What David Brooks Said

Brooks and Capehart with Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour – driftglass

Friday evening, September 24, 2021, I happened to stop channel surfing to watch Jonathan Capehart and David Brooks on the PBS News Hour. They were discussing the $3.5 trillion bill that I like to call the For the People Bill (but that name is really reserved for HR1-the Voting Rights Bill). The $3.5 trillion bill was joined with the American Jobs Plan which is now the separate Infrastructure Bill. So far, the larger worker-centered bill is mainly referred to as the “reconciliation bill”, or the “Build Back Better bill.” 

David Brooks has been a Conservative writer for many years. He is a ‘bespoke’ 61-year-old, perfectly groomed American man, and worth 20 million dollars as of September 2021. He was born Jewish, but news sources suggest that he has evolved to a loosely Christian orientation. He speaks in terms of morality and community. Brooks seems to see the current extremism in the Republican Party as a temporary aberration that will go away any day restoring Reagan Conservatives as the appropriate voice of reason and flag-carriers of the true American identity. So, he traces a straight line from “saint” Reagan to now and ignores the Tea Bags and the Trump-sized garbage bag hanging from that line in recent years. He does not seem to accept that it is the nature of Conservatism that enabled the extremism in his party. For now, he is a man without a party.

This is what he had to say about the $3.5 trillion dollar plan when Judy Woodruff asked him about it.

“[W]hat strikes me is how so many people are drawing red lines. The progressives are saying, we want $3.5 trillion. We’re not going under. Manchin and others say $1.5 trillion, we’re not going over.

“And so that’s a gigantic gap. They can’t even agree on when to vote on what. And so, I think what they need to do is look at, what is the key insight of each side? The progressives are right that we need something big. We’re a nation in decline. We’re a nation — because of disunity. Lots of people have been left behind by this economy. And they’re right to do something big to try to jolt us back to unity.

The moderates, in my view, are right that we’re not going to have a European-style welfare state. We’re just not that kind of country. We’re an individualistic country. We like to tie benefits to work and have a work obligation. We’re never going to give away as much money in taxes as the Europeans do. The Norwegians give away about 46 percent of their GDP to taxes. If this passed, it would get us up to 19.

We’re just not that kind of country. So, if you take the scope of the progressives and the values of the moderates, I think you can get a deal, but they’re pretty far away from it right now.”

There is a lot packed in there. 1) We need something big, 2) We are a nation in decline, 3) So, Progressives are right 4) Moderates are also right 5) We (Americans) are not going to have a European-style welfare state. 

“We’re an individualistic country.” What does that even mean? How individualistic does someone who is making $7.25 an hour feel? Do you think they would turn up their nose at free childcare? Do you think they would feel the same if childcare was a tax rebate? Do you think someone who will be burdened by the relatively low costs of a community college degree would be too proud to accept free tuition? Do you think any of these Americans would mind if we raised taxes on the rich?

Does someone with $20 million dollars in his bank account think he is truly able to judge how individualistic people are in this country? Does he think a senior would turn down help with dental work that becomes more expensive as we age? It would not stretch his budget at all if he wanted dental implants. For most seniors they are out of the question. Even good dentures are a stretch. If David Brooks needs new hearing aids every few years, he just buys them. Most seniors are lucky if they get one pair. 

Does he admire Cliven Bundy who grazed his cattle for free on land other ranchers paid a fee to graze their cattle on, who then welcomed the ersatz militia guys who faced down the feds from a federal highway and who hauled out the old Posse Comitatus laws from Reconstruction to say that he only answers to the local sheriff? Is that the kind of individualism we revere in America? Although some Americans think Bundy is a hero, I don’t think David Brooks is one of those Americans.

“We like to tie benefits to work and have a work obligation.” This is David Brooks speaking for all Americans. The Protestant work ethic is a Conservative touchstone. No work, no eat. Can’t get a job. That’s on you. Brooks does express empathy for people who are poor, and he does suggest that we are a connected community and individuals should lift-up the less fortunate, just not government. If government lifts people up, they will not work. They will become lazy deadbeats living off the government dime. We will raise taxes on hard working people who have been successful to fritter money away on people who will not need to work. If we do subsidize those who are low wage workers, we need to make it as degrading as possible so that they will get off the public dime as soon as possible. Of course, “saint” Reagan is the one who came up with the term “welfare queens.” 

But research into the future of work suggests that leaving benefits tied to work will not be useful for future workers. Workers will have to be more mobile; they may have to change jobs more often, even move to different cities. Some have suggested a ‘benefit’s passport’ that travels with a worker from job to job. But who pays? This would suggest private companies would offer benefit plans that would only be available to workers, but not paid by individual employers or the government. Without unions to represent workers what will those benefits be like? It could result in “the incredibly shrinking benefits”. Studies of the future of work also suggest that as AI and robotics become more common many may lose their jobs through no fault of their own, at least for a while. What economic guarantees will apply in a situation like that if all benefits must be tied to work?

Lastly Brooks argues that America is not Europe. (Conservatives think that turning into Europe is scary for Americans, but it’s probably not something we spend a lot of our time thinking about.) “The moderates, in my view, are right that we’re not going to have a European-style welfare state. We’re never going to give away as much money in taxes as the Europeans do. The Norwegians give away about 46 percent of their GDP to taxes. If this passed, it would get us up to 19. We’re just not that kind of country.” 

Such arrogance from a man who has no party. Such arrogance from a man whose conservative policies led to Trump who is a man with no ideology and no empathy. Brooks does not seem to see that the times may call for a new ideology, a more progressive, less work-ethic-above-all kind of ideology. He’s very educated but not very flexible. Perhaps it’s because he has become a brand.

I think people like to work when they are treated well. I think they need work. Without some way to earn their own money and support a family, people are bereft. If there are people who don’t like to work perhaps it is because they have no good examples to call on, or they need to be trained to work productively, or they need to feel that their work has value. If there are large numbers of people who don’t work, there is a societal reason for that, and it needs to be explored and changed. 

Europe has its own problems with benefits. Many European nations are far less diverse than America. The argument about giving money to ‘others’ is not as important. However, some benefits go to people who don’t need them but are protected by such powerful groups within the society that the structures that exist cannot be rearranged. Public employees are protected and cannot be fired but other workers are not so fortunate. Tax dollars are collected and then placed back in the same hands that paid those dollars which is inefficient and costly and not the point of a system of benefits. Europe has even more difficulty changing the “welfare system” as it exists than America does. If this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill puts our number at 19% of our GDP to taxes it hardly seems outrageous, especially compared to the 46% in Nordic countries. 

The times are against Conservative messaging. Our economy is in chaos. Our supply chains are broken. We are still in a pandemic, especially in ‘red’ states, (look it up). People can’t decide if they should return to their old jobs or take advantage of a fluid market and switch jobs. This is leaving employers short-staffed. Even employers are thinking about offering more paid leave. We need this bill to pass. We need to ignore conservative voices that led us to a right-wing that refuses to govern, that campaigns for conspiracy theorists and congress-people intent on sedition who pass their actions off as free speech. 

David Brooks said this on Twitter, one day before speaking with Judy Woodruff:

“Progressives are right about one thing. We need a big spending infusion to reverse national decline.” 9.23.2021

Another Conservative, Andy Smarick, from the American Enterprise Institute (A Koch funded organization) popped up to offer this thread, proving that Brooks is not alone:

I have a piece coming out tomorrow that agrees with two of 


points: 1) America is not Europe, and 2) America is struggling in important ways. But I disagree strongly with the third point–that American needs a massive federal package. I argue there’s another way…

And then he added:

My latest. “Consolidated power, centralized tinkering, and a bossy Washington are incompatible with American conservatism because the American character and the American experience teach us they are incompatible with American success.”

Do you sit around your kitchen table and talk like this about the American character and what is and is not compatible with American success? If you do discuss such things, do you arrive at the same conclusions? Or do you just go over your budget, what is happening at your child’s school, the grocery list, who will be home when your children arrive home from school, and wonder if you will lose your job if your child is exposed to COVID and has to quarantine at home.

Conservatives still have free speech but the failures of their chosen party, their flirtations with authoritarianism, should warn us that they may be too certain that they know all the answers, that they lack hubris, and their answers may be too outdated to help us make useful decisions about the next American century (if we last that long).

Why are Welfare States in US and Europe Different by Alberto Alessina, Edward L Glasser, Cairn Info, 2006

Atavistic Attitudes


Democrats have tried to tackle race inequality before and they were shut down by Conservatives in the Republican Party, some of whom are racists who never got over losing the Civil War and who nursed their racial myths, hated Northern liberals, and felt that the generals who lost the Civil War were heroes. There are Americans who seem to think that wiping out Americans of African Descent, brought here by their own ancestors into slavery, is justified; that they should be terrorized and killed, either separately or in groups until they leave. (America is their country; where would they go?) At least a campaign to decimate this population appears to be true if you keep track of black deaths at the hands of white folks and the police. In 2020 a law was just introduced by Kamala Harris and Cory Booker that would make lynching illegal. Do you know any white folks who were ever lynched?

In the 60’s the nation was made aware of the dissatisfaction of our fellow citizens with black and brown skin. The Black Panthers showed America what it could be like if black Americans decided to get really angry and militant. Citizen demonstrations by black Americans arose in a number of American cities and neighborhoods. Perhaps you heard about the demonstrations in Watts which turned destructive and were labeled as “riots.” Race “riots” were effective in that they scared legislators into thinking about laws that could be passed and actions that could be taken. Solutions split into two camps. One group, mostly composed of liberals, agreed that our treatment of our black neighbors had been appalling and that what was needed was an investment of time and money and opportunity focused on lifting up black folks in our inner cities for the most part. Of course, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so bigger cities got more resources. During the administration of LBJ programs to educate and offer good health care and encourage entrepreneurship in our cities proliferated. 

Republican legislators were frightened by the violence enough to try these lefty ideas although they hated them and never let Democrats forget that they felt this approach was wrong. Even then Republicans had no faith that the government could solve societal or economic problems. But what they really believed is that Black Americans were lazy and flawed and that they were incapable of adopting the behaviors of successful white folks. They were uneducable and had no work ethic. They were simply a bunch of drunks and criminals and any money spent on such programs would be wasted money. They sabotaged these programs with one hand while they voted for them with the other. They added rules and restrictions that made taking part in many of these programs embarrassing or difficult. The government built housing but only in certain neighborhoods where poverty practically guaranteed that the building would be substandard and overcrowded. There was optimism on the left and the self-fulfilling prophecy of predictions of failure on the right; in fact, Conservatives Republicans made sure that failure was built in so they could say ‘I told you so.’

Then the right came back in the 80’s and 90’s and claimed that these programs had been abject failures; that they had no effect on lifting up inner city black folks. The self-fulfilling prophecy ‘bombs’ built into the programs had muffled their effectiveness. But it was not true that no one was lifted up. The number of Americans of African Descent in the middle class grew. Head Start programs did help children do better in school. Small businesses did spring up, but without any nurturing from above they often failed and added to the burden of hopelessness. Home ownership improved for a few, but because of redlining many people were imprisoned in their inner city neighborhoods without the resources to find housing in diverse, upscale neighborhoods or they owned homes that were undervalued. Real estate is at the base of much generational wealth. Such wealth could only be found in the inner cities residents felt by becoming a professional athlete, a musician, or engaging in some form of criminal or gang activity. Imagine if these were the only choices white children had?

As the programs failed and some in the inner cities turned to gangs for power and family loyalty, criminal activity increased in our inner cities. Guns appeared on our city streets. Families in these neighborhoods who hoped for a better future for their children found that their children got sucked into gangs, each with a pitifully small turf of city territory that they had to protect and defend against intrusion by other gangs. Did anyone get rich? A few gang leaders flashed cash and fancy cars, but it did not trickle down to the regular troops. Gangs have ended up being a sort of pyramid scheme. Conservatives began to slip the words ‘law and order’ into every conversation. What they meant is that we need our police forces to declare war on these behaviors and put these criminals, big and small, young and old, but only black or brown or poor, into jail cells. Getting them off the streets will solve the problems. They were successful at busting gangs, using old mafia laws, like RICO laws to convict in the courts. “Being nice to them won’t work”, Republican said. “We told you so. Put the fear of the law in them. Let them live out their lives in prison.” It became a kind of exile right here in America. Racists avoided having to find a nation or an island to ship people of color off to. Did it work? Did our inner cities become oases of civil society, the arts and opportunities to advance economically. No ‘law and order’ did not work. No, although our cities contain many creative and positive elements we could not exactly grant them oasis status.

So, here we are once again, trying to find out how to rid ourselves of our racism and of the damage it does to black and brown Americans and to the ideals America was supposed to stand for. And we are divided in exactly the same ways we have always been. Democrats still say that opportunity, that welcoming Americans of African Descent into diverse communities with great schools and lots of adult mentoring for any children who struggle educationally is the only correct pathway out of racial discrimination and inequality. Once we recover from the economic setbacks of the coronavirus, reparations to make up for the lack of chances to build up generational wealth, for the land robbed from black folks, for the lives destroyed or ended, would definitely be in order.

But Democrats are not in control and the current administration, right down to the lowliest new Republican representative or senator believes that ‘law and order,’ the baton and the tear gas, the hoses and the rubber bullets, the dogs and the real bullets are the only language that black and brown Americans will understand. They see no injustice here. All they see is people flaunting the rule of law and the power brokers. They still refuse to accept that their own hatred and fear caused the tragic suppression of black and brown people in America. Until Republicans are voted out, and Conservatives are ignored to become a circular echo chamber pontificating only to each other, until then, we cannot do the things that need to be done; pass the laws that need to be passed, spend the resources that need to be spent and try, just try to humbly apologize for what has been done and what has not been done. And then we have other shortcomings to make up for as well. Do not let that ‘law and order’ cry win the day. Vote in the Democrats and since we are a big tent party  we will find ways to lose racism forever and to try, once again, to live up to the uncompromised ideals of the American republic/democracy. If the Democrats lose in 2020 you get Trump’s Troops and apparently the entire military might of the United States in our streets. Republicans cannot and will not change the way they think; their atavistic attitudes.


Compromising with Segregationists and Old School Bipartisanship

From a Google Image Search – The Federalist (Joe Biden and one of those Segregationists)

Compromising with Segregationists and Old School Bipartisanship

Biden talked this week about compromising with some pretty stubborn and reprehensible segregationists because it was the only way anything could get done. You would think someone who said hateful racist things every day in Congress and blocked programs designed to effectively lift up the children of slaves and other Americans of African descent would have a difficult time in Congress and in elections. You would think s/he (usually a he) would be shunned and ignored. But this has not been the case in America or in the American Congress. Because these men loved to make outrageous racist arguments to prevent black Americans from assimilating into mainstream culture, the media knew that giving these crude voices a bullhorn was a moneymaker. We seem to enjoy whatever is most outrageous, or perhaps some of us just enjoy feeling outraged, however powerless we feel to do anything about it. 

So when Biden says that he compromised with segregationists and got things done, it is possible to conclude that the compromises that were made in Biden’s days, and throughout our history, gave us legislation with all the teeth taken out of it.

Conservatives and segregationists may not have had rabid racism in common but they do not like spending money on social programs and they all do have that in common. Because they don’t believe desegregation is desirable or is the province of government every program is assembled piecemeal out of stony opposition and supposedly plain-spoken debate that is actually prejudice, and by the time the assistance program appears in its final form it is watered down almost beyond any hope of proving effective. 

Conservatives also worry about the few people who will abuse the system far more than they appreciate the numbers of people who could benefit from the system. To counter real and imagined felonious tendencies of recipients of programs – programs that are supposed to help equalize opportunities for all Americans, to at least provide for basic needs in order to allow people to satisfy higher needs like owning a home or getting a certificate or degree to lead to a better job – the process of obtaining assistance is made so onerous that receiving what was supposed to offer a lift up becomes stigmatizing and demoralizing.

Why have the problems of our inner cities been so stubborn? Why have some black folks been essentially trapped in our inner cities, or in segregated neighborhoods? Given all the time and money dedicated to eradicating differences in opportunities why are so many black people still so poor? Why are so many black people in jail? Why have other groups been eventually accepted in the fold and able to climb the economic ladder? 

Conservatives like to pretend that Americans of African descent have low IQ’s and that this makes them inferior to white people. How much of this is still resentment about losing their property? How much of this is still resentment about losing the Civil War? How much of this is about the way the demise of the plantation system changed the entire economy of the South and left it languishing until factories began to leave the North and migrate to the old slave states? How much of this is simply about the color of someone’s skin?

How much of this is the fault of these ancestors of the very people who snatched Africans from their homes to enslave them? How much of this is because of laws that did not allow slaves to learn to read and write? If you prevent people from being educated you really cannot turn around and deride them for being “ignorant”. How much of Conservatives’ active moves to undermine all attempts at desegregation arise from fear that vengeance will be wreaked one day? 

We understand the roots of racism pretty well, but we have been far less successful at ridding ourselves of this unwarranted prejudice. So when we passed a welfare program to give struggling folks living in areas of stubborn poverty a living wage recipients became Welfare Queens and those Welfare Queens were black. 

Pretty soon poor white and black folks, many of them single females with children or families with absent fathers, were required to either go to work or go to school, even though they might have to make less than satisfactory arrangements for their children. This put their children into situations that left them behind other children in school, or perhaps exposed them to traumatizing adult situations that then made it difficult for them to socially adjust to schooling. 

We funded housing programs, but white neighborhoods with better schools were made unavailable to black folks through informal white segregationist practices like red-lining. Thus people could get assistance with low rent housing with all its inadequacies but they could not buy a home outside of the inner city neighborhoods. These neighborhoods had the advantage of creating and solidifying black unity, and the disadvantages of gangs and violence that come from a need to have control over at least a small corner of the world as your own space and a pathway, however illegal, to wealth.

The intent of these programs may have been to tear down invisible walls that were separating black and white people, especially economically. However we will never know if these programs would have worked if they were allowed to stick to their original configurations and intentions. Compromising with segregationists turned them into reluctant and temporary kinds of assistance that subjected recipients to a loss of personal pride and did not end up lifting any one up. We chose a path and we will never know if the other path would have been better.

I think that today’s Progressive Dems and the apparently despised Liberals are saying that perhaps those Democrats who felt that compromise was a good thing were wrong; that giving in to racists cannot offer any benefits to America or to Americans. 

They may also be sad that fifty years or more were wasted. It is likely that we have caused the very problems that haunt our inner cities by allowing what should have been supportive services designed to end segregation to be subverted by segregationists through the very compromises that allowed the laws to be passed. In other words, compromise took all the heart out of the laws and injected meanness. 

If bipartisanship means compromises like these blasts from the past, Democrats can no longer afford to compromise at all. This is even more true because Mitch McConnell, drunk on the power of “no”, will never allow for bipartisan compromise as long as he controls the majority in the Senate. 

Conservatives and the Social Safety Net

From a Google Image Search – The Atlantic

Conservatives and the Social Safety Net

Conservatives adamantly oppose government programs because they say they believe that everything can be done better by the private sector, by capitalists, than can be achieved through any government program. (Well think about it for a minute, which works better, the public option in the ACA or the private prisons for criminals and immigrants?) Further, these Conservatives argue, large public programs that help people who are disabled, who are unemployed, who are poor, who are children, who are sick, and who are old are socialist programs and Americans are not socialists.

Our forefathers were farmers and entrepreneurs, in other words, capitalists, but they did not mandate any particular economic system for our young nation, and since socialism and communism both came out of Europe in the 1900’s, they probably didn’t even imagine that such an economic idea might exist one day. In the 30’s there was a pretty prominent movement of socialists in America, especially when the stock market crashed and the nation was slogging through a Great Depression. Many of our social safety net programs originate from those days of bread lines. 

In the 1950’s communism had a moment of philosophical consideration by some Americans but was brutally stomped out by McCarthyism. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R) (WI) mowed down anyone who had ever even whispered to a communist, or at least he tried. People were black-listed and lost their jobs often for no reason except McCarthy’s say-so. Communism certainly did not fare well in the USSR and proved to be as corruptible as any government/economy. Interest in communism waned in America. Conservatives insist that capitalism is the only economic model that matches with democracy. Here’s a quote from The American Conservative offered up on June, 6, 2019, “Socialism will Always Destroy Democracy”. (Although it seems to me that Conservatism is doing a pretty good job of that these days.)

By definition (Merriam Webster) “Socialism definition is – any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Strictly speaking none of the benefit programs produce anything or distribute any goods. They involve budget items that describe how we the people wish to spend our money. In a time, like now, of great income inequality, where we the people are a bit short of money because recent laws have favored the wealthy, and have allowed them to own an inordinate proportion of our nation’s wealth, these same wealthy Americans are telling us that they do not want to spend their money on a safety net. They also let us know that they have not left us enough money and that we cannot afford to spend our money that way either.

But the story they always tell us, about the mismatch between democracy and social programs that they label as socialism is not borne out in the real world. Canada is a thriving democracy with a very sound social safety net. There are many such nations around the world.

Conservatives still tell us these messages constantly. Capitalism rules. We don’t have enough money to offer benefits.

Of course, Conservatives go beyond this. They tell us that using our money to lift up the less fortunate, or any of us in a moment of misfortune is harmful to us and to society as a whole. It destroys initiative (hard to prove) and poor, sick, old, disabled people or people being discriminated against would rise higher, fight harder without “free” money. However, getting rid of the social safety net might also be a good way to bring back plagues, which were common before there were humanitarian programs.

Conservatives convince people who need to benefit from these programs that illegal (undocumented) immigrants are collecting the benefits that citizens’ taxes have paid for, and there does seem to be some truth to that, but numbers are not huge and cutting off benefits to “the undeserving” seems to mean cutting off benefits to everyone.  Conservatives convince people of the unfairness of it all, they label it socialism and people end up voting against their own best interests.

Conservatives want to stay in the Industrial Age although the factories they long for have fled or switched to robotics. They want to stick to fossil fuels. It is all about money and profits. To do this against all evidence that industry has moved on to nations with cheaper labor and lots of laborers, and that burning fossil fuels is destroying a planet we don’t know how to escape from, means that holding on to power is essential. Without power the Conservative dream topples and the gravy train travels on more than just one track. I doubt we’ll see our money come back to us anytime soon.

Conservatives may be able to hold on to the 50’s or whatever was their favorite age, but for the rest of us we feel the end of the Industrial Age in our everyday lives, we are not all prepared to participate in the Tech Age, and that leaves a lot of us in a sort of economic limbo that can be quite scary. This is no time to take away the social safety net. And this is certainly no time to take it away because of a label. The social safety net is about people and it functions well in many democracies. At the very least Conservatives need to come up with something better than the same old arguments.

The Left’s New Conservative Friends

From a Google Image Search – Gallup News

A number of Conservative thinkers have joined the lefties on MSNBC because they agree that Trump in the White House is an appalling atrocity. Left and right meet in a sort of stunned middle to try to inform voters about why Donald J. Trump is a danger to our democracy/republic.

We treat these erudite icons of Conservative opinion with respect. We give George Will, David Frum, David Brooks, Rick Wilson, Jennifer Rubin, Max Boot, and even Bill Kristol places on our panels of pundits and we listen to what they have to say. Perhaps we even suppose that they have been “woke”. 

They appear with gray countenances and grizzled faces full of worry and pain. They look so tired and world weary. It is not that Republicans no longer embrace Conservative views, but most are busy pandering to Trump so these learned men seem stodgy, and because they cannot deal with Trump they are sidelined for the moment. Of course most Conservatives are not at all interested in economic equality and neither are these venerable men and women of the right. But Donald has no patience with the ivy league set, and could not moderate his behavior even if he wanted to be in the club. After all he was the best student at the best college in America and it wasn’t Harvard or Princeton.

All this being shunted aside has given Conservatives plenty of time for writing. Rick Wilson recently published Everything Trump Touches Dies. George Will just presented the world with The Conservative Sensibility. David Brooks’ book The Second Mountain just arrived on book shelves. David Frum wrote Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the America Republic, and World War Trump, 2019. Jennifer Rubin writes a column called Right Turn in the Washington Post, Bill Kristol still writes in The New York Times, Max Boot wrote The Road Not Taken in 2018, and Joe Scarborough fell in love with a Democrat and now speaks against the Trump administration on Morning Joe. 

Those of us on the left who admire the new friends we have found for their intelligent commentary on the Trump administration should not imagine that these folks will stick around when (if) Trump is gone. Read their books. They still speak those Conservative talking points we all know so well, covered in philosophical rhetoric that makes their political ideas more opaque. When they speak about too much individualism and link that with the Democrats they are saying several things at once. Individualism is bad or its good depending on the point they wish to make.

If they are arguing that social benefits are bad for us because they squelch any struggle for survival that might produce extraordinary new inventions, businesses, organizations, they are actually making a horrified outcry against what they consider to be socialism and another way our (capitalist) republic could die. As I have said before, I am not opposed to capitalism, but I am opposed to unregulated capitalism. I also believe that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that our economy is rigged in favor of those who already have money. These thinkers do not agree. They think our economy is working exactly as it should. 

In addition to worrying about individuality, Conservative thinkers also bemoan the loss of a sense of community. They seem to express this as a lack of spirituality (church, religion) and therefore of morals. I doubt that these folks would think the rise of Bible classes in American schools is unconstitutional. They see this as a positive thing, although it is aimed to make people less tolerant of people who practice other religions. Conservatives want America to be a Christian nation which might be alright if it wasn’t so 9th century. Since it pits Christians against Muslims and even Jewish people it could end in a religious war. 

Another thing these thinkers have in common is a desire to ditch technology like computers and cell phones, etc. Clearly technology complicates both domestic and foreign affairs. People tend to live in their machines, in their bubbles. There are few ways that we know of to extend moral rules to activities like hacking. We can make the rules but they are too easily broken and the outcomes are often positive for the hackers. I doubt if we can run the reel of culture backwards. Computers may bring us a brave new world or they may be so ruined that they must be discarded. We’ll see.

Republicans see governing as a top-down process. So do some wealthy Democrats. But Democrats who must make their way up in a very lop-sided economy tend to see governing as a bottom-up operation. Normally Republicans who are not wealthy would have more in common with the Democrats in the same situation but these Republicans have been co-opted by the propagandists in right wing media. Conservatives are unlikely to ever understand or accept the new Dems.

So just don’t be surprised when our new Conservative friends wander back to the right wing fold when things get a bit less extreme. They are after all moderates on the right, they have not become part of the left. We appreciate their advice, their pronouncements about the evils of Trump; but as for the rest we must always remember that in their heart of hearts they still hold Conservative ideas and will help Republicans implement them when this fever breaks (if it ever does). With apologies to Jennifer Rubin, if these Ivy League educated entitled white male elites would spend a year pretending to be poor they might write a different book. I would definitely buy that book. 

Media Takeover: Why Does Sinclair Want Local News

From PanAm Post


Our media is involved in a takeover, possibly by the Koch brothers and their Conservative web of organizations, or at least by Conservatives, and we are not paying enough attention to this. Last week one of the newscasters on my local TV station read this statement:

“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media, more alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

Then the anchors are supposed to strike a more positive tone and say that their local station pursues the truth.

“We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”

This is exactly the type of irony that modern Conservatives seem to love. They claim that they are protecting you from the very thing they are doing to you. Fox News and other Conservative media have invented “fake” news and now they are warning you to protect yourself against it. But they are using their brain twisting propaganda, their sleight of mind, because they are actually the people who are pushing “fake stories without checking facts first.” Conservatives love to pretend that liberals are the guilty party and they use name calling and table turning to make their case. They are hoping that by the time they are done listeners will no longer know what is fact and what is “fake” and then they will be able to sell us any old thing, or idea, or “truth”.

It is probably a fair assumption to make that most listeners pretty much accept at face value anything they hear on the news, especially the local news, which until now has been fairly trustworthy. It is difficult to propagandize the weather, or the local police blotter, or local sports, although if someone wanted to they could probably do it. I just don’t think anyone ever gave it a thought before now. Very little time on local news channels is devoted to national or international news. Any national news story on a Sinclair station can now be assumed to have a Conservative or, more likely now, a Trumpian bias.

I don’t know about you, but when I was coming up we were taught to abhor state-mandated news and to see it as a warning that our democracy was turning into an authoritarian state. In fact, dictating what the media could or could not say was a key feature of authoritarian government. Russia was famous for going back to old news and changing it to match a current ideology. We used to smack our foreheads here in America, the land of the free, and wonder how people could be fooled by this. If they remembered what the story used to be how did they rewire their brain to accept the new version. Perhaps they didn’t do that, but knew that they had better pretend that they accepted whatever the state dished out. Authoritarian leaders rule by fear and that is why we watch carefully for any signs that our democracy might have been co-opted by a dictatorship.

Well here we are at this moment, with a leader who does not seem to believe that a democracy can foster strong leadership, a man who crosses his arms, strikes a pose, and says that he will be our strong leader, a man whose role models for strong leadership all head dictatorships. Here we are with a leader who uses fear to govern, although not necessarily fear of himself (yet). Here we are at this moment with a leader who is allowing Conservative media outlets to ignore FCC rules against one outlet owning too many stations, trashing our protections against a media takeover. Here we have this company, Sinclair Communication (Broadcasting) controlling more local stations than anyone has ever even wanted to own and still seeking a merger with Tribune Media which would allow them to control more local stations. Alarm bells should be going off all over the place, but this story is not considered “sexy” enough to get much play in media that is still “free”.

Why does Sinclair want all of these local stations if not to push out propaganda disguised as a local news, to hit people where they live? Doesn’t this frighten you? It frightens the hell out of me. It is often quite subtle though, now that Sinclair has learned not to slap us in the face with known Trump mouthpieces. It confuses listeners even more if they offer up some stories that almost seem like real news and then present us, once in a while, with something more key where a swerve to the right matters.

The last story I saw was about imposing a federal gas tax to pay for infrastructure. It sounded like a real story discussing the pros and cons of a 25 cent increase per gallon to be used for fixing roads and bridges. We have raised infrastructure money before with a gas tax. But oddly, at the end of the story, is a small commentary about what the Koch brothers have to say about this. Michelle Macaluso (a known newscaster for Sinclair) takes us, at light speed, through a chart showing how the gas tax would affect consumers at various tax brackets. The Koch brothers are opposed to putting a tax on gas. They could, in fact, be the actual authors of that pledge GOP lawmakers made to the organization Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Grover Norquist, the pledge that makes a very positive-sounding promise that taxes are never to be raised (be careful what you wish for). Why were the Koch brothers and their opinion even included in this local report of a national news story. Perhaps because the Koch brothers are deep in the middle of the current rush to acquire media outlets for Conservatives. Look for connections between Sinclair, Nexstar, Meredith and even the head of the FCC, Ajit Pai. If these folks have their way there will be a one party system in the media and in Washington, and America will be ruled by a single ideology, the Conservative Way.

Everyone who feels that our democracy is in mortal danger should be talking about this media takeover, tweeting about this, making memes about this, letting the FCC know that we are watching them. Given the number of old rules and norms being thrown on the trash heap everyday it is difficult to stay concerned about all of it. But when we are faced with unfettered capitalism, and runaway pollution and climate change, and the constant erosion of our rights we must add the assault on our free press (including all media) and continue to remind people of what news is real and what news is not, even if they don’t believe us.




http://variety.com/2018/tv/news/sinclair-tribune-merger-new-york-chicago-station-sale-1202716597/#utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=social_bar&utm_content=bottom&utm_id=1202716597 – Sinclair’s ‘Brazen’ Plan to Sell New York, Chicago Stations With Strings Attached Draws Criticism


Conservative Creep – Causes and Cures

From a Google image search – King Law Group


To Governor Cuomo and the people of New York State and America:

Why have Conservatives been able to gain such a strong foothold in Central NY?

Here are a couple of stories that might offer us a hint.

Two boys/young men (both 18) in Watertown, NY started a fire in a factory in that town and two firefighters were injured and sent to the hospital in Syracuse.

Scott J. Munson and John H. Long, both 18, were arrested Tuesday by the Watertown Police Department. They were charged with starting a fire that severely damaged a vacant building and caused a brick wall to fall on firefighters who were battling the blaze.


These 18 years olds are no longer in school. What do they do all day? Of course the article did not say, however it looks like they do not have any constructive activities, and perhaps no plans for the future that will lead to any kind of enjoyable, productive lives. Right now they will probably be in jail for a while, which absolutely is not likely, statistically speaking, to lead to any positive outcomes. I am guessing these two did not love school. Did they ever get any help? Did anyone ever ask them what they would like to do and help make concrete plans so they could have a different future? I doubt it. By the time a counselor might have been available to talk with them they were most likely in high school and not open to discussions with adults who seemed to be in positions of authority. So two lives wasted, at least for a while, and these guys are not alone. Boys in the North Country (north of Syracuse, NY are often in the same state as these two when they leave school and girls seem to believe that their only opportunity is to marry someone a bit better off than these two. Fort Drum is nearby offering girls the “Officer and Gentleman” experience (if they are very lucky).

Here’s another recent news story from around Syracuse:

More than 40 school shooting, violence threats in Upstate NY since Parkland (list)

“Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, shooting threats at school across America have come into sharp focus.

In Upstate New York alone, there have been more than 40 incidents of reported or rumored threats of shootings, bombings, arson or other forms of violence against schools in the region and their students and staff. Some have resulted in arrests while others resulted in disciplinary action.”

“Shortly after the Parkland shooting, a wave of threats were made to school districts in Madison, Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe , Rensselaer, Cattaraugus, Erie and Delaware Counties within a few days. Threats were made both in person and on social media. Some were not deemed credible.”


You can read the article, if you are interested in a description of each of the 40 incidents. Most of these children are between the ages of 12 and 15, although at least one suspect is 23. It may be that some of these young children just wanted to get out of school and did not understand what could happen to them, but in some cases weapons were found and threats seemed credible.

There are symptoms that we need to evaluate and remediate  (Causes)

What are we missing in our American towns, villages, and small cities? Why would so many children carry out threat calls or plan terrorist acts? It is a symptom that our society is not offering opportunity and security to our young people. How could it? Even adults don’t find much in the way of opportunity or creativity or productivity or security.

The popularity of Fox News in our Central NY communities is another symptom that people want answers. All evening and all weekend long Fox commentators tell the parents of these children that they know the answers, and they tell them that the Democrats ruined American society by forcing programs on the government such as Medicaid, Medicare, Welfare, Disability, Obamacare. The media on the right tells parents that those lefties are letting illegal immigrants stay in this country (although both parties share the guilt for an ineffective immigration system). They convince their listeners that Democrats are “bleeding hearts” (a Catholic symbol that people may actually have on their bedroom walls) and we are too concerned about human rights to take care of American rights. Fox News offers both answers and blame, making sure that the people know who to vote for if they vote at all.

These are not all good people and not all bad people. Many worked all their lives until the factories where they worked closed. Some lost their pensions. Most did not go to high school. They are friendly people who, for the most part, work/ed hard. They do not always encourage their children to do well in school however. They may not all be traditional parents who make dinners and cookies and keep up with the laundry and watch movies with their children, although in farm communities children still help their parents with farm work. But they, and their children, can see that opportunities are fewer, and jobs require fairly basic skills, and paychecks are unlikely to be big enough to cover expenses.

Conservatives make promises to these folks. We will bring factories back (now they say jobs). We will deport immigrants. We will stop giving government money to those who don’t deserve it (minorities) so there will be enough for you. We will make sure you can keep your guns (in case there is a revolution). They offer security.

They never say we will give more money to people who are already rich. They never say that if they replace healthcare with their own plan certain valuable factors will be lost such as coverage of pre-existing conditions, and no lifetime caps. Many of these folks are caregivers for elderly parents and children with disabilities.

Here are some numbers. Notice how much worse the stats are for younger people than they are for older people. These are 2018 numbers.


#1 Rome

Total unemployment rate: 5.5%
Total labor force participation rate: 55%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 11.8%
20-24: 10.3%
25-29: 10.4%
30-34: 4.1%
35-44: 4.9%
45-54: 0.8%
55-59: 1.8%
60-64: 3.5%
65-74: 14%
75+: 5.4%

Eligible population: 26658

#6 North Tonawanda

Total unemployment rate: 7.9%
Total labor force participation rate: 66.3%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 26.8%
20-24: 9.2%
25-29: 10.1%
30-34: 6.3%
35-44: 7.4%
45-54: 4%
55-59: 8.8%
60-64: 2.3%
65-74: 11.5%
75+: 0%

Eligible population: 25942

#8 Watertown

Total unemployment rate: 9.2%
Total labor force participation rate: 65.2%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 30.1%
20-24: 10%
25-29: 4.9%
30-34: 6.4%
35-44: 8.2%
45-54: 16.2%
55-59: 7.9%
60-64: 1.1%
65-74: 1.9%
75+: 0%

Eligible population: 21146

#10 Auburn

Total unemployment rate: 9.7%
Total labor force participation rate: 57.3%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 28.1%
20-24: 18.1%
25-29: 16.4%
30-34: 9.7%
35-44: 4.1%
45-54: 7.1%
55-59: 2.9%
60-64: 5.4%
65-74: 1%
75+: 5.5%

Eligible population: 22331

#12 Buffalo

Total unemployment rate: 9.9%
Total labor force participation rate: 58.7%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 29.3%
20-24: 12.1%
25-29: 10.1%
30-34: 8.4%
35-44: 9%
45-54: 8%
55-59: 6.7%
60-64: 6.7%
65-74: 8.9%
75+: 5.5%

Eligible population: 206177

#15 Syracuse

Total unemployment rate: 10.7%
Total labor force participation rate: 56.7%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 34.6%
20-24: 13.2%
25-29: 8.5%
30-34: 8.6%
35-44: 10.5%
45-54: 8.6%
55-59: 5.9%
60-64: 6%
65-74: 3.5%
75+: 3.5%

Eligible population: 116091

#18 Utica

Total unemployment rate: 11.9%
Total labor force participation rate: 57.5%

Unemployment rates by age:
16-19: 27.6%
20-24: 13.9%
25-29: 15.2%
30-34: 13.4%
35-44: 11.4%
45-54: 7.9%
55-59: 7.9%
60-64: 8%
65-74: 4.1%
75+: 4.8%

Eligible population: 47467


It is hard to imagine what a young person feels when they live in a community which offers them so little. Kids with skills leave to take jobs in other geographic locations. Kids and young adults without money or training destroy their lives with opioids, or other illegal activities, or grind away at jobs that will never offer enough money to rise up or raise a family with any more hope than they currently have. No wonder people feel hopeless and do even terrible things to get noticed or try to get ahead. No wonder they listen to the same news shows that their parents listen to and come to believe that Republicans have the answers they seek, even though there is no proof that Republican ideas will even leave us with a workable society at all. They blame the recession on Obama, who could not have been responsible for that bad economy since he was not yet in office when the financial bubble broke.

What can we do to restore some balance? (Cures)

Our federal government is just about useless at the moment (I just cannot give Trump credit for the healthier economy yet or perhaps ever.) I will look to Albany to come up with ways to help our young people and reverse the trend of fairly radical conservative influences that are giving us representatives to the US House who are simply Republican rubber stamps or outright Trumpists. All the best solutions will involve approaches to education and training.

This will require spending money in areas of the state that do not provide the state treasury with a lot of money, and it will require bucking the demands of  wealthier downstate constituents, not to mention NY Republicans without losing the ability to get reelected. OK, that’s a pretty tall order. But if the programs that Central NY needs to discover the talents and train the children get a strong start, they will perhaps become more self-sustaining or, at least, less expensive. It will not be easy to convince neglected young people that these opportunities are real because so many programs fail. Find great people, design great programs and they will come. The way our young people’s lives are being wasted or constrained will be a constant drain on our state and our nation. Conservatives are not infiltrating the area to solve its problems. They are only here to exploit people’s discontent in order to get votes. Please get a committee working on some way to get us more balance between the left and the right in Central NY. Find us ways to save our young people. These people feel invisible.

Many of the towns and villages around Syracuse, NY are rural and many are set in the midst of beautiful landscapes. These places offer or could offer entertainments for people who enjoy activities in natural environments. It might be possible to boost the leisure industries in some of these areas without ruining the state of nature that makes them so attractive. Ecotourism, fishing businesses, hiking venues, more winter sports venues, boating activities, legal swimming locations, and the hotels that would be necessary to keep consumers who enjoy beautiful spots happy, would also provide employment for citizens in the area. If the left agrees to act, then people will, soon enough, see that the Conservatives are all talk, talk, talk (small government).