Day 755 Thursday Jan 31, 2019
641 Days to the 2020 election and 719 Days to Inauguration Day
Those of you who have been following my screeds will notice the new countdown figures. Somehow I got off in my countdown and I can’t tell you how that happened because I don’t know. But above are the all new and improved countdown figures.
Three things to talk about: Chris Christie, Howard Shultz, and the silly and the sublime.
Chris Christie was interviewed by Nicole Wallace about his book. I was surprised. He seemed normal and not the in-your-face sarcastic bully I’ve seen before. This doesn’t mean I don’t think he’d be a good candidate for the Republicans to put up for elective office, but still, I was surprised. He was quiet, respectful, and overall gave a good cogent interview. It reminded me of Robin Williams. I’ve heard that Robin Williams in one-on-one interviews was a quiet wonderful guy, but the minute another person came into the room a switch went off and he was on stage performing. I wondered if that was true, in some sense, with Christie. Is he a regular guy one-on-one, but when the circle grows does he become that sarcastic cynical defensive bully we’ve seen so often? Interesting data point, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open to see how this progresses. Moving on.
I also saw Howard Shultz interviewed on Morning Joe. He’s impressive, which I didn’t expect. He was hit rapid fire with questions and he answered them all well. In a nutshell his pitch is this: The system is broken and I think I can change things. I grew up in the projects and I’m a self-made billionaire. I’ve run a successful company and I think I can bring my expertise to government. If I were President I’d get the smartest people and put them in a room and tell them they have to figure it out. Also, we don’t need Elizabeth Warren style socialism. It’s not what the American people want. They want a more middle of the road moderate guy like me.
Howard Shultz is like a lot of folks I’ve heard over my life: sound good when you are in the room with them and when they leave you say to yourself, “Huh? What did they say?” In Shultz’s case I couldn’t help thinking, “Didn’t we hear this before?” Isn’t this what Trump promised to do? Get “the best people” and clean up the mess? Few business people do well in government. I think that’s because government is a different animal than business and most hard driving CEO types can’t stand trying to kick the whale down the road. They expect to give orders and people will jump. Obviously they haven’t run into a GS15 before. Not going to happen.
Shultz’s Billy Jack* approach doesn’t work. He has no experience in government so his “new approach” or “radical change” or whatever he is calling it is likely, imho, to not work. I heard someone say, “Go be a mayor or something like that. Do something and come back in a few years and we can talk.” In other words, prove yourself politically on a smaller stage first. Michael Bloomberg did that a Mayor of New York, but even he had troubles in government. Remember his attempt to limit the size of a soda you could buy? His reasoning, which I liked, was that if you limited the size of a glass of soda you could limit people’s sugar intake, even if they had free refills. Not earth shaking, pretty practical, at least I thought it would be good to try and see how it worked. Oh man, Jon Stewart ripped on Bloomberg night after night on the Daily Show. It was a “Don’t Tread on Me” kind of thing. Even that simple suggestion would have taken more finesse to get through than Michael’s ordering it.
Then Shultz went on that unions are not the answer that he built a huge company without them and that he gave his employees a piece of the pie and health care and all companies can do this sort of thing. Yeah? I’ve seen this before too. It’s the Phantom way of governing. For those of you who don’t remember that comic strip it featured a masked white guy who kept the jungle natives safe from the predations of the outside mainly white world. Many companies were founded by a visionary kind of person. They treated their employees well. They were down in the trenches with their people, but then … they left. They died, They moved on. They hired someone from the Harvard School of Business or the like. Then things changed. The person who had worked there 29 1/2 years and was looking forward to their thirty year pension got fired to save the company money. The workers started to get chipped away at, little by little. They got pissed off. Trust was gone.They tried to form a union, only to have the location close, or the people that were trying to do that got fired. Yeah. I’ve seen the movie before.
I’ve listened to CEOs talk about how “we are family.” The funniest one was an interview with the CEO of Walmart a few years ago. He was talking that stuff when the interviewer asked, “Why not pay everyone a dollar more an hour?” Oh, no, he said that would bankrupt the company. Really? Or don’t forget kindly old Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, he got taken to court over not paying overtime. He lost and had to pay. What did kindly old Sam say? “They made me write the checks, but if anyone cashes one I’ll fire them.”
Shultz on health care was same-o same-o, “I’ll get people smarter than me in a room and make them figure it out.” Haven’t we heard this before? Then he attacked Warren’s tax plan as too radical. Well, yeah. You’d lose some of your money under her plan. The argument against Warren’s plan (tax the ultra rich 2% on all their assets) is that it wouldn’t fund the government for more than two weeks. Really? Let’s try it. The other argument against any Democratic proposals on health care was “people don’t want to give up their health insurance plan they have now.” Again, I say, “Really?” Steve Schmidt, who has been working for Shultz for months parroted these talking points too. Of course, what Shultz and Schmidt are doing is leaving open what would replace the insurance as we have it now, and in the case of Warren’s proposal they aren’t offering anything substantive. So in the one case they are offering arguments that are empty on one side or the other of the proposition. (This in sales’ school is known as “The Ben Franklin close technique” where by you draw a T on a large piece of paper and put up all the pros of your plan and leave the other side blank. Or conversely, you put up all the cons of their plan and ask why would you want that?
So let me fill in the blanks. Two percent of a billion dollars is twenty million. Warren is suggesting that for every billion you have you have to give up twenty million annually. Hey, that’s what a bank trust department or Fischer investments charges. Is that so bad?
Let’s move on to the argument that people don’t want to give up their health insurance coverage that they have. Really? I’ve heard people don’t want to switch doctors, but their health insurance? Okay, lemme see if that’s true. What if I could offer you total health care coverage for half of what you are paying now? And what if your cost of prescriptions was reduced by 80%? Any takers? Wait, how can I make such an outrageous proposition? Well, most countries pay half of what we do for health care and it’s not only better in terms of outcomes, but it covers basically everything. Oh and the wait time argument? That’s the one Rush likes to say about the Canadian health care system. When I’ve asked Canadians (those are people who live in Canada and whom I know) they don’t know what I’m talking about. They aren’t aware of any wait times. I mean, yeah, a day or two, like you do here to see a doctor. And btw Canadian health care is not government run; it is government regulated.
I was talking to a guy down here that sold medical policies. One of the big problems he said was every local government has a health department and each has slightly different rules. Therefore, you can’t have a nationwide policy and you have to maintain lots of staff to keep track of it all. If you pull back and think about the overhead of all those little health departments with their rules and regulations and their staff, on a nationwide basis, it adds up.
As to the cost of drugs. I know from personal experience that I can buy the same prescriptions in Mexico for $400 that cost $2100 here. That’s 19% of what that drug costs here. Hum. Any takers?
On to The Silly and The Sublime:
Okay, I got nothing in the Sublime category, but it rhymes.
How about the Silly and the Dangerous.
First up, Sarah Sanders. Now that she is no longer giving daily lie sessions she has time to be interviewed by various news outlets. She’s appeared on Fox, but she’s also been interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network where she said that it was God’s will that Trump be president and the he (Trump, not God) is doing a heck of a job. (So we can all rest easy?)
Then there’s the intelligence folks. The head of some of the agencies were on Capital Hill yesterday presenting their Annual Threat Assessment. Shockingly, they are not in the Trump club of “Putin is my Pal.” In fact, they say quite the opposite, and they say China and Russia are working closer together than ever before – against the United States. They disagree with the president on Syria, China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran to name a few. They also say that Trump’s actions are dangerous and have put us in a weaker position world wide. It was also stated that Russia and China have infiltrated our gas pipeline systems and power grid. They could shut off parts of either one whenever they wanted to do so. What have we done in response? Nothing. Just like what we’ve done about our election systems.
Trump immediately attacked those folks. It is so bad, and so embarrassing that Chuck Schumer has asked that the DNI chief get hold of Trump and “educate him.” Oh boy. Good luck with that.
It has also been revealed that the Russians have gotten hold of some of the papers in the Mueller probe and have fabricated things that are derogatory to the probe. A Treasury official has been arrested for leaking some papers to a reporter.
There is also a report that Trump met with Putin secretly at the G20 Summit after saying he wasn’t going to do so. Hey, get this. It’s not the short little “Hi, How are you?” meeting it was claimed to be.
There is more and more evidence and more and more people and groups that are asking the question, “If Trump isn’t a Russian agent than what explains his behavior toward Putin?”
*Billy Jack was a movie starring Tom Laughlin as an ex-Vietnam vet who happened to have all kinds of crazy karate kicking skills. When the red necks started making fun of the hippies in town and Billy Jack stood up for them why he just had to go into the town green and circularly kick each redneck in the head with his foot. Laughlin ran as an independent for President. His pitch was “put me in charge, I’ll clean up the mess, then I’ll resign and the Vice-President can take over.” Somehow his message didn’t catch on.
And in Fantasyland the president is now making up figures on immigration. It appears that he tried to copy numbers from the right leaning America One News graphic about immigrants to this country, but he got the numbers and the overall meaning incorrect. Some might say he was lying, but I don’t think so, I’d say he’s delusional and incompetent.
641 Days to the 2020 election and 719 Days to Inauguration Day**
** Now with all new and improved countdowns!
PS The crescent moon with Venus this morning. Jupiter is out of the shot to the upper right.