Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Trump administration could be high "Watt-age"

Donald Trump’s habit of wanting to please “everyone” by saying different things to different people has been treated with deserved skepticism; after all, his cabinet and advisory positions have all been filled with people who were early supporters of his extremist rhetoric—people with credentials as bigots and nativists that may excite the darker humors of  the white working class, but who in fact are pushing agendas that serve the interests of the “elite” classes, mainly whites in position of power and wealth. Trump’s tax plan (which is almost certainly DOA) so blatantly favors the rich (like himself) that it is clear that his frame of reference is whatever makes life easier for him. 

So it should be no surprise that he intends to expand offshore drilling, increase coal leases and reduce safety regulations on fracking. Since Trump is less clear on policy issues in which he has little expertise or has given prior thought to, he relies on the positions thrust upon him by people who supposedly are more “knowledgeable” than he is, but whose “facts” are questionable at best. What we have seen from his advisory picks is that they are more “expert” on expressing an opinion than actual expertise in the positions they have been put in. For example, there is Trump’s “current” choice for Secretary of the Interior, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, whose prior “experience” for the post was that of Navy Seal, and since Montana is “wide open” country,  he must know something about land. Or maybe like many residents there, he is more “expert” at “space”—as in between them and the “others”—rather than the responsibilities one would expext of the Interior Secretary.

There seems to be a mixed bag of opinions about Zinke. He has in the past opposed both the sale of federal lands, or its “transfer” to the states. This has been going on for several decades under Republican administrations, during which 1/3 of federally owned land has been “sold” or “transferred” since the Reagan administration. “Personal” opposition is “nice,” but what it means in practical terms is open to debate.

And in fact, Zinke has been a bit of a flip-flopper on environmental and conservation issues. While he did oppose the transfer of 2 million acres of national forest land, just six weeks later he voted for an even bigger transfer, 4 million acres to Republican-controlled state “management”—and we know what that means. Zinke also seems to be giving suspect signals concerning greenhouse gas emissions efforts, and eviscerating the Antiquities Act, a law pushed by Theodore Roosevelt to protect vital natural and historic sites. Zinke also supports a measure to build roads, dams and allow commercial logging in federal wilderness areas in the name of “improving access” for the “public.” Zinke also supported a bill that supposedly was aimed at creating “resilient” forests—not by improving environmental law or providing sufficient funds for the under-budgeted Forest Service, but by calling for more (what else) commercial timber harvesting.

Are going to see another James Watt? Certainly some of Trump’s other cabinet and advisory picks have the potential of Watt-like outages. For those unfamiliar with Watt and his time as Reagan’s Interior Secretary, perhaps no high government official ever was as continuously the subject of ridicule (particularly by the media), which nevertheless did not prevent him from causing great damage to environmental safety that continues to this day. No one could merely accuse Watt of being a narrow-minded bigot; he just was. Some infamous Wattisms: “If you want to see an example of the failures of socialism, don’t go to Russia, go to an Indian reservation.” Or how the Beach Boys attracted “the wrong element”—which happened to include Reagan and wife Nancy, for which Watt received a foot-in-mouth “award” from the president. Then there was “There are two sorts of people in this country—liberals and Americans.” Watt tried to “laugh” this off by saying “Liberals don’t know how to laugh at themselves anymore,” which is “funny” given the kind vitriol one hears on far-right talk radio. And finally there was the one that ultimately caused his early “resignation,” concerning the make-up of an advisory group: “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple.” Republican support for Watt promptly in Congress disappeared, and he was out less than three weeks later. 

But this was not before the damage had already been done. Such massive land sales and leasing of coal and oil reserves occurred that ABC News Nightline declared after Watt’s resignation that “he sounded more like a salesman than a custodian,” asserting  that “unneeded” federal land should be sold to help reduce the federal debt. Nightline reminded viewers of Watt’s outrageous assertion that “The second coming of Christ obviated any long-term environment policy,” and this was the attitude of a man tasked with authority over almost one-third of the country’s land with all its natural resources, the trustee of 735,000 Native Americans, the “guardian” of almost 200 species of endangered fauna, and the custodian of the national parks. In short, he was the most powerful un-elected man in the country, and made him among the most irresponsible and dangerous.

Far from seeing himself as a “custodian” of the nation’s natural environment, Watt falsely claimed that no endangered species had ever successfully recovered by way of the Endangered Species Act. He called his own department scientists “blind preservationists.”  He referred to environmentalists as “Nazis.” He placed an absolute ban on the establishment of new parks. His biggest supporter in all of this (besides Reagan himself), was the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, which called environmentalists “subversives,” “tree-huggers” and “prairie-fairies.” But Watt failed to take into consideration public opposition to his actions, choosing to make environmentalism a “partisan” political issue, for which even Republican lawmakers had their limits.

Zinke is probably no Watt, and it is highly unlikely that someone as controversial as Watt can be stomached again, given the already controversial personality of his “boss.” However, with people like far-right mercenaries like Steve Bannon having Trump’s ear, there seems to be plenty of opportunities for “misspoken” gaffes that will cause the new administration embarrassment. The question is just how “well” Trump takes criticism, and to what extent his policy decisions are based on his fickleness; he may well be the biggest source of “Wattage” this country has ever seen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Week 16 NFL Notes

As a long-time Packer fan whose first cognizant memories of the team date back to Bart Starr’s final years, I can’t tell you how annoyed I get when I see these young kids here in the state of Washington parading around in Packer gear, especially after a Packer victory. If the Seahawks had not face-planted against the Packers a few weeks ago, would they be strutting around with smirks on their faces? Maybe their parents migrated from Wisconsin, but I suspect that most are “bandwagon” fans. If the Packers were as bad as they used to be, these phonies would no doubt be bandwagon Seahawk fans.

And I have my memories of the bad old days. Starr was drafted out of the University of Alabama, and the Packers hoped that Scott Hunter would follow in his footsteps to continued glory. He certainly started off promisingly. Although he threw 17 interceptions to only 7 touchdowns as a rookie for a 46 QB rating, he did win four of ten starts; in his second season, with the help of rookie running back John Brockington and the NFL’s leading scorer, kicker Chester Marcol, the Packers had a 10-4 record and a division title—despite the fact Hunter completed only 43 percent of his passes, averaging barely six completed passes a game. But he lasted only one more year with the Packers and was out of the league a few years later. Brockington had three seasons in which he gained over a thousand yards, and then flamed out. Marcol didn’t turn out to be a “franchise” kicker like Jan Stenerud, but he did end his Packer career on a “high” note in 1980: Marcol, who admitted to being high on cocaine before the game, caught the ball on his own blocked field goal attempt against the Bears in overtime and ran it in for the winning score. 

The Packers thought they’d found a “gem” in Jerry Tagge, who won a national championship with Nebraska. He was 6-6 as a starter over three seasons, but had only 3 TD passes to 17 interceptions and a 44 career passer rating. The Packers continued to lose even with “tested” veterans like John Hadl, and Starr tried his hand at head coach without much success. In 1978, Terdell Middleton gained 1,116 yards to lead the Packers to a rare post-Lombardi winning season; he gained 932 yards the remainder of his 7 year career. Quarterback Lynn Dickey was the Packers first legitimate thrower, reminding some people of his idol, Joe Namath; unfortunately he imitated all of Namath’s bad habits. He was exciting to watch when he was healthy—which was rare—even when he was flinging the ball with abandon into opponents arms. From 1983 to 1985 the Packers did finish 2nd in the NFC Central—and not a winning record in any of them (8-8 each year). 

Don Majkowski didn’t do much until his third season in 1989, when he led the Packers to their first double-digit victory total in 17 years, but still missed the playoffs. He didn’t do much after that season either, and he clearly could not get a grip on Mike Holmgren’s West Coast offense when the new coach arrived in 1992; while “Majik” completed 38 of 55 passes in three games, they went for only 271 yards. He then broke his leg against the Bengals, and some guy named Brett Favre stepped in, and the rest was “history”—although I suspect for these bandwagon Packer fans, even Favre is “ancient” news.


Packers 38 Vikings 25 The Packers clinched at least a chance to win the NFC North with this victory; next week’s showdown with the Lions will determine that, regardless of the outcome of what the Lions do this week, since the Packers beat them earlier in the season. One can now safely say that Aaron Rodgers’ resurgence can be in part due to Jordy Nelson fully recovering from last season’s injury and year-long layoff. After a start in which it seemed that Nelson was more a liability, he is now on pace to have one of his best seasons. Rodgers completed 28 passes to give him 374 on the year, a new team record.

Eagles 24 Giants 19 The Giants played like a comedy film that tries too hard to be funny. Some jokes hit, but just as many miss. The Giants ran 88 plays to the Eagles 55, went up and down the field with abandon, mainly via 63 Eli Manning passes, but scored only one touchdown in five red zone appearances. Unlike the Giants, the Eagles did take advantage of their opportunities, only failing to put the game away on a fourth-down play at the Giants one. 

Raiders 33 Colts 25 The Raiders manage to stave-off another Andrew Luck late-game comeback attempt, but they lost Derek Carr to injury, likely for the remainder of the season. If this sounds familiar, it should: last season the Bengals were one of the hottest teams in the league nearing the playoffs until Andy Dalton was knocked out for the season, and the Bengals were forced to start A.J. McCarron in the playoffs. They lost to the Steelers 18-16 in the Wild Card game. 

Saints 31 Buccaneers 24 Sandwiched in between two Jameis Winston interceptions in the second half were four touchdowns and a field goal on consecutive drives. Winston seems to have issues with throwing the ball more than ten yards down the field. At 8-7, the Buccaneers no longer seem to be a playoff threat.

Dolphins 34 Bills 31 (OT) Both teams combined for a mindboggling 533 yards rushing; although the Dolphins Jay Ajayi had another 200-yard performances, the Bills not only had more team rushing yards, but out-passed them as well, 317 to 233. The Bills gained 589 total yards and had no turnovers, but two missed field goals and a turnover on downs cost them. Matt Moore won his second straight start for the Dolphins, again calling into question the reasons why the Dolphins decided that Ryan Tannehill was going to be their “franchise” quarterback when he really isn’t “better” than Moore.

Patriots 41 Jets 3 The Jets giveth, and the Patriots taketh, which was pretty much the story of this game. If you are going to make it that easy, don’t be surprised if Belichick/ Brady will happily make you look like a fool.

Jaguars 38 Titans 17 A game removed from the firing of their coach, the Jaguars played like they were not confused about what they were supposed to do with the ball, at least for this one game. Marcus Mariota did not play well before he was knocked out for the season, but at least he can say he, like Winston,  that overall he improved in his second seasons. 

Browns 20 Chargers 17 Even with Melvin Gordon missing his second straight game from injury, the Chargers felt they could take advantage of one the worst rushing defenses in the league; they gained a pitiful 34 yards on 18 carries as a team. Robert Griffin III managed to help the Browns outscore the Chargers before he was knocked out of the game. I’m not sure Browns fans take much comfort in this victory; a 1-15 team is a lot less interesting than an 0-16 team.

Redskins 41 Bears 21 Every time the Bears were threatening to make this game competitive, Matt Barkley threw an interception, and another, and another—five, all told. That’s what happens when you get too cocky after throwing for 362 yards against the Packers last week. He also threw three interceptions that possibly accounted for that loss as well.

Falcons 33 Panthers 16 The Falcons clinched the NFC South title, while Cam Newton finally admitted his play could be “better” after another sub-50 percent passing performance. Newton has completed less than half of his passes in 5 of the last six games. But then again, “accuracy” in anything hasn’t been his strong suit.

49ers 22 Rams 21 The 49ers finally win a game; the Rams gained only 177 total yards, yet probably should have won it. Rams defensive players were quick to say afterwards that Colin Kaepernick’s play was nothing “special”—although it was compared to Jared Goffs’—complaining about “questionable” penalties that helped keep 49er drives alive, particularly the game-winning one. Despite the loss, at least the Rams can take heart that the 49ers have already clinched last place in the NFC West.

Cardinals 34 Seahawks 31 In a relatively staid game with the Cardinals up 14-10 in Seattle, it should have been expected that the Seahawks would add a late touchdown to win the game. But the fourth quarter saw both defenses “rest” their cases, with a total of seven scores in the quarter, the last a game-winning field goal as time expired on a drive that started on the Cardinals’ 25 with exactly 60 seconds to play. The Seahawks are now in jeopardy of losing the second-seed to the Falcons, and losing Tyler Lockett for the season won’t help the team’s moribund offense.

Steelers 31 Ravens 27 The Steelers win the AFC North after a back-and-fourth offensive display by both teams in the second half, with the Steelers winning improbably in the final minute after the Ravens scored the apparent game-winning touchdown.

Texans 12 Bengals 10 Tom Savage was, well, not good through the first three quarters of this game, but he didn't need to be. The Bengals are a team that should be better than most of the teams they play, but just can't make "that" play when they need to--like the missed field goal to win it at the end of this game.

Chiefs 33 Broncos 10 Do you know that Alex Smith has a 59-25-1 record as a starter in the past six seasons? In fact, he was having his best season statistically when he was benched in favor of Colin Kaepernick--which got the 49ers a Super Bowl appearance and not much else. Smith still has that "game manager" label on him, and even after a 30-0 victory in the last season's Wild Card round and a just seven-point loss to the Patriots in the Divisional round, he still has a lot to "prove." Trevor Siemian has only gotten worse as the season has progressed; and the Broncos cut Mark Sanchez, the "presumed" starter, for this? And John Elway is supposed to be a "genius" for dumping Brock Osweiler for this guy?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Why did no one listen?

Our new president-to-be is apparently as fickle and unpredictable as, say, your typical female political commentator. Perhaps Donald Trump has more “feminine” traits than people want to admit in this gender-correct world we live in. Take, for instance, Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post, who “leans” conservative. That means, of course, that she is not a fan of Barack Obama; however, she is a proponent of something called “conservative feminism,” which I admit is not an oxymoron, because feminists tend to be oppressive, tyrannical and self-serving, and conservative feminism is just another version a white supremacy. Parker—who was beside herself with grief when Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate proved to be an embarrassment for establishment Republicans, was equally beside herself when Trump was elected; you see, being a good “feminist” as well as right-winger, she desperately wanted to see Hillary Clinton elected, even if only “reluctantly.” 

Parker recently expressed her grief on the election results in one of those “don’t-blame-us” op-eds, meaning that the media outlets it appeared on were quick to make very certain to readers that the opinion therein did not necessarily reflect the views of said outlets. It was easy to read why. It began

Dear Mr. Trump,

You won. Welcome to hell.

And to think, I thought you’d become president when hell froze over. 

Talk about a disgruntled Hillary supporter. Parker wanted to know why Trump wanted the “job” when he had everything; after all, he admittedly preferred his Trump Tower office in New York to that dingy pad at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Parker, who is apparently so egotistical that she believes that everyone who doesn’t watch CNN or read the Post actually has even heard of her or cares what she says. Despite “my having done everything in my limited power to block you” and writing “column after column about why you were unfit to be president and wouldn’t do half of what you were promising,” Trump was elected. “And, of course, I was right.” If she says so.

Well, she may be “right” about Trump, who is so adverse to appearing ridiculous (see his unamused reactions to Alec Baldwin’s SNL parodies), he is even turning on his new “friend,” Vladimir Putin, by threatening to build more nuclear weapons. And one wonders if she is “unhappy” that he might not do some of things that he promised. “Maybe you and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim can cut an immigration deal and build a succulent, spiny hedge along the southern border. And just maybe, you and China can renegotiate a trade deal — maybe swap a few resorts for Smithfield Foods, Ingram Micro, General Electric’s appliance business, to name a few of the top U.S. companies that Chinese firms now own.” She seems to have something in common with the black barista at the Starbucks located inside a Seattle QFC; rude, terse and unfriendly for no reason to a customer who exists between the no man’s land of white “privilege” and black “entitlement.”

But she was wrong about some other things, namely anything that had to do with Clinton, who in her own way was just as reprehensible a candidate;  Parker and the Clintonphile media lied just as much as she did on a daily basis. Both Trump and Clinton pulled out all the stops to win the election, but for different reasons, and neither particularly commendable. Many speculate that Trump didn’t even expect to be nominated, just come in a “respectable” second; but with the possibility of actually winning proved to be too intoxicating for someone as shamelessly self-promoting. On the other hand, Clinton was equally ambitious in the accumulation of power and wealth. Having gained wealth—largely on the belief that Clinton would eventually become president and exert useful influence—all that was left was for power for its own sake, where there were no moral or ethical boundaries to contain her megalomania. Parker and the pro-Clinton media just treated this like “old news”—as if it wasn’t “relevant.” Some of us heard that “message” loud and clear. 

Parker goes on to admit that she “knew” that Trump was a con man because she has the same Queens, New York DNA as he does, so she can detect his “BS.” Well, it takes one to know, as they say—meaning another bull-shitter. Parker’s Queens “DNA,” she admits, is from her paternal grandmother, another way of saying very little to non-existent. She should have stopped conning herself into believing that there was actually a chance that enough electoral votes would swing to Clinton and allow her to win, which is really the only explanation for her obnoxious, juvenile diatribe. Maybe that’s why nobody listened to her in the first place.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Minorities "catching up"--in the new low-wage economy

Paranoia, misinformation and bigotry are a toxic mix, as we have seen in this past election. In an interview in the Washington Post, the co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, Lakshman Achuthan, claimed that “The shock of the election spoke to a kind of disconnect. There is a huge cohort—you can call it whites, people in rural areas—who weren’t feeling the 5 percent unemployment rate. They weren’t feeling the stock market at new highs. They weren’t feeling a recovery that’s seven, eight years old.” Achuthan asserted that it was these voters who propelled Donald Trump to victory, presumably in states in the Midwest where Trump won by a narrow margin. In a recent research paper, the ECRI claimed that it was minorities who “took” jobs from these white “rural” people, or at least “took” the jobs that were not available to whites, since they were not located where they were “at,” and wouldn’t move or make the long treks to get to them.

There are those, the UK’s The Economist among them, that claim that the ECRI has some secret formula for accurately predicting economic difficulties while other “experts” cannot. For example, the ECRI accurately predicted that the country was in recession in 2001—except that it was already on a downturn in 2000. In 2009 it predicted that the country was in recession—except that everyone knew that in 2007. It “predicted” a recession in 2011—no wait, 2012. Neither “prediction” came true. This failure to accurately forecast economic “cycles”—I mean, who “knew” that irresponsible deregulation of the financial and banking sectors would lead to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression—has not stopped some journalist types and far-right conspiracy theorists to pounce on their latest “study” and pronounce it as evidence of why Trump was elected by poor, put-upon white people who need “everything.” 

The reality, unfortunately, is that this white privilege society tends to throw the job crumbs to minorities, and these days those “crumbs” tend to outnumber the plums.  I have already described a recent experience where in the quest for a job I was over-qualified for, I had to “compete” with dozens of immigrants from Africa, and naturally I wasn’t the kind of “qualified” the company was looking for.  While manufacturing jobs and small town mom & pop businesses have been disappearing thanks to the Walmarts and the Amazons, service sector and low-income production jobs have taken their place, and the latter usually located in industrial parks that are generally not located near residential areas that are located precisely because they are far from the “undesirables.” 

The Post offered a refutation of the claim that minorities are “taking” jobs from white people. “‘The implication is there are hundreds of thousands of white people who lost their jobs to blacks, Asians and Hispanics. Yet if you look at the unemployment rate differentials by race, you don’t see a huge increase in the white unemployment rate,’ said Jonathan Rothwell, a Gallup economist. The recession and its aftermath were not dramatically worse for white workers, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for whites — 4.6 percent in 2015 — is lower than for all racial groups except Asians. In comparison, 9.6 percent of African Americans, 6.6 percent of Hispanics and 3.8 percent of Asians are unemployed.”

4.6 percent unemployment is actually considered to be a “normal” rate, with the rate reflecting typical variables such as layoffs, voluntary “quits,” firings, relocations etc. in which people are typically in that limbo between where they are leaving and where they are going. The white employment rate at this time is meaningless, with the reduction in unemployment by minorities reflecting creation of jobs that whites generally do not seek or need. It should be noted that Asian employment patterns have a tendency to be misunderstood by the media; while East and South Asians are typically stereotyped in higher-income tech-related jobs, the majority of Asians (particularly from Southeast Asia) are more often to be found in low-income production jobs. In any case, whites still have far higher per-capita income than blacks, Hispanics and most Asian groups, because of the disparity in “plum” job placement; where ego is at premium, whites still prefer to hire those who look like themselves.

Rothwell went on to say that “I don’t see any evidence that whites were disproportionately harmed over the last nine years. The main concern I have with the [Economic Cycle Research Institute] chart is it’s potentially grossly misleading in terms of how it could be interpreted.” He also pointed out that whites as a percentage of the population and its aging trends is resulting in a higher percentage of minorities of working age. This ongoing trend can be seen in the nearly equal number of white and minority students in public schools. Achuthan admitted that “It’s not like they (minorities) all showed up at a job fair and someone said, ‘No, we’re taking the person of color. The easiest explanation is that Asians, black and Hispanics tend to be located in the population centers, and that’s where a lot of the job growth has been,” while confessing that “Whites living in rural areas may be reluctant to move to the cities for jobs.” 

I have to confess that I have very little sympathy for the “entitled” and “privileged.” I know what I see. I see all these white pretty people out in their skintight jogging outfits in the middle of the day and ask myself “Do these people actually work?” Well of course they do; they have nice cushy desk jobs, but need to get out and burn-off the office fat. I see these big, tough-looking white dudes who make out with the evil eye at “inferior” people, and I know they are the ones with what high-paying industrial jobs are left. The average hourly income in King County is reportedly $30-an-hour, and I ask myself “Who the hell are these people making $30-an-hour?” I never worked with anyone who wasn’t a production manager who made more than $15. I never made more than $14-an-hour, and that was for less than a full week. I had to work 36 hours of overtime in one week before I cashed in my one and only week of what is “average.” I don’t know what kind of world privileged whiners live in, but I do know that I do not live in a world of illusion.