Monday, July 25, 2016

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS HITS A NEW HIGH

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a congressman from Florida and, for the time  being, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.*  She has been under fire for a long time by Bernie Sanders for being pro-Hillary when she is supposed to be impartial.  Well, I guess Debbie really wants to see a woman president so I suspect Bernie is correct.  The result is Debbie is going to resign from the Democratic National Committee after the convention.  The well known TV commentator Morning Joe wants her to resign NOW and not speak at the convention that she put together.  As they say in Washington, D.C., "If you want a friend, get a dog."

Weirdly, the big turning point is some thousands of e-mails  (every thing today is in the thousands whether it is e-mail on closing of a bridge or a party chair ) have been made public by WikiLeaks, one of which reads as follows:

It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.**

This is being broadly interpreted as an anti-Jewish e-mail that to be an atheist would be better than being a Jew, but, I read it the other way around, in that to be Jewish would be better than an atheist.  We are talking Southern Baptists here. Do they really interpret having no belief in God is better than being a Jew with a belief in God?***  The person who wrote this might have just Googoled Bernie Sanders to find the result.

And then, no one seems to note that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is Jewish.*  At least "they" are not clannish if she is anti-Jewish.  No, she is pro-woman.  At any rate she knows she can retire from her position with a woman running for president on a major party.

I really wonder what to think of Bernie Sanders.  First off he wasn't a member of the Democratic Party.  Some like me think it was very nice of the party to let him come in and run for the presidential nomination of their party.  Then he spends the whole time bitching.  Lost in all this was Obama winning the nomination against the same Hillary Clinton that Bernie lost to using the same rules.

Hillary got more of the popular vote, won more states, and got the most super-delegates.  Remember that Obama faced the same obstacles as Bernie, yet Obama won against the same opponent.!  Sorry Bernie, but you lost the nomination.   You really did.  Bernie did win on some things like a plan for free college tuition  and some others on the platform so he did get something.  Fortunately, Bernie has an even lower opinion of Donald Trump so he keeps saying that Trump must lose.  I hope he sticks to it.

Now some of Bernie's "people" want to trash the vice-presidential pick  for the Democratic nomination.  What's happened to the Republican party  Well as Will Rogers said a long time ago, "I'm not a member of an organized party. I'm a Democrat."  Nothing has changed.

Bernie doesn't like the idea of super-delegates, but I don't like the idea of caucuses where only a small fraction of the potential voters actually vote.  And if it wasn't for the caucuses, Bernie would not have been anywhere.  Caucuses can turn the tide in favor of one candidate while the voters want a different one as shown by Washington State that had both.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debbie_Wasserman_Schultz
** https://theintercept.com/2016/07/22/new-leak-top-dnc-official-wanted-to-use-bernie-sanderss-religious-beliefs-against-him
*** Though raised Jewish, Sanders says that he is "not particularly religious," nor is he a member of any congregation or synagogue. "I am not actively involved in organized religion,"......"It's a guiding principle in my life, absolutely," said the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
"You know, everyone practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings."(http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/14/politics/bernie-sanders-religion/)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

PLAGIARIZING YOURSELF

Who deserves credit for a speech is an interesting exercise in morality.  It seems strange but plagiarizing* yourself can be serious business.  I knew of a couple of scientists who borrowed some paragraphs from earlier scientific papers they had published without attribution so in reality they plagiarized themselves.  It turns out that the two publications were by different publishers and the publisher of the earlier piece called foul.  The publishers legally own the rights to the publications so you are not allowed to plagiarize yourself.  

So now we have the case of Melania Trump plagiarizing some thoughts of Michelle Obama in a Republican convention no less. Horrors.  You can hear the whole Melania speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt_9yb4FSYA .  You can read the transcript of the Michelle speech here: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/04/160578836/transcript-michelle-obamas-convention-speech  Well, I do not know who owns the Michelle pieces, but I doubt very much she would sue.  After all, her all but forgotten speech now has renewed interest and she has had her picture alongside that of Melania.  Michelle has gotten lots of credit now, so I say let's move on.  They say that Melania didn't want to talk in the first place, that she had rejected one speech and went with a friend of hers.  The friend has apologized and offered to resign which has been rejected. The speech in its entirety appears to be very nice.

The weird thing is that one of Trump's children, Donald Trump, Jr. gave a speech the next day and HE plagiarized a part of his speech from a column published by F.H. Buckley who happens to be his speech writer.!  You can hear the whole speech at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-7WlIZwePc  Well the speech writer says it is OK since he plagiarized his own stuff.  Well I guess that if it is all right with him, it is all right with me.  But come on you Republican speech writers.  You are supposed to be word smiths, and you can do better.  Don't be so lazy and give us fresh stuff.

You don't have to get very high up in politics and administration of anything before you no longer write your own speeches or articles.  Yes, you meet with the writer and give him or her your thoughts and may check back in on drafts to make sure you are saying what you want to say, but you probably have never put pencil to paper or fingers to a keyboard.  Most or all of the phraseology is done by someone else, usually anonymously.  Should the speaker get all the credit.  Shouldn't it be by speaker and writer?

Once when I was working for NASA, the Chief Scientist sent me a draft of a speech and asked if he could say a certain part.  I reply that the passage looked fine, but, at any rate it was his speech.  I read the whole draft and found myself wondering that this is very nice, I wonder who wrote it.  He may have written it himself as there were passages about his daughter.  But you see, it didn't occur to me that someone in his office would write their own stuff.

I was surprised to hear that Ronald Reagan wrote some of his own speeches.  I thought he was in early Alzheimer's when he was elected president but could still remember his lines.  I did recognize his sense of humor, but writing?  I guess he had more in the tank than I realized.

Often you will see books by the "author" and the ghost writer, but not always.  I know of one case where one scientist wrote a whole book for a more major scientist, a professor, and didn't get so much as an acknowledgement.  He carried this hurt the rest of his life.  I'm told that in India, the name on a building was that of the patron who financed the endeavor and the architect got no credit.  I'm sure that sort of thing goes on.

I've been really amazed by movies where the credits go on and on, to the assistant grip,  second assistant camera man, etc.  No other place in life is so much credit given.  I'm impressed.

* From Merriam Webster On-line Dictionary:  to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own :  use (another's production) without crediting the source

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

AMERICAN ECONOMY - THE GREAT RECOVERY II

There are some great publications concerning the current recovery and other presidents.  I'll just give a few things here to encourage you to look at the whole thing.

Today, some eight years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the nation's job market has put millions of Americans back to work. But voters remain uneasy about both the size of their paychecks and the prospects of holding onto their jobs.*

(Click on figure to enlarge)

Today, some eight years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the nation's job market has put millions of Americans back to work. But voters remain uneasy about both the size of their paychecks and the prospects of holding onto their jobs.

(new reference)
With six months left before Obama leaves office, the overall economy continues to expand — slowly. As of the first quarter of this year, the U.S. economy is nearly 15 percent bigger than when the president took office in 2008, adjusted for inflation. 
That gain is slightly less than his predecessor, George W. Bush, and roughly half the GDP gain in percentage terms during the Reagan administration.**

(Click on figure to enlarge)

The biggest expansion of GDP came under Clinton, who presided over the 1990s boom; when he left office in 2000, the economy was nearly 35 percent bigger than when he moved into the White House in 1993.**


Please remember that the Obama administration has six months yet to go.

* http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/18/obamas-record-on-jobs-versus-five-other-presidents.html
** http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/15/grading-the-obama-economy-by-the-numbers.html

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

AMERICAN ECONOMY - HEALTHCARE

Another area of discontent by many with the current economy seems to be the health insurance ACA or Obamacare.  A problem has been that people want medical care, but they don't want to pay for it, and Republicans have gone along with this.

For example, President Reagan introduced a law that hospital emergency rooms must take all comers, whether they can pay or not.  I'm all for that, but he left it up to the hospitals to find a way to pay for it.  Thus paying for it was put on the shoulders of those who have health insurance.  A part of the ACA is called the Individual Mandate where everyone is required to have health insurance or pay a small fine.  This was a conservative approach (proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation) to pay for the "free" emergency room costs.  And people have rebelled against it.  Their ire is such that it might decide an election, but I consider it unfair.

George W. Bush (Bush-43) worked hard to get through a drug benefit for Medicare (Medicare D), but he too didn't pay for it.

An attempt was made in Obamacare to pay for the benefits and nearly everybody rebels against paying for it.  There are objections to most of the plans to pay for it, including the tax on artificial limbs, the individual mandate, the company mandate and perhaps others.  Conservatives should applaud these attempts to pay for a medical plan that includes provisions for children up to 26 being on their parents medical plan and no exclusion for pre-existing conditions.

There was the plan in the ACA to have insurance companies bid against each other to provide health services, but this doesn't seem to work very well.  Most states did not go along with this and, in North Carolina where I live, there is only one company in the Obamacare plan.  Where is the competition?  North Carolina is one of the states that refused to set up their own plan.

The reason Republicans have so much trouble coming up with an alternative plan is that the ACA IS the conservative health plan.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

AMERICAN ECONOMY - THE GREAT RECOVERY

Since the depths of the 2008-2009 Great Recession, there has been a steady, if slow, recovery for what is, right now, the second longest economic recovery.  The recovery undoubtedly would  have been quicker if the Republicans had permitted an infrastructure program.  Heaven knows there is plenty to do on the infrastructure.  But they wouldn't permit it and have tried to see that the recovery is disrupted.  Business, however, has had other ideas.  Republicans are probably frustrated that the recovery continues to take place.   As they cannot stop it, they demean it.  I think that in history, Obama will probably be known for this remarkable economic recovery from near economic death.  The Wall Street Journal has an article saying that things are picking up economically.  So in the end, this may turn out to be the longest economic recovery in history.

As so many people are unhappy with this economic recovery, I sometimes wonder if people are happier with a boom and bust economy?

But there is a problem that precedes the Great Recession in that, say, automobile assembly workers in Michigan lost their jobs and there wasn't anything to take its place as the factories moved to the South or Mexico and elsewhere.  Of course they are unhappy, and Hillary gets the blame because she was for NAFTA, a free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.  Actually, there was a positive gain in U.S. employment during NAFTA,** but this increase was significantly in the lower paying service sector and others not where the automobile assembly workers were.

Proponents reject the claims of some that the free trade agreement is destroying the manufacturing industry and causing displacement of workers in that industry. The rate of job loss due to plant closings, a typical argument against NAFTA, showed little deviation from previous periods.[13] Also, US industrial production, in which manufacturing makes up 78%, saw an increase of 49% from 1993-2005. The period prior to NAFTA, 1982-1993, only saw a 28% increase.[10] In fact, according to NAM, National Association of Manufacturers, NAFTA has only been responsible for 10% of the manufactured goods trade deficit, something opponents criticize the agreement for exacerbating.[14] The growth of exports to Canada and Mexico accounted for a large proportion of total U.S. export gains.[15] However, the growth of exports to Canada and Mexico in percentage terms has lagged significantly behind the growth of exports to the rest of the world.**

New York has a plan called Start-Up NY*** where new businesses can start up and not pay taxes for 10 yrs.  This might have helped Michigan.

Detroit finally seems to be beginning to recover boosted by an insurance company Quicken Loans.*

But the problem left by companies moving elsewhere is general with a long history. Even where I live in the Sandhills area of North Carolina, there is an abandoned furniture factory some 15 mi. away in a town called West End.  I've heard that 300 workers were let go, devastating the town.  There was an attempt to convert the factory into a boutique mall, but that failed.  So there the large building sits, sometimes with part used for temporary storage.  You can see abandoned  buildings all over the country, i.e. abandoned textile mills in New England, abandoned steel plants in Pennsylvania, Maryland and elsewhere, etc., none of which were caused by NAFTA

I think the answer is not to abandon free trade which gives us low-cost goods, but to find ways to help communities hurt by free trade.

* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandy-baruah/detroits-tale-of-two-citi_b_1438786.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Michigan_companies
** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAFTA%27s_effect_on_United_States_employment
*** http://startup.ny.gov/


Saturday, July 16, 2016

ISIS POLICY BY AMERICA

My thought is that Obama is feeling for the minimum U.S. exposure to ISIS territory to accomplish its elimination.  He also insists that the locals participate in the erosion of ISIS.  I agree with this. ISIS seems to be steadily losing ground in Iraq with estimates of 20% loss in Syria.

He is also delaying a major move against Assad until some agreement is reached on a replacement for him.  We didn't do this in Libya with chaos resulting and two governments.  There are some encouraging signs of the two governments merging, however, and both dislike ISIS.  I am surprised that Republicans want to repeat the Libya experience in Syria where ISIS would almost certainly win in the short term.

With the recent election in Afghanistan, I think we got the best government one could hope for as both candidates have excellent credentials.  If they can't make it work, then I think there is really no hope.  Obama is raising the number of residual forces to be left in Afghanistan to help out, but again, the Afghans must do the heavy lifting.  Otherwise we are just another occupying force.

Tom Cotton (U.S. Senator, Arkansas) feels that we should have jumped to the final solution.  He must mean a surge, a large invading force.  A problem with this is that locals aren't participating plus our military has been at war for 15 yrs with surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan (one by Obama).

I agreed with the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan no matter how it came out.   We had to do something after 9/11. Iraq was diffenent and it put us in a quagmire of nation building.  As H.R. Haldeman said (by memory), "When the toothpaste gets out of the tube, it is very difficult to put it back in again."  What a mess!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

GUNS, GUNS, GUNS - AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN

I really have said all I have to say on guns* and hunting** before.

First there was the murder of two African Americans by police (in St. Paul, MN, and New Orleans, LA) and then the murder of five police officers in Dallas, TX.  But while the news media stopped reporting on everything else to dwell on these murders, two bailiffs in Michigan were murdered and, in another community, several in Bristol, TN along with an average of 25-30 gun murders a day in the U.S.  So the drum beat of murders continues.  The saturation coverage by the news media on certain mass murders might be worth it if it led to some sort of action, but no.  Even a mild gun law that will supposedly be voted on in the House keeps being put off.

I'm indebted to the Daily Kos for publishing the following piece.  Though the reference title is long, it works.

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt thought that cherry-picking some mass killings and saying “radical Islam” would be enough to undo any argument in favor of stronger gun laws and devastate his Democratic challenger, Jason Kander. Not so much. Kander had this response to Blunt’s accusation that “Despite Ft. Hood, Boston & Orlando,@JasonKander won’t acknowledge the root of threats we face: radical Islam

The argument about semantics is a stupid one—Republicans running around screaming “SAY RADICAL ISLAM” while the reality is that, between 2001 and 2013, 3,380 Americans were killed by terrorism while 406,496 were killed by guns—but Blunt shouldn’t have wanted any part of this argument. Does he really believe that the “R” beside his name makes him the winner any time terrorism is invoked? And does Blunt really want to give Kander a chance to highlight his time in Afghanistan in comparison to Blunt’s three Vietnam-era draft deferments? Way to give Kander an opening there, genius.*

* http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2015/06/guns-and-illegal-terrorists-in-america.html
http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2016/01/death-and-injuries-by-guns-in-us.html;
http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2016/01/us-has-most-of-everything-including.html
** http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2014/04/prey-animals-and-predator-animals.html
*** http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/6/21/1540931/-Sen-Roy-Blunt-gets-a-lesson-in-why-he-should-think-before-you-tweet?detail=email&link_id=3&can_id=af3794f2758d0c72ac0763afb2350d28&source=email-church-whose-pastor-praised-orlando-shootings-is-being-asked-to-leave-by-landlord&email_referrer=church-whose-pastor-praised-orlando-shootings-is-being-asked-to-leave-by-landlord&email_subject=church-whose-pastor-praised-orlando-shootings-is-being-asked-to-leave-by-landlord