Category Archives: Politics

More on Discontent

The Age of Steam

The Age of Steam

Our economy has been one of change since the beginning.  When the railroads came to Colorado in 1870, a lot of teamster jobs hauling freight from Omaha and Kansas City went away.  The automobile would not have happened without the new petroleum industry.  Coal retained its strength from powering locomotives, heating homes, and fueling industry.  Industry and manufacturing grew, making the American economy one of the largest in the world.

What a combination, land, natural resources, transportation, a growing population of people with ambition, mobility, and a willingness to try something new.  Some were left behind.  Native Americans, African Americans, and those new citizens in the Southwest who were once part of Mexico with its traditional ways.  As always, immigrants ended up at the bottom because of language and discrimination.

There were troubles.  Low wages, a turbulent labor history, drought, an unstable business cycle creating panics individuals were helpless to influence.  There were some adventures the government engaged in, such as Cuba, the Philippines China, Japan, all the trappings of empire.  In many ways the American West was an empire, won at the expense of those who were living there.

John Deere

John Deere

Agriculture was becoming more mechanized, displacing people who moved to the cities to work in industry.  All the change continues.  There is a tremendous amount of wealth in Silicon Valley, not so much in Michigan.

The West has been boom-bust from the start.  The fur trade collapsed, but the gold rushes started.  The government started giving land to the railroads and individuals.  The short grass prairie boomed with hopeful wheat growers, then the droughts came.  Oil and gas grew and grew, and grew.  As old fields played out, new oil fields were discovered.  A couple of big wars really heated things up.

It all looked great.  Yes, lots of change, but people could find good jobs and things steamed along.  The real upheavals were when the business cycle threw millions out of work.  The 1930’s were a terrible time, but a war healed all that.

The West That Never Existed

The West That Never Existed

The 1950’s seemed like a golden age.  Lots of jobs, the U.S. Ruled much of the world, and television built a myth of stability, prosperity, and a bright future for everyone.  the myth came from relative prosperity and the ubitiquous westerns on television promoting a life that never existed.

The 1960’s brought social upheaval accompanied by a growing shift in how people made their living.  Steel mills closed, imported cars were on the roads, and computer-driven automation started taking industrial jobs.  The word Yuppie became a term of derision, but the Yuppies were the wave of the future.  They possessed education and a skill set many people could or would not obtain.

The skilled trades fell out of favor. It is college or else.  The trade jobs are filled the way they have always been filled, by immigrants.  This time however, the immigrants are not easily assimilated Europeans.  They are Latin, and and bring their culture with them.  Many are just not as interested in assimilating, and many are undocumented.

All this change leaves a huge segment of our society out of the good life.  Many are rural, where big mechanized farms haven taken jobs.  Many just do not have social and intellectual requirements to move into the new economy.  What’s left?  Low-paying service economy jobs, often for an out of date minimum wage inadequate for one person, let alone a family.  It is hard to build a life mowing lawns and doing kitchen work.  Much of the time jobs that used to be stepping stones have turned into dead ends.

The trouble is just beginning.  Those people marginalized by an economy where they don’t fit can be radicalized and turn to violence and terror or Donald Trump, which may be same thing.  The discontent is just not with the marginalized working class.  There are lots of well-educated people from middle class families making pizzas and living in their parents’ basement.  They thought they were doing the right thing going into debt to get an education and found nobody wants them.

This is still a rich country.  There is a huge imbalance in the distribution of wealth which has to change.  The change agent must be government.  A true progressive tax structure and an end to the massive influence of special interests in government are desperately needed.  The nation has the resources to provide everyone with an income providing them some dignity and the flexibility to enhance their station in life.  Given a decent income, most will seek ways to do even better.

We will always have the wealthy and the poor.  Now, there is too much concentrated wealth for a few and too many poor.  Trying to revert to an American utopia which never existed will only add to social instability.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Happy Days Are Here Again

There should be no food banks or coat drives.  There should be no one sleeping on the streets.  People with mental health problems should not be cast out.  Everyone should have the time and resources available to build better lives for themselves rather than being trapped in poverty.

In other words, we need a new time of progressive change, not an attempt to return to a myth.  How to pay for it all?  A realistic progressive tax system to redistribute income.

The Summer Of Our Discontent

What a time!  It’s hot about two weeks early for this area.  I got a replacement toolbox for my Toyota Tacoma’s toolbox.  The old one failed because I haul so much stuff around.  Fortunately it had a lifetime guarantee.  We seem to be spending entirely too much time in doctor’s offices; me getting pre-cancerous patches frozen on my head, Carol with eye trouble, and her son with a broken wrist and atrial fibrillation.

On the positive side, our garden is looking great, no hail this year so far.   We are going to have a big raspberry crop, the flowers are beautiful, and all the veggies are growing away.  Things seem to be going fairly well for an old couple.

There is tragedy in the land.  Murdering large groups of innocent people just trying to have a good time is terrible.  There has to be some means in place to restrict weapons solely designed for killing large numbers of people.

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganThe reason I am writing this, however, is about the current political situation.  The U.S. Has a long tradition of sending poorly qualified people to the White House, but this is getting ridiculous. This guy the Republicans have chosen to run has managed to combine all the worst qualities of American politicians in one outrageous package.  The man has no qualifications to lead the nation in any direction other than backward, and possibly into chaos.  Just his hair should be a cue.  What are those people thinking?

I understand the discontent.  A lot of people are not liberal and want leadership addressing their problems.  Stagnant wages, a lack of good skilled industrial jobs, and rapid change rather than a safe, stable, comfortable life like Ward, June, Wally, and the Beav lived.  They forget that the Cleavers didn’t exist, they were just a TV show.

They sit in front of the TV watching pretty people having a crisis which always has a happy ending.  Their lives aren’t so happy, and they are angry about it.  So here comes a TV show host who says he can fix everything.  He will get rid of “those people”, give them good jobs, make the country safe, and put steak on the plate and a nice diesel Super Duty pickup in every driveway.  If there is trouble, the Marines can stop it.  The country will regress or else.

The mainstream Republican approach is to make rich people richer, take away benefits, and cut schools, highways, parks, sell the government land off. and send their sons off to endless wars.  Congress is paralyzed.  That plan has run its course.  The only reason it worked at all is the rich ones spent lots of money fooling people and buying politicians.

The result is Donald Trump.  He says he can fix it.  Well, no.  The man seems to have no idea how our government works.  He thinks he can issue commands on impulse and get an immediate response, whether his commands are legal or not.  The only things he really wants are adulation and a chance to get rid of those who ask the wrong questions.

Hillary has done a lot of things well, but she has a past.  Trump will sling as much dirt as he can, hoping enough will stick to her to get him elected.  It worked with the primaries,  let’s hope it won’t work for the Big One.

Follow the Money

Lots of corporations and individuals complain about government regulation of their businesses and lives.  The complaints come with much complaining about high taxes.  Other than the paperwork involved with regulation, regulation is good for individuals and business.  Making regulation a political issue is just that, politics.  In some cases profits are affected, but in most cases, not so.   

Let’s use ozone as an example.  Ozone is toxic to us if we are exposed directly.  It is beneficial in the stratosphere as it absorbs ultraviolet light, which is harmful to living things.  UV light increases sunburns, contributes to skin cancers, and is an immunosuppressant.  Worldwide, governments banned chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals used in refrigeration (Freon).  The refrigeration industry fought the regulation, citing increased costs, lower profits, and job loss.  Guess what?  The Freon had to be replaced, and who had to do it?  The refrigeration business.  The increased regulation actually helped the industry and the ozone holes in the atmosphere began shrinking.  The controversy continues, however. 

Refrigeration prices increased, but were more than offset by the economic gains brought about by the change-over to safe refrigerants.  More jobs, bigger refrigeration companies, more profits, all money going into the economy.  The benefits more than offset the cost of eliminating chlorofluorocarbons.  Public health gained from the reduction in sunburns and skin cancers worldwide.  Everybody gained. 

The same applies to the auto industry with all the safety and emission requirements.  Car prices increased, but accident deaths and air pollution decreased.  Everyone gained, and governments will profit from the fines Takata and Volkswagen will pay. My Toyota dealer profited from replacing dangerous airbags. 

In economics the win-win effect of regulation can be explained by the multiplier effect.  If money is spent, the recipient spends those dollars in payroll, capital investment, taxes, and a host of other things.  Those dollars get spent, and the economy grows.  This even applies to digging holes.  People move to Denver and need a place to live.  A developer decides to build an apartment building.  He borrows money from the bank and hires architects, engineers, and contractors.  The contractor needs to put in the basements and foundations.  Thus, a need for a hole.  He hires an excavation contractor who digs the hole.  He is getting lots of business, so he hires equipment operators and laborer.  He buys a new trackhoe from Caterpillar.   The dirt has to be hauled away, so he hires a trucking company, and so it goes.  Government benefits from tax revenue and the fees for all those permits.  The revenue pays for more cops.  On and on it goes. 

The next time you hear someone say. “Get government out of the way.”, ask them if they know about the multiplier.

Flint Water

Flint Water

Flint Water

After 30 years in the water industry, I thought I should give my take on the Flint, Michigan water crisis.  There is a misconception that the water from the Flint River the state emergency manager switched to is poisonous.  Not true.  Properly treated, the Flint River water is fine, and would meet all safe drinking water standards.   

The problem is that the water was not properly treated.  As it comes from the river, the water is corrosive and attacks metals in the distribution system pipes.  To be safe, it must be treated to make it less corrosive.  There are chemical additives (phosphates) that coat the pipes and prevent lead and copper from leaching into the water.  Here in Denver, lime or soda ash are added to raise the pH  of the water, making it less corrosive.  In addition, over time a thin film of calcium carbonate forms on the inside of the pipes, effectively sequestering the toxic metals. The phosphate chemicals do the same thing. 

How can you tell if your water is safe?  The corrosive water also attacks the rust that forms in an old system, such as in Denver or Flint.  If your water is red, it has rust, but also lead and copper.  The lead and copper come from the pipes, not the river.  The rust won’t hurt you, just stain your fixtures.  The lead comes from lead solder (now outlawed) used to join copper pipes and from lead pipes once used to bring water from the main into the house.  The lead service lines are slowly going away, but many houses have galvanized steel pipes into the house.  These are safe, but that steel pipe won’t bend to attach to the tap on the main, which is high on the pipe to keep sediment out of the service line.  The solution, a flexible lead loop bending from the tap to the service line.   

Corroded Pipe

Corroded Pipe

In Denver some older houses have lead service lines, but the lead loops are more common.  My entire neighborhood in South Denver with houses dating from the Victorian era to the 1940’s has lead loops.  Most of them are replaced when the old galvanized pipes rust out and there is a leak.  Our house has a copper service line now.  Several houses on the block have had their old service lines replaced since we have lived there.  Look where the water line comes into your house.  If it is copper, you are OK.  Flint has the same situation. 

Aggressive water leaches lead and copper out of the pipes and renders the water toxic.  Lead is the most dangerous, as it is a neurotoxin especially dangerous for developing fetuses and young children.  Copper is also toxic, but copper pipes are more resistant to corrosion than lead. 

If you have red water in your house, it is possibly dangerous and needs to be tested.  The Flint water is not just red, it’s red mud.   Before the Safe Drinking Water Act, many small water systems had aggressive water.  As a kid, I watched red water flow into our bathtub, especially in the spring, when the water was mostly runoff.  Maybe that is why I am nuts, as well as the rest of us from Fruita.

How did this happen in Flint?  Flint has a treatment plant, but was using water from Detroit which has good corrosion control.  Flint has plans to switch from the Flint River to Lake Huron  as their water source.  Lake Huron water is higher quality than river water, making it less expensive to treat.  Detroit water is from Lake Huron.  The Michigan emergency manager for Flint ordered the switch to river water to save money.   

Flint is broke.  The demise of much of the U.S. Auto industry hit Flint hard, a General Motors town.  The result, white flight, leaving a population mostly poor and black.  The city couldn’t pay its bills and the state took over with a team appointed by the Governor.  Here is the root of the problem.  The federal Safe Drinking Water Act establishes standards for drinking water.  The law gives the states the option to administer the law, usually by the Health Department or the Environmental Quality Department.   

So, the State government is running the Flint government and water treatment process and is also charged with insuring the water is safe, a clear conflict of interest.  A wild card?  Racism.  Those poor black people did not have much political clout and were essentially ignored and belittled when they complained about their water.  It took a brave pediatrician seeing high lead levels in her patients to finally get action. 

Four governmental entities are involved.  The Flint city government was rendered superfluous when the state assumed control.  The federal EPA was passing the buck to the Michigan Environmental Quality Department and not doing due diligence in making sure the department was doing its job (the EPA administrator lost his job).  The state environmental quality regulators knew there was a problem, but were influenced by the Governor’s emergency management.  The result, a perfect bureaucratic storm, with the people of Flint as victims. 

The cost?  A public health crisis that will cost millions to fix.  It takes a long time for the calcium carbonate or phosphate coating to form in the pipes.  In the meantime the water is unsafe.  The people of Flint will have to be provided with bottled water for some time.  Lots of bureaucratic fingers are being pointed.  There is plenty of blame to go around.  Will anyone go to jail?  Probably not, even though there is now a special prosecutor.  If the local Flint city government had been simply subsidized by the state until it got its house in order, the whole thing could probably been avoided.  Instead the emergency managers put money ahead of the public health.     

Many conservatives want to reduce the size of government, and return to the nineteenth century, before there was water treatment and people died of waterborne disease.  Government built a system to protect public health.  If government does not have the money do do its job, the public health will suffer.  Do you want safe water?  Don’t move to Flint.

 

 

Radicals

Radicalism seems to be common among Republican Presidential candidates.  Radicals want to make sweeping changes in government rapidly rather than progressive change. 

The most radical is Donald Trump.  He seems to want to create a warring dictatorship, with no room for dissent.  The word for that is fascism, accompanied with the lowest form of demagoguery.  There is precedent for those people in American politics.  George Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Father Coughlin, David Duke, and Huey Long are examples.  

Trump

Trump

The current crop of radicals have a different agenda.  They are fundamentalist Christians who are believers in a doctrine common for over two thousand years.  They see the turmoil of human affairs as signs that we are in the end times.  The turmoil will escalate into the battle of Armageddon, followed by the rapture and the second coming. 

Apocalyptic literature has always been with us, but The Judeo-Christian literature is especially rife with dire prophesies.  Today’s Christian radicals take most of their inspiration from the books of Revelation and Matthew, written around the end of the first century predicting the fall of the Roman Empire.   There is a lot of ancient apocalyptic literature, the Bible is not unique in this.  There is also a lot of allegory not exclusive to the Bible.   

When I was engaged in extensive Bible study, I also watched televangelists talking about the end times, and how biblical prophesy is about to be fulfilled.  People have been talking about the end times since the latter part of the first century, when the New Testament was written.  Rome destroyed the Temple in 70 AD.  That catastrophe was the beginning of the Jewish diaspora, and turmoil continued in Palestine.  The prophesies were written then, and referred to Rome.   

Biblical Battle of Armageddon

Biblical Battle of Armageddon

My view is that attempting to apply those prophesies to today is repeating the mistake Christians have been making since the New Testament was written.  There was end time hysteria in the first and second centuries, around 1000 AD, and beginning in the nineteenth century when mostly American writers began looking into biblical prophesy.  Many dates chosen for the rapture, Armageddon, and the Second Coming have come and gone.  Christ continues to tarry.  The establishment of the State of Israel was seen as the biggest portent, and that it would all happen within a generation.  Nope. 

Now it is the continuing conflict in the Middle East which will culminate in a climactic battle between the U.S. and Russia at Megiddo.  This is the reason for fundamentalist support for Israel.  They see Israel as the flash point for a general war and then Armageddon. 

 Michelle Bachmann, Oral Roberts University Law School

Michelle Bachmann, Oral Roberts University Law School Graduate

Most of the Republican candidates subscribe to this view.  Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin have spoken explicitly about this view.  Most of the current candidates who call themselves evangelicals believe in the end times, but don’t talk about explicitly, remembering what happened to Bachmann and Palin. 

Radicalism dominates Republican Presidential nomination campaigning.  The idea is as radical as forming European Christian armies to take Jerusalem in 1099 AD.  The enemy is the same, Islam.  The goal is the same, establishing Christian rule.   A secondary goal is establishing a Christian theocracy in the U.S.  We don’t hear a lot of talk about these overall strategies, but the specific policy statements point in that direction.  Abortion, gay marriage, invading Iraq and Syria to destroy ISIS and confront Putin, increasing defense spending, and defunding the opposition (Working People), are the real goals.  Oh, and making rich people richer.

Watch out, folks, read between the lines, and watch Trump confound everyone with his flag waving racism.  Be especially aware of the prophesy believers.  They want to impose their religious beliefs on the world.

The Trouble With Politics

Money

Money

The biggest political problem we are facing is the influence of money.  Politicians need lots of money to get elected and those with a lot of money can buy influence.  The individuals and groups with a lot of money tend to have one foremost goal: more money.

The Money People tend to support politicians who can help them get more money.  The State of the Union, the world, and the environment are secondary.  The priorities are wrong.  I don’t know the answer, because it is up to Congress to get big money out of politics and the politicians need money.  Maybe it has to come from a constitutional convention initiated by the state legislatures.  That is a problem because those legislators need money to get elected.

Big problem.

Recent Entries »