Thursday, January 31, 2019

Warren Smacks Billionaire Who Seeks Trump Re-Election by Running Third Party

The Billionaire Class is worried, and at least one is acting on his worries that he might be taxed more fairly.

Back in the 1930s, some French rightwingers said, “Better Hitler than Blum”:
But before the Nazis rolled into Paris, the right wing of Paris could be heard chanting a somewhat terrifying slogan: “Better Hitler than Blum.”
Meet the guy 1930's France hated more than Hitler.

Leon Blum was a French Jewish socialist who was briefly France’s Prime Minister in the late 1930s in a Popular Front, anti-fascist government.

For Howard Schultz, it’s Better Trump than Warren, and he’s trying to ensure he won’t pay taxes by running a vanity third-party campaign to try to steal votes from the Democratic nominee. And he hates M4A and a wealth tax.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hasn’t announced yet whether he’ll run for president, but that didn’t stop him from taking aim Tuesday at one of the key economic proposals of one of his would-be opponents.
In an interview on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Schultz, who has said he’s considering an independent run for president, dinged liberal priorities like Medicare for all and tuition-free college, but it was Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for increasing taxes on the super wealthy that he labeled “ridiculous.”
Politico: Schultz rips Warren's 'ridiculous' plan to tax the super wealthy 

Warren responded quickly:

What's “ridiculous” is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves while opportunity slips away for everyone else. The top 0.1%, who'd pay my , own about the same wealth as 90% of America. It's time for change.

Game, set, and match to Warren.

We must defeat the Billionaire Class.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

To succeed we must all agree on what we are trying to do


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831), last of the great German classical philosophers.
By George Templeton
Rim Country Gazette Columnist
Look Away, This is nothing but Dismay
We are like the children in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  In his Penultimate Peril episode the hotel clock chimes out a warning, “Wrong, Wrong”.
There are those who would not invent the wheel because it would eliminate jobs for people to carry things!  It seems an easy solution.  But what exactly does it mean?  What really is significant?  If we want to “Make America Great Again” we should ask this question.  A failure to build the “Great Wall of America” along our southern border is not a calamity.  The real problems are the reality demons which complicate a solution to the immigration problem.  They slow or even stop progress.
How can you be successful when you cannot agree on what you are trying to do, when your probability of success involves mutually exclusive events?  The politician thinks he wins by wagering on both sides of the coin toss.  He is afraid to do his job because he might be found accountable.  Mathematics can help.  The first step to understanding is measurement, but we don’t need numerical calculation.  We want a rational process that moderates emotion.
Outcomes depend on many variables.  Each nuance adds another dimension making visualization difficult.   We see two dimensions easily.  They form a surface.  Three dimensions make a volume.  More than three dimensions are possible but they do not make a simple mental picture.  We have to slice the object up, and examine the exposed surface.  If we expect to solve any complicated problem we want to discard as many weak variables as possible.  We try to pick variables that are pure and do not interact with others.  Interactions introduce interference, sums, differences, and compromises causing the complexity of a solution to explode.  If we can identify independent variables, changes in them will influence the outcome and not each other.  It is wrong to think that making our variables more precise, more complete, by introducing interactions will help at this beginning point in our process.
The difficulty of solving a problem depends on how we frame it.  We should not be like lawyer politicians who divide everything into guilty and not guilty; who think that their winning is more important than the cost to you.  Everything that has a right side up also has an upside down.  One is often better than the other for seeing how things fit together.  But a rose is a rose by any other name.  Symmetry is essential.  Then reality does not change depending on whether one sees it as a Republican or a Democrat.  Immigration is like that.  It is about compassion, the law, sanctuary, keeping families together, and providing the economic growth needed to care for our elderly.
Human problems are much more complicated than process engineering.  They have to be fixed one piece at a time.  That takes longer than a single political administration.  Maybe we cannot control the variables or even pick an accurate proxy for them.  In that case they are uncertain.  We have to honestly express alternatives and make decisions based on probability and tested results.
So how does this relate to a wall and a government shutdown?  These things are unrelated.  They are not like the deficit and debt.  Our arguments are superficial and hurtful.  They reinforce dysfunctional behavior.
Managing Government
Big projects, like fixing immigration, take a long time to implement.  The immigration problem dates back to the bipartisan McCain-Kennedy Secure America and Orderly Immigration Reform Bill of 2005.  President Bush backed a version of it in 2006, but the House refused to vote on it.  Another try in 2007 faltered in the Senate.  They tried again in 2013, after Kennedy’s death, and got a supermajority of Senate votes, but once again failed to get a vote in the House.  It is unlikely that a three week stopgap government funding will make any difference.  When nature aims at a constant, the result is persistent long term behavior.  We must understand this to solve the problem.  We owe it to the legacy of our great patriots to try again.  Dealing with immigrant children seeking asylum requires faster and more limited action, but effective problem solving relies on the same technical steps described earlier.
Imagine you are a project champion.  You have to persuade your management, using facts, to fund your project.  If you try to mislead them with fantasies, they will not forget.  Success is more than building a wall.  You have to defend why you want one, what the return on investment will be, where it will go, what the risks and alternatives are, and give a cost benefit analysis.  It should be a written proposal, perhaps fifty pages long, measurable and quantifiable, and explaining when and how the money will be spent.  Somebody other than you will measure your success and it will become part of the public record.  All of the people who will help you with the project must “sign in blood” and agree to cooperate in implementing the project according to their area of expertise.  Your management might approve your project, deny it, or request changes in the proposal.
There will be periodic reviews.  There are people who understand what’s going on.  You won’t find them in Congress.  You would not rely on the House or Senate to fix a semiconductor manufacturing process gone astray.  Why should you rely on politics to fix immigration?
Imagine that you have an industrial crisis.  Your process is out of control, your product no longer works, and your customers are screaming to get their orders filled.  Suppose that you would not try to fix the process unless you were allowed to smoke in the parking lot.  That’s the way we do it in government, with poison pills that that lead to an unwillingness to act.
Isn’t a chair more than the atoms it is composed of?  A nation has no soul in the same sense that a chair is only its atoms.  A strong manager is not one who coerces and forces others to do his bidding.  He wants things to turn out our way, the best way, the American way, not necessarily his way.  He would not use people as a means to achieve his end.  That is immoral.
It is natural to view the brain as a computer.  In this model, awareness is important.  It can be traced to particular regions within the brain.  Recent thinking claims that consciousness is much more than perception.  It is in how we decide.  It has no particular region in our brains.  That is why our Supreme Court, that many people feel is broken, is so interesting.
Neither Saint nor Hero
The editorial claimed that President Obama made the Supreme Court rule as he desired.  They answered to him, and that upset conservatives.  But judges on the Court have long maintained that all they did was implement the Constitution, not legislate from the bench.  This was the intent of the Founding Fathers.  The court was to be our servant and not our master, but what the Constitution means today is not always clear.  At times, the Supreme Court has seemed out of touch with community mores like teaching creationism in public schools.  In contrast, at the time of the writing of the Constitution powerful corporations were not people. 
The Founding Fathers did not anticipate that a nominated judge would deliberately politicize the Court by taking sides and alluding to the “deep dark state” which is our government.  This drives a stake in the heart of the American way.  It seems that we are more concerned with adolescent behavior than with the strong negative influence of politics.  For people to believe in our form of democracy they must see that the Supreme Court is fair and apolitical, not ideological.  The law relies on consensus and persuasion, not force.  So, how could we fix our broken Court?
Supreme Court justices have to make decisions that are controversial.  Life appointment prevents their corruption by politics and self-interest.  But where in the rest of the world do you have a job for life, a rubber variable because technology can prolong living far beyond the point where one remains productive.  Where in business do you get to keep your job longer than you can perform it?  Programmed death is built into our DNA.  We could not be born without it.  Insurance companies know this.  Perhaps we should listen to them, when we choose a maximum age for the Supreme Court.
It takes about ten years for a Supreme Court justice to learn their job and to evolve into who they really are.  This is another one of those variables that justice is a function of.  But doesn’t the job of serving on the Court use people up and isolate them from changing reality?  We don’t give justices a sabbatical to renew themselves.  They have the views of prior generations, of tradition, instead of those for today.  A limited tenure would mean that a president could not put his timeless stamp on the Court.  Besides, a term limit would encourage presidents to select a more competent, mature candidate.
There aren’t enough justices.  We need 12 instead of nine.  That would reduce the chance that a single justice could “swing” the court’s decision.  Because of the divisions in our society, many court decisions have become split decisions.  Five to four decisions are a 25 percent margin in opinion.  A seven to 5 decision would be a 40% margin.  A single justice would be less likely to sway the group.  In addition, twelve justices make it less likely for a single president to tilt the court in his way.  It would also allow greater diversity in thought to match our society.
Hegel’s Dreams
How can we entertain any change?  We could take our cue from G.F.W. Hegel (1770-1831), the last of the great German classical philosophers, who taught about the importance of religious conviction in the collective spirit of humanity.  Morality, split between rationality and revealed authority, divided humanity between reason and emotion.  To appreciate Hegel we have to believe in history and a doctrine of the Holy Spirit instead of scientific revolution.  But as we grow old, we become stuck in the past instead of living in the present.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Mitch McConnell linked to Putin, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Russian companies

There always seems to be more to the story when it comes to Trump and Russia, and this time it involves Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

Earlier today, we heard that the U.S. lifted some Russian sanctions. The official announcement came on Sunday by Trump’s U.S. Treasury Secretary appointee Steve Mnuchin, who was Trump’s former 2016 campaign finance chairman. Mnuchin lifted sanctions on three Russian companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Deripaska was also a business partner with Paul Manafort, who was Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. Manafort was convicted of bank fraud and tax evasion tied to Russia and also pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

It’s a very tangled web they weave.

BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Oleg Deripaska (R), CEO of UC Rusal, attend the APEC CEO Summit, as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit at the China National Convention Centre (CNCC) on November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. APEC economic leaders' meetings and APEC summit is being held at Beijing's outskirt Yanqi Lake. (Photo by Wang Zhao-Pool/Getty Imgaes)
L- Vladimir Putin, R-Oleg Deripaska
On January 16, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer led a resolution to stop Mnuchin from lifting the Russian sanctions, but Senate Democrats did not have enough votes, even with 11 Republican Senate members joining in support. With the Mueller investigation, even some Republicans see Mnuchin’s move to make Russian concessions—not in good time.

House members led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, also tried to stop Mnuchin, by introducing a similar resolution on January 17, but the Democratic lawmakers were also unable to overpower Trump’s position and Mitch McConnell’s Senate majority. Both Democratic attempts were considered to be symbolic.

Monday evening brought a new twist in that one of Mitch McConnell’s major donors, Len Blavatnik, who is tied to Vladimir Putin and other Russian oligarchs, benefited when Trump and McConnell lifted Russian sanctions on Sunday. 

An earlier Dallas News piece titled, “How Putin oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns.” is one of the best pieces you’ll read on the subject. Here are a couple of excerpts. 

Blavatnik contributed a total of $3.5 million to a PAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Blavatnik contributed $1.5 million to the GOP Senate Leadership Fund PAC in the name of Access Industries and another $1 million in the name of AI-Altep Holdings during the 2015/2016 election season. And as of September 2017, he had contributed another $1 million this year through AI–Altep.
Blavatnik, whose family emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1970s, is a longtime business associate of Russian oligarchs Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg, both of whom have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Along with McConnell, Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham received hefty sums from Blavatnik as well.
Lindsey Graham? That story needs to be written and/or revisited. 

Right now, the point being made is that Mitch McConnell is benefiting from his direct and indirect ties to Putin and Russian oligarchs, which most likely guided McConnell’s recent vote to lift Russian sanctions. And it would seem he clearly voted in the interest of himself, his king and his Russian ties, when McConnell should have been working in the best interest and for the welfare of the American people.

Pfft. His Senate seat and constituents are merely stepping stones for the corrupt little man. 

Many have suspected for some time that smirky McConnell was looped into the Russian knot one way or another. Watching the Republican Senate Majority Leader defend and cling to Trump, like a tick, has been difficult and disturbing to watch for over two years. Will this news get us closer to the end?

The real question is, why would McConnell and Trump do something so stupid as to lift Russian sanctions just as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s collusion investigation is beginning to blow wide open? They have to know they are under a microscope. Why pick now?

One thing we do know is—Trump lives to benefit Trump. McConnell? He was doing that long before Trump came into the Washington arena. McConnell just plays his hand in a more reserved, sinister and insidious manner. But they both come from the same hole in the ground. They both have hurt and damaged masses of people overtly and covertly. And they both will be on the same ship that goes down. And it’s going down. It’s going down.

Monday, January 28, 2019

In pursuit of happiness...

image title
Research: 50% of happiness is genetic, 40% is adaptable and 10% is circumstance.

You can increase happiness by learning and practicing skills that enable it.
January 25, 2019

Arizona State professors share how our relationships with each other, the world around us and ourselves can make us happy

Depending on who you ask, happiness can be a lot of things.

The Dalai Lama might tell you that happiness is the practice of compassion.

A song by soul legend Al Green tells us it’s “when you really feel good about somebody.”

If you ask an average Joe, they could tell you it’s tied to their life circumstances.
But scientifically speaking — it's a mix.

“Research suggests that about 40 percent of our well-being and happiness is within our control, something we can adapt through our actions and the way we behave,” said Sarah Tracy, Herberger Professor of organizational communication and qualitative methodology at Arizona State University’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

“About 50 percent is genetic. And then only 10 percent of it is due to circumstances: things like how much money we have or how good-looking we are. We think it’s our circumstances that make us happy, but it‘s really only a small amount.”

The mere fact that the subject of happiness — what it is, how to get it, who deserves it — holds such a commanding presence in the human psyche suggests just how important it is to life itself.

In any case, the pursuit of it is considered a God-given right. So in the spirit of the new year and new beginnings, ASU Now asked a handful of professors from various disciplines how we might best go about that. It turns out that happiness has a lot to do with relationships — with each other, with the world around us and with ourselves.

Social happiness

headshot of ASU professor
Sarah Tracy 
In her teaching, Tracy focuses on the 40 percent of our well-being and happiness that is within our control, and within that, specifically on communication. Since 2009, she has offered both undergraduate and graduate courses on the “Communication of Happiness.” 
The goal of the course is to help students think about ways to build happiness in their life. 
“A lot of the things we can do in the world to improve our happiness, which is also called subjective well-being, are things that are learnable,” she said. 
Students learn to build on skills they already have, like expressing gratitude by being more conscious of saying thank you in everyday life. Other assignments range from joining a club to planning a family get-together where you interact in ways you haven’t before. 
“The happiest people in the world are those that have a rich social life,” Tracy said. 
There’s also a whole section on coping with anxiety, which Tracy cautions can be brought on by too much social interaction, often in the form of social media, and can cause an unhealthy preoccupation with comparison. 
“Social comparison is a killer of happiness,” she said, “and social media is a huge tool of social comparison.” 
Tracy teaches students methods they can use to make that kind of anxiety more manageable, such as writing through it, meditating, exercising (she calls this “the quickest mood enhancer) and simply unplugging for a while. 
“The skills it takes to increase happiness aren’t complicated, but they take discipline. It’s like a situp; it’s not complicated, but it takes discipline to do it enough to make a difference,” she said.

Environmental happiness

headshot of ASU professor
Scott Cloutier 
As an environmental engineering undergrad, ASU sustainability Assistant Professor Scott Cloutier became frustrated with a class project that asked students to think about how they would build a water treatment plant. Not because it was difficult, but because he was only asked to consider the logistics, not the people who would be using them, working in them and living with them in their communities. 
“I started thinking,” he recalled, “‘If I was an engineer, what would I design for?’ Happiness.” 
After that revelation, Cloutier designed his doctoral dissertation around building a happy neighborhood. 
At ASU, he leads the Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness project and has developed the “Sustainability Through Happiness Index,” a tool that allows planners to engage with neighborhood residents and collaborate to better understand and implement changes that will create happy places to live. 
“When we design for pleasure, we’re wasteful. And people confuse happiness with pleasure,” he said. 
In Tempe, for example, Cloutier explained, “we could easily go to Mill Avenue, eat all kinds of food, get drunk and buy all kinds of stuff. But there are a lot of consequences to that kind of pleasure-seeking, instant-gratification way of living, environmentally and socially.” 
Consequences like gentrification and damage to natural habitats. 
Through the Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness project, Cloutier has worked with communities in locales as far-flung as Mexico, Bolivia and Denmark. And while the factors that determine what makes a happy place to live can vary based on culture and economics, there are plenty of similarities: a sense of safety and belonging, environmental design that promotes social interaction and access to open and green spaces. 
“Some of the happiest places are where people lose their sense of self and instead consider themselves part of something bigger,” he said. “If we think of happiness as coming from having a deep connection with nature and the natural cycle of the world around us, we can start to move toward a more sustainable future.”

Individual happiness

headshot of ASU lecturer
Shannon Tromp 
Positive psychology, a relatively new area of focus within the broader field of psychology, has been gaining traction in recent years. It posits that we can scientifically quantify and predict happiness by measuring and learning from how various cultures define life satisfaction and well-being. 
Shannon Tromp, a lecturer in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, has been teaching a course on it for about a year. 
“It allows students to focus on the areas of the field that relate to the actual mechanics and components of what makes us happy, what makes life good,” she said. 
Students learn about the historical and cultural differences related to the idea of happiness, and also try out personal life-enhancing techniques for themselves, such as meditation, gratitude journals and affirmations. 
“As an example,” Tromp said, “applying aspects of character virtues (such as integrity, tolerance, zeal), spirituality and appreciation, and engaging in service to others are all things that show up again and again as being consistent with improving life satisfaction. 
“Understanding how those variables can apply universally or cross-culturally can help an individual modify their own experience and make positive change in their own lives.” 
Top photo by Pixabay

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Princess of Lies Sanders gets Ocasiowned

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a glutton for punishment. That has been amply established several times over. But you would have thought that even she would know better than to try to go one-on-one with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

So when the Princess of Lies suggested that AOC ought to leave climate change to God, you knew that AOC was going to pull out her blowtorch. Well, she didn’t disappoint.

“Genesis 1: God looked on the world & called it good not once, not twice, but seven times.

Genesis 2: God commands all people to “serve and protect” creation.

Leviticus: God mandates that not only the people, but the land that sustains them, shall be respected.”
You shouldn’t need a Bible to tell you to protect our planet, but it does anyway.

(h/t to @RELEVANT mag for source excerpts that I adapted for the previous tweet)


Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. Never, never pick a fight with a Latina.

Especially this Latina.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Bernie Sanders Set to Announce Presidential Run

Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)
Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: Getty)

By Hunter Walker, Yahoo News
26 January 19
hree years after fighting a surprisingly competitive Democratic primary race against Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, is making another run for the White House.

Two sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo News that Sanders, an independent and self-described “democratic socialist,” plans to announce his presidential bid imminently. While Sanders has been considering a bid for months, one of the sources said he was emboldened by early polls of the race that have consistently showed him as one of the top candidates in a crowded Democratic primary field. In particular, the source said Sanders was heartened to see numbers indicating he is one of the leading candidates among African American and Latino voters, two groups he was perceived as struggling with in 2016.

The source also alluded to a spate of recent polls that show Sanders as the most popular politician in the country. They attributed Sanders’ strength in the polls to the base and name recognition he built with the prior presidential bid.

“What the senator has this time that he didn’t have last time is he is the most popular elected official in the country right now,” the source said. “That’s light years away from 2016, when very few people knew who he was.”

A third source said Sanders’ bid will begin with an exploratory committee. Sanders’ campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

In addition to these two sources, a former Sanders staffer who had not been briefed on the imminent announcement plans nevertheless said many recent signs suggest he is set to pull the trigger on a presidential campaign. Specifically, the former staffer said Sanders has been building out the infrastructure he would need for a White House bid.

“He’s already talking to staff and there are people he’s hiring. They’re nailing down contracts with vendors. … All the movement is there for him to run,” the ex-staffer said.

Although Sanders was ultimately defeated by Clinton last time around, his upstart campaign reshaped the Democratic Party. Sanders ran on a progressive platform that included a focus on eliminating income inequality, on campaign finance reform and an ambitious “Medicare for All” health care proposal. Those principles have become centerpieces for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and several Sanders-backed candidates won elections last year.

But Sanders’ impact on the Democratic Party went beyond his political vision. The primary battle between Sanders and Clinton was contentious, with Sanders allies contending that Clinton’s campaign was working in conjunction with the Democratic Party establishment to prevent a Sanders victory. These battles cemented divisions in this party that linger on as the 2020 election approaches.

After President Trump’s victory over Clinton in 2016, Sanders and his allies pressed for reforms to the Democratic National Committee that would make the party’s primary process more open and inclusive of what Sanders termed “the working people and young people of our country.”

Amid Sanders’ push for reform, the DNC assembled a “unity commission” to recommend changes that included members chosen by both Sanders and Clinton.

Ultimately, the DNC made rules changes that included one of the main items on Sanders’ agenda, curbing the role of unelected superdelegates in choosing the party’s presidential nominee. At the same time, the DNC also adopted a rules change that would make it more difficult for independents like Sanders to seek the party’s presidential nomination.

In spite of this, Sanders’ allies consider that this new rule does not hurt his chances, because the Vermont Democratic Party passed a resolution last year recognizing him as a full member. A source who discussed Sanders’ 2020 plans with Yahoo News confirmed that he will be running as a Democrat.

Although he will be entering an extremely crowded Democratic field, Sanders is starting from a formidable position. Early polls of the race have consistently showed him to be one of the top candidates, probably due to the base of support he established in 2016. Sanders allies also believe his prior run could give him a head start organizing in key early primary states. Last October, Pete D’Alessandro, Sanders’s Iowa state coordinator for the 2016 race, told Yahoo News he was confident the senator would be able to build on the grassroots support and infrastructure he established in 2016 if he made another run.

“This was a movement. It still is a movement,” D’Alessandro said.