Day 21: God Save the Republic, part one

Are writers who I respect like Andrew Sullivan or Matt Taibbi being chicken little post election? Maybe, maybe not. Progress has an ability to clean itself up in hindsight. We don’t feel bad in omitting that FDR used the disenfranchisement of blacks to get the southern votes for the New Deal and WWII when we call him one of the greatest presidents. We might say never again and I do not mean to suggest that we repeat the past, but I do think it is safe to say that democracy grew and thrived after. Trump lost the popular vote but geographically won almost the entire nation. Perhaps the issue is we became too democratic or perhaps we opened ourselves to aristocracy.

Tyranny of the majority, one of the great founding fears may shed some light on our country. There are two majorities in existence: the democrat urban coalition with its popular vote win and Trumpland where the sun never sets. Both gripped in a deathmatch. The current war of American halves began in earnest in the 1990’s with the culture wars. Particularly P.C. culture which partly can be seen as a response to the race baiting tactics of the modern GOP. Politically correctness was different than the destruction of the censorship boards in the 60’s. It was an active assault into public and private life. The focus on thought as much as action. The older repealed morality legislation was equally as intrusive and we are better off without. The left sought to form a new monoculture in ways that the old monoculture of the mass never achieved. Brooklynization.  Twentyfive years of scorched earth fighting between both sides, neither willing to show magnanimity in defeat or victory. During the Great Recession and uneven recovery, the culture war was pushed by elites to mask the hard truths of class.

To be continued and finished tomorrow.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 20: No Easy Piece

In an op ed this morning’s NYtimes, readers were greeted with a response to the sheltered student freakout from Nov.11th. The response doesn’t enlighten us on why she voted Trump but it does illuminate her world view. First she claims the election was the last thing on her mind on 11/8. She claims without argument that the republicans are the best to tackle domestic issues. She also importantly tells us she did not vote but she did support Trump. She with that last statement shows a troubling development in American democracy.

A college scholar who can’t be bothered to vote because of the supposed stress of schoolwork like if the election was just a hotly anticipated season finale of American Idol. In an election where issues were secondary to decorum and qualifications against sleaze and bullshit. There was little to no policy to disagree with because only Clinton offered proposals. Instead the winning strategy was to have a draft dodger attack a gold star family. One of the closer attempts Trump has made toward policy articulation involves the coal industry. Deregulation will not stop or reverse the loss of jobs. Even if we stripmined Mt. Rushmore, the glut of fossil fuels with fracking and coals inefficiency as an energy source remains. I understand it was a good job even though it killed or crippled you. Clinton had a vision to use tax incentives to make cosl country the cradle of the alternative energy industry. I have friends making good money without degrees in that sector up in New England. I hoped the prosperity would have been shared. Now that is lost. Instead just more greenhouse gasses will be released. The ideas behind the ACA are republican, but they have long refused to discuss the crisis of rising healthcare costs. The GOP instead shut down the government to grandstand. The party of fiscal responsibility who wants to cut domestic programs to boost the military budget, something the generals have said is unnecessary. They will not learn as shown in their desire to repeal Dodd Frank and returning the economy on track to collapse, so their friends can make a quick buck. But rest assured reader, her dad works in the state department so she knows everything about politics and nations. Can we petition the dean to get her diploma tomorrow? She doesn’t need to study. God have mercy on our souls.

This is the undiscussed millennial neither SJW or Alt Right. Indifferent to the world around them. Neither bullshitters or liars, they inform themselves enough to pass their current tests and that is the edge of their blinders. If she cared for the world just a smidge then she would have voted. Her opinion doesn’t actually matter because she has removed herself from the electorate. She is not an uncommon figure in my generation: willfully uninformed, self centered, outspoken, but not participating in civic society. Noting we should just come together when harmony hasn’t been earned. They are a generally intelligent people who use their intellect to smoke and mirror their apathy towards humanity and society. Trump won without a mandate or an outlined policy. His supporters can’t complain when they are asked to defend their decision. There cannot be empathy without understanding and no understanding without a Cartisan reflection. Our disagreements will not fade anytime soon even if it would be more convenient if they did.

There will be no peace until the path to prosperity is restored and the digital age is adjusted for. We have just elected a man without a plan. A man who doesn’t know or understand the job description of his role. This is not an age to be neutral on the sidelines, to cowardly withhold viewpoints in public. Let’s put it all on the table and deal.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 19: S.O.S and Other Mumurs in the Swamp

Trump’s cabinet has been heavy on the second chances and new fish in the pond in big positions. The largest besides the seat on the court is the position of Secretary of State, our top diplomat. Mitt Romney is in the running and for that I am grateful. The man may have not been my choice for president, but he was a good governor. He quite knowledgeable about current and global affairs. He never has had a public scandal or been blemished. If Trump always speaks in Trumpisms then Romney will be an eloquent communication channel. The other name being bounced around is Rudy Giuliani, who is the opposite of Romney. A man who had an extramarital affair in office and is a Trump cosmopolitan. His time ended with his mayorship and his outlook on police policies while not a part of the state department give insight into his worldviews. He will not stand for a world safe for democracy if he threatens it at home.

The outsiders in Trump’s camp oppose Romney. He was a “never Trumper”, whose vote was not for Trump in all likelihood. They are running a old time mob boss hall party with good jobs for supporters regardless of qualification. They didn’t have any and they won. More dangerous ideas is their toxic desire for revenge. Our lives and their fates are not favors to be handed out for support. We the people deserve someone qualified even if we abhor some of their held positions, at least let the issue be politics. Government is not a business, many more factors matter beyond stockholder appreciation. It requires self sacrifice and that isn’t coming from Trump Tower. This is a man who treats the presidency like a participation trophy. His wife and young son can’t be bothered to reside in the White House. Who knows if Trump won’t come back to NYC on weekends?

Decorum will be in short supply come Inauguration Day. Trump as president elect continues to use his Twitter to vent. While I disagree with those who say the Hamilton cast open letter after the show was an apolitical action, I also disagree with those who say they should apologize. This is an age for public disagreement. The election comes at a time of greater change than the industrial era. The digital disruption and the approach of the end of work before whites become a majority minority in America. Uber deployed a fleet of self driving cars aided by human companions this summer. They won’t be everywhere tomorrow, but consider the smartphone. It was just under a decade ago that the iPhone was released. In that time, the notion of the smartphone being a key tool of success has taken hold. By 2015 68% of Americans had a smartphone making an app like Uber be a very successful company. Soon, delivery drivers like myself will be out of work along with taxi cab drivers, and the entire transport industry from film to food distribution. Millions of jobs will be gone. There will be no new jobs to replace them as more automation breakthroughs take place. These changes will not be done within the next twenty years, but the preparations and framework needs to be discussed now. Before zero hour. It will not be a good use of our next four years, arguing over Twitter again.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 18: The Close of the Cold War

Fidel Castro has passed.

His modern reign unparalleled. Sure Elizabeth II is the record book response but she is a figurehead at best, tax burden on a normal day, and the physical representation of Old Europe at worst. Fidel Castro created the mythology that propped his name up over generations. A relevant figure for eleven sitting presidents.

Neither devil or saint, a man who made a nation. A member in a fading club. Cuba under Castro became both more worldly and isolated in time and space. A ninety percent literacy rate and a robust education system is very commendable. His violent oppression of dissenters. He brutalized all deviations including social norms. He did grow more liberal over the decades. He remained unmoving in many visible ways. The most obvious being the cars of Cuba. Eisenhower models still transport citizens two generations removed from the birth of the revolution. When Cuban American relations thawed in recent years he spoke openly against the developments. Not as headstrong as to allow the revolution to fail, he legalized American currency for a short period to stabilize the economy. He was a leader above all.

His death closes an era, the end of the Cold War titans. As Putin and Trump take the stage, a new era begins. The reconnection with Cuba is good. I hope one day see Hemingway’s house. However Trump’s indifference to Russia is frightening. NATO does need all members to step up on their commitments. The West must stand for Freedom. We must uphold the constitution including the provisions against foreign emoluments. His business ties and diplomats spending money to curry his favor. He argues that he will remain above the money but still a call away from the company. Except he has continued to hold business meetings during the transition. We cannot be silent until he changes. American doesn’t need a Fidel.

-E.C. Fiori

Day 17: The Representation of Small Town America

The recently revived television show “Gilmore Girls” portrays small town America in an interesting light skewed by coastal elite sensibilities. The town rituals on screen are devoid of any attachment outside the ritual itself. No Memorial Day parade where parents come out to have their grief and lose supported by their neighbors. As the rememberers become the remembered, the bedrock of the foundation of America. While, it is easy to say the small town is idealized, all stories contain idealizations. The media is not too unkind to New York. It is all a fiction anyway outside of documentary. I do think it is worth considering the exact ideas behind the representation what was the motivation to build the statue?

In “Gilmore Girls”, Stars Hollow functions as a close knit town that used historical re-enactments and other festivals in honor of the prior resident’s legacies to boost a tourism industry as most residents worked within the town lines. They export themselves and weathered the erosion of the last thirty years. It is an unreality, a politically correct 50’s serial. Religion replaced by History and Legend. The Gilmore family being D.A.R. and the town surrounded by myth. The community is real forged with organized weekly devotion at the often frillious town meeting. The residents sit in a single room on simple chairs and listen to Taylor, who is Napoleon. A couple working at the local grocer can pay for a family of four. No one is left behind and not all the young people leave. It is the recognition that small towns have a place in all world views. We need to reinvest and deurbanize in order to revive the small towns and continue their traditions

-E.C. Fiori.

Day 16: Seller’s Remorse

Jill Stein raised about four million dollars as of today to pay for recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This effort based on vague claims of hacking, but no clear source. Another frustrating twist in the election cycle. Stein who spent the general campaign telling leftists there was no difference between Clinton and Trump. Now she may not be claiming the votes will flip the states but she inferred it enough to get liberals to open their wallets. Distracting from the Dec 10th Louisiana senate runoff. That’s a long shot too but it is real.

Jill Stein should not be forgiven for costing Clinton the election. We see the kleptocratic future ahead and people are less free to be themselves. No police reform, Wall Street regulations, or better protected civil rights. Third party voting in a normal election in a battleground is wasteful when faced with what we got idiotic. Years from now, children will ask did Green Party voters feel good about themselves. I can’t imagine they will. I wonder if they voted Nader in 2000 maybe most of them were too young. So much time and money wasted on pageantry politics. Looks great on the newsfeed, the trough of information.


-E.C. Fiori.

Day 15: When Choice Hurts Liberty

Today Trump announced his decision for Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos. Not surprising considering how Trump campaigned on school choice. The idea of being able to pick the school you want for your child and keeping the tax benefits through vouchers is tempting. I believe it will expand education inequality.
Most schools fail from lack of resources and diverting the funding from them to private or charter schools exasperates the gap. Charter schools benefit from larger budgets while still receiving local, state, and federal funding in addition to private donations. Charters will less tax payer accountability are able to spend more on fundraising outreach and grant writing. Outside traditionally community control and owned by franchising corporations, Charters are run by the same political elites that enabled the Great Recession. There are great and wonderful Charter schools whose staff and administration care without end for their students and spread their success through a wide network of schools. There are also bad apples. More importantly Public schools with less funding don’t have the luxury of choosing their students. Even if school choice was funded, some students would remain at failing schools and poorly performing charters would operate outside of community input. Many areas don’t have multiple choices to begin with.

A reason to worry is the state of the education system for all Americans. A recent Stanford study found students including Stanford undergraduates both failed to recognize slanted or fake sources and failed to properly research or contextualized the content before them. In the age of unlimited information our libraries and their guardians have become more important. The assumption that Google is enough cannot continue. We need to reinvest in our public resources. Libraries and schools remain a central part of our public infrastructure today. If our fellow Americans are not given the chance to develop the high skill knowledge for today’s workforce both vocational and university. Our republic needs an informed citizenry in order to function. No American left behind.

-E.C. Fiori.

Day 14: Privilege. Who has it? who gets it?

“Privilege” as we view it now nationally came to the front through the will of the left and its identity politics. The lazy man’s definition of privilege is being white and male in America. As the academic industrial complex will charge you, it does have more nuance. As the election continues to confound liberals, there are some additional complications the overpriced textbooks tell you. Those are class and geography.

The Atlantic posted a few letters to the editor whose authors rejected the rejection of the rural poor. One of them from an immigrant speaks of being on welfare when his family first arrived in Seattle, they found their ground after some months as his mother succeeded in the real estate business. He also discusses his first job working minimum wage in a machine shop before getting started in the tech industry after dropping out of college first. He bemoans about being told to feel guilty for just working harder, the most common privilege deflection defense.

The problem is not that the letter’s author didn’t work hard, but that he worked within an area with opportunity. The problem is rural America has nothing beyond the machine shop if the town’s shop is still doing business. You can be the best realtor. When people can’t afford the house they have, the market might have a low ceiling and few buyers. When you don’t have the infrastructure like internet (39 of rural Americans don’t have broadband access. Overall only 10 percent of Americans lack access). Across the vast rural poverty centers of America people are facing the closures of Walmarts and other big box stores which often serve as the town’s only pharmacy, grocery, and major employer. The residents now have to travel for long drives to the closest one, some areas only have flea markets and swap meets. These are the people of the Reagan era Styx anthem “Blue Collared Man” looking for steady work for thirty years. Unemployment dropped because they were dropped from the labor force. Their community is dying and no one pays it any attention.

Many make the discussion centered on personal failure. The flesh and blood Horatio Alger characters speaking from above and afar. If only the poor were more mobile like during the Dustbowl is another frequently discussed solution. Mobility wasn’t the savior of the era. The homes that were abandoned, community severed. It beat death and they could believe the drought would end that they could go home. Today the plague is caused by man. Not to mention the jobscape is much different. The modern migrant farmer are no less exploited than during the depression. The undocumented status of many causes them to be invisible even if their citizenship status is the story of the day. Even general construction day labor work has changed. In North Carolina’s research triangle, the average wage in the 1990’s was twenty four an hour and today has dropped to twelve dollars an hour today as the share of illegal immigrant labor rose. Regardless, it wasn’t the mobility that saved the Dustbowlers, but the government. The New Deal made crop prices guarantee a living wage and crop buying to prevent any flooding of the market. Sustainable growing techniques were implemented to protect the soil. They left everything to live on a dirt floor. They died and bleed, but their efforts didn’t save them. Now in the wake of the Great Recession’s uneven recovery, they wonder why the party of FDr abandoned them. Some like their depression era ancestors left it all for the Bakken fields that once had a job for any person. In North dakota they found jobs but living space at the peak of the boom was a challenge. With the boom over, those who traveled and had some luck have continued on to find the next miracle. The Salvation Army hands out one way bus tickets to the broke and stranded.

Privilege may at the end of the day now come to mean the name you call someone who patronizes your existence and experience. We face a wide range of ills this new century. We won’t solve them by doubting each person’s work ethic if paid a living wage.

-E. C. Fiori

Day 13: Why do you Build me up Buttercup?

Beyond the great wall with Mexico, Trump spoke often of our crumbling infrastructure. Some of our reactions to the comments highlighting the disparity in America, “third world airports”. Bannon may be a despicable man, but it is hard to hate his push for a trillion dollars in infrastructure investment. Yet from what we know Trumpworks will be something akin to the Big Dig with favored contractors using public funds to make big profit. Though if Trump runs the country like his business maybe no one gets paid. I forgot to mention the real kicker, it will all be privatized. Any new road, bridge, you name it would have tolls that line the favored contractors pockets with us footing the majority of the cost with tax breaks. So we should we not pay to enrich the already wealthy?

Public works are about not just boosting wages and spending in suffering areas, but ensuring the quality of American life. Think of the interstate highway system. Now imagine paying your neighbor to use it after paying to build it yourself. Not only that but if it was a private road system, would the easy of mobility that allowed for the expansion of the American middle class? Roads are far from the only projects we need either. From leevees to water systems, public works make up a diverse range of public property. Can there ever be a fair market solution when we are limited by pipes in the ground? By granting private monopolies over needed resources, we invite profiteering. Coca Cola could ensure water was never cheaper than soda.

The urge to privatize is dangerous. Remember the Bundy siege in Oregon. Malhuer exists not just a home to some of America’s most varied and rare birdlife. It is a space for affordable grazing, native people’s sacred ground, and recreation use in hiking, fishing, and hunting. It has been this way for a hundred years. Those who tried to steal it from us with force did it out of greed. No different than Saddam’s foray into Kuwait. They believed that they were the only Americans deserving that land, but if the public lands were sold. I doubt they would be the new owners. No the person who pays the fortune for that price would most likely increase public useage fees. Federal land can be some eighty percent less than private land. Our public lands do not restrict our freedom as much as guarantee our ability to share the awe that is our natural wonders. The tale of the Malhuer occupation reminds me of another American class: the arrival of the Puritans to New England. When they first saw the ancient forests that once grew across the northeast They believed God prepared the land for them. The well kept trails through the elder groves usually connected to game paths made the wilderness incredibly habitual. However it wasn’t the Lord who had shaped the lands, but the Native American tribes. Those forest culled long before my birth to feed the mills that dot the rivers leaving the young woods as a memorial. The lesson for all fables contain one is we are often wrong on how much and where the help, we received came from.

In our time of division, I doubt the solution is to create new barriers between citizens and increasing the cost of living. I cannot phantom how privatizing and restricting access for profit to public works projects makes us great again. I do see how it could make a select few rich again. We must not undermine what is left of our communities by giving up the last of our connections to a new class of robber barons.

-E. C. Fiori

Day 12: America, the Gilded Crown of the Trump Family Brand

Donald Trump’s recent meetings with both Japan’s prime minister and a group of Indian businessmen share more than just the location they took place. As Trump transitions from Business Magnate the Candidate to President Elect Business Figurehead, we have seen him flirt with Kleptocratic route. Now in the early meeting, his desire to mingle both his worlds has been laid bare. In his meeting with Shinzo Abe, his daughter Ivanka was present. Part of her purview within the family business is international expansion. There cannot be no denial that brand of the president elect still has some sway, Trump spoke highly of India’s Modi. Now, he may have three new complexes with his name in the works. Pundits speak often how the campaign and now his presidency may injure his business. Yet for all the connections severed, he seems to be using his mantle to make new ones. The man isn’t bulletproof as much as a Hydra as seen in the trials of Hercules.

Trump’s supporters often point to his wealth as a suggestion that he is corruption proof. Yet, Trump is a man who is bonded to money not as a tool of survival but the source of worth. Not that we know his true worth since he hasn’t released his tax returns. It is estimated to be about 3.7 billion currently. An amount that could be claimed by a small nation. That being said if he had just invested his inheritance in low risk mutual funds, he would probably be worth more today. He leveraged his economic wealth into a social wealth culminating into the highest office in the land. Not a bad trade off but now that he claimed that title he must take on the full mantle. The traditional blind trust and a staff free of his son-in-law. The separation of family and state is an important and legal wall within our government for a reason. The main one to avoid the temptation of self enrichment. Grant’s presidency was blemished by the scandals of close associates. I understand the need for some privacy but the close to total press blackout is very unpresidential . Especially when other people without security clearance are present. If we are to be informed citizens in the legacy of the Founders then the press must have more access. Here we face a man who still tweets about a late night sketch show and a letter delivered to an important figure. Will interviews and meeting attendance as well as location be given only to friendly journalists? Will we ever know anything about the Trump presidency besides speeches and executive actions?

I sense his legal troubles including the recently settled Trump University lawsuits as well as his continued business interests both known and unknown will cause trouble. The constitution did not leave the people powerless from the clutches of despots. Impeachment is more difficult than an alternative like recall elections but if the reason is noble than I do not doubt bipartisan support. There are still 60 days of decisions to change the course. The man always has pulled through so I wouldn’t bet against him.

-E.C. Fiori