American Nihilistic Jihad

Nihilism appeared in two articles in this weeks Economist.  I had to look it up.  The first definition is about a rejection of all religious and moral guidelines because life is meaningless.

But what struck me more was the third definition, from the Russian Revolution.  It was the belief that there was nothing of value in the established Tsarist order worth saving, so all could be destroyed.  And so they did, the downtrodden rose up and destroyed the existing order.

A while back peace was reached in Ireland.  The bloody revolutionaries of the IRA came to terms with the British.  Why?  Well it seems the under lying reason was that the economy of Northern Ireland was beginning to improve.  The people were no longer desperate, and didn’t want to be bombing stuff that would hurt their growing businesses.  Economic well being.

We read about the Sunnis and the Shiites, and, I suspect most of us don’t get it.  They’re both Islam.  What’s up?  Well, the Sunnis used to be in charge in Iraq and suppressed the Shiites.  The Sunnis, comfortable, weren’t really into the whole jihad thing.

The Shiites, on the other hand, were economically depressed, and they are the ones who believed in nilisitic jihad.  That’s right, nothing is worth saving in the current ruling order, destroy it all.

Well times are changing.  After we invaded Iraq and threw out the Sunnis, the Shiites took over.  And suppressed the Sunnis.  And guess what, the Shiites beliefs are softening on jihad, and the Sunnis are starting to embrace it.

Time and again, the economically downtrodden feel they have nothing to lose, and see nothing worth saving in current ruling order.  Destroy it all.  Nihilistic jihad.

And in America?  Well the economy is no longer working for a large segment of our country.  There are frustrated, desperate people out there.  They see nothing in the current ruling order worth saving.

The 1% have grown at their expense, the 1% have created them.  About 30% of the 99% left over have reached the state of embracing nihilistic jihad.  The destruction of the current ruling order.

They have a leader.  A visionary speaking to them (exploiting them?).  His name is Trump.

Who stands in his way?  A well-funded woman on very good terms with the 1%.  Hillary.

Isn’t it obvious what’s going on here?

Election Depression

I have never been so emotionally affected by an election.  I was getting to a state of comfort, as Hillary was ahead in the polls.  Safe from Trump, I could cast my vote for Johnson/Weld hoping they make it to 5% to create a legitimate, government-funded third party for next time around.

And now the latest on the goddam emails.  And her numbers are tanking.  And she might lose Florida.  And Florida is key to a Trump victory.

OK, you say, vote for Hillary, and that’s what I’ve said I’d do in this case in the past.

How bad does that feel.  If I vote for Johnson and Trump wins, I’ll be one of those who wasted my vote and helped Trump win.

BUT, and here’s what I realized, BUT, if I vote for Hillary, and Trump wins, I’ll have wasted my vote which could have created a third party.  I’ll have voted to support the DNC to put up another candidate like Hillary next time around.  And for that to be my ‘only’ choice.

I feel much worse about the second scenario.

Why?  Well of course I’d much rather see Hillary in office than Trump, Trump is nuts.  And she would be more of the same that we’ve had.  And what is that same, to me?

That’s a government highly influenced by Wall Street.  Wall Street which caused me to personally lose $200,00o of money I earned over my life time and squirreled away for retirement.  Not money I made in the stock money, money I actually earned working.

Wall Street, which depressed housing prices so that my house in Asheville is very close to underwater.  Still isn’t worth close to what I paid for it at the peak.  I’d like to sell it and use the funds to buy something elsewhere, but it’s lack of value is standing in the way of my dreams.

So yes, I personally have been directly hurt by government the way it’s always been.

And did the government help the retirees, the people with the mortgages?  No it bailed out Wall Street.

Hillary seems very competent, and that competence will be used to continue to govern for the people pulling our financial strings.

I just can’t vote for her.  She’ll have to win this without me.

Johnson/Weld 2016, and with a better shot in 2020.

–Dennis

Baritone Ukelele Jazz Chords

I’ve always wanted to play schmaltz guitar and have started to try to learn the jazz chords that make that lounge lizardy sound.  But it’s complicated, most of the voicings are four notes, interspersed on the six strings of the guitar.  And the accompanying music theory about chord inversions never helped much with understanding.

So I decided to switch to my baritone ukelele, which has the same first four strings as the guitar.  Four strings, four notes, seems simple.

Again though, difficult to find what I want, and then when I did find some chords I showed Nancy, who is a musician, my new found Dm7 chord, and she said it was wrong.  I showed her the diagram.  She said it just sounds wrong.  So I looked at the notes under the fingering to prove her wrong.  Hmmm.   It was D6.

So, being somewhat of a geek, I decided to embark on my own journey to derive the jazz chords I was looking for on the baritone ukelele.

Here are the chronicles of that journey: update — I’ve done more work since, it starts here:

Jazz Baritone Ukelele

Elizabeth Warren, SEC, Obama

As far as I can tell, Elizabeth Warren is the only one fighting against corporate control of Congress.  Here’s her latest battle.

Warren wants Obama to fire Mary Jo White, head of the SEC, because she refuses to require corporations to list their political contributions.  Warren thinks corporations should be accountable for their political contributions.

White says Warren is naive, and that if a corporation revealed who they were funding, that might lead to protests against the corporation, which would be bad for business and thus the investors.  (What a horror!  People protesting because corporations are buying politicians!)

I was, and still am, really, a great fan of Obama’s.  What a class act.  But he supports Mary Jo White and her decision.  This is a man who promised to reduce/eliminate the lobbyists.  But he took that money from Wall Street, and Wall Street bought itself another president.

Sigh…

Small Donations, Taxes

No way I’d want to see Trump as president, but he made some very good points about taxes.

He is a wealthy businessman, and took advantage of the tax code, just as every businessman, and probably most individuals do.  (How many homeowners refuse to take the mortgage interest deduction because it’s an unfair tax subsidy to the middle class, and oh, by-the-way, greatly benefits the banks lending that money?)

He makes the point that the loopholes he used were put there by the government, and they benefit the upper 1%, and the reason they’re there is because that upper 1% provides the funds that the politicians in charge need to get elected.

The implication being, is there any chance that a politician, who is part of that political establishment, will fight to change that?

This isn’t about Hillary.  It’s about any politician who is part of the current system of elected officials funded by large political contributions.

There is hope!

And it’s Facebook and it’s ilk.  Campaigns, such as Sander’s, Johnson’s, Stein’s, and, yes, Trump’s are funded in a large part by small individual donations.

Do you know what that means?  If one of those politicians gets elected, then, that politician will be beholden to his/her supporters, and they will be us!

I was very excited about Obama’s campaign.  He was funded by small donations, and those small donations gave him the support he needed to upset Hillary and win the Democratic nominations.  I gave!  I figured we owned him!

But major disappointment.  At the last minute he accepted large donations from Wall Street, to help him ensure victory over Romney.  He then failed to keep his promise to weaken the influence of lobbyists, and continued the Bush policy of bailing out the banks rather than the individuals hurt by the mortgage crisis.

Heavy sigh.

But still, there’s hope!  I give to small donation campaigns (Johnson/Weld this time).  It’s only a matter of time before we start getting politicians funded by small donations.  And they will change the laws that game the system towards the 1%.

Why It’s So Difficult Today

Pondering the polarized debate of today, I was wondering how we got there.

I think a key moment was depicted in one of the movies about Louisiana politician, Huey Long.  The movie started with him making deals, and you saw him talking with white business folks about how to keep the negroes in their place.  And then it shifted to him talking with the blacks, about how’ll continue to make their lives better.

He worked on both sides, he tried to help both sides, but his conversations with each were private.

Then they introduced TV into legislative proceedings, and when forced to talk so that everyone would hear, well he just couldn’t do it.  He was a skilled politician who understood each audience, and couched his words accordingly.

Imagine if you’re friends with a couple, Bob and Sue, going through divorce.  You’re friends with each, and you can sit down with Bob, and listen to his complaints about Sue, and be sympathetic and be there to support him.  And you can sit down with Sue as well, and listen to her, and be sympathetic.

But what if everything you said to Bob was with the knowledge that Sue was listening?  And visa versa?  How awkward would that be?  You couldn’t say things like, well Bob was a bit of a jerk that time, or it’s annoying when Sue does that.

Well you just couldn’t do it.  You couldn’t keep both as friends, you couldn’t keep the dialog with both.  You’d have to wind up in one camp or the other, and either Bob or Sue would like your support, and the other, Sue or Bob would feel you were the enemy.

So what’s a politician to do these days?  The ability to talk to both sides, to understand both sides is gone.  One can’t get the rapport of one side without totally annoying the other.

The problem is magnified by a media that is listening to every word, looking for any slip, any comment that might annoy a lot of people, and shining a harsh, readership increasing, spotlight on it.

I suspect this is why our politicians, and our debate, is so polarized these days.

Would that it were…

The VP debate was refreshing.  There were two civilized individuals presenting the classic Democratic and Republican positions.  I suspect that, if these two were representative of our congress people, that they could talk to each other and reach compromises that best serve all Americans.

But those two classic positions are very frustrating.  I was taken with Pence’s fiscal responsibility, with a record as governor similar to both Johnson’s and Weld’s.  But his social stands….

Kaine, on the other hand has the compassionate social values I value, similar to those of Johnson and Weld, but left his state further in debt than when he found it.  (Despite me getting yet another speeding ticket in Virginia!)

So if I had to choose between these two, well it would still be very frustrating.  I want a balance budget and I support a woman’s right to choose.

If only there was a third party that embraced these ideas…

My Oxen

“It all depends on whose ox is getting gored.” — Wilbur Beach, my grandfather.

There are those that are pretty insulting towards anyone with an inclination to support Johnson/Weld.  How could I, they say.

Well it’s about my oxen.  My politics are based on my life, just as everyone else’s is based on theirs.  I presume those who are 100% behind Hillary haven’t had their oxen put in danger by her.

First Ox: My Company

My parents were Republicans, so by default, without thinking much, so was I.  This continued up until the point in my life when I finally realized a long time dream, to have my own software company.

There’s nothing like trying to run a company to make you a Republican.  Or at least, a Republican as they used to be.  (We were treated like criminals in Democratic Massachusetts.)

So now, 1991, I’m finally living my dream, self employed with my own small venture just beginning.

Bill Clinton is elected, and wants to overhaul health care (great idea!) and puts Hillary in charge.  She comes up with all sorts of (good) ideas.  But how is she going to pay for it?  No problem she says, fees charged to corporations.

Well we couldn’t afford those, it would put our small concern right out of business.  And many others like us.  When it was pointed out that her plan would bankrupt hundreds, maybe thousands of small companies, she commented: “I can’t be held responsible for under capitalized corporations.”

I remember the quote.  Do you understand how scary a time that was for me?  Here’s a health care system in the making that is threatening to crush our dreams.  Force me out of my own business and back to working for some large, sufficiently capitalized company.  Everything we had been working to build would have been destroyed had her plan gone through.

She, a lawyer, had no idea about the concerns of small business. Fortunately for my small business, her plan didn’t materialize.

OK, that was a while ago, I can let bygones be bygones.  Now I’m listening to the 2016 debate.  Hillary is calm, in control, and has all sorts of great ideas for her vision of America.  But, how is she going to pay for it?

Tax the corporations.

That phrase went through me worse than anything Trump said.  She still doesn’t get it, still sees corporations as maple trees with infinite sap to be tapped.

Gary Johnson built a business from the bottom up.  He understands.  He points out that companies create jobs, not government.   (Our two person company went on to create jobs for three others.)

Well what about those large corporations?  They can afford it, right?  A recent article in the Economist, not about the election, was talking about Apple being fined for tax avoidance strategies overseas.

The Economist points out that the problem isn’t just Apple, and that many large corporations have moved around $2 trillion out of this country.  They point out that the reason companies are doing this is because our corporate tax laws are creating the incentives for them to move that money out of the country.

Consider that lost $2 trillion when Hillary says corporate taxes can fund the vision she has for America.

She is as clueless about companies and taxes as Gary Johnson is about the Middle East.

Second Ox: my son and grandchildren

I have an ox in the Middle East as well.

There is no question that there is probably no one on the planet who knows more about the Middle East than Hillary, Secretary of State.  It’s her job to know.

It was not Gary Johnson’s job.  His job was running his company, and then running New Mexico, both of which he did very well.

So no, he doesn’t understand the Middle East, or any foreign issues to the depth that Hillary does.

BUT, he has broad brush views, that would shape his policy as he came up to speed (and yes he would come up to speed if elected as every new president has had to).  He is for a strong national defense and against unnecessary foreign involvement.

Why?  because for one, he feels it hasn’t worked.  He thinks what we did in Iraq has gone terribly wrong, for example.

And how does this get to be my ox?  Well my son was in the military, and he was driving trucks down Iraqi roads with IEDs.  He’s fine thanks, and I’m proud of his service to this country, but did I sleep well those nights?

Do I want him, and now maybe not too far in the future, my grandboys going to war in foreign countries for ill conceived goals?

(And I’ve got history, I’m of the Viet Nam generation.  I didn’t go (another story) but friends of mine came back maimed, for what?)

I’d rather have Gary Johnson, who won’t deploy our troops unless necessary, than someone who will, even if she knows more about Aleppo.

A Goat: attitude

This isn’t an ox, but rather something that gets my goat.  I really hated how Hillary summarily dismissed the concerns of small business back then.

OK, bygones be bygones again.

And then she comes out and dismisses half of Trump supporters as deplorable.  She hasn’t changed.  Zero empathy for those that aren’t with her program.

I have great fear of a president that has so little regard for the issues of such a large voting block.  That has so little political skill for reaching across the divide.

Gary Johnson is in the center.  He understands the Trump supporters, and he understands the Bernie supporters, who align with Hillary.

He will not be the target of dysfunctional Republicans like Obama was, and as Hillary is sure to be.

My Heart: Bernie’s minions

Well I said I was a Republican.  True, until George W. Bush.  When the Republicans decided to woo the Christian Right, when they decided to take on all those social issues, when they decided the government should make key personal decisions for people, like whether they can have an abortion or not,

Well they lost me.  This isn’t an ox, but my personal belief in individual freedom.

I don’t want the government telling people who they can marry and who they can’t.  (OK, so this an ox as well. I hate the fact that any decision I might make to marry, at my age, is overwhelmingly influenced, and in fact discouraged, by tax, insurance, and legal regulations regarding marriage.)

Gary Johnson, and the Libertarians in general, support individual freedom.

So, for me, what’s to think about?

The Libertarians will encourage my business to grow, to hire others, to continue the work (and it’s done some good work) it has done.

The Libertarians will not send my grandchildren off to war without a really good reason.

The Libertarians will not tell my gay friends they can’t marry, or put my pot smoking friends in jail. (Heroin is a different story, they’re not crazy.)

Of course I’m excited to see Johnson/Weld as a viable choice. Of course I encourage all to at least take a look at them.  Of course I want to see them in the national dialog, on the stage in the debates.

The Trump Card

I’m as afraid of Donald Trump as anyone.  And I live in Florida, the swingingest of swing states.

I cannot tell you how much I hate the idea that to prevent Trump I have to vote against all my self interest, to risk the future of my company (smaller than it ever was), and the lives of my grandchildren.

I have to vote against what I believe to be the future path for our country, the one that WILL continue America’s greatness. (Millenials support Johnson/Weld, and their number one job aspiration is entrepreneur.  How can Hillary bring them back with her attitude towards small business?)

That I have to vote for the dysfunctional two party system, that used to work, when both sides could negotiate.  That I have to chose between, on the one hand, fiscal irresponsibility and social justice, and on the other, well in this case, fiscal irresponsibility without social justice.

I will continue to support the Johnson/Weld ticket, I will encourage everyone to see what they have to offer.  I will understand that each of us will be voting for what makes the most sense to them, and their situation in life.

Vacuum in the Center

Everything I fear, I tried to describe in my last post, summed up:

“Trump doesn’t scare me; he can be contained.  What scares me is the vacuum that sucked him onto center stage.  The space he occupies held something else once, but it has vanished.”

Walter Kim, Psychedelic Trap, Harper’s October 2016

It’s a fascinating and well written first person account of a reporter covering the Republican convention.