Friday, July 21, 2017

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I try to be moderate in most things.  I'm not a rabid partisan for most politicians or causes.  I guess the exception was Hilary.  I was strongly and unalterably opposed to her as our President.  I've detailed the reasons over the last year or so and don't need to regurgitate it all here.  But for the most part I try and see both sides and advocate for what I believe is in the best interests of the country and the population as a whole.  

I've not been a never-Trumper nor a member of the resistance.  Like Obama, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a chance to produce.  My assessment after six months is that he's done some good things, some bad things, has been slow off the mark on several things, and still has a ton of stuff to work on if he's going to live up to the hype and have a chance at reelection.  But there are several major issues that continue to flummox him and if they continue, his chances of success are greatly diminished.  First is the all-out, never-ending disdain and antipathy of the press.  They are clearly out to get him and are doing a good job.  They can use "anonymous sources" and get away with anything and accuse him and his administration of anything.  Second is the rock-solid block from Democrats to anything Trump.  Maybe they can't beat him, but they can sure slow him down and make him look ineffective.  Third are leaks.  I don't know what's being done about them, but it appears not much.  If he doesn't get a handle on leaks, they will continue to trip him up.  There are others but finally, and probably most importantly, he is his own worst enemy.  Every time he starts to get momentum he shoots himself in the foot with an ill-advised tweet or comment.  It's maddening for those of us who would like for some of his initiatives to get implemented.  

Which brings me to a strong reading recommendation.  I'm a big fan of National Review.  I think their writing is mostly conservative but the writers there usually will call a spade a spade.  They will agree when appropriate and call someone out when appropriate.  I particularly like Jonah Goldberg.  His writing is smart, clever, and usually something I really resonate with.  He has a Friday column called "The G File" that is well worth reading.  You can subscribe on their website.  This week's column is just totally spot on from my perspective.  You can read it here.  You're welcome!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Epic Fail

You know what I'm talking about.  That the Republicans can't get anything done on repealing and replacing Obamacare despite the promises of the last 8 years is nothing short of unbelievable.  I won't list or debate the merits of all the options and alternatives because not being able to get this done overshadows whatever might be in the final bill.  They have to be embarrassed and ashamed.  Oh wait...what am I thinking?  They are politicians.  They clearly don't give a shit.

Choosing health care as the signature issue to fight for was as just stupid.  They had to know this was going to happen.  In their dark little secret place, they had to know that this was going to happen. These assholes talk about doing their best for "the American people".  Please.  They don't give a shit about the American people.  And anyway, when we talk about this health care issue, we're only talking about 20 or 30 million people.  Not small by any means, but not a huge number of people.  They act as though this is something that if it doesn't get done it will impact every living, breathing American.  Once again...bullshit.

So now I think we have come to a point in the country that there are really 4 main political parties.   There are the conservative Republicans.  There are the moderate to liberal Republicans.  There are the traditional progressive liberal Democrats and the far left Bernie Democrat Socialists.  Of course there are few others like the Libertarians but they are usually pretty small groups.  So each of the Congressmen or Congresswomen or Senators identifying with one of those groups.   Instead of having to deal with and compromise between two factions, we now have four.  That is damn near impossible.  There are two things that motivate most of these assholes on capital hill.  I bet you thought I was going to say power and influence, or some such nonsense.  No...what motivates them is anything that might hamper their ability to get reelected and the money they need to get reelected.  It has become nauseating to listen to them bloviate on and on and on when they get a microphone stuck in their face.  So I no longer listen.  These guys are assholes!

All I've got to say is that they better get something done on infrastructure and tax reform, or they are dead meat.  People are pissed now because the Republicans are so stupid, but they'll be really pissed if they are unable to get one thing done.

The media (another bunch of assholes) have said blamed Trump for not trying hard enough to influence Congress.  That is clearly bullshit.  He has cajoled, met with them, compromised, wined and dined and everything short of begging and they have essentially flipped him off.  So if I were him I'd walk away.  Let them fend for themselves.  Get what you can done, done.  Don't aim too high because you now know you're dealing with a bunch of spineless assholes.  And it doesn't look like it's going to get any better.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Passion of Sports Fans

Never underestimate the incredible power of sports to raise unbelievable passions.  Check this out.

https://bars.tl/Vu6u/uQhHb2pcRE

Of course, this should be tempered in case you live in San Diego.  Since the Judas's left, it's been sorta blah...


Motivation Monday


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cultural Implosion?

Okay, so I couldn't stay away.  Too much going on.  Too many things to comment on.

Like everyone I've been watching the latest revelations about the Trump campaign meetings with the Russian lawyer.  At first I (like many) thought it was probably much ado about nothing.  Then I thought it was just the kid making a pretty big screw up.  And then as more details dripped out (memo to politicians...get it all out fast.  Bad news doesn't get better with age) it became obvious that there was at least an attitude that if we can get dirt on Hillary by any means, even from a foreign government, then that's okay.  Well...that's not okay.  In fact it's a pretty big not okay.

And here's what happens when a screw up this blatant comes to light.  At least for me it's what happens.  I start to look at other things and question other things.  For a long time now Trump has been touting accomplishments, statistics, that he's making America great again, blah, blah, blah.  And it's obviously a lot of bullshit.  I mean, there are some good things that have occurred, but I don't remotely believe that there have been dramatic accomplishments and turnarounds.  And I don't think many others believe that either.  Trump's credibility is wearing thin.  Simple as that.  After six months it seems that he believes that if he says it, it must be believed.  There are a hard-core of supporters who will believe him because they hate the other side.  But I think the country is still mostly in the middle.  And they will only believe so much.  There is a good blog article in National Review this week by Jonah Goldberg, a pretty serious and smart writer who is no liberal, who lays it out pretty well.  You can read it here.  Here's my favorite bottom line quote:
"Trump’s more-credible defenders certainly may be right that this is all the result of ineptitude and amateurishness. These guys are like a mix between Ron Jeremy and a yoga master in their ability to step on their own johnsons."
There is another piece that you should check out from Frank Bruni of the NYT.  I know, I know...NYT.  But I find Frank to be among the few writers in the MSM who I can usually find something to agree with.  Check out his article about "Six Long Months of President Trump" here.  I don't agree with much in the article but I think he does point out how corrosive we've all become.  And a large part of the blame lies at Trump's feet.  There is little doubt about that.

And it you look at Congress, you're just nothing but depressed.  They can get nothing done.  They aren't interested in compromise and accomplishments for the people.  They only have self-interest.  They mostly just spout platitudes and bullshit.  They can't fix a broken health care system for poor people because they are too self-absorbed.  This even when both sides say a fix is needed.  If they can't do this, can they ever get to tax reform, which is so much more important for the country as a whole?  I'm having my doubts.  And I think most people think the same thing.  So both the Executive branch and the Legislative branch are severely broken.  Severely.

A third article caught my attention this week.  Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan offered some really honest comments at an earnings call and WSJ had a short writeup about it.  I'm going to paste the whole thing because it's short and pretty good.  And it hits the nail on the head.
Jamie Dimon Goes Off
The J.P. Morgan CEO savages Washington’s anti-growth culture.By The Editorial Board
Jamie Dimon sure knows how to liven up an earnings call. While reporting quarterly results on Friday, the J.P. Morgan Chase CEO let loose with a high-quality harangue against the political class and Washington gridlock that drives down economic growth and hurts the people at the bottom of the income ladder.
“Since the Great Recession, which is now eight years old, we’ve been growing at 1.5% to 2% in spite of stupidity and political gridlock,” said the dean of Wall Street CEOs, who was just warming up. “We are unable to build bridges, we’re unable to build airports, our inner city school kids are not graduating.”
“I was just in France, I was recently in Argentina, I was in Israel, I was in Ireland. We met with the prime minister of India and China. It’s amazing to me that every single one of those countries understands that practical policies to promote business and growth is good for the average citizens of those countries, for jobs and wages, and that somehow this great American free enterprise system, we no longer get it.”
The banker who was once a target of Obama regulators must feel liberated because he even dared to defend tax cuts for business: “Corporate taxation is critical to that, by the way. We’ve been driving capital earnings overseas, which is why there’s $2 trillion overseas benefiting all these other countries and stuff like that. So if we don’t get our act together—we can still grow.”
Tell us how you really feel, Jamie: “I don’t buy the argument that we’re relegated to this forever. We’re not. If this administration can make breakthroughs in taxes and infrastructure, regulatory reform—we have become one of the most bureaucratic, confusing, litigious societies on the planet.
“It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid s— we have to deal with in this country. And at one point we all have to get our act together or we won’t do what we’re supposed to [do] for the average Americans.
“And unfortunately people write about this saying like it’s for corporations. It’s not for corporations. Competitive taxes are important for business and business growth, which is important for jobs and wage growth. And honestly we should be ringing that alarm bell, every single one of you, every time you talk to a client.”
Mr. Dimon has said he’s a Democrat, and some of his friends say he might be looking to run for President. If Republicans can’t rally the nerve to pass their agenda, he might find a receptive constituency.
So as I look around there is huge reason for despair.  But here's the bottom line for me.  Even with the craziness, even with the corruption and hyper-partisanship, even with the lack of progress, there are reasons for optimism.  I think Trump has done pretty well on the international front.  That is an area fraught with danger, but so far he's doing okay.  I see some flashes of brilliance in his actions.  So far those things have been obscured by some crazy tweet or outlandish claim.  If he can steady the ship, then maybe he's got a chance to accomplish some things.  I don't necessarily think he will do that, but one can always hope.  His Supreme Court appointment was great and there's reason to believe that future appointments will be as well.

And the real, incredibly important bottom-line.  Hillary the criminal is not President.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

On a Break

I haven't been posting much lately.  Too much going on.  Too many distractions.  I become frustrated by some useful idiot and by the time I get around to commenting, someone else has come along that has usurped the previous idiot.  It's just all so tiresome.  So I'm taking a break.  Don't know when or if I'll be back.  I'll leave the blog open so you can continue to check the blog roll if you're interested.  Or not.  As is always the case, up to you.  But for now...I'm on a break.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Funnies

I'm thinking this is a good tutorial on how NOT to do online dating.  




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Atlanta

We just spent a week in Atlanta at the Rotary International Convention.  The event was wonderful with incredibly uplifting motivational stories, a mind-boggling display of service opportunities, and a chance to make new friends.  I could write whole post on Rotary, but will save that for another time.  I'm going to be installed as the President of the local chapter here in Rancho Bernardo on July 1st and I'm sure as I go through the year there will be plenty of opportunities to comment on this wonderful organization.

But beyond the convention itself and the many, many activities and events that we participated in, was the city of Atlanta.  I'd never spent much time there.  I think I've stayed overnight a few times while passing through and, of course, had been in the massive airport a ton of times.  It is one of, if not the, biggest airports in the world.  And I'm sure it's the busiest.  As a Delta hub, it is a crossroads for many, many flights every day.  And all in all my experience is that they are pretty efficient.

Atlanta, and beyond that Georgia, turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  The city is clean, upbeat, the people are for the most part friendly, and it seems like the infrastructure works well.  The Governor of Georgia and the Mayor of Atlanta both spoke at the convention and they were very impressive.  The Mayor especially had a great message.  They are in the growth mode.  They've recognized that for their people to thrive and the city to provide the services required for this growth, they need to stimulate economic growth.  And they've done that in spades.

The Mayor told us that they are working hard on infrastructure and it showed.  There is a lot of building going on.  He also told us that they are working hard on the homeless problem and are getting a handle on that.  I don't remember the figures, but it was impressive.  And they have reduced the veteran homeless rate to near zero.  Near zero!  Imagine that.

We stayed downtown close to the Convention Center and it is incredibly vibrant.  The Convention Center is massive.  I read somewhere that it is the 2nd or 3rd largest in the country.  Rotary had 42,000 attendees and they handled it with ease.  Next door is the CNN center and it is a big draw.  Around the corner is the Georgia Dome, a great football stadium.  And next door to the Georgia Dome they are building a new state of the art stadium called the Mercedes Benz stadium.  And they are keeping the Georgia Dome!  Across the street from that is Phillips Arena, a new facility for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team.  Down the road is the new stadium for the Atlanta Braves, the newest baseball stadium in the country.

We ventured out to the suburbs for an event and there is growth everywhere.  There are several smaller business hubs that are thriving.  The bedroom community of Alpharetta where we went was just idyllic.  Beautiful countryside, affordable homes, great schools, and plenty of industry.

I'm not sure how they are doing it, but whatever they are doing, it's working.  I suspect it has to do with lower taxes and a favorable business environment.  It probably also has to do with minimal government regulations and minimal government meddling in people's lives.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thoughts on Climate Change

I recently had a post that reflected on the U.S. leaving the Paris Climate Accords.  You can read it here but I am generally pleased with this outcome.  Since that action we've seen everything from general approval to concern to hysteria.  It's the hysteria that concerns me.  As I've said in previous posts, at some point the hysteria has to abate.  At some point the leftists and Socialists have to decide that they want to try and work to accomplish something, even if means compromise.  At least in my optimism I hope that happens.

A former Priest and good friend writes a weekly blog on a number of subjects.  He is a wise and thoughtful man.  He started life as a New York lawyer and that gives him a bit of a different perspective.  In retirement, he is back to practicing law and specializing in Immigration and God knows there's a lot of work in that area.  Copied below in it's entirety is his latest post on the Paris Accords.  I'm putting this up there because I think it's one the most balanced and pragmatic looks at this subject that I've ever seen.  I don't agree with everything he says, but I think he makes some great points.  If you're not of the religious persuasion, you'll probably not care or read the last section about a Christian response, but that's okay.  I'm a big fan of reasoned and logical thought.  That is what this piece is in spades.

Reflections on the Withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord

There was shock around the world at President Trump’s action to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. “World reacts to Trump’s move: ‘He’s declaring war on the planet’ said the Toronto Globe & Mail. Maureen Dowd of The New York Times put it none too subtly when she titled her article, “Trump Stomps Planet Earth.” Labeling President Trump “the existential threat to the planet,” she went on to say, “You know you’re in trouble when beclouded Beijing, where birds go to die, replaces you as the leader on climate change.”

Climate change is an emotional, contentious issue. Passions run high, whether you are an environmental activist in the Pacific Northwest or a coal miner in West Virginia.

There are, in my judgment, four possible responses to climate change. You can deny it, ignore it, manage it or try to prevent it.

To deny climate change defies the scientific evidence that temperatures are indeed rising with profound implications for our planet.

To ignore climate change is irresponsible, especially considering the massive population shifts that will result from droughts, famine, civil unrest and refugees fleeing their homelands.

To manage climate change makes sense if you believe that changing climate is part of the natural evolution of the planet and that human beings only have a limited ability to affect what inevitably will happen.

To prevent climate change by reducing carbon emissions is a worthy goal, even if that means significant changes to our present way of living.

The only two viable responses to climate change are to manage it proactively but also try to prevent or minimize its negative effects on the planet.

Thankfully, no one, not even President Trump, wants a sick planet, polluted air or massive numbers of people suffering from breathing disorders. Nor does anyone deny that earth’s temperatures are getting slightly warmer with rising ocean levels, glacial melts, intensified storms and more frequent droughts, which often affect the most vulnerable and poorest communities. Climate change is happening is – there is little doubt about it.

The Point of Contention

The issue that divides people is not whether the climate is changing, but how much of climate change is man-made due to carbon emissions in the atmosphere and how much is the result of the natural evolution of the planet. Since the beginning of life on earth, there has been climate change. There have been extremely cold periods – the Ice Age, for example – and there have been relatively hot periods such as during the age of the dinosaurs.

So climate change is not new, but since the industrial era human beings have affected the climate by carbon emissions in the atmosphere. As an example, in the first half of 2016 average temperatures were about 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 degree Fahrenheit) above the average in 1880, when global record-keeping began. The Paris Accord seeks to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If countries begin to reduce their present levels of greenhouse emissions by lowering their reliance on fossil fuel, there is every reason to hope that the goal set by the Accord can be achieved.

And yet, those who are sceptical of the Paris Accord wonder if the carbon taxing, higher energy costs and perhaps a lower standard of living are worth the pain to achieve results that are unlikely to have much impact on the climate. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that those who question the Paris Accord “accept that the earth is warming and that our civilization’s ample CO2 emissions are a major cause. They doubt, however, that climate change represents a crisis unique among the varied challenges we face, or that the global regulatory schemes advanced to deal with it will work as advertised. And they raise an eyebrow at the contrast between the apocalyptic, absolutist rhetoric with which these schemes are regularly defended and their actual details, which seemed mostly designed to enable the globe’s statesmen to greenwash the pursuit of economic and political self-interest.”

The question is whether, “If every country does what the Paris Accord requires them to do, will the planet really be better off – and by how much?” And could the world achieve equally positive results by other means than by requiring sweeping carbon taxes and a full-fledged war on carbon fuels? Instead might it not be more beneficial to focus on innovation and mitigation – innovating existing technologies, developing new technologies and mitigating the effects of climate change to insure quality of life for everyone?

The Paris Accord

One of the fundamental problems with the Paris Accord is that there is no mandatory mechanism to insure the agreement is enforced by each country. Each country determines its own contribution it should make to mitigate global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date. Nothing is binding in international law, since there is no obligatory language in the agreement. Nor is there any mechanism to force a country to set a realistic target and achieve it. One might say, as James Hansen, a former NASA scientist categorized it, that the Accord is filled with “promises” but “no firm commitments.”

The only mechanism in the Accord is the requirement that all countries report their progress every five years, with the first evaluation in 2023. What if a country has not met expectations? There is no penalty, just a “name and shame” system. As the agreement provides no consequences if countries fail to meet their commitments, that makes it increasingly difficult for the Accord to meet its laudable goals.

Given the non-mandatory nature of the Paris Accord, we may ask: “Why did President Trump make the decision to withdraw?” I think three reasons led to his decision.

First, politics played a role since Trump promised on the campaign trail to withdraw from the Accord. Trump can now say to his supporters that he fulfilled yet another campaign promise.

Second, Trump did not like that the Accord asks developed countries to commit $100 billion a year to a Green Climate Fund until 2025. This money would go to developing countries for actions on climate change, adaptation and mitigation. It was Trump’s view that the United States was already giving a substantial amount of money in foreign aid to developing countries.  Moreover, the President was concerned that the United States would end up funding a major portion of the $100 billion, a large amount of that money directed to China and India. In the President’s judgment, the money spent abroad could better be spent at home.

President Trump may be right. At this point, the United States has given $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund. No other nation has contributed anything. Given that the vast majority of NATO members do not pay their 2% fair share, is it reasonable to expect the world’s developed nations to pay their fair share into the Green Climate Fund? President Trump was fearful that the United States would end up carrying most of the burden, and in this he may be right.

Third, the Paris Accord has always been about the controlled distribution of economic wealth. The Green Climate Fund was just part of what was designed as a plan to transfer wealth from the developed to the developing countries. The “carbon-trading tax” was to be the fundamental financial instrument to reshape the economies of developed countries – a global tax on all people to control behavior and lifestyles through a market-based trade vehicle under U.N. exclusive control. To President Trump and his advisers, this carbon-trading tax would have disastrous consequences for the United States economy and subvert the national economic interests of the country.

In summary, President Trump could have left the Accord in place and ignored it – that would have been the politically expedient thing to do. However, in the scheme of things, the withdrawal of the United States from the Accord will not matter. The countries of the world, including the United States, will continue to move towards a greener, cleaner environment, but without the excessive regulations and carbon taxing envisioned by the Accord.

Let me share 6 reasons for being optimistic about the planet’s future. I also want to share 3 concerns in the transition to a greener, cleaner world.

Reasons for Optimism

First, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, the federal system in the United States guarantees that the nation will continue to promote environmental stewardship.  Most of the major cities in the United States have made the decision to abide by the goals of the Paris Accord. So have a number of states and major corporations in the country. Governor Jerry Brown of California, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington have joined together to form the United States Climate Alliance. Major corporations have announced their intention to continue working for a greener planet, including General Electric, Mars, Disney; Tesla, Apple, and many others. Moreover, the United States is already more than halfway to the 2025 emissions reduction set by the Paris Accord, and even without carbon taxing there is a strong likelihood the nation will meet its goal.

Second, although some corporate executives have resigned from the President’s Council of Business Advisers over the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, most have chosen to remain on the Council as a voice for environmental stewardship. Most members of the President’s Council of Business Advisers have agreed to remain on the Council, not because they agree with the President’s action but as a voice for economic policies that are consistent with a cleaner, greener environment. Among the advisers remaining on the Council include Mary Barra of General Motors, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies, Alex Gursky of Johnson and Johnson, Andrew Liveris of Dow, Brian Krzanich of Intel, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup, Doug McMillon of Walmart, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, Wendell Weeks of Corning, and Richard Trumka and Thea Lee of the A.F.L. – C.I.O. These advisers will help insure that business development and economic growth are consistent with environmental stewardship.

Third, American cities are moving aggressively

Fourth, innovation and technology development are making green energy affordable and more widely used by private homeowners. Almost all households in America today have LED lighting, and almost all appliances now selling on the market meet strict energy standards. New homes have an energy rating that allows buyers to know the typical amount of energy that will be used in the home. In addition, solar power is becoming more affordable with an increasing number of homeowners having solar panels installed on their roofs.  Innovation, research and development, technology deployment and renewables are making America cleaner and greener.

Fifth, President Trump is a savvy negotiator and it may well be that he is using the withdrawal from the Paris Accord as a pretext to negotiate a new and better deal. The United States withdrawal from the Accord doesn’t officially take place until 2020. That gives President Trump and his team three years to negotiate a better deal. If the Europeans are open to re-negotiating the Accord, there is every reason to believe that a more realistic framework on climate change can be achieved. There are those in the Republican Party that want to see that happen. As conservative scholar Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute put it in a tweet after the President his announcement, “Hopefully someday, we’ll get a reality-based climate agreement that helps prepare for and adapt to whatever climate change brings.”

Sixth, there is a legal argument to be made that the United States was never a member of the Paris Accord since the agreement never received the “advice and consent” of the Senate. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution grants the president power “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” The Obama Administration did not submit the Paris Accord to the Senate as a conventional treaty. The Administration knew that ratification would have failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in the Republican controlled Senate. That led President Obama to craft a non-binding global warming deal without Senate approval. There is, therefore, a serious question whether the United States was ever formally “in” the Paris Accord. It also made it much easier for President Trump to withdraw from the Accord, since no Senate action is required. However, a revised Paris agreement negotiated by President Trump may well get the approval of the Senate, binding the country to a new set of standards.

Some Concerns

Seventh, there is a divide between major corporations and small businesses on the reaction to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. Many major corporations have been working hard to promote a cleaner, greener planet. They have invested billions of dollars in new technologies that are driving costs down in expanding solar and wind energy. But the green revolution has not been as widely embraced by small businesses, in part because of government regulations and increased costs to do business. Small businesses cheered the President’s action. If the green revolution is to take hold in the country, then small businesses must benefit as much as large corporations.

Eighth, while much of urban America has embraced the green revolution, rural America has expressed anxiety and fear on how “going green” will affect their lives, lifestyles and jobs. In the educated, sophisticated centers of the nation, cities like Boston, New York, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco, the green revolution is already a reality – solar and wind power abound, while carbon emissions from oil and coal have been significantly reduced. However, in Appalachia and other parts of the heartland, oil, coal and fracking for gas are the foundations for local economies. Rural Pennsylvania, for example is fracking and enjoying increased prosperity while rural New York is prevented from fracking by state law and remains poor. In fact, cities like Buffalo and Rochester there is negative job growth – a decline rather than an increase in the job market – even as the national economy is approaching a level of full employment.

When Hilary Clinton said that she couldn’t wait to close the coal mines, she lost every coal mining county in the country. When Donald Trump pledged to helped build a “clean coal” industry, he won those counties. Two different economies, two different worlds, and two different ways of life – this is the divide between red and blue states. The environment is important, but so are people, families, and jobs. We need a green revolution that embraces people and insures jobs for their future.

Ninth, the cost of transitioning to a cleaner, greener planet has exasperated the divide between the rich on the one hand, and the middle class and poor on the other. Reducing carbon emission has a price to it. In many cases, at least in the short term, it may mean higher electric and gas bills. In Europe gas at the pump is between six and ten dollars a gallon. In some parts of Canada gas is close to $5.00 a gallon. Here in the metro Phoenix area, gas ranges between $2.23 and 2.39 a gallon. Most poor and middle class Americans would resist paying European prices for gas. For one thing, distances, especially in the west, are much greater than in Europe. And for another, people need their cars to drive to work, especially if they cannot afford to live where they are employed. Similarly, in southwest states like Arizona, air conditioning is not an option; just as in northeast states like Maine or Minnesota heating fuel is not an option in the winter. Wealthy people, like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos can afford to pay higher electric and gas prices in support of clean energy, but many others cannot. At some point the economic disparity has to be addressed, perhaps by an added tax on the wealthy to subsidize the poor and middle class’ utility costs. I like the proposals of Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who has suggested these taxes on the wealthy:

Tax the “blue zones.” Impose steep taxes on property in coastal areas that will be flooded by the sea-level increases that global warming brings. Taxes should also discourage people from building near oceans, rivers and lakes.
Ban private jet travel, or at least tax it heavily. The wealthy will have to fly commercial like the rest of us.
Impose a luxury tax on mansions. Any home more than twice the size of the average American home should be taxed at 25% of its value per year.
Tax yachts and luxury cars an additional 25% of purchase price to reduce their carbon footprints and have an annual tax of 10% of their value each year.

I would add one more – an increase in the income tax for multi-millionaires and billionaires to at least 50 percent of income. That is not too much to pay when you have so much to give, especially when the money goes to alleviate the hardship of those with far less.

A Christian Response

The week before the announcement of the United States withdrawal from the Paris Accord, President Trump had met with Pope Francis and said that he would read Laudato Si, the Pope’s encyclical on the environment and climate change. Given the President’s action, either he has yet to read it, or he simply disagrees with it.

And yet, the Pope’s encyclical is worth reading.  Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home – is a comprehensive overview of environmental stewardship from a distinctly Christian perspective. It is one of the finest treatments of the stewardship of the earth ever written and it deserves to be read by every Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox.

I don’t agree with everything the Pope writes. The Argentinian Pope clearly does not understand capitalism or how a free market economy works. Still, his knowledge of liberation theology makes him a forceful advocate for the poor who are disproportionately affected by climate change. You cannot care for creation if your heart lacks compassion for your fellow human beings, the Pope insists. The stewardship of the earth and the dignity of every human being are integrally connected.

The most difficult part of the Pope’s encyclical – and I suspect the main reason President Trump rejected it (if he read it) is the condemnation of “extreme consumerism” in which the Pope wants wealthy Western nations, including the United States, to accept “decreased growth…in order to provide recourse for other places to experience healthy growth.” In contrast with the consumerist mindset, Christian spirituality offers a growth marked by “moderation and the capacity to be happy with little.” It is a matter of nothing less than a redefinition of our notion of progress.

This, I think, is a red flag for most Americans – the notion of decreasing GDP, lowering living standards and having to accept that “less is more.” The Pope seems to articulate a mentality of scarcity rather than abundance – as if there is only so much of the pie to be divided rather than expanding the pie to feed more people. To put it another way, the Pope seems more interested in the distribution of wealth than the production of wealth. For Americans, in contrast, an expanded and growing economy, and not a declining and contracting one, is the way to insure a healthy and prosperous planet. Innovation, technology, and free markets in a democratic society result in greater human progress and a higher standard of living for all. In other words, the answer is not socialism or a state-run economy of excessive regulations and bureaucracy but free market democratic capitalism.

If I could give one piece of advice to the Pope, it would be to read these two books: Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. In my judgment, Friedman and Hayek are two greatest economists of the 20th century and what they have to say rings true today.

Principles and Policy

One of the great Anglican theologians of the 20th century was Archbishop William Temple. In his book Christianity and the Social Order, Temple made the useful distinction between principles and policy. Christians, he said, should be united on the core principles of the Christian ethic. Love of neighbor, human dignity, the equality of all persons, sharing generously with the poor, and caring for the sick, the weak and the vulnerable would be some of the key principles on which all Christians should agree.

However, on matters of policy Christians will disagree. Policy involves the implementation of Christian principles to specific problems.  If, for example, Christians have an obligation to care for the sick, what does that mean in instituting an effective health care system? If Christians believe in the equality of all human beings, how do we put that into practice when one group in society has been systemically discriminated against for generations? You get the idea: principles are general while policies are specific.

As we seek to be good stewards of the earth, we should keep in mind the first and most basic principle in the Bible: Creation is a gift from God.  In Genesis we read, “In the beginning when God created heaven and earth…” God created the world and it was “very good.” Then God created men and women, and put them in a garden. Over the years humans have threatened to turn that garden into a garbage dump – or worse, to destroy it completely. We have not always been good stewards of the planet, and we need to admit it.

That is why Christians need to study Scripture and Church teaching on the meaning of environmental stewardship. Then we need to develop and implement the policies that will make our planet the clean, green place that God created it to be.

In the end what is required is a change of heart. We need nothing less than an “ecological conversion” in which we see the intimate connection between God and all beings, and more readily respond, as Pope Francis put it, “to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Monday, June 5, 2017

There's Always Room For Burritos

The funny thing is that they had it printed.  Carlos must make a mean burrito!