The Orange Barrel Summertime Blues

August 29, 2016

For many of you who follow the blog and live outside of Southeast Michigan, around here warm weather is known more popularly as the “Orange Barrel Season.” It seems like as soon as the temperature has three continuous days above freezing, work begins on repairing the roads and highways of Michigan. These roads (and bridges) rival those of a Third World country in terms of disrepair. Actually, our roads may be worse. One important reason why Michigan’s roads and infrastructure are so bad is the Michigan government.

Unlike other states that have insisted on enforcing minimum materials and construction standards, along with a guarantee of viability, Michigan governments since the Engler Administration have allowed contractors to use inferior materials and construction methods to create a virtual perpetual employment machine, moving constantly from one short-term, emergency fix to another. It has also been a government that has resisted any effective public transportation system, or enforced regulation of heavy traffic vehicles.

Since all of the highway work had been unguaranteed, it guaranteed huge tax expenditures to create emergency, and short-term fixes. It’s quite remarkable to see if you are not from Michigan. Slow-moving trucks roll along at 5 mph on a 70 mph highway for miles, causing huge traffic jams while men shovel out a gravel and tar mixture to fill in monster pot holes. Then they rely on subsequent traffic to roll over the mound to compact it down, while the rest of the tar and gravel are sent bouncing off of cars in other lanes.

Well, there’s good news and bad news in this regard with the announcement of a major road reconstruction project at one of the busiest conduits in SE Michigan, at I-75 in Oakland County. The good news is that the huge congestion of traffic creating a 10-mile-long, bumper-to-bumper commute into Wayne County and the City of Detroit will be somewhat relieved. The bad news is that the project will take 12-14 years to complete! For Oakland County residents working in Detroit, it means more than a decade of finding alternate routes or commutes extended hours longer. Imagine spending 2-3 hours or longer to drive 10 miles to work.

I’m guessing that the good conservative types in one of America’s riches counties will be wishing they had approved extending the Woodward light rail pretty soon. For the thousands of people who use I-75 as their route to Northern Michigan … just think of it as an opportunity to tour the back roads instead of a costly extension of hours in travel time. There even might be some economic benefit from the fact that hotels and restaurants will have increased business once driving to Mackinac will take an over-night trip rather than the usual 5 hours.

Or maybe we can contemplate how much of a difference government can make with regard to infra-structure – for good or bad.

 


The Sacrifices Trump Has Made

August 9, 2016

Alright all of you Khans of the world, here is a list of the sacrifices Donald trump has made for his Country.

  1. From 1959 to 1964: He served honorably in the New York Military Academy High School. Says Trump, he “got more training than many men get while serving in the military.”
  2. From 1964 to 1968: Multiple deferments from the draft. Not the conscientious type, but it was still very difficult for him to stay in college instead of serving during a war.
  3. From 1980 to 1997: Avoided contracting any sexually transmitted disease. “It was my personal Viet Nam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.” (By the way, didn’t we lose that war?)
  4. He created thousands of jobs.

 

And if you have any doubts about whether or not Trump has read and understands the Constitution, consider the fact that on July 7th, Trump clearly and unequivocally announced his support for “Article XII” of the Constitution. Maybe he should get one of those pocket Constitutions. Then again, it wouldn’t make a difference. This is a man with a pathological narcissism that runs through everything he does. Creating jobs for people to perform the labor that makes him money is, to him, a sacrifice. In the mind of a narcissist, the money he paid to people who ultimately made him money were taking something from him. They should work for him for free…

The attempts to smear the Khan family were the inevitable result of a complete lack of response about his lack of sacrifices and understanding of the meaning of the Constitution. They simply can’t defend Trump, so they attack these two fine people. I hope that this is the real turning point of the election.


The “T” Word

August 8, 2016

What are the top 5 responses of Trump supporters to his encouraging Russian espionage against the US?

  1. The media is lying about what he said.
  2. Ya, but Hillary…
  3. He really meant to say…
  4. Ya but Hillary…
  5. Ya, but Hillary…

 

When does the love of Country “trump” the hatred of Hillary Clinton? I am not a big Hillary supporter. In fact, I am pretty angry at the Dems for anointing her as the candidate even before the primary process began. Is there any doubt that Bernie, or nearly anyone else as the nominee would mean a huge advantage in the polls right now? However, the comments of Trump encouraging a foreign power to commit espionage may not be treason per se, but is certainly a felonious act. It is a felony to encourage a crime, and hacking any private citizen’s e-mails, let alone those of the State Department’s. So what does the Party of “Law and Order” have to say in response? Nothing.

I sat marveling at the hypocrisy exploding from the Republican National Convention when they all chanted “Blue Lives Matter” – the same Party that blocked bills to help support 9/11 first repsonders for years. The Party that has tried to lay sole claim to patriotism now stands in silence as their candidate encourages our adversaries to spy.

Was this an act of treason? Probably not his motive, but Trump is so ignorant of National Security issues and self-centered that he still sees no problems with compromising national security if it serves his purposes. Come to think of it… isn’t that why they wanted to throw Hillary in jail?

 

 

 

 


Mr. Khan’s Effect

August 5, 2016

It was perhaps the most important speech at the Democratic National Convention, and may be of any in this campaign. Mr. Khan became the face and voice of American Muslims in such a dignified and effective way that it could affect the Fall election. Most Americans have no personal relationship with a Muslim family. I have known several through my work as a trial lawyer. So when Trump and his allies began to caricaturize American Muslims as “silent participants” in terrorism (Trump said they are not “turning over the terrorists,”) and claiming they seek to impose Shari’a law in the United States, many Americans believed them.

We’ve been through this type of process with virtually every wave of immigrants in our history and African-Americans have been going through it for centuries. It’s easy to hate someone you don’t know or understand. Integration of immigrants (and to a lesser extent, races) means that a face – a relationship replaces racist stereotypes and fear. Mr. Khan not only provided that experience for the first time to millions of Americans, he did it in a way that could only be called inspirational. He virtually shamed the Trump campaign and many of his well-meaning supporters. He put into clarity the moral and patriotic choices we face in this election, but even more importantly he reminded us that the way to end fear and hatred is to seek dialogue. When there is a personal experience with an individual of a group, then the fear of the group disappears.

Now, Trump responded with an attack on the mother, implying that she was silenced by her Muslim faith, consistent with their attacks on the Muslim faith as oppressive to women. Her response to his attack was even more powerful – she was still grieving so much that she could barely talk about her loss. Yet she had the courage to stand before thousands of delegates and millions of Americans on television. Their challenge to GOP leadership to have some moral courage and repudiate Trump has been met with only the confirmation of their cowardice. Moral clarity is a powerful thing. Dr. King exemplified that principle and now we have the Khan’s.

 

 


Obama’s Mojo

August 4, 2016

After Michelle Obama brought down the house at the DNC with a speech that many call one of the greatest in convention history, the pundits were all pitying the poor speakers who had to follow. Enter President Obama. Twelve years ago he electrified the Country in a convention speech and consequently lit the fuse for his own Presidential run. Now Michelle and Barak have given us 3 of the most memorable speeches ever. In a brilliant speech, the Democrat and President used a quote from the patron saint of Republicans to unfavorably contrast the Republican candidate with Hillary Clinton. To use Reagan as a foil to Trump was the ultimate rhetorical takedown of a Party that struggles to maintain a sense of self-respect while their candidate reveals their silent hypocrisy.

There is no doubt that President Obama has suffered through years of outrageous treatment from the right wing, primarily because he was a black man (e.g. birther movement, secret Muslim movement, etc). How wonderfully fitting that he is finishing his second term as one of the most popular to leave office since President Bill Clinton. Well, I guess the new Obama is Hillary.

Contrasting the speeches given by Michelle and Barak Obama with those of Trump and wife #3, one has to be amazed at the intellectual gulf between them. I can understand Melania wanting to plagiarize Michelle, and perhaps we will hear Michelle’s speech again at a future GOP convention. But the revealing contrast is that of President Obama with Trump. Intelligence, class and authenticity with a birther, bombast and bigot. It may have taken a few too many years and another great speech, but finally we are realizing what we have had in President Obama and what we could get with Trump.


1968: RFK 2016: Sanders?

June 14, 2016

As we mark the anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy after he won the California primary, I wonder about the times we live through. It’s awfully hard to explain 1968 to people born since then. In some ways the social conditions were similar. America was very polarized and angry. Even more so than today. The passions ran out into violence in the streets. There was a racist running for President in 1968 (Wallace) as there is now. The political battles were being drawn between the “political establishment” candidates who supported that status quo of war and inequality and reformers, just as there are today. For Democrats, Humphrey was the establishment candidate, much as Hillary is now (although in Humphrey’s defense, Hillary has not accomplished nearly as much). Robert Kennedy was the reform candidate, which seemed strange coming from the political powerhouse family.

Kennedy represented a rejection of war as an economic policy, rejected nationalism and advocated “socialist” policies of uplifting the poor. Sanders is no Kennedy, though he has resonated with that historical epoch. The assassination of Kennedy was the coup de grace of the reform movement, and it has never recovered since then. John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were all killed after deciding against war in favor of economic and racial justice. They had a real chance to change the direction of the Country. I am not so certain now that such reforms are possible without the social unrest we saw in 1968. In many ways, the possibilities in 1968 were far better than they seem to be now. I certainly never thought that 1968 was a more promising year than this one…   


Walk the Walk

June 13, 2016

I wondered how the GOP establishment, even the GOP mainstream (what’s left of it), would respond to Trump’s most recent racist tirade. The attack on Judge Curiel seems to have induced a zombie-like effect on them. Republican after Republican has gone on media and in the same flat affect denounced the Trump racism in terms that are as revealing of their own bias as there are of his. Some say his racism is “unfortunate” or a “mistake,” meaning the comments are only a concern in terms of their chances of winning the election. Some say they are “wrong,” which is a little closer to a moral judgment though not exactly clear as to why his racist attacks are wrong. Maybe they mean they are wrongly worded. I don’t know. Paul Ryan continues to amaze with his utter cluelessness by suggesting that the comments from a man who began his campaign by claiming Mexican immigrants were rapists and drug dealers and refused to denounce David Duke, were coming from “left field.” Maybe he was suggesting that Trump has nothing but a left field in his ballpark, but I doubt it.

I was taught that when it comes to matters of racism, it’s not what people say, it’s what they do that matters. Most racists are cowards and spew their hatred behind closed doors. In public, they tend toward silence or the meek defense of overtly racist speech (e.g. “I think he simply misspoke”). If the GOP were really not resting on a foundation of bigotry, then they would take back their endorsements of Trump. Saying that Trump’s comments were wrong, but doing nothing about it says more about their moral compass than anything else. Worse yet, if it were true that the comments from Republicans about Trump that he was unqualified, pathological, etc. before he won the primaries were sincere, then it illustrates the reason why nothing can get done in government. If politicians are willing to ignore what is best for the Country to win elections, then it explains why we are unable to solve our problems. Once again, what they do matters more than what they say. If Republicans deserted Trump in droves as he continues to reveal his true character, then there may be hope for our country yet…