2/08/2017

Who’s Not Paying Their Way?

Trump seems to believe that some of the NATO nations aren’t paying their way. His solution is to pull out of NATO and abandon the alliances that have provided whatever sembalance of stability the western world has enjoyed since the end of WWII. If he’s willing to crack that many eggs and roll the dice on the world, how about applying the same rules to the states in the USA? Obviously, Trump won’t bite the hand that elected him, but the red states are typically takers not givers and the states that did not go for Trump are paying the way for the majority of the people who claim they are independent “freedom lovers.” The Southeast, in particular, is a stagnant pool of economic inactivity. Here, for instance, is a list of the top ten US deadbeat states:

  1. Mississippi,  42.9% federal aid as percentage of general revenue
  2. Louisiana,  41.9%
  3. Tennessee, 39.5%
  4. South Dakota, 39.0%
  5. Missouri,  38.2%
  6. Montana, 37.4%
  7. Georgia, 37.3%
  8. New Mexico, 36.6%
  9. Alabama, 36.1%
  10. Maine, 35.3%

dollarEvery one of these states votes red and receives massive amounts of federal welfare as a reward. Another way to look at state dependence on federal welfare is by examining the states’ ROI for tax dollars paid into the federal goverenment. Obviously, the deadbeats in Mississippi are getting a killer deal with $4.70 returned from D.C. for every $1 of federal taxes paid. 42% of that cesspool’s general fund comes from federal welfare. You’d think that state would be desperately Democratic, if the usual Republican bullshit about personal responsibility and independence from federal handouts meant anything, but you’d be wrong. Mississippi turned red in 1964 and other than going for hometown southern boy Jimmy Carter in 1976 Mississippi has been a red state for 50 years.

At the bottom of the above chart are the 11 states who pay their own way (and every other states’ way): Deleware, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersy, Conneticut, Illinois, Ohio, Massachucets, New York, Rhode Island, and North Dakota (However, ND became a welfare state in 2016 when the massive oil substidies for fracking weren’t able to overcome the low price of oil.). The data determing who needs what from the rest of us can be confusing, though. For instance, North Dakota’s state government was the least dependent while the state’s residents were the most dependent. No, I don’t know what the fuck that means. WalletHub.com provides a terrific amount of information on all of the available data on this subject at: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-most-least-dependent-on-the-federal-government/2700/. You can even play with some of the numbers and see how your home state stacks up. It’s interesting to see that the states constantly vieying for the worst education system ranking, Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico, are consistently among the most dependent on the federal government for both personal and their state governments’ income.

You’d think Trump would be applying some of the same logic, if he applied logic, to states that he’s using on NATO countries. If a state isn’t paying its own way, it should lose representation in Congress, for example. Screw population, let’s make states earn their electoral votes. For instance, California’s Gross Domestic Product is $2.448 trillion dollars and receives $343 billion back (14%) from the feds while Mississippi “contributes” a paultry $88.55 billion and rakes in $34.308 billion (38%) in federal spending. Minnesota contributes a $255B GDP for a $44.3B federal investment (17%) vs. Arkansas’ dismal $95B GDP and $28.5B federal contribution (30%). With that sort of discrepancy in output vs. investment, you’d think California and Minnesota would have at least 50 times the representation in Washington as an on-federal-life-support state like Mississippi. You’d be disappointed, if you were expecting logic and fairness from the same standards Trump is applying to NATO.

Socialism is, apparently, acceptible for states that are willing to give up their civil rights and become corporate welfare states.

2/06/2017

Meth Grandma?

methgrannyI learned about a new class of sub-human last night at a party in Truth or Consequences, NM: meth grandmas. Apparently, there are “meth clans” that are managed by the grandmothers. Meth is just a part of life in New Mexico, even the cops agree that “Breaking Bad” wasn’t far from a true story. All of this weird information came out in a discussion of the neighborhoods in the tiny town of TorC. The northeast end of town, a pretty obviously decrepit area but not one I’d suspected was particularly dangerous. I guess it is, at night. Even when the “rich” and “poor” neighborhoods are only a 1/2 mile apart in a 6,000 person town and “rich” barely qualifies as lower middle class and “poor” is as destitute as Americans get, most of the crime is isolated to the tiny poor end of town. Poor-on-poor crime seems to be a feature of the meth world. In fact, the stories I heard last night were mostly about family-on-family-member crimes. Drug abuse and New Mexico appear to go together like Trump and ignorance.

  • Son-in-law fails to score the week’s dope supply and grandma stabs him in the gut with a screwdriver
  • Grandkid gets into grandma’s stash and OD’s while playing with the crystals, grandma tosses the kid into the backyard as a punishment
  • Baby OD’s after grandma uses the kid’s diapers as a meth processing filter and puts them back on the kid without even washing them

And so it goes.

yuma4n-5-webSome of the folks at the party were sympathetic and some weren’t. All of them were part of the tiny crowd of Democrats in a mixed mostly-conservative state in a solidly red county (58% voted for Trump, which is consistent with the state’s overall results: the poorest, least educated counties were consistently Republican and the few educated, relatively wealthy, and more populated counties were strongly Democratic.) with some twists (2 Democratic US Representatives vs. 1 Republican and a new Democratic majority in the state House and Senate.).

The diversity of opinion and perspective reminded me of Will Roger’s political statement, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” Sometimes I think Democrats think too much. To overwhelm the emotional and irrational Republican fascist movement in the US, it will probably take the same kind of mindless fire Republicans exhibit. Fighting fire with fire just creates more fire, so I have to wonder if it’s worth the sacrifice?

 

2/04/2017

Is the Gap too Far?

Not long after the “election,” I brought a Xmas pie to our young neighbors. I’ve talked about “Dan” before, when I discussed his argument (“I don’t believe that.”) against the evidence that market forces, congressional lawmakers’ opening the world market to our ammunition manufacturers, and gun hoarders like him who have driven the price of ammo up. Dan doesn’t vote, so nothing that happens “is my fault.” His wife, someone who works for the Veterans’ Administration and holds a BS in microbiology, like her family voted for Trump. She earned that degree at the University of Michigan, where she claimed “the professors were terrible.” I don’t know who’s who in microbiology, but I do have to wonder what someone with a science education is doing voting for Trump. Maybe her education really was terrible.

TrumpJesusALoserWhen we talked about her reasons for voting Trump, she said “there are books” written about Hillary Clinton’s corruption; which is true. A few of them are written by reasonably credible writers, but most are financed by the Koch idiots and the right wing propaganda machine. However, her family is all Republicans and Fox News fans and her propaganda saturation was complete. She said she even cried as she left the voting booth, but she was convinced that “Hillary lied” and she followed that statement with “but I believe in Jesus Christ.” I do not get the connection. I don’t get how people who imagine themselves to be any kind of Christian could find a way to voting for Trump. While there appears to be no evidence that Christians feel any obligation to behave decently it always seemed to me that the point in being Christian should be to do at least a few of the things that make the Jesus character appealing.

mP72JZApparently, Christians (especially the televangelist millionaires) are really on board with anything that ensures their “churches” never have to pay taxes or behave in any fashion resembling “Christian”: as in putting those millions to use doing anything other than packing their pockets, buying mansions and airplanes for their personal use, and fleecing the gullible. That is the religion I’ve always known and been disgusted by. One of the hallmarks of this brand of Christianity is a desperate desire to instigate “Armageddon.” Not because they really believe they are going to the Big Rock Candy Mountain, but because it absolves them of any responsibility for future generations so they can carry on with their perversions and avarice without guilt. Again, what would be the motivation for an intelligent person to follow that sort of philosophy?

hillary-gunz-misspelledOf course, Dan’s only response was, “Hillary wants to take my guns.” He and I have had the conversation about how Reagan and Bush I were the only presidents to do squat to his gun rights with the Brady Bill. He’s still terrified that Democrats and 63% of his fellow Americans want some sort of gun control to slow up the decline of the country into gun nut chaos. Dan, of course, is afraid to travel anywhere, even in Goodhue County, MN without a weapon in case he gets his chance to be a “good guy with a gun.” Didn’t we used to be “the land of the free, home of the brave?” We also used to be a world leader in science and technology and we made stuff the rest of the world wanted to buy. That was then and this is the country that deserves Trump and has earned the ridicule of intelligent people worldwide.

neanderthalI have to wonder if reasonably intelligent Americans, some with moderately decent educations, can be so easily fooled by low-rent propaganda and idiotic arguments, is there any hope for the country? The gap between the Tea Party know-nothings and people who actually make the country run, do science, make products and invent things, and demonstrate some level of creativity is growing so large it seems like humans are splitting into two incompatible species. That’s probably not a bad thing, since the left-behind species is superstitious, uneducable, and dangerous to the planet’s survival. The problem is that they are the overwhelming majority in the world and, especially, the majority in the USA.

1/28/2017

Why Republicans Love Russians

After more than a half-century of listening to Republicans’ timid anti-Russian freakouts, it’s interesting to see them suddenly cozy up to Putin and the remains of the Soviet Union. Honestly, I’ve never understood their hostility in the first place. Way back in the 70’s, I argued that if the USSR ever managed to take over the USA they’d leave the Nixon Administration in charge. They were and are the same people, with the same beliefs (including fake religions: communism or Christianity), the same authoritarian attitudes, the same disinterest in civil rights, the same misogyny, and the same total lack of moral values. Let me list their similarities:
  • Above all Republicans and Soviets are anti-democratic. Their half-hearted nod to “elections” is almost comical, so you’d wonder why they bother at all. I suspect that maintaining the pretense of being elected allows the less-informed public to pretend they still have a stake and it pumps up the egos of the nutjobs who want to create a society with as little going for it as the world Putin and Trump would love to make."They voted for this mess. They must have wanted it."
  • Like the conservatives in Russia, Republicans haven’t originated a progressive reform since Teddy Roosevelt. Their opposition to President Obama was a classic Soviet Russian conservative knee-jerk. Look at how the one Russian reformer in the last 100 years, Gorbachev, was treated.What passes for "reform" from the Russian/Republican Party is always less tax on the already untaxed 1% and less security for the 99%.
  • Republicans and Russians love military solutions to political problems. It will not surprise me to see Trump use the military to overwhelm the opposition to the various oil pipelines he and his Russian allies want to build across this country to get US and Canadian oil to everywhere but the US market. The only answer Republicans/Russians have to any economic disaster is to "build more bombs and bombers." It would never occur to them to improve the education system, for example, the only possible solution to most of today's US problems.
  • Russians and Republicans not only represent the ogliarchy but desperately want to become members. (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/09/how-did-members-of-congress-get-so-wealthy/379848/) There is a reason congresscritters are allowed to bet on their own legislation, it's called "insider trading" and from the White House to the Extreme Court, insider trading is status quo. 
  • The police are always Republican/Russians because they can exercise unlimited power under authoritarian administrations without having to worry about nasty issues like being prosecuted for murder, robbery, or other crimes against the citizens the pretend to “serve and protect.”
  • At the individual level, Russians/Republicans always look for solutions from rulers, not leaders. There is no personal responsibility in either the country’s success or failure when a ruler fails to live up to his promises. Ruled citizens can bitch and moan about their sorry lives, but they don’t have to take any responsibility in creating change. Leaders need citizens to carry the load locally to create reforms and change. Free societies are obligated to work to maintain their freedom and democracy and that takes time away from watching football or Faux Views. Russians and Republicans hate work, especially when that work might benefit someone other than themselves.
  • Republicans/Russians prefer muscle over thought. While some theoretical free market promoters believe that capitalism is a system of ideas and change, the people represented at both ends of Republican/Russian politics are obviously more fond of power than ideas and change. Scientists are rarely either conservative or Republican, which should be the ultimate proof that thinking isn’t a Russian or Republican value. In fact, the opposition to public education proves that they believe in a world where only the wealthy can afford any education at all.
  • Russian/Republicans stand for mythical “freedoms” while making sure only the oligarchy are free. The freedom of the 1%, or the "nomenklatura" as the Russians call their elites, is the ultimate freedom, because no laws apply to them. That’s the world Republican/Russians are saluting when they eliminate “regulations” (laws for corporations and the ultra-rich): freedom for them and a train wreak for the rest of us.
  • When you look at the societies Russians and Republicans create, you can’t tell which one Orwell was describing in 1984. Is it an authoritarian faux-socialist society or a libertarian dream world? No one knows because you can't tell them apart without proper labels. Hell, I can't even tell if A Handmaid's Tale is Russian or Republican. All we really know is that either group stands for repression, violence, corruption, greed, and everything the ideals of the United States of America is suppose to oppose.

1/26/2017

Learning to Love the Apocolypse

hqdefaultIt took me a while to adjust to appreciating global climate change. For a couple of decades, I talked the good talk about wanting to do my part to stop the 6th Extension; to try to create a world my kids and grandkids could enjoy as much as I’d enjoyed the world handed off to me. Tonight, while I lay sleepless in my bed three days after Donald Trump was elected Last President of Democratic United States of America, I came to grips with loving what comes next.

I have two daughters; both are college-educated, intelligent, compassionate, decent people. One of my two sons-in-law is also a decent, hard-working man. I have three grandkids who I love more than my own life. That’s a reproduction rate of slightly less than two-per-couple for my wife and I. Among my wife’s Kansas family there must be close to two hundred zombies spawned from just one of her four aunt’s two marriages. One of my wife’s Kansas cousins churned out eleven nitwits from five marriages and one high school kid who got her pregnant when she was a school councilor (No kidding, it’s Kansas, remember?). Those eleven uneducated, unwanted coneheads have already churned out at least four dozen equally moronic dropouts, misfits, and massively dependent offspring. Their annual Xmas family photo looks like a special Olympics graduating class of hundreds.

So, while I hate the idea that my three beautiful grandchildren and two brilliant, compassionate, and loving daughters are going to watch the world collapse into chaos and see the world they love destroyed out of greed, apathy, laziness, superstition, and stupidity, I’ve come to terms with the math.

Let’s face it, we’re a nation that constantly justifies “collateral damage.” We’re willing to blow up one hundred people in a wedding ceremony in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Mexico, Columbia, or any where else and because some contractor’s Puerto Rican drone operator spotted one or two characters who have been randomly selected for our “terrorist watch list.” Compared to that, sacrificing my five off-spring to let the coal industry take out a hundred or so brain-dead Kansas relatives is an efficiency bargain. Add the 60M Trump voters and the rest of the world’s uneducated, lazy, moronic basket cases to that list and the world would be far better off without humans on it. So, bring on the Trump apocalypse. No, children, you’re not going to be levitated into the Big Rock Candy Mountain before the shit hits the fan. You’re going to suffer, possibly for years, before it all comes to a smoking, dying end and then you’re just going to be dead. No Gods will be coming to rescue you, no economic miracles from a clown who couldn’t manage a meat counter or who was too lazy to even show up for his fake “university’s” events will pull your useless asses out of the fires, and the odds that another Barak Obama will put his life and family at risk to save you from yourselves have been dramatically and vanishingly reduced. And I’m good with that. We have earned our part in the Sixth Extinction and we deserve every miserable moment.

1/03/2017

Un-Fixable

trump health votersThe angry white voters who claimed Democrats and liberals have abandoned them are probably right. The only thing that could save the jobs these people imagine they are entitled to have would be education and education is the one bit of reality that poor, pseudo-conservative white people resent the most. Back in 2008 Barak Obama made his infamous statement about the disenfranchised white voters, "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." He wasn’t wrong and he is just as right today, except that you’ll have to add meth and oxy to the things they are clinging to. Those three hallmarks of the unemployable are still going strong and Donald Trump is reaping the rewards of stoking those brain-dead fires.

The real problem liberals and progressives have yet to face is that the core problems of the welfare states are un-fixable. Here are some facts that prove my point, “32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.” Those statistics have not changed, for the better, in a decade and we can count on them getting much worse over the next four to eight years. Over the last ten years, at least 25% of the US population did not read a book in part or whole in the previous year. Trump and Republicans may “love the uneducated,” but society and our democracy can not afford them. The purpose in creating a public education system was to prevent idiotic catastrophes like Donald Trump and the “modern” Republican Party from destroying the nation.

And that’s where the problem lies today. Substantial portions of the nation are never going to change, except for the worse. Places like most of the Southeast and Midwest have chased out the smart kids and encouraged the dumb ones to stay and reproduce and, culturally, the places and people have become intolerant, uneducated, unemployable, and proud of all of those “qualities.” When I was young, alcohol was the primary self-medication drug of choice for the losers who couldn’t escape. Today, there are far more effective drugs for that purpose. I came from one of those parts of the country and, like most of my high school graduating class who went on to obtain an education and some sort of career, I got the “hell out of Dodge” as soon as possible and stayed away. There is nothing that would ever induce me to move back to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, or any of the states similar or worse than where I came from. Minnesota is as red a state as I can tolerate and away from the Twin Cities it’s a good bit redder (and dumber) than I like.

trumps opium votersAnd I’m not alone. Reams of newspaper and books have been written about the exodus of talent and creativity from “the heartland.” Lots of people have wrung their hands over the fact that those desperate and depressed Trump voters are stuck in an endless cycle of poverty, ignorance, and drug addiction. Unless some miracle of disease and death suddenly purges those places of their populations, it’s only going to get worse.

Growing up in western Kansas, a high school teacher’s son and surrounded by “educators,” I was consistently unimpressed by what passed for education in my 1950’s K-12 experience. I, immediately, enrolled in the local community college where that experience only got worse. After losing my college savings to a scam Texas for-profit “computer school,” I stumbled on to a downtown Dallas community college and discovered that there are actually people who have a talent for teaching who are attracted to institutions that are committed to education. After a few years of suffering the more familiar uninspired “higher education” in western Texas and Nebraska, I moved to southern California. I was lucky to be in California in the 1980’s, before Reagan’s Prop 13 damage began to wreak that state’s once-great education system and make it unavailable to working class people. Even more, I was lucky to be there while California was enjoying the only economic stability in the country so that I had the luxury of being the sole support of my family and going to school part-to-full time for 8 years. The point to take away for this essay is that out of 130 credit hours from three different California state institutions, I endured no more than 6 hours of mediocre classroom experience. California attracted high quality instructors and there was enough competition for positions and institutions that kept instruction quality at a level I’d never seen before or since.

states by returnThe reverse is true for the red states. No one with skill, experience, or credentials wants to live in those depressed and depressing areas. The chances of attracting instructors of quality to the Southeast, the Midwest, or much of the Northeast are slim-to-none. Even if the nation were to apply Peace Corps tactics to enticing teachers to work in the depressed areas as a way to pay off college debt, the end result will be that those few quality teachers will identify the few quality students and encourage them to get out before their hometown destroys their life. Clearly, plenty of that is going on now in most of these places, based on the fact that small towns are losing population and skills and can’t find any way to attract new blood. The brain-drain exodus from those places might actually accelerate if outside education resources were applied.

While it’s not true that intelligent people are no longer having children, it’s true that damn few smart people are staying “on the farm” or in small towns when opportunity, tolerance, entertainment, security, and quality of life are available just a short plane ride away. The Trump disaster is just an indication of elections to come, as impoverished states cling to their political power through a rigged system designed to protect the rich from democracy. Now, that system is protecting the rich and the stupid from reality and democracy. Either the Electoral College has to die or the nation will die from the damage done to democracy by that idiotic institution.

1/01/2017

I’m With Garrison

Garrison Keillor went further out on a limb than most writers this election. He warned Trump that he’d have “nothing he wants” after the election, win or lose. He wrote a lot about how the Trumpers were so clueless, vicious, and out-of-touch with not just the country and the world but reality. It didn’t matter. In the end, enough (although a minority) Americans voted for the end. I’m not a big Garrison Keillor fan. I think he hung on too long, took himself too seriously as a musician, and became the old face of liberal NPR that deluded too many public radio fans into believing that the new NPR resembled the old NPR. However, I am totally on board with his last statement to the Trumpers: “Done, Over. He’s Here. Goodbye.”

Garrison wrote, “Raw ego and proud illiteracy have won out and a severely learning-disabled man with a real character problem will be president. We are so exhausted from thinking about this election, millions of people will take up leaf-raking and garage cleaning with intense pleasure."

"Alas for the Trump voters, the disasters he will bring on this country will fall more heavily on them than anyone else. The uneducated white males who elected him are the vulnerable ones and they will not like what happens next."

"America is still the land where the waitress' kids can grow up to become physicists and novelists and pediatricians, but it helps a lot if the waitress and her husband encourage good habits and the ambition to use your God-given talents and the kids aren't plugged into electronics day and night. Whooping it up for the candidate of cruelty and ignorance does less than nothing for your kids."

"Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses."

The responses to this article were informative. A gutless dirtbag “deplorable” who, typically, hid his identify with the fake name, “RandomCitizen” said, "Suck it up libs, the world is going to change. Femisinsts [sic] will learn how to become women and will be put back into their correct role. Jobs will be brought back to hardworking men. Foreign and domestic enemies will be destroyed. Enjoy the show, libs. You lost and now you're toast."

Oh you clueless moron, the world is going to change, but you are going to be ground under that change-vehicle. Most likely, RandomCitizen is one of the red state’s unemployable, lazy deadbeats sucking off of the federal welfare tit while pretending to be one of the master race.  Trump could not care less about the fate of people like RandomCitizen. He won’t lift a finger to relieve their drug addictions, economic dysfunction, ignorance, unemployability, or even do more than Tweet to encourage their delusions of genetic superiority. The face Donald Trump sees in the mirror is the only person on this planet he has ever cared about and a whole bunch of RandomCitizens are going to discover how much worse their lives can get.

12/26/2016

Never Forget

One of the key components to pseudo-conservative/alt-right “thinking” is forgetfulness. If you remember history, you would never admit to being conservative because that would mean you are always wrong. Always, in the history of civilization and humanity. For example, pseudo-conservatives delude themselves into believing that Reagan was some sort of economic savior. For southern California, maybe, on a short term, but for the rest of the nation and the world that is total bullshit. Long-term, Reagan did damage to California that won’t be repaired without another Great Depression and a massive population drop.

For example, do you know when the United States became a permanent debtor nation? 1985, the beginning of Reagan’s second term. As tough as reality is for pseudo-conservatives, it's a fact. On September 17, 1985, the New York Times published an article titled “U.S. Turns into Debtor Nation” (“The United States has become a debtor nation for the first time since World War I, owing foreigners more than they owe it, a Commerce Department report indicated today.”) which should have tossed traditional conservatives into a fit of panic and generated a wave of cost-cutting, but Reagan and his band of nitwits convinced the New Right that “deficits don’t matter,” at least when fake conservatives are creating them. So, like every pseudo-conservative administration since Reagan, Republicans have stood for borrow-and-spend, instead of actual conservative principles.

Pseudo-conservatives have just elected the least conservative President in modern history. Trump’s “business” history is a sad tale of leverage gone wrong, with six bankruptcies and a long list of Trump-scam vendors and customers robbed and left broke in his wake. When his administration has spent its wad, the US will be further in debt and the economy will be crushed into a shadow of what it could have been. Like the post-Reagan and Bush I and II years, actual national security will be non-existent, the economy will be in shambles after a series of deregulation scandals and regulatory mismanagement, and U.S. citizens will be an international laughing stock. Our national resilience will be further stressed and our capacity for a comeback weakened by a degraded national education system and the resulting loss of technological capability and increased international competition for the bits of talent our education system produces.

Like every other pseudo-conservative President in the country’s history, national mismanagement will produce one or more extreme terrorist events; probably tossing us into another endless and mindless “war on terror” or some such bullshit label. Those of us who actually read will look back on the Obama years as the last gasp of Washington’s great experiment ("And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."). The American people have degenerated far below any hope Washington might have held for democracy and the republic concept. We are a Nation of Stupid and, worldwide, we’re turning into a species of stupid.

Every good technician, engineer, and scientist knows “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” The inverse is also true. A relatively recently described human trait, the Dunning-Krueger Effect, explains "a metacognitive incapacity, on the part of those with low ability, to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their competence accurately." Or, the less you know, the more you think you do know. Trump voters are that crowd. Their science, psychology, technology, economics, and mathematics are so shallow that they barely qualify as humans, but they have convinced themselves that they are of above-average intelligence. The less they know, the smarter they think they are. This isn’t going to end well.

12/18/2016

Let the Whining Commence

Half-wit Trump voter, Teena Colebrook, is already whining about the result of her thoughtless vote, and the middle-class misery hasn’t even started yet. When Trump announced that he was nominating general all-around Wall Street scumbag, Steven Mnuchin, for Secretary of Treasury, she wimpered, "I just wish that I had not voted. I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in." The majority of the country is with you, Colebrook. Everyone with an IQ over 50 wishes idiots like you weren’t allowed to vote.

Colebrook’s whining comes from the fact that Mnuchin was the CEO of the bank, OneWest, that foreclosed on her property in 2009, forcing her out of her home and investment property to the tune of a $517,000 debt on a $248,000 loan. She is one of the many Trump voters who knowingly voted for the guy who told the idiots enrolled in his bogus Trump University, “People have been talking about the end of the cycle for 12 years, and I'm excited if it is . . . I've always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.” So, who did Colebrook think she was voting for,  Santa Claus? Based on the fact that this math-disabled character “purchased” the property with an “interest only loan,” I suspect she believes in a collection of mythical characters, so Trump’s inane “I will give you everything” promises (at least 276 of the craziest things anyone has ever said to the voting public) probably sounded credible.

A friend was in Red State territory, Kentucky, during the election and she was struck by how many times she heard, “I’ve never vote for a Republican before, but I’m voting for Trump.” Her argument was that Trump said the things these once-working class voters wanted to hear. She was convinced that Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat who had a similar message, but that’s not true. Sanders promised things that his opponents, including Clinton, called “free stuff,” but he had plans for financing everything he promised. Sanders was consistently truthful, while Trump was consistently disinterested in reality or facts. Sanders promised that he'd work with and for his voters and the middle class, but warned that the forces against accomplishing anything significant were powerful, vested, and well-heeled. "It will be a fight," he promised.

Trump’s chumps were equally disinterested in reality or facts. Completely nutty promises like making the Michigan auto industry “bigger and better and stronger than ever before” or getting "Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries” or bringing the coal industry back to the Appalachian Mountains (and the old coal-mining jobs) without a lick of knowledge about manufacturing, rational tax incentives, technical education, or any other bit of expertise that might be useful in recreating the manufacturing society that Nixon, Reagan, and the Bush’s trashed.

Telling Americans the truth is not a politically successful tactic. President Jimmy Carter tried that in 1980 and Americans fled the dismal, hard truth for the Reagan fairy tails and many still feed themselves the “we can borrow and leverage our way back to prosperity” drivel Nixon started and Reagan perfected into a “deficits don’t matter” mantra that every Republican politician and faux-business-critter has abused since. Republicans and alt-rightwingers have committed themselves to “borrow and spend,” pretending that is somehow better than the “tax and spend” charge they levy on Democrats and progressives. Carter tried to be a role model for Americans scaling back to their means and they rebelled, choosing the phony pomp and pretense Reagan offered, general criminal and treasonous behavior, and the massive national debt he generated.Before Reagan, the US was a creditor nation. Since, we've been deeper and deeper in debt.

And we’ve done it again.

12/16/2016

Proving My Point, Again!

I have never believed that semi-pro sports, Division I-XX inter-collegiate anything, belongs in public universities. For-profit, private Schools for Spoiled Children can do whatever they like, but taxpayer money should not be wasted on jocks and stadiums. The recent University of Minnesota scandal proves my point for the n-qillionth time. Ten UofM football players gang raped or banged a co-ed who was either drunk or stupid or both and that obviously violated the university’s bare-minimum “school conduct standards.” The rest of the team went on strike, threatening to stay away from the bowl game that would almost provide the UofM with enough money to justify paying the ridiculous salaries to the coaches and athletic director. This is what passes for taking a moral stand in sports, “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!” said GoldenGopherHFC on Twitter. In the new world of Trumpdumb, this is as good as “a better world” gets.

“According to police records, a woman told officers she was drunk when she was sexually assaulted in running back Carlton Djam’s apartment by several men on Sept. 3, including some of the suspended players. She said her sexual contact with two men may have been consensual, but her contact with four of them was not. Several players told police it was consensual, and an investigator who watched a video Djam took of the incident wrote that ‘she does not appear to be upset by the sexual activity and does not indicate that she wants it to stop … and the sexual contact appears entirely consensual.’” Explain to me how any of that resembles higher education. Please!

The players are concerned for their fellow teammates/gangbangers, the quarterback Mitch Leidner said, “All these kids’ reputations are destroyed. Their names are destroyed. It’s extremely difficult to get back and it’s very unfair for them and that’s why we’re sticking together through this thing.” First, none of these men qualify as “kids.” They are overgrown, privileged young men in a culture that celebrates brawn over brain and violence over decency. If they weren’t playing football, they’d be in the military. They are not kids, children, or boys. They knew what they were doing and one of the nitwits even filmed the gangbang to give himself something to beat off to after the head injuries and age remove whatever attraction he has to women.

So, good for them. Stay on strike guys. “Three senior leaders stood in front of the group and delivered a defiant rebuke of the university’s decision, saying they would not participate in any football activities until the school president and athletic director apologized and revoked the suspensions. If that meant they don’t play in the upcoming Holiday Bowl against Washington State, they appeared poised to stand firm.” Blow both your college and your professional career making a statement that replicates the incoming federal government’s moral values and that of the 62.2 million Trump chumps who did what their Russian brainwashers (didn’t take much washing, either) told them to do and are standing proud as the nation’s security and economy is about to be wreaked by their votes.

Now that I’ve thought this all the way through, maybe sports are the only thing public universities should concern themselves with. These athletics-only college employees are absolutely representing the true moral values of 47% of the voters in the 2016 election. I guess this is the country we are going to be for at least the next four years.

12/15/2016

Withdrawal

I don't like to think of myself as being "sensitive." All my life, I've worked to sync my external voice with my internal voice so that when I recount what I've said in conversations I'm repeating what I actually did, not what I wish I'd done. There is a disconnect, though. I set fairly low standards for my expectations in other humans, but when someone I know dips below that bar I am disappointed to the excess that I seriously consider cutting off all communications with all humans. That isn't much of a self-punishment, either. I have never had a lonely day in my adult life. I have missed being around a few people, occasionally, but that didn't change the fact that I still had too many people in my life and always have. During those brief periods  when I am the only person in my home, I am at my happiest (not much of a swing from my most unhappy, I'll admit). I love to travel alone and almost never wish someone else was along for the ride.

A few days ago, (today is December 20, 2015) an acquaintance from my last job who is probably the single most sexist, male chauvinist pig I've ever experienced supported his decision to vote for one of the many insane crackers running for the Republican presidential candidacy by posting a picture of Hillary Clinton pissed off. Hillary is pretty nasty looking when she's pretending to smile, but when she's angry (something Billy has given her plenty of reason to be) she is everyone's least favorite grade school teacher. I replied that posting an "unflattering picture of Hillary is not a debate tactic when the discussion is about the latest insanity spewed by one of the nutty Republican candidates." That was, clearly, a sexist tactic designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. His response was to claim that because he had a mother and sisters, he couldn't be sexist. This is a man whose descriptions of his past sexual encounters border on disgusting and whose disrespect for women co-workers and students always made me want to put distance between him and me, professionally and personally. So his belief that the existence of his mother (not a rare occurrence in the worst of men) was a defense was so insanely stupid a claim that I gave up on carrying the debate any further. If I'm lucky, I'll never hear from this douche again.

That desire to separate doesn't stop with the foolish ex-friend, though. My disappointment in his lack of insight and self-knowledge didn't stop with the offender. I wanted to cut off all contact with humans of any sort. Not just for the rest of the day, but for an extended period of time. Years, for example.

Some aspects of this blog are time machine entries. Notes to myself to see how I'll feel sometime later after I've made a major decision about my life. This is one of those. 

12/09/2016

They Are Not Like the Others

The 2016 Minnesota redneck vote tells a lot of people more than what they needed or wanted to know about the culture in an area. When someone is thinking about starting a business, today the old “location, location, location” rule can have a completely different meaning. A location that has drive-by visibility and access is less important in a society that is driven by convenience (internet access), customer service (tolerance and people skills), loyalty (product lifestyle identification), and originality.

Voting red is a loud and clear indication that a community is neither tolerant, loyal, or creative. Goodhue County, in southeastern Minnesota, has a lot of the qualities that could be incredibly inviting to a 21st Century business. Red Wing, for example, is a transportation hub of sorts, at the intersection of US 61, US63, MN 58, and several well-maintained county roads plus there is an actual functioning Amtrak station. The city is hot-wired with fiber optic internet service almost everywhere in the city limits with IP service up to 1Gbps speeds. There is even public transportation in the city and it is a fairly inclusive service with three routes and regular service from 6AM to 6PM Monday through Friday, and 7AM to 5PM Saturday and Sunday. Housing is reasonably priced and there is no shortage of vacant industrial space. All that is good news. The bad news is that Goodhue County voted strongly for Trump and a Republican House candidate reasonable people assumed should have been unelectable. The Goodhue County Commissioners have tossed up random obstacles to prevent a “zip rail” system to Rochester and high speed rail along the Mississippi River cities. A surprising number of creative people are not drivers or even car owners, choosing to spend their commuting time doing something useful with their time. Easy and quick access to the Cities from the River Cities would be a biog draw to a lot of potential job-creating residents. The City and county officials appear to think Trump or some other con man will be able to return the country and world to the 1950’s, including that period’s social system and hierarchy (income inequality, racial isolation, and white supremacy). While there is a comedic appeal to the “back to the 50’s” drivel, change only goes backwards during catastrophes. Making “America great again,” as in somehow reviving a world where the US is the only major economic playground and white men are the only important players, is not an option.

Creative people are often odd ducks, like Steve Woziniak, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Terry Gilliam, Robert Rodriguez, Amy Pohler, John Stewart, and pretty much any other artist, geek, or inventor you’ve ever heard of. Many (or most) of those people have experienced all of the bullying, intolerance, racism, stupidity, and backwards thinking they’re likely to be willing to put up with by the time their skills become productive. The statement Red Wing and Goodhue County are making with the election and opposition to technological and social change is “we don’t want your kind here.”

Creative people are attracted to other creative people and environments that encourage variety and tolerance. Mostly, that is a selfish preference because they will only thrive and survive in that kind of society. Intolerance, on the other hand, is an unattractive trait that repels creative people and inhibits everyone else. Diversity, that politically-correct concept the alt-right and blue collar middle-aged white men hate most of all, is a creativity driver. Creativity is not a conservative characteristic, either, assuming by “creative” you mean “moderate, careful, restrained, keeping with traditional, opposing change.” It’s pretty obvious that with that list of qualities, conservatives are disinclined to look for new solutions.

Currently, human knowledge is doubling every 12 months and that rate is accelerating. With knowledge comes change and change-drivers are always young, educated, and creative. Any community actively doing things to repel that demographic is doomed. Most of Middle America has been in severe decline for 30 years or more. The smartest kids leave, the dumb ones stay and reproduce more dumb kids with fewer outliers of intelligence every generation. That is not a formula for economic or social success in any vision of the future.

12/05/2016

Who Are the Good Guys?

For most of my life, I’ve thought I could tell who the good guys were in novels, movies, and history. Based on that assumption, I thought that most of us were cheering for the same folks at the end of the movie. After the 2016 elections, I’m not so sure.
Pic 3I thought I’d post a few pairs of pictures just to calibrate myself with your ethical standards. Take, for example this pair of mythical characters. Who do you like here: the poor kid from Kansas who works for a liberal newspaper and wastes his time saving ordinary people from catastrophe and rich criminals or the rich guy to takes what he wants and could care less about who he hurts?

Pic 1
Being a rock and roll sort of guy, I thought this comparison is pretty obvious, but apparently I’m wrong. So who do you like: the artist who donates lots of his time to charity and who is actually a musician or the NRA spokesthing who crapped his pants to get out of fighting in Vietnam and who has threatened to murder the current President of the United States?
Pic 6
This ought to be a telling comparison. (The first guy is Jimmy Stewart, in case you’re confused and too young to remember Xmas movies.) The characters are Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, and Gordon Gekko, a Reagan era idol famous for his unrestrained greed and a 1980’s tag line, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." I don’t know how conservatives even blink with this choice. They have to love everything about Gekko, especially his job-killing corporate raider tactics.
Pick 5
This one should be another no-brainer for the pseudo-conservative crowd: a misfit loner, although a decorated and PTSD afflicted WWII vet, who actually destroyed parking meters or a for-profit prison warden. The warden delivers the line that appears to define the 21st Century, "What we've got here is failure to communicate." I don’t know how conservatives can not love a man who enforces the law without compassion, any sense of justice, or the slightest trace of decency.
Pic 7
I tried to make this one obvious by picking a picture of who I thought was the relative “good guy” with his gun in hand. However, this should be a tough one for conservatives: one guy is a paid assassin with a touch of morals and the other is a crooked sheriff who believes he’s the ruler of “my town” and does anything he feels like doing, including torture, behind the protection of the law.
Pic 2
This last one is the most confusing for me. One is a consistently ethical man with a beautiful family and who has given the country the most honorable government in my lifetime and the other is the living embodiment of Richy Rich and everything you’d think working class people would hate about the ruling elite.

But the election of 2016 proved that I have been viewing life, moves, and everything completely differently from 50-some-percent of the people in this country. It turns out that every movie I’ve ever watched has been interpreted differently by at least half of the theater audience. I should have known, since I attended the first showing of This Is Spinal Tap and discovered that most of the audience thought the film was an actual documentary and not a comedy at all. I didn’t bother trying to confuse you with these picture-pairs. I put the people I thought were the good guys on the left and the bad guys on the right, but I’m suspecting a lot of you thought I’d mixed it up a bit. You can not imagine how incredibly sad that makes me.

12/01/2016

Sears: Tearing Failure from the Arms of Success

When I was a kid in small town western Kansas, back in the 1950’s, Sears and Roebuck was king of retail; mail-order retail, that is. Every home had a big Sears catalog somewhere prominent and Sears was the place to go for furniture, appliances, hand and power tools, and clothing. By the 1960’s, my hometown had an actual Sears store which stocked the most popular items and made ordering from the catalog even easier. Over the years, Sears morphed into full fledged department stores and, now, these things they call “Hometown Stores”: which are micro-stores that offer free “delivery” (to the store) of items not stocked in the store. Sears is sort of like Amazon with an inconvenient delivery system.

Still, that could work if the Sears mismanagement team had some idea what the 21st Century looks like. They don’t. Sears has been losing money, consistently every quarter, for years. Sears Holdings, the TBTF holding company that now clings to Sears and Kmart, appears to be completely clueless about modern retail, website presence, and management of a business in general. It’s almost impossible to imagine that some senior executive from Sears Holdings would not end up in Trump’s cabinet: they are that stupid. Almost as if he was created by a Hollywood screenplay writer for the part, the Sears’ CEO’s name is “Edward Lampert.” I shit you not. Right out of 1880, his advice to Sears employees who are staring unemployment in the face was, “I’m asking each of you to work faster and smarter and to sharpen your efforts throughout the year.” Of course, Eddie Lampert will be sitting in his corner office, twiddling his thumbs or dialing an Aspen real estate broker as he looks for a place to spend his unearned and undeserved $4,300,585 salary. No chance any responsibility for Sears’ failure belongs to the top guy, right?

It’s almost worth buying something from a local store to get a feel for how backwards Sears Holdings is. I guess I performed that experiment for you when I bought a super-cheap Kenmore/Maytag dishwasher from my local Hometown Store. The store was, of course, a well-run, neat and organized local business, but the on-sale item I wanted to buy had to be ordered. Supposedly, the appliance would be delivered in a week or so and “we’ll call you” when it arrives. You’d think Sears would have an automatic notification system for when products can be picked up, like almost every other big box retailer on the planet has, but you’d be wrong. I discovered my dishwasher was waiting to be picked up by calling the store and getting a clerk to check the delivery area to see if it was there. Turns out it was and had been for more than a week. This isn’t a local store problem, the store is barely manned by what looks like a high school kid and a part-time mostly-retired woman and they do a good job of greeting customers, ringing up sales, and maintaining the store. This is a front office back in Chicago mismanagement problem. The useless and lazy bums staffing those corner offices, raking down huge paychecks, and issuing stupid “work harder and faster” memos are not doing any part of the job of management.

A terrific and entertaining way to see how badly mismanagement is performing is to buy something at Sears and experience the customer feedback on-line form at www.hometownfeedback.com/. Every part of this survey is right out of the bad old days of the computer “inmates are running the asylum.” The form doesn’t fit on the screen, the questions are formatted so badly they are unreadable, the questions are clearly written by non-English-speaking authors, and the questions motivations are obviously designed to put blame on the lowest level employees and deflect any responsibility from the deadbeats at the top.

11/30/2016

The Price of Being A Nation of Assholes

One of the few terrific management books of the last 100 years is Robert Sutton’s 2007 The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. In case you are a typical American and don't have the mental capacity to read a book, Sutton offered two tests for identifying assholes:
  1. After encountering the person, do people feel oppressed, humiliated or otherwise worse about themselves?
  2. Does the person target people who are less powerful than him/her?
Sound familiar?
To provide guidance to the generally clueless sort who make corporate decisions, Sutton also gave us a dozen identifying asshole behaviors, he called them The Dirty Dozen:
  1. Insults
  2. Violation of personal space
  3. Unsolicited touching
  4. Threats
  5. Sarcasm
  6. Flames
  7. Humiliation
  8. Shaming
  9. Interruption
  10. Backbiting
  11. Glaring
  12. Snubbing
Thanks to the Electoral College and the ultimate American asshole, Alexander Hamilton, we are about to experience a federal government totally staffed by assholes. Outside of the 61,900,651 confirmed assholes who voted for Trump (as of November 8, 2016) any normal person would recognize all 12 of those behaviors as Donald Trump’s prime personality markers.  From my own personal experience in this past election, those characteristics are core pseudo-conservative principles, too.

What does it mean for the future of the country when half of our voters idolize assholes? Keep in mind that, on average, the least educated portion of the country voted overwhelmingly for Trump, demonstrating why Trump and Republicans “love the uneducated.” For one, it means our media will continue to become more mean spirited, less fact-oriented, more focused on profit and less on public service, and society in general and public service will be less inviting to decent, intelligent people. I’m a firm believer in the FACT that incentives are everything. When society rewards politicians’ bad behavior far more consistently than decency, manners, intelligence, and competence, people with those qualities will find other places to commit their time. Eventually (as in January 20, 2017) our federal government will be almost fully-staffed by the worst, most selfish, least capable people in the country. The country is about to experience at least two years governed by all assholes. I don’t think this is going to work out the way these voters expected or hoped.


11/29/2016

Red Wing Is Bad for My Health

My wife and I moved to Red Wing, Minnesota at the end of 2014, after almost 20 years in Little Canada, Minnesota. Little Canada is a bedroom suburb of St. Paul and while it is a an independent city with its own government, Little Canada is really just a collection of home developments with a few bars and a couple of Dollar Stores. Red Wing had been one of my favorite Minnesota destinations since I moved to the state in 1996. Since I moved to Minnesota, I’ve taken my out-of-state friends here to show them why I love Minnesota. The scenery is as good as the Lake States and Midwest gets. The Mississippi River is a national treasure. Red Wing has a lot of history to be proud of and some of it is still standing. There are proponents of the city (55% of the residents would call them “liberals”) who would like to see Red Wing survive and thrive into this century and beyond. The 21st Century infrastructure is here: from high speed, reliable fiber optic internet service to power generation to food production to traditional transportation (including a functioning railroad station and city buses). Unfortunately, there are more people who want to turn back the clock to when white people ruled and everyone else obeyed than there are people who recognize the critical value of diversity and progress.

Most of Minnesota is socially inbred and new residents often complain that, unless you are 3rd or 4th generation, you’ll always be viewed as an outsider and close friendships will be unlikely. Red Wing is no different in that aspect. The first thing I realized about moving to Red Wing was that we were leaving some precious relationships and while Red Wing is “only” 50 miles from the Twin Cities that distance is enough to terminate anything resembling regular association. Relationships are critical to mental and physical health and we’ve replaced deep friendships with casual acquaintances.

The Twin Cities are famous (in the US) for being one of the best places in the country for fitness and recreation. With its bicycle trails, water resources, and easy access to outdoor resources, you’d think Red Wing would have been a good place to be as a retiree looking to stay active. First, we left a pair of cities with a large collection of fitness centers, all actively competing for residents’ dollars and moved to a city with one option, the Red Wing Family YMCA. The Red Wing YMCA is one of two YMCA facilities (Rochester is the other) in the state that does not accept Medicare fitness plans and membership is expensive: nearly $1,000/year for two seniors (or a family of 17). That is twice what we paid for both YMCA and for-profit gym memberships in the Cities. There are a couple of much smaller gyms that do accept Medicare fitness plans, but they only offer weights and machines.

Red Wing is a tourist town and, as such, there is no shortage of restaurants and they are pretty good. Not good for you, but good as in well-designed to encourage over-eating and poor diet habits. Healthy eating is far harder than in the Cities where farmers’ markets and co-ops abound. Red Wing has a seasonal farmers’ market, but the local grocery options are very Midwestern traditional and not particularly healthy; including Wal-Mart and EconoFoods, two national chains that make no effort to stock local products.

One upside is the Mayo Clinic both in Red Wing and in nearby Rochester. After a couple of years of ignoring our healthcare, my wife and I have both found decent doctors at the Red Wing facility and we were fortunate to be here when one of us was found to have cancer. I can not fault the Mayo’s performance in any way. There is, however, no alternative to the Mayo Clinic in Red Wing: no independent physicians or clinics and no other hospital outside of 50 miles north in the Cities. While our experience with Mayo was good, we know several residents who have nothing positive to say about the local clinic and who travel long distances for healthcare.

Educational opportunities in Red Wing are sparse and disappointing. Part of my motivation for moving her was the Guitar Construction and Repair program at Southeast Community Technical College. I attended the program for one full school year, 2015-2016. The instructors are excellent and the program is a state treasure, but it is being down-scaled in favor of a two year liberal arts direction. The school recently renamed itself “Minnesota State College Southeast” in an attempt to move away from the technical school label. The school’s management is mostly absent, based in Winona and barely supervised in Red Wing. The facilities are excellent and you’d think there would be great demand for classes in both the technical programs and in 4-year school prep, but the school is a ghost town most of the day. There are no night classes and much of the program appears to be designed for right-out-of-high-school students rather than the more typical customer for community colleges: working adults. Part of this is the state’s fault, since there is a wrong-headed move to “standardize” the community colleges across the state, which will kill off most of these schools with mediocrity. There is no “community education” program like those found all over the Cities.

Possibly worst of all, in 2016 Trump got 55% of the Goodhue County vote (37% Clinton and 3 other right wing “parties” split the rest of the county). Jason Lewis—a self-declared misogynist, racist (to the point of advocating the return of slavery), homophobic, xenophobic, anti-public education, anti-science regressive—defeated another clearly superior-in-every-way Democratic candidate, Angie Craig, without a platform, without an agenda (other than being against everything), and without a clue. by an overall slim 2% margin but a considerably larger margin in Goodhue County. Lewis advocates tax policies designed to expand economic inequality, eliminating national healthcare, and a variety of failed 1980’s pro-1% policies that even the dumbest economist would stay away from.
So, the end result of retiring from the Cities to Red Wing has been boredom, loneliness, about 30 pounds of weight gain, and a dramatic loss in social, educational, and recreational opportunities. More than half of my neighbors are regressive, racist, uneducated, and proud of their white entitlements. In all, I’d call this a failed experiment. I suspect Red Wing doesn’t want me and I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at this place the same ever again.

11/28/2016

They Took Ur Jobs!

Trump promised to bring the jobs he shopped out to China back to the USA. What do you think the chances are that Trump’s hats, shirts, ties, and other cheap shit will come back to US clothing manufacturers? How about zero, unless he can get US wages down to China’s.

The Trumpets wailed about how badly they were being treated, most of whom are living on Social Security and Unemployment and Welfare. These are the same people who elected Reagan and started the transfer of wealth from the US to Indochina and from the working class to the 1%. But they don’t get that, because they are the “uneducated” that Trump loves so much. When Reagan took his dribble-down axe to the federal tax code and made “unearned income” (interest and investment income, rent, income received from the ownership of natural resources, inheritance: aka “passive income”) more profitable than active income, any chance of US jobs expanding died and has almost no chance of ever returning. Trump is a prime beneficiary of this tax/social engineering plan and if you think Donald Trump has ever done one thing that didn’t benefit himself over every other person on the planet, you are one of his beloved “uneducated.”

For example, the unemployed (probably for decades) steel workers who campaigned and voted for Trump are great examples of uneducated voters without a clue. What could Trump do to bring steel production back to the US? He doesn’t even us US steel in his own casinos. The problem is on multiple levels: 1) the US tax system does not reward capital investment, 2) even if someone were insane enough take on creating a modern steel production facility, it wouldn’t employ uneducated, unskilled labor and would be highly automated, and 3) the US hasn’t invested in manufacturing and engineering education for so long that the country doesn’t have the talent to build a competitive steel production facility. Financial services has siphoned off at least two generations of the nation’s most talented people to the point that 45% of US STEM undergrads are foreign students who intend to return home with their US-subsidized education and skills. Our manufacturing economy is so weak that 74% of US STEM grads work in non-STEM related jobs. And why not? Engineering is complicated, competitive, and constantly demanding new skills. Finance is barely any different today than it was in the early 1980’s, when the Reagan Administration decided to blow-off enforcing Glass-Steagall. To become a finance millionaire, all you need is ruthlessness, a total lack of morality, and a little luck. You actually have to have talent, education, and perseverance to be Elon Musk.

The media has decided to blame Trump on liberals who, supposedly, ignored the “plight” of the poor white man. The reality is that the poor white man has always had the tools he needed to crawl out of poverty and step into the middle class: public education and white entitlement. The problem is these are the same poor white men who were easily distracted by the 1% aiming them at poor blacks, Hispanics, and every other ethic immigrant with a work ethic. The one skill poor whites will always have is an innate capacity for hate and violence. Otherwise, their claim of “white supremacy” is disproven by their existence.

There is, as best I can see, no fix for massive unemployment in the unskilled labor demographic. The best this lot can hope for is decent healthcare, available education for the small percentage with the values to work for it, tolerable housing, and the usual distractions of sports, religion, and guns. Preying on this crowd with easy credit and heartless bankruptcy laws is the Republican tactic and, so far, telling these nitwits that Democrats and liberals and immigrants are to blame has worked. It doesn’t make their lives any better, but it does keep their capacity for hate and violence in play.

11/25/2016

Red Wing, MN Real Estate Market 11/25/2016

I check the real estate market fairly regularly, mostly to see what the rental business tells me about my hometown’s economy. I was more than a little surprised to see how much of Red Wing is up for sale this Thanksgiving weekend (154 total homes for sale, with 2 forclosures and 11 for sale by owner properties). When we started looking for a home in Red Wing (population 16,000) in 2014, there were only a couple dozen homes for sale and practically none in the $200k-and-above territory. Today, there are 59 $200k-and-up homes for sale with a surprising number (13) of $500k-and-above homes available. Two-thirds of the Red Wing homes for sale are $100k-and-up, which is middle class and upwards in a city this small. More than one-third of the homse for sale are $200k-and-up. If that doesn’t make the city council and government very, VERY nervous, they are braindead.

Red Wing for Sale

spring creek palace

Are the rats leaving the ship? Post-2016 election, I am certainly thinking about bailing out of Trumpland. The only thing to think about a city and county that votes overwhelmingly for a bankrupt, mobbed-up, Russian-financed con man is that there is a whole lot of stupid here and that is not a good sign for the future of the area. This palace belongs to one of my rich neighbors and they are asking “$699k” for the property. If I owned a $700,000 home in a place that was suicidal enough to elect Trump and Jason Lewis, I’d be panicked. (Maybe, if I could afford a $700k castle that wouldn’t be true, so that could be beyond my imagination.)

However, I can easily afford the home I’m living in and the self-destructive citizens of this county and city are making me nervous. I’ve lived in a town this size when industry and the people who make things happen fled. In the early 1980’s, right after Reagan was elected, Nebraska’s farm economy crashed and I lost all of the equity I had in a home in Fremont. When we moved to Fremont, there were a half-dozen houses for sale. When we crashed and burned, there were several hundred and prices were rock bottom. A smarter person would have bankrupted and walked away from the property, but I paid the downpayment for my buyers, took a $5,000 loss on an $18,000 loan, and left town broke and in debt. Today’s situation in Red Wing feels suspiciously familiar.

The south end of the Twin Cities appears to be in a similar economic situation. While Ramsey and Hennepin County properties are still pretty strong, Dakota and Washington Counties are well-decorated with bank owned homes and auctions. There are too many nice looking properties selling for under $100k in areas where the non-foreclosed properties are selling for $200k-and-up. This is some kind of economic indicator, but I don’t know what kind. Could be a good time for rental propertyinvestment or it could be time to cut and run from the stupid parts of the state.

11/22/2016

Making the Vote Count

Ever since the inbred crowd started voting in mass and gave us Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, McCain, Romney, and Bush II, I’ve argued that passing the US Citizenship Test ought to be a prerequisite for voting. Face it, if you are too stupid and uninformed to pass a test designed for people who have barely dried off their feet after getting off of the boat or crossing one of our boarder rivers or lakes, you shouldn’t be making decisions about who is running the country, your state or hometown. There are lots of on-line examples of the US Citizenship Test, try and see if you belong in a voting booth.

After Trump’s election, I’ve doubled-down on this idea. I absolutely believe a few sample questions from the Citizenship Test should be administered (automatically with randomly selected questions) before anyone casts a vote. However, after Trump I have decided that simply failing the test isn’t embarrassment enough for those morons who don’t bother to know how the country works but who think their opinions matter. Like nit-picking hanging-chads and racially–coded “purged registration lists,” I think we should do something with the idiot vote. Rather than helplessly wringing our hands after one more fraudulent Red State election count, let’s get some entertainment out of our rapidly growing idiot population.

Since the reddest states are all going to computerized voting machines my voting test system could be tacked on with almost no extra costs (Sorry Diebold and the rest of the Republican vote repressors. You’ll have to game the election system some other way.) I definitely want everyone to vote, so we’re not going to toss out anyone’s vote until we’ve had fun with it. We’re just not going to count the idiot votes for making any important decisions.
However, after the informed voters have made their selection and candidates have been chosen we’re going to do something with the idiot vote.

For every office in every election, every city, county, state, and federal final tally will include who the morons voted for. That will give us two important post-election things to consider: 1) We’ll all get to laugh at the nitwits in our midst and their pitiful attempts to participate in an informed election and 2) the so-called knowledgeable voters who made similar choices to the idiots will have an opportunity for self-reflection and, hopefully, take that moment to remove themselves from the gene pool.

Dropping the Bar Further than Ever

MN02_109Minnesota’s second congressional district, my new home town, elected a character right out of America’s worst nightmares and history: Jason Lewis. Our old representative, John Kline, wasn’t much better, but he at least pretended to be a local representative rather than the corporate shill he has been since 2003. Kline mouthed the Republican code words for racism, economic inequality, corporate rights over human rights, and the usual litany of bullshit Republicans have spewed since Nixon. Lewis doesn’t bother.

Jason Lewis thought the US was mistaken in actively deciding to banish slavery. In his steaming pile of gibbering monkey drivel, Power Divided is Power Checked: The Argument for States' Rights, Lewis wrote “In fact, if you really want to be quite frank about it, how does somebody else owning a slave affect me? It doesn’t. If I don’t think it is right, I won’t own one, and people always say ‘well if you don’t want to marry somebody of the same sex, you don’t have to, but why tell somebody else they can’t. Uh, you know if you don’t want to own a slave, don’t. But don’t tell other people they can’t.” So, Minnesota’s proud Union heritage has been blasted into history by electing a quasi-modern pro-slavery half-wit. Yeah, he’s anti-civil rights, too, but that’s just a given for what passes for “modern” Republicans.

Not surprisingly, Lewis has an elevated opinion of his own sex. Lewis called women “simply ignorant of the important issues in life” and “non-thinking” during one of many mentally-deficient moments on his hate-jock radio show. Of course, if you can tolerate his bullshit book for even a few pages, you’d discover that Lewis is the poster boy for historical delusion and technological incompetence. You might even be tempted to call him “non-thinking.”

Most hilariously, he has referred to himself as John Galt-like, which is pretty amazing. This child of the idle upper-class a couple of party animal degrees: a master's degree in political science (University of Colorado at Denver) and a BA in education/business (University of Northern Iowa). With that background, he’s barely equipped to manage a Dollar Store. Galt was, at least, a fictional character who had some ability to create and utilize technology. Lewis needs help identifying his microphone in a radio studio. Like most of the pseudo-conservative nut jobs in the Republican Party, Lewis will demonstrate his job killing skills in Washington, but his nitwit voters will blame his incompetence and laziness on Democrats.

Minnesota foisted one idiot, Michelle Bachmann, on the US political scene, which made the state a world-wide laughing stock. Here we go again.

11/19/2016

Open Letter to Econofoods (and all of Walmart’s competition)

I think you are missing bet in the competition for grocery business in southeastern Minnesota. My local store doesn't appear to either know there are local farm suppliers for apples, eggs, meat, and other staples, but seems to be dumping the few local food sources they recognized; like Sturdiwheat. I live on the west end of town and my closest grocery is the Tyler Road Econo Foods, but right up the hill is Walmart with most of the same groceries slightly to substantially cheaper. 

Since an actual local grocery, Buchanan Grocery, stocks local products, including Wisconsin and Minnesota cheese, Sturdiwheat products, Pepin Heights apples and cider, and other locally grown products, I am starting my grocery runs there. The way back first takes me past Walmart then our Econo Foods store.

There is no convenience advantage to spending more money at Econofoods and without a local food motivation you've made it difficult for me to follow my natural opposition to shopping at Walmarts. I think someone in marketing needs to get fired and whoever is making the distribution decisions should be next.

In the battle for grocery customers, it’s pretty amazing to see that a small, sort-of-locally-owned chain would be so clueless about locally produced food. The Econo Foods' website makes the claim, "We offer a full service grocery store and take pride in carefully selecting the best meats and hand picked produce from local farmers." The reality is that most of the products that could be sourced locally come from Michigan and the Kroger Company distributors: including apples and other seasonally available fruits and vegetables, apple cider, cheese, milk, eggs, meat, grains and flour, and, as I mentioned in my letter, Sturdiwheat products. I am willing to pay a reasonable premium for locally grown foods and a smaller price to avoid shopping at Walmart, but if the so-called local store is no more willing to buy locally produced foods than Walmart, why would I care which one gets my money? I’m just sayin’.