it in "The Government."
Creating jobs here at home will take more thought than a few clever slogans. We've got to figure out what we can do here that those Chinese workers in the factory dormatories cannot do faster and more cheaply. We'll be happy to have what those Chinese factories can give us, but we have to figure out what they cannot do for us and we can do those jobs here.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Al Sharpton has redeemed himself.
Whatever sins he has committed in the past, however much he has offended by being a blow hard, an exploiter, a self promoter, however much you may have disliked him in the past, go on line and find his "Blueberry Pie," commercial.
Finally, a Democrat who can actually communicate.
He tells the tale of kids being caught with blueberry pie all over their faces and proclaiming their innocence to their indignant mother, who cooked the pie. "Oh, no, it wasn't us!"
You have to see it for yourself. If I were smarter, I'd figure out how to do a link to it.
But it's just right--to pick up the pie motif. The American pie, which the Republicans and their rich patrons have eaten and they claim they had nothing to do with the way the pie got consumed.
Oh, wait, I may have done it. Try clicking on this link:
Every Democrat should be wearing a T shirt or a sweat shirt with the Republican Pie chart (see above) to keep that image in the eyes of every citizen, red and blue.
It is, as Mitt Romney would say, the politics of bitter envy. And it works for us.
Monday, January 16, 2012
This is not a dead seal, although there is a resemblance. This lab is alive.
The federal government picked up each and every one, along with dead birds, and did autopsies which revealed influenza.
The implication was this particular virus had made the leap from gulls to seals, but that was never confirmed.
I cannot resist pointing out how effective and efficient and all around helpful our federal government has been in addressing this distressing event.
Of course, nobody in Hampton or along the seacoast said anything like, "Gee, I'm glad those federal workers were there."
It's not like when Superman swoops in and sets down the little girl, all safe and sound, and everyone beams and shouts, "Gee, thanks, Superman!"
The feds were just doing their jobs and nobody said, "Good old NOAA," or "Thanks."
They just expected this work would be done by someone and would have complained if those seals had been left to rot.
Live Free or Die.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Sunday, January 8, 2012
I know I promised to keep my mouth shut.
I did this because I accepted, in the marketplace of ideas there are winners and losers, and like any businessman, when I saw there were no customers for what I had to say, I accepted the verdict of the marketplace, I spoke, and no body responded, so I shut up.
But I have now been invited to join a TV link to Vice President Biden, with a group of Hampton Democrats to talk about the upcoming election and our local efforts to help re elect President Obama.
I’ve been to things like this before and I realize, even if the camera is on you for ten seconds, it’s a pretty unsatisfying opportunity.
So, I will use this space to be there, in spirit.
With that pre amble, here’s what I’d like to tell Vice President Biden on January 10, 2012:
Mr. Vice President, you are asking local Democrats to work hard for the re election of President Obama, which we would be willing and eager to do.
But, and here’s the big “But,” I for one am tired of doing the heavy lifting when I do not see that effort matched from President Obama.
Why should we, at the local effort, work harder for his re election than he is?
For three years now, I have been talking to my neighbors here in Hampton, saying the tough, sometimes unpleasant, sometimes offensive, sometimes combative things which need to be said in response to the Republicans and for most of those 3 years there has been nothing similar coming from President Obama, who has remained “above the fray” (a kind way of putting it) or afraid to throw a punch, presumably out of fear of looking partisan.
Ronald Reagan was not afraid of throwing a punch. The Republicans of this era from top down throw punches. Mitt Romney says President Obama is leading class warfare, trying to replace the American work ethic of ambition with a socialist ethic of envy. And that is the kindest remark coming from their would be presidents.
The spokesmen for the Democrats are an embarrassment. Every night on TV we see that Casper Milquetoast with his wispy voice and his hunched posture, the eternal apologist, Harry Reid fulfilling the Republicans’ image of the typical Democrat: an effete wuss who has no backbone, no conviction and no fight and Mitch McConnell and John Boehner eat him and the rest of the Democrats alive—they eat Democrats not because they make more sense but because they sound as if they believe what they are saying and they always have a marketing phrase to throw out there: Estate taxes become death taxes; end of life planning become death panels; government insurance programs, which citizens have paid into for years become “entitlements,” as if you are somehow not really entitled to the benefits you have contracted and paid for.
I give my neighbors a few deep thoughts, but if they do not hear this from President Obama himself, they tend to not give it much credibility.
So here’s what I would like to hear President Obama say, himself, not through you or through surrogates:
- I agree with the Republicans government is not the solution; it is the problem. This is true whenever the Republicans have any part in government, on any level. The Republican party is a poison pill for government. They don’t believe any good can come from government. That’s why they all jumped on board when Republican Paul Ryan put forward a bill to convert Medicare from a paid for insurance program into Coupon Care. And all the Republicans voted for this killing of Medicare, trying to kill Medicare under the pretense they were voting to save it. This is the height of dishonesty. This is the typical Republican tactic: Do something that hurts the people and call it good medicine. Try to fool all the people at least some of the time.
- I am less afraid of Big government than I am afraid of Bad government: And it is bad government the Republicans want to give us, when they are willing to give us any government at all. Medicare is Big government. I make no apologies for Medicare. I want to improve it. It can be frustrating. But the Republicans want to kill it. The Republicans see Medicare as a yellow lab with a big appetite, and rather than put it on a diet, they just say “Let’s kill it.”
- Social Security is Big Government. It’s something people pay into. It’s true, people have no choice. The government makes them plan for their own future in this case, because we have learned something about human nature, which is people tend to solve the problems and pay the bills right in front of them and they tend to not plan for the future unless you make them. We learned that during the Great Depression and we decided to set up a system to save people from homelessness and starvation called Social Security and it’s worked well. The Republicans have tried to kill Social Security. They say they just want citizens to have more choices, to be able to do better and make more money than what Social Security can provide. They want to shunt all those dollars to their rich friends on Wall Street. They look at all that money and they say, we want that money for our Wall Street contributors, the people who have bought and paid for the Republican congress. Can you imagine what would have happened to your retirement if it depended on the stock market? You don’t have to imagine that now. The whole idea of Social Security is it is secure. No matter what happens to the stock market, you have this safety net. May not be as much as you might have if you took that money and went to
and gambled it, but at least you know it’s there. Las Vegas
- The Republican party is now a hard right to life party. Most of its candidates are now saying they would not allow a woman whose pregnancy occurred from rape to have an abortion. They would not allow a woman whose blood pressure is rising, whose kidneys are failing to have an abortion to save her life, even if the chances are both she and her fetus would die together. I am not for infanticide. I do not know anyone who really is “for” abortion. Pro choice people are not happy about abortion. It’s always a sad choice. But, sometimes when you have two bad choices, you have to make a choice. Ethics is about line drawing. To my mind, and I think most of my fellow citizens are with me, there is a difference between that potential life which is eight cells and a human being. I agree that a 28 week fetus is close enough to life, I would not intervene. Then you are faced with a different choice, but we cannot give the same rights to an eight cell conceptus we give to a 28 week old fetus. We have to have the courage to make hard choices. Mr. Paul is very consistent about this. He says life begins at conception, at the two cell stage. But if you believe that, then you will eliminate birth control pills, IUD’s, and virtually every form of contraception except the less reliable barrier methods. Absolutists can always be consistent, but they are often wrong.
5. I am not a socialist. Nor am I a “crony capitalist.,” as Mr. Romney has said.
Of course, if I suggest government has a role in health insurance, I’m a socialist to some people. If I suggest we need to step in and prevent a 1929 stock market crash, if I suggest we need to invest in solar energy, as other governments do, even as
I was not born in
6.The Republican party is and has been for the past 3 years living in a state of delusion and fantasy. They would rather hallucinate than see the real world. They would rather repeat history than study it. The ghosts of 1929 do not visit the Republican party because the Republicans willfully refuse to see that a government which does nothing is the problem, not part of the problem but the larger part of the problem. Mr. Paul would have us do nothing with our military. I share his concern about putting American citizens to war. But we fought Hitler and we should have done that. There are times we have to defend ourselves. Mr. Paul would not have killed Osama Bin Laden. Mr. Romney would have put that task out to bid, maybe awarded the contract to Hallburton. But I used the power of the federal government to strike a blow to protect the American people, to protect the American people. I was well aware when President Carter failed in his attempt at a secret mission, he paid for that with his job. But I was willing to take the risk. Republicans are always saying the rich are rich because they are risk takers. What risk does a man who grows up rich take in life? He fails and he’s not homeless. He’s got a house on a lake, another in town and condo somewhere else. Well, I took a real risk and I did it because I was trying to protect my country.
7. The Republican party says Democrats have no guts. But people often accuse others of the failings they perceive in themselves. The Republicans, I imagine, want good health care for the nation. But they are afraid to take the steps which would make healthcare a calling and a public utility rather than a commercial enterprise. So they refused to allow a government option which would have introduced true competition into the medical marketplace—they were afraid of that—and now they are trying to kill even the watered down compromise affordable healthcare act., which they call “Obamacare.” They use that name as a pejorative. Well, I welcome that. Better Obamacare than Nomorecare or Coupon Care.
8. We have a choice between the Democratic Party which will give you some government, government where it’s needed, and the Republican Party, which would kill government. The Republican Party wants to live in a world of their imaging rather than the world which actually exists. The logical extension of the philosophy of Mr. Paul and Mr. Santorum would be life off the grid, where no man cooperates with his neighbor but simply builds a fence. The world of Mr. Romney is the world of businessmen on the top, the one percents, distributing cake crumbs to the bottom 99% and the world of Mr. Gingrich, well that’s a moveable feast. I cannot keep up with Mr. Gingrich’s visions, they are too fluid.
This November, the American people will have to make a choice. I hope they choose wisely.
But know one thing, there is no point at all in voting for me in November if you return Republicans to Congress. That would be nothing more than what we’ve had for the past two years. A Congress which invests a debt crisis rather than facing the real problems of this country.
And we need enough Democrats in Congress to be able to push past the George W. Bush Supreme Court, which, in it’s arch conservatism, has transformed free speech into nothing more than a commodity with it’s bizarre Citizen’s United decision. They may very well thwart the will of Congress, weak as it was, by over turning Obamacare. We need enough Democrats in Congress and in the state legislatures to deal with this third, increasingly deranged branch of government.
I have nothing to offer you but action, trial and toil. I can only echo Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom as my guiding principle: We had better all hang together, or surely, we will all hang separately.