Friday, January 24, 2020

When Did Politics Become So Profitable?

Working for the government was never a high-paying job, until lately.

One of the key issues that will be harped on in the 2020 campaign is Hunter Biden's work in the Ukraine.   Republican operatives are already haunting the campaign trail with signs saying "Where's Hunter?" or peppering Biden with questions about the Ukraine deal.   Biden had replied calmly in some instances, at other times calling out GOP plants for what they are - "liars".   In one instance, he made reference to "his one surviving son" which struck me as a little off-color - using the death of your child for political gain.

But the issue touches a  nerve, and oddly enough, Biden has gained less than other recent politicians for his time in office.   Others have raked in millions, literally.   Oddly enough also, whether or not Trump has gained from his time in office is debatable.  While the Trump Hotel in the former U.S. Post Office building is booking rooms from those seeking Presidential favor, other Trump properties are seeing declines in bookings or even the Trump name removed.   Trump is no "billionaire mogul" but a failed real estate investor who morphed into a reality-show brand.  At this point in his career, his major asset is (or was) his brand, which he licensed to clothing, accessories, hotels, and whatnot.  That brand has been tarnished by his Presidency.  So arguably, he may leave office with less money than when he started with.  But maybe the sale of MAGA hats will make up for that.

Others have prospered. The Obamas, as I noted before, just bought a $12M vacation home on Martha's Vinyard.   In an era where progressives are decrying fantastic wealth and incomes that exceed that of the "ordinary worker" by a factor of 20 or more, the Obamas seem to be strangely exempt from criticism.  How the heck did a kid from the streets of Chicago end up with $40 million?

Of course, his Vice-President did only a little worse, making a paltry $9M from speaking engagements and books.  Good ol' Middle-Class Joe! 

It is part and parcel of the new politics.   You give a speech to a trade group, and they pay you $50,000 for an hour of your time.   Hillary and Bill famously did this, and also are now multi-millionaires.   Or, you write a book, which in some instances may be bought up in bulk by political action committees to hand out to people.   This vaults an even mediocre tome to the New York Times Bestseller list, which in turn generates more sales (since no one reads anymore, it doesn't take much to become a "bestseller").  The net result is money can be transferred legally and "above-board" to candidates, politicians, or former politicians.

There are, of course, other ways for people to legally transfer money to politicians.  You offer a job to a relative, such as Chelsea Clinton or Hunter Biden, for a fantastic salary that is far beyond their actual worth.   The understanding is, that if down the road you get into some difficulty, their parents will remember the favor you did them.    In other cases, such as with Hunter Biden, it could be that other investors in your company might be impressed with a famous "name" on your board of directors.

Act shocked - that's how the system works.  You become wealthy and famous, and you are asked to sit on the board of a company or a non-profit or a charity or whatnot.  You draw a nice salary and do little other than to rubber-stamp the CEO's recommendations.  And once you are on one Board, you are asked to be on others.   Being on the Board bolsters your credentials as well, opening up new opportunities for you.   It is a  pretty sick system, and not just limited to former politicians.

Should politics be so profitable?  Is there anything wrong with giving a speech for $50,000 if people are willing to offer it?   After all, other public figures are often paid very highly to give speeches at universities and forums - why not you?

And I guess Bernie Sanders said, "Why not me?" and went out and wrote (or had ghost-written) a mediocre tome that made him a million bucks.  He defended this by saying, "If you write a best-seller, you can make a million dollars, too!" which is apparently his proposal for fighting poverty and homelessness in America - under a Sanders Presidency, everyone will write a best-selling book.

But of course, not everyone can write a best-seller.  And books by politicians, even if they were good ones would only become best-sellers by dint of the author's name on the title page.   If you or I were to write the same book, it would generate nothing but rejection letters.   Book-writing and speech-giving are little more than trading on your fame and notoriety, which is why whenever someone does something that makes them famous - even for a minute - they write a book, sign a movie deal, or even record a record album.  Whether it is Homer cashing in on his perfect bowling game, or Leonard Nimoy doing a monotone record of contemporary hits, or a guy who lands a plane on the Hudson writing a book, everyone cashes in on their fame.

And I guess there is nothing wrong with that, but with politicians, their fame is something that we created, not them.  Moreover, their notoriety is supposed to serve the people who elected them, not merely line their own pockets with cash.  They should not be making money, running for President.

But of course, that's assuming that their best-sellers and speeches are truly being received by an audience who just wants to be entertained and informed, and expects nothing in return.   The problem with books-and-speeches, as I noted above, is that they can all-too-easily used as a means of channeling bribes to a politician, in a manner that is "above-board" and also taxable (so they don't end up like Al Capone).

Sadly, it seems no candidate is exempt from this largess.   Even Elizabeth Warren has a net worth of over $12M mostly from book royalties and whatnot.   She will help the "little guy" from being exploited by the banks, but lives in a $3M home.   No doubt, she can afford to pay off her payday loan or pay back her student loans.

Of course, the only exception to this rule appears to be Kamala Harris, who makes a shitload of money (combined with her Husband's attorney salary) but managed to somehow spend it all.  That's not how the game is played, Kamala!

Pete Buttigieg is even worse off, having a paltry net worth of $100,000 and not even a lot of income to show for.  But then again - millennials - probably is still paying off student loans and blowing his disposable income on avocado toast and looking fabulous.

So what is the point of all this?   I dunno.  I hear a lot in the press that Trump is "corrupt" and somehow making money from the Presidency by renting out hotel rooms.   He probably is doing this as writing a book with a Sharpie is kind of hard to do.  And I suspect that the audience for his unhinged speeches won't pay $50 grand to listen to him.  But even his opponents' data shows that while he funneled a lot of campaign money to his own properties (mostly by putting his campaign headquarters in his own building) since becoming President, his income has actually declined.  Maybe he has a secret slush-fund like Nixon had, that hasn't come to light - yet.

They throw the "C-word" around a lot, but really fail to show where it is happening.  Charging the Secret Service for the use of Trump's private jet?  I guess, maybe.  Under the law, the secret service does have to reimburse their protectees for use of their properties.   The Secret Service was obligated to pay Hillary rent for space they used in her Chappaqua property (the amount was so trivial, the Clintons declined it).  Jet airplanes, of course, might be more expensive to operate.  Whether or not Trump broke any rules by charging the Secret Service, or whether the Secret Service was obligated to pay for their seat-cost is not clear.

But throwing around terms like "corruption" while at the same time raking in millions of your own seems kind of duplicitous.  Making money from your time in public office, even while you are in office, or while you are campaigning for office, seems to be a new norm.   And whether it is a political PAC buying up your latest "best seller" in bulk, or some lobbying group spending the night at your hotel, it doesn't really change what is going on - money being transferred from point A to point B by people seeking political favor.

I guess I shouldn't be so naive.  Even Kennedy wrote a book - "Profiles in Courage" which some say was ghost-written.   Maybe Lincoln had some lucrative speaking gigs.  Hey, even Washington managed to make a buck or two out of the location of the Nation's Capital - named after him - to his back yard.  So I guess this is really nothing new, after all.

While Jimmy Carter might live in a $167,000 hovel (and Plains, Georgia is indeed a festering shithole, I've been there - dry county, no less!) he does has a net worth of $8M.   We miss you, Harry Truman!   I guess he was the last President who was content to just be middle-class.   What a shame he was also connected with the Kansas City political machine.  There really are no "clean" politicians, of either party.

But I think the Democrats throwing around the "C-word" - corruption - could backfire on them during the campaign.   While Trump may have benefited in some regards from bookings to his hotels and other properties, these bookings have declined in recent years, and his overall brand has arguably been tarnished by his Presidency.  Meanwhile, the pure-as-snow Democrats are raking in millions - literally - in enterprises with no risk or overhead - with books-and-speeches.    Enterprises which can more easily be used as means of legally bribing politicians as well, often in ways which are untraceable.   Who's to know if the Koch brothers bought 100,000 copies of your book and then burned them?    And let's not go into salaried jobs for family members - both the Clintons and Bidens have to answer for that.

But maybe that is the answer - instead of trying to look for the "perfect politician" that "money can't buy" or basing our judgments on "character" - we should be looking at actual policies that affect our lives.  Because in the long run, it doesn't matter if Trump is renting out hotel rooms in exchange for favors, or whether Hillary is giving a $50,000 speech to a petroleum think-tank, you have to ask yourself whether the policies these candidates espouse and enact, will benefit or harm you - and the country.

And that's difficult to determine, sometimes.   Myself, I tend to want to vote against the candidate who is promising to void my health insurance plan.   So that means "No" to Trump.

But hey, I did get another helpful phone call from a telemarketer, informing me that the "window" to enroll in Trumpcare is opening!  (It never closes, of course - fraud never does).  Gee, thanks!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Irony is Lost on Elizabeth Warren

It is possible to rise above poverty to run for President of the United States.   That doesn't mean we should give away billions of dollars to people.  Click to enlarge.

I got a letter from Elizabeth Warren today - no doubt she read my posting about Pocahontas.   It was a moving letter, in that it told of her struggle to rise from poverty to become a lawyer, a law professor, a Senator, and now a Presidential candidate.   It is true that in America, anyone can be President (and our current President is proof of that!) and that even if born into poverty, if you work hard and try, you can succeed.

Somehow, this has been translated over the years into, "If you come from a middle-class background, you don't have to try, and you should get free stuff!"

She recounts how after her "Daddy" (how down-home and gee-shucks!) had a heart attack, her mother went to work for Sears at a minimum-wage job.  Oddly enough, she didn't attempt to unionize the Sears workers or go out on strike.  Warren went to a "commuter school" for $50 a semester.  Through a lot of hard work and sacrifice, she got where she is today.

This is a message that resonates with me, as I worked hard - for 14 years - to go to "commuter school" and although tuition was more than $50 a semester, between my employers and some student loans, I managed to pay for it.  I didn't ask for a handout or free tuition or loan forgiveness and neither did Warren.

Today, the average student loan debt upon graduation is anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000 depending on which site you look at.   This is not a lot of money for middle-class people or even lower-middle-class or even the poor.   It is the average price of a new car today, and not a very fancy one at that.   Is a college education worth the cost of a car?   I would like to think so.   But there are a lot of stupid degrees from Stupid U. that are not worth even that.

We hear, in the media, in yet another example of Media Hysteria about people with $100,000 in student loans or even folks with far more.  If you go for a graduate degree, it ain't hard to do, as private lenders will let you borrow as much as you want.   And some do, thinking that once they become a Dentist or Surgeon, they can pay this back.  Others get bogus MBA degrees and never even find a job.   These are life choices.   If Warren had decided to go that route, no doubt she would not be a lawyer, professor, Senator, or Presidential candidate.  She made tough choices, worked hard, and succeeded.

Ironically, she wants to make it easier for people to make poor choices and not have to work at all by cancelling the student loan debts of millions - regardless of whether they can afford to pay them back, how much they borrowed, or even whether they have already largely paid them back.  Her reaction to the hard work and toil she had to go through was to put the next generation on easy street.   I don't get it.

The high cost of college isn't alleviated by throwing free money at it - it was caused by free money.  When you tell a student that they can borrow tens of thousands of dollars for college, suddenly an expensive college seems "affordable" and if they have a rock-climbing wall in the student center and luxury student housing, so much the better.   Walking five miles one-way to "commuter school"?   not on your life, baby!

I guess what really disturbed me was the irony that was lost on Warren - the disconnect between her life story of struggle and success and today's generation of whiny kids who borrowed money for useless degrees and now want a get-out-of-jail-free card.   The real hard answers - how to cut the cost of college by cutting the overhead and spiraling costs - is not addressed.  And these costs spiral out of control because funny-money loans allow them to.

"So, what's your answer smart-ass?" you say.  Well, simple, going forward, we need to end Federal guarantees of private student loans and end the bankruptcy exception for private student loans.  Yes, this means private student loans would evaporate overnight.  It also means that "for profit" colleges such as Trump U. would have no mechanism to ensnare the poor and shatter their dreams.   It also means that students would look a lot harder at the costs of schools and make better choices in terms of bang-for-the-buck in college.  Colleges would be forced to compete on price, and tuition would come down.  Get rid of highly-paid layers of Deans and administrators, $40-an-hour janitors and security guards, and the other bloated overhead that is passed on to gullible students who pay for it all with tomorrow's money.

Will this make it harder to go to college?  Yea, sure.   But it also means that people will think harder about this very expensive decision before they blithely sign loan papers that mortgage them for life (well, at least for ten years, anyway).  And yea, it will hit Touchy-Feely U. the hardest, as the demand for degrees in sensitivity studies will decline.   That's a good thing, trust me.

Of course, changing the structure of student loans may require more than the "stroke of a pen" as Warren claims is all that is needed to wipe out a trillion dollars in student loan debt.   But then again, maybe not.  If the President has such powers to regulate Student loans, perhaps she could do this as well.   But of course, the pushback from the private student loan lenders would be horrific.   It would be  a hard thing to do.   On the other hand, the private student loan lenders would love it if Warren had the government write them all a fat check for the full amount due, with back interest paid.  She is choosing the easy route.

Doing the hard thing is usually the right thing - as Warren's life story attests.   Going the easy route - doing things that are comfortable or appear to be comfortable, often lead to discomfort.   You would think, having struggled in life, that Warren would understand this - understand that our struggles define us, and that struggle is often better - always better - than having something handed to us.  We do not appreciate that which is free.

But I guess somewhere along the way she forgot that.  Either that, or she is making a craven, calculated ploy to buy votes.  Sadly, I think the latter, and that pains me, as I thought maybe - at one time - she was the real deal.  I no longer think that, and indeed, I was naive to think that about any politician.

Fire Ants

Poor Harry!

I stepped on a fire ant mound in my bare feet.  Only got stung by a dozen or so - the little buggers can literally kill you.  I was researching them online and came across this nugget:

Males (drones)[edit]The main purpose of the fire ant males is to mate with queens during a nuptial flight. After a male has successfully inseminated a queen, its purpose is fulfilled, he will not get accepted back to the mother colony, and eventually dies outside the nest.[19]

Poor Harry!

The Ford Pinto - An Example of Media Hysteria

Ford Pinto.jpg

It turns out the Ford Pinto wasn't really any more unsafe than any other small car of its era, and in fact, safer than many.

It is funny, but you see these "listicals" and "sponsored content" online that exhorts you to click on their slideshow of the "50 worst cars ever made" - which of course requires you to scroll down through 50 pages of animated ads and crapola (which generates pageviews for them, and some accidental click-counts on ads as well).  In every one of these click-bait articles, cars like the Chevy Vega are mentioned - for its tendency to rust in early years, and its flaky engine that blew up after 60,000 miles.   The Ford Pinto also makes the list perennially, supposedly because it would "blow up" when rear-ended.  It is a reputation that is really not deserved, but hard to shake.

With the hindsight of time, we can look at actual traffic statistics and realize that the Pinto had pretty average crash and death rates compared to other small cars of the era.  The rear-end fire rates were only marginally higher than other cars of its size - small enough to be statistical error.   Cars back them - of all makes and models and sizes - put the gas tank behind the rear axle, as this made more room in the car.   Often the filler pipe was hidden behind the rear license plate as a "convenience" to motorists, who no longer had to remember "which side" the fuel filler was on.   It made no difference if it was a Pinto, Nova, or Chevy Caprice - all had the rear tank mounting.   It was only in smaller cars that this presented more of a problem.

In that same era, GM mounted gas tanks on the outside of the frame of pickup trucks, helpfully offering dual tanks as an option - one on each side.   If you were T-boned, well, it might mean a fuel fire would ensue.   But again, statistically in retrospect, we found that the incidents of fire in those trucks was not significantly greater than in others.  So why the bruhaha?

In both the sidesaddle and Pinto cases, there were "tests" conducted which showed explosive fires erupting from these cars.   In the GM case, it was later found out that the testers left the gas cap off the gas tank and actually ignited the fuel with a spark plug - essentially turning the pickup truck into a car-bomb.   In the Pinto case, it turned out the testers put weights in the "bullet" car to insure the bumper rode beneath that of the Pinto and that the headlights were on as an ignition source.   Other similar cars, of course, were not tested - the Pinto was picked out for special abuse.

Why was this?   It is hard to say.  The media loves good eye-candy videos, and once the narrative of the "fiery Pinto" was established (along with jokes on late-night talk shows) it was hard to shake.   Compounding this was a memo prepared by Ford in response to proposed changes to rear-end collision rules, which analyzed overall costs to society as a whole (not Ford) from rear-end collisions, versus the cost of trying to improve rear-end crash safety.    Some media outlets, including the notoriously right-wing Mother Jones conflated this as reading that Ford was willing to let people die or be burned horribly to save $11 a car.   The so-called "Pinto Memo" was touted as an example of corporate callousness, at a time when corporations were being called onto the carpet for dumping toxic chemicals or allowing poison gas to kill thousands in India.  Ford made themselves a convenient target.

Did the Pinto debacle change anything?   Well, to be sure, we no longer have rear-mounted gas tanks in cars or side-saddle mounted gas tanks in trucks.   Fuel safety has improved dramatically over the years, but of course, car fuel fires can still occur in collisions that are violent enough, or if the car is hit just right in the right places.  The design of the Pinto fuel system was primitive and unsafe - but so was that of the Vega, the Gremlin, the Datsun, the Toyota - and let's not even talk about the deathtrap that was the VW Beetle.   But hey, back in the day, it was "cool" to bash American corporations, while driving your hippie Beetle, designed and built by Nazis.

The point isn't that the Pinto was a safe car - like most cars of its era, it would be deemed quite unsafe by today's standards.   The point is, the Pinto was singled out for particular abuse by the media and the question is, of course, why?   Was this an example of media mass-hysteria?   I think so, and the lessons from that are important today.   Media outlets seize on a story and won't let it go.   Each repeats what the others are reporting, amplifying the story as they go along.   If the story gets "refreshed" before the end of the "news cycle" it may have "legs" and linger on.

Back then, as today, reporters didn't have the resources to do actual research.  They merely repeat what others are saying - the wire services, the other networks, the other papers, the other reporters.   If a personal-injury attorney with an axe to grind comes to them with compelling video of a car blowing up into a fireball, that leads the news at 6:00. 

Today, not much has changed.  Reporters show up for work, which is to say they get of bed, get coffee, and then waddle down the hall to their home-office in their pajamas.   They check the wire service reports, the latest Twitter feeds, the latest Facebook posts, and what's happening on Reddit and then decide to write a story.  They might e-mail someone who they can quote, or even call them on the phone.   Then they start a-typin'.   The old days of "investigative reporting" - if it even existed (would Woodward and Bernstein have a "story" without Deep Throat?) are long gone.   Reporters today wait for a press release to copy verbatim, provided it is accompanied by some compelling pictures, or preferably video.

Were there people who specifically set out to target Ford?   This is a possibility.   Like I said, personal injury attorneys love this sort of thing, and the "Pinto Memo" is enough to convince juries of coporate malfeasance whether or not there was any.   It is like the McDonald's "hot cup of coffee case" - their coffee, it turns out, was no hotter than others, and today is the same temperature (and indeed, Starbucks' is the same as well).  The only difference is, today cars have cupholders and old ladies don't need to use their crotches for this purpose.

But there could have been other causes.  Recently, a complaint was filed with NHTSA saying that Tesla cars are crashing as a result of the "auto pilot" feature.  Sounds like a routine thing, until you realize the guy filing the complaint is a famous short-seller of Tesla stock.   Act shocked.   It makes you wonder if similar things could be at play in the Pinto case or the sidesaddle case or maybe hundreds of other cases that we never hear about because people were paid-off, Stormy Daniels style.

Oh, that, right.  Her attorney is now rotting in jail where he should be, in part because he tried corporate blackmail on Nike to the tune of $20M.    This sort of thing goes on - reputation blackmail.  The next time around, before you grab a protest sign and decide to march in the street, ask yourself whether the issue you are protesting isn't in fact advancing someone else's agenda.

But in other cases, like I said, it is based on public perception versus reality.  Ralph Nader wrote a seminal book on an unsafe rear-engine car.  No, not the Corvair, the VW Beetle!  The Corvair book came later, and it recounted the design defects in that car that were copied slavishly from Beetle chassis design.  The first book was a flop, the second a hit.  And likely you never knew about the first book, or that the Beetle was such a deathtrap.  In fact, since the VW sold in much larger numbers than the Corvair, it was a far greater danger to the public.  But somehow VW escaped the wrath of the public, which perceived it as some sort of hippie-friendly company (much as Subaru is today) and GM was pilloried.   VW good, GM bad!

But reality - and truth - are not as exciting or sexy as mythology.   I've run into a lot of people who tell me the Corvair was "unsafe at any speed!" but cannot articulate why (it has to do with swing-axle design, but I've lost you already, right?).   Similarly, they will tell some joke about exploding Pintos, but get almost angry when you explain to them the Pinto wasn't, in fact, a fiery deathtrap.  You've ruined the punchline to their joke and no one likes a kill-joy, right?

On the internet today, they call such mob-vengeance "pitchfork justice" but that doesn't mean it doesn't occur anymore.  Someone posts a story about outrage, and people pile-on with their self-righteousness.  A black couple was refused seating at a Dennys!   A Policeman was denied service at a Starbucks!  A member of the military didn't get extra breadsticks at Onion Garden! Light the torches!  Gather your hay rakes and pitchforks!  To the castle!  Kill the monster!

Not only are we still subject to media hysteria, it seems today that's all the media reports.

Do You Need a UNION?

Are unions a way of protecting workers from exploitation by management, or just an extortion racket that victimizes both labor and management?

It seems like we are living though the roaring 20's once again - where the stock market is going bananas, while the farmers go broke.   And unionism is once again on the rise, along with a lot of "share the wealth" and "everyman a king!" politicians pushing the same old snake oil - nationalism, communism, socialism, and fascism.   I thought we went over this already.  I guess not - and a new generation, steeped in self-esteem classes and rewritten history has to learn the painful and deadly lessons of their forebears all over again.

The era of big unions died off in the 1970's and 1980's due to economic conditions and some changes in the law.  Back in the day, if your employees went out on strike, you had little choice but to negotiate with them "in good faith".    Even if their "bargaining" proposal would insure your company could go out of business, you had to negotiate and grin and bear it.  You could not pack up the plant and move to a non-union State, or even just call it a day and close the factory entirely.   That would have been against the law.

But as I noted before, things started to change as companies lost more and more money and competition from overseas was fierce.  The ball bearing plant I worked in was closed - not all at once, but little by little, as each "shop" in the plant - the forge shop, the ball shop, heat treat, grind, etc. were packed up and shipped out - usually to India, and we relied on German and Japanese-made parts to replace that production.   The result was lower costs and better quality, of course.

The problem was multifold.  Like most American companies, it was top-heavy with management, drawing obscene salaries.  But you can't expect a manager to make less money than his workers, and when workers were making five times the local wage rates, the managers had to make even more.  Compounding this were restrictive "work rules" that mandated that two or three people do the job of just one, or that people be kept on the payroll even if there was nothing for them to do.   And no, those idle people could not be put to work on plant maintenance - that was not their job description!  As a result, there was no money left over to buy new equipment and machinery or design new products.  It was a classic death-spiral.

Since those days, union membership has gone from 30% of the work force to less than 10% today.  And today, unions are trying to reorganize and gain back some of the power they lost.   This time around, they are targeting low-wage workers, such as fast-food workers and domestic help in hotels.  Time will tell if they are successful.

The reason for this shift in focus is interesting.   The number of workers in the automotive and other manufacturing sectors has declined, not because of overseas competition alone, but because of automation - and by that, I don't mean "robots" but machinery that does tasks more efficiently so that one person can do the work of four or five.   My friend at Caterpillar, for example, was a welder.   In the old days, dozens of welders would weld steel plate to make the frame of a Caterpillar tractor - sparks flew everywhere!   Today, he supervises five robotic welders, setting up the parts, programming the machine, and then pressing the "start" button before going on to the next machine.

And there is no choice in this, either.   With today's technology (and litigious society) welds have to be perfect every time.  You can't afford the variations in welding quality we had in the past (usually compensated by over-engineering everything).   A company that used manual welding would go out of business in short order.   So it is a trend, nationwide, in manufacturing, that fewer people produce more things - a trend that cannot be halted or reversed, even if we wanted to.   It is the same as the trend in farming - fewer people are needed to farm, and each farmer farms more acres as a result.

Back in the early days of the assembly line, Henry Ford did a startling thing - he instituted a 40-hour workweek and doubled wages overnight for his workers.   Was he being generous?   No, he was being realistic.   Although he was paying "prevailing wages" in his industry, his assembly line technique insured that each worker was far more productive than in traditional auto plants, where cars were assembled by hand.   As such they were worth more to Ford.

Problem was, assembly line work was monotonous and strenuous.  People got tired of it quickly and quit - and went to work for a more slow-paced "traditional" car company.   The turnover got so bad - nearly 50% per year - that he had to do something.  Now, granted, unions had been fighting for higher wages and 40-hour workweeks for years.  But that was not what drove Ford to make these concessions - it was turnover, plain and simple.

And that right there points out the two ways of insuring your get the wages you deserve.   If enough people quit, then employers have to raise wages.   Right now, unemployment is at all-time lows.   Most low-wage employers are offering wages higher than minimum wage to attract workers.   In the labor market - which is a market like any other - the laws of supply and demand are still in place.   If you don't like the wages or working conditions you are in, you always have the option of quitting.

And for most people, this is the mechanism they use to get the pay they want or at least deserve.  Not a perfect mechanism, of course, as we shall see.   But for eons, salaried employees never had unions, and yet never were discontented with their wages - too much.   Professionals such as Engineers, Doctors, and Lawyers, never had unions - even as wages have stagnated in some professions.

That does not mean, however, that you can just "name your own salary" and make whatever you think you deserve (although a lot of people have tried - some succeeding, but they are usually in jail).  In my own profession(s) I saw the salaries for Engineers stagnating, and even for Patent lawyers.  One reason I retired was that the prevailing wages for Patent Attorneys was declining or at least remaining stagnant since the "glory days" when I started out.   That, and the working conditions were less than optimal.   But since I quit, that means some younger attorney can likely ask for a dollar more in wages as a result.

But suppose you have no special skill or training that makes your labor worthwhile and negotiable in price?   Suppose there are millions of people out there, just like you, with no real job skills, and the number of available jobs is far less than that?   In that case, a union might work to your advantage, as they can basically extort higher wages from management by threatening to destroy the entire enterprise, either through a strike, or as in the past, through actual violence.

The problem of course, was twofold.   The unions quickly realized they had a lot of power - over management and the workers.   And they became corrupt fairly quickly.  Union leaders would line their own pockets with money in return for "labor peace" and companies learned it was easier to just pay off the unions and make promises of benefits in the future, than to actually negotiate fair and just wages.

In the 1970's, unionism resulted in a schism in the labor force.   In the few plants that were unionized, you could make scandalous wages.   "The country club" they called our ball-bearing plant.  As a young, unskilled worker, you went down to the union hall, and maybe an uncle or other relative got you in (and maybe you bribed someone as well).   The big company in town would hire you for a month - and then lay you off.   You'd go to work somewhere else for a fraction of your union wages, waiting for "the call" to go back to work.   You'd work like this for years - a month a year, two months a year, six months a year - until you had enough seniority to be on the payroll full time and largely immune from layoffs.  "Last hired, first fired!" was the rallying cry.

It was, in a way, cruel to the workers, who had no steady work until they were well into their 30's.  And once they were on full-time, it was deemed that they no longer needed to work hard - or at all.  That was the job of the up-and-coming youngsters.

But of course, these bloated wages meant costs spiraled out of control.   As wages went up, the price of cars went up.   Workers couldn't afford the cars anymore, so they went out  on strike for more money, which meant the cars cost even more.  The Ford Pinto, when introduced in 1971, cost under $2000.   When it went out of production, it cost over $5000.   And no, it wasn't a firetrap or a deathtrap, any more than any other small car of its era (it was actually safer than most Japanese makes and of course, the VW, of the time).   But that's another story for another blog posting.

Since those days, a lot has changed.  A big chunk of the union labor force is in government unions, and even those have been crippled by some recent court decisions.   Until recently, if you worked in a union shop, you were required to pay union dues even if you didn't want to join the union.   Such is no longer the case.   And union dues can be pretty steep, as I learned during my brief tenure as a Teamster.  A lot of new factories have opened up in the formerly agrarian South - non-union factories with correspondingly lower wages, fewer work rules, and less labor strife.   While GM lost billions in a labor dispute this summer (but oddly enough, is still cutting production as the market retracts - I think the strike was actually a blessing for GM!) the American plants of Toyota, Honda, Nissan, VW, BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and of course Tesla, kept on humming along with nary a hiccup.

VW bears special mention as they have voted - twice now - on whether to unionize.  In both cases, they turned it down.   VW had a UAW plant in Pennsylvania back in the 1980s and closed it down and retreated to Germany as the quality control was horrific and sales of the second generation Golf and Jetta suffered as a result.  There is a reason VW offers a 100,000 mile drivetrain warranty on their cars.  At 50K, the struts and half-shafts of our '87 GTI were shot.   That's just not acceptable today.

Many workers today are disenchanted with unions.  Maybe they had an experience like mine - where I was bodily threatened by union thugs.   Maybe they are smarter than we think, and realize that a dollar more in pay is fine and all, but a closed factory pays nothing.    Maybe also the nature of work in manufacturing plants has changed - there is less back-breaking physical work and more skill-related technical work.  Like my friend at the Caterpillar plant - in the old days, a welder would come home from work, covered in dirt and weld splatter.  Today they wear lab coats and press buttons - well, at least some of them do.

So maybe that is why the unions are targeting "raw labor" type jobs - the few that are left in the United States.   They are trying to organize fast-food workers, hotel maids, and other no-skill and low-skill workers.   And yet, automation may take over those jobs as well.    On a recent trip to Walmart in Florida, I saw some management and techy types calibrating a self-driving floor cleaner.   It booped and beeped and went down the aisle washing the floors automatically, stopping for customer, carts, displays, and small children.   When I asked them if this was a prototype, they laughed and said it had been deployed at over 100 stores already.   The ten guys with mops-and-buckets were replaced by one guy driving the mop-o-matic machine.   Now the one guy is gone - but Walmart still remains the largest employer in the world and will probably stay that way for some time.

As for fast-food, kiosks are just the start of automation.  Someone will figure out a way to make burgers with a machine instead of a small army of low-wage workers putting things into and out of little drawers to "assemble" a sandwich.   I've already seen automated french-fry vending machines, as I noted before.  It is only a matter of time before there are only one or two employees at such a place - the manager unlocking in the morning and pressing the "start" button, and maybe a technician to work loose the burger bits from the conveyor belt.

But of course, the union situation could all change in a real hurry.   Unemployment is at all-time lows, but if the economy craters again, and unemployment goes back up to, say, 10%, and wages stagnate further, the unions will have an easier time of selling their snake-oil to the populace.

And for a lucky minority of people who get union jobs, it will mean the "country club".   For the rest of us, it will mean higher prices for goods (and higher property taxes to pay overpaid public employees).   But for people who have skills in our economy, it won't mean much, as skilled labor has rarely found the need to be unionize - unless forced to do so, under threat of physical violence, as has taken place in the past.

Overall, though, I think an individual is far better off being a skilled worker and non-union, and thus able to negotiate a salary, not have to blackmail for it.   Relying on extortion schemes to get higher wages - and having connections with crooked unions to get union jobs - is a far less desirable position to be in, as you have far less leverage and control over your own life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Pocahontas Matters

Claiming Indian ancestry at cocktail parties or as a joke on a Census form is one thing, doing it to claim minority status is another.

Elizabeth Warren is gaining in the polls, despite - or because of - her feud with fellow Monty Hall giveaway host, Bernie Sanders.   Yet, I think Trump would be pleased to run against her, if she were nominated.  And if she were nominated, you would hear nothing but "Pocahontas" from the Democratic convention until November.  And it would stick, too.

I mentioned before how claiming Indian ancestry was sort of a wasp-y thing to do back in the 1960's. My Mother, after a few cocktails (which is to say, after 10:00 AM) would blather on about how we were descended from Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, which of course, was nonsense and highly unlikely.   The idea was, back then, that you wanted to claim some sort of pedigree - like a dog - so you could get into the country club or get that corner office in the executive suite.   And to do so, you wanted to be able to trace your ancestry to the Mayflower or some other nice Protestant lineage that let you in the club.

I made the mistake, in third grade, of mentioning this in class, when we did a history lesson on Pocahontas.   I was beaten-up after school for my impertinence.  No one likes a smart-ass.

I noted before how our family on my Father's side is divided as to whether we are of Irish or Scottish ancestry (or as a compromise, Scots-Irish, whatever that is).  The reality is, my Dad became "Scottish" and Protestant in part I think, to advance his career and status in life (hence also marrying a crazy lesbian from a family "with money" - but less than he thought).   People do what they have to do to survive, and back in the day, the big companies weren't putting Catholics or Irishmen in the boardroom.   We had one as President - oh wait, they shot him.   Haven't had one since, have we?  Guess they got that message across.

Of course, you could argue this is all harmless fun. Jews have been "passing" for gentiles for centuries, as it seemed a lot nicer than the Inquisition or the death camp.   Light-skinned blacks have passed for white in the past - and often castigated by other blacks for doing so.   But of course, it goes to the root of the issue - what it is that makes one Black?   Obama was half-white and half-black by ancestry - why do they pigeonhole him as black?  Even people who are not racist, are racist.

But that was back then, this is today.  Back then, you tried to "pass" as another race in order to join the majority in most cases.  Stories of Indian ancestry were cocktail-party chatter, designed to make one look intriguing, nothing more.   No one claimed Indian ancestry back in the day for an advantage.

That changed.  Starting in the 1960's, "affirmative action" and other programs started tracking people by race, and efforts were made to diversify schools, factories, academia, and the board room.  Suddenly, there was a demand to have for minorities on the board of directors, to show your new egalitarian credentials.   Being a minority - or being able to claim minority status - had some limited advantage (although in reality, it was still far better to be in the majority).

Better yet, if you could be classified as a minority but appear, act, and be "one of us" that made you even more appealing to the race number-counters.  So they wanted an "articulate black" to be represented on the corporate board or on the faculty of the school.  They didn't want Reverend Al Sharpton or Malcom X.

Back then, every government form had a section with "race" boxes to be checked off.  If you were white, you checked off "none."  Just kidding.   It was kind of odious back then, and even today, where the government wants to know your "demographic" on almost every form.   And there are promotions if you can fit into one or more of those demographics.  As a "small business" I could get a "set aside" from the firehose of government contracts.  If I was a woman-owned or minority-owned business, so much the better - and readers tell me they know of businesses put into the name of the wife or a minority partner to garner such business.   If only I was a transgender lesbian Eskimo!  I could have gotten contact after contract.

But speaking of Eskimo (or Inuit), my brother once put down "Eskimo" on some government form as a joke (he was high at the time, likely) and there was, of course, no consequences, as he was not claiming any advantage as a result.  It may have been funny to "mess with the man" and screw up their survey demographics (why one Eskimo in central New York?  I am sure the IBM 360 had a meltdown over that) he wasn't committing any sort of crime as a result.

Enter Elizabeth Warren.  She claims - and I believe her - that her purported Indian ancestry was something handed down over the generations, much as my Mother's story was.  Cocktail party chatter and family folklore and little more.  But she checked off the "Native American" box on more than one form in her life, and allowed her employer (Harvard) to laud her as their first "Native American" faculty member.   She obtained some kind of advantage from this false claim.

And false claim it was - and she knew it.  She did not grow up on a reservation or come from a deprived or disadvantaged background.   She didn't have to struggle to leave the reservation and end up at Harvard.   Her inauthenticity not only is scandalous, it is a slap in the face to any racial minority who did have to struggle to get ahead against long odds.

And yes, it did and does matter.  By claiming her as "minority faculty" Harvard can use her head-count to show they are complying with affirmative action, which they did for nearly a decade.   By claiming Indian ancestry, Harvard didn't have to seek out a minority candidate to fill that seat.   Someone is not on the faculty of Harvard as a result of this lie.

Now, several left-leaning newspapers have "investigated" this and reported that Warren obtained no advantage from her false claim (although only one appears to have investigated whether others were disadvantaged as a result).   Harvard itself claims that native ancestry played no part in her hiring, claiming faculty members viewed her as "white".   And as we know, Harvard is a very right-leaning Repubican institution which would not "whitewash" (sorry) this matter.   Harvard, however, clearly claimed her - on Affirmative Action forms - as a minority, and lauded her as such in school publications.  Harvard clearly obtained an advantage here and had incentive to hire her and retain her.

Perhaps this is a tempest in a teapot, but it is a scandal nevertheless, and one the Republicans will "run with" all the way to November.   If it was a Republican with the same issue, it wouldn't have mattered as we expect them to all be lying self-serving sons-of-bitches.  But a Democrat?   Much less one who is out to help the little guy?   That's what makes it a scandal right there.

Warren should stay in the Senate.  She has a lot of great ideas, like the consumer protection agency, but a whole lot of really, really bad ideas, like cancelling all student loans "with the stroke of a pen".  Claiming to be an Indian was another of her really, really bad ideas.

Balance of Power and Doing Maths

The impeachment is a done deal - and acquittal looks all-but-certain.  Why bother to bring a process you know will fail?   There may be political reasons, but they may also backfire.

UPDATE: A reader reminds me that under Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution, a two-thirds majority is required to remove a president. Thus the math to remove President Trump is all but impossible.  I was criticizing others for "not doing maths" when I failed to do them myself!

But one wonders why they bothered bringing articles of impeachment knowing they were doomed to fail? Not only that, but the only thing that can come of this impeachment is further damage to Joe Biden should he or his son be called to testify, even though they arguably have done nothing wrong.

* * *

There is a lot of hand-wringing going on about the impeachment trial. Adam Schiff made an impassioned speech pleading with Senators to do their Constitutional duty and act as jurors, not politicians.   But I suspect that speech fell on deaf ears, other than on NPR.

Simply stated, the Republicans have enough votes to acquit the President and will likely do so.  They have a 2/3 vote majority in the Senate, and if they can let no more than three twenty senators defect, they can win the day.  

It begs the question, surely enought senators would break ranks and vote to impeach, right?  Perhaps, perhaps not.   All eyes are focused on Mitt Romney from Utah and Susan Collins of Maine. Romney has been critical of the President in the past, and Collins is walking a fine line in her own State, which like much of America is schizophrenically liberal and conservative at the same time. And so far, neither has shown any inclination to go against the party.  The rules package voted on last night went down on party lines - meaning Romney and Collins didn't even bother to make a protest vote, or even vote "present".

The question is, why?   And the answer is pretty simple - this is a political situation, not a legal one.  Despite all of Adam Schiff's  eloquent words to the contrary, the Senate is a political beast, and impeachment is a political process.  The Senators know that if they go against Trump, they will pay for it later on, if he is acquitted.  Unless a bloc of four or more twenty or more Senators can agree to vote to convict, and they keep their promise to do so, Trump will be acquitted.  And I suspect Republican Senators don't trust each other enough to go along with this.  If one or more changes their mind, they leave the rest of the conspirators hanging out there.   It's like bungee-jumping.  You go first.

But I suppose in a House of Cards type of scenario, Vice-President Pence could have secret midnight meetings with some amenable Senators who want that new "Space Force" base located in their State - or some other plum - and could be persuaded to vote to convict.   Act shocked - this is how the system works, how people work, and how the "founding fathers" knew it would work (Mr. Schiff's protests aside). People are people, and the idea that some would vote their conscience and not their pocketbook is ludicrous.

Speaking of House of Cards - the British production, not the flawed ran-too-many-seasons no-point-to-it soap-opera version in the US - that show illustrated how the system actually works.  Why do you think they have a position known as the "whip" in Congress?   As they put in on the UK show, his job was to "shake the stick around" and get MPs in line to vote the party, not their conscience, but their own personal interests.  They get votes the old-fashioned way - they blackmail some legislators by threatening to expose their personal peccadilloes - or to withhold funding for their favorite pork-barrel bring-home-the-bacon legislation, or failing that, promise some prime piece of pork for their home district, if they toe the party line.

It is how politics have worked since day one - here in America, and overseas as well.   Protests to the contrary are idiotic  Thinking that people are noble or are willing to act against their own self-interest is naive thinking.  People will, of course, vote against themselves, you just have to convince them that gay marriage or abortion is more of a threat to them than your looting of the treasury or your friends' looting of their pension fund.   People will act against (and vote against) their own self-interest only if they are particularly dense and are convinced they are doing the opposite.   And people in both parties do this - many a wealthy liberal votes for tax increases and thinks "free things" won't cost them anything, even as they live in a high-tax "blue State" with a $15,000 real estate tax bill to pay every year.

People are idiots, look around you.

If you are still not convinced this is not a political process, than please explain the legal ramifications and justifications for the Clinton impeachment.   The most investigated political family in the history of the USA, Clinton was hounded from the first day in Office over every tiny (and large) transgression he (or his wife) ever made.  The whole thing started as a "Whitewater" investigation, and when that went nowhere, they bugged Linda Tripp's phone while she called Monica Lewinsky for some "girl chat".  The entire "crime" that Clinton was accused of, was lying about his personal sex life which is hardly a crime - most people do it.   But even then, he was acquitted.

Hillary's commodities trading scandal was never an issue (and should have been).  But that would cut too close to home. I wonder how many other politicians have used such "investment" strategies, aided and abetted by lobbyists, to make money on the side.  Nosiree, no one at Tyson's bribed me!  They just "helped" me make a quick hundred-grand as a novice investor - and then I got out of trading commodities forever.  Neat way of transferring money from point A to point B and declaring it as legitimate income, too.

Similarly, if there was a "scandal" in the Lewinsky case, it was that Clinton was having a relationship with a subordinate employee (a real no-no in today's "woke" me-too culture) and what's more, arranged to give her a cushy government job in an effort to keep her quiet (which apparently didn't work).  That might have actually been illegal and actionable, but for some reason, Congress was strangely incurious about it - perhaps again, they have stuffed some Secretary or Page into an out-of-the-way, high-paying position themselves, to keep them mum.

But all that aside, the Clinton impeachment was all about politics.  It was payback for Watergate and Iran-Contra.  It was payback for Bush losing re-election after only one term. It was just political payback - a chance to damage an incumbent President and stir the waters and muddy them and make things look worse than they were.

And it worked, too.   Bush Jr. was elected as a result.  And the reaction among voters was interesting.  I mentioned before how two friends of mine - lifelong Democrats and today, Trump-haters - hated Clinton for the Lewinsky affair.  It turns out that both had come from broken relationships (one a marriage) where the other partner had cheated on them.   They didn't care about fine legal issues or even the politics of it - it hit them at an emotional level and as far as they were concerned, Bill Clinton was a stand-in for their ex-spouse.   (Today, the same couple are hoarders, so they were not very smart people, I guess, and hoarders are also emotional thinkers).

That right there is the problem with the Trump impeachment.  It will raise issues and muddy the waters, but perhaps not in the way Democrats intended. The Trump faithful either think he is innocent and believe the conclusory statements Trump makes that it is all a "witch hunt".  Other, more moderate Republicans (and they exist, in dwindling numbers) and more importantly, independents, either don't give a shit about the Ukraine, or are more alarmed by the prospect of a Bernie Sanders Presidency than four more years of Twitter-President insanity.

It has only been a decade or so after Swift-boating, and yet Democrats failed to learn any lesson from that.   A decorated Vietnam war veteran goes up against a draft-dodging wimp of a President, and loses based on his war record.   The Republican machine is very adept at using a mirror to stave off attacks, turning arguments against the people who made them.   So Bush is not a draft-dodger, and Kerry is a coward - and they made it stick, too!   Democrats, trying to "rise above the fray" by "refusing to stoop to answer such arguments" only enforced them.

And so today, the only thing to come out of impeachment will be a crippling of Joe Biden.  The real corruption in the Ukraine - in addition to the government there and the oligarchs - was Trump withholding aid in exchange for an investigation of his political opponents.   But all people will take away from this is, why so much about the Ukraine in the news today?  So much about corruption there - and by Ukrainians here in the US too.   Why was Hunter Biden on the board of a gas company there, again?

And that question is, of course, unanswered, as it was very likely that he was leveraging his last name to make a tidy salary on the board of that company, even if he did nothing illegal or wrong.   It is like how the Clintons give $50,000 speeches, or how Chelsea gets a six-figure job right out of college with no experience.   Or how politicians of all sorts "write a book" which vaults to the "well-seller" list because PACs buy up thousands of copies.  The Obamas just bought a $12M home on Martha's Vineyard.   Not bad for a guy who started out as a "street organizer" and maxed-out his salary at $250,000 as President of the United States.   Gee, where did all that other money come from?

That is why it is sort of laughable that Democrats call-out Trump for "corruption" for renting out hotel rooms to visiting Saudis.   If he is doing that for financial gain in return for political favors, he's selling himself pretty cheaply - compared to $50,000 speeches, which have a far lower overhead.  I am not defending Trump, just pointing out the obvious.

And that is why some people support Sanders or Warren - the latter called "The Best President Money Can't Buy!"   Neither seems to have made much money from their political gigs - Sanders is, as I pointed out before, essentially bankrupt, and he and his wife have bankrupted what few enterprises they have engaged in.   But then again, I guess Jesus was probably not a very good Jewish Carpenter, either.  But at least he didn't have a wife who bankrupted a college!

The folks who support Bernie or Warren are turned-off by the Clinton dynasty (Chelsea coming soon to a voting booth near you!) and its sort of low-rent corruption.  But sadly - or perhaps by design - the only alternatives are whack-jobs.  Like I said, rational people act in their own best interests, and that is why even Barack Obama, man of the people, is living in a $12M home. Well, not living in it, it is just one of a number of homes he owns.  No one lives in Martha's Vineyard in the winter, unless they are locals.   By the way, Barack, be careful driving there at night, particularly at that bend in the road at Chappaquiddick.  Just saying.

It is very sad, the whole thing.  The Democrats are handing the election to Trump on a silver platter, and this impeachment debacle is only making it easier for Trump.  But then again, I suspect the Democrats really want to lose this time around.    When 1929 comes again, you want a Hoover in the White House, not a Roosevelt.   The timing of the last recession was too close - so many people today believe Obama caused it, even though it struck before he was even elected or took office.

They lose in 2020, and after four disastrous years of the Trump recession - and accompanying market collapse - people will vote for any Democrat, no matter how crazy or corrupt.  Strategically speaking, this is the smart move to make.

Oh,wait, you still think politicians are noble and wise?   I am not so sure, anymore.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Zephyr Rain Teachout - They're Kidding, Right?

Are the stereotypes about leftists real?   In some instances, it seems people intentionally try to live up to them.

First an update:  Hillary Clinton claims in a recent interview that "nobody liked" Bernie Sanders in the Senate, which made the august body of the Senate sound more like high school.  I can see it now, Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz putting a "Kick Me!" sign on Sanders' back as he is walking down the hallway between period bells.  They knock his books out of his hands.   "Hey!" Sanders whines, "That was a new bill I was working on!  Now it's all messed up!  It'll never get out of committee now!"

McConnell and Cruz laugh and call Sanders a "Nerdlinger" and "Loser".   In the Senate cafeteria, no one will sit with Sanders, not even Hillary.  He eats his bag lunch alone, while Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins point at him and giggle.

In the Senate gymnasium, Sanders is always the last to be chosen for any team sports, and in dodge-ball, he is mercilessly pummeled. Hang in there, Bernie, we've all been through it before!

But what really got me going is that Sanders is sort of making underhanded attacks on his opponents, using surrogates - the sort of passive-aggressive kind of shit that is beneath a President, except perhaps Bill Clinton.   One of his supporters, with the unlikely name of Zephyr Rain Teachout, wrote an op-ed piece that basically picks apart Joe Biden. Sanders' lackeys in Iowa copied it and handed it out to people.

Zephyr Rain Teachout?   You've got to be kidding me.   And get this, she's a teacher.  Get it?   Now, first, let me make fun of her name for a while longer, because turnabout is fair play.  As I noted before, whenever black people leave the room, white folks engage in the time-honored sport of making fun of made-up "African-sounding" names.   And the white folks doing this are liberals no less - I've seen it happen many a time!   Not only that, but we mock the names of "trailer trash" who give their children "stripper" or biblical names.

Making fun of redneck names is a liberal sport, too - as illustrated by this Simpsons bit.

Think I am kidding?  Well look no further than Freakonomics, the darlings of Public Radio.  As I illustrated before, these folks spent an entire chapter in their seminal book making fun of black names and redneck names - all in the furtherance of science, of course!   So that makes it OK.   But just as naming your kid "La Zanya" is kind of weird, naming your kid "Zephyr Rain" is just as dumb.  And as you might expect, she was born in Seattle and raised in some sort of commune in Northern Vermont, not far from the unheated barn my hippie brother lived in.

But unlike him (well, not too unlike) she went to all-white high school in New Hampshire and Harvard and Yale and got lots of degrees, including a law degree, so you know, she is one of the people, now and well suited to tell all us dumb rednecks why comrade Sanders is the best choice for President!

Thank God her parents didn't give her some hetero-normative, Anglo-Saxon, white male oppressor slave name such as Jane or Alice right?  I mean, you just can't make this shit up!

OK, I am taking a piss on Zephyr Wind Teach-a-lot, but hey, it's fun, right?   I mean, to tear people down, the way she character-assassinated Joe Biden.  The point is, and I did have one, is that these sort of ivory tower folks just don't "get it" and they represent almost a caricature of left-wing thinking, which is why the Democratic party isn't connecting with people in the "flyover States."

Rather than connect with these sort of folks, they would rather change the rules of the election to abolish the Electoral College, which of course would require a super-majority vote of both House and Senate - which isn't happening - and then votes from a super-majority of the States - which isn't happening either, as the States you'd need to vote for this are the ones whose electoral power would be diminished.

Rather than connect with the voters and win elections, the far-left would rather be ideologically pure and lose nobly.  And like our friend Beto, Ms.Wind-Fart has run for a number of offices in left-leaning blue-State New York and lost every single one, including her last defeat to a Republican.  And no, she wasn't running in far Western New York, but in Downstate Clinton.   Sheesh!  Time to cash in your political ambitions and return to corrupting the minds of young law students.

Sadly, it is exactly this sort of "coastal elite" impression that will re-elect Trump. The middle-class isn't interested in financing give-aways to the transgender homeless or to college kids who can't understand why loans have to be paid back.  The working class isn't interested in some "smart person" telling them they can't have a tractor-pull or figure-8 demolition derby because it will hurt the ozone layer.  They are not interested in being told that only vegan corn dogs can be served at the county fair.  And leftists like this have never been to any such events, nor have they ever met such people.

Like my stinking hippie brother with his copy of Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book" in his back pocket, the travails of labor are all theories propagated by Marx and Lenin.  The voice of actual workers on the factory floor are not relevant to the discussion.  Hey, why have authentic experiences, when you can learn about these things in college?

This weekend, we went camping (well, RVing) and we met some nice folks.  One was retired from Caterpillar tractor at their plant in Illinois, which was closed down after a six-year UAW strike.  They reopened the plant long enough to settle the strike, then fired everyone and moved production to a non-union plant in Texas.   When I was a kid, you could not do this legally, but some changes in the law - and case law - have allowed companies to union-bust today with impunity.   There is nothing really preventing companies from moving plants to Mexico, despite Trump's bluster.

And since Trump is appointing a raft of judges and justices to the courts, you can bet that the unions will see even more power taken away from them.   While the real interests of the "working man" are ignored or neglected, the far left espouses the rights of "the workers" which they read about in a book.   They also espouse thinking that is so far-left that the "workers" won't vote for them, and as a result, the Democrats lose elections and lose opportunities to appoint judges and justices.   When things don't go their way, they cry "unfair".

Meanwhile, the other side consolidates power and consolidates a power base.

Sorry, but ivory-tower theorists are not going to win the day.  Nor is "free money" or "free college" or "free student loans" and "open borders".   It is just rhetorical nonsense that has no hope of seeing the light of day (and God help the county if it ever did!).   There just isn't enough support for these ideas for them to pass, much less to make them central planks of your political platform.

We need fewer left-leaning law professors writing op-ed pieces and losing elections, and more mainstream politicians who know how to win.

Because, in politics, winning is everything.  There is no profit in a noble loss, as we will see this week during the "impeachment" circus, whose outcome is preordained and known to everyone on both sides of the aisle.