08 February 2016

Update no.738

Update from the Heartland
No.738
1.2.16 – 7.2.16
To all,

            In the beginning, there were five Democratic Party presidential candidates; now there are two.  Likewise, there were 17 Republican Party presidential candidates; now there are nine . . . I guess, only seven according to ABC News.  When news agencies eliminate candidates, then news agency become the news instead of reporting the news. Carly Fiorina not invited to attend, as ABC News decided she did not qualify anymore as a viable candidate, despite the fact that she has not withdrawn or suspended her campaign.
            The first physical action by citizens is done.  Residents of Iowa for both major parties have ‘voted’ for their party choice.  Next week, residents of New Hampshire vote in the nations first party primary election.  I suspect there will be more thinning next week.
            We had a veritable flurry of public events this week.
-- CNN’s Democratic Presidential Town Hall at the Derry Opera House in Derry, New Hampshire, on Wednesday evening.
-- MSNBC Democratic Debate at University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, on Thursday evening.
-- ABC News / IJReview Republican Presidential Debate at St. Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday evening.
The offerings this week did little to enlighten or amend the solidifying impressions of the candidates and both parties.  I shall share a few impressions that percolated to the top.
            Senator ‘Ted’ Cruz got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and as is so common for perpetrators, he continues to deny any malfeasance.  Desperate times lead desperate people to do desperate things.  “TrusTED” . . . I don’t think so.  He sacrificed his integrity to assuage his desperation . . . or perhaps it was paranoia.  We have had one paranoid president; we do not need another.
            I must admit ‘The Donald’ is correct; imminent domain is an essential tool of government for the public good.  However, the issue is and always has been the specter of abuse.  Using imminent domain to build the interstate highway system or Hoover Dam and Lake Mead were clearly public good projects.  However, using imminent domain to build a commercial enterprise, e.g., casino, shopping center or office building, benefits the owner or builder far more than improving the public good and enters the sphere of abuse.  During that segment of the debate, the front-runner’s juvenile gestures and petulant insults continue adding to his negatives . . . at least in my mind, I must say.  Lastly, perhaps a reasonable constraint on the use of imminent domain might be the projects must be public, i.e., owned by the People, not individuals or groups of individuals.
            Interesting discussion on what is conservatism.  Marco Rubio stated his opinion: 1.) limited government, 2.) free enterprise, and 3.) strong national defense.  Taken prima facie, Rubio’s definition matches what I grew up with and what I understood for the majority of my life.  For the last several election cycles, I am left with a persistent, nagging question – What does conservative mean these days, or at least to these characters?  If I translate what the current group of “conservatives” are saying, they want government out of business, e.g., health care, pipeline, business regulation, but they insist on the government being in our private lives and even within our bodies.  I appreciate and respect their choices in life.  Why cannot they respect the choices in private matters – not in the public domain – of all other citizens?  How audacious and egocentric does one have to be, to believe their values are the only acceptable values and further that they have the right to impose their values on all citizens?  They want government out of business and deeply into our private lives.  No, their interpretation of conservatism is wrong.
            Lastly, the bumper-sticker campaign slogans are really becoming quite the irritant for me.
-- Take America Back . . . really?  Back from whom?  Where did it go?
-- Make America Great Again . . . as I have said before, the statement implies we are no longer great.  I cannot agree with such pessimism.
-- We don’t win anymore . . . really?  Perhaps, this is the root of the problem.  I know what is right.  I am always right.  I am never wrong.  I never have anything to apologize for, because I am never wrong.  And, if you do not choose me, you are stupid, wrong, and of course, a loser.  I am the only winner.
I just do not have such a pessimistic view of this Grand Republic or such a negative view of our citizens.  ‘Nuf said!

            News from the economic front:
-- The Labor Department reported non-farm payrolls increased a seasonally adjusted 151,000 in January.  The unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 4.9% -- the lowest rate since November 2007.  Further, wage gains accelerated last month.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.736:
“It would sure be nice to determine the final chapter in MH#370.
“Yes, SpaceX is impressive with all their accomplishments/milestones, certainly amongst some failures/challenges as to be expected.
“In your reference to the Democratic Party debates, the problem I see with this minimum wage creep, is it will destroy many business models, and of course when I go to McDonald's, I would rather not pay $15 for a Big Mac if I can get it under $5.  But the reality is many more people than in the past are taking minimum wage jobs to survive, whether they are older or have skills, experience and education where they should not seek that job.
“I think Hillary should be disqualified right away for a candidate based on her lousy (if not treasonous) performance as SecState under Obama, especially Libya, and her use of personal email accounts/servers for transmission of sensitive data.  But she won't be indicted or face criminal prosecution like you or I, simply because as the political machine works, she is immune (like the Clinton's always have been, as well as those Republicans like Bush Junior).  
“Your statement on Apple and Trump's desire to return jobs to USA, you said  ‘This country was built upon free commerce and has spent treasure and the blood of patriots to defend freedom of commerce’ and I think the commerce aspect was limited to America, and patronized our nation-state instead of China and a bunch of soul-less corporate chieftains who enslave Chinese workers, and maximize their profits here.”
My response:
            Re: MH370.  I remain guardedly optimistic they will eventually find the wreckage and the FDR / CVR.  If they do, I believe we will know.  While the CVR may be blank, since the length of the flight may have exceeded the loop duration, there might also be a last statement by the pilot as the aircraft descended to the water.  Let’s hope.
            Re: minimum wage.  Perhaps so.  There is an additional facet.  Minimum wage is intended for entry level, minimum (no) skill, manual labor jobs; it is not intended to be a life-long, living wage.  Where is the motivation to improve?
            Re: Hillary.  I do not share your opinion of her performance as Secretary of State.  I do not know enough to have an opinion of judgment regarding her server problem, but her parsing of words to justify her bad judgment just does not cut it.  I have not seen enough to prosecute her.
            Re: commerce.  I shall beg to differ.  We fought the Barbary Wars (1801) and the War of 1812 over international commerce.  Further, business is not an altruistic or welfare process.  It is about maximizing returns for the shareholders.  Labor costs are commonly the largest single business expense.  It should be no surprise, business seeks to get acceptable quality product for the lowest possible cost.  Abuse, like corruption, is not tolerable anywhere.  The difficulty is finding the balance.  I see the tax law that keeps profits off-shore at more injurious.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.737:
Subject:  RE: EXTERNAL: Update no.737
From:  "Richard, John L SIK"
Date:  Mon, February 1, 2016 8:19 am
To:  "cap@parlier.com"
Cap,

“If we have ever had a petulant, maleficent, king-like figure in the contemporary era of this Grand Republic, the current Republican front-runner must be considered the number one prime suspect – a self-aggrandizing prima donna far better suited for entertainment than the difficult job of working with disparate political factions to find solutions to our very real problems.”

“In your attempt to denigrate the Republican front-runner, It sounds like you have just described that despot presently occupying the White House, the one that has been most instrumental, along with his cronies and sycophants at the IRS, Justice Department, and State Department in denigrating the United States in the eyes of the masses—yourself obviously and respectfully excluded—Americans, and foreigners alike.  And it is not just the Republican frontrunner.  Please note the overarching theme of most of the Republican hopefuls.  They all understand the tumble from stature the United States has taken under the Obama regime and seek to restore our greatness.”
My reply:
            Well, then, we shall respectfully disagree, I’m afraid.
            As a life long, independent, non-partisan moderate (might even claim a little Libertarian and Progressive in that mix), I try to see the good and bad in all folks.  I try very hard to ignore party affiliations and self-proclaimed labels.  Yet, I’ve lived long enough to know personality traits I find highly suspect and most often quite objectionable.
            Respectfully, President Obama is neither a despot nor some malevolent covert force bent upon destroying this Grand Republic.  He is a good man who has tried hard to do what he thinks is correct.  Yes, I do believe he has tried to soften the image of the United States in the world community.  We are not the gunslinger or schoolyard bully, demanding penance and subjugation from the world community.  We have been, still are and will remain the most powerful military force on the planet, but we do not need to flex our muscles to prove our strength.  And, I categorically reject the notion that the United States has “tumbled from stature.”  I have long believed in and espoused Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” philosophy.  We do not need to brandish our stick for folks to know our strength.  Further, we are NOT the world’s policeman.  So, yes, I do support President Obama’s diplomacy rather than bloodshed approach to international relations.  Whether President Obama is Teddy Roosevelt or Neville Chamberlain, only history will judge.
 . . . follow-up comment:
“Talk to me about Teddy and his ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick philosophy.’  He has been and remains one of my favorite presidents.  Are we not the world’s policeman?  Because of our once recognized greatness did we not assume this global constabulary mantle through virtue and/or default?  I ask, given what was spoken, what happened to his spine, er,… uh,… big stick when it came to ISIS, or ISIL as he is fond of saying, or Syria and the Ukraine?  Good analogy with Roosevelt and Chamberlain.  I think Obama has aptly demonstrated, and we have witnessed that he is the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st Century.”
 . . . my follow-up reply:
            Re: TR.  If you have not seen the Ken Burn’s docu-series “The Roosevelts – An Intimate History,” I strongly encourage you to do so.  For all of my history-aware lifetime, I have been a life-long admirer of TR, as well his cousin and Sir Winston.  Yet, as history rightly portrays, they were flawed men, some might say deeply flawed men, placed in extraordinary circumstances.  History has judged them wisely.
            Re: “Are we not the world’s policeman?  Yes, at least since 1945.  We were the only nation on the planet who could stop Stalin’s ideological hegemonic ambitions.   Days after V-E Day, Churchill ordered his joint chiefs to develop plans to push east, to restore the independence of the pre-war Eastern European countries – Operation UNTHINKABLE.  He knew the UK alone could not do it; he needed the U.S.  The UK at the end of the war was virtually bankrupt, which certainly contributed to the disintegration of the British Empire.  Churchill (and others) feared the U.S. would remove all or nearly all its military force from Europe and transfer those forces to the Pacific for execution of Operation DOWNFALL – the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands; and, if the U.S. military was not in Germany, Stalin was intent upon marching to the Atlantic and dominating all of Europe.  So, yes, we became the world’s policeman by default.  On the flip side of that very same coin, being the world’s policeman requires us to enforce our laws (or facsimiles thereof) and values, which is exactly what has pissed off so many communities around the world and made us almost vilified in some countries (e.g., IRI; U.S. = The Great Satan).  We cannot have it both ways.  We are not an empire.  And, Smedley Butler and Dwight Eisenhower were not entirely wrong; the military-industrial complex needs war to make money, thus Butler’s conclusion.
            Re: “our once recognized greatness.  I do not subscribe to the notion that our “greatness” has declined.  It is quite unfortunate that so many citizens have equated President Obama’s diplomacy and stepping back from being the world’s policeman means U.S. decline or loss of prestige.  I will also argue that President Obama has taken a far more realistic approach, i.e., he does not pound the drum and he has not hesitated to take the shot when presented a clear target, contrary to some of his predecessors.
            Re: “ISIL.”  OK.  Now, we get more complicated.  Let me stand back a bit to take a broader, more general perspective.  We failed in Iraq and contributed to the genesis of ISIL because we used our military might to depose Saddam Hussein . . . because we could.  We did NOT deploy sufficient troops to secure and administer the country until a government could grow & mature, as was done in Germany and Japan.  So, the question becomes when is it appropriate to spill American blood and spend American treasure to take sides in a civil war?  I subscribe to the philosophy, you break it, you own it.  So, unless we are prepared to mobilize 500,000 to 1,000,000 men to secure and administer Syrian and Iraq, we must do our best to support those who are on the ground and contain (respond to) threats to our national interests.
            Re: Obama = Chamberlain.  I do not believe the physical, public evidence supports that conclusion.  Yes, it is possible.  There is often a fine line between diplomacy and diplomacy by other means as Clausewitz articulated.  History shall tell the tale.

Comment to the Blog:
“I live in Ohio. While I admit Governor Kasich sounds more like a reasonable person than his Republican competitors, that's only marketing. Should he survive the primary process, he would not face the mockery in the general election campaign that a Trump or Cruz would.
“I would not vote for Kasich for any position. He has done his best to destroy Ohio, restrained by Ohio's remnant business wing of the Republican Party in the Statehouse and to some degree by Democrats in important local government posts.”
My response to the Blog:
            I have been in Ohio more than a few times, but I have never lived in Ohio and certainly not under Kasich’s tenure.  I cannot challenge your opinion of your governor.  However, I will note, John Kasich presents himself as a moderate.  What does that say about the rest of the Republican field?
 . . . follow-up comment:
“It says that, (a) Kasich or his advisors have spotted the weakness of appealing to a vocal minority when he will need to face the entire electorate in November, and (b) ‘buffoon’ is almost polite when discussing the balance of the Republican field.  I write this during the Iowa caucuses, which Kasich is ignoring in favor of New Hampshire's primary next week. Even with all that effort, Kasich will probably lose to the more dramatic buffoons. Should he not lose as expected, he probably would have the best chance of bringing his party victory in November. That's pretty unlikely to happen in either contest, though.
“In the ‘always happens’ department: people here in Ohio wonder why Kasich gets paid when he's not in Ohio or doing anything related to governing Ohio.”
 . . . my follow-up response:
            Thank you for your observations.  I have nothing to add.

Another contribution:
“Wow, your latest tirade against the most popular Republican candidate accompanied by your familiar loyal defense of Obama reveals something I have not sensed before:  You, like many, can resort to emotional reasoning occasionally on purely political subjects, the mark of a true liberal!  As your loyal ‘Flaming Conserberal’ admirer, I hope I am mistaken.
“To say regarding our illegal immigration problem that ‘This failure rests clearly and solely with Congress, not President Obama or any other president,’ likewise suggests a level of emotional admiration for Obama that apparently has obscured the truth, and that is surprising to me!
“Maybe, like I have done occasionally, you hit ‘send’ before thinking about it.
“For one thing, Obama, more than any president before, has blatantly refused to enforce existing law, not just on the subject of illegal immigration.  It most certainly is up to the executive branch, the president, to enforce immigration laws passed by Congress.  Yes, Congress has failed for decades to appropriately refine our laws, but to attempt to absolve our president of all responsibility can only be justified by a desire to defend Obama, and I find that indefensible.
“...but I'll continue to encourage you to keep posting!”
My response:
            Hard to ascertain sarcasm in word choice.  Nonetheless . . .
            Re: President Obama.  I shall respectfully beg to differ.  I am not defending President Obama.  My only purpose is to filter out the political bias and find a more balanced perspective.  If you should care to do so, you can go back to a variety of my Update posts during the Bush (43) administration and see exactly (or perhaps I should say similar) views of his actions.  He (Bush [43)] was simply not as bad as the opposition claimed and tried desperately to portray with their incessant ranting.  My comments about President Obama are no different.  President Obama is not as bad as the opposition wants us to believe.
            With the impotence (or perhaps I should say intransigence) of Congress on immigration reform and funding of enforcement, the laws are meaningless and toothless.  The President cannot just print money.  Congress appropriates funds . . . thus my comment.
            And, my ‘Flaming Conserberal’ friend, I will continue to encourage you to post your opinions on anything you wish.

A different contribution:
“On the South China Sea, yes, I think your opinion ‘There will be blood’ may be very accurate, unfortunately.  It would seem we have many challenges that are emerging rather rapidly from South China Sea, North Korea, Russia in Crimea, Russia in Syria, Russia vs. Turkey,  and many more conditions/trends whether now promoted in the news, or not.
“The concern with Turkey vs. Russia, is Turkey being a NATO client.
“I agree on Donald Trump and his absence from the Republican debate in Iowa.  I am not sure why he does not like Megyn Marie Kelly.  If he cannot handle the heat, then he should not run.  There is going to be enormous heat for our next president to manage the many challenges and make executive decisions.  On the New Hampshire Republican debates held Saturday night, it was interesting to see some of the contenders boxing each other in debate.  I thought Trump fared ok but not as well as previous debates.  Rubio seemed to have been bashed more than before by Christy.  Rubio seemed to have been knocked off course.  Jeb Bush made a better presence than previous debates, but a little too late, most likely.  And, Jeb seemed to have jolted Trump a bit over eminent domain, and Trump showed more emotional reaction, and then seemed to earn a bunch of boo's from the audience.  Jeb may have used some Red Bull that he should have consumed in the prior debates.
"In your comparisons between the Democratic vs. Republican debates, I think the problem is signal/noise ratio--there are too many Republican contenders.  Though you likely know my cynical view that it seems like one big circus and a bunch of clowns.  I too thought the Repub contest would narrow down after Iowa, but it sure does not seem it did much, so far.  We'll see after New Hampshire.
“On Climate Change, we are at the same spot on the table regarding opinions, though there seems to be some fairly compelling experts who have come out saying much of it is a fraud.  Having said that, I do not believe we have been good stewards of Earth, and through industrial pollution and resource depletion, we must change our ways.
“On immigration, it would seem our economy on one side has benefited from lower cost labor, which many of the migrants have supplied.  On the other side is the drain on social services and/or the criminal justice system, by those that come here illegally and do not support themselves/family, or commit crimes.”
My reply:
            Re: South China Sea.  Indeed.  There are many reasons we cannot accept the PRC’s squatter’s rights hegemony in the area.
            Re: Turkey.  Quite so.  A genuine concern.
            Re: Republican front-runner.  His narcissistic ego is so bloody inflated that he is incensed when anyone makes him look back, even when the person is feeding back his own words to him that is why he is so irrational about Megyn Kelly.  That one moment five months ago spoke volumes of his character, temperament and incapability to be POTUS.
            Re: debates.  I offer more observations on the debates in this week’s Update.
            Re: comparison.  I expect so.  I also believe the effectivity of the debates is contaminated by the nonsensical theatrics of some of the ‘candidates.’
            Re: climate change.  I do not dispute the signs of a warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.  What I remain doubtful of is the notion of a human cause.  Yet, regardless, I am absolutely convinced we must wean ourselves off fossil fuels.  I continue to advocate for orderly transition.  Rejecting the Keystone Pipeline as some symbolic demonstration of our disapproval of fossil fuels is just wrong and not helpful to the ultimate objective.
            Re: immigration.  There are many more negatives of our lackadaisical immigration control.  We could make dramatic improvement if we implement just two things: 1.) guest worker program (win-win), and 2.) tracking & enforcement.  I point to the British system of tracking down to the local level.  Visa overstay appears to be a far more prevalent problem than border jumpers.  The first thing requires the second thing to be fully functional and effective.  Immigration control should be everyone’s task, not just the USG & ICE.

            My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cheers,
Cap                        :-)