The State of the Union

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The election of Donald Trump to the highest post in the land leaves me wondering whether the states can remain united.  There is so little to unite Alabama and Oregon for example. Or Mississippi and Massachusetts.

The United States has grown so large that democracy apparently doesn’t work any longer.

Each state is a country unto itself with different demographics and different values.

Dividing North America laterally was the first error. Geographically, California, Oregon and Washington state, for example, have so much more in common with British Colombia than with Montana or Wyoming. And Montana and Wyoming have so much more in common with Alberta and Manitoba than with California.

But what’s done is done. There is no chance that Canadian provinces will join American states (or vice versa).

But there’s a real possibility that the American states have outgrown the union. California surely could stand as a separate country. And Texas has been straining at the bit for years to get out of the union.

While I doubt that the states will withdraw from the federation, I wonder whether the federal government will become much weaker and states rights will grow much stronger.

I expect the Tenth Amendment to be invoked far more than it has been in the past.

The implications are ominous. Decades of civil rights progress could be undone, for example. But with a white supremacist as Trump’s chief adviser, that’s frighteningly likely, anyway.

In the recent elections, America’s rustic tail wagged its urban dog. I don’t see powerhouses like California putting up with that kind of thing forever.

More on states’ rights

 

Curing America’s Sickness

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If this election has done nothing else, it has exposed America’s deep-rooted sickness. And perhaps in the long run, that will turn out to be a blessing. If the status quo had been maintained, the sickness might have festered beneath the surface and grown even more morbid – perhaps even fatal.

Now that Trump has won and the “deplorables” are celebrating their victory with racist and religious assaults across the country, nobody can deny that this is a very sick nation.

And recognizing the sickness is the first step to curing it.

The cure will be elusive of course. How do you fix a sickness of the soul?

President Obama, ever hopeful. thought there was “no blue America, no red America, just the United States of America.” I am sure he knows better now. Hillary insisted we would be “stronger together.” But when Americans get together, they don’t seek compromise, they fight.

It seems to me that our side has to win in order to implement any useful reforms. A tie just won’t do the trick.

Our side has lost this round. Irrefutably.

If we truly are the good guys, then the bad guys are in charge.

And if we are right, then the bad guys will make such a mess of things that the nation will see them for what they are and throw them out.

That has to happen for real reform to be possible. And when it does, I hope we won’t be duped by notions of compromise and “working together.” When it happens, it must be our way or the highway.

You don’t cure a sickness with half a dose of medicine.

More on sick America

 

Make Way for the Robots

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Sofia, an artificially intelligent robot, speaks with Ben Goertzel, AI researcher (left) and Mike Butcher (right), from TechCrunch, at this week’s Web Summit in Lisbon.

As America grapples with perceived problems from the past, the problems of the future loom ever closer. And I wonder whether anyone is paying attention.

It seems, for example, that Donald Trump’s victory was partly fueled by out-of-work factory employees and coal miners. He promised to bring back their jobs.

But, as my brother Bill observed yesterday, any factory jobs that get brought back will likely be done by robots.

It really doesn’t matter whether widgets get made in China or the US. It won’t be humans making those widgets anyway.

(And as for coal, why would anyone bother to dig up the stuff when natural gas is cheap and abundant?)

The media seems blissfully unaware of the extent of the global technological revolution, but every once in a while, some enterprising reporter provides a glimpse of what’s ahead for us.

I just read an article like that on the Inc. web site. Writer Will Yacowicz reports from the Web Summit in Lisbon that:

Right now, artificially intelligent robots are part of the workforce, from hotel butlers to factory workers.

And he says “this is just the beginning.”

Yacowicz quotes Ben Goertzel, one of the summit speakers as predicting that:

Intelligent robots in human-like forms will surpass human intelligence and help free the human race of work. They will also start fixing problems like hunger, poverty and even help humans beat death by curing us of all disease. Artificially intelligent robots will help usher in a new utopian era never before seen in the history of the human race,

According to this expert:

As super-human intelligent AIs become one billion-times smarter than humans, they will help us solve the world’s biggest problems. Resources will be plentiful for all humans, work will be unnecessary and we will be forced to accept a universal basic income. All the status hierarchies will disappear and humans will be free from work and be able to move on up to a more meaningful existence.

To illustrate their point, the summit experts introduced Sofia (pictured above), a human-looking robot with superior artificial intelligence.

The experts at the summit didn’t mention those out-of-work factory employees in the Midwest or the coal miners in places like West Virginia and Kentucky.

And they didn’t discuss global trade agreements and the allegedly job stealing illegal immigrants who haunt Trump’s nightmares.

I suppose it will be up to those “super-human intelligent” robots to figure out what to do about such pesky problems. It certainly is no job for Donald Trump and his ilk.

Perhaps we should elect Sofia as our next President.

Read Yacowicz’s article

More on the new robots

 

Time to Prepare for 2020

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If you’ve missed my blogs this past week and wondered where I was, I was in the hospital. Bleeding ulcer. If you’ve been there, you know. If you haven’t, trust me, you don’t want to know. Messy. Scary. Altogether not nice.

And look what you-all did while I was incapacitated!

It’s a sad situation when a guy can’t take a few sick days without the world getting into such serious trouble.

I know, I know, it wasn’t you. It was those rustics with straw in their hair, the good ole boys and gals who want to bring back the Fifties.

But I can promise them the Fifties ain’t what they’ll get. Mamie Eisenhower wasn’t a nude model from Slovenia. Ike wasn’t a casino owner with unsavory pals in Russia and even more unsavory pals in the Gambino Crime Family.

The rustics think Trump is going to “drain the swamp” in Washington. But Trump is a creature from a much nastier swamp.

His prime motivation is money, and he doesn’t care what he has to do to get it. So hold on to your wallets, folks!

If the world lucks out, he’ll be so busy looting the Treasury and appointing Gambino Family members to his cabinet that he won’t get around to triggering a nuclear Holocaust.

And his four-year term will end without bringing on the end of the world.

Americans should be organizing now for that day, assembling a political machine designed to make sure Trump gets four years and no more. That should be our number one priority.

My personal preference for the leader of this movement is Elizabeth Warren. But you might prefer Bernie. Either would be a good choice.

The point is there’s no time to waste. It will take at least four years to assemble a political machine mighty enough to topple the evil network backed by international organized crime, white supremacists and other agencies of the Devil.

So get busy folks! Time’s a-wastin’.

Trump and the Gambino Family

More on Trump and the mob

Trump’s Russian pals

 

Comey’s Bombshell is a Dud

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To anyone with a grain of sense, Hillary’s latest email “scandal” is absurd. This wretched Republican ploy to save Trump at the last minute is so obvious that I doubt any voters but  diehard Trump supporters will pay attention to it.

james-comeyDuring my newspaper days, I was always met with silence from law enforcement officers when I grilled them about “an ongoing investigation.” And I understood that solving a crime was more important than writing about it.

So isn’t this “an ongoing investigation”? So why is James Comey (above, right) running his mouth about it a few days before the election?

And what an “investigation”!

Huma Abedin (above with Hillary) borrowed Anthony Weiner’s laptop. And the FBI found her emails on it while investigating alleged inappropriate contact between Weiner (below, right) and a teenaged girl.

anthony-weinerBig deal. It’s not against the law to borrow your husband’s computer, is it? And it’s not against the law to send and receive work-related emails on it?

What else could the FBI be investigating? According to an AP report:

From previous reporting, it is known that the emails have nothing to do with Clinton, her campaign, the Clinton Foundation, the Russian hacks, the State Department, and any emails she sent or received.

Comey has already gone through thousands of emails from Hillary’s server, and found no cause for criminal charges of any kind. Comey explained in announcing the result of the investigation that,  although Hillary had used her computer to handle a few documents considered “classified,” there was no intent to harm the country.

So does he think Huma’s emails will show that Hillary was deliberately trying to hurt America?

If you believe that, you must also believe that Michelle Obama is a man and her two daughters were adopted from Morocco. And that Barack was born in Kenya. And all the other lurid fantasies concocted by the right-wing media.

The person who is likely to hurt America is the Republican nominee. He is in Putin’s pocket, for one thing. And he’s a loose cannon for another.

It doesn’t even take a grain of sense to see that.

More on the “scandal”

 

Freezing in a Warming World

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Brace yourself for a flurry from the climate change deniers this winter. According to a recently released study, parts of North America are in for bitter cold. And you know the scoffers will use the freezing weather to mock those of us alarmed by the warming of the world.

They don’t understand how climate change works. I guess they don’t want to understand.

I’ll try to explain it anyway.

The coming deep freeze is due to the weakening of the polar vortex, a mass of icy air swirling around the North Pole. As the globe warms, the polar cap melts, and the polar vortex gets weaker.

This weakening has caused a shifting of the vortex, resulting in warmer winters for Europe but colder winters for North America. Expect the worst of the freeze in February and March and expect the cold weather to come farther south than usual.

When the cold winds blow and some climate-change skeptic starts taunting you, tell him climate change doesn’t warm the whole world in a uniform way. The weather is more complex than that.

Martin Chipperfield, a professor at the University of Leeds and co-author of the study, explains it this way:

Climate change can lead to extremes; it’s not like a regular change, everyone to the same extent at all times and places. Despite the overall warming, you can get in places like the Northeast US extreme cold events.

The Arctic ice is melting even when we are shivering. One reason is Arctic amplification, which occurs as melting ice and snow are replaced by dark blue water and land. If your skeptical  friend finds that hard to grasp, ask him if he knows dark colors absorb heat faster than light colors. Ice and snow are white, see? Water and land are dark.

So the Arctic warms a lot more quickly than some other parts of the world.

Surely your skeptical friend should be able to understand that.

More on the study

 

Scams are a Major Industry

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Is it just me, or do you get those phone calls from various faraway places warning you that your computer is messed up? The person on the phone – who claims to be a “Windows Technical Department” employee – wants you to let them control your computer remotely so they can show you all the horrors in your error logs. Then they try to talk you into paying them several hundred dollars to set things right.

I’ve been getting calls like that for months – no years. And I have hung up without saying anything, yelled insults at the phone, and so on. To no avail. The calls keep coming. Now, I tell them I don’t have a computer.

But that hasn’t stopped the calls.

I wonder how many people are employed in scams like this?

It seems scamming has become a top industry in America. (In Jamaica, too. Remember the infamous lottery scam, where a Jamaican voice announces you’ve won a million dollars and a Mercedes – or something similar?)

I get all kinds of suspicious calls. Sometimes, nobody’s there when I answer. And I understand those calls are from a computer validating my number for a mailing list or collecting some other information to use in scamming me.

By phone and by email, the offers pour in.

Sometimes I’ve won a vacation for two. Or a free medical alert system. Or free home security installation. Sometimes they want to pay off my mortgage, or pay my funeral expenses.

I hang up of course. And I delete those emails I get offering me free stuff or advising me to update my information on some web site. I figure they want me to reveal my Social Security number and other information so they can steal my identity.

I used to get emails from Nigeria offering me millions to help someone get money out of that country illegally, but those seem to have ended. I never answered any of them. As President Nixon famously said, I am not a crook.

And I don’t want to earn big money at home. I don’t want to become a mystery shopper. I don’t want a government grant to remodel our house.

If I’ve earned one thing in my 82 years on earth, it’s that there’s no free lunch. Whatever it is, I’ll end up with a bill.

But, even without me, the industry seems to be thriving.

Somebody must be paying the scammers, and somebody must be falling for the scams to keep them going for so many years.

I guess P. T. Barnum was right when he observed that a sucker is born every minute.

Here’s a list of popular scams.

 

Fixing Obamacare

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When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law six years ago, it was a historic achievement, but it was based on a bargain that has not been kept.

President Obama did not have the support in Congress for a government-run health care system. Even some of his own Democrats opposed that proposal. So he got what he could – a deal with the health insurance and pharmaceutical giants.

The quid pro quo was more customers for health insurers in exchange for the insurance companies’ cooperation. He also anticipated that drug companies would adopt responsible pricing policies.

Clearly, the bargain has been broken. Some big insurance companies have not supported the state exchanges. Some drug prices are anything but responsible.

And that is a major reason for rising enrollment costs.

Of course it wasn’t just the health insurance giants and Big Pharma that sabotaged Obamacare. Republicans – members of Congress, governors and legislatures – overwhelmingly rejected it.

Yet, despite the rabid opposition in red states and in Congress, the law has provided health insurance coverage to some 20 million people, many with preexisting issues, who were not previously covered.

But there’s work to be done. Minda Wilson, author of “Urgent Care, Ten Cures for America’s Ailing Health Care System,” sums up the  situation this way:

With the Affordable Care Act in its current state, the working poor are better off but hospitals lose; doctors lose and the Middle Class really loses. And, you guessed it, Big Pharma and big insurance are the big winners.

And the President conceded when the law was passed:

This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction.

To me, the ultimate goal should be expansion of Medicare to include all Americans, And the private insurers could be given an opportunity to compete against – or participate in – the new system (as they do with Medicare Advantage).

But I can only imagine the fierce opposition any such plan would provoke among Republicans.

Ever the realist, Hillary Clinton details on her web site proposals to “fix” Obamacare. But even for modest reforms, she will need support in Congress.

For the sake of all Americans – healthy and sick – we can only hope the voters give her that support by sending Democrats to the House and Senate.

Hillary’s proposals

More on fixing Obamacare

More on the insurance giants  

More on Minda Wilson’s book

The law and Big Pharma

 

Yes!!! The Women are Voting!

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Sandra and I just voted. Early voting in our part of Florida started yesterday. There was quite a crowd at the Polk County government complex on Parker Street, and I noticed something encouraging. There were a lot of women.

Old women, young women, middle-aged women, handicapped women, some barely able to drag themselves to the polls.

One woman wore a T-shirt with the message “In Memory of When I Cared.” Obviously, she still cares enough to vote even if she cares about nothing else.

I can only guess who these women voted for. And my guess is it was not Donald Trump. Yes, I know some of the older married women might be Trump supporters – or just voted for Trump to please their husbands. But I bet they were a small minority.

Trump made a fatal error when he teed off America’s women. They don’t just get mad, they get even.

It wasn’t just the tape of Trump boasting how he kissed and groped women at will. It wasn’t just the dozen women who came forward to refute his claim that he didn’t really do what he confessed on the tape, that it was just “locker room talk.”

It wasn’t just his way of ranking women from one to ten, based on their attractiveness to him.

It wasn’t just his habit of calling women “fat pigs” and “dogs,”  “disgusting” and “slobs.”

It wasn’t just his crass reference to his own daughter.  And it wasn’t just calling Hillary “such a nasty woman” in their final debate.

It was all of the above.

As Elizabeth Warren said recently:

I’ve got news for you, Donald Trump. Women have had it with guys like you. ..

Get this, Donald: Nasty women are tough, nasty women are smart, and nasty women vote…. We nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.

Judging from the crowd at the polling station this morning, Ms. Warren hit the nail on the head.

And if there’s one thing that disqualifies Trump from ever being President, it’s his bad judgment in making women turn nasty.  As a married man – a much-married man –  he should have known how dumb that is.

Click for Warren’s speech.

More on women coting early

 

A “Progressive” No More?

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I used to think of myself as a Progressive. I think the rich should help the poor, the strong should help the weak, the young should help the old, the law should protect us all equally…

I am totally in favor of a government-run health care system. I think utilities, insurance, criminal justice, the post office – all essential services – should never be entrusted to private interests.

I believe in cooperatives and profit sharing, trade unions and a government savings bank…

I think all nations should try to work together in harmony and mutual good will to create a peaceful and prosperous world. I abhor war.

I am convinced that government has a role to play in our lives but not in our bedrooms. People of all religions, all types of sexual orientation and all ethnic backgrounds are equal in my eyes and deserve equal protection, equal opportunity and an equal right to “the pursuit of happiness.”

But I do not expect to impose my views on everybody else.

And apparently that’s where I part company with the people who call themselves “progressives” today.

According to one writer, “progressives” are piqued by leaked emails accusing Hillary of calling them  “puritanical,” “pompous,” “naive,” “radical” and “dumb.”  They plan to make her presidency “a living hell.”

That’s my cue to exit the “progressive” ranks.

Goodbye MoveOn, good-bye all the other “movements” that pester me for money and, in return, promise to change society to my liking.

It seems you are too dumb to do that.

You don’t change people’s minds by making their lives hell. You don’t win arguments by intimidation and force. Ranting and badgering might make you feel better, but it only drives other folks away.

Arguments are won by persuasion. Societies are changed by setting a good example.

As some unheralded philosopher noted a long time ago:

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

And democracy can work only through compromise. In a government “by the people,” you cannot reasonably expect everybody else to agree with you all the time. That’s just not going to happen

Hillary is aware of this. And she knows she has to give a little to get a little. She gets things done that way. Your way just makes people mad at you, and they will oppose you even more stubbornly.

Read the article.