Another Lost War

The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for 17 years, the longest war in our nation’s history. Yet the Taliban, our adversary, is stronger than it’s ever been since the American invasion. By now it’s clear to all but those wearing rose-colored glasses that America has lost another war. It just refuses to admit it. So it will spend billions more and suffer who knows how many more casualties before eventually conceding defeat. Just like Vietnam (although with fewer American casualties). Continue reading

Takeaways from the 2018 Election

Just a few reactions to yesterday’s election (including a few that are personal):

  • The country is a safer place now that Trump and his R minions won’t be controlling both houses of Congress. There is something to be said for legislative gridlock.
  • Adjusted for strong economic and stock market conditions, this election represents the worst House retention of any president in 100 years according to JPMorgan Asset & Wealth Management. But, of course, not everyone is benefiting from these conditions; asset appreciation and increased wealth continue to accrue mainly to the top 1 percent. This dynamic will play a major role in future elections. To this point, neither party is addressing the problem.
  • Ds are badly out of step on immigration and taxes. If they don’t get their act together, it will cost them dearly in 2020.
  • Rs are badly out of step on health care. If they don’t get their act together, it will cost them the White House and Senate in 2020.
  • The electorate is in two camps: urban and rural. And within those camps, the electorate is divided by education.
  • The disenfranchisement of voters in large states (people, not land), and the over-representation given to voters in sparse states, will continue to put pressure on our constitutional system. The Senate is becoming a highly unrepresentative body. This doesn’t bode well for our future.
  • The Ds have to run good candidates if they are to win. Donnelly in Indiana, where I now live, was a pathetic candidate. Consequently, the Ds squandered a seat they should have retained.
  • The Ds retaking seven governorships is huge even though it’s not getting the attention it deserves.
  • The grand Republican experiment in Kansas failed miserably. The state is worse off because of it. On a positive note, the Ds took the governor’s mansion. However, much damage has already been done and not all of it will be reversible.
  • Scott Walker’s loss in Wisconsin is sweet. Very sweet. And very well deserved.
  • Texas is undergoing a major shift. For the first in a long time, its electoral votes will be up for grab in 2020.
  • My favorite state, Colorado (a place I called home until recently), completed its transition from purple to blue. Colorado is the least partisan place I’ve ever lived. The Rs’ divisive tactics don’t work so well there.
  • Steve King’s reelection speaks volumes about the people in his district in Iowa. They should be ashamed. The fact they’re not is a stark reminder of some of the forces at work in American politics today. And of the darkness that lives within the souls of all humans (yours truly included). At its best, politics should be a source of enlightenment and understanding and call people to their better selves. Sadly, politics often does just the opposite.
  • Old white men are the strength of the Republican party. As these guys die off, the Rs are in big trouble unless the party can pivot and start appealing to educated women and younger voters.
  • Voters still aren’t concerned about fiscal risks. This will come back to haunt them in a very big way someday.
  • Yesterday’s election tells us little about either party’s prospects for 2020. Two years is an eternity in the world of politics.
  • Yesterday’s election will have absolutely no effect on Trump. He is who he is, and he isn’t about to change. For some, that’s good; for others, it’s a never-ending nightmare. Either way, our president and his presidency are a reflection of who we are. What do you see when you look in the national mirror? Voters’ reaction to that image will decide the 2020 election.

I Intend to Vote Everyday

Young people tend to think their vote doesn’t matter (compared to the views of older Americans).

Which is a shame. Because their cynicism is directly tied to public policy, which favors older Americans and, quite frankly, is responsible for younger ones getting the shaft these days.

But it is what it is. If young Americans don’t care enough to vote, then I’m not about to feel sorry for them when their government sticks it to them. Decisions have consequences. Both good and bad. Surely they can’t be so stupid not to realize that.

I also don’t get worked up about it because I realize being politically active involves more than voting. A whole lot more. In fact, the case can be made that our vote is a minor political act in the overall scheme of things.

So what’s potentially even more important than voting?
Continue reading

Just So You Can’t Feign Surprise Later

The Treasury Department said government borrowing this year will more than double from 2017 to $1.34 trillion. Thank God we have fiscally responsible Republicans in charge.

And a special thanks to all the Millennials and Generation Zers who will be paying the interest charges on all these bonds. And thanks in advance for not voting next week. The Boomers and their parents aren’t done raiding the cupboard.

An Idiot Wants to Run My Home State

I live in Indiana now. But I was born and reared in Pennsylvania and spent the first 56 years of my life there. I’ll always consider it home. Which is why it pains me to see what’s been happening there.

Yesterday, it was the senseless slaughter of innocents in Pittsburgh, where I used to live and work. But it’s larger than that. A fog of idiocy and hatred seems to have enveloped the state.

I have a cousin who lives there who used to be smart. She’s now dumb. Dumb as a log. She’s been consumed by a hate-filled ideology and meanness that is abhorrent. But she’s not the only one.

Now an ideological idiot (all ideologues are idiots) is the Republican candidate for the governorship of the state. Let me introduce you to this man. Just watch this.

How does such an idiot become the standard bearer of a major party for the state’s highest office?

That’s a rhetorical question. Need I remind you who is serving in high positions in Washington?

Fortunately, all of the idiocy has not been for naught. It has caused me to examine my own life. My own self. It’s caused me to question my reactions. My emotions. My own idiocy.

The world is a crazy and cruel place. We have been taught how to navigate it and change it. But I’ve discovered most of what we are taught is flawed. An illusion. Constructs that fail to serve us well during trying times such as this.

If Pennsylvania choses to elect an idiot, no one should be surprised. Or too upset. This idiot has no power over any of us, no matter what position he holds.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to the task of ameliorating my own idiocy. God knows I have a ways to go.

This Is Reality

Steve Schmidt was a Republican; in fact, he worked hard to get many of them elected. Yesterday he reflected on the pipe bomber who targeted certain high-profile Americans, including former presidents. Here is what Steve had to say (via Twitter), which is worth everyone’s time to read. Why? Because it’s a good reminder of the reality that is, yet the one so many people deny. And it’s a good reminder that there is evil in the world. And of the challenge facing good and compassionate people. To help change our reality. To make the world a better place. Continue reading

The Backlash Is Coming

Excesses lay the groundwork for reversals. And that’s what we’re going to see in your lifetime, Vera. Perhaps in mine.

We are in the midst of an era of excesses now. An excess of capitalism you might say. It began in earnest around 1980 with the Administration of President Reagan. And it’s been accelerating ever since but for a few stalls here and there — notably, the Great Recession.

Which brings us to where we are today: a massive accumulation of wealth among those at the top, stagnant or falling standards of living for most people (in real, current terms), unconstrained consumerism, extremely high levels of public and private debt (including more than $1.5 trillion of student debt), underfunded pensions, ballooning federal deficits propelled by tax cuts for the rich, massive underinvestment in public infrastructure (both physical and intellectual), etc.

In a rare if not unprecedented development, due to massive tax cuts for the rich our federal government is now adding more than $1 trillion to the federal deficit each year. Just think what will happen when the next recession hits, which it will. It’s then the backlash is likely to happen. It’s then that people will come to realize they’ve been lied to and deceived and will react harshly and probably excessively.

I suspect we will then see a political tidal wave that turns the country sharply to the left. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth from the wealthy elite. But it will be too late. Years — indeed, decades — of excesses and unconstrained greed will render the reaction inevitable.

The thing to remember is, it is what it is. Today and tomorrow. And whatever it is, you must find ways to navigate it and live in a way that allows room for love, meaningful relationships, and the things that bring joy into your heart.

Often, it seems humankind puts many roadblocks in the way. We make life harder than it needs to be. If not for ourselves, then for others. It doesn’t have to be that way. Or does it? Sometimes I wonder.

In any case, you are likely to live through a period of change unlike I’ve lived through, Vera. On a macro-basis, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any say in the matter. But on a micro-basis, you will have a say.

Live your life well. With integrity. And compassion. And you’ll be just fine. No matter what the backlash brings.

Feeling Ashamed Seems to be Our Lot

By now it’s pretty clear agents of the Saudi royal family murdered and dismembered a journalist in the Saudi’s Turkish consultant. Most probably at the behest of the Saudi prince — who’s supposedly a buddy of our president’s son-in-law and the darling of many rich and powerful people in the West, including the U.S. It’s also pretty clear by now that our president wants to look over the whole affair. He wants to pretend it didn’t happen. After all, it was the Saudis who treated the president like a king when he visited last year and, as everyone knows, the only thing that matters to Donald J. Trump is how it affects him.

But, of course, Mr. Trump isn’t merely a citizen of the United States of America. He’s its president. Which means his attitude toward the assassination and dismemberment of the journalist reflects on all of us. He is our leader. Supposedly, he embodies our values. Once again, I’m ashamed. Continue reading

Digging, Deeper and Deeper

In case you missed the news earlier today, the federal government’s deficit jumped to $779 billion in the fiscal year just ended. That’s a 17 percent increase over the previous fiscal period.

An escalating deficit late in an expansionary economic cycle is unprecedented. But under the self-proclaimed King of Debt, it’s hardly surprising. All he needed was a Republican-controlled Congress that doesn’t give a damn about deficits. And that’s exactly what he got.

The obvious question is, how will the federal government be able to respond to the next recession? No one knows. We’re in unchartered waters. Close to shore. Where rocks can bash your ship into smithereens if you’re not careful. And extremely lucky.

In the meantime, keep an eye on that Medicare and Social Security. They’ll be coming for that next.

Do You Live in a Bubble?

Follow this NYT link to a very cool map that will tell you how your precinct voted in the last election.

I was surprised to learn I live in a blue precinct, albeit not by much and, moreover, one that is surrounded by red. But at least it’s an improvement over the political inclinations of the last place we lived (Loveland, Colorado).

I see that the places where I spent most of my childhood years (south-central Pennsylvania) are solidly red (not surprisingly). I further note that many of my high school friends never returned to the area after college. Migration plays a big role in creating political bubbles.

Tribalism seems to be part of the human condition. There’s no way around it. But when it leads to closed minds, we all suffer. Which is why I’d rather not live in a provincial area (although I have, the worst being a short stint in Virginia).

Even more important than that, however, is to remind myself frequently of how little I actually know. And of the difference between narrative and reality.

In times such as these, narratives play an outsized role, and people are only thinly tethered to reality.