Wednesday, January 30, 2019

As Democrats practice missteps, the Koch's shun Trumpist thought by funding social and education programs to improve civil society for all Americans

So Democrats started running for President 650 days before the 2020 Presidential Election and the clock now indicates...

...and 377 days to the first nomination event, the 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus on February 3...

...which is plenty of time to make serious misstatements and misjudge what will be the major problem facing the nation six months (180 days) before the election.

Donald Trump is stuck in that situation - he has to make comments, on whatever, all the time.  Democrats don't have to start this early, but apparently they will anyway.

In the meantime, the Koch Neoliberal organization has backed away from the social policy right wing which is the Trump base. Instead, we have the Koch organization beginning in 2017 in a partnership with former NFL star Deion Sanders to tackle poverty by addressing chronic joblessness, educational failure, addiction and trauma, personal debt, and breakdowns in the family structure.

Then we had the successful effort at the federal level to achieve legislation to implement a sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system explained by Obama’s green jobs czar and liberal activist Van Jones and Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden:

The Charles Koch Foundation recently launched the Courageous Collaborations initiative to support research on overcoming intolerance.

The Washington Post article The Koch network donor retreat turns touchy-feely explains all this in more detail. A subsequent article Koch network poised to scale up efforts to remake K-12 education with a pilot project in five states discusses the Koch network plan to launch a new organization next month to focus on changing K-12 education as we know it.

The point of this post isn't to create huffy arguments over the Koch's policy orientation. There is no doubt they are Neoliberals who believe and advocate for economic deregulation, tax cuts, free trade, a more open immigration system, and deficit reduction. At this year's Indian Wells meeting, according to the Post story they outlined 10 “barriers” preventing people from realizing their full potential: bad fiscal policy, overregulation, cronyism, joblessness, a failing education system, persistent poverty, counterproductive immigration policy, free speech restrictions, a broken criminal justice system and tariffs.

In pushing policy, the Koch folks focus on the states, and then the U.S House of Representatives, maybe. President? Well, if policy is what you're interested in, Presidents come and go and with them Executive policies come and go. Just ask Barack Obama. In state government, on the other hand....

So it appears the Koch Neoliberal organization will leave the whole Presidential election debacle up to the Democrats and Trump.

There are no comparable Progressive organizations advocating policy in middle America. Democrats like the concept of national celebrity. And so the Democratic candidates for President are forging ahead.

Perhaps they have reviewed the results of the past three Presidential elections...or maybe not. Maybe they listen to one pundit or another. That's not a way to win.

As noted by one Neoliberal pundit:

    And while character and culture will be a big part of the upcoming campaign, elections are also about policy. Maybe not about the nitty-gritty details of 25-page white papers, but about the broad strokes of where candidates want to take the country. And unfortunately for them, the Democratic contenders are not offering an attractive policy vision.
    It’s an agenda not just for big government, but for gigantic, enormous, jumbo, super-colossal government. In fact, the rapidly growing Democratic field has collectively moved so far to the left that it is about to fall off the edge of the political charts.

Another pundit offers a different take:

    In reality, the American public is closer to being “socially conservative and economically liberal” than the reverse.
    On the socially conservative part: More than half of Americans say they pray daily. About 53 percent say abortion should be legal either “only in a few circumstances” or never. Almost 70 percent say illegal immigration is a “very big” or “moderately big” problem. On some of these subjects, the answers can depend on the precise phrasing of poll questions. But you have to twist the data pretty hard to create a portrait of a secular, liberal majority on most social issues.
    Economic policy is very different. Large majorities of Americans oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security and favor expanded Medicaid. They favor higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. They favor a higher minimum wage and more aggressive government action to create jobs. No wonder: Incomes for most Americans have been growing painfully slowly for most of the past four decades.
This writer thinks the Democrats need to look at three Presidential elections - 2000, 2008, and 2016:

To win the Presidency in 2020, the message must appeal to the majority of voters in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Florida.

It doesn't matter if you can win in Alabama, as Trump can, or California, as any Democratic candidate can. It doesn't matter if New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Iowa's Chuck Grassley like you.

If you are a Democrat you'll get the normally blue states but you must win the majority of voters in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Florida. If you lose all four of those states, you'll likely lose enough more states to make certain you won't win the Presidency.

And if you're a Democrat actively running right now, like Trump you'll have endless opportunities to inadvertently alienate unknown number of voters in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Florida. A good example is the Medicare-For-All trap that Kamala Harris fell into this week.

As Ocasio-Cortez et al. would tell you the Kaiser Family Foundation poll last week found that 56 percent of respondents said they favored “a national plan called Medicare for All in which all Americans would get their insurance through a single government plan.”

What Ocasio-Cortez et al. would  not tell you is that when it was explained to the respondents that under Medicare for All private insurance would be eliminated 37 percent of respondents favored it, and 58 percent opposed it.

And no candidate knows what the flash point issue will be in mid-2020.

Right now the Democratic candidates are focusing on Iowa, South Carolina, and a bunch of other states that are very unlikely to go blue in the General Election. That's because the Democratic Party has created a system that requires candidates to win primaries in states that rearely go blue.

Here in California, we will go blue but what does it matter if the Democrat loses Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Florida?

Hopefully, the Koch organization will back some policy I support. Because they are correct to think the Presidency is the least important part of government in these United States. Unless, of course, we find ourselves in a war....

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The U.S. "China threat" disinformation industry. It's ramping up agitation for a war with China in East Asia which America cannot possibly win!

Becoming Dangerously MAD for Jesus
This writer is of a certain generation, one that remembers regularly ducking under a desk at elementary school in preparation for a nuclear war.

It wasn't some remote, abstract concept for me. The school was located just a few miles from the Mather Air Force Base where bombers flew in and out, one of nine Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases in California after WWII.

When I was outside playing (kids did that a lot back then, played outside), I could look up into the sky and see (and hear) flying overhead B-36's and B-47's, and then as technology "improved" came the B-52's. Flying as low as they were no one could confuse these planes with commercial aircraft. We knew they were all carrying nuclear weapons.

Sometimes my parents would drive us to the beach. I looked out over the water where, except for the curvature of the Earth, there was a theoretical unobscured view of Japan, where the United States dropped the only two nuclear bombs used in warfare. Nothing but the Pacific Ocean is between that beach and Japan.

When we did those duck-under-the-desk drills, I would wonder why the drills because we were in the total destruction zone should a nuclear bomb hit Mather AFB. This was before the term Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) was coined in 1962 by Donald Brennan, a strategist working in the Hudson Institute.

Today nuclear war is an abstract for most Americans. But not all Americans. As explained in the October 16, 2018 post "We’re modernizing our nuclear arsenal" to save the word of Jesus, Pence warns China and the world at the Koch funded Dr. Strangelove institute:

    Last month, Beijing shut down one of China’s largest underground churches. Across the country, authorities are tearing down crosses, burning bibles, and imprisoning believers. And Beijing has now reached a deal with the Vatican that gives the avowedly atheist Communist Party a direct role in appointing Catholic bishops. For China’s Christians, these are desperate times.
    We’re modernizing our nuclear arsenal. We’re fielding and developing new cutting-edge fighters and bombers....

That speech was given at the same Hudson Institute the term MAD was coined in 1962.

Does Vice-President Mike Pence, a born-again Christian, reflect an attitude common to the religious right? What kind of precedent could he find for tying Christianity to nuclear war? How about a training program for the real guys with their "fingers on the button." For 20 years a course on “Christian Just War Theory” was taught by chaplains at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to those who would turn the key should World War III break out.

A PowerPoint presentation which was part of the course consisted of 43 slides to demonstrate the moral justification for atomic warfare. Old and New Testament passages were used along with artwork and a quote from Nazi rocket scientist Werner von Braun who went on to work for the United States after the Second World War stating: “We felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”

The officers were being told that “under fundamentalist Christian doctrine, war is a good thing”.

Is War Too Easy for A Non-Warrior Leadership?

Mike Pence was born in 1959. Like most American men born after 1957, Pence has not fought in a war. While technically military draft laws are in effect, none of those Americans men have been drafted. And historically only men have been drafted.

Despite the fact that since WWII there have been numerous wars and the draft was in effect through the Korean and Vietnam Wars, no American President since George H. W. Bush has seen active duty much less been shot at or shot at an enemy combatant.

Based on WWII standards, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump would have been considered draft dodgers. So would former Secretary of Defense and Vice-President Dick Cheney whose non-brushes with combat death should be considered as a stand-in symbol for most of the pro-war advisors to Presidents since Jimmy Carter. But Clinton, Bush, Cheney, and Trump should have fought in Vietnam, a war that they, along with many others who found a route to privilege, could avoid because it was politically unpopular.

Effectively most Americans born after 1957, including most in the White House and Congress, have gained their knowledge of war from the entertainment industry.

Quite literally, the United States has not had a comparably low percentage of Americans suffering from combat related PTSD since before the beginning of WWI.

Unfortunately, this creates a situation where most Americans do not recognize the nature of war risks being taken and might be startled at the reasoning behind taking those risks. Indeed, a pro-war "China threat industry" has developed in 21st Century America. The remainder of this post should be considered in that context.

On the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated, China’s military warned that war between the two countries was a real possibility. They did so with good reason.

"We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years," Steve Bannon said on his radio show in a March 2016. In August 2016, Bannon was named the chief executive officer of Trump's 2016 presidential bid.

Bannon did serve in the Navy, as explained here in Why you should fear Trumpism's Steve Bannon: war with China within 8 years and other reasons in February 2017. But he has never been shot at by nor shot at an enemy combatant.

And Pence and Bannon are not the only advocates within and outside the Administration for aggression against China.

Americans need to be aware to two significant changes affecting the world.

One change is recent. In December 2017 and January 2018, the Trump Administration put forth a National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy that shifted from a focus on terrorism to a focus on China-as-a-hostile-nation. Not surprisingly, key national security positions  are being filled with China hawks from a variety of viewpoints - Neoliberals and Neoconservatives, as well as economic nationalists, all of whom for their own ideological reasons want an aggressive policy toward China.

Key among those China hawks is National Security Advisor John Bolton who replaced in April 2018 General H.R. McMaster who received a Silver Star as a captain in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, taking part in the Battle of 73 Easting in the Gulf War. Bolton, on the other hand, enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard in order to avoid being drafted in the Vietnam War, subsequently writing in his Yale 25th reunion book: "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost."

As long ago as 1993, while a private citizen, Bolton wrote a series of research papers on U.N. readmission for the Taiwanese government. In the The Wall Street Journal in January 2018, Bolton called on the US to “revisit the One China policy” and suggested the Shanghai Communiqué of 1972 be renegotiated 45 years after the US agreed to acknowledge that “there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China”.

Surviving the Collapse of an Established World Order

The other significant changes affecting the world Americans need to be aware of is the end of the world order established in the 20th Century. When the previous 19th Century world order ended, it was followed by two world wars resulting in the deaths of about 19.7 million people (WWI) and about 85 million people WWII.

The new world order after WWII was the Cold War period ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, which included what has been called a liberal democracy/global trade order based mostly in Western Europe and the United States. The liberal democracy/global trade order has been destabilized and is collapsing  Nationalism has surged through populism resulting from greater inequality within countries, job losses caused by trade and technology, increased flows of migrants and refugees, and the power of social media to spread hate. Economic globalization has had its own negative impact - Climate Change.

The United States and China will be in competition for leadership. Chinese dominance would be an ideological shift characterized by authoritarian domestic political systems and statist economies that place a premium on maintaining domestic stability. Rather than a single global order, spheres of influence likely would evolve with China attempting to dominate Asia.

The "China threat industry" is oriented to having the U.S. engage in warfare in Asia to try to save what was perceived in the 1990's as a new private economy world order dominated by the United States. That is a mistake based upon ignorance about China and the Chinese.

Know Your Enemy - Sun Tzu in the Art of War

Some 50 posts in this blog have provided extensive information on China. Still it seems imperative we make it clear that the anti-China paranoia is not based on a correct understanding of China. Most Americans don't know anything about, and cannot relate to, China's history, language, culture and government. The Chinese are not culturally European - not even close.

So let us review some basic facts regarding China and the Chinese that probably should be considered before concluding that a shooting ware with China would be a good idea.
► Most importantly, China has the largest population in the world -1.4 billion - and the world's largest middle-class population.

► The native language spoken by most of China's 1.4 billion people is not an Indo-European language. Recently brain scientists have discovered that learning Chinese involves a different brain development.

► No influence from Abrahamic religions permeates Chinese history and culture, unlike American history and culture which is full of references to the 31,102± verses of the bible many of which were used to teach starting an atomic war is ok.

► Our days of the week on our Gregorian Calendar are named for old European gods. The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar which reckons years, months and days according to detailed astronomical phenomena.

► China's 4000± year history of empires created a different civil perspective than the one held in the United States, a country that has existed less than 250 years and in which two of the last three Presidents lost the popular vote. The traditional Chinese form of national government has been an oligarchy with a touch (sometimes a heavy hand) of autocracy led by an emperor or, since the middle of the 20th Century, a paramount leader.

► China and the U.S. share the status of having the world's largest economy. There are two accepted methods used to compare the size of economies.

The first method uses the traditional nominal gross domestic product (GDP),  the market value of all final goods and services from a nation in a given year estimated by financial and statistical institutions, which are calculated at market or government official exchange rates. The United States has the largest such economy. You know that because every American is wealthy - we must be as we have the largest economy.

The second uses a gross domestic product based on purchasing power parity, created using an international dollar, a standardized unit used by economists, which takes into account the relative cost of local goods, services and inflation rates of the country, rather than using international market exchange rates which may distort the real differences in per capita income. As experienced in the lives of ordinary people everywhere, China has the largest economy in the world.

► China has the world's largest military force collectively known as the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the second largest defense budget in the world. It is also the third largest arms exporter in the world.

If you've wondered why Trump wanted a "Space Force" think China. The PLA currently has five independent branches, including the army, navy, air force, plus a rocket force – the strategic and tactical missile operator – and a strategic support force, which is in charge of cyber, space, and electronic warfare. The last two branches were established as separate branches three years ago reflecting long-term efforts to modernize the military which included significantly boosting its navy, air force and new strategic units and downsizing its land-based army as part of a strategic shift.
So what many saber-rattling American leaders are talking about is getting into a war with the country that has...
  1. the largest population in the world, four times the American population, a population we have a hard time understanding;
  2. the oldest continuing culture and government in the world;
  3. an economy that is competitive with ours; and
  4. the largest military in the world armed with 21st Century technology;
...and which has expressed no threat to attack United States territory?

The U.S. China Threat Disinformation Industry

This past November the Hoover Institution published a 200-page report Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance which outlines how in recent years China is undermining the American democratic process as it has become increasingly assertive in it activities to influence American politics and society.

Now this writer becomes immediately wary when some tome comes out of the Hoover Institute. As explained here in the post The critical civics lesson America & Trump needed: 21st Century Ideologies in America & the Government$ of the United States, the Hoover Institution is one of 487 Neoliberal think-tank partners of the Atlas Network.

Although the report cautions against bigotry against the Chinese people, in fact it is ideologically antagonistic towards the Peoples Republic of China strongly favoring what it frequently terms as American liberal democracy at the very moment in time America's systemically undemocratically appointed President has launched a Trade "War" against China, supported by a undemocratically structured Senate . The report clearly, though perhaps inadvertently, states its ideological bias:

    ...Since Party general secretary Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the situation has changed. Under his leadership, China has significantly expanded the more assertive set of policies initiated by his predecessor Hu Jintao. These policies not only seek to redefine China’s place in the world as a global player, but they also have put forward the notion of a “China option” that is claimed to be a more efficient developmental model than liberal democracy.

In fact, that is a correct assessment of a change under President Xi. The difficult truth unacceptable to Neoliberals is that in certain circumstances a “China option” may be a more efficient developmental model than liberal democracy when liberal democracy is dominated by Neoliberal economics.

But most cultures in nations with advanced economies outside China have a fundamental objection to a state dominated society. Perhaps that is why one of the study participants, Susan Shirk, a 74 year-old Professor and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs during the Clinton administration, wrote the following dissent including in the document:

Although I have no problem with the factual research that has gone into specific sections of the report, I respectfully dissent from what I see as the report’s overall inflated assessment of the current threat of Chinese influence seeking on the United States. The report discusses a very broad range of Chinese activities, only some of which constitute coercive, covert, or corrupt interference in American society and none of which actually undermines our democratic political institutions. Not distinguishing the legitimate from the illegitimate activities detracts from the credibility of the report. The cumulative effect of this expansive inventory that blurs together legitimate with illegitimate activities is to overstate the threat that China today poses to the American way of life. Especially during this moment in American political history, overstating the threat of subversion from China risks causing overreactions reminiscent of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, including an anti-Chinese version of the Red Scare that would put all ethnic Chinese under a cloud of suspicion. Right now, I believe the harm we could cause our society by our own overreactions actually is greater than that caused by Chinese influence seeking. That is why I feel I must dissent from the overall threat assessment of the report.

This brings us to a different view presented in a February 2019 article What China Threat? How the United States and China can avoid war. The article has a significantly different message suggesting we should reject the view of "the 'China threat' industry in the United States":

    ...A consensus has formed in Washington that China poses a significant threat to American interests and well-­being. General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has said that “China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation by about 2025.” ...Christopher Wray, the FBI director, has said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-­of-­government threat, but a whole-­of-­society threat . . . and I think it’s going to take a whole-­of-­society response by us.” So widespread is this notion that when Donald Trump launched his trade war against China, in January 2018, he received support even from moderate figures such as Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.
    Reading about the imminent threat American officials believe China poses, it is not hard to see why Graham Allison, in his book Destined for War, reaches the depressing conclusion that armed conflict between the two countries is more likely than not. Yet since China is not mounting a military force to threaten or invade the United States....
    ...American policymakers have to accept the undeniable reality that the return of China (and India) is unstoppable. Why not? From the year 1 to 1820, China and India had the world’s two largest economies. The past two hundred years of Western domination of global commerce have been an aberration. As PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted, China and India will resume their number one and two position by 2050 or earlier.
    The leaders of both China and India understand that we now live in a small, interdependent global village, threatened by many new challenges, including global warming. Both China and India could have walked away from the Paris Agreement after Trump did so. Both chose not to. Despite their very different political systems, both have decided that they can be responsible global citizens. Perhaps this may be the best route to find out if China will emerge as a threat to the United States and the world. If it agrees to be constrained by multiple global rules and partnerships, China could very well remain a different polity—­that is, not a liberal democracy—­and still not be a threatening one. This is the alternative scenario that the “China threat” industry in the United States should consider and work toward.

The China Threat Industry represents a real risk to all of us, particularly in the context of MAD. But it has a strong appeal to the Alt-Right and to Neoliberals for two reasons. The first is simply racial and cultural bigotry. The second is economic and political ideology.

Historical Anti-Chinese Racial Bigotry in the U.S.

In terms of racial bigotry, perhaps we need to consider one element of American history that buried deeply in our WASP-created culture an inability to comfortably deal with the Chinese.

A review of the history of the U.S. is not complete without discussing the Transcontinental Railroad. Building the Transcontinental Railroad achieved a goal of creating a fast and easy economic and migrant connection between the two coastlines by crossing the Transcontinental Divide, a physical barrier which in earlier times would have assured the existence of a different country on the west side of the divide.

In order to assure a permanent occupation of the area west of the Transcontinental Divide on the map above, during the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 authorizing the creation of two private railroad companies, the Central Pacific in the west and the Union Pacific in the mid-west. The companies were created June 28, 1861, two months after the Civil War began. With the secession of the South, the modernizers in the Republican Party founded in 1854 controlled the US Congress wanted to build the First Transcontinental Railroad.

The 1,912-mile continuous railroad line that connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast at the Oakland Long Wharf on the San Francisco Bay was completed in 1869. The new line crossing the Transcontinental Divide reached the Pacific and connected in Omaha to railroads serving the Atlantic Seacoast.

The implementation of that construction is a symbol of the evolving cultural difference between the Pacific States and the states east of the Transcontinental Divide.  The construction could not be done without immigrant workers.

On the east side of the Divide to work for the Union Pacific Railroad came immigrant workers from British-occupied Ireland. The immigrant workers on the west side of the Divide came from Asia across the Pacific to work for the Central Pacific Railroad. They were Chinese, of a different race who spoke a language even stranger than Irish Gaelic and whose religion was even more threatening than the Irish Catholicism.

The "foreignness" of the Chinese became a problem for white America.

Ultimately, in the spring of 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur. This act provided an absolute 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. It was repealed 61 years later by the Magnuson Act on December 17, 1943. That was after the United States rounded up descendants of immigrants from Japan and put them in concentration camps.

Anything about this sound similar to the immigration policy controversy today? And does that history color the attitudes of many Americans regarding the Chinese today?

Impassioned Ideologues in Both the U.S. and China are Dangerous

As socialism does in the People's Republic of China,economic and political ideology also color the attitudes of many Americans. Ideology endangers all of us.

Among the previously mentioned 50 posts on China are five posts with the heading

which provide an extensive background on economic and political ideological issues regarding China.  At the end of one of those posts, the following was included as a footnote.

Some American's get hung up on the issue of freedom. The goal of these posts is to discuss cultures and economies, but if "truth, justice, and the American way of freedom" are going to get in the way....

Pretend for a moment that you are a Chinese person who has received a decent education, perhaps even having spent some time in the United States. And you are fluent in reading English.

From your perspective the problem is that any ongoing news coverage of China caters to a knee-jerk reaction in too many Westerners, as we shall see. Americans start writing about the horrors of Marxist ideology because "proper" American thinking about freedom begins and ends with getting rich, with a side thought of being able to criticize others without retribution.

The American idea of a "big picture view" is a 72-inch TV screen. They freely express concerns about authoritarian rule in China while being ignorant of their own country which is built on the pain of native Americans - the largest population in world history to be subjected to government-sponsored genocide.

And it is as if they don't understand that Capitalism, which has an "-ism" at the end of the word, is an economic ideology every bit as much as is Socialism and the evils of both ideologies when rigidly applied are real.

In much American writing, a government implementation of Socialism is an attack on freedom while the U..S. government's implementation of Capitalism is not even acknowledged despite the fact that it is much of the subject matter of the Constitution.

Most certainly most white Americans do not understand what "authoritarian" means or how it has been carefully implemented by governments in the U.S. to support Capitalism.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary authoritarian means "favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom."

You know, of course, that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The reason for this most Americans understand clearly. The United States has a set of government implemented laws that are based on a very subjective morality that has deliberately selective racial and religious bigotry components that would have been unacceptable in all other countries of the West in 1999.

The "Black Lives Matter" movement didn't arise because the United States offers the most authoritarian-free government possible to its people. If you're a black American, you live in a fearful world created by a police state not unlike Nazi Germany. If you read that as an overstatement, you are an "in-denial probably-white American" or participant in the police state culture.

If the enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom is what defines "authoritarian", then the United States is the most authoritarian country in the world. The People's Republic of China (PRC) doesn't even come close with an incarceration rate somewhere between Canada and Luxembourg.

Of course, in China the expression of opinion regarding political, economic, and social issues is subject to government restriction. And that includes a lack of freedom of the press. Whether within the United States today that is considered good or bad depends on

  1. whether people think that the press is an obstacle to their objectives and
  2. whether you believe the myth that entertainment can be defined as the press.
But one has to wonder about a people...

  1. that know their country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, 
  2. that know that most of the incarcerated are black and brown males, 
  3. that know that "a." and "b." were the result of a deliberate choice by white people, and
  4. that, without acting to stop it, know that their police are killing
...but who still think that the United States does not have authoritarian governments at all levels.

Pretend for a moment that you are a Chinese person who has received a decent education, perhaps even having spent some time in the United States. Would you think a system built on Capitalist ideology that imprisons many thousands of people - the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world - is much better than imprisoning a relative handful of people for being outspoken against the Communist Party? Would you think a system built on Capitalist ideology that has uniformed police killing because of their race more people in the street than any country in the world is much better than one built on Socialist ideology that kills people who engage in and advocate revolution?

But these posts are about the economic future of our children and grandchildren. So pretend for a moment that you are an American who knows practically nothing about the world's most populous nation which by many standards has the largest economy in the world. Since many understand that this nation, China, has already begun to replace the United States as the leader of the world, it is likely that it will be very important in the lives of your children and grandchildren.

It's interesting how Americans fall back on some "freedoms" argument to attack China. Yet many of those same Americans, including members of Congress, are concerned about the evident harm to America the lack of any control of the internet has permitted, harm which has not come to China solely due to tight government restrictions. But that's too easy a subject to use.

Far more complex has been the recent criticism over China's persecution of some Muslim minority groups, huge numbers of whom are allegedly being held in internment camps. Curiously, many American Christians have led that criticism. There are reports of physical as well as psychological torture in the camps. An almost complete surveillance state in Xinjiang has been indicated.

So that's a simple one - the Chinese state is evil. Right? Well, not so fast.

Xinjang Uyĝur Aptonom Rayoni 新疆维吾尔自治区 is
  1. is a provincial-level autonomous region of China in the northwest of the country bordering the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Mongolia, and Russia;
  2. is the largest Chinese administrative division and the eighth largest country subdivision in the world and home to about 24 million people , including 14 million Muslims; and
  3. is larger in land area than the largest U.S. state Alaska, more populous than any U.S. state except California and Texas, and home to a Muslim population that is larger in total than any U.S. state total population except California, Texas, Florida, and New York - more people than 14 least populous U.S. states combined.
Exactly how would the U.S., a "Christian" country that refuses to take Muslim refugee children suffering because of wars the U.S. is involved in, handle a resident Muslim population that size which includes terrorists? If it were a state in the United States, Xinjang would be the third largest state with a 60% Muslim population which, if only ½ of 1 percent were terrorists, would include 70,000 active terrorists living among a generally sympathetic state population. Remember, this is America, the land which incarcerated in similar internment camps thousands of Japanese-Americans for being Japanese-Americans.  Remember this is America, the land that issued lengthy three-strikes prison sentences to a huge black population for using drugs.

Current Active American Military Provocation

It's one thing to be economically competitive with China in the global arena which this writer supports. It's another thing to talk about a war with China in Asia. And make no mistake about it. The U.S. Navy is currently engaged in provocative behavior less than 70 miles from the several coastline Chinese cities. (Google South China Sea aircraft carriers for the latest news stories.)

Don't be confused about a war in Asia. We did not win the Korean War. We did not win the Vietnam War. The Chinese will not allow us to win a war threatening the Chinese mainland even if it were to lead to mutual assured destruction which is correctly abbreviated as MAD.

And if you examine carefully the "China threat" disinformation industry propaganda, you will find it is based on outdated 20th Century ideology. We need to effectively counter their efforts.

It's not that there is nothing to these headlines this week...

...but let's get one thing straight. The China-Russian border is 2,500+ miles long and has existed in some form for perhaps a thousand years. It is essentially the same as the border between the Russian and Qing Empires settled by a number of treaties in 17th through 19th century.

In every century some conflict and tensions occurred. In the 20th Century there was the Sino-Soviet conflict of 1929 and the Sino-Soviet border conflict was a seven-month undeclared military conflict between the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Sino-Soviet split in 1969 with numerous border clashes. The most serious clash in March 1969 is referred to by Chinese historians as the Zhenbao Island Incident brought the two communist-led countries to the brink of war.

And yet four years earlier in 1965 this writer found himself in trouble in college for challenging the myth of monolithic communism with regard to China and Russia (Soviet Union) which was being taught as some inherent truth. I argued that there has never been any love lost between the Chinese and Russians as the two nationalities had a history of conflicts.

Now we're back to China and Russia being the threat, but allegedly it is really China that represents the biggest threat because, among other reasons it's economics and politics are still run by a Communist Party. Russia, after all, is now like us with it's economics and politics run by corrupt capitalists who attacked our elections - so China is more dangerous.
What really has American undies in a bunch is 5G technology. A post on 5G will follow in the coming days, but what you need to know is that 5G isn't about you and your phone-type devices. As explained in the New York Times:

    It is the first network built to serve the sensors, robots, autonomous vehicles and other devices that will continuously feed each other vast amounts of data, allowing factories, construction sites and even whole cities to be run with less moment-to-moment human intervention. It will also enable greater use of virtual reality and artificial intelligence tools.
    But what is good for consumers is also good for intelligence services and cyberattackers. The 5G system is a physical network of switches and routers. But it is more reliant on layers of complex software that are far more adaptable, and constantly updating, in ways invisible to users — much as an iPhone automatically updates while charging overnight. That means whoever controls the networks controls the information flow — and may be able to change, reroute or copy data without users’ knowledge.
    In interviews with current and former senior American government officials, intelligence officers and top telecommunications executives, it is clear that the potential of 5G has created a zero-sum calculus in the Trump White House — a conviction that there must be a single winner in this arms race, and the loser must be banished. For months, the White House has been drafting an executive order, expected in the coming weeks, that would effectively ban United States companies from using Chinese-origin equipment in critical telecommunications networks. That goes far beyond the existing rules, which ban such equipment only from government networks.

Good reasons exist for concerns. The stand-in-for-China boogeyman target, Huawei, surpassed Apple as the world’s second largest smartphone brand in 2017 behind Samsung, a South Korean multinational conglomerate.

Samsung manufactures 50 percent of its mobile phones in Vietnam, one of the world's five nations run by a Communist Party, as it recently reduced its Chinese production by approximately 40 million because of high labor costs in China, one of the world's five nations run by a Communist Party.

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd (aka Foxconn) currently assembles the majority of Apple's iPhones in its Shenzen, China, plant while another company, Pegatron, built about 30 percent of the iPhone 6 orders in its Chinese plants.

If smartphone assembly were the worry, China already won that competition. But while Chinese-made 4G or older smartphones are essentially all we have in the U.S., 5G will be embedded in the entire world around us.

That is why the the "China threat" disinformation industry is being allowed to assert itself. It is reasonable for United States to not want Huawei (aka China) to win the 5G competition. But creating a war with China to win a competition with Huawei is simply a weird idea. It's an economic competition. If it's important, subsidize 5G development, production, and sales by American companies using taxpayer money after ramping up corporate taxes back to where they were in 2016.

Perhaps it's well that America wake up to the world-wide technology competition. After all, in terms of rollout, the nation leading the 5G race is Germany. Meanwhile much of the American geography has no access to 4G cell phone service and 5G will be too expensive to implement in those areas.....

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Trump is still winning 2020. Why don't Democrats understand the basics of the U.S. government?

I don't really think that focusing on the 2020 Presidential race is a good idea for Democrats. Nonetheless, it is already a focus of the press.

It is interesting to watch the various Democratic politicians throw their proverbial hats into the 2020 Presidential election ring. And it's fun to ruminate about that election in the context of Donald Trump's disapproval rating in the polls.

Various headlines indicate polls showing that Donald Trump has at the national level a 40%±  approval rating and a 56%± disapproval rating. So a good, lefty Democrat has a chance to beat him in 2020. Right? Not really.

(If you don't understand that it doesn't matter what the nation-wide majority thinks, please read the post When your government is not now and never has been a democracy, you are a United States citizen.)

Right now, polls indicate that Trump is not "disapproved" by a majority of those polled in states with 258 Electoral College votes. Absent some major negative event, he could win in those states in 2020 no matter who the Democrats nominate. And he needs to not be "disapproved" in enough states to win just 12 more Electoral College votes.

Here's the lineup of surprising states in which he currently has a majority "disapproval" rating that he will have to campaign in to find enough Electoral Votes to win:

The inverse of that is that the Democratic nominee should have the potential to win a sufficient combination of those states to prevent Trump from getting his 12 Electoral College votes.

Of course, Trump currently is not "disapproved" by a majority of those polled in states like Ohio and Florida. A Democrat might win those states thereby beating Trump.

But if the Democrats nominate a candidate that cannot win in any of the listed states of Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota and West Virginia, then that candidate is not going to have an easy win against Trump absent a major event casting a negative light on Trump.

Who among these currently mentioned candidates (listed in last name alphabetical order) has a chance in those states: Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Eric Garcetti, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Eric Holder, Jay Inslee, John Kerry, Amy Klobuchar, Terry McAuliffe, Jeff Merkley, Beto O’Rourke, Richard Ojeda, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Howard Schultz, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren, and/or Andrew Yang?

Then again, Democrats could go "all in" on the preferences of their reliable policy-oriented base located in California and New York and not worry about how to win Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota and West Virginia against Trump. And Trump could win.

At some point it's got to start bothering Democrats that a reliable 40%± of Americans approve of Trump if only because the structure of the U.S. government requires occasionally winning in states like tiny Wyoming where Trump has a 64% approval rating - you know, the 573,720 folks in Wyoming who have the same number of U.S. Senators representing them as the 37,253,956 folks in California.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

On "the grandest day San Francisco had ever seen" a priest began lighting San Francisco three years before New York City's streets were lit by Edison

One of the more frustrating things about being a Californian familiar with his state and its history is the sheer hubris of claims made by those living East of the Rockies and the degree to which those claims became the untrue truths of United States - myths, really - way, way before there was a Donald Trump.

One of those frustrations is associated with the mythology surrounding Thomas Edison. As noted in Wikipedia: "Edison's major innovation was the establishment of an industrial research lab in 1876." Simply put, Edison became a successful businessman who by 1911 brought all the companies he had started as a result of his industrial research operations together into one corporation, Thomas A. Edison Incorporated, with Edison as president and chairman.

My frustration is not about businessman Edison and his successes and failures. The frustration is that 99% of Americans do not recognize the name Joseph Neri.

On the evening of July 4, 1876, termed "the grandest day San Francisco had ever seen", Neri pulled a lever while standing on the top of St. Ignatius Church and the streets of San Francisco were lit with electricity for the first time.

The results of Neri's efforts were noted in the San Francisco Chronicle:

    San Franciscans, ever on the vanguard of change, quickly went to work lighting the city. Three years before New York City's streets were lit by Edison, the California Electric Light Company opened a power station next door to St. Ignatius. The station provided electricity to San Francisco's first electric street lamps in 1879 and, by year's end, to the Palace Hotel and California Theater. What began as an experiment by a Jesuit priest had transformed the city.

That last sentence explains my frustration. The first Jesuit priest to be ordained in California, Father Joseph Neri, in 1869 went to work at St. Ignatius College (now known as the University of San Francisco). The following year he was appointed chair of the natural science department. And Neri went on to light San Francisco.

Well, not exactly.

Neri wasn't a businessman, he was a scientist working for a non-profit educational institution, the kind of place and type of person that gives away wealth-creating knowledge.

Using Neri's work some California businessmen did form the California Electric Light Company. Another business, San Francisco Gas Light, faced new competition. In 1896, the Edison Light and Power Company merged with the San Francisco Gas Light Company to form the new San Francisco Gas and Electric Company. To make a long story short, ultimately there was a Southern California Edison Co. and a Pacific Gas & Electric, generally known as PG&E.

And so the Jesuit Priest scientist, Fr. Joseph Neri, became a footnote in American history - well, a footnote only in some kind of extensive technology history book.

On the other hand, businessman Thomas Edison began appearing in popular culture as a character in novels, films, comics and video games. He and Henry Ford became friends and neighbors. When he died in 1931 Edison left property worth $12,000,000 in 1931 dollars. And too many Americans think he invented electricity.

I only note all this because in the midst of all the wildfire and related PG&E bankruptcy news the first comprehensive and well-written article Frayed Wires: As California enters a brave new energy world, can it keep the lights on? appeared today which ties together the complex 21st Century future evolution of the electric power system as it moves away from the 19th Century grid model.

The story only briefly mentions the historical fact: "After all, the first electricity grid was built in San Francisco in 1879, three years before Thomas Edison’s power station in New York City. (Edison’s plant burned to the ground a decade later.)"

The extensive article is focused on the future, noting:

    So getting to California’s new goals of operating on 100 percent clean energy by 2045 and having 5 million electric vehicles within 12 years will require a shift in how power is acquired and managed. Consumers will rely more heavily on stored power, whose efficiency must improve to meet that demand.
    “Large-scale renewables are disrupting the conventional paradigm of how the grid has been constructed,” said Lorenzo Kristov, who is retired from a long career designing markets and planning the state’s grid. “Wind and solar—you can’t tell them what to do. They are challenging just about every aspect of how the electricity system has worked for decades. We need a lot of new thinking.”
    As California chews on the problem, other states and even the federal government are watching—as they do many developments that emerge first in California—to see what arises.

Perhaps, on occasion as the extensive experimentation and research moves forward making newly minted mbillionaires someone will remember Fr. Neri even though getting rich was never a part of his big picture.

And perhaps Californian's will begin to understand that PG&E's electric business today includes only purchasing electricity from others and distributing it to us ordinary folks - a business model that may have no long-term future.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

When your government is not now and never has been a democracy, you are a United States citizen

In politics, facing the truth of apparent success can sometimes be traumatizing. One might suspect that will be the case for many new elected Democrats currently in an extended brazen celebratory mood in the House of Representatives.

As they well know, the House of Representatives is only half of one of three branches of the United States Government - the Legislative Branch. The House has 435 members elected from Districts apportioned on population.

That means that each member represents 0.23% of the population and cast a vote in the House that represents 0.23% of the votes cast by House members. Yeah, that's not even two percent, it's two-tenths of one percent.

Based upon the national turnout of 50.3% of the voters and the fact that the average vote cast for House members was 63.6% of the votes cast, the average member House of Representatives received 32%± of the votes of eligible voters in their District in the 2018 Midterm Election.

It takes a vote of 218 members of the House representing Districts that contain 50%+ of the population of the United States to pass anything. And meaningful legislation created and passed in the House must then be forwarded to the Senate, the other half of the Legislative Branch.

The Senate has 100 members, two elected from each State. Population of each State is irrelevant:
  • California has a population of 39,776,830± or 12.126% of the U.S. population;
  • Wyoming has a population of 573,720± or 0.175% of the U.S. population.

Quite literally, legislation passed in the House can be killed or passed by a vote of 51 Senators who represent the least populous of the 26 states containing only 17.6% of the U.S. population and who were put into office by less than 8% of eligible American voters.

The embodiment of the Executive Branch of the United States Government, the President of the United States, is appointed ("elected" is a misleading word) by a majority of the Electoral College. Members of the Electoral College are selected in each state through a Presidential "Election" process.

So far in 21st Century America, the sitting Presidents have been George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Based solely upon the national popular vote, the opponents of Bush and Trump won the elections in 2000 and 2016.

But Bush and Trump became President. That is because the states are not represented in the Electoral College based upon population. And the President is not directly elected by the voters.

The members of the Judicial Branch, our federal judges including the members of the Supreme Court, are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate. The House of Representatives has no role in the process. The judges are not beholden to the population for obtaining their posts but rather only to the members of the other two branches representing states.

In other words, the states are the 50 "citizens" of the United States. This presents a rather peculiar picture of the U.S. as a "democracy."

As noted in Wikipedia, the term "democracy" first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity. Athenians established what is generally held as the first democracy in 508–507 BC. Athenian democracy took the form of a direct democracy, and it had two distinguishing features: the random selection of ordinary citizens to fill the few existing government administrative and judicial offices, and a legislative assembly consisting of all Athenian citizens. All eligible citizens were allowed to speak and vote in the assembly, which set the laws of the city state.

Athenian democracy was not only direct in the sense that decisions were made by the assembled people, but also the most direct in the sense that the people through the assembly, boule and courts of law controlled the entire political process and a large proportion of citizens were involved constantly in the public business.

Even though the rights of the individual citizen were not secured by the Athenian constitution in the modern sense (the ancient Greeks had no word for "rights"), the Athenian citizens enjoyed their liberties not in opposition to the government but by living in a city that was not subject to another power and by not being subjects themselves to the rule of another person.

However, Athenian citizenship excluded women, slaves, foreigners, non-landowners, and men under 20 years of age. The exclusion of large parts of the population from the citizen body is closely related to the ancient understanding of citizenship. In most of antiquity the benefit of citizenship was tied to the obligation to fight war campaigns.

Americans live in communities that are subject to a hierarchy of power. It begins at the community level in cities, townships, and counties governed by a small number of citizens. All are subject to other power - state government and federal government. Effectively, we are all subject to the authority of, and can be killed by, other persons representing the government whose activities are not controlled in any way by decisions made by the assembled people.

All this has been buried in philosophical discussions that occurred within empires and kingdoms leading to the term "indirect democracy." This references something called "representative democracy" which apparently in practice means that representatives are elected by far less than a majority of eligible voters. And in the case of the U.S. Senate, decisions can be made by a vote of representatives elected by around 8% of the eligible American voters.

But hey, women and non-landowners can now register to vote so long as they are over the age of 18, aren't foreigners, and haven't been convicted of a crime. But since, unlike Athens, only a tiny proportion of citizens are involved constantly in the public business in our "indirect democracy."

How Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who together represent 0.46% of the American population and who together can cast 0.46% of the vote in the House of Representatives, will fare in this government is unclear.

One can only hope that their constituents will understand that Republican Wyoming U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, while representing 0.175% of the U.S. population or less than half the population represented by Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, effectively carry nearly 10 times the clout in America's "democracy" as that of Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib.

And one can only hope that those constituents will understand that those Wyoming Senators have the same clout as Democratic California U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris who represent 69 times the population of Wyoming.

Again, this presents a rather peculiar picture of the U.S. as a "democracy."

It is not surprising that a study from Harvard’s Yascha Mounk and the University of Melbourne’s Roberto Stefan Foa published in the Journal of Democracy in January 2017 found that one quarter of millennials agreed that “choosing leaders through free elections is unimportant.”

For Californians, the only positive outcome from the 2018 Congressional election is that the Speaker of the House is Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and the Minority Leader Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.