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The New Moderate’s 2015 Vigilance List

January 9, 2015

What do we moderates have to worry about? More than ever, unfortunately. The extremists with the loudest voices are currently battling it out to see which of them hijacks the communal bus. Both sides have been grabbing at the steering wheel, and they’ll drive us over the nearest cliff unless we moderates can raise our voices and seize that wheel.

I’ve been updating the Vigilance List each year to reflect our current jitters. Some items may have moved up or down the rankings or dropped off entirely; others are still glaring at us, unimproved and unrelenting. If you’ve read these lists before, you’ll notice a couple of ominous newcomers, too. This year’s list has grown from 16 items to 19. After all, 2014 was a pretty ominous year, and 2015 is already off to a rough start.

Anyway, if you have the inner fortitude, brace yourself and read our latest list of concerns, in numerical order — complete with last year’s ranking for comparison. It’s a personal list, of course, but I hope it’s an instructive one. And bear in mind that most of these items should be worrisome to you even if you’re not a moderate.

1. Terrorism. (Formerly “Militant Islam,” #14 last year) Yes, militant Islam is still a dire threat to civilization, and I don’t intend to conceal that fact. But it occurred to me this past year that terrorism takes a multitude of forms, and that it’s now a more destructive force than anything else on this list. Terrorists come in all shapes, sizes and colors: we saw that a rogue regime like North Korea could, if given the opportunity, could wreak widespread havoc via the Internet. We saw psychotic lone-wolf terrorists and groups of fanatical terrorists take hostages and slaughter innocent citizens. Terrorists can target prominent individuals who have offended their delicate sensibilities; witness the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Drug cartels like the ones in Latin America commit mass murder and go unpunished. And of course, the military branch of worldwide Islam is more militant than ever, spreading terror across Syria and northern Iraq, chopping off heads and threatening to establish a new caliphate. Let’s face it: we now live in what future historians will surely call the Age of Terror. Trend: Picking up momentum as I write this. Remedy: Intensive propaganda to stop terrorists from gathering young recruits. Zero tolerance for any terrorist group or individual, no matter how sympathetic their motives may appear to some misguided souls.  And probably most potent of all: the outrage generated by the deadly acts of the terrorists themselves, especially when their over-the-top atrocities shock anyone with a shred of human decency. I was hoping that the appalling school massacre in Pakistan would turn the tide of sentiment against terror, even among Islamists. Perhaps it awakened several million souls to the carnage committed in the name of the Prophet, even if tens of millions more still cheer for their team.

2. Racial animosity. (Last year: #4) I used to refer to it as “racial tension,” but key events during the past year have boosted it to a higher and more ominous pitch. The killing of “unarmed black teenager” (almost a cliché by now) Michael Brown unleashed a months-long orgy of racial invective unlike anything I’ve seen since the late 1960s. Mainstream news coverage didn’t help; CNN fueled the flames with its incessant one-sided coverage, and the Internet blazed with even more extremist rhetoric from nutjobs on both sides. Here’s the rub: it was easy to get the impression that young black males are the exclusive victims of white cops, when in fact black cops are more likely than white cops (per capita) to kill black suspects. Surprised? And blacks aren’t the only ones being gunned down. The same week that Michael Brown met his maker, a 20-year-old white youth was fatally shot by a cop in Utah. The difference (aside from the glaring disparity in coverage)? Michael Brown most likely assaulted the officer who shot him; the white kid in Utah was wearing headphones and didn’t hear the policeman’s order to stop. And yet the latter killing was deemed less newsworthy than the former, which generated at least a thousand times more outrage. Yes, more black youths than white youths are shot by police, but more black youths than white youths commit violent crime, and a greater percentage of them resist arrest. The reality, according to statistics, is that whites are about 14 times more likely to be killed by a black person than vice versa. As an embattled moderate, I’m afraid I reached my limit as I had to read about the “genocide” perpetrated against young black males by the white establishment. Please. If you want to hear about a real genocide, talk to an Armenian.  Trend: Just simmering now until the next high-profile white-on-black killing (and they’re all high profile, of course). Remedy: Beware of those who cherry-pick events to push their agenda; this is how false narratives are born (see #5). Any discussion of race in America must be a two-way street from now on. Whites can no longer be expected to simply shut up and take the heat, and left-leaning black intellectuals need to stop constructing elaborate defenses of their often virulent animosity toward whites. That said, cops need to be trained to engage more constructively with black communities and use lethal force only as a last resort (see #17).

3. Plutocracy. (Last year: #2) I’ve said it before, and unfortunately I’ll have to say it again: the United States is a nominally democratic republic currently ruled by a small, self-entitled, self-perpetuating elite based in Wall Street and K Street (home to Washington’s lobbyist community). The Supreme Court’s inexcusable Citizens United decision (sorry, money is NOT a form of speech!) gave powerful corporations and plutocrats carte blanche to elect and bribe their favorite politicians. The U.S. Congress today is a sorry farce, a collection of overambitious hacks bought and paid for by big-money interests at both ends of the political spectrum. Trend: Approaching a stranglehold. Remedy: Decisive action in the form of a new Constitutional amendment to drive money out of American politics once and for all. If that fails, concerned Americans need to call for a new Constitutional Convention. (Yes, it’s legal). Think of it as Revolution Lite. Here’s a cause that can unite righteous liberals and conservatives in newfound fellowship. Let’s give it a shot.

4. Factionalism. (Last year: #1) Our own deeply divided government is a culprit, of course; I can’t recall a time when we had a more fractious, partisan, obstructionist mentality pervading Congress and even the Supreme Court.  But increasingly the discord is being driven by our mass media — and especially the countless “amen corners” on the Internet. Now it’s possible for partisans to read only the cherry-picked news and opinion that reinforces and inflames their own prejudices, and the rabid message board commentary following each piece fuels even more extreme extremism with war-whoops and huzzahs. Of course, the most outrageously distorted opinions generally attract the most “likes.” Trend: Still surging. Too many politically engaged Americans have grown deaf to any argument that contradicts the received wisdom (see #5). Remedy: We need more outspoken moderates in politics and the media — moderates with the power to provoke as well as reconcile our hidebound partisans. And of course, we also need concerned moderate citizens to help stop the madness. Finally, we need to focus on causes everyone can embrace — like driving money out of politics (see #3).

5. Sacred narratives. (New this year.) During the prolonged fallout from the Michael Brown shooting, it dawned on me that the partisans among us — even the nonreligious partisans — cherish their sacred narratives with a fervor bordering on religious fanaticism. These narratives are inviolable and impervious to the intrusion of mere facts. For example, it didn’t matter that Brown most likely assaulted officer Darren Wilson before he was gunned down. No, all that mattered was that an “unarmed black teenager” was killed by a white cop. Narrative intact. Anyone who dares to contradict the narrative is denounced as an infidel or worse. Black activists and their apologists, radical feminists, tea partiers, socialists, dogmatic “trickle-down” capitalists — all of them lean upon their faith-based narratives like the zealots they are.  Trend: Emerging as the prevailing means of public discourse, unfortunately. Remedy: Confront the narrative-weavers with simple facts. If that doesn’t work, build your own narrative based on observable truth, and try to spread it around.

6. Political correctness. (Last year: #16) A great leap upward this year. More than ever, it became evident that we now risk losing friends and jobs for daring to state unfashionable beliefs in public. The raw sensitivities of humorless special-interest “communities” are stifling our freedom of speech — even our freedom of thought. (“Gee, all my friends believe X, so I must be evil for believing Y.”) Trend: On the rise as special-interest groups increasingly dominate the conversation. Remedy: Dare to speak freely but without malice. If you can’t afford to speak freely, don’t be intimidated into shedding your private opinions.

7. Potential class warfare. (Last year: #6) Are we turning into a nation of lords and serfs? The old American class system with its nearly invisible boundaries is splitting into more clearly defined upper and lower castes as mid-status jobs continue to trickle away. Downward mobility is already becoming a way of life for most of us, thanks to corporate non-hiring and the various schemes used by “big money” to siphon wealth upward. It used to be, not too long ago, that the typical CEO earned 12 to 20 times as much as the average worker; now the ratio is more like 300 to 1, and nobody is doing anything about it.  Trend: Still simmering, with the potential to reach a full boil. Remedy: The banishing of big-money interests from government (see #3), along with federally-imposed financial reforms that would restore the more equitable society of the mid-to-late 20th century: greater regulation of Wall Street and higher (but not punitive) taxes on the rich, plus elimination of most tax shelters and loopholes. And once again, creation of quality jobs for Americans by the increasingly global corporate establishment.

8. The nonexistent “moderate culture.” (New this year) Think about it: if you lean left, you can read your Daily Kos, watch Jon Stewart, take part in demonstrations for your pet causes, shop at the local co-op, join an artists’ collective and sip California wines in the company of your posh lefty friends. If you lean right, you can watch Fox News, rage against Obama on a dittohead message board, buy the latest tome by Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly, move to the suburbs and enjoy the annual Super Bowl party with your Republican friends. Where do moderates go for fun, spiritual uplift and the company of like-minded cronies? Practically nowhere. And yet there are so many of us; it defies belief that we’re social and intellectual outcasts. Not only does it defy belief, but in an increasingly polarized society, it’s now essential for those of us in the middle to turn our barren no-man’s-land into an attractive haven for legions of reasonable folks like us. What would a moderate culture look like? It’s hard to say, but it can’t be any sillier than the cultures of the left and right.Trend: Nothing happening. Other than a few stubbornly moderate websites, the middle appears to be a vast vacuum. Even moderately priced cars (Oldsmobile, Pontiac) and moderately priced stores (Sears, Penney’s) are dead or dying as we speak. Formerly moderate CNN apparently had to start skewing left to keep its ratings from sliding down the chute. Moderate magazines? Forget it. Remedy: As moderates, we need to do more than simply react against the extremes. We know what we’re against, but what are we for? Fairness, common sense, a bias toward objective facts rather than hidebound narratives? Fine. Now let’s build a culture around those principles.

9. The “Great Demographic Shift.” (Last year: #7) It ain’t Ward Cleaver’s America any more. People of color now account for more than 50 percent of U.S. births. This shift is more than cosmetic; while many blacks and Latinos are finding their way into the middle class, many more of them simply aren’t. School dropout rates and community social problems will doom a hefty percentage of these new babies to poverty. At the other end of the age spectrum, Americans are living longer than ever and will require decades of Social Security and subsidized medical care to get by (especially since the business establishment hires virtually nobody over 50). How will a shrinking middle class support all these needy Americans and still provide enough funds to maintain our infrastructure? Trend: An unstoppable train. Remedy: Anything I suggest would sound like eugenics, so I’d simply encourage middle-class and wealthy Americans to procreate more freely. (Hey, it’s fun!) But I’d also recommend higher taxes on the rich (they’re practically at historic lows) and drastic cuts in foreign aid and military spending to open up resources for urgent domestic needs.

10. Environmental destruction. (Last year: #11) I saw an alarming statistic this past year: since 1970, the world has lost one-half of its animal population (nonhuman animals, that is — and insects appear to be doing just fine). Americans tend to overlook the ongoing destruction of remote wildlife habitats because most of it is taking place far from our back yards. Developing tropical nations like Indonesia and Brazil account for much of the destruction as they convert forest to farmland. East Asian nations like China, Japan and Thailand must be held accountable for the wanton poaching of critically endangered wildlife. And all rapidly developing nations are sending more greenhouse gases into the already overheated atmosphere. Finally, as more Third World nations aspire to middle-class status, they’ll be fighting us for use of the Earth’s limited resources. Eventually we’ll realize that we’ve ransacked a wondrous planet, but by then it will be too late to do anything about it. (And we’re not equipped to start colonizing distant planets just yet.) Trend: Increasing, with no end in sight. Remedy: We need to work with other governments toward establishing and enforcing sensible environmental regulations, because the Earth belongs to all of us. Poachers deserve to be shot on sight, and for God’s sake, it’s time for prominent Asian scientists to perform and publish experiments demonstrating the worthlessness of folk medicines derived from endangered creatures.

11. Perpetual low-grade recession. (Last year: #3). Yes, this one has dropped from #1 to #3 and now all the way down to double digits, and I’ve re-dubbed it a “low-grade” recession. Not that our economy has been rebounding with much vigor. The wealth isn’t spreading, the good jobs aren’t opening up, and I’ve simply come to accept our current doldrums as the “new normal.” Meanwhile, corporations are still exporting jobs with impunity and too many Americans are sinking deeper into debt and dejection. At least the stock market has been chugging forward, but that’s small comfort to the growing underclass who can’t afford stocks — and an untimely blip of bad news could send everything crashing again. Companies today focus more on beating the next quarterly forecast than on the needs of their own people. At this point we might just be witnessing the American future: prosperity for the few, unending financial woes for everyone else. Trend: Unemployment is down, but quality employment isn’t up. Uncertainty and lowered expectations have robbed the American economy of its vigor. Remedy: More hiring of Americans by corporations currently sitting atop piles of cash… NOW, not later. Fear not, capitalists: give enough Americans decent jobs, and the money will trickle back up in the form of healthy consumer spending.

12. “Community”-based allegiance. (Last year: #10) It used to be that nearly all Americans identified as Americans, plain and simple. Yes, we came from a multitude of backgrounds, and we honored our ancestors, but our allegiance to the Stars and Stripes trumped everything else. It also used to be that a community was the place where you lived. You made your home in your community and enjoyed the cozy feeling of belonging there. No longer: now we’ve splintered into a motley assemblage of special-identity “communities” based on race, politics, gender, religion and sexual orientation. We identify primarily with our group and its interests, which are generally one-sided, frequently narcissistic and increasingly oblivious to the fact that all of us are Americans. We need to call out this phenomenon for what it is: primitive tribalism masquerading as cutting-edge identity politics. Trend: Not going away. Remedy: An invasion from space would bring us together in a hurry, but short of that, we simply need to think more about our common humanity and values. Favor the uniters, not the dividers.

13. The “disruptive” side of the Internet. (Last year: #9) Not only are Web giants like Amazon driving whole industries to extinction, but compulsive hackers are distributing copyrighted properties, stealing personal information and taking it upon themselves to release government secrets. (What if a hacker had been able to release our D-Day plans back in 1944?) Now rogue governments like North Korea are getting into the act, which means that terrorists might not be far behind. On top of that, we have to deal with the Orwellian Big Brotherism of Internet entities that know far too much about us. That’s not to say we’d be better off without the Internet (What would become of The New Moderate?), but I see an emerging culture of disruption, chaos and intrusiveness that needs to be tamed. Trend: Picking up momentum almost as rapidly as the technology behind it; the only reason I’ve demoted it is that we have so many more pressing issues on our plate this year. Remedy: We need to spend more time in the real world: shopping at actual stores, visiting friends and fighting for an honest government that won’t provoke mischief by self-appointed whistleblowers. Finally, a word to the wise: back up your data!

14. Cultural degeneracy. (Last year: #17) When did culture become an exercise in pushing the proverbial envelope — and how much farther can they push it? Movies, TV, pop music, video games, high art and everyday behavior have combined to forge a decadent culture that worships all the most loathsome and idiotic ideals. Do I believe in having fun? Absolutely. (This isn’t The New Puritan, after all.) But we also need to restore respect and affection for the nobler virtues, or we’ll crumble, as the Romans did, from internal and external assaults that we’re too weak to withstand. Do I sound like an alarmist? You bet. Trend: Still spreading like a virus, especially as mainstream pop culture increasingly celebrates our nastiest instincts. Remedy: Beats me. Sometimes I think Western civilization at its apex was simply too demanding and rarefied for our species to maintain for any length of time. We’re slowly reverting to our simian roots, which may be lamentable but probably suits our natures. Still, if you have standards, don’t surrender them!

15. The “screw the other guy” mentality. (Last year: #5) We’re looking at an essentially (though not exclusively) American character flaw, and it ain’t pretty. We’re so obsessed with success, and so terrified of losing, that — for many of us, at least — it’s no longer enough to succeed; others must be crushed. Examples: short-selling investors who love sticking it to the faithful “bag-holders.” Latter-day Scrooges who expect minimum-wage workers to be content with a life of poverty. Penny stock peddlers who ride a wave of euphoria every time they swindle a hapless client. And yes, politicians and their staffers, so intoxicated by their own power that they go out of their way to thwart and humiliate less powerful rivals. This is bullying, plain and simple, and the same ugliness has gone rampant in online culture. Trend: Still a pervasive problem, but not worth the “top 5” billing I gave it last year. Remedy: A healthy dose of Judeo-Christian morality or, lacking that, a swift kick in the pants. We probably need more aggressive social and legal measures for punishing bullies and cheats, though we need to draw the line when it comes to sexual harassment charges against 6-year-olds.

16. Illegal immigrants. (Last year: #15) The mass incursion of undocumented Hispanic immigrants through our southern border appears to have slowed to a relative trickle, but the question remains: what happens to the 10-20 million illegals who have already settled here? Given the disparity in birth rates between the native-born and Hispanic immigrant populations, the U.S. could increasingly take on the attributes of a Latin American nation. That means a less-educated populace and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, with the added element of cultural friction between Anglos and Latinos. (On the plus side, at least we might get into the salubrious habit of taking siestas.) Trend: The number of new illegal immigrants has declined, but their population within the U.S. continues to grow at a rapid clip. And we still have no clear-cut policy for dealing with them. Remedy: Make the U.S. less appealing as a destination for illegal immigration. And, as President Obama has proclaimed (though he shouldn’t have done so by fiat), provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegals who have behaved blamelessly and who express a desire for higher education.

17. Police brutality. (New this year.) Sure, cops have a dangerous job, and they have to deal with society’s low-lifes on a daily basis. They put their own lives on the line, and in the wake of the much-publicized shootings of 2014, they make tempting targets for deranged cop-haters. Any cop with an inner-city beat is instinctively primed for life-or-death confrontations, and the prevailing “no snitching” culture makes their job even more difficult. But (and it’s a big “but”) they also need to be seen as a positive force in their communities. There are too many trigger-happy cops who use lethal force to stop suspects who simply resist arrest. Too many cops who routinely harass ordinary ghetto-dwellers for “walking while black.” Too many needless clubbings and chokeholds. When there’s a disturbance, they swoop in like an army of occupation. This isn’t the sort of behavior that builds trust. Trend: Ratcheting up due to increased hostility on both sides. Remedy: Police need to engage themselves more deeply with their communities… get to know the locals as individuals if they can… be ever-vigilant but not aggressive… define themselves as protectors rather than hired thugs. If all goes well, the residents of these neighborhoods might open up to their local cops instead of shutting them out, and that would be a good thing for everyone.

18. The federal deficit. (Last year: #13) Yes, it’s always there… but nothing new or alarming popped up in the past year. Still, nobody is doing anything about the underlying problem: the government is spending more than it’s taking in. (Greece, anybody?) Where will the money come from when we’re already in hock up to our national armpits? Trend: Not going away. Remedy: Here’s a start: slash military spending and foreign aid. Dramatically. The government would also be wise to start trimming those plush federal pensions, beginning with members of the House and Senate. The IRS needs to busy itself collecting a fair share of taxes from huge corporations and the super-rich. No loopholes. Stop state-sponsored corporate welfare in the form of bailouts and subsidies. No compromises.

19. Perpetual war and other foreign entanglements. (Last year: #14) Our futile war in godforsaken Afghanistan is finally a closed book. But have we learned our lesson? Can we ever again justify risking American lives in dead-end conflicts? Could an insurgent ISIS draw us into yet another Middle East bloodbath? We still haven’t learned that guerrilla fighters never surrender; they have no infrastructure to bomb and no capital to occupy, so we’d have to gun them down to the last man. We don’t want to be isolationist, but the United States simply can’t control and fine-tune all world events to its specifications. Trend: Easing up, but without any underlying shift in American foreign policy. Remedy: A foreign policy that shuns Neocon interventionism for rational vigilance, with an occasional drone strike to keep our enemies off balance.

That’s my list for 2015, and it should be more than enough to keep us all knotted up with anxiety for the next year. Feel free to take issue with any of my choices and/or add your own, of course. I’d like to hear from you.

Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate.

102 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2015 5:43 pm

    we think alike.

  2. Ron P permalink
    January 10, 2015 12:56 am

    Rick, I think you have nailed it again. Just a few comments
    Terrorism and making changes through propaganda with younger individuals: That is a long term possible solution as propaganda takes time. Most young Muslim men did not become radicalized over a short period. It took years of education from a young age to get them to act as young adults.
    Racial Animosity: We need new black leaders like MLK and the retirement of the Sharpton’s before something good will begin to happen.
    Plutocracy. I would accept your position on limiting money in politics as long as all money is limited, For-profit, Not-for-profit, corporations, unions, civic organizations etc all included. No exceptions. Unions should not be allowed to buy elections at any level just like corporations.
    Factionalism: You say we need more moderates in politics. I say we need more moderates to vote. Maybe then we would get more Joe Manchins and Susan Collins, moderate lefts and moderate rights in congress.
    Political Class Warfare: Bringing the higher income earners closer to the middle class won’t happen. Companies are earning more and CEO’s income is based on that income due to productivity. When middle income and lower income jobs increase in cost, productivity and mechanization take the jobs. Wait until the minimum wage increases to over $10.00 and you might begin seeing 10 people working at McDonalds and not 25. You can place import taxes on cheap Chinese crap to stop some of the outsourcing, but that will not fix the productivity problem.
    The “Great Demographic Shift: Congress has to face the facts and fix the entitlement programs.
    Illegal immigrants: Congress needs a complete rewrite of the immigration laws, not minor fixes like in the late 90’s. Base it on needs and not how many people can come in each year and how many from each foreign country. Limits creates the illegals coming in. If someone from Cuba can get out of Cuba, fine, get rid of the dry foot wet foot idiotic law! If we need 200,000 agriculture workers, then let 200K come in from Latin America. The law was written in the early 1900’s to limit the number of Irish, Italians, Germans, etc and wass not based on need.
    Police brutality: I think if you look you can find many examples where community policing has reduced racial tension. Maybe getting rid of the Sharptons (another reason) would also help.
    The federal deficit: How about a balanced budget amendment and a Zero Based Budget, not the “spend $10M this year, add 5% growth for the next 10 years”. “Reduce the rate of growth and congress cuts the budget fallacy” used by those reporting special interest.
    Perpetual war and other foreign entanglements: If we cut our waste out of our budget and cut foreign aid to countries like Iraq that can sell oil to fund their budget, then we might have money to provide military hardware and intelligence to countries like Ukraine. They can protect themselves with the right equipment and intelligence.

    By the way, where are the “moderate” websites you reference above. This is the only one I have found where one can make a comment and not be taken to the woodshed by other commenters (for the most part). Here, the comments are made on the article or subject, not those making a reply.

    • January 12, 2015 1:56 pm

      Good critique, Ron. The only point with which I’d really disagree is the runaway income disparity that has become commonplace since the Reagan era. It’s moving us toward a society with an entrenched aristocracy. We’re looking at a perfect storm of low taxes on the rich, a network of loopholes and other chicanery to protect big money, undue corporate influence in government, ridiculously high interest rates on credit (combined with ridiculously low interest on savings), and a winner-take-all free-market mentality that rewards a tiny segment of the population while depriving everyone else. Not a recipe for general prosperity and happiness. I’d simply turn back the clock to the 1960s… We had a thriving middle class, rich people were still rolling in wealth, but not as obscenely as today, and hey — the music was far superior!

      • Ron P permalink
        January 12, 2015 6:23 pm

        Rick, I am not so sure I want to go back to the 60’s. Blacks were still called the “N” word and still did not have equal rights in many areas, we were locked in a war that no one supported and blamed many in our military, the middle class did not live anywhere close to the level it lives today because middle class was one income earner per family and women were no where close to where they are today in business and jobs. But middle class did not have the high debt load from living well above its head like today, so maybe that is a plus.

        The problem today is the fact no one will sit down and discuss problems and come up with solutions. Yes we have entitlement problems, but what happens when an elected official even comments about changes. They are crucified. Yes, we need tax law changes that eliminate unfair loopholes, but what happens when an elected official talks of changes. They get crucified. Even the fact one may not sign a pledge to not raise taxes puts them out on a limb. When we talk of money in elections, one only hears about “corporations” buying elections. Where is the “unions” buying elections when they pour millions into those? We hear Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren railing against Wall Street, but who is one of the largest supporters over the years for the Clinton dynasty? It is Wall Street and investment brokers.

        Then we have a situations where everyone knows we have huge problems socially. We have education problems in this country. Just yesterday an official with North Carolina State university was talking about Japanese Companies moving to the US and bringing company officials to manage the plants. They have worked with various universities across the country to bring Saturday school to those locations where Japanese families relocate so their kids are not behind in school after a couple years here when they return to Japan. Why isn’t our government, business leaders, state and local leaders and communities working together to fix our education problems instead of arguing about common core or some other top down “fix” that no one knows if it will work or not? We have roads and bridges that need to be fixed, so the answer is raise gas taxes. But no one is asking why we are spending gas tax revenues on bike paths, transportation museums and other things that have nothing to do with roads. Liberals are called out for wanting to raise taxes and conservatives are called out for letting our infrastructure crumble. How about talking about using the money for what it is designed to do and then come up with a plan to raise the amount needed.

        Any problem has a solution, but some are harder than others. Right now the hardest problem we have is getting moderates to vote and become interested in politics today and making it harder for the far left and far right to control the agendas and create inaction when action is needed.

  3. Priscilla permalink
    January 10, 2015 10:45 am

    Excellent as always, Rick. I could quibble with the description and placement of a number of the items on your list (and, in fact, I definitely will!), but you never disappoint when it comes to rationally identifying the overarching themes that currently define our difficult times (i often struggle with the question of whether all times are “difficult,” or whether we really are going to hell in a handbasket right now……)

    And, Ron, kudos to you too, for a very pithy review of – almost – the entire list, smartly hitting on some of the shakier reasoning behind a few of Rick’s arguments, such as the class warfare canard that big government is the way to rein in greedy corporate interests. This has been a recurring argument of Rick’s since the beginning of TNM….that somehow, someway, a smooth-talking populist, with a liberal, anti-business stance, will take office and help to establish a sweeping regulatory state that imposes all sorts of arbitrary guidelines that prevent corporations from being able to make normal business decisions, and ……..oh, wait. That hasn’t worked either. Well, maybe Liz Warren will get it right.

    I am sure that the comments on this list will ultimately number into the hundreds, and I’ll end up posting quite a few of them myself, so I’ll just make one more observation in this one:

    The excruciating hypocrisy of #6 political correctness has been glaring this week, after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. I have read, and listened to liberals declare “Je Suis Charlie” all over social media, in a show of “solidarity” with the magazine that suffered the attack.

    Many of these folks are the very same “free speech” advocates that demanded that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Condoleeza Rice, and even Bill Maher be disinvited from speaking at American Universities – once the marketplace of ideas and free speech – because they have digressed from the leftist PC orthodoxy and must be censored. When campus activists start using hashtags like “#Je Suis Ayaan” or “#Let Condi speak,” I might take their commitment to free speech more seriously,

    • January 12, 2015 2:10 pm

      Thanks, Priscilla… though I’m surprised by the relative paucity of comments so far. (Maybe I need to stop using words like “paucity.”) Of course we’ll disagree abut the “class war” thing… But believe me, I don’t want companies to be regulated to death, either. I think a temporary hard left turn would help point us back to the center again: a thorough revision of our tax code, for example… plus a single law limiting the currently huge spread between interest rates on savings and credit… and an end to corporate welfare. These really are abnormalities that we’ve grown much too comfortable with during the past few decades.
      As for our rampant PC culture, we’re in total agreement there. Brandeis’ treatment of Hirsi Ali was utterly disgraceful — and yet they’re apparently fine with a black student leader spouting the most vile diatribes against whites.

  4. Bill Maggard permalink
    January 12, 2015 6:58 am

    Rick – I truly enjoy your articles. As I turn 70 next year, I have tried to figure out why our country has turned to extremism to express points of view. Being a moderate does not lend itself to the news media except I do watch PBS News occasionally to try and get dose of the full story. If I really get depressed about our political situation, I watch “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”. I think the biggest obstacle for our nation is the loss of common sense. I keep hoping and praying that common sense will again rise to forefront and we are able to once again enjoy a society that looks for solutions to problems based on common sense. Thanks again for a dose of common sense.
    Bill Maggard

  5. January 12, 2015 2:20 pm

    Bill: You’re welcome, and thank you for the appreciation. Yes, we seem to have lost our common sense as a nation, and it used to be one of our most notable strengths. That and decency, as personified by Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith.” Of course, in a culture that celebrates INdecency in all its forms, it’ll be hard to reverse course. But we can try.

  6. Bill Maggard permalink
    January 13, 2015 10:10 am

    Ron: The one thing that stood out in your reply was the lack of moderates voting. I don’t know the answer to why this happens but i have a few ideas. Some of us are afraid to identify ourselves as moderates as it seems we must be to the right or left of center because many of our friends and associates prescribe to those extreme points of view. If you offer a different point of view looking for solutions to problems you get shouted down or labeled a liberal or conservative based on their political allegiances. It is extremely difficult or impossible to engage in intelligent conversations about the challenges our country faces because we have lost the ability to listen. I think Steven Covey said it best; seek first to understand then to be understood. It is refreshing to read your inputs and points of view without being chastised with the vial comments you see on internet. I have never posted comments on articles I read as it just invites the trolls, as they are called, to spew their irrational comments and points of view. Sorry for the rambling. Great reply Ron. Thanks

    • Ron P permalink
      January 13, 2015 1:42 pm

      Bill you bring up a good point “If you offer a different point of view looking for solutions to problems you get shouted down” and “Some of us are afraid to identify ourselves as moderates “. This seems to me to be somewhat like what happened in Germany when the Nazi’s took over or what is happening in Muslim nations where the radical elements are taking over. I can understand the issue of not speaking up, but I find it hard to understand the 45-55% of the people, many moderates, that do not care and do not vote.

      And it seems like those that stay quite and/or do not vote are destined to perish.

      • Bill Maggard permalink
        January 13, 2015 1:44 pm

        Ron I agree. What is the biggest travesty are the ones that don’t vote yet complain the loudest.

  7. Priscilla permalink
    January 13, 2015 11:21 am

    Rick, I suppose I am perplexed by your suggestion that a “hard left” turn would be good for the country or for the economy, as if, somehow, hard leftists would temporarily institute their confiscatory taxation and central planning and then, after everything is all even-steven, would go back to allowing free enterprise and equality of opportunity. When has that ever happened?

    I suppose Francois Hollande’s 75% millionaire’s tax could be considered temporary, since it was always due to expire after 2 years, but virtually everyone – even Hollande! – considers that hard left turn to have be disastrous for the French economy, in that it severely damaged France’s competitiveness and ability to attract top businesses and business leaders. Not to mention that the supposed huge tax revenue that was to have been taken from the rich to give to non-working poor turned out to be relatively paltry, due to the flight of businesses and investment from France to countries with a freer, more open economy. So, the hard left turn didn’t work, will take years, if not longer, to turn back, the poor got neither their extra welfare nor additional job prospects, and the result is………? Maybe you’re right about France turning back to the center, but I would posit that the center going to be pretty damn hard to get to from a socialist welfare platform.

    On the other hand, I am not at all opposed to certain liberal ideas for opening up greater economic success and opportunity, nor am I entirely opposed to the government investing in science and technology, such as renewable energy resources.

    But, like Ron, I question why it is that our leaders flat-out reject the idea of working with the opposition to create tax reform, entitlement reform, and job growth plans that actually work. For example, the recent Keystone XL has been subjected to endless and very thorough government studies, all of which have shown minimal environmental impact and the potential for tremendous long-term job creation (no, not “permanent” jobs, but what construction projects are “permanent,”really?)

    Is there really no room for discussion and compromise on an important energy and jobs related bill like this? Is the issue so cut-an-dried that the President can simply announce that, no matter what the will of the people or their representatives, he will veto any move toward approving this project?

    You often express your desire to see government sponsored projects of the type that occurred under the Roosevelt administration…..yet, if we had an extreme environmental lobby of the kind that we have now, screeching “Deniers!!” everytime there is a large-scale project of this type, none of those public works projects would ever have been built.

    Maybe it really is all about what Bill has said – we have lost the ability to listen, and are left with just the two sides trying to drown each other out. God, I hope not.

    • January 13, 2015 12:30 pm

      Don’t get me wrong, Priscilla: when I say we need to take a “hard left,” I don’t mean we should set up a centrally planned socialist bureaucracy; I’d simply like to see us roll back some of the special privileges and exemptions that have favored the rich at the expense of everyone else during the Second Gilded Age. Good grief, I can’t understand how any fair-minded person could argue that millionaires — especially those who get paid in stock — should be treated to a lower income tax rate than their secretaries. I’d never advocate confiscatory tax rates (more than 50%), but you have to admit that we’ve been giving these folks a free ride for too long. Ditto for corporations like GE that not only pay no income tax, but are actually subsidized (in part) by the people. Ditto for the banks that have survived only because of a timely infusion of tax money — yet still feel entitled to charge up to 30% interest on credt while they pay out a meager 1% on money they borrow from the people. Our economy is a plutocrat’s paradise right now; we simply need to restore a more “fair and balanced” economy that gives the 99% a shot at “the American Dream” ( whatever that is, or was). It should be clear by now that wealth doesn’t trickle down; otherwise we’d all be thriving, wouldn’t we? No, put money in the hands of consumers and it will trickle up to benefit business. (Federal job programs after the crash of 2008 would have done just that.) we weren’t a socialist country when we were growing up; there’s no reason to think we’d be socialist if we steered back in that direction from our “winner take all” economy.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 13, 2015 1:04 pm

        Rick, you and I are in total agreement that we are living in a plutocrat’s paradise right now.

        Where we disagree is to the extent that it is capitalism that has caused this sorry state of affairs, and to what degree left-wing politics has helped to institutionalize the inequities and corruption that keep it going. Let us, for the moment, stipulate that, for many decades/centuries, the Republican Party has been beholden to Big Business. I stipulate that, because the Big Lie is that the Democrat Party is NOT. Your example of GE paying zero corporate taxes is illustrative. Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE has been, and is considered one of Obama’s most powerful and influential business advisors. After being appointed by the president to head up a jobs council, GE moved its profitable x-ray division from Wisconsin to China. “Smart business decision” said Jeffrey Immelt, Obama donor and supporter.

        And, lest you think that I am picking on Obama over say, a purer example of left-wing populism such as Liz Warren…..I would say that Warren is a prime example of a corporate welfare supporter as a strong supporter of the Ex-Im Bank, the jewel in the crown of crony-capitialism. If there is any reason to believe that Warren supports the middle-class with anything but empty rhetoric, I think you have it right there.

        And don’t get ME wrong either….I am not defending the GOP as being any better. What I AM saying is that we have to stop listening to the empty words of self-serving politicians, and start looking at who and what they support. I see no positive benefit coming from a 50% tax rate on millionaires, but I have no problem with government and business leaders debating this in a rational way, to see if a) it would work and b) if there are better alternatives.

        And then, maybe our media and academic communities could report on the debate factually, and without name-calling and scare tactics, and……, who am I kidding, lol?

      • January 13, 2015 2:27 pm

        Rick, I have to agree with you in many of your comments about unfair taxation and special privileges for corporations. And this is where we need leadership to come together and sit down and discuss changes to our revenue and spending laws and stop shouting at each other in the media to make brownie points with their supporters.

        The tax laws do need to be thrown out and completely rewritten. Maybe the more well off would be willing to have special deductions and rates eliminated if their income was taxed at a sensible rate. How about eliminating the tax on foreign income for American companies that is brought back to this country. Would that not allow for more investment in the country and also increase dividends (that would eventually be taxed as income)?

        As for the comment about banks getting bailed out while charging 30% interest on credit cards, you made the comment earlier that living in the 60’s might be better. Well, most people in the 60’s did not live over their income and did not live on credit cards. Why should we support those that overspend. If they want HD TV’s, $100.00 a month Direct TV packages, smart device connections that cost what a weeks food bill cost, new cars that cost more than the yearly average income of the american worker and all the other “wants” and then they have to go in debt on a credit card to pay for all these things, then they deserve 30% interest. I’m sorry, but I have no compassion for most anyone that has a credit card bill and is paying high interest rates. I do believe that companies should not be bailed out by the government and if banks fail, then there should be was for the bank customers to be protected, but not the banks themselves.

        We can not find solutions to problems because each and every elected official has special interest. We need our infrastructure funded. That would lead to more jobs. So the way to do that is higher taxes. ROADBLOCK!!! REDFLAG!!! Few GOP members are going to vote for that. But they will vote for special interest. (See link)
        Only about 60% of gas tax money goes to roads and bridges.

        How about spending money for what it is raised for, stop earmarks and special interest, revise the tax code and then maybe the middle class will get some advantage of the economy that is benefiting the more wealthy in the country, while not taxing the wealthy inappropriately. But that will take people sitting down, talking and compromising position. Will never happen!!!!

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 14, 2015 5:57 pm

      Ron, I would agree with most of what you’ve said….your point about people living above their means is a particularly good one. We have a neighbor who is a powerful executive (not CEO, but CFO) of a giant multinational corporation. Our neighborhood is a modest one, not poor, by any means, but not even the “best” neighborhood in our relatively middle-class town. This guy’s net worth is somewhere in the $20M range, making his family quite the neighborhood outliers in terms of income. People always ask me why I think they still live in their beautiful, but certainly not extravagant, home and not in a much larger place in a more prestigious zip code.

      Granted, these folks are living “below” their means, I suppose, since they could afford so much more real estate than they have, but it’s a sad commentary on modern culture that so many people I talk to think that there is something “weird” about them because they stay put, and buy cars (granted, expensive cars) that they drive for 10-12 years or more.

      I guess when you come down to it, in many ways we have the politicians that we deserve – we elected them, after all. I just wish that the average American voter was as doggedly determined to understand the issues and the facts as they are to villify their fellow citizens who have different points of view.

      • Ron P permalink
        January 15, 2015 12:38 am

        And these people will be living comfortably well into their senior years living anywhere they want to live because they have lived like no one else in their income bracket previously. And they most likely will leave something to charity, their kids and others to make their lives better when they pass. Hopefully, if they have children, they have the same values as the parents and not the values that the majority of people have today. Our son-in-law married our daughter that is debt adverse and until he married her, he was following the same path as his parents. New cars, new trucks, new boats, new whatever’s whenever they wanted them. And heavy debt load on basic middle income earnings. Then his dad began having health problems and missing work and they had a real bad time making ends meet. He witnessed his parents problems and decided living out of debt was not as weird as his wife (our daughter) required. So the only debt they have now is their house. And now they can afford stuff and take vacations their friends can’t because they saved for it and pay cash.

        And I have heard people say, Spend now, I’ll worry about it later or better yet, spend now because “I usually get a 5% raise every year and that 5% will pay for what I buy now”.

        Or, I want to go to “ubber expensive college” and I will worry about “ubber huge student debt” later, even though “I could go to XYZ state university for a fraction of the cost” with no debt later.

        When people who live in debt and spend money raise children and give them everything they ask for, their children are likely to follow the path of the parents. The one thing I think there needs to be a law against is credit card companies sending college kids easy credit. get them hooked and they will spend the rest of their lives.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 18, 2015 11:40 am

        Aaaaand….right on target, the President has announced that, in his SOTU, he will propose “raising taxes on the rich”. NOT flattening the rate for all, NOT closing the loopholes that allow the rich to get away with paying far less than they should, NOT reducing the regulatory and tax burden on middle-class small businesses. (Oh, he also will propose a huge increase on estate taxes, so my neighbor best start spending his money now, since investing and saving it to benefit his children may be a non-starter!)

        Is this just pure politics, or ideological refusal to believe that there could be other, far more effective ways to help the poor and middle class than redistribution?

        I honestly don’t get it….and by that, I mean I don’t get the hardened mindset of the progressive left to try anything other than the same old unworkable, ineffective tax increases.

      • Ron P permalink
        January 18, 2015 12:52 pm

        Priscilla, it is my thinking that Obama knows his proposals will go no where. I believe he is using this to further strengthen the wedge that separates the moderate left voters into his camp, just like the GOP uses repeal of Obamacare to strengthen the wedge that separates the moderate right voter into their camp. Neither has any chance of being signed into law.

        My thinking: Nothing is going to happen in the next two years as both parties are posturing for the presidential election. Keystone will be passed and vetoed without enough override votes, tax reform will become a wedge issue with anything vetoed that does not raise taxes on the rich, nothing will happen with debt and deficit reduction as this will impact someones sacred cow and nothing will happen of substance with any trade agreements since that may make one party or the other look good. You will see a few fringe laws passed that help veterans, animals and special interest groups, but nothing that helps the majority of voters.

        I don’t get the hardened mindset of the progressive left the same as you, but I also do not get the hardened mindset of the far right either. But then that comes from someone that agreed with solutions offered by the Simpson Bowles commission and we see how much support that received by both camps.

        (I wonder what happened to all the others that use to comment on Ricks articles)

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 18, 2015 2:50 pm

        I don’t know 😦 Hopefully, just temporary. Roby said he would not come back because we were too hard on Obama, Dave was taking heavy fire on the “cop-hating thing”, and maybe just left for more friendly evirons, JB is out there somewhere ….and probably a bunch others that are just tired of talking politics in general.

        I think that people who like to opine and toss ideas around are becoming a distinct minority, particularly on the internet….on a moderate right blog that I moderated for years (and by moderated, I mean I deleted the comments that were vile, defamatory or off-topic), the comments section has become increasing dominated by Obama and Boehner -hating conservatives……and most of them hate Boehner worse than they do Obama because, in their minds, he is a compromising, establishmentarian traitor to their cause. Obama is merely the enemy of it.

        I’ve said this before, but it seems as if these days, political opponents are granted no respect. If someone disagrees with you, even if s/he puts that disagreement out there respectfully, the usual response, particularly online, is to slam him/her as a stupid/evil/ignorant/extreme person. So, it’s understandable that reasonable people are reluctant to get into the fever swamp of online debate. Here a TNM, though, things have never reached that point (or if they have, Rick has quickly put an end to it), so I don’t know if it is the reason why things have been quiet lately……..

      • January 21, 2015 3:45 pm

        Priscilla: I’ve come to the conclusion that the most vigorous online debates are fueled by extremist opinions, and of course that’s not what this site is about. I still haven’t unlocked the secret of luring silent moderates into the fray, even with my habit of merrily attacking both extremes at once.

        Dave and “jbastiat” were our resident provocateurs, and their distinctly immoderate opinions helped fuel many long debates. It’s a shame Roby and PatRiot are both MIA, too. Oh well.

        I still have enough inner fire to keep plugging away here in the hope of making a dent in public opinion. I’ll probably have to post more often, with shorter pieces that aren’t as carefully crafted. (I think I’ve proven to myself that I can write decent prose.) I’ll probably also have to start submitting opinion pieces to established publications in the hope of drawing a wider audience.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 21, 2015 11:25 pm

        I agree that shorter pieces, more frequently, would encourage more commentary, Rick. It seems that there are a significant bunch who are willing to weigh in with an opinion, but aren’t ready or willing to become part of an ongoing discussion/debate…and that’s fine. It takes a village 😉

      • January 22, 2015 1:57 am

        Priscilla: Now that Dave, Roby and jbastiat have gone inactive, I don’t have to wait for those 500-comment debates to play out. I’d rather see fewer comments but more commentators.

      • Bill Maggard permalink
        January 23, 2015 8:15 am

        Rick I hope to be a regular contributor and even more important, a good listener. You can only learn when you listen. In reading comments from Priscilla and Ron, they make great points and even better suggestions. Our economy is in dire straits and we will never be able to pay off our debt to China or any other world lender. I like simple analogies and the one that somewhat explains our economic situation can be traced to the credit card. The credit care has allowed us to live outside our means. We have forgot that we must save in order to purchase the goods we need and sometimes want. Before we know it we too have lost the means to pay off our credit cards and therefore live from paycheck to paycheck. What do we do when we get into this situation we just get another credit card and the cycle starts all over again. Is that any different than what our government has done. We as a nation have lived above our means for so long and now we must try and figure out a way to live within our means and that is called a balanced budget. That is why I think the term common sense has gone into hiding somewhere and cannot be found anywhere in our national government. Thanks for engaging my thoughts for I hope I haven’t gone off the deep end here.

      • Ron P permalink
        January 23, 2015 1:39 pm

        Bill, it is unfortunate that so many people have been raised by parents that lived on credit and now that they are adults they too are living on credit. Just as the depression era parents raised kids to be mostly prudent with their money, the shift in the 60’s began and over the next 20+ years, credit card companies convinced people how wonderful it was to buy on credit and wait “until next year” to pay the first payment on your bill. Then, just as now, government began pushing and has begun again to push lenders to finance homes to people that can not afford a home like they are trying to purchase. “Mom and Dad had a three bedroom, 3000 sq ft home on a 1/4 acre lot, so I am sure not going to buy a starter home and work up to that” This type of thinking happens with everything from clothing to cars.

        And there is maybe a handful of politicians that think like you do about the deficit and debt. President Obama and his minions keep pushing for higher taxes and more spending. Republicans continue to press the social issues like abortion and limitations on gay marriage. This is repeated multiple times and multiple times all these proposals are ignored by congress, voted down or will be vetoed. We all know the definition of insanity and those in Washington D.C. seem to be the largest gathering of individuals with this affliction.

        Maybe someday the light will come on and change will happen. I doubt that it will without a major disaster in the economy. I thought maybe 2008 would have changed things, but it just seems to have made things in Washington worse.

  8. Ron P permalink
    January 19, 2015 2:33 pm

    This being Martin Luther Kings birthday, one can look at what MLK stood for, how he approached issues facing the black community and the nation and compare that to what is happening today. (Rick’s #2)

    MLK preached non-violence. In the last 50 years we have seen a dramatic destruction to his movement to bring rights to the black community through non-violent means. Today there are no black leaders, including the President of the United States, that can organize the black community in a non-violent manner like MLK was able to do during the unsettled years of the 60’s

    And now we see Hollywood’s production of Selma that distorts the facts of this movement for the enjoyment of the viewers and to further promote the darker side of the black community. Today we see many that can not trust the government, police or leaders. We see violent reactions to situations like Ferguson and we see blacks chanting about killing cops. Where would MLK stand on this? But in the movie Selma, it depicts President Johnson and MLK at odds with each other and showing a dislike for each other over the Voting Rights Act. This is far from the truth.

    MLK and Johnson, two men from very different social backgrounds, worked together to make the Voting Rights Act pass. Where they had a split in their relationship was later with MLK’s opposition the the Viet Nam war and Johnson’s ill advised support for that war.

    But one must wonder if the story being told today is to help promote the violence that is taking place now and to promote the split in the black and white communities along with the split in government. How does the depiction of two individuals opposing the voting rights act support the uncompromising positions taken by the left and right in America today?

    One can only wonder why Al Sharpton is the voice for the black community while there are thousands of black ministers and community leaders with the same views on violence that MLK held and preached and their voices are never heard today.

  9. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 5:04 pm


    While I share your disdain for those who would impose their beliefs on others by force, the difference between the average progressive and the muslim fundimentalist is merely one of degree.

    You may not insult Islam without risking death.
    You may not insult LBJ without risking the eternal animosity of hollywood.
    The greatest threats to free speech today are from Islamic and progressive fundimentalists.

    But beyond that, it is clear we have botched our foreign policy, yet still the world as a whole is far safer than it was a decade, or a century ago.

    Terrorists do vile things, but beheading a few people, or shooting 14 people in Paris is not the same as wars that killed millions.

    • February 4, 2015 8:55 pm

      OK, I’ve done my projects and I’d like to post a new column soon, so now’s the time to respond to your responses, one at a time. (Wish me luck… or not.)

      Terrorism: We agree on the imposition of beliefs, but liberals don’t go around murdering innocent people (yet). And believe me, young lefties weren’t fond of LBJ back in the day.

      You’re still a cockeyed optimist, bless you. Granted, we haven’t had any recent wars on the scale of the two World Wars, but I wasn’t writing about large-scale warfare; I was writing about attacks on unsuspecting civilians by self-appointed hit squads. Although the death tolls have been smaller to date, the enemy is much harder to defeat because we’re essentially fighting an ideology, not a conventional nation with a capital we can occupy. It’s perpetual low-grade warfare, with no end in sight.

  10. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 5:13 pm

    2. Racial animosity.

    We have had some high profile incidents this year, and we still have problems and a long way to go.

    But once again we must see the world as it is. And again racial issues are LESS significant that ever before. This nation is possibly more of a melting pot than ever in its history.

    For all the conflicts real and fake, for all that we do need to improve and fix, again the world and this nation is a better place than ever before.

    We should strive to do better, but we must not forget what we have accomplished.
    We should not despair that the world is not perfect when we can rejoice over how much it has improved.

    My children are asian. My daughters boyfriend is 1/4 black. Most of the people I work with are not “white”. A substantial portion of the population is racial ambiguous – and no one cares.

    Racism today means you re more likely to get arrested if you commit a crime if you are a poor, male, black teen.
    It does not mean that we are lynching the innocent from every tree.

    We can do better. But we are doing quite well.

    • February 4, 2015 9:07 pm

      We HAD been doing well in this department for several decades, but for some reason the election of the biracial, personable Obama caused a good chunk of conservative white America to push the panic button (and no, it wasn’t just about his “socialist” politics or “Muslim” religion). At the same time, a handful of white-on-black arrests and killings caused blacks and liberals to act as if we were committing genocide. Then there’s the whole “white privilege” trap, which essentially condemns all whites to lifelong guilt. I make a habit of reading the comments sections of leftist and conservative sites, and believe me, the racial rhetoric is poisonous. For a taste of it, check out the comments on two of my own “Issues” topics: Afrocentrism and White People. Whew!

      • February 5, 2015 1:30 pm

        Rick, what part in the racial divide do you think the first issue has on race with the arrest of Professor Gates and Obama becoming involved with a local issue while making a remark that ends with….
        “what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”

        Then add the issue with becoming involved with a local issue in Florida and subsequent local issues in other parts of the country. In addition, the justice department becomes involved with issues, stokes up the flames and then when the fire goes out by itself due to no proof of any wrong doing, they a silent leaving the black community in limbo.

        And finally, add to that the relationship this white house has with Al Sharpton who should be in jail for fraud and tax evasion and his fanning the flames of hatred and one has to question if the white conservatives are really to blame for the racial divide that has occurred over the past 6 years.

  11. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 5:29 pm

    3). Plutocracy
    Why are you surprised that power corrupts ?
    That the more powerful you make government the more corrupt it becomes ?

    Money is not speech, it is a means of facilitating speech, and you may not restrict speech indirectly by making its exercise impossible.
    Worse still there is no pretence of those like your self that wish to restrict the money in politics that you are doing so to silence the views of those you do not like.
    What purpose is served by restricting money beyond silencing the voices of others ?

    Worse still CU was specifically about INDEPENDENT speech.
    Which would you prefer powerful political parties that control precisely candidates and messages ?

    CU means that the AFL-CIO, Sorros, Bloomberg, Steyer can buy their own megaphone and make sure that voices and messages beyond those of the candidates and parties get heard.

    Contrary to your claim CU did not give carte blanche to the powerful to buy politicians.
    It gave all of us carte blanche to put a message besides that offered by either party.

    Regardless, what exactly is it that the rich are buying ?
    Does $1m to Hillary let her build another mansion ?
    No, the only thing that all that money you are afraid of can do is get politicians elected.

    And it has had an effect. After decades where incumbents were over 98% certain of getting re-elected, that is no longer so. Incumbents are losing primaries. General elections are far more competitive than ever before, and incumbents are losing – not most of the time, but far more frequently than before.

    The makeup of congress has swung by more than 100 seats. You might not like the way it has swung, regardless, such swings have been unprecidented.

    I want my political representatives to be afraid that in the next election they may lose my support.

    I want elections that are contests of ideas. Not pro forma events with a known outcome.

    All that money you rant about is getting voters OUTSIDE the political machines to vote.

    • Ron P permalink
      January 28, 2015 12:38 am

      One thing that people do not realize had it not been for John Hancocks money, the resistance in Boston most likely would have never happened. It was his support after the British took his home that the revolution really took off and it was what happened in Boston that engaged the rest of the colonies in the constitutional congresses that declared independence.

      Money has not always been bad for the USA and I doubt it will have much negative impacts in the future. The mentally ill in Washington DC called congress can do much more harm.

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 30, 2015 8:58 am

      Dave, I totally agree with you here…..the rich have always tried to use their money to buy influence. And, as government has become bigger and more powerful, the price of that influence has gone up.

      I sometimes chuckle (ruefully, but what else can you do?) when I see posts on social media about the “greed” of business leaders and corporations. What are these people thinking? Profit is what drives the economy and provides jobs, but these folks seem to feel that, if they can “punish” certain corporations and regulate or tax them out of business, we will all be better off. It’s crazy. These people cheer the government confiscation of millions of acres of land, because they think it is to “protect the environment,” when, in reality, it is to enable the government to choose who will profit from the use of that land. Same folks rail against charter and private schools (as well as the home schooled). Not because there is any evidence that these schools do not perform – quite the opposite – but because they make a profit from performing, thereby sucking precious dollars away from the government run schools and teachers.

      I don’t know that my agreement extends to your optimism over recent election results. Maybe it’s because I live in “Blue America,” but I haven’t yet sensed any real sea change in the public’s willingness to accept the abuse of power and corruption on a grand scale. Voters express their will at the ballot box, and nothing changes. The Constitution is routinely ignored, and our politicians and the media shrug their shoulders. Maybe I’m too impatient?

    • February 4, 2015 9:16 pm

      We agree that complacent incumbents shouldn’t automatically be re-elected to their seats. I disagree that money from rich donors is the solution. The danger here should be obvious to you: rich people will have vastly disproportionate influence in choosing our elected representatives. The result: a step away from truly representative government, a step toward oligarchy. Do you really want a small, elite group determining who gets into office (and then essentially dictating policy)? I’m sure these corrupt practices have been going on for ages, but the Supreme Court is actually enabling them instead of outlawing them. Boo!

  12. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 5:49 pm

    4). Factionalism.

    Again you look are looking at the past through rose colored glasses.

    Were the sixties some tepid example of polite civic equanimity ?

    I seem to remember Kent State, Woodstock, picketting at the white house,
    multiple assassination attempts, several successful.

    I remember Tip ONeil and Reagan shutting down the government twice.
    I remember Gingrich and Clinton doing it too.

    I do think this nation is in the midst of some political change and that change is causing stress and conflict.

    I believe we are seeing the picketts charge of progressivism and we are past the last gasp of social conservatism.

    We are not fighting over whether women can have birth control or abortions, but over whether they can have them free.

    We are not fighting over whether gays can marry, but over who must make their cakes and take their pictures.

    The war on drugs has been lost, it is over, we are just trying to figure out how to withdraw.

    We are not about to enter “libertopia”, but we are likely at the high water mark of the nanny state.

    The new deal and the great society have finally failed, we are just trying to figure out how to unwind them.

    Government has grown ever more powerful over the past few decades, but the information age and technology has expanded our freedoms at the same time – and overall freedom is winning – slowly.

    Thirty five years ago the world looked too dangerous to bring children into it.
    Today my children are on the verge of becoming adults, and I see their future as brighter than my own – exactly what every parent should see.

    • February 4, 2015 11:41 pm

      Again, your optimism is touching, but I just don’t buy your vision. The sixties were the only other period I can remember that was remotely as fractious, but even then it was a case of blacks pushing for civil rights and leftist college students rebelling against the post-WW2 culture of their parents’ generation. We might have had more riots then, but only a small minority of America was really in turmoil. Today we’ve reached such a vast cultural divide that we actually have talk of secession by red states (and liberals encouraging their secession). Two incompatible cultures that, together, represent the majority of Americans: patriotic, gun-loving, lower-middle class Christians on the right, and an alliance between sniffish upper-middle-class liberals and poor “people of color” on the left. Will the twain ever meet?

  13. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 5:56 pm

    5). Sacred Narratives.
    While I share your view of the problem, I see THIS world today as a place where naratives are being destroyed by facts and reality.

    Things are not perfect, but we are getting better – the UVA gang rape farce died – and we did not have to torture and threaten to incarcerate alot of students before that happened.

    Unfortunately the “narative” did great harm to those real victims of real crimes. But we are begining to understand that.

    These sacred naratives are not new – read most anything from the left from the 60’s.
    What is new is that they re not holding up in the face of facts.

    We must do better still, but we should be rejoicing over how far we have come.

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 30, 2015 12:24 am

      While I think that there may be a certain “narrative” fatigue that has set in, and an alternative media that has shone light on cases like the UVA “gang rape,” I’ve got to go with Rick here. There are still millions who fervently believe the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” lie that drives widespread hatred of the police. The Koch brothers are vilified and hated on a visceral level, because they support libertarian and conservative causes and candidates, while George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Warren Buffet (aka He- Who -Most- Benefits-Financially- From- the- Blocking- o-f The- Keystone- XL) are portrayed as humanitarians.

      I think that perhaps you are onto something…maybe a change in the zeitgeist that has supported the sacred narratives. But I don’t know if it’s changing fast enough to avert disaster.

    • February 4, 2015 11:49 pm

      We agree on the existence of these fatuous narratives, but you see them diminishing and (you guessed it) I see them gathering strength. Just this past year, the “teenage black victim,” “war on women,” “Obama as anti-Christ” and “glorious unregulated capitalism” narratives were thriving as never before. I also found it more difficult than ever to poke holes in these narratives without angering the true believers.

      • Priscilla permalink
        February 5, 2015 9:23 am

        I have not seen the Obama-as-anti-christ narrative or the glorious- unregulated- capitalism” in the media, Rick. You been reading fringe right and libertarian blogs, lol?

        The new narrative is “Republicans don’t believe in vaccinating children.” That one I’ve seen everywhere.

      • February 5, 2015 12:06 pm

        You’d be surprised at what I read, Priscilla. 😉 Yes, those two narratives run rampant in the right-o-sphere. The anti-vaxxer movement seems to cross political boundaries — leftish snobs and libertarians as well as ordinary anti-science conservatives.

  14. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 6:01 pm

    6). Political correctness.
    Again I share your perception of a problem but I feel we are at or past a turning point.

    The extreme left thought their time had finally come in 2009, yet we turned the corner so fast, Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts, the GOP led by fiscal conservatives took back the house.

    Each subsequent election has become even shriller with progressive harpies shreiking about bomb throwing, racist, hateful, hating, haters, and it is not working.

    Sorry political correctness is dying. RIP.

    • February 4, 2015 11:54 pm

      You’re correct that political correctness had been fading for a while, but it came roaring back last year. Remember “Check your privilege”? Or the reverential treatment accorded a common street thug like Michael Brown? Or the British schools that had to remove references to pigs in their textbooks? Ugh.

  15. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 6:09 pm

    5). Factionalism.

    Forgot SCOTUS.
    The roberts court has had more unanimous decisions than any in a long time.
    Contrary to media harpies 5-4 decisions are actually rare.

    The court just found 9-0 that reasonable muslim religious practices can not be barred in prison. The current administration has set a record – 13 9:0 decisions against it in a single year – so much for the constitutional law professor as president.

    The court is far less divided than you see, and you should pay attention to the splits – the 5:4 decisions rarely fit the convenient left/right meme.

    The court is horribly inconsistent on our individual rights, getting it wrong as often as right,
    but it is impossible to predict whether the leader of a charge for individual rights will be scalia, alito, Thomas, Sotomeyor, or Kagan, and once in a while Breyer, Ginsburg, roberts and kennedy provide a surprise.

    Regardless, it would be wise to pay attention to what the court actually does. rather than what the harpies in the media report. It would be particularly wise to follow less “blockbuster” decisions, as these tell a better picture of the court as a whole, rather than those decisions in the spotlight.

  16. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 6:28 pm

    7). Class warfare.
    Sorry Rick but you are just plain on the wrong side of this.
    In all of history there has never been a struggle over class that has not ended badly,
    Not the french revolution, not Marx, not Stalin, not Mao, not Allende, Not Castro, not Che, not …..

    Envy is one of the seven deadly sins.

    The poor in the US are the top 1% of the rest of the world.
    And anyone who actually has to rub shoulders with them regularly will grasp that must are doing quite well.

    The left rants about the minimum wage.
    The typical top quintile family has 4 members and 2.5 full time wage earners.
    A bottom quintile family with 2.5 minimum wage earners would be solidly middle class.
    Yet only 2% of workers make minimum wage.

    The problem at the bottom is a lack of jobs, not low wages. The cause of our lack of jobs lies with government.

    Since 2008 this administration has added as many jobs in 6 years as Reagan did in one month. If texas were a seperate country the US would still be in recession, job gains since 2008 would be ZERO.
    Every major segment of employment has gained since 2008 except two.
    The two that government has regulated the most – finance and healthcare have declined.

    Big Business, corporations are doing as well as ever. They have never been the sources of
    big gains or losses. But small business starts are the lowest ever recorded – nearly non existant. Small Business job creation is non existant. Until that turns the economy will stay where it is – limping along.

    And the class warriors – and that would be you, make this worse. Buy this income inequality idiocy, buy Piketty’s retread marxism, and if we are lucky you will bring us more stagnation, and if we are not, you will bring blood.

    If you want to improve standard of living you must produce more value.
    There is no otherway.

    If you are poor or middle class and you expect a better life then you had better be producing more tomorow than yesterday. There is no other route up the ladder for one or for all.

    If you are not delivering more value you should not expect a better life.

    • February 4, 2015 11:59 pm

      Yes, yes… our poor are better off than poor people in undeveloped countries (though not in liberal democracies like those of Scandinavia). But how can you justify the runaway wealth accumulation of this country’s elite over the decades since Reagan, while our middle class is struggling? How can you justify a 15% tax on capital gains while ordinary folks have to pay twice the percentage on hard-earned income? (I make a good chunk of my income from capital gains, and I still think it’s unfair.) There’s no question that we’ve entered a second Gilded age, opportunities are vanishing, and the downwardly mobile 95% have every right to be angry about it.

      • February 5, 2015 12:15 am

        And that is why we need a flat tax, one size fits all, all income taxed the same, not deductions, no exemptions, no nothing. And we can put a floor on the tax that the first amount (example $25,000) is not taxed at all. That allows for the mortgage exemption and charitable giving that many take as deductions, but no one get anything more than the next person. If I make $100,000 in wages or $100,000 in capital gains, I pay the same amount on each one.

        But that will put most all tax preparers out of business and seriously impact most CPA’s, so this will never happen. To many sacred cows that would get gored.

      • Priscilla permalink
        February 5, 2015 9:16 am

        I agree that tax reform should be an urgent priority, for many reasons. The current system is rife with inconsistencies and loopholes, the IRS has become a runaway bureaucracy, used for political purposes and probably corrupt to its core, at least half of the population pays no income tax at all, etc. etc…….

        Like Ron, I favor a flat tax, but agree that going from the byzantine tax structure that we have now to a simple fair one would be a bridge too far. Nevertheless there are some pretty good plans to simplify what we have now (all of them GOP plans, by the way, Rick – for all of the leftist whining about unfairness, all they can ever come up with, as far as I can see, is redistribution). If middle class voters make it clear at the ballot box that this is a priority, I think something can be done.

  17. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 6:40 pm

    8. The non-existant moderate culture.

    You are not looking in the right places. Part of the problem is that you are still really a lefty light. That is not moderate.

    The current 20’s cohort is the most fiscally conservative, socially liberal – aka libertarian since we have recorded such information. They are registered democrats, but they vote as they please and the left – particularly the progressive left should not take them for granted.

    I can publicly identify as a libertarian today, and mostly not be highlighted as some wierdo. Further many many people will come to me and admit they are too.

    This nation is not going libertarian tomorow. But what I would call libertarian lite values are increasingly mainstream.

    The republican Tea Party movement is essentially a big step towards libertarians.
    The power of social conservatives has faded.

    Unless democrats clip the wings of their more extremist wings and take a step right, they could face decades in the wilderness.

    Republicans could easily screw this up – but that does nto matter.
    Whether democrats or republicans are the party to find the more libertarian center to this nation, that is where the center is and is growing.

    And you can not find that growing moderate culture – because you are not a moderate and are looking in the wrong places.

    • January 28, 2015 12:45 am

      Since you bring up the fact that the 20 somethings are more fiscally conservative and socially liberal and registered democrat, how do you think they pick the candidate to vote for.

      Democrats with social values like them but want to tax and spend or Republicans with fiscal positions like them but with social values much more restrictive, such as positions on abortion, gay marriage, drugs, etc.

    • February 5, 2015 12:05 am

      You’re right that there’s an identifiable libertarian culture, too, and that the younger folks seem to be trending in this direction. But you’re still wrong about me. I’m about as hard-wired a moderate as you’ll find anywhere — a compulsive boat-balancer. The reason I sound like a lefty on economic matters is that we’ve been veering dangerously close to plutocracy; it will take a temporary hard left turn to restore the more equitable economy and thriving middle class of the post-WW2 years.

  18. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 6:53 pm

    9). The great demographic shift.
    Again you look at the world and see the wrong things.

    Our demographics are changing. As noted earlier on race – increasingly race does nto matter we are increasingly mixed country. Often we can not identify the race of these we meet on the street and increasingly do not care.

    You have been brainwashed by the left regarding this recession.
    The pattern of recovery in this recession matches very strongly that of the New Deal.
    That should not surprise anyone, as we have repeated most of the same stupid policies.

    In 1980 10% of jobs required licenses – today 30% do.
    How is it you expect people to work out of poverty when you need a license to open a lemonade stand, whiten teeth or braid hair ?

    Recovery will come for middle and working class families when govenrment gets out of the way of entrepeurs and small businesses.

    Elsewhere you rant about plutocrats.
    Well big business is doing fine = why – because big business and big government are natural allies, because all that leftist regulation that you favor does little or no harm to most big business – so long as government continues to errect barriers to entry, increases in cost an overhead are not meaningful. Big Business does not fear govenrment, it fears competion.

    The entire “too big to fail” meme was the greatest political economic idiocy in creation.
    Only one entity is too big to fail. Only one is systemically critical – government.
    And we need to keep that as small and limited as possible so that it does not have much opportunity to fail.

  19. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 7:00 pm

    10. Environmental destruction

    Can you name a single one of these idiotic malthusian memes that has EVER proven true ?

    Go bother to find something out about the US.
    We are in the midst of an environmental crisis.
    The populations of bears, and wolves and raccons, and deers and hawks and eagles and ….
    are skyrocketing.

    Why ? They are learning to live with humans, and because the human suburbs are friendlier to wildlife than 16th century north american forests.

    Further please go study what we have learned about most of these idiotic memes.
    Far, far too often the claims and approaches of green weanies have been destructive rather than constructive. We have learned that “desertification” is not the result of humans – well not in the traditional way, but because we have tried to apply a false mythical view of some primordial state of nature and learned that is destructive.
    Forests and grasslands need to burn periodically or be trampled and destroyed – otherwise they die.

    The worst destruction to animal habitats has not come from human developement, but idiotic human efforts to conserve.

  20. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 7:02 pm

    11. Perpetual low-grade recession.

    What do you expect. We are seeing much the same thing as we had during the depression.
    We are seeing the same thing that happens over and over throughout the world whenever the left gains power.

    You want growth and higher standards of living – get government out of the way.
    That is all you need do.

  21. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 7:08 pm

    12. “Community”-based allegiance

    Again where do you live ? Certainly not on the same planet I do.

    I live in a place Jerry Falwell used to call the “buckle on the bible belt”
    New York City was not this diverse when I was a child.

    Go visit a grocery store. We are less tribal than ever. I live in a religiously conservative town where there are LOTS of openly gay couples – and nobody cares.

    The only group I see that is having serious problems with “tribalism” is the left.

    They are under attack for intolerance – and no group is more racist and intolerant than the american left today, and they are circling the wagons.

    But outside fort Roosevelt the rest of us are doing fine. We get along fine.

  22. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 7:15 pm

    14. Cultural degeneracy.

    You really are not aging well. Even my parents who grew up during the depression did not have this the world is degenerating view of yours.

    Things are changing. My kids spend their time in front of screens.
    But they spend it interacting with other people. They are more connected to people than I ever was. They text, and skype and twitter and facebook, and play communal games.
    My son is “internet dating” a girl his age from 1000 miles away. They are best friends, they commiserate about school and parents, and games, and anime and the play together.

    I can not get my son out of his room, but he has far better relationships with people his age and older, and younger, locally and arround the world. by orders of magnitude than I did.

    Get over it the culture is doing fine.

    • February 5, 2015 4:36 pm

      Sure, we can both cherry-pick the pleasant stuff in contemporary pop culture. But so much of it is simply about pushing the envelope (gangsta rap, brutal video games, sadistic “epic fail” videos, twerking in prime time, exposed schlongs in movies and cable TV, relentless profanity everywhere, Kardashian porn going mainstream). This has been a long process, starting around World War I, but it continues to unfold with no end in sight. Eventually we’ll see pop stars trading intimacies with live animals onstage.

  23. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 9:24 pm

    The “screw the other guy” mentality

    Glad, you grasp this is not nearly the problem you used to believe it was.

    If you use force, if you lie, cheat or steal to get ahead you are a criminal, and should be prosecuted.
    But there is nothing wrong with wanting to get ahead, nor with short selling or any other form of speculation of betting against the grain. All of those are a service not a vice.

    George Sorros made his fortune betting against the bank of england.
    That sounds vile, but it is the bank that was engaged in fraud, trying to pretend its currency was worth more than it was – that defraud someone else.

    The London Whale tried to game the system – and someone else made a fortune betting against him. The Whale was cheating, and those who bet against him made the system honest for all of us.

    Most of those engaged in the tactics you think are wrong, are doing nothing more than forcing everyone else to remain honest.

    Paulson tried to suspend short selling to “save” the financial system in July 2008.
    Did that work ? Who was right ? Who grasped that there was rot in the system ?

    We are better off the sooner that we find out about problems misrepresentations.

    The greatest danger in the economy is when everyone is moving in the same direction.
    Like waves in the bath tub when it is all in sync that is when we get disaster.

    And only government can move the entire market in sync.

    We need more short selling not less. We need more speculation. We need more of those willing to gamble and bet against the system to keep it honest.

    It is not regulators or Dodd Frank that make the economy work.

    It is the knowledge of the participants that if they are not scrupulously honest, that there is always someone out there smarter than they are that will guess what they are up to and take them for everything.

    Short sellers, speculators and the like are the canaries in the mine. Except that canaries die to show us that things are going wrong, while short sellers get rich.

    Good for them and good for us.

  24. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 9:45 pm

    16. Illegal immigrants.

    Still can not grasp how you can buy this nonsense.

    “No Irish need apply”

    The idiotic neanderthals opposing immigration have not changed in 250 years.

    You can find every criticism you have made of the “llegal hispanics” made of jews, irish, poles, italians, chinese.

    There is no difference.

    They will come, and they will make this nation better for it.

    And if you want to keep them out, the best way is to fail. Fail to grow, fail to create new jobs.

    Wow, an influx of immigrants will “increase income inequality”

    All that does is proves the idiocy of the income inequality meme.

    Those illegal immigrants coming here – are they better off ?
    Of course they are – that is a tautology. They would not keep coming if that were not so.
    If there coming some how makes the rich richer – how is that bad ?
    If our food ends up cheaper – how is that bad ?
    What is it that the influx of immigrants does that is bad for us ?

    In the last half of the 19th century the population of the US increased by 50% due solely to immigration. Yet standard of living doubled several times over.
    And this in the midst of what left wing nuts call the “robber baron era”
    Income inequality was high and the nation was growing faster than ever.
    The standard of living of the least well off doubled several times during a single generation.
    And more and more came.

    Contrary to the progressive meme, there is no limit to the jobs that can be created.
    The only limit is that a job can only pay for the value that is produced.

    If the wage of a burger flipper exceeds the value fo a burger flipper – there will be no burger flippers. Every job the same.

    But immigrants can come to this country and do better than in their countries – because they are freer here, because we have more capital to invest to make them more productive, because we have the best infrastucture in the world and because we are the largest market in the world.

    But if you build a fence high enough to keep them out and put machine gun turrets on it and somehow succeed – at best you will see the jobs move tot he other side of the border.

    What you can not have is a business paying more for the cost of labor than the value it produces.

    • February 5, 2015 4:48 pm

      What if the poor and dispossessed of the Third World — say a billion of them — all decided to transplant themselves to the U.S.? It would be unsustainable, wouldn’t it? There must be limits.

      Another problem: We haven’t had such a huge influx of immigrants from a single ethno-linguistic group (i.e., Hispanics) since the English settled on these shores 400 years ago. (Even then, it was a more gradual process that took a few centuries.) Will we all be required to learn Spanish if we want jobs? Will the Hispanic immigrants assimilate, or will they remain a nation within a nation? Will we take on the attributes of a Latin American country, with a small upper class and a vast peasantry? (Too late; it’s already happening.)

      A third problem: They’re ILLEGAL. They’ve short-circuited the immigration process. They don’t pay income tax, but they still enjoy our generous benefits. Whoa, I’m starting to sound like a conservative.

      • February 6, 2015 12:27 am

        Rick, guess I am going to sound like the moderate this time. Yes they are illegal, but we have to identify who they are and if they are “truly illegal”. I define someone that is truly illegal as the person who came here without permission and made that decision themselves. I do not include the children that have grown up as Americans, been educated as American and is more American than our immigrant President who was educated in a foreign country during his formative years. These kids need to have some method to stay here and work toward citizenship since they are American in all respects except a birth certificate.

        In addition, our immigration laws need to be totally rewritten. Not some tweeking like they did in the 80’s. If we need 100K immigrants to work in agriculture, construction or other outside labor jobs and the neighbors to the south will come here and do those jobs, then let in 100,000 of them. If we have a 20K limit, then we are promoting 80K to come here illegally and work those jobs. If we need tech workers, then let in those people to work those jobs. Limits do nothing to stop the influx if there are jobs waiting for those coming to the states. Then the ones found to be here illegally need to be immediately shipped out and if found a second time, put in prison for a specific period of time like they do in any other foreign country.

        Now for the conservative in me. Stop the benefits like giving illegals back tax credits for the past 3 years that is going to cost tax payers billions. If they are illegal, then they should not be qualified to receive a tax credit like Obama wants to give them. (As reported the last couple days on the business networks)

      • February 6, 2015 1:03 am

        Ron: The children of these illegal immigrants are blameless, of course. The question is what to do with their parents. Do we deport them while keeping the children here and splitting the families? That would be cruel. So do we lay out the welcome mat for illegal immigrants who have children here? Ah, that’s the tricky part, and it’s why conservatives refer (somewhat callously) to “anchor babies.” But they have a point: should the act of having a child in the US legitimize illegal immigrants? I honestly don’t have an answer: both options strike me as wrong.

        We definitely need a revamped immigration policy — maybe a temporary guest worker program with time limits. Such a program would be the equivalent of opening a spillway on a dam, as opposed to stopping the flow entirely or destroying the dam.

      • February 6, 2015 3:25 pm

        Rick, I guess I needed to be more informative when I made the comment about children of illegal immigrants. I have no problem sending children of illegals back to their country of birth if those kids are still under the legal age to make decisions for themselves. They are still with parents and guardians.

        The ones I refer to are the ones that have gone through school in the USA and are now over 18. They might still be in college or they may be working (illegally) since they are considered illegals. In these cases, sending the parents back to their country would allow the children to make the decision if they want to stay in the USA or go back with their parents. But these individuals are sure as hell more American than our foreign educated President. Just because you have a USA birth certificate does not make you a “true American”.

        The same holds true for any child born in America (citizen) and the parents are illegal and the child is under 18. The child stays with the parents and when they can make the decision for themselves if they want to return to America (as a citizen since they were born here) then that is their choice. The only exception to this would be where one parent is legal and another illegal. In that case, I think the illegal parent must be given legal status and allowed to stay along with their citizen spouse and citizen child.

        Guess what??? Nothing is going to happen and we will continue to debate this issue for years to come. And for years to come, more illegals will cross the border, have children in America and the debate will continue.

  25. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 9:52 pm

    17. Police brutality.

    At the moment the problems in our policing are being exposed like never before.
    And there are many. We need to address them. And I am ecstatic that they are coming to the fore.

    We need to end the code of silence, the big blue wall, we need a police force that is not above the law, that does not create the law. That is our servants not our masters.
    We need alot of change.

    But we should not be deluded into beleiving that because in an era where everyone walks everywhere with a portable video camera and police actions are increasingly under public scrutiny like nbever before, that because things apear to be getting worse that they actually are.

    Violence – including police violence is way down.

    We have far to go, but we are doing better all the time.

    The police need held accountable, and some changes that we need may be drastic.
    I want the 4th ammendment back. But that fault is as much our prosecutors, legislators and courts as our police.

    Still we must give the police the credit they deserve – neither more nor less.
    Their violence is declining, and our violence is declining.

    Demanding better does not reuire pretending that things are worse than they are.

    • February 5, 2015 7:01 pm

      We agree here, for the most part… but perceptions matter. And police can no longer afford to squander the trust that most Americans used to place in them. By the way, do you have statistics to show that police violence is declining? I know the media fan the flames by publicizing every event now, but I’m genuinely curious.

  26. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 10:06 pm

    18. The federal deficit.

    There is no revenue problem – we are addicted to spending.
    We are addicted at the federal state and local levels.

    The first step in dealing with addiction is grasping we have a problem.
    Yes foreign aide and defense spending needs cut – but that is just a start.
    Deficits are declining at the moment, but the long term trend will bring them back up.
    And you are not solving the problem with cuts to defense and foreign aide.
    The rest of the government is wasteful. But you could eliminate nearly the entire rest of government if you do not address entitlements you re not going to solve the problem.

    The sacred cows of social security and medicare must be addressed.

    The nation – and particularly the left must grasp we have made promises we can not keep.
    That is called lying. That is what the new deal, the great society and now PPACA are, giant lies.

    I would love to see social security and medicare ended. Shift to an entirely private system that would profit each fo us far more and profit the entire economy at the same time.

    I beleive when I worked out the numbers a minimum wage worker putting the same money into the stock market as social security would have over half a million dollars at retirement.
    The average – not the poor, but the average social security recipient collects about 150,000 lifetime. That half a million invested would generate a yearly income equal to the top social security income, and at death would go to their children. Further that investment would provide growth and jobs for the rest of us.

    But it is highly unlikely we are got to throw way social security wholesale.
    But the lest we can do is quit lying to people.
    Quit telling people it is sufficient for a good retirement alone – it is not.
    Tell people that unless they plan on being old and poor, they had better do even more themselves.
    Tell them that social security is not guaranteed – that we are not going to bankrupt the nation to keep some presumed promise. That they will get what can be afforded, and no more, not what they think was promised.

    We need to quit making promises we can not keep. Whether that is social security, medicare, or other “entitlements”.

  27. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 10:12 pm

    18. The federal deficit.
    Just to be clear – you can beleive whatever you wish on corporate taxes or taxes on the rich or …

    But economically they re all disasterous. Read Romer’s work on the negative economic impacts of various taxes.

    Taxes on capital and investment cost the economy $2 for every $1 in revenue.

    If you have any grasp of math you will understand that means Laffer was right and the revenue maximizing tax rate is about 33%.
    And that the economically optimal tax rate is lower still.

    We need to eliminate loopholes and subsidies – but not to raise revenue. But to keep our taxes honest and to get back to making decisions based on what is best for our future not what reduces our taxes the most.

    WE need simple taxes that do not require the IRS.
    The cost of the IRS is greater than the tax revenue from the bottom 60% of tax returns.

    Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things. All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and to support themselves are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.
    Adam Smith

  28. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 10:20 pm

    19. Perpetual war and other foreign entanglements.

    Coming around to a libertarian view on war I see.

    There is a difference between “isolationist” and non-interventionist.

    It is not our job to solve all the internal squables of every nation in the world.

    Our record in doing so has been abysmal. I can not think of one coup we have orchestrated that has turned out well.

    It is one thing to insist that nations can not agress against their neighbors and another to interfere in their internal affairs.

    It is hard to stand by when a nation murders its own people.
    But stepping in has never proven effective.
    Vile regimes must be overthrown from within.
    We can not impose good government on others by force.
    A nation will develop good government when its people are ready. The best we can do is be an example.
    Beyond that we can speak out. But invading other nations is not our job or right.

    We should have gone into Afghanistan, taken out the Taliban and left.
    The government of afghanistan is the business of the afghani’s not us.

    • January 28, 2015 12:58 am

      “It is not our job to solve all the internal squabbles of every nation in the world.”
      “Our record in doing so has been abysmal”

      I can not agree with you more. Although Iraq was not listed as “internal ” issues but was invaded based on false information on WMD’s, one only needs to look at the middle east today to see how the removal of Sadam Hussian destabilized the area allowing for ISIS and other organizations to get a foothold and start causing problems.

      And those problems will only get worse before they get better. It will take someone with masterful skills to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia into an alliance to stop ISIS and the other problem makers in the area. These are the only two stable countries in the area that can flex muscle enough to make things different.

  29. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 10:24 pm

    19. Perpetual war and other foreign entanglements.

    You are more enamored of drone strikes than I.
    I have zero problems reaching into lawless nations to kill those who kill us, but drones let us pretend it is clean and antiseptic.
    I beleive that we are killing something like 27 innocents for every terrorist we get.
    Further we are typically claiming to have killed each 3 times before we actually succeed.

    Drones are not clean weapons of antiseptic assassination.
    They are themselves weapons of terror – which would be fine if the only victims were terrorists.

  30. asmith permalink
    January 27, 2015 10:25 pm

    Some advice from our first president on war and foreign policy.

    • January 28, 2015 8:57 pm

      Dave: I have a freelance project due tomorrow and another one due Friday. I’ll try to respond after I catch my breath.

  31. Priscilla permalink
    January 28, 2015 10:17 pm

    Dave. that is quite the tour de force of replies!

    I won’t try to compete, but I’ll comment. As always, you make excellent points, but seem strangely out-of-touch with history and reality on certain issues. I think it’s a libertarian thing, although conservatives and liberals exhibit it too, just in different ways.

    I guess it’s really an ideological problem. Once one has fully committed to an ideology, it becomes necessary to ignore the facts that do not support it.

    So, for example, you can say that you see your childrens’ ” future as brighter than my own – exactly what every parent should see.”

    A lovely sentiment, totally unsupported by reality. There is less economic freedom and less opportunity today. Maybe things will turn around and maybe they won’t. But, for most middle class and poor families, the future looks more difficult, and probably not as bright.

    • Ron P permalink
      January 29, 2015 12:25 am

      Priscilla, I agree with your comment concerning what may not be a brighter future for children today compared to their parents, but you failed to mention what I believe to be the most impact on that future. The depression era parents and politicians worked to provide their children with a better life. A car in every driveway, a picket fence around the house and all the conveniences one might need to live comfortably. The government operated close to a balanced budget for the most part. And the people paid for what they bought and saved what they could. Then their kids grew up , started out with the one car and smaller home and worked up to two cars in every driveway, a much larger suburban home with much larger lots, color TV’s and all the new things that came along. And along came larger debts to pay off since credit cards became a nice thing to have when cash was short.. That required the beginnings of a two wage earner income to pay for those things. And the government began its march to deficit spending and debt. Then came the last 30 years. That generation did not wait for the smaller home and used car. They had to have the same home their parents had, they had to have two new or very late model cars, they had to have the newest of the new cell phones with $150.00 a month plans, HD TV’s with $100.00 per month TV packages, all the new conveniences that came along which resulted in heavy debt loads, poor credit ratings, subprime mortgages and car loans…etc, etc.. And they were lucky if two incomes came close to their spending habits. And government was right there with them with the excessive spending, entitlement programs that were not adjusted for actuarial studies resulting in excessive deficits and debts. And even though the current deficit is going down, one only has to look at the current entitlement programs and new healthcare programs to see that the children today are the ones that are going to get screwed. They will be paying for their parents greed. We felt a minor affect of this kind of spending habit in 2008. That was just a warning shot.

      And for that reason alone, I see the future of kids in school today to be worse than the current economic conditions that exist today. And that does not even take into account the rapid growth in radial Islamic organizations that will have millions following them if this growth continues for any time.

  32. Priscilla permalink
    January 29, 2015 10:05 am

    Exactly, Ron. Look at the example of the “free community college” proposal that the President put forward in his state of the union speech. This was to be, in part, paid for by eliminating a great tax-free savings program (529 education accounts) created in the mid-90’s.

    So, a “free” entitlement program at the expense of a middle-class savings plan. Of course, until he was forced to backtrack on the elimination of 529’s, Obama was framing this as a “increase taxes on the rich and provide for the needy” redistribution program. Except that the tax increase wouldn’t be on the rich, who pay out of pocket for their kids education, but on the middle class, who have to save mightily for good colleges.

    And the beneficiaries would be the same kids who are already eligible for Pell Grants, which basically pay for 100% of a community college education.

    So, to me, the message is….don’t save, don’t sacrifice, don’t aspire too high, unless you plan to make a fortune, because any amount over a decent living wage is going to be taken from you through taxation. I agree with Dave that America’s poor are rich by the rest of the world’s standards, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for staying poor.

  33. Pat Riot permalink
    February 4, 2015 8:25 am

    Dr. Huxtable…Dr. Huxtable…oh here we go…the 2015 Vigilance List. Good to read Rick’s voice and the intelligent discourse that follows. Good Lord, what a list of present day issues! All those responses from Dave. I’ll have to take a leave of absence from my other activities to respond. Certainly that’s part of the reason there’s a shortage of intelligent, rational discourse these days. Too many busy Americans trained on sound bites, knee-jerk reactions, and pendulum-swing positions instead of thoughtful examination and fine-tuning of understanding. Red State or Blue State. Pro Gun or Anti-Gun. Support the Troops. You’re either with us or against us. Oh those thought-blocking narratives conditioning humans like Pavlov’s dogs. Happy New Year Rick, Priscila, Dave, Ron, Bill M, et al.

    • Priscilla permalink
      February 4, 2015 9:54 am

      Happy New Year to you Pat!

      So, I’m thinking about #1 today, in light of the savage, barbaric killing of the Jordanian pilot and the heavily produced recruiting film that was released, showing his death at the hands of the Islamic State.

      And I don’t understand the point of view that our main problem is just “terrorism” in general, and not Islamic jihad. I am having some difficulty identifying any truly dangerous terroristic threat in our world that is not connected to nihilistic Islam.

      In the military, there is a saying that “the enemy sets the terms of the conflict.” Which basically means that if someone says that they are at war with you, then, basically, you are at war, whether you like it or not. You can choose not to fight, but the war remains until the enemy achieves its goal….or is defeated some other way.

      Is the US in complete denial, or are we using some sort of Jedi mind tricks that I have not picked up on to defeat this enemy?

      • February 4, 2015 3:08 pm

        Priscilla, this “war” is unlike any war we have ever fought before. This war truly spans the world, unlike the other World wars that were limited to specific areas and specific nations. This war is a religious war where we are fighting an ideology with no respect for human life.

        I can not completely relate this war to any others as to this respect, but looking at historical movies and literature it seems to be somewhere close to the respect for life during the Roman empire, the way individuals were treated during the life of Christ and other dynasties that existed throughout the world. This also was a time of religious war compared to those led by dictators like Hitler and Stalin. But even they had little respect for life and governed by fear as does the present day Islamist.

        We can not defeat this enemy alone. It is too large, it is too vast and it is too old a mind set. The best we can do by ourselves is contain it. And in this day and age, containment will take all the energies we have to keep it out of our borders, let alone any other country.

        We also have to understand the differences that make up America and that which makes up the middle east. If our pilot had been killed in this manner, I would hope that every possible arm of the military would have come down on ISIS as we came down on Sadam the first few days of the first Iraqi war. But this was a Jordanian pilot and in Jordan today, there is a great debate taking place between tribes as to what should be done. Should they retaliate or should they back off from fighting ISIS. Please explain to me how we can deal with nations still controlled by tribes and tribal policies. This would be like the united states not being divided by state lines, but divided by Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Black Foot and other indian tribal lines and their tribal beliefs. How would another nation deal with our country if our leaders were from different tribes instead of two or three political parties?

        We can support moderate middle east countries, but they have to take the first step in protecting themselves. One only has to look at the Kurd’s and see how they will take up arms and fight and then compare them to the Iraqi’s to the south and how they abandon the fight when bullets begin to fly to understand we can not police the area if they will not take the fight to the enemy first.

        Where I find our government misguided is its refusal to provide the necessary help to countries like Ukraine in its fight against Russian rebels and the Kurd’s in their fight against ISIS. We can afford to provide most any military hardware and intelligence needed. What we can not afford is one more American life to be lost in fighting for freedom in a foreign country were freedom is the last thing their citizens will fight for.

      • Priscilla permalink
        February 4, 2015 6:13 pm

        There is an American woman- she’s 26, about my daughter’s age – who is being held by ISIS, and may well show up in the next high quality recruiting film, suffering some ungodly awful fate, as the music swells and the Islamic State Flag unfurls.

        If she is slaughtered, she will be the 4th American hostage killed by ISIS in less than a year. And we have done essentially nothing about it.

        Not sure what it takes, I guess.

      • February 4, 2015 6:46 pm

        Hard to say what they will do. Some months back it was reported the military had an idea where the hostages were being held and were on standby to execute a operation to free them, but the administration stopped that from happening. Could be they remember the farce when Carter tried rescuing hostages and did not want the same outcome.

        For a starter as to what it takes, what the hell are Americans doing in that part of the world to begin with. Get the hell out of there so we don’t get anymore captured. But for those already captured, is it better to stage an operation and get 3-4 men killed to rescue 1-2 hostages? Risk and reward???? 1 dead for one alive? 2 for 1??? The hostage families might say yes, but I have many reservations in doing that. We have lost enough American blood in that part of the world already and I trace it all back to Bush removing Sadam Hussian from power. He might have been a tyrant, but he stabilized the area from what is happening now. Sorry to say the use of chemical weapons on those people may have been the right idea as nothing else seems to work.

      • February 5, 2015 3:35 am

        Priscilla: I’d be in favor of declaring all-out war on ISIS if we hadn’t squandered 13 years’ worth of men and resources in our two misbegotten Post-9/11 wars. We might have to send troops at some point, but I’d still prefer to see the Middle Eastern states show some backbone and wage war against ISIS. So far we’ve done 90% of the bombing.

        Jordan is hot under the collar now, but the big boys need to step up: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, even Israel and Iran. Strange bedfellows with a common enemy — hey, it just might make them sit down together and sing Kumbaya after they’ve vanquished ISIS.

      • Priscilla permalink
        February 4, 2015 10:45 pm

        And, while we are blaming Bush for getting rid of a stabilizing tyrant, let us not forget that Obama did the same with Gaddafi, creating chaos in Libya and allowing it to be overrun by terrorists from Syria and Iraq.

        And, just today, we learn that the UAE withdrew its coalition forces from the air war against ISIS after the US refused to help support search and rescue missions for pilots like the Jordanian pilot burned alive after his capture. (Many of the Arab nations do not have the training and aircraft necessary to rescue their men, and we could provide it.) Worse, they withdrew a month ago, and the administration has been issuing press releases about UAE sorties that haven’t actually happened!

        I have no clue why any American not with the military would go anywhere near this part of the world, that’s for sure, Ron. It’s bad enough to lose our guys looking for a deserter like Bergdahl, but putting them at risk to rescue civilians who have put themselves in a war zone?

        We are in some serious doo-doo.

      • Priscilla permalink
        February 7, 2015 9:50 am

        Well, the American woman hostage is apparently dead. ISIS blamed it on the Jordanian air strikes….god only knows what the truth is. I pray that the poor girl did not suffer too much at the hands of her captors, although that is probably too much to hope.

        Rick, I do not think that we need – or ever needed – to declare all-out war on ISIS, at least not in the sense of sending tens of thousands of troops to fight a ground war. This is a straw man argument that the President consistently makes against those who feel that we are allowing ISIS to become ever more powerful by not leading an effective anti-ISIS response. We are not arming or supporting the Kurds. We have lost the UAE, because we will not provide them with the air rescue support that they need. We are negotiating with Iran. Since the immolation of the pilot, we have not responded by providing support to Jordan, which has always been our regional ally and has shown itself willing to fight.

        Peggy Noonan wrote a column the other day, basically wondering if either the President or the Republicans are even capable any longer of doing anything but blaming each other for past events for the situation in which we find ourselves now, rather than working together to develop an effective strategy.

        I’ll admit that I hold the President far more to task for this quagmire, because he is the commander -in-chief and responsible for taking action and providing leadership….and all he seems to do is lecture us on how ISIS is not an Islamic organization, and that Christians are just as bad (or at least they were 1100 years ago). How does this help?

      • Priscilla permalink
        February 7, 2015 10:07 am

        This column by Eli Lake, of Newsweek and The Daily Beast pretty much sums up the situation I think:

        “There are good reasons to support America’s disengagement from the region. But to pretend this disengagement will have no cost on America’s ability to shape events in the Middle East is delusional.

        Because the reality is this: For all of the problems posed by significant U.S. ground forces in the Middle East, it is the only option right now if Obama wishes to stop the advance of the Islamic State without aiding the advance of the Islamic Republic of Iran. ”

    • February 5, 2015 3:40 am

      Happy New Year to you, Pat! Always good to hear from you. We need more thinkers who can see shades of gray (although Fifty Shades of Gray is undoubtedly too much).

  34. Pat Riot permalink
    February 7, 2015 10:50 am

    The first and last items on the 2015 Vigilance List, “Terrorism” and “Perpetual Wars and Other Foreign Entanglements” are such important book-ends to a list of modern day problems.

    I refuse to get tricked into the Hate Games. Let’s recall just a few scams from the News Management Media regarding our military: We are told ex-NFL player Pat Tillman was killed heroically trying to rescue…oh it turns out it was a friendly fire accident. The Jessica Lynch rescue was semi-staged with blanks being fired for effects for Hollywood cameras. Jessica Lynch herself has testified to the lies and the myth creation. The non-existent WMDs to help justify the Iraq War. Recently Brian Williams making shit up. Almost all the major “news” outlets owned by 5 corporate giants. Then, getting away from the military-related deceit for a moment, I think of the fire captains who have been caught setting their own fires so that they could be heroes in putting them out. Now magnify that method to the Global Chess scale using trillions of dollars. I’m not saying that all terrorism is fabricated or surreptitiously induced, but let’s just say I’m not getting caught up in HATE GAME Productions, Season 5, in association with Brainwash Media, in cooperation with Industrial Military Simplex Studios…

    If we used the trillions of dollars of annual U.S. military budgets, and the type of motivated youth of our nation who volunteer to serve, to build up the United States into a shining example of rationality, peace, and prosperity, instead of perpetrating Global Chess, Gangster Style, the people of other nations would emulate our achievements again, and humanity would actually start to evolve instead of sliding further into barbarism.

    • Priscilla permalink
      February 7, 2015 12:24 pm

      As always, Pat you zero in on one of the main reasons that things are FUBAR…….I’d like to think that the Brian Williams story would open people’s eyes a bit, but I somehow doubt it, It has spawned a great number of hilarious internet memes though. (“Martin told me he had some dreams… I said to him, “Tell them, Martin, tell people about your dreams!”

  35. Pat Riot permalink
    February 7, 2015 4:08 pm

    haha…”Losing to Jesse Owens in Berlin was tough, but I knew I was part of history,” Williams remembers. Sometimes the cleverness of the humor reminds me some people out there are still kicking!

  36. Pat Riot permalink
    February 7, 2015 4:20 pm

    I know of a company that won the “J.D. Powers and Associates” award for Customer Service. I also saw with my own eyes that the bad surveys were tossed in the round file and only the great ones submitted. I could go on and on with the deceit I have witnessed. How in the world are those sped-up disclaimers before and after car advertisements on the radio even legal? Layers and layers of interwoven bullshit being thrown at us from all sides. Incoming!! And still I’m not completely jaded because underneath the barrage of bullshit there are so many yearning for what is good and just and fair and balanced and civilized and exquisitely moderate.

    • February 7, 2015 7:58 pm

      Pat, I agree with your comment ” And still I’m not completely jaded because underneath the barrage of bullshit there are so many yearning for what is good and just and fair and balanced and civilized and exquisitely moderate.”

      Is it really that our country is any different today than it has been in history or is it because of the 24/7 news cycle we are barraged with constantly and listen to by choice constantly? Are the voices of the far extremes more vocal, or are they just heard more clearly due to the instant communications we have today? Are the politicians really in the pockets of big business more today than they were in the past? Are terrorist anymore present today than they were during Hitler, Mussolini or Hirohito’s time and thousands were begin slaughtered by those tyrants.

      In past history we have had the influence of the Rockefeller’s, Getty’s, Vanderbilt’s, Carnegie’s, Ford’s, Morgan’s and Edison’s that controlled much of the country in the early 1900’s. In fact, Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan pooled vast amounts of money to almost pay completely for the candidacy of William McKinley and get him elected to avoid the election of anyone that would stop monopolies that existed in those years. I doubt any two or three people could pay for one man’s elections completely today, even though those in both parties try to say they are.

      I would just like to hear the “exquisitely Moderates” somewhat more vocal today than they are to tamp down the rhetoric from the extremes of both sides.

  37. Pat Riot permalink
    February 8, 2015 11:55 am

    Ron, you bring up important aspects of the comparison between America today and America in the past, life today and life in the past. You bring up tyrants like Mussolini and Hirohito. We could of course add many other tyrants, bad kings, reigns of terror…yes, human history is full of oppression, tyranny, injustice, ignorance, et cetera, and we continue to battle those dark aspects of humanity today. You bring up American “Captains of Industry” who bought off and influenced our government. Yes, true, they did, and the influences of money and power continue today. We might say that life and America are very much the same in thousands of ways, big and small, but we also know life and America are different in thousands of ways. I say emphatically, jumping up and down and waving big flags, that recent differences dramatically trump the similarities. The canaries in the coal mines have keeled over and too many people are saying they don’t smell any poison gas.

    As we know (no history lesson here, but to make my point…), once in a while humans begin to build themselves up out of ignorance. They put policies and developments in place that lift up the populace, and they keep building from there. Roman roads, steam power, Freedom of Speech to randomly name a few. Not talking perfection here, or utopia, because threads of ignorance and some problems continued, but America built itself up, in fits and starts, through severe downturns like the Civil War and the Great Depression, advancing in pockets even during those downturns, to the very peak of civilization.

    And now for 236 and a half reasons, America is unraveling and being dismantled. Of course we can’t get into all the reasons here, I’m already being verbose for this forum, but is there a way we could convey the sum total of the critical differences of today? I believe the truth, including many of its subtleties to so many different Americans operating at different levels, is probably a whole series of novels and a 12-part Blue-ray box set. My analogy below is paltry, and maybe bizarre, but does it convey?

    Think of a modern man or woman feeding their dog. The owner spoons the food out of a can and into a bowl. The food is already in small chunks to make eating easier. This particular owner has put larger chunks into the bowl before, but the dog stepped back and waited for the food to be broken into smaller chunks. Now compare this dependent dog with a wolf or a coyote that knows how to hunt for food. We can easily see many similarities: 4 paws, teeth, they both go in circles before they lie down. Could we say much is the same? Could the modern dog fend for itself?

    The aspect of the analogy we are interested in is the dependency vs. survival know-how. We know about the widening gap between the richest 1% and the rest of the populace. We watch our own children step back and whine for smaller chunks. How big and invasive was the government when Carnegie and Rockefeller influenced it? How fast could the government exert its control? Were the local police interested in protecting the local population, to protect and to serve, or were they scared to lose their jobs? Did the government control satellites and drones? Some important differences outweigh the many similarities. As the ruling class spends trillions on Global Chess, much of our America crumbles. We survive in ever-diminishing pockets, many latched on somewhere in support of the 1% but not even knowing it. The ruling class just loves the never-ending tussle between extremes. The ruling class just loves that moderation and rationality have lost their voice. Keep those cans and bullets moving down the conveyor belts…

    Sorry so long. Too much to communicate.

  38. Pat Riot permalink
    February 8, 2015 12:26 pm

    haha analogies can be tricky. My wife might ask, “So you’re saying people should be wild like wolves?” No no, we’re not pursuing the wild aspect; we’re looking at what we’ve become, dependent on conveniences, comforts, and an expanding government…switch over from wolves to the frogs being boiled slowly in pots. What? Are you saying we should be more amphibious? Good grief.

  39. Pat Riot permalink
    February 14, 2015 9:56 am

    Rick, thank you for your Vigilance List above. Even though it’s a list of troubles, it’s at least marginally comforting to know others are also seeing these….things…these “manifestations of our reality”.

    It’s not difficult to also see relationships among the items on your list. For example #15 “Screw the Other Guy Mentality” as a behavior that contributes to #4 Factionalism. And then Factionalism as a positive change killer (divide and conquer) that helps enable a selfish Plutocracy (#3) to maintain a stranglehold on food supply, communications, our elected officials, et cetera.

    I can picture Venn Diagram-type overlaps. I wish I had time to construct a 3-D version in my large artist studio. (I don’t have an artist studio.) It would also have “pipeline connectors” showing cause-and-effect relationships among the spheres. Then they’d haul me away or I’d just starve, haha. Maybe a 3-D computer simulation that showed the flow of money and activities? A computer simulation (of everything going on and how the pieces influence each other) would get more respect than a paper mache mock-up!

    But then of course I have to let it all go and focus on very specific concerns of my job and my life, as most of us do, plug back into the existing system because we’re not millionaires, and then I become, in effect, part of #8 “Non-existent Moderate Culture”. Ug.

    You’ve mentioned political solutions many times that would help. I agree with most of those reasonable political measures you have called for as a start. It’s also going to take social change, behavior change, thought change…We need a new branch of science that builds a model of everything we are doing. Based on quantifiable data (how many people are doing such and such, how many people are doing this and that, available resources…) It would predict consequences so we could avoid going down dangerous paths mentioned in your Vigilance List above. What is everybody in the world doing, and how do the activities influence each other, and what are the consequences if such and such increases while this or that decreases…

    Until then I’m glad I at least come across some sensible people speaking up…

  40. Ron P permalink
    February 14, 2015 1:41 pm

    Well our wonderful president opens his mouth again before all the facts are in. And we wonder why Rick has number 4 listed as a problem. Could it be it starts at the top? was this religious hate or a parking argument? Could be either but shut up until the facts are known and stop fanning the flames that cause discourse between the different viewpoints.

    And then to add to this comment this week, Obama comes out and makes the comment that Staples is cutting hours for part time workers because of Obamacare and companies should not be doing this since the executives make millions and the employees should not have benefits cut. Guess he has not been informed that this has been a policy of Staples for many years (before the ACA) since they got zapped by a wage and hour law review because employees were working longer than the allowed time and not given a break during the workday. They had to pay a large amount in back pay and fines.

    And the liberal press gives this man a pass on ignorance. What a refreshing day it will be in January 2017 when another person, democrat or republican takes over as anyone with a brain will be welcomed in that position.

  41. Anonymous permalink
    February 18, 2015 1:38 pm

    The National Journal is a liberal publication, although moderately so, and I often read it. I would say I am in agreement with NJ articles about 15-20% of the time, although it’s often an agreement with reservations. This particular piece I agree with almost 100% – it deals with a topic that often comes up here at TNM : political partisanship and the almost total lack of compromise between Democrats and Republicans in the federal government (#4 on Rick’s 2015 list- factionalism).

    I am in agreement with those who blame a great deal of the current problem on Obama, due to his polarizing rhetoric, and left-leaning intransigence on both domestic and foreign policy issues. (Speaking of polarizing rhetoric, one of my progressive FB friends posted today an incredibly disingenuous piece, quite literally likening Rush Limbaugh, the Koch Brothers, and Bill O’Reilly- along with all of Fox News – to Nazis, complete with swastikas surrounding their pictures and the obligatory references to hate-mongering, racism, misogyny, etc. I was actually appalled by it; although I’ve become somewhat desensitized to progressive nonsense of this sort, it was frighteningly hateful and over the top….why do people think that this sort of stuff is ok to put on “social media” )

    Anyway, the article focuses on the consequences of pushing through an uncompromising agenda that lacks public support, even though it might be one that progressives believe is “right” (as in “left”). Any thoughts?

    • Priscilla permalink
      February 18, 2015 1:39 pm

      ^^ me up there, as if you didn’t know 😉

  42. Ron P permalink
    March 14, 2015 4:57 pm

    Rick, thought you might be interested in this as it ties to your number 11, perpetual low grade recession. While it is not exporting of jobs overseas, it is a replacement of jobs by robots. And Unions can’t do much about that technology shift.

    I find it interesting that in all the articles about this mechanization, not one mentioned how many riveters or jobs associated with this task will be eliminated.

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