30 November 2016

Trump's Need to Win

The President-elect's denial of Hillary Clinton's popular electoral majority is another illustration of the Donald's visceral need to score a win in a competition just for the hell of it, without regard to its objective.  That will be the principal driver of his coming administration.  Once Steve Bannon or another table-setter in his entourage selects an issue for him to focus on, he will fight to impose those views on the nation with the same promotional skill and determination that won him the White House.

That may be the greatest danger of a Trump presidency--not his belief in reactionary values, for he may not have any beliefs other than in his own importance.  We are in for leadership by an impressario of convincing salesmanship who can be used by a destructive right wing to reverse some of the progressive accomplishments of the country since the New Deal.  Therefore, it is up to the people who have voiced their concerns in futile demonstrations rather to educate and mobilize popular resistance to the backward-looking strategists who have dominated Trump during the campaign and who threaten to continue their influence over him during the next four or more years.

06 November 2016

Correcting ouir Changing Economy 

Correcting our Changing Economy
The NYT’s editorial on 5 November 2016 criticized Donald Trump for ignoring the official statistics that substantiate the federal administration’s and the Hillary Clinton Campaign’s claims that the nation’s economy is doing as well or better than it has since before the Great Recession in 2007-8.  Sadly, in order to agree one has equally to ignore that the recovery has come simultaneously with the apparently more complete transformation of our domestic  economy into  one in which physically creative human activity, like manufacturing and mineral extraction, are less valued than the sum of intellectual and interpersonal services. 

Mr. Trump has tapped into the vocal stratus of American society that has not managed successfully or self-gratifyingly to change their livelihoods from physical production to conceptual or ministrative pursuits.  The dissatisfaction of those U.S. citizens who believe the traditional measures of economic progress do not apply to them should be resolved by government jobs- and education-programs undertaken by whoever wins the 2016 presidential election.

03 November 2016

Driverless Cars Will Reduce Traffic Tie-ups 

Driverless Cars Will Reduce Traffic Tie-ups

Most traffic tie-ups are caused by the shortcomings of driver psychology.  How many times have you waited in slow traffic, particularly on supposedly obstruction-free four or more lane divided highways.  Sure, there are occasional accidents that hold up the progress of vehicles; but these have proven, seemingly more and more often, a small portion of the causes.  When you reach a final resumption of speed after a long slow-down, there is usually no logical expanation in evidence--no accident or breakdown blocking the road, no natural disaster impeding the roadway, not even a pair of hitchhikers, one of whom is exposing her thigh.

There is often a confusing electronic sign suspended from an overpass, a rise in the pavement hiding the assuring view of continued miles and miles of divided highway lanes ahead, the sidelined wreckage from a prior accident, an automobile pulled-over by and next to a patrolman's squad car, an eye-catching bill board that requires more than an instant of contemplation--you name the distraction.  Computers will not be diverted by these attention-grabbers and as they come to dominate the number of vehicles on the road, they won't have slower vehicles ahead of them to create delays they will have to negotiate.

Moreover, only human drivers will discomfort their passengers with their verbal expressions of frustration at the inability of other drivers to deal with the tie-up's cause or at the poor design of the highway and its signage, or even at the uneven justice of God that subjected them to a sudden rainstorm or other more serious exogenous event.  Until the elmination of human drivers clears superhighway traffic, unfortunately, we will suffer from the limits on highway speed and flow caused by our own humanity--we are not just along for the ride.

10 June 2016

Cuomo v. Citizens United

It is a shame that political action committees and other big private and corporate spenders can have as much a determinative effect on the behavior of American voters as the Supreme Court has allowed them.  The confusion of campaign (mostly media) spending with free speech is not as distorting of our constitutional values as the reliance of a large portion of the public on a  third-party advertising production instead of their own analysis.   The republic was founded on the belief that the common citizen was committed to the goals of the union and would set the direction of government policy based on his judgment of what would best achieve them, not on what the most well-funded advertising campaign told him
The pervasiveness of mass media exposure in Western countries has robbed their residents of autonomous personal thinking.  This is not the fault of the media; it speaks of societal laziness in an era of prosperity-mentality, regardless of the Great Recession.  If New York Governor Cuomo intends to reverse the consequences of the Citizens United decision, he must mount a national program of incentives to motivate voters to reduce their dependence on Madison Avenue-packaged political information.

09 May 2016

Trump’s Contempt

The repeated exaggerations, misstatements, contradictions and inaccuracies of Donald Trump’s rhetoric during his 2016 Republican primaries campaign does not just display his recognition that his supporters are less interested in him as a source of reliable information than as an effective spokesman for their frustration.  Those tactics really expose his utter contempt for the intelligence of the voters on whom he depends for overthrowing the GOP’s establishment. 

Donald Trump has enjoyed exercising the power that his wealth provides.  It is a sad comment on many of his supporters that they cede power over them to someone who has great monetary wealth no matter how he amasses it or how he uses it.  The traditional Republicans and other leaders who oppose Trump’s capture of the nomination resent the possibility that so contemptuous a person will be in line to lead our nation.

That resentment similarly characterizes the reaction of international officials to a possible Trump Presidency.  They translate it into the contempt they feel all Americans must have for the rest of the world to even consider it ok to elect someone like Trump to be the “Leader of the Free World.”

07 May 2016

Targeting U.S. Nuclear Policy in Iran

Commentators on Roger Cohen’s OpEd in the 5/7/16 NYT (“U.S. Policy Puts Iran Deal at Risk”) have focused on reducing Israel’s nuclear arsenal and pressuring its governing regime to change its support for terrorist or strategic Islamic activities.  As long as a religious organization, like the Revolutionary Guard Corps, governs a regional powerhouse like Iran, U.S. and liberal democratic objectives in the Middle East will be frustrated. 

It is commonly said that American culture is widely admired by Iranians.  However, millennia of repression in their society, ruled by autocrats since before Darius, have sensitized opinion-leaders to choose acquiescence to strong-arm government as standard behavior.  This is bound to change because of the information revolution brought on by the Internet.  However, their willingness to resist religious repression is not likely to strengthen any sooner than the corrupt dominance of the Revolutionary Guard Corps would decay as a result of lifting the U.S. trade embargo, as favored by Mr. Cohen.   Moreover, a change in the Iranian government’s international policies must happen first in order to make the end of the embargo acceptable to a Republican-controlled Congress.

Are there enabling tools that the U.S. can provide to the Iranian opposition?  Or is it a matter of convincing them that such resistance is likely to succeed?  In any case, wouldn’t that subversive policy undermine the nuclear agreement?  The large Iranian diaspora in the U.S. suggests the existence of a natural well of liberal democratic sentiment on which an opposition movement could draw.  Mobilizing that movement from a U.S. base would be a more productive target for American policy than direct antagonism of the Iranian governing regime.

06 May 2016

The Obama Recovery and Transforming America

President Obama is disappointed that the economic recovery of the U.S. from the 2007-8 Great Recession is still not sufficiently appreciated by many in the  country (“The Obama Recovery,” Andrew Ross Sorkin, the NYT Magazine, 5/1/16).  However, his prescription for remedying the slow speed of growth in today’s global economy is a fool’s errand.  To attempt a levelling of the playing field by improving labor conditions and environmental controls abroad, particularly in the Far East, should not be the mission of the U.S. government—it would be too interventionist and too costly.

The government is a tool the people can use to incentivize MNCs to react to overseas competition by investing in the reeducation of American labor to take advantage of the information revolution that has transformed U.S. industry.  It’s not simply retraining that is needed, as President Obama acknowledged.  It is recognition by capital investors and labor leaders that the American workforce is grounded on a very advanced and widespread knowledge base that allows it to rely on other economies to supply more rudimentary human skills to complete its manufacturing tasks (not to mention by relying on imported labor to complete many of its service industry tasks.  Understanding of that transformation of the labor market would diminish the power of Tea Party and right-wing enthusiasts that dominates the politics of 2016’s Republican Party nomination primaries in rust-belt states like Indiana.)

America is changing into an information society.  The eradication of its vestiges of physical labor on the factory floor (and in farm lands) will lessen, if not remove, the leverage on its politics held by those who manipulate blocs of easily-influenced dependent thinkers.  Moreover, as summarized in the 5/6/16 Washington Post, Americans do not buy as much “stuff” as they did in the past, reducing the demand for manufacturing output and for the factory floor jobs that produce it.  Public policy should focus on broadening autonomous thinking among Americans in order to maintain the country’s world leadership.

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