Trumpster Assault on the Free Market

I happen to like a free market economy.  I like the notion that any business enterprise should be able to do two things simultaneously.  It should make its own decisions, and those decisions should reflect common sense and civic responsibility.  And then there’s #45.

The president’s attack on Nordstrom’s decision to delete his daughter’s line from its inventory is absolutely wrong on absolutely every level.

First, thus much for actually divesting himself from family business.  Far from remaining removed from the use of the office for personal gain, he’s jumped right in and shoved his pitch into the public arena.

Secondly, Nordstrom has every right to pursue any inventory policy it believes is in its own best interest. Period. The corporation says it was following one of the oldest rules in the retailing manual — if it’s not selling don’t buy more of it.  The bottom line for any buyer is simplicity itself: Will it sell? If the answer is Yes, then by all means continue to stock the items. If No, then there is no rational reason for any further orders. There’s a decent margin in clothing lines, but no margin is so large that it can absorb losses for long. Without getting into the weeds involving gross retailer margins and net margins, suffice it to say that there’s little so unhealthy as bloated inventory.

Third, it’s certainly inappropriate for a sitting president to push a family business from within the Oval Office,  as noted above, but when set in the context of American retailing it’s even more so. Since when does our executive branch of government weigh in on the relative merits of Kohls? Sears? JCPenney? Walmart? Or any other retailers in the free market?  This doesn’t just say Conflict of Interest, it screams out the message, loudly and clearly.

It’s not that we haven’t seen this kind of behavior before, this public pressure on private enterprises to cater to the will (and personal profit) of a Dear Leader… however it’s something people usually associate with the antics of a third world pocket packing dictator.

The questions surrounding #45’s actions have gone far beyond nuanced discussions of the emoluments clause, we’re into basic business ethics and protecting retailing enterprises from presidential interference.

 

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From the precipice

Thanks Ladies, I now have a new morning ritual.  In the aftermath of the Women’s March I decided to try the 100 days of phone calls and postcards to Congress.  This isn’t getting the breakfast dishes washed any faster, but that’s a small price to pay for my sanity.

“Indivisible” (Google that!) has some excellent daily suggestions for subject matter, as do many other worthy organizations.  Sometimes there’s an item in the news that provides the message. It doesn’t take long for this to become a habit.

Some of the best advice on these activities suggests:

Be a constituent. Messages from a Representative’s district carry more weight than those from outside the district.

Be a registered voter. According to former Representative Barney Frank, legislators do check.  If you aren’t registered already, it’s easy to do. Take the time to register, it will make your message more significant.

Be concise and to the point.

Be persistent.  Churchill’s maxim applies, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” So, your representative isn’t doing what you advise? Remember #NeverthelessShePersisted.

There are several messages from which to choose, support for funding Planned Parenthood, support for the Affordable Care Act, support for the SOLVE Act, support for basic environmental protections, support for civil and voting rights, support for the LGBT community.  I wouldn’t worry about “fatigue” because every day that passes provides some new horror which will sustain feet in the street and post cards from the precipices.

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House Committee on Administration: We Don’t Need to Worry About Vote Hacking

Six Republican members of the House Committee on Administration voted to eliminate the one federal agency tasked with the oversight of voting machines in our national elections.  The Election Assistance Commission may have been born from jamming machines and long lines, but as 2016 demonstrated we also need an agency to help prevent hacking.

The House members who apparently would prefer not to insure against hacking are:

GREGG HARRIS (R MS3)

RODNEY DAVIS (R IL13)

BARBARA COMSTOCK (R VA10)

MARK WALKER (R NC6)

ADRIAN SMITH (R NE 3)

BARRY LOUDERMILK  (R GA 11)

Please remind members of Nevada’s congressional delegation that the dismantling of voting protections is Not Acceptable.  Representative Amodei can be contacted at 202-225-6155, 775-686-5760.

 

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The Impractical Pundits of Practicality

I’m about finished with the pontificating pundits inhabiting the inner circles of Beltway wisdom.  Like the Agony Aunties of  old newspaper columns they move easily from describing the political landscape to their patronizing offerings of over-solicitous advice.

No overall trend is too broad to be trivialized, no trivial detail too arcane to be expanded into sweeping generalizations. No analogy to some personal political experience too obscure to be relegated to irrelevance in the interest of creating a self referential narrative.

Among the “negative nabobs” I can do without are those who seeing a difficult situation promptly declare it impossible.  For example,  some 24 congressional seats would restore a Democratic majority in the House.  For some of the pundits this is an impossible number, given the assumptions on which they’ve constructed their analysis.  The problem with this approach is that for all the previous historical evidence, each election eventually turns on its own unique set of circumstances and variables. Thus pronouncing what will, or will not, be is essentially what the author concludes is what ought to be.

Also on my list are the analysts who are forever offering up their predictions, as if they have some personal connection with the Truth. If the Democrats do X, then the Republicans will do Y. When this is predicated on actual interviews and insights freely contributed by the various participants it can be useful. However, when it is based on interior dialogs between imaginary persons it’s securely in the realm of fantasy, of the type associated with good writing for the theater in which we are invited to suspend our disbelief.

The third category on my list are the Standard Bearers.  These seem to have a proclivity for telling the rest of us what should be the definitions of  success.  A demonstration is successful if it includes X number of citizens, and has an agenda which meets the approval of the writer.  There is no room in these analyses for the value of personal participation, or for the associated networking involved.  Let’s surmise for the moment that the person who walks with a sign in a demonstration, large or small, will be a person more likely to walk into a polling station.

There’s an unfortunate tendency to measure the effectiveness of demonstrations and other civic actions in comparisons to large national actions.  Future actions will be characterized in numeric terms, less than, equal to, or greater than the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, or the Women’s March.  This misses the point.

The point is that people are on their feet, meeting with and sharing ideas with other like minded souls. The marches or demonstrations are the spark, the letter writing campaigns, petitions, phone calls,  and post card drives are the flames.  A politician might easily ignore a small demonstration, unless of course the demonstrators go home and solicit five friends to engage in a town hall meeting or a phone call project. Unless the demonstrators make common cause with another group of advocates and episodically work in unison.  Unless the demonstrators are touching on a particularly sensitive local issue…

Tut, tut sayeth these pundits,  this will all come to naught unless the civic action has a practical plan for specific legislative outcomes.  At this point someone in the audience needs to rise and ask: “Says who?”

Alas, the pundits cry, “These demonstrations and civic actions separate us and facilitate identity politics.” Here’s another idea: All politics is identity politics.  We identify as workers, as men, as women, as animal lovers, as environmentalists, as church members, as unchurched.  We are urban, rural, suburban, ex-urban, young, middle-aged, or elderly. We are ethnically diverse and united in our humanity.  We each have a unique identity which informs our political views, we march both individually and separately.

So, spare me the hand wringing, the concern trolling, the condescension and the patronizing.  Some of that which passes for political analysis is little more than the authorship of articles intended, not for those citizens being described, but for other members of the chatterati.  Should these individuals deign to join a small group protesting a single issue, or a large group protesting a multitude of issues, they may come to understand that each and every action is of value in itself, because these actions have both individual and collective value…to those who participate in them.

Cynicism is easy, engagement is more difficult, but ultimately much more beneficial in a democracy.

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The Unbelievable supported by the Unbelievers

There’s that persistent support for 45, a minority but now the subject of much palaver, erudite and otherwise.  There’s the right wing edition, 45 won because he appealed to those upset with the political elites.  This argument rests on the Voters want Change premise, often coupled with “and Obama didn’t provide it” addendum. The unprecedented obstruction of the GOP notwithstanding. Bunkum.

First, this creates an artificial separation of the question. A vote is a snapshot in time, continued support is another matter. Support on election day is not necessarily an indication of future agreement.  Secondly, it avoids the obvious. Polling prior to the 2016 election showed significant support for 45 from white, older, males. And who tends to vote more consistently?  Older white males. Not surprisingly the continuing support is rooted in older white males. It doesn’t take the exercise of too many other gray cells to notice that while Clinton scored higher with college educated men and women, 45 held sway with those who do not have post secondary degrees.  Again, there are more people without these degrees than those who have them. Continuing support, then, extends more tenaciously  to older white men, predominantly without college degrees.

It doesn’t take an advanced degree to observe that older white men without college degrees will form the core of 45’s support. What elements are conducive to continued support? Here are some bits of conjecture.

Short attention span theater.  The continuing support is pleased that 45 is a man of action, cranking out executive orders like an old fashioned mimeograph to keep his promises.  That most of these will not pass constitutional muster isn’t a problem, 45 has and will blame the judiciary, thus absolving the supporters from any liability for promoting the infractions. The continuing supporters may not be interested in long term resolutions to complex problems, just serve them up something quickly and they will be satisfied.

Marinated misinformation.  Again, stating the obvious. Listening to massive amounts of right wing radio broadcasts and Fox News is conducive to developing a mental suit of armor against one’s perceived existential enemies.  Poverty is black, and unworthy.  Women are femi-nazi if they aren’t subjugated.  Immigrants take jobs and commit crimes. Black lives don’t matter all that much, and the Elites are oppressing you. It’s a steady diet overfeeding predispositions.

Absorb enough of this and the continuing supporter will chant that we should build a wall to keep people out who aren’t coming, and applaud a Muslim immigration ban to prevent people coming in  who harbor no plans to attack while accepting that thousands of Americans will die as a result of unregulated gun proliferation.

The unreality show. Marinate in enough misinformation and a person could believe that immigrants are taking jobs, or jobs are lost offshore when some 80% of lost manufacturing jobs are actually lost to automation. That the ACA is socialized medicine rather than subsidized private health insurance plans. That a person could be killed any minute by Islamist terrorists when more people are killed annually by lawnmowers.

Languish long enough in the unreality show and it’s little wonder we have people welcoming the short attention span theater, marinating in misinformation,  and happily participating in 45’s unreality show.

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It’s Your Retirement Money, reasons to write and call

The administration is signalling its intention to roll back the fiduciary rule regarding broker advice.  The rules are relatively simple — your financial adviser must tell you what retirement investments are good for You, not what will fill their own coffers with funds. The administration wants to go back to the bad old days when financial advisers could rip off investors by recommending investments benefitting themselves rather than their clients.

Heller’s offices: 202-224-6244. 775-686-5770.  702-388-6605

Amodei’s offices: 202-225-6155.  775-686-5780.

Cortez Masto offices: 202-224-3542.  775-686-5750.  702-388-5020

 

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Feeling safer after the Bowling Green Massacre?

Somehow I just don’t feel safer. The Trumpster hath decreed that we’re now going to shift our focus from violent extremists in general and zero in on radical Islamic fringe groups. No more poking into the heinous affairs of those wonderful people who radicalized Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Dylan Roof, and Russell Courtier. Fact is, not an alternative fact, that during the 14 years after the 9/11 attacks more Americans were killed by white domestic terrorists than by Islamic radicals.  If we needed an example of the importance of white supremacist Steve Bannon in the administration now we have one in neon lights.

And then there’s this: Administration officials are saying there will be an executive order rolling back rules established under the Dodd Frank Act. By the lights of the administration this will give us ‘wonderful new products’ without those pesky regulations.  As a resident of a state that got royally steamrolled by those frisky bankers before the enacting of the Dodd Frank Act I have to say I don’t feel the least bit safer.

Perhaps I should feel better knowing that at least I wasn’t a victim of the Bowling Green Massacre?

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